I've been having a lot of fun pike fishing on the Bristol River Avon over the last couple of months, with multiple hits of jacks on most sessions throughout October and November. Nothing particularly big had put in an appearance though and with the weather making the fishing very tough throughout December and into January I was beginning to worry that the elusive monster that I'd been chasing wouldn't make it's way to my landing net... It's been so bad recently that I've had to resort to carp fishing!
But this week was different: the weather has been cold and clear with little or no rain and the water levels on the flood site have been steadily dropping. All of which was pointing to a potential pike session on the Friday! However my hopes were dashed as on Thursday night, a massive rain storm swept across Bristol... When I checked the river levels on Friday morning, there was a slight height increase but my main fear was water clarity: would the river be a chocolate unfishable soup? Add to the mix an unexpected sore throat and I wasn't feeling too chipper...
Despite all this and the forecast of snow (snow?!) for the morning it was decided that I had to go. It'd been too long and I was desperate!
Stomping through the 1st field it was apparent that last night's downpour had done its work and turned the banksides into a quagmire. The cattle grid swim was a slippery mess of mud and silt and although I managed to get the rods set up and in the water, I wasn't really 'feeling' it. After giving it 30 minutes without a sign I decided to reel in only to find both rods snagged... Whenever the river floods, loads of tree branches and rubbish gets swept downstream adding loads of new snaggs and the trebles had lodged in something. Luckily I got both back without snapping off but the baits were gone. Not the best start...
Rather than dropping into any of the open water spots on my way upstream I decided to head straight to the tree swim that's done me so well in the past (it saved me from a blank on my last session). In terms of slack water, it's probably one of the best spots on the whole stretch and although it gets a bit of a hammering, it's always worth a go - and on this occasion, it really came up with the goods...
Dumping the gear well back from the waters edge, I re-baited my rod with a whole sardine and crept forward to cast towards the snaggy tree. The bait hit the water and I knelt down to put the rod on the rest and tighten up the slack. At which point the braid jumped in my hand... And again. And then started to pull line from the baitrunner. Surely I must've snagged on some debris moving downstream? Just in case, I tightened down and struck at which point all hell broke loose!
Fish on! The fight this thing gave was incredible and it was a real struggle to keep it under control and away from the snags. Most of the fights I've had from river pike have been quite short but this one really went for it, stripping braid from the reel on some massive lunges. It was quite a struggle on the steep bankside to get it into the net but eventually an amazingly looking pike slipped over the net cord.
What a beast! I couldn't quite believe it, the whole thing from casting to landing the fish was a blur and with the bait being in the water for around 10 seconds before it made off with it, this has to be the quickest bite from a pike I've ever experienced! Weighing in at 19lb this was the 3rd biggest fish I've had from the Bristol River Avon and the fish of the season for me - I was completely made up. The head on it was huge and it was quite a struggle to haul it up for the camera but as you can see from the look on my face, I was made up and incredibly glad that I'd decided to make the trip to the river today.
After resting the 'beast' in the margins for 5 minutes it swam off strong downstream and I set about getting both rods out. I had a feeling that after all that comotion that the swim would be dead and wasn't surprised when 30 minutes slipped by without another sign that there were any other fish in the area. Before moving on I baited the swim with a mix of leftover fish scraps, liquidized bream, a tin of tuna fish and thai fish sauce. It completely stinks but I'm convinced it draws fish in!
Over the next 3 hours I moved further upstream and tried four more swims without so much as a knock or a tap. Although the water level was good the flow was pretty fast which made swim options tricky and having sat in the incredibly cold wind for far too long I decided to stomp back across the fields heading upstream. Arriving back in the tree swim, I tried 1st the left hand side and after 30 minutes of nothing moved back to the right hand side. Would my prebaiting bring the swim back to life?
As it turns out yes! The rod cast to the exact same spot towards the snaggy tree signalled a drop back about a minute after casting out and after a strike and a short fight this fine looking jack slipped into the net. Amazing, two fish from the same spot - proving that the river can always throw up a surprise.
I tried a couple more spots on the walk back to the car but there were no takers and I spent the last hour in the cattle grid swim watching the sun go down over the river. To have landed my fish of the season and a back up jack on an incredibly cold day with a dose of man flu has made my fishing year so far but the question is, does the river have any more surprises to throw at me before the 15th of March?!
The weather looked pretty good on paper with sunshine and a little rain throughout the day. But upon arriving at the lake it was clear that a very chilly breeze was going to make the going difficult. The first swim I tried at the narrow end of the lake didn't produce a fish and although the 2nd swim (peg 25) has been doing me loads of bites in previous sessions it only turned up one carp (albeit a good size one!).
I stuck with it, moving pegs every hour or so or when the bites dried up but it wasn't until late afternoon that I started to get more regular action. Interestingly, the most productive areas from previous sessions didn't really produce and it was trying new areas that brought the fish. In a 1st for this lake, there were actually two other anglers fishing! It was a bit strange not being able to move round the lake as I have been in the past, I guess I've gotten used to having the place to myself!
The day ended on a couple of better fish but I packed down feeling like I should've had more on the bank... But by that point I couldn't feel my face, hands and toes so I'm going to put it down to the incredibly cold wind! Still a great day on the bank though, I'm already looking forward to this Friday's session which (if the weather stays as it is) will be a pike session over at the river (at last!).
Monday 29 January 2018
We had yet another forty eight hours of rain this weekend... I'm beginning to ask myself, will I actually ever get to fish the river again this winter?! So with piking definitely off the cards I headed out to the Holiday Inn lake (I know, again...) to see if I could tempt a carp or two.
As the weather forecast for Monday was also looking pretty grim I had a feeling it was going to be a tough session. But as ever I was desperate to get out on the bank and determined to put my day off to good use, I arrived at the lake at 9:30am (after a detour home to pick up my forgotten brolly) to find it deserted. As with previous sessions, the wind was hacking down towards the far end so I decided to hedge my bets and start in trusty swim 25 which (so far) had been doing me loads of bites.
I stuck with the same tactics as before (helicopter rig with a yellow wafter dumbbell on one rod and a feeder rod with corn on the 2nd rod) and had a few early fish on the feeder before the bites dried up around 11ish.
Rather than move (it was raining hard by this point) I decided to ring the changes and try some different baits. Bread is a great winter bait and having saved some slices from the liquidised bag I'd made up for the feeder I decided to try popped up bread discs and bread boiles for a while. I sat on my hands allowing 20 minutes for each rod but after no signs, it was time for something else.
Zigs are excellent during winter so I decided to try a piece of yellow foam on a 1ft zig on the feeder rod, my thinking being that some of the liquidised bread would float up through the water column and a suspended bait may trigger a bite...
And it worked! After ten minutes the feeder rod roarded off with what felt like a decent fish. Sadly, I never got it to the bank suffering a hook pull at the net... But it was encouraging to get a bite on a new method.
By now time was marching on and with no indication that the pink popup on the helicopter rig was going to produce a bite I decided on a move to the next swim. It's only five metres down the bank but peg 1 gives you access to the bowl end of the lake and I could still fish the lily pads from another angle. It's a move that'd paid off in the past but with the weather steadily worsening I was beginning to wonder if the conditions were completely killing the fishing...
Twenty minutes later the helicopter rod ripped off followed by the zig/feeder rod as I was slipping the first fish back! So the move was definitely worth it and getting a 2nd run on the zig was a conference booster.
But the bites dried up again, so much so that I decided another move was the go and up sticks round to the other side to try peg 7. The weather had changed again with the wind and rain stopping and a bit of blue sky showing. I only came round with the bare essentials and got both rods out, the helicopter in the bowl but quite close in and the feeder on a longer chuck towards the Lilly's lilies. Sadly nothing happened, not a knock or a tap despite giving three different spots twenty minutes each. By now it was 2:30pm and I was beginning to get a bit desperate for a fish!
I gave it 20 minutes back in swim 1 and lost a run on the helicopter. Another move back to swim 25 where I started the day produced nothing so I moved yet again further up the lake settling in swim 2 where some died back rushes and lily pads to my left looked like they might hold fish. This is also the thinner end of the lake so there's less open water to go at but the right hand side moving down the lake was in the sunshine so with a bit of luck there may also be carp heading to the warming water.
The fact that I spooked one fish casting the feeder gave me hope that the carp had found the 3 bread and groundbait balls I'd chucked in to prime the swim 10 minutes before the move....
I didn't have to wait long to get a run, with both rods producing a couple of fish a piece in the space of 15 minutes. The runs kept coming as I packed down, and I foul hooked a fish while reeling in the feeder rod so the fish had definitely pushed further up to the thinner end during the day. So another good day on the bank, harder than the previous trips but it's still very rewarding to be getting bites in winter from a new venue. A lot of moves really took this session from a couple to lots of runs and fish on the bank!
I'm currently praying to the river gods for a decent week of weather so maybe, just maybe I can head out to the river on Friday...
Monday 22 January 2018
After 48 hours of solid rain over the weekend the river just wasn't an option and although I'd love a pike session it looked like hitting a lake would be the only option to get a bend in the rod... So another session at the Holiday Inn Lake? Oh go on then!
Although it'd been very wet over the weekend, today was looking clear and warm(ish) for the time of year with light cloud and virtually no wind predicted for the whole day. The banks were pretty muddy but far easier than over at the river and I must admit I was pretty excited to be back on the bank. I really felt like I'd 'cracked' it by the end of the last session and already knew the spots I'd like to target so there was no time wasted with both rods going out within 5 minutes of arriving. The tactics were what had proved to be the winning combo on previous sessions: a helicopter rig with a yellow pineapple dumbell on one rod to open water and a cage feeder filled with liquidised bread and sweetcorn on the hair fished right to the died back lily pads on the seconds rod.
And then nothing happened... And then I missed a run on the helicopter rod out to open water... And then I missed another take on the feeder rod...
What was going on?! So much for having cracked the lake, a couple of hours went by without anything to show for it. It was a bit of a relief when the feeder rod finally rattled off but with only a small common to show for my efforts and no signs of a shoal of fish in the area it was time for plan B.
I'd spotted a couple of fish on my walk around the lake up at the thinner end towards the hotel and having primed the area with corn and pellets at the beginning of the session I figured a move was in order. I stuck with the same tactics placing both rods very close to the lily pad storks and sat back to see what would happen. The feeder rod did nothing but the helicopter rod kept running and I kept missing the fish... Either the bait was too big, I was too close to the lily pads or my luck just wasn't in but today's session was not going to plan!
Having given it half an hour I decided another move was in order. Having had a lead around the lake was shallow still at the the thin end and with the hooklinks coming back covered in chod, I just just didn't feel that I was fishing as effectively as I could have. The 'bowl' end of the lake was much cleaner so I decided to hedge my bets and head down to that that end of the lake to a swim (I think it's number 1?) to try my luck.
As it turned out, this third move paid off as the helicopter rod produced two fish within 20 minutes of casting out! The feeder rod was also showing signs of fish in the area although it was still remaining strangely silent...
The feeding spell didn't last long though and the bites soon dried up. I repositioned the helicopter rod a couple of times creeping ever closer to the lily stems but after an hour of no action a fourth move was in the offing. The weather had changed slightly in that a pretty chilly wind was blowing down the lake into the far corner and with nothing else to go on, I decided the peg almost diagonally opposite me on the far bank was worth a go. It would mean I'd be fishing almost the same spots but from the otherside and I wondered if the fish had backed off the lines in the water and maybe I'd be able to find them again from another angle.
Having moved the gear, I quickly found out that the wind was far stronger on this side of the lake and the banks were really water logged. But the rods went out on their spots and I sat back to wait. Nothing much happened for twenty minutes or so and I was just contemplating yet another move when the feeder rod tip went round! Another small common came in and just as I was getting it into the net the helicopter rod went off! Unfortunately I lost the 2nd fish but it was great that the move had been worth the effort.
I gave it another twenty minutes but with no more sings of fish another move was on the cards. The fish seemed to be moving away from the lines in the water and getting a different angle on them appeared to be working so this time I upped sticks and went one swim to the left of where I'd started the day. With only an hour left on the clock, I was determined to get another fish in the net before home time!
With the lily pad storks being the biggest 'feature' I'd found I decided to concentrate all my efforts at getting as close to it as possible. It paid off as 10 minutes after casting out the helicopter rod that had been positioned to the left of the pads ripped off with a nice common on the end! The feeder rod also produced a couple of runs, one that I managed to miss and a second to a small common.
So a bit of a tougher day that previous sessions but none the less rewarding. I really enjoyed my time on the bank and it was fun chasing the fish around - if it was easy, it'd be boring right?!
I'd love to say that the next session would be on the rivers but a quick glance at the weather shows solid rain for the rest of the week... The chances of bagging a decent pike are slowly slipping away, maybe I need to find a lake with some crocodiles in it before the season closes?!
Friday 19 January 2018
Luckily for me the weather was completely different to the beginning of the week: a frosty start with blue skies and little or no wind - perfect for a winter bite! Having learnt quite a bit about the lake on the previous session I decided to fish the same methods (a helicopter rig on one rod and a cage feeder set up on the float rod) and use yellow baits from the off. I'd worked through all sorts of different colours last time and with sweetcorn outfishing anything else it made sense to stick with yellow only this time I was going to fish pineapple dumbbells on the helicopter rod in an attempt to pick out some bigger fish. With the sun already on the main body of water I fished with the sun on my back, putting the helicopter rod to open water and the feeder rod close to he died back lily pads.
I didn't have to wait long... The helicopter rod had been in the water for about ten minutes when it ripped off! I really wasn't expecting action quite so quickly and the bite took me completely by surprise. First fish in the net, too good.
No sooner had I slipped that fish back and got the rod back out and the feeder rod went off and this seemed to trigger a bit of a feeding spell. Over the next twenty minutes I had four more fish to various sizes - the yellow dumbbells and trusty sweetcorn were really doing the business with no clear leader in terms of bites.
And then it went all quiet... I didn't get a knock or a tap for about an hour despite regular casting and baiting little and often baiting using pellets and sweetcorn. On the previous session a move made all the difference so I upped sticks and headed two swims to the my right...
...and it worked! Both rods began produced fish and I had loads of fun jumping between rods, baiting up, tieing PVA sticks and regularly casting to new spots in an effort to keep the bites coming.
3pm came around far to quickly... I could've quite happily kept fishing into dusk. As luck would have it, as I leant down to pick up the helicopter rod to begin packing down it suddenly leapt into life! On the last cast, I'd positioned it right on the edge of the lily pads (possibly right among the storks) and it seemed to have tempted a bigger stamp of fish as the rod was bent and line was stripping from the reel.
To end on the biggest fish of the session was a real buzz which made the final pack down a little easier. I've really enjoyed the last couple of sessions, it's been a refreshing change to the pike fishing and to get winter bites has been brilliant.
It might be pushing it, but I may have to do another session this coming Monday...