Monday 9 October 2017
We're into October now and that means three things: the carp gear gets packed down, the pike gear comes out and the river sessions kick off!
I had such a great season on the River Avon fishing for Pike last year with two personal bests in consecutive weeks, a 18lb followed by a whopping 23lb fish! So understandably I've been hanging out for October to get out there again.
For the 1st session of the season, I decided to head over the the Crane Stretch at Keynsham. I've not visited this end of the river for a while now as Swineford is my goto stretch over the spring and summer for chub. It's usually wider and faster flowing but today the water was slow moving through the weir and as I wandered upstream, the swims looked better and better.
The session started slowly without a knock or a tap in the 1st hour. I'd headed to my favourite tree swim opposite the soap works but it didn't appear that there were any fish in the area so I upped sticks and headed to the dead tree swim where I'd managed a fish right at the end of the previous season.
It didn't take long... A change of tactic produced the bite: I'd been using two ledged baits but switched the left rod to a sprat rig which I'd cast upstream and allowed to drift down in the current. I was just doing a piece to video when the alarm sounded and the rod tip started to jangle!
Unluckily for me, the fish (a small jack) came to the bank and then dived into a very snaggy set of tree roots to the left of the swim. I managed to get the pike out of the snag but the hook pulled as I was just slipping the landing net into the water... Damn it!
But the rule with pike fishing is: if you lose one, get the bait back in the water toot sweet as you might get another chance... And sure enough, the rod had been back out for all of 5 minutes and off it went!
This time I managed to steer the pike away from the snag and a brilliant little jack slipped into the net.
Not a monster but after loosing one I was over the moon to have put one on the bank. The fish was in great condition and shot away when I released him, happy days.
I did get another chance ten or so minutes later but I think an early strike may have bumped another jack off the hooks. Not to worry, it's always better to strike early and loose a one than risk deep hooking a greedy pike.
So after 15 minutes of no signs, I upped sticks again and headed down to a swim I've not tried before but certainly looks pikey. It's pretty much the furthest I walked over the fields towards Swineford and being a thinner part of the river right next to an inflow pipe I thought it'd do me a fish.
But after half an hour without a sign I decided to move again, spending 15 minutes in a swim just past the tree swim and finally settling in one of the last fishable swims heading downstream back towards the car. It's a tricky swim, very cramped and only really fishable if the flow is very slow. I'd had fish from here once before so I figured it was worth spending the last 30 minutes here before making the dash to the car and back across Bristol to pick the kids up from school.
Luckily for me, I was rewarded 5 minutes before packing the rods down with another fantastic looking jack pike! As with the other runs, this one tore off all around the river and put up a very good account of itself.
So not a bad session, not bad at all. I've just come back from Tesco where I've replenished my stocks of bait: loads of sprats, herring, mackerel and sardines - here's hoping they'll bag me a few more fish over the next week or so!
Sunday 17 September 2017
With autumn slowly fading I decided to have my annual last gasp carp session down at the excellent Follyfoot Fishery.
The weather was looking perfect as I drove down, still pretty warm with sun, clouds and very little wind. Pulling into the car park I was very surprised to find only one car, amazing for this time of year and for such a popular venue. Gazing down the lake to my chosen hut (number 19, right in the far corner) it was apparent the fish were up near the surface which was perfect! I steamed the gear round on the barrow and set about getting the rods sorted.
The carp at Follyfoot are very wise to floating baits and based on previous sessions, I've found that zigs out fish mixers. So while the left hand rod went out with a bottom bait, my other two rods were fished on zigs at two different depths: one just below the surface and the second at about 6ft (the lake is around 12ft at this end).
Although I had fish all over the surface, it was a slow start... The carp were feeding in sporadic bursts, with five or so fish slurping in mixers and then drifting off only to return again 10 minutes later. I was spodding out a sloppy spod mix of chum mixers, hemp, corn, pellets, porridge oats and rice pudding which was definitely attracting the carp to the area but they were deftly avoiding my hook baits...
The key it seemed was to switch from an imitation mixer to a bright pink trimmed down popup on a much smaller size 10 hook. The results were almost instantaneous with a bite coming on the drop!
I had several fish over the next couple of hours on the zigs with the occasional run on the bottom bait rod. As the light levels started to drop, the wind completely died off as did the surface activity so I decided to switch all three rods to bottom baits and get busy with the spod rod. I've not had a massive amount of success with boilies at Follyfoot Fishery in the past and having emptied the bait freezer on my recent trip to France, I decided to stick to a spod mix of hemp, maize, pellets and fish the ever faithful spam in PVA bags of pellets.
Over the next couple of hours I had loads of small commons. To be honest, they're a bit of plague! I had real problems with them on my last session and the only way to combat it is to use bigger baits and hope you wade through them... It wasn't until complete darkness that the bigger fish muscled in on the action and I had a run of much better commons.
Things were really begining to hot up now, with fish coming consistently on all three rods. I was topping up with a couple of spods after each bite and between that and pre-tying new PVA bags on leaders for each rod kept me pretty damn busy, so much so that midnight rolled around very quickly... I'd just about managed to get dinner finished and was toying with the idea of hitting the sack when the left hand rod ripped off with what turned out to be the biggest common of the session.
What a fatty! This one made up for all the tiny 1lb commons I'd been catching. However the next run produced a fish I'd been trying to catch since first coming to Follyfoot, an illusive goldfish which I'd seen but never managed to hook...
What a fish! I was made up with this one, it's always good to catch something out of the ordinary. By this point I was knackered and after another couple of small commons I decided to call it a night and get my head down for a couple of hours with the plan being to wake up bright and early and get the rods out again.
It was hard to drag myself out of my sleeping bag at 6am the following morning but it was worth it for the sunrise alone. The water looked great in the morning gloom and I quickly got all three rods back on the spots I'd baited before heading off to bed. It didn't take long for the left hand rod to scream off!
Another nice common to add to the tally! The bites came thick and fast over the next couple of hours but the strange thing was I couldn't get a single taker on the zigs... All the action was coming to the left hand rod in open water. Annoyingly I missed quite a few bites so a change of plan was needed... Searching through the tackle bag produced a tub of Scent From Hell pink dumbell wafters which seemed to make all the difference as a quick succession of bites produced a fine selection of commons.
I was into the dying hours of the session now and it was a real struggle to keep the left hand rod in the water. Bites were coming seconds after the lead touched down on the lakebed so I decided to bring the other rods in and pack the gear down and just fish one rod. Amazingly, the two last casts produced two stunning fish with the second bite coming while the first fish was resting in the net!
The goldfish the previous evening would've been enough but to get this amazingly looking orange ornamental common carp on the second to last bite was an amazing end to the session.
So that's it for carping this year! It'll be pike all the way now until spring next year for me and hopefully the Bristol River Avon will be as kind as it was last year. If you've not given Follyfoot Fishery a go, head on down. They've just reduced their rates for winter and although winter carping isn't really my thing, Follyfoot can produce a good days sport even in the toughest of conditions.
I managed to sneak out for another session, leaving much earlier this time and being slightly better prepared with an array of new stick floats and a freshly spooled reel!
The conditions were pretty much spot on, the only tricky thing being a strong wind that had me casting the feeder/freelining rod into a tree twice... But with action pretty much from the off, I had a great evenings fishing.
As before, the moment the light levels dropped the chub really started to feed and I managed these three beauties in the space of 10 minutes! All in all, there were 10 fish in the keepnet by the end of the night and although it was very tough to pack up in the near darkness at 8.10pm (how I miss those long summer evenings!) it was great to be out on the river bank once last time.
I'm ready looking forward to the river pike season starting in October. Based on the activity in my swim this evening, I think the Bristol Avon will hopefully produce some absolute monsters again this year...
I have to say, I felt completely out of tune with the river... It was obvious the moment that I arrived that much had changed since my previous session!
The weather looked good, a cloudy windless evening after 3 days of bright sunshine and no wind. The water level and flow looked good and as I cast out my freelined spam in my favourite tree swim it looked good for a bite!
But the action was very slow. I couldn't get my float to trot properly, the freelined rod kept getting snagged and after several frustrating tangles in cramped conditions I decided to make things easier for myself and move to houseboat bay.
Luckily for me, I was saved from a blank by this fat chub!
The light was gone by 8pm and I ended up packing down in the near darkness...
I think that maybe it for evening sessions on the river for 2017!
Tuesday 22 August 2017
A chance set of circumstances meant I was down in west and east Sussex for a couple of days and with an empty car, it would've been rude not to pack the gear and get the rods out. As the 1st stop on my journey was Lewes my plan was to fish the carp lake at Swanbrough, a venue I've not visited in over 13 years!
But my plans were completely scuppered due to there only being one swim free... Having just got back from the luxury of fishing a 40 acre lake in France with only 5 anglers on it, this was not something I could even contemplate!
So I decided to head down to the Wylands Angling Centre to check out one of their nine lakes. It's a venue I've never fished before but always had on the list so I was pretty excited pulling into the car park. Luckily the 1st person I got chatting to was the bailiff who gave me a run down of all the lakes on the complex. His suggestion was to try one of the two specimen lakes and after a walk around, I decided the New Specimen lake was the one. The fish were apparently bigger, it had less anglers on it and on my walk round I witnessed 3 fish lump out in one of the island channels - signs enough that this was a good spot to try!
As I'd wasted time mucking around at Swanbrough it was getting pretty late in the day so I decided to fish two rods with solid bags of pellets and 16mm boilies tipped off with pink and yellow popups. A couple of pouchfuls of boilies around each hookbait and I was set for the night.
The 1st bite came to the right hand rod just on dusk which was positioned off a set of lilly pads - a nice drop back which then turned into a run to the right. A short fight later and a decent looking common of around 16lb was sat in the net - happy days!
That rod went back out onto the spot with some fresh baits around it and I recast the left hand rod which was close to some far margin reads before hitting the sack. I was pretty darn tired and must've fallen asleep instantly.... so it was a bit of a surprise when a single toner woke me up at 2 am!
Again, it was the right hand rod that decided to rip off with a slightly bigger fish this time, a common of around 18lb. The rod went back out on the spot (which wasn't too difficult as my head torch beam was strong enough to illuminate the lilly pads!) and I was just about thinking of crashing out after having recast the left hand rod when it was off again!
Another 18lb common, excellent fishing! I ran through the same routine, redoing a solid bag and firing out a couple of pouchfuls of boilies over the top of each rod before retiring to my bag.
I must've drifted off because the next bite woke me up from a deep sleep, this time a drop back on the left hand rod. This fish had a good bit of open water to play in and put up a much better account of itself but after a good fight, another common of 17lb slipped over the net cord.
After that, the rest of the night passed without so much as a liner. I woke up at around 8.30am and thinking that the specimen lakes would probably be night-bite waters I decided to pack down and head up to the House Lake to try my luck for the last few hours of the session (I needed to be on the road by 11.30am).
The rating for the House Lake was medium and I'd seen several fish lump out the previous afternoon whilst chatting to the bailiff so fingers crossed I could nick a couple of bites before properly packing down.
I wasn't disappointed! The right hand side of the lake already had 5 or so anglers on it so I decided to head round to the left and cast two rods at showing fish, one just off a set of lilly pads and the 2nd in a channel between two of the islands. The 1st rod in the channel ripped off 20 minutes after casting out and the pads rods half an hour later! Nothing massive, two commons of around 8lb but good fun.
So not a bad session! It's always good to catch on a new venue and it was great to tick Wylands off the list of places that I've been itching to fish. I will return to Swanbrough as it's a complex I have fond memories of and I'd love to catch one of their amazing scaly carp. If the 15lb fish we used to catch are still in there, they should be monsters by now!