Thursday 13 July 2017
The start of the river season for 2017 has been a bit of a mixed bag for me... A combo of snapped rods, heat waves and boats playing reggae has meant there hasn't really been a stand out session... Until this evening ;)
In a little under 4 hours I managed to bag 26 chub and 1 massive eel!
As luck would have it, my favourite swim on the Swinford stretch of the River Avon (houseboat bay) was occupied... To be honest, it was a good thing: I'd got it into my head that this was the 'only' swim worth fishing which is crazy! It maybe the most accessible, with a beautiful slow curve ideal for trotting a float and a lovely long slack but this does mean it gets a hammering.
So I headed to the 'tree swim' which I've had success in before over the winter for pike. It's a tricky swim, as most are on this stretch: the banks are very steep but the advantage of this one is that there's a set of steps cut into the side of the bank which leads down to a 'shelf' where you can just about position two rods on rests, a landing net and a bait bucket.
I've given up the swim feeder rig in favour of simply pinching 3 AAA shot on the line about 40cm above a nice big size 8 hook. I was finding that although the bites came thick and fast with the feeder, they were very difficult to hit meaning I was missing a lot of fish. This maybe due to fish attacking the feeder rather than the bait? But I've found that the new method of virtually freelining a big cube of spam into some slack water has really been working, with more fish actually self hooking meaning I can leave that rod to it's own devices and concentrate on the float.
Spam is the bait of choice, so a nice big cube went out in the slack water past the tree to the right of the swim followed by a couple of handfuls of liquidised bread, tuna fish and maize. It didn't take long... After a few 'plucks' on the line, the tip swung around and I struck into my 1st chub of the session!
The next couple of casts lead to some very tentative bites and after a few missed strikes, something really hit the bait and started to pull back. It didn't feel like a chub and sure enough, a massive eel writhed towards the net! I don't mind catching eels, they give a good account of themselfs and as their numbers have fallen in recent years it's great to see so many in the Avon. However, as anyone knows who's caught one, unhooking them can be a bit of an ordeal... Luckily for me, this one was hooked lightly in the lip so a quick twist with the forceps in the net and one plump happy eel of around 2lb went back to fight another day.
The freeline rod continued to produce a fish every 10 minutes or so meaning that the float rod didn't see a lot of action. But after the 1st hour, the bites really tailed off so I stuck some maize on the hook (so the bait would stay on for longer!), cast the freeline to the right and started to concentrate on trotting the float through the flow.
I'd been feeding up the main body of the river with my bread, tuna and maize mix in between catching fish in the slack water and the chub must have really homed in the bait as over the next couple of hours it was nearly a fish a chuck! There seemed to be a 'sweet spot' at around one clock in the trot so I started casting upstream and allowing the float to glide through this area and you could virtually guarantee that after a few knocks, the float would bury and it would be fish on.
The chub in the Avon fight incredibly hard and I had a great time hauling in fish after fish. Nothing massive so far but I had a feeling that as the light levels dropped, the bigger specimens would start to show...
On one particular trot through, the strike gave some solid resistance and I though 'her we go, the bigguns have arrived!'. But as the fish came towards the net, I could see that it wasn't a chub but a bloody huge pike! As quite often happens in this kind of situation, the pike spat the chub out as it came in close to the bank and I netted a small slightly damaged chub... I think it will be ok, it certainly swam off like a rocket when I returned it so maybe it's dice with death gave it a new lease of life!
The fishing really picked up as the light levels dropped and I found it virtually impossible to manage two rods. But just as I was thinking of packing the freeline rod down, I noticed a massive slug ootching along my bait bucket. I'd heard that chub love slugs and although it's a pretty grizzly business hooking them, I decided to give it a go.
And I so glad I did! The rod had been out about 10 minutes when the tip pulled round and I struck into propbably the biggest chub of the evening! I think next time, I may have to have a bit of a slug hunt along the bank at dusk as they make a fantastic bait.
Finally the light levels just got too low and it was time to (very reluctantly) reel in. The tally came in at 26 chub and 1 eel - one of the best river sessions I've had and definitely the highlight so far of the 2017 season.
Although the river sessions have been fun, I wanted something a little closer to home (the Avon is a good 30 minutes from school) and Windmill Fishery is pretty much on the doorstep. There's 4 lakes to go at: the match lake, the specimen lake, a silvers lake and the carp lake. They all offer something different and I've been tempted back to the carp lake by the recent images I'd been seeing on Facebook - there's been some pretty decent fish coming out!
The big problem with the carp lake however is that the fish in there have been allowed to breed... This means there are millions of small carp between a couple of ounces and the 2lb mark who are more than hungry enough to have a go at anything bait wise. It's gotten so bad that the owners are actually planning on turning the water into a match lake!
But if you're willing to persevere, there are some good fish to be had. As well as countless small fish, I did manage the two pictured here which gave me a good run around. Both were caught on Innate Baits tuna boiles over a bed of hemp and corn.
From chatting to other anglers though, there's been a lot of success with surface fishing so maybe a summer evening session is in order some time?!
The weather changed all day from calm and sunny 1st thing to windy and overcast and back to sun in the afternoon. Ringing the changes bait and depth wise seemed to produce the best results as fish we're congregating and drifting in and out of the swim all the time. Most bites came to yellow foam but a switch to black gave instant results!
Excellent practice with the Nash Zig Float which I'm determined to put to good use over the summer ;)
It was a slow start but the action really picked up in the arvo with fishing falling to innate baits 14mm boilies and yellow foam on zigs. almost feel that i'm getting there with the zig float too ;)
Happy days - just need a sunny evening now for a couple of hours surface fishing!
The day started well, we left on time and after some satnav fun (google maps inventing roads as we drove) we arrived at pretty much bang on 7am - well done us! The lake was pretty busy already, a lot of people having done overnighters on Saturday and the road bank was crowded. However the dam wall and far bank was fairy quiet, so we headed round and found a row of 3 likely looking swims.
There wasn't a ripple on the water and it was immediately apparent why Shearwater is sinonoumous with zig rigs: the surface was black with carp! They we cruising around in the morning sun just below the surface in packs of 3 and 4's and the scene looked perfect for a bite in the early morning light.
So the gear came out of the car, each of us jumped into a swim and excitedly started setting up. As zigs were the order of the day for me, the 1st job was to get an idea of how deep it was out in front of us. The margins are incredibly shallow and a shelf around 2 rod lengths out marked where the water deepened off. Rather than use a marker float, I chucked out a zig float. I'd experimented with a home made version last summer up at Bitterwell Lake and although the concept was sound, the reality was a tangly mess of hooklinks, weights and floats...
So for this trip, I'd invested in a Nash Zig Float my thinking being it'd be better than my home made version! The added bonus is that you can use it as a marker float and after a couple of casts, I reckoned the water was around 12ft at 9 to 10 wraps out. Pretty much perfect, an easy range and nothing too long on the other rods that would be fished with traditional long zig hooklinks.
The next job was to get a sloppy spod mix on the go, something I've been itching to try out for ages. There's loads of info online with different suggestions of what you should use but in then end I went with:
What a concoction?! The idea was that this would produce a good 'cloud' in the water and various bait items on the surface and though out the water column which would hopefully keep the fish in my area. Now everyone suggests using a spomb so you don't loose loads of the mix on the cast and that's what I started with. But for some reason, I just can't get the hang of them... Maybe it's my spomb, maybe its the way I'm casting, maybe it's just spombs but with 4 of the first 5 casts resulting in me dragging a full unopened spomb across the water (which of course sent most of the fishing heading for cover...) I decided to switch to a regular spod. This was much better and 10 spod loads went out to my zig marker float with little of no spillage (I did discover a line of mix up my back and on my cap later though!).
Bait wise I had red, yellow, white and black foam which had been soaking in a sweeter for a week or so. My plan was to chop and change the colours until the carp told me what they wanted. I had two zigs tied ready tied at 11ft and 7ft so they went out a 1/2 a rod length either side of the zig float and then that rod went out with an actual hooklink on it and I sat back waiting for the bites to roll in...
And nothing happened... And after quite a while longer, nothing still had happened. What was up?! There were fish all over me, the hookbaits where in the right spot, I kept topping the area up with the spod rod and when I checked from a high vantage point at the top of the swim, the 'cloud' was there and fish were cruising in and out of it...
The 1st problem was the zig float. The hooklink had tangled and was a complete mess. It took me quite a lot of experimenting but I eventually found that a length of around 3ft and a stiff antitangle sleeve on the quicklink resulted in a lot less tangles. Rob and Luke (who'd both had fish by now!) also suggested that my hooks were too big so i went down from a size 8 to a size 10 and rather than hair rigging the foam, I went through the centre with half the shank of the hook proud.
And finally after an hour or so of mucking around and wondering if this zig fishing was for me, the rod ripped off! Takes on zigs are usually one of two things: a couple of bleeps as the fish moves in an arc around the lead or an absolute screamer as the fish realises it's hooked and heads off at full steam. This was the latter and the fish took me on a long run straight out into the lake!
Luckily Rob came around to give me a hand landing the fish. Due to the steep nature of the banks, the shallow water out in front and the long hooklinks it would've been a tough task to get the fish in the net but after a short fight and an helping hand my 1st Shearwater carp was sat in the net - happy days! Nothing massive, I'd guestimated it around 12lb or so but it meant I was off the mark.
I'd love to say the flood gates opened but the fishing continued to be tough, which was crazy as we had so many fish on us. I guess they do see a lot of pressure and with it being a weekend, the fish were being very cagey. But I stuck at it and with a steady stream of bait going in via the spod and a lot of perseverance with the zig float I managed to pick up 15 or so fish including 2 bream (who knew bream would take zigs?!).
After the frustrating start, I decided not film the session wanted to apply all my concentration to fishing. However, Luke did get some pics of his fish and put a video together:
All in all, a good days fishing! I'm desperate to go down for another session, this time for maybe 24 hours during the weekas I'm sure with a bit more time and less pressure you could really bag up at Shearwater. I've also been keeping an eye on the Facebook page and some much bigger fish have been coming out which is something to aim at.