Saturday 16 June 2018
It's the 16th June and that means one thing: the rivers are open for fishing again! With the season closing in March with an amazing monster pike, I've been itching to get back on the Bristol River Avon to chase down some of it's excellent chub. The question is, would it be a repeat of last years heat-wave, snapped-rod, boats-playing-reggae, virtual-blank disaster?!
Well for one thing, the weather wasn't going to be nearly as hot as last year. In fact, the BBC weather app was predicting rain from 8am until lunch time... Not my favourite but maybe better for the fishing as chub don't tend to feed in bright conditions! I know a lot of anglers camp and cast out at midnight but as the rules don't allow for night fishing on the Bristol River Avon I decided to get up at stupid o'clock instead - 4.30am to be precise... Madness I know but I had a feeling the banks might be busy and with such limited swims due to undergrowth at the Swinford end of the river I wanted to make sure I was in the running for a decent swim.
Leaving that early meant there was no traffic on the road so I pulled into the busy looking layby outside the Swan Inn at around 5.15am - not bad going! As predicted, all the fishable swims in the first field were occupied - seems Bristol does have some keen anglers after all! Not to worry, due to the banks at Swinford I had it in my head I'd try and fish the 'fallen tree swim' in the second field (otherwise known as 'Chub Alley') and was relieved to find it empty of anglers. The plan for the day was to target chub with one rod fishing a cage feeder and the second rod fishing a float. I've had such success with good old Spam in the past, so hook bait was an easy choice although I did have sweetcorn as a back up. Before setting up the rods I primed the swim with a couple of balls of groundbait mix consisting of tinned tuna, hemp, liquidized bread and method mix groundbait.
So the rods went out, the feeder in the deep margin in front of the streamer weed to my right and the float a couple of rod lengths out into the flow. And believe it or not, the float dipped on the first run through - chub on! And while I was sorting out that chub, the feeder rod rattled off with another chub - amazing!
The have two fish on the first casts of each rod was pretty amazing. I was made up, it was definitely worth getting up so early! The next couple of hours disappeared with chub after chub falling to the float. The feeder rod was silent, although I was getting the odd pluck on the rod tip... But with the float rod producing so many fish, I wasn't worried - I was having too much fun!
There weren't too many other species showing themselves, although I did have a dace on one retrieve. But then from nowhere, I had a completely different bite where the float slid rather than dipping under the surface... the result was a perfect condition bronze bream of around 3lb. This was just getting better and better!
The bites began to dry up a bit as the rain eased off and the sky became brighter. I switched the feeder rod over to sweetcorn to see if a bait change would spark some interest and cast it out further into the flow. However the potential culprit for the sudden slow up of fish activity showed it's head on the next retrieve of the float rod: I'd had a bite higher up in the swim from what turned out to be a small chub and as it came into the bankside, a massive head erupted from the deep and a huge pike attempted to strike the fish!
Now I've never fished for pike in the summer months as they're far more active in the warmer months and tend to gobble down baits which potentially means deep hooking. However on the advice of some other anglers, I'd been told that lures were the way to go. I didn't have any lures but I did have some sprats so the plan was to fish them pure style on a small trace and see what happened...
So both rods came in, I rigged up the feeder rod with a sprat on a short wire trace and I got casting around the swim. Five or so casts later, the line pulled and the rod tip jerked and I struck into a solid resistance - summer pike on! And it absolutely tore off, they go in winter but they really, really go in summer I didn't have any scales on me but I guestimate it was around 16lb to 18lb - what an amazing result?!
Not surprisingly, the swim was wrecked after that and although I did have another couple of small chub, it really felt like the best of the days fishing had passed and I decided to call it a day. But what a start to the season?! A net full of chub, a cracking bream and a monster pike - and it wasn't even 11.30am, just amazing.
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?!
Friday 12 January 2018
Good golly it's been a grim end and start to the year... Snow, rain, a continuously flooded or muddy river and illness has all meant I've not been out fishing since mid December... But today the conditions actually looked pretty good so I headed out to the River Avon at Keynsham to see if the pike were in a hungry mood.
Although we've had a break in the weather for a couple of days one thing became quickly apparent as I made my way along the river bank: it was gonna be very, very muddy! The 1st swim I tried was sticky mess of slit and mud and it was obvious the banks had been underwater for quite some time over the last weeks. But the water level was back to normal and the clarity and flow wasn't too bad so you never know, maybe the fish would be on the feed?
The 1st swim I tried produced a savage knock and then two snagged rods. I've a feeling that a lot of debris has been washed downstream (I witnessed whole tree trunks floating by during the session!) and it didn't seem to matter where I cast, the trebles would lodge on something. Luckily I got all the tackle back on both occasions but after having spent a frustrating 30 minutes sliding around in the mud it was time to up sticks and head to the next swim.
The 'tree swim' on the 1st bend is always worth a cast and I decided to fish both sides today, starting on the right. The left hand rod went out towards the tree and the right went along the margin where I've had fish from in the past. To get the fish in the feeding mood, I mixed a loaf of liquidized brown bread with a tin of mackerel fillets in oil along with a good splash of thai fish sauce and put 3 or so good size balls over each rod. It's a stinky groundbait which has worked wonders in the past.
After 10 minutes I was just beginning to toy with the idea of prebaiting the left hand side of the tree when the alarm on the left rod sounded! The rod tip was bouncing around and I struck into a solid resistance - fish on! Unfortunately, after a frantic minute the fish managed to throw the hooks and a mangled whole sardine came in with some pretty healthy tooth marks along it's flank...
My mantra when I loose a pike is to get the bait back in the water as quick as possible as the fish quite often doesn't go far and will sometimes have another go. This time was no exception: the bait went back out and as I was setting the bobbin, the braid jumped in my hands! This time I gave the fish a little while longer, feeling the line to make sure it was still on and when I struck, the pike bolted off to my right - fish on for the 2nd time!
But still no joy... This time I managed to get him/her nearly to the landing net before a violet shake of head saw the hooks thrown... Damnit, very frustrating but exciting at the same time!
The rod went out a 3rd time to the same spot and although I received a couple of violent rod taps and the bobbin climbed to the blank, it all went quiet.
Whilst this was going on another angler arrived in my swim and we began to chat - and the chat went on for quite a while, in fact nearly an hour! All the while the rod was still out with it's now fairly mangled sardine and as we were just wrapping up our conversation, the alarm sounded and it looked like I was in with another chance.
This time I gave the fish a bit more time and after a solid strike and a good run around the swim a jack pike slipped into the net - by no means a monster but it meant the first session of 2018 wasn't to be a blank! Happy days.
The rest of the session past without so much as a knock. Having seen four more pike anglers heading upstream I decided that heading back towards the marina was the best bet and although I tried every likely looking spot, there were no more takers.
But a good session! I learnt about a fair few new venues to try from the chap I got chatting to and it was a pleasure to be out on the bank. Although I promised myself it'd be pike all the way until spring I'm beginning to fancy a carp session and having just joined a new club called Crosshands Angling I'm toying with trying a new water next week in an attempt to bag some mud pigs! As it happens, they have a venue about 5 minutes from school which would mean a much longer session... Handy that!
Most of my efforts this season have been focused on The Crane stretch of the river but today I decided to check out the conditions down at the Swineford end. The thing I'd forgotten about was the recent rain we've had... The river was very, very high, fast flowing and the banks were extremely muddy and ripped to shreds! Couple that with bright sunlight and you've not got the winning conditions for pike fishing.
The big problem with the Swinford stretch of the river is the swims: there's really only 4 or so in the first two fields that are fishable and conditions dictate if you can even get down to them due to the steep banks. Not surprisingly, the two pike anglers who'd beat me to the bank were occupying the best swims and the other fishable swims had pretty much been washed away!
I did try one swim but after fishing for 10 minutes I decided that if a fish did come along, landing it would be a dangerous task so erring on the side of safety I decided to up sticks and head to the Crane section for another go.
The conditions were pretty much the same but at least I could get down to the waters edge in relative safety! But with no takers or any signs of fish in the four swims I tried, it looked like this session would be a blank. Not surprising considering the conditions! But it was beaut to be out on the bank and I used my time to study the water and seek out some potential spots for future sessions.
Fingers crossed the weather will improve over the Xmas break and into January. Although I've had loads of small pike over the last couple of months, I've yet to hook into a monster... Watch this space!
By the time I'd got to the river the conditions had completely changed. We'd gone from snow to rain to sunshine all in the space of half an hour... Madness. After picking up some sardines from the tackle shop, I set off upstream and was really surprised to see that the water level was normal, there was hardly any flow and the clarity was pretty good - maybe I was spot on for a bite or two?!
The 'cow poo' swim on the corner didn't produce a knock or a tap so after sitting in the freezing cold shadow of a tree I desperately needed to get out into the sun which by 10.30am was shining brightly. After a quick stomp across the 1st field and I decided to try either side of the tree swim on the corner, starting in the super snaggy side to the right. However, as I dropped the 2nd bait in the water I happened to glance over my shoulder and noticed a rapidly approaching huge grey snow laden cloud...
Before I knew it, the heavens opened and I was in the midst of a mini snow blizzard! If this didn't switch the fish on, what would?! But after a soggy 20 minutes with nothing to show for my efforts I hopped round to the left side of the tree for another go. The sun came out again as quickly as it had disappeared and with in five minutes of the bait being in the water the rod tip sprang into life and I'd finally got my 1st bite of the season from the tree swim!
Only a micro jack but what the hell - it was a blank saver!
The rest of the day passed without so much as a knock or a tap. The conditions got steadily worse with the sun shining and the wind getting up - it was bloody freezing! I tried 3 more swims, settling in the 'white house swim' just over the cattle grid on the way back to the car for the last hour, mainly as it was out of the wind...
No fish, but the robin that had been following me up and down the river all day finally plucked up the courage to perch next to me. Luckily I had the camera in hand and managed to snap a nice close up of him before he realised!
So another tough day on the bank. It's snowed more over the weekend but I'm looking out on another sunny day in Bristol... Fingers crossed the conditions will get better over the Xmas break and the monster pike I got into last season will put in an appearance over the next couple of weeks?!