Friday 18 January 2019
So... I had to go and do some boring stuff at B&Q today and as I was so close to Keynsham I thought I'd pop in to Premier Angling and pick up some more lures... and then seeing I still had the gear in the back of the car, it seemed rude not to drop in on the lock... Just to see if there were any perch or pike around...
And it turned out to be a complete perch fest! These are some of the bigger ones, in total I think I must've had around 6 decent fish and numerous missed hits in the space of about 10 minutes.
It was so much fun, and with the light rod and small lures even these small fish gave a great fight.
So there you go, you can catch fish on lures - now all I need to do is catch one of those illusive pike on one...
Although I've fished at Saltford before, it wasn't for pike and I'd stuck to the long section running down to the lock and the Jolly Sailor pub so I was eager to try the shallows. Jim very kindly let me have the 'prime' swim at the end of the car park which has a stream running into it which looked great for some perch and some good margins next to moored barges. I'd decided to dead bait and lure on this session as it was a new location and I wasn't sure what method would win out...
After twenty minutes or so with nothing to show for my efforts I checked my phone, only to find out that Jim had managed to bag a pike a couple of swims to my left on his second cast! He was convinced there was something bigger swimming out there as the jack pike had a nick out of it's flank and although he very kindly allowed me to have a quick cast around, I couldn't hook into anything other than the bottom of the river!
From where we were standing, we could see downstream to the disused railway bridge and decided to up sticks and take a look. To be honest, it was pretty foul under that bridge: the amount of rubbish was shocking, beer cans, discarded tackle, lure packets, dead bait packets, plastic bags... A pretty sorry state. Luckily I'd taken a 50 litre bin bag which we filled with rubbish however we could've filled it two or three times more. The lack of respect people have for the environment just does my head in!
There was also a massive mound of rusting bit of metal consisting of bikes, railings, fences, bars... it looked like someone had been dredging the river and had pulled out every bit of snaggy rubbish they could find! Very kind of them, but it's a shame that it was just left there in a heap to rust away. However what it did mean was that the water was pretty much free of snags which made the fishing a lot easier.
Again Jim very kindly let me fish the prime spot on the left of the swim and I decided to drop a ledgered smelt tightish to the margin and then set about casting the lure in an arc starting left to right...
...which is when I got my first taste of lure action as a pike struck just as I was pulling the lure into the margin! Unfortunately for me, a quick shake of the head and the pike was off - I guess that's the difference between a single hook in a soft plastic and a two sets of treble hooks?!
Over the next 20 minutes both Jim and I had a couple of follows and then suddenly the dead bait rod sounded. Again, luck wasn't on my side as it turned out the rod was snagged on something. The fish was definitely on as if the braid ran when I lowered the rod tip but after applying gentle pressure I managed to get the rig back but minus the bait and fish. Damn.
But there were fish in the swim! So the dead bait rod went back out to a new spot slightly further out from the margin to the left and we got back to casting the lures.
And then finally a bit of luck! The alarm on the dead bait rod sounded again and this time a solid strike resulted in a hook up - pike on at last (albeit with the wrong method but hey, at this stage a fish is a fish right?!). No monster but a welcome pike all the same.
The predicted drizzle really started coming down now and although we did head upstream along Mead Lane towards the lock and weir at the Jolly Sailor pub we didn't have any more action.
So another interesting day on the bank. It was great to have a hook up on the lure, it was a shame it came off but it was really good that we both had a fish - even if mine was on the wrong method!
Better luck next time eh?
My approach to piking has always been to use deadbaits, I guess mainly as it's most similar to carp fishing in that you set traps and then generally have to sit and wait. So lure fishing was going to be a whole different experience: light rods, tiny lures, casting, casting, casting, constantly moving...
To be honest, it was going to be a bit of a leap of faith! I know that people do catch pike using lures on the river (Jim has caught loads!) but until you've got one on the bank yourself, there's an element of disbelief about it... Why would a pike turn it's nose up at a nice stinky sardines in favour of a wiggling bit of plastic?!
As all my gear is basically carp tackle the 1st task was to get a rod. Luckily for me, a quick search on Gumtree resulted in a sweet 6ft telescoping spinning rod for all of £10 - perfect! Once I'd picked that up, it was a case of spooling up an old float reel with 40lb braid and I was good to go.
Jim very kindly kitted me out with some lures: we started with 5g Fox soft plastic lures and had some 2 gram Fox micro lures for hunting down perch if the pike weren't having it (although Jim did point out that pike will happily take a micro...). They looked so small in comparison to the deadbaits I use, even sprats were bigger that these things!
The venue for the day was to be the River Avon at Keynsham with the plan being to start at the lock and cover as much water as possible. It was a freezing cold start and the bridge and lock looked fantastic with the vapour raising off the water... However after a couple of hours casting covering the lock, the main river and the wash just past the weir we decided to head up the River Chew that runs through Keynsham Memorial Park, just in case some perch were around...
Although we saw fish in the park stretch it was a likely looking spot next to the weir that produced my 1st bite! Luckily for me, this tiny perch saved me from a blank.
We did walk back to the lock at Keynsham and I proceeded to lose several perch on micro fry lures... But the day did wet my appetite for lure fishing and if a tiny perch brought a smile to my face, imagine what a 10lb pike will feel like ;)
I was torn between heading to Swineford or the Jack Whites stretch, mainly due to the amount of temporary traffic lights around Keynsham and Bitton but with the satnav telling me it was a clear run, I decided Swineford was the venue for this evening. Things have been pretty busy on the river recently with a lot of anglers taking advantage of the fine weather which has forced me to try some new swims that I've not considered before. Although I did poke a nose into a couple of likely spots in the 1st field, it turned out that Houseboat Bay (the last swim before the kissing gate to the 2nd field) was free so it was hard to resist setting up before someone else nabbed it!
The swim is one of the best on the river as it's on a corner which narrows down slightly giving a lovely glide to trot a float through. It also has amazing bankside cover, a great area of slack water to the right and a houseboat on the far bank which is a fish magnet. Add the fact that it's one of the few swims you can set up a chair in, fish two rods comfortably and cast a decent distance and you've a real winner! I've had great success fishing for pike in this swim, as well as chub but as it does get a bit of a hammering I was slightly nervous it may have been overfished of late...
I needn't have worried! while setting up there were fish topping and showing all over the swim and I couldn't wait to get a bait in the water. For this session I decided to take a slightly different approach in that instead of baiting with liquidized bread and casting out straight away I was going to feed upstream with mix of cubed spam, sweet corn and pellets for a good 30 minutes before casting in. My feeling was that in previous sessions I've had early success but then the fish have backed off - this time, I wanted to get them feeding confidently and in a shoal before I cast out, the idea being that the fish would stick around for longer and the bites would keep coming throughout the session.
So while feeding upstream, I cast the feeder rod downstream and dumped the float in the margin by my feet, just on the off chance something was swimming around... Amazingly, the float dipped almost immediately! It was only a small chub, but it was followed by several more and then a couple of good fish on the feeder. In between bites I kept the feed going in upstream using the catapult and once the bites in the margin dried up, cast my float into the flow...
First few metres of the trot and bang, the float buried... A sharp strike and 1st fish on! And so it continued! Keeping a trickle of bait going in seemed to be the key, firing it a good 4 metres upstream of the float and I was so busy that I pretty much gave up on the feeder rod as the float rod was producing a fish a cast.
One change that I had made between sessions was to respool my reel with some new 4lb line. The difference this made to my casting was amazing as I was managing to land the float closer to the far bank near a overhanging bush that protrudes right out into the river. One cast in particular fell very close to the bush and it just looked like it would do a bite...
Seconds after the float hit the water it shot under and this time, the strike was met with a solid resistance. This was something far bigger but after a dogged fight where the fish charged for every available snag I finally managed to slip a prime size chub into the landing net!
It was a bit of a shock to be honest! I've had fish of a similar size from this stretch but never so early in the season. Re spooling that reel had clearly given me the extra casting distance I need to get close to the snaggy home of some truly monstrous chub.
After that excitement, things slowed down a little so I kept the float rod out of the water and went back to baiting the swim giving the fish a chance to get their confidence back. As I'd been neglecting the feeder rod I decided to make some casts downstream to see if the fish had backed off and was rewarded with a run of smaller chub. It was about 10 minutes later when I was contemplating another cast with the float rod when the tip on the feeder dragged sharply down... I picked up the rod, stuck and bam, something shot off downstream...
I genuinely thought I'd hooked one of the mythical carp that inhabit this stretch as the fish gave such a good fight! But it was of course it was another greedy chub of around the same size as the previous monster. Two in one evening, this session was really turning into something!
I really thought that would be it but over the next couple of hours, I had fish after fish on both rods. As the light began to fade the float rod continued to produce and I found if I could get a bait close to the bush, it would either disappear very soon after hitting the water or a short trot 4 or so metres later. As I began to toy with the idea of packing down, the river gave up one more epic bite as yet another massive chub hit the cube of spam!
So there you go, what a session?! Three clonkingly massive chub, a net full of smaller fish and a couple of random roach. The whole swim had produced bites consistently and it really felt like the gradual feeding, waiting and alternating methods had been successful in keeping the fish feeding in the swim throughout the whole session. I packed down a happy angler and I can't wait for the next session!
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.