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.
I caught chub after chub, a dustbin lid bream and a trout - all in the space of a few hours ;)
I managed to catch quite a few small dace and roach along with two chub, one of which was a bit of a monster!
A fantastic evening session in beautiful surroundings - too good ;)
The good news is that the info is easier to read and mobile friendly!
I've been putting it to good use over the last couple of months to get an idea of the stretches of the Rive Avon I've been fishing over at Keynsham. There's two that are handy:
Latest river level information for: the River Avon at Keynsham RL
This is the Jack Whites stretch below the weir running in front of the old Cadbury chocolate factory.
Latest river level information for: the River Avon at Keynsham US
This is for the Crane stretch above the weir heading towards Swinford.
There's also information on the River Levels site:
Although the data is the same, it's displayed slightly differently and has some nice additions like maps and graphs.
The last bit of river fishing I did was a couple of years back when we were travelling in Australia. We'd stopped for the night in a camp site up in the Atherton Tablelands and it had a river running along the valley. I'd been free lining worms along a very shallow stretch, only 30 or so centimetres deep and had caught loads of really dark black bream and turtles! I had a feeling the Avon maybe a bit different...
By far the biggest challenge we've had is finding any reliable info about river fishing in and around Bristol. It seems most of the river stretches have been snapped up by clubs and any of the 'free' areas change hands regularly meaning nobody seems to know where you can and can't fish! But after exhaustive googling and asking in three different tackle shops, we settled on Saltford with the Conham River Park as a back up.
The advice had been to fish the stretch from the weir by the Jolly Sailor pub down to the shallows. We managed to find it on the map and arrived around 7ish, just as the light was coming into the sky.
The first spot to try was just outside the sailing club as the road curves away from the river. There's a concrete jetty and a metal walkway around 20 metres long that runs along the river bank, perfect for fishing off! I rigged up one of my carp rods with a open ended feeder and loaded it up with liquidised bread plugged at either end with a mix of hemp and maggots in the middle. A real simple hook link of 6lb mono with a size 12 hook with 4 or so red maggots and that rod was ready to go out in the flow right in front of some boats and a wooden jetty to my left. The other rod was my trusty 13ft float rod which I've had for years. It's prefect for river fishing and I soon had that out trotting in the flow with a thin waggler dotted with 5bb shot and a couple of red maggots on the teeny tiny size 16 hook to nylon (such a different from the 'bent nails' I use for carp fishing!).
The first fish of the day was an eel! Caught more through luck than judgement as I'd dropped my float in at the edge by my feet while I sorted out a cast on the feeder rod. It was a good sign though and as I'd had nothing from trotting the float out in the flow, I started to cast along the jetty literally just 1/2 a foot from the side (although I guess it was a good couple of foot in if you think about the undercut). Over the next couple of hours I had bleak, good size roach, minnows and a decent perch - all inches from my feet!
I'd been getting knocks on the feeder rod all morning but nothing really seemed to take. Then at 10ish, the tip started to rattle and I struck into what felt like a decent fish! A short play in the flow and a decent size bream of 5lb or so slipped into the net - not bad! I'd put the knocks down to eels nibbling at the bait but if there was a shoal of bream out there...
But no more bites... In fact, the bites tailed off altogether at 11ish so I decided to take a wander the other side of the weir past the pub. There's a footpath that runs down the side of some fields that are plastered with signs stating 'Private Fishing, Keep Out! Holston Fishing Syndicate'. I've never heard of 'Holsen' but everyone I'd spoken to had said that part of the river was controlled by Bathampton AA?! Anyhow, there were 5 or so swims dug into the bank that looked really good. The river thins down here and the flow was slightly calmer. Would love to give it a go, need to find the mysterious club that runs it?!
I gave the boat ramp spot another hour or so as dad had pulled in some more silvers and a decent perch but a mixture of surprisingly warm weather and an increase in the flow seemed to have killed the swim dead. The wind had really got up too making trotting floats almost impossible...
The biggest tip I'd been given for river fishing is to stay mobile, so I took a wander up the bank in the other direction of the weir. There were two more fishermen spread out over 5 or so swims a couple of minutes walk from the jetty. They'd had nothing out as yet, but I'd noticed the wind was a bit more sheltered here and the swims had small areas of slack water - worth a go?
Once in my new swim I got the feeder rod going in regularly every 15 mins and tried the float rod again. Nothing was forthcoming in the 1st hour then the feeder rod jumped in the rests! I struck into the fish and it felt really good, maybe one of the river carp?! As it turns out, it was a dustbin lid bream of around 8lb.
These river bream are in a different league to their still water cousins. I was amazed by the fight it put up and what a fat fish!
That was to be the last big fish from the swim but I did manage another eel and a ruff, a fish I'd never caught before and had to resort to Google to identify.
The weather had really changed now with the wind howling down the river and threatening looking black clouds gathering on the horizon. I moved the gear back to the jetty for a few last casts and we packed down packed down at 5 and went for a pint!
Saltford is a good spot and it's free, well worth a look if you fancy having a shot at river fishing. It was great to catch so many fish, especially as the Avon's reputation doesn't seem to be that glowing? And to catch so many eels was amazing as last I heard was that they were nearing the endangered list ;)