Monday 13 November 2017
It's a question I often ask myself, where's the best place to buy bait for pike fishing?
Up until now, I've relied heavily on supermarkets for my dead bait supplies but last week my freezer was empty meaning the only choice was to hit the tackle shop en route to the river...
The selection was great, as was the quality so I can't fault them there. However the price was a little more than I was expecting... My £5 got me two packs of sardines and with three in a pack, that's £0.83 a bait! Not to bad I hear you say but with a bait as soft as a sardine, you'll only get one or two casts max before it disintegrated so it can get quite expensive.
Luckily for me, Tesco had a good selection of fish in today so I decided to a price comparison. I bought eight sardines and the total cost was £1.68 which works out at a much more affordable £0.21 a bait which makes me a lot less precious about casting them out! I also picked up fifteen sprats which at £0.48 were a bargain.
Performance wise, I've never had any problems with supermarket baits and after my price comparison, I think that's what I'll be sticking with in the future!
After a couple of really productive sessions I was really hopeful of a couple of bites. I'd come armed with the ever reliable sprats, sardines and mackerel and the plan was to hit the same swims as before using the same methods of drifting and ledgering.
But after moving 3 times with nothing to show for it, it was clear today was going today was going to be tough...
As it turned out, the only bite of the day came late afternoon after moving to the 6th swim. The 'dead tree swim' has produced the goods in the past and this session was no different - a good looking micro jack pike that took a stinky sardine that was nearly as long as itself!
And that was it. I didn't get so much as a knock in any of the other swims but it was lovely to be out on the bank in the unseasonal November weather.
Fingers crossed it's not a sign of things to come! I've hit the Crane Stretch a couple of times over the last month so maybe a trip to Swineford for the next session is in order?
Monday 16 October 2017
Man flu and Hurricane Ophelia are two things that will NOT stop this man from getting his weekly river pike fishing fix!
To be honest, I didn't think todays session was gonna happen... There just seemed to many things against it but sometimes you've just gotta push a bit harder and as I stomped through the leaves upstream on the River Avon at Keynsham, that 'buzz' of being on the bank came back to me.
The day was looking very spooky: I'd been keeping an eye on the weather forecast and record temperatures and high winds were being predicted across most of England. It was warm, muggy even, but the light was the weirdest thing. The sun was a bright orange disk low in a dull grey sky, it almost looked like the reverse of an eclipse? Although the wind was blowing strong, it was very still and quiet with no bird song and only the slow current of the river providing any background noise... Very, very odd.
Rather than stomping a long way across the fields and working my way back, I'd decided to reverse the idea and fish the swims up from the marina and into the 1st field. My chest infection was making breathing difficult and I didn't like the idea of a long walk (lazy I know). So I jumped in the 1st available swim which is perfect for setting up in as it's wide and open.
It quickly became apparent that drifting sprats was going to be tricky... The wind was blowing against the current so big bows were forming in the lines and bite detection was virtually impossible. So I decided to up sticks and move to the next swim which was slightly more sheltered...
...only to find a bloody boat in it! It's pretty cheeky as a new pontoon was installed on the stretch just up from the marina meaning five or so swims are now unfishable. I'm guessing you have to pay for mooring up at the pontoon but it's free if you can get away with it in one of the fishing swims?! Grrr.
So I decided to head into the 1st field and fish on the bend opposite the boat yard that 'The Crane Stretch' gets it's name from. I'd never really fished the swim before but it looks good and I was keen to try somewhere new.
Due to the wind, I switched one rod to a ledger set up and the 2nd with a 1oz ball weight above the swivel, the idea being one would be nailed to the bottom and the other would still 'drift' if the current was strong enough. I did stick with the sprat rig though as my feeling was that there would be loads of hungry jacks around so smaller baits was the best bet. And the last change was to cast out further into the flow. I've been rewatching a lot of Joe from Nuffinbutfishin's YouTube channel and one thing I'd noticed was he generally casts out into the river, not something I've really done as I'd opted to fish close in snaggy swims in the past (the flow on this part of the Avon always seems to be very fast which has put me off casting to the middle in the past).
So out went the baits and I sat back to see what would happen... As it turned out I didn't have to wait long! The right hand rod went off with a screaming take that I really wasn't expecting!
Only a small jack but it meant I was off the mark and it seemed to spark a feeding frenzy as over the next hour or so I banked another 3 jacks. Switching between sardines and sprats seemed to do the trick and although the weather was still a challenge, jack after jack was attacking the baits (I missed a couple of runs, striking early to avoid deep hooking the small pike).
After all that activity the bites tailed off and as I began thinking about a move, the sun came out and the wind eased off! Very odd. I really thought the sudden change in weather would kill the fishing and as it was now creeping towards hometime I figured jumping into the swim to my right was worth a go. It's just past the bend in the river and gives you access to the far tree lined bank as well as a long straight just off the crease heading down river - ideal.
The only problem was I'd nearly run out of bait! The jacks in the last swim had left me with a very sorry looking sardine tail, three sprats and one mackerel tail... What the hell though, gotta give it a go! The bedraggled sardine tail went out on the ledger rod to the far margin just round the bend and the right hand rod was baited with a sprat and cast into the flow.
I was very surprised when ten minutes after casting out the left hand rod exploded into life! If this was a jack, it was really giving it some... But I was greeted with a solid resistance when I struck into the fish and after a fantastic fight a stunning looking River Avon pike was sat in the net.
What a great fish! As we're early in the season, it was a lean mean fighting machine of just under 10lb but give it another couple of months and I reckon it will hit 15lb no problem.
By now the day was really marching on and as the cows turned up (I think they head this way for an afternoon feed from the farmer?) I headed back to the swim with the boat in it which had now disappeared. Although there were no touches, I'm convinced it's worth giving the swim another go in the future as it just screams pike!
So yet another brilliant days fishing on the Avon! I can't wait for the next session, we're really heading into winter now and those pike'll be hungry...
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.