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!
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?!
I've had such an amazing run of excellent pike sessions on the Bristol River Avon over the last month or so, with loads of jack's and a couple of nearly double fish falling to ledgered sardines. But now we're into late November the weather is becoming a much bigger factor...
We had really heavy rain overnight on Wednesday and from checking the water levels on Friday morning I could see the river was higher than usual. As I walked into the 1st field to my new 'banker swim' just on the bend my heart sunk... Although there'd been a frost and it was very cold (great for pikeing, not great for fingers!) I could see that the river was very coloured and hacking through a quite a pace. Several of the swims that I'd fished on previous sessions were unfishable due to being the underwater!
But out went the rods and I couldn't quite believe it when the left hand rod ripped off minutes after the bait got the deck! However I struck into nothing... Very odd...
Unfortunately this set the theme for the day. My baits were being attacked and ripped to shreds minutes after being cast out. I'm 99.9% that the coloured water had brought the eels out in force and they were enjoying a free meal. It's happened to me before on the Avon and although eels are on the endangered list, they seem to be prolific in the river.
I persevered though, moving through five swims but as the sun started to sink at around 4pm I packed down with nothing to show for my efforts.
Damn. My 1st blank.
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...