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!
I managed to sneak out for another session, leaving much earlier this time and being slightly better prepared with an array of new stick floats and a freshly spooled reel!
The conditions were pretty much spot on, the only tricky thing being a strong wind that had me casting the feeder/freelining rod into a tree twice... But with action pretty much from the off, I had a great evenings fishing.
As before, the moment the light levels dropped the chub really started to feed and I managed these three beauties in the space of 10 minutes! All in all, there were 10 fish in the keepnet by the end of the night and although it was very tough to pack up in the near darkness at 8.10pm (how I miss those long summer evenings!) it was great to be out on the river bank once last time.
I'm ready looking forward to the river pike season starting in October. Based on the activity in my swim this evening, I think the Bristol Avon will hopefully produce some absolute monsters again this year...
I have to say, I felt completely out of tune with the river... It was obvious the moment that I arrived that much had changed since my previous session!
The weather looked good, a cloudy windless evening after 3 days of bright sunshine and no wind. The water level and flow looked good and as I cast out my freelined spam in my favourite tree swim it looked good for a bite!
But the action was very slow. I couldn't get my float to trot properly, the freelined rod kept getting snagged and after several frustrating tangles in cramped conditions I decided to make things easier for myself and move to houseboat bay.
Luckily for me, I was saved from a blank by this fat chub!
The light was gone by 8pm and I ended up packing down in the near darkness...
I think that maybe it for evening sessions on the river for 2017!
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.