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.
Tuesday 13 March 2018
Spring seems to have sprung! It's been pretty cold, wet and miserable lately but today the sun was shining, the birds were tweeting and I was off to fish a new venue on the Crosshands Angling Club ticket, the excellent looking Hunters Lake.
With only one stop en route to pick up some maggots, I arrived at Hunters Lake at around 9.30am to find it completely devoid of anglers... I decided to settle on the on the 'point' swim and cast the feeder to main the tree island, with the 2nd rod being fished to the small island on my left with a medusa rig of 15 or so red and white maggots.
Amazingly, the small island rod ripped off after 10 minutes! The result was a fighting fit mirror carp of around 15lb which game an amazing account of itself on light gear.
The action was slow and steady throughout the day, with definite feeding spells where the feeder rod would produce a run of fish. I worked my way through a couple of common carp, a crucian carp (my first in over a decade!) and a decent size bream which baring in mind the time of year, wasn't a bad haul.
The day finished with a prime common carp which was in immaculate condition - not bad, not bad at all!
I'm already looking forward to my next session at Hunters Lake, I've a feeling that once we move into spring proper the fishing will really pick up and there maybe some monsters lurking... Watch this space!
I caught chub after chub, a dustbin lid bream and a trout - all in the space of a few hours ;)
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 ;)