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.
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!
Wednesday 19 July 2017
After a slow start, the river sessions on the Bristol Avon are really beginning to pick up now. This evening was no exception, with fish falling to luncheon meat from the 1st cast!
Even with the weather closing in, I was so desperate to get back on the river after last weeks successful session that I decided to head over to the River Avon at Swineford for another go. I drove through sunshine but the black clouds were building on the horizon and by the time I arrived, it was raining... Gotta love summer!
Luckily for me though, all but one of the showers were light and I managed to hunker down under a steep bank and stay mostly dry. The fishing was brilliant, catching chub from the off using freelined luncheon meat in the slack water to the right of my swim.
After feeding the main flow of water for half an hour or so the float fishing really picked up and a steady net of fish came in, nothing massive but loads of fun on light tackle.
As the light levels got lower and the clouds heavier, the bigger fish put in an appearance... The chub photographed above came just 20 minutes before packing up! To be honest, I thought it was a pike at first as it put up a lot of resistance - what a stunning fish.
The rain had really brought out the slugs and although I had a good collection in the bait bucket, there were no takers this evening. I'm convinced they make a great bait through and as they appear to be in such abundance, I'll definitely be giving them another go on the next session.
I'm chained to my desk today looking out on a very wet, blustery Bristol but you never know, maybe it'd be worth donning the water proofs and heading out again?!
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.