Sunday 20 December 2015
It's the start of the Xmas holidays which means I've got some time to spend on the bank. After my last successful piking trip a couple of weeks back, I was really looking forward to getting out on the river again, this time in the sunshine!
The weather at the moment is all over the place, the main thing being it seems to think it's currently autumn... I was really looking forward to some hard frosts to trigger my winter piking campaign but what the hell, Sunday was predicted to be sunny, warm and still with no wind. Not ideal?!
The Swineford section had produced one pike on the last session but I'd taken a look at the other end of the stretch controlled by Keynsham Angling know as 'Jack White's' on the previous weekend and was keen to give it a go. The main thing being that a majority of the swims are closer to the water level and there's far more of them. I'd also seen more anglers on this stretch who where forthcoming with info meaning I had a better idea what to expect and where to fish.
With sun up predicted for 8.30am I decided to have a lyin and arrive at 1st light. Gear wise, I was sticking with the travelling light approach and had scaled my gear back even more than the last trip. As a long time carp angler, it was really great to only be carrying a rucksack, chair, rods and unhooking mat! I think I can shrink it down even more now I've more experience...
I'd scoped out 4 swims to try on my recky, the 1st of which was opposite the weir boom. It's the 1st swim you find after turning left down the footpath in front of the Lock Keeper pub and I knew it had form as an angler I got chatting to had managed 4 decent pike and a big perch on his last session. It's a very 'pikey' looking swim with the boom, slack water and an excellent looking marina entrance. Plenty of options to keep me busy.
The first hour was spent getting the rods set up and establishing where I would be targeting. The simple one was a ledgered mackerel tail that went out towards to right hand weir boom pole. An easy underarm flick with a 2oz lead (a bit change to the 3oz monsters I had to use on the previous session!) and that rod was fishing. I'd decided to try a twitched sprat on the 2nd rod with an aim to cover all of the water in the swim.
About 20 minutes in, I received a couple of bleeps on the bottom bait rod... Although I was further up the bank with the roving sprat rod, I slipped and sled in the mud back to the rod only to strike into thin air... Eels? A pike that decided to spit the bait? A liner? Not sure... But it was a good sign!
So I had a check of the bait and a recast before setting off again with the sprat rod. Ten minutes latter, the bottom bait rod went again! This time however, I was right by the rod in the process of mounting another sprat on the roving rod so I managed to strike, set the hooks and thankfully there was a nice solid resistance on the end of the line.
One change I'd made from the last session was spooling up the reel with braid - and I'm really pleased I did. It's excellent! The contact with the fish was brilliant and although the pike only turned out to be a small jack of around 6lb. it was a brilliant 'test' run on the new line.
Unfortunately for me, although I got the fish in and on the bank, my camera decided to muck me around and it tuned off as I was unhooking the pike... Bit of a shame, it would've been nice to get some video and pics but it wasn't to be.
The pike had kindly left my bait intact so after examining some evil looking teeth marks, it was recast out to the same spot. Although the sprat rod wasn't producing a knock I had an enjoyable time 'working the water' with the bait. As I'd really out stayed my time in the swim (must remember to stay mobile!) I decided to re-tackle the rod with a float and give a trotted suspended bait a go for a short while before moving on. It's a method I was keen to try and with a very slow flow running down the cut, I figured it would be a perfect presentation. With the weather being as warm as it was, I had a feeling the bait would need to be literally dumped on the pikes head or drift past it's face to trigger a bite!
I spent another 20 minutes in the swim (chant the 'mobile' mantra on future sessions!) but with nothing happening and the rain clouds gathering I decided a move was in order. The 2nd swim was only a 5 minute stroll down the bank where the river widens out. This meant the flow was slightly faster but I'd found an area of slack in front of an old water works building and a margin area to my right which I opted to drop the float into, mainly as the flow was too fast for trotting.
As the rain kicked in, I took shelter under the trees and watched the rod tips... 20 minutes later there were no takers but luckily the rain passed pretty quickly and I didn't get too wet!
So another change of swim was in order. It was getting on for around 1ish and I was desperate to get another fish on the bank...
Although there were another couple of swims I had my sights on, I actually settled in a spot at the end of the footpath right outside what I *think* is a house the stretch is named after, Jack White's Cottage (or at least, it's the only white house I could see!).
The swim screamed pike the moment I walked through it... Not too wide, a big fallen tree directly opposite and a fantastic run of died back reeds in the margin to my right. Surely there'd be a fish or two here?!
As it turns out, there was... and I had half an hour of the most exciting and frustrating fishing I've had in a long, long while!
The bottom bait rod went out with a fresh bait to a bay next to the fallen tree. The bait held bottom and was stationary. The 2nd rod still had the float on and I figured it would be ideal to trot it along the died back reeds.
Within 5 minutes there was an almighty knock on the bottom bait rod. And another. Bang. Bang. So I got down from the footpath so I'd be close to the rods. At which point, the float on the right hand rod stood up and started twitching...
Before I had time to figure out which rod to strike, the bottom bait rod decided it by roaring off down the river! It took so much line, it was like a carp run. Although I made a bit of a mess of the strike, it was fish on... if only for a minute as the pike decided to spit the bait.
Arrg. Not to be beaten, the rod went back out again to the same spot and I turned my attentions back to the float which was still twitching...
20 seconds later... BANG, the bottom bait rod buckled over again! Again, it all went wrong... the braid somehow got caught between one of the chain links of my bobbin - what the hell?! Desperately trying to free the braid, I could feel the fish lunging away at the trace but by the time I'd managed to strike the fish must've spat the bite yet again...
Much swearing later and I managed to reposition both rods only to have the float rod peel off! But again, nothing...
So annoying! But very exciting?!
And then eventually, about 15 minutes later I got a small knock on the bottom bait rod. Although it didn't turn into a run, I noticed that the braid was now cutting through the water in the centre of the flow rather than out towards the tree... So I struck and at last, it was fish on!
A quick battle and another fine looking river Avon pike of around 5lb was in the net. Not the monster I was expecting but it was great to put another fish on the bank.
Having had so much action in such a short space of time, I was in two minds whether to move or have another pop? I've no idea if you've had one pike out you'll not see another one? And although the margin rod hadn't shown any signs of life (probably due to the amount of disturbance I'd make on the bank) I decided to give it another 10 minutes before moving...
As luck would have it, I made a good choice as I started to get knocks and taps again on the bottom bait rod! I'd been busting for a leak for about 2 hours now and decided I'd duck behind a tree quickly as I'd not seen a soul for a while...
...which of course was the trigger for another run! The rod was just stripping line as I rushed back along the bank. Striking into the fish, it felt a far more substantial weight that the previous two and after a bit of being led all around the swim, a decent double pike was sitting in the bottom of the landing net.
What a day?! With the light beginning to fade I decided to recast and pack down in the same swim as it would be dark before I made it into the next swim. Amazingly, 5 minutes later the bottom bait rod was off again! How many pike were in this swim?! But this time my luck failed and although I connected with the fish, it spat the bait within seconds...
So a really great session. I learnt loads, had three decent pike, countless runs (it's all good experience!) and almost a sun tan.
Can't wait for the next trip.
Sunday 29 November 2015
Weather?! Pah. Lets go fishing! It maybe that the weather man was predicting the worst rain and high winds we've seen all year but what the hell, I was desperate to get out the rivers with an aim to catching a pike!
Dad and I have been searching for a club to join for a couple of years now. All the river stretches (with the exception of the Conham Water Park and Saltford) seem to have been snapped up by clubs and it's a tough call to find one that covers everything you want...
In the end, we opted for the Keynsham Angling Association as it has excellent stretches of the River Avon and the River Chew. They also run the excellent looking Century Ponds over in Keynsham that I'm very keen on giving a go once we get back to summer. At £20 for 13 months membership, it's a bit of a bargain!
I'd taken a walk with the kids the weekend before at the Swineford end of stretch which runs for three fields starting at the excellent Swan Inn pub. There were a couple of anglers in the 1st swim we found and they'd just had a double figure pike out! Not bad, not bad at all. Although there were no other anglers in the rest of the swims, the river looked very inviting and perfect for targeting pike.
So the date was set and I arrived in the dark the following Saturday at a very ambitions 7am! Trudging across the 1st field in the pitch black with my gear was no picnic... As predicted, the weather was grim: although it wasn't yet raining, the wind was hacking across the fields and the footpath was very wet and muddy...
Not surprisingly, the target 1st swim was empty! I wonder why?! Although Dad hadn't yet arrived, I was eager to set up which as it turns out could've ended in disaster... As I'd brought frozen baits (a triple pack of mackerel from Scott Tackle) they'd need defrosting before I could separate them. Easy I thought, get a bucket of water and let them cool off in there...
Not so easy: a very steep and slippy descent down the bank side saw me nearly ending up in the very fast flowing river and getting back up again was near as dammit impossible! So, lesson learnt: in dangerous conditions, never fish alone, have a bit of patience and wait for your Dad to arrive.
But with a bucket of water obtained and the bait starting to defrost, I decided to get the rods set up and ready for when Dad arrived. I'd decided to fish both rods on ledgers as the flow was going to be fast. Having checked out countless options online, each rod had a swivel 3oz gripper lead, a bead and helicopter sleeve so the rig would 'run' with little resistance and a shop bought wire trace with two trebles. Compared to the carp set up, this was simple!
Dad soon arrived with the rain and after walking him back through the fields, it was time to get the rods out. Finding a slack spot was tricky but the luckily the swim offered lots of options: there's an inflow pipe directly opposite, with a platform either side and a fallen tree to the right. Once we'd found the slack water in the gloom, the 3oz leads helped keep bottom and we were fishing!
We had a few knocks and taps to begin with but nothing positive. I had an experiment trying to 'twitch' sprats (I'd managed to pick up 10 or so from the supermarket, either to use as bait or as prebaits) but the weather and treacherous bankside conditions made it very difficult to keep active.
The first sign of a fish came at around 10ish when Dad noticed a string of sharp knocks on the right hand rod out in the bay by the fallen tree. These were far more positive than any other signs we'd had (which we'd put down to the flow or possibly eels?) and as the bobbin started to move along with the rod tip I slipped excited over to the rod... could this be my 1st river pike?!
I'd practiced in my mind how to 'set the hooks' but practice is no substitute for the real thing! I picked up the rod, wound down and hit (what I hoped was) a fish with a hard sideways strike and...
What a fight! The fish took off downstream, then came across the river, then tail walked in front of the swim, then dived into the reeds...
I was very, very glad Dad was there not only to offer advice but to help me net it as getting down the bank side with the landing net and rod wasn't an option.
In the end, a fine looking double figure pike sat in the landing net. To say I was made up was an overstatement, what a result!
Then came the tricky task of unhooking the fish... I've not done this for over a decade and the last pike I handled was considerably smaller and from a lake with a nice steady platform. Not a slippery as hell bank side with a river charging by...
Putting your hand inside a pike's jaws and then diving in with a pair of forceps is and interesting experience but finally the prize was held up for the camera. Happy days!
After that excitement, the weather really set in and we decided to head to the 2nd swim I'd scoped out as it offered a bit of shelter under a fallen tree. As it turned out, the swim wasn't as 'pikey' as I'd first imagined and after braving the elements under an ominous creaking tree for an hour or so, we headed back to the 1st swim.
Although we had no more pike, it was a really exciting day's fishing. I learned loads and to catch one on my first visit to the river was a massive confidence boost.
I'm really, really looking forward to winter on the rivers!
Monday 28 September 2015
I've been itching to get back to the excellent Follyfoot Fishery since the two sessions down there during my 40th Birthday Fishing Extravaganza week. Both sessions had been excellent despite the weather and with September sunshine predicted what better venue to use up my one remaining days holiday before winter takes hold?!
If you've never been to the fishery before it's well worth a look: it's around 3 acres in size, a long lake with depths starting at 6ft and moving to around 12ft at the far end from the car park. There are regular swims but they're out numbered by excellent cabins which have decking that extends out into the lake. Put that together with a tidy shower/toilet block and you've got real luxury!
Oh, and the most amazing fish! But more about that later...
The change over time for the huts is 12pm at the weekends so I decided to arrive around 1ish, mainly to let the swim calm down a bit from it's previous occupant. Over the weekends, most huts are occupied by two anglers and as the number of rods you can use is only restricted by the number of rod licences you've got, you can guarantee that there were six lines out and that the fish had seen a lot of bait and a whole heap of pressure! I figured the fish'd appreciate a couple hours break before I got fishing?!
The drive down was clear as a bell and the weather was amazing (and set to stay great for the rest of the week!). I'd tuned into the weather report on the news and they'd mentioned that there was going to be a 'blood moon' luna eclipse at 3am on Sunday night. I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not! Fish do certainly seem to be effected by moon cycles, so it could potentially make or break the session!
Arriving at the lake, it became apparent that it was very, very busy: every hut was taken, most with 2 anglers with 3 rods each and nearly all of them were booked into Monday so no chance of moving. But not to worry, I'd chosen hut 19 which is down in the far right hand corner of the lake.
It's a perfect spot that I'd checked out on my last visit: there's a whole margin to the right with a tree that points out into the water meaning the anglers in hut 16 can't cast round or over your lines. You've then got a big expanse of open water out in front of the deck which due to the power lines, people cant cast into. And to finish it off, there's an tight little margin with a tree snag to the left which is tucked away and quiet(ish). Worth doing the research on the last trip!
To get things going, I lightly prebaited the margin spots left and right with a mix of pellets, sweetcorn and method mix with a dash of hemp oil. Bait wise, I'd opted to use luncheon meat as on the last couple of sessions it had really done the business. So rod one went out with a solid PVA pag filled with a mix of pellets, crumbed up luncheon meat with groundbait and a big cube of meat on the bait spike mounted on the hair...
The first run can to that left hand margin rod before I'd even managed to get the other rods set up! I'd say it'd been in the water 5 minutes max ;)
And so the action continued all afternoon and into the evening. The fish were coming so thick and fast, it was well last 10pm before I managed to get a gap and cook some dinner - amazing fishing!
The moon popped up behind the hut after dinner, a huge silver disk in the sky and as the temperature dropped the runs became more sporadic. So I decided to bait all 3 rods in sequence at around 11pm and get my head down for a couple of hours kip...
I must've dozed for a couple of hours, rushing out to land a couple of fish and then fallen fast asleep as it was a bit of a shocking alarm when my left hand rod screamed off at pretty much 3am on the nose! I managed to get my head torch and glasses on before rushing outside not to a moonlit scene but a virtually pitch black lake... Glancing up skywards as I grabbed the rod I noticed that the 'Blood Moon' eclipse was well under way and the silver disk of the moon was nearly completely covered!
That 3am fish was the biggest so far, a pristine 20lb common carp that went through all my lines and took me a good 20 minutes to get in. An absolute stunner!
In the end, I reeled in around 5am. The relentless action had knackered me out and I was desperate to get some sleep! I did wake up around 8am but felt so warm and comfy on my bedchair that I decided to go back to drift off... Having already filled my boots with fish, it seemed like a good idea to catch up on some well eared sleep?!
I finally woke up around 9am and got the rods out again on the spots. Instantly, the fish were on the munch with a double take followed by fish on the next cast literally seconds after the bait landed in the water. Such greedy fish!
As with dinner (I should've learnt my lesson by now...) it wasn't until a slow patch in the action around 11am that I managed to get breakfast on the go and sit in the sun for a bit. Despite the sunny weather, the fish weren't up on the surface and I decided to chill out in my bed chair, rest the water a bit and just enjoy being outside.
The fish came back on the feed around 3ish and I spent a really enjoyable afternoon picking carp out in the margins. It was with great reluctance that I started to pack down at 6pm but I managed a fish on the last cast (always a bonus) and finally got the gear back round to the car by 7.30pm
Whatta session?! Possibly one of the best I've ever had: loads of fish, a run of biguns, fantastic weather, a blood moon... Will I ever have the like again?!
But magically there was a gap this Friday with child one out on a sleep over and no plans for the Saturday! Weather wise, it wasn't looking too clever: the rain was set to kick in around 2am, getting heavier around 4ish and then petering out in the morning... But what the hell! It's rained pretty much every session I've been out on in the last 2 months, so why should this trip be any different?!
I decided on Windmill Fishery out on Henfield Road, heading out of Bristol towards Westerleigh. I'd fished there for the 1st time back in June and had a good session. It's not an easy lake but in a way, that's what I fancied: somewhere that's a bit of a challenge where I could push my self a bit and get a decent nights sleep.
Due to work, I didn't get to the fishery until 7pm and the sky was already darkening. The lake was completely deserted... Result! I had the place to myself ;)
As it's not an easy lake I decided to hedge my bets and head to the swim I occupied on my last trip. It'd done me well on that session with three fish coming out. The spot itself is right in the middle of a junction that the canal joins the thin end of the lake into the 'bowl' with the island at the larger end. As there's not much in the way of features (the margins are impossibly shallow) it made sense to pick a swim that commanded a lot of water and therefore options. It also meant I didn't need to do any feature finding as I'd already mapped out the swim and knew the depths and spots where fish had come from before. The good news was the water level (a real problem on this lake) was up at a reasonable but still not full level and that meant the deeper holes I'd found before would be deeper still and would (hopefully) still be a holding point for the fish.
It was a bit of a rush to get the rods out and the swims baited before darkness descended - the long summer evenings are going and it was pretty much completely dark by 7.45pm... But I've set the bivvy up in the pitch dark before and the gathering rain clouds where an incentive to get the job done quickly ;)
I was pleased with the set up and everything felt good for a bite: one rod went out with a Sticky Baits 'The Krill' boile in a PVA bag of pellets to the swim directly in front of me towards the bigger bowl in the lake and the 2nd rod went out in the canal with a small white popup, again in a PVA bag of pellets and hemp oil. A few scattered freebees around the spots and that would do it.
So I got my head down!
For once the weather report was spot on and the rain started at pretty much 2am on the nose. I'd had liners all evening with nothing more than slight twitches on the bobbins but at 2.30am the bowl rod signaled a dropback bite. I blundered out of my bivvy and managed to get to the rod to see the bobbin hit the deck and then... nothing. I couldn't see anything in the water in the dark so I had no idea where the line was so I took a chance, picked up the rod and stuck into thin air! A bit of frantic winding later and I connected with the fish who must've picked up the bait, hooked itself and then instantly run towards me and then right down the canal!
To be honest, I don't think it'd realised it was hooked until I put some pressure on the rod at which point it kicked off and began to put up a fight. It's always exciting hooking into a fish in the dark as you've no real idea of what you've got until its on the mat. This one was certainly 'plodding' which is always a good sign. After a bit of a stumble down the bank and a few lunges at the net a beaut mirror carp slipped into the net! Start to finish, it could only've been 10 minutes at most but when you go from fast asleep to putting what felt like a good fish on the bank, it's pretty exciting!
The fish turned out to be an in pristine condition mirror carp that took the scales round to 17lb - not a bad start to the session ;)
One thing that struck me was how large the mouth was: you could've fitted a tangerine there!
Fortunately for me, the fish had been kind enough to come in a gap in the rain. But by the time I'd slipped the fish back, set about getting the rod back out, rebaiting and getting back to bed it was hammering it down...
After a good few hours kip I had another another drop back bite at around 5am, just as a bit of light came in to the sky and the rain stopped again. This was from the same spot out in front of me, again on the Krill boilies. As with the last fish, it zoomed off down the canal and after a short scrap a nice 15lb common was sat in the landing net.
It actually looked like it was going to be a nice morning as there was a real orange glow in the sky over the lake. But it soon turned steely grey and as before, by the time I'd sorted out the rods again it was chucking it down. But having had two fish, I wasn't too bothered! In fact, it was great to crawl back into the sleeping bag and fall asleep again...
I woke up again around 9ish after the canal rod had registered a few beeps. Shooting out of the bivy to check the rod, I noticed that the tip was springing back and forth - an aborted take? Around 10 minutes later it seems the fish came back for another go as the rod just screamed off! This time though, rather than skooting down the canal, the fish headed out into open water towards my other spot.
This fish was very angry and put up the best fight of the three that came out in this session. Another 15lb common, too good ;)
The sun came out after that and the bites dried up with it. I packed down in the sunshine and left around 11ish having had a brilliant session: a perfect mix of much needed sleep, relaxation and some cracking fish!
It was very windy and although the fish were feeding up on the surface, keeping a controller and bait in position was next to impossible...
So out came the zig rigs! And it worked, 20+ fish in the space of a few hours.