Friday 18 January 2019
So... I had to go and do some boring stuff at B&Q today and as I was so close to Keynsham I thought I'd pop in to Premier Angling and pick up some more lures... and then seeing I still had the gear in the back of the car, it seemed rude not to drop in on the lock... Just to see if there were any perch or pike around...
And it turned out to be a complete perch fest! These are some of the bigger ones, in total I think I must've had around 6 decent fish and numerous missed hits in the space of about 10 minutes.
It was so much fun, and with the light rod and small lures even these small fish gave a great fight.
So there you go, you can catch fish on lures - now all I need to do is catch one of those illusive pike on one...
My approach to piking has always been to use deadbaits, I guess mainly as it's most similar to carp fishing in that you set traps and then generally have to sit and wait. So lure fishing was going to be a whole different experience: light rods, tiny lures, casting, casting, casting, constantly moving...
To be honest, it was going to be a bit of a leap of faith! I know that people do catch pike using lures on the river (Jim has caught loads!) but until you've got one on the bank yourself, there's an element of disbelief about it... Why would a pike turn it's nose up at a nice stinky sardines in favour of a wiggling bit of plastic?!
As all my gear is basically carp tackle the 1st task was to get a rod. Luckily for me, a quick search on Gumtree resulted in a sweet 6ft telescoping spinning rod for all of £10 - perfect! Once I'd picked that up, it was a case of spooling up an old float reel with 40lb braid and I was good to go.
Jim very kindly kitted me out with some lures: we started with 5g Fox soft plastic lures and had some 2 gram Fox micro lures for hunting down perch if the pike weren't having it (although Jim did point out that pike will happily take a micro...). They looked so small in comparison to the deadbaits I use, even sprats were bigger that these things!
The venue for the day was to be the River Avon at Keynsham with the plan being to start at the lock and cover as much water as possible. It was a freezing cold start and the bridge and lock looked fantastic with the vapour raising off the water... However after a couple of hours casting covering the lock, the main river and the wash just past the weir we decided to head up the River Chew that runs through Keynsham Memorial Park, just in case some perch were around...
Although we saw fish in the park stretch it was a likely looking spot next to the weir that produced my 1st bite! Luckily for me, this tiny perch saved me from a blank.
We did walk back to the lock at Keynsham and I proceeded to lose several perch on micro fry lures... But the day did wet my appetite for lure fishing and if a tiny perch brought a smile to my face, imagine what a 10lb pike will feel like ;)
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 ;)
A brand new water today for our double hit of fishing this weekend. Harescombe Fisheries is a 4 lake (well, 3 lakes and a pond!) fishery in Gloucester around 30 mins outside of Bristol heading north on the M5. We knew little or nothing about the place other than the chap in the Cirencester tackle shop mentioned it last time Dad went in. He's a keen match fisherman and was singing its praises and from what I could find online, it's a well stocked, well maintained commercial - well worth a go.
After the terrible weather of the last couple of weeks and a wet and windy day on the bank on the Saturday, we were pleased to see the outlook for Sunday was sun, sun and a bit more sun! However, the draw back to lack of cloud cover was a car covered in ice... Our 7am start was put back a bit... Not to worry, scrape down the car, get on the road, pick up some bread and bacon on route and we still managed to arrive at the fishery around 7.30am.
Only to find the Field Lake we'd planned on fishing was closed due to a hosting a match! Bugger. I thought the match lake would have the, er, match on it?! The other options we're Pasture Lake (which turned out to be a small pond... but according to the bailiff, it's got the biggest, hardest fighting fish in the complex?!) or Meadow Lake (didn't fancy the match lake and I think it had a 2nd match running on it later in the day). Based on the info online, we figured Meadow would be the best bet: it looks to be around the same size as Field, only slightly smaller with less tree cover.
One of the nice features about the fishery is that you can drive to your peg. When we finally arrived, there was one fisherman on the bank for the whole lake - even with our early start knocked back by the ice and our garage stop it'd paid off as we had pick of the swims. The lake itself has a big bowl of water thinning out to the top end where it narrows out. We opted for the top end, the thinking being that the run off pipe flowed into the lake there (lots of nice oxygen fed water), there were plenty of died back water lilies and weed beds and (the main thing) the farthest swims were flooded meaning we'd have that end of the lake to ourselves if it got busy (which it did!).
A new water is always a (nice!) challenge - how do you approach it, how does it fish, what baits do they go for. Being a commercial, I figured the fish would've seen pellets, maggots, sweetcorn a plenty so opted for a maggot ball on the feeder out in open water on one rod and 2 bit's of popped up plastic corn on the 2nd rod on a light ledger cast to the far end tight to the weed beds. I've realised this is fast becoming my favourite set up!
Dad went out with the float loaded with sweetcorn and nabbed the 1st bite pretty much 5 minutes after he got a bait in the water, a decent size common. Then my ledger rod wrapped round! I managed to lean into the fish only to loose it as it came to the bank... Ah well, take a deep breath, calm down (the 1st run of the day always gets the adrenaline flowing) get the rod back out and get back to setting up!
The pace for the 1st couple of hours was nice and steady. The feeder rod produced smaller fish at a pace of around 3 an hour. The ledger however was really doing the business: a take every 10 mins or so. The fish were bigger too, they seemed to be responding to the single, smaller hook baits better than the feeder.
Then came my 'fish-of-the-day'... I'd been casting to the weed beds but switched tactics and decided to drop in near a patch of died back water lilies. I'd walked up the bank and dropped the faithful popped up plastic corn with a PVA stick and two balls of liquidized bread with a smattering of sweetcorn and maggots mixed in. The bites had backed off a bit and I wondered if the bigger fish had moved in so I decided to leave the rig out for a bit longer this time... The theory was rewarded about 25min later when the rod tip wrapped round and the bobbin smacked up to the rod!
This fish felt different to the rest: rather than making straight for the weed beds or out into open water it just started head-banging - normally a good sign that you've a bigger fish on.
A good fight later and a beautiful upper double mirror slipped into the landing net. I'd got it up onto the unhooking mat when the feeder rod went off - gotta love double hook ups ;). A bit of heckling came from Dad on the other side of the lake, 'now you're just showing off!'. Much smaller fish of around 6lb but it's always nice to see 2 fish in the landing net!
After that excitement, things began to calm down. The lake had really filled up with anglers, virtually every peg had a person on it with the exception of the flooded swims near us, good bit of planning that. The fish definitely responded to the angling pressure by backing off completely giving us a chance to have lunch and sit in the sun for a bit.
As often happens with commercial fisheries though, people started packing up around 3ish. The left over bait went in and the edge, the cars started leaving and the fish magically came back on. They've pretty good internal clocks I reckon...
The last couple of hours where great: dad switched sides of swim and started picking decent size fish after fish off near some died back lily pads (really put his new 13ft rod through it's paces, must get that out on the rivers at some point!). I fed the area near the weed with sweetcorn and the rest of my maggots and the bobbin didn't stop climbing.
With fish coming even as we we're packing up with the rods on the deck, it was with great reluctance that I finally reeled in... What a great, great days fishing! Cant wait for the return trip.