I've been having a lot of fun pike fishing on the Bristol River Avon over the last couple of months, with multiple hits of jacks on most sessions throughout October and November. Nothing particularly big had put in an appearance though and with the weather making the fishing very tough throughout December and into January I was beginning to worry that the elusive monster that I'd been chasing wouldn't make it's way to my landing net... It's been so bad recently that I've had to resort to carp fishing!
But this week was different: the weather has been cold and clear with little or no rain and the water levels on the flood site have been steadily dropping. All of which was pointing to a potential pike session on the Friday! However my hopes were dashed as on Thursday night, a massive rain storm swept across Bristol... When I checked the river levels on Friday morning, there was a slight height increase but my main fear was water clarity: would the river be a chocolate unfishable soup? Add to the mix an unexpected sore throat and I wasn't feeling too chipper...
Despite all this and the forecast of snow (snow?!) for the morning it was decided that I had to go. It'd been too long and I was desperate!
Stomping through the 1st field it was apparent that last night's downpour had done its work and turned the banksides into a quagmire. The cattle grid swim was a slippery mess of mud and silt and although I managed to get the rods set up and in the water, I wasn't really 'feeling' it. After giving it 30 minutes without a sign I decided to reel in only to find both rods snagged... Whenever the river floods, loads of tree branches and rubbish gets swept downstream adding loads of new snaggs and the trebles had lodged in something. Luckily I got both back without snapping off but the baits were gone. Not the best start...
Rather than dropping into any of the open water spots on my way upstream I decided to head straight to the tree swim that's done me so well in the past (it saved me from a blank on my last session). In terms of slack water, it's probably one of the best spots on the whole stretch and although it gets a bit of a hammering, it's always worth a go - and on this occasion, it really came up with the goods...
Dumping the gear well back from the waters edge, I re-baited my rod with a whole sardine and crept forward to cast towards the snaggy tree. The bait hit the water and I knelt down to put the rod on the rest and tighten up the slack. At which point the braid jumped in my hand... And again. And then started to pull line from the baitrunner. Surely I must've snagged on some debris moving downstream? Just in case, I tightened down and struck at which point all hell broke loose!
Fish on! The fight this thing gave was incredible and it was a real struggle to keep it under control and away from the snags. Most of the fights I've had from river pike have been quite short but this one really went for it, stripping braid from the reel on some massive lunges. It was quite a struggle on the steep bankside to get it into the net but eventually an amazingly looking pike slipped over the net cord.
What a beast! I couldn't quite believe it, the whole thing from casting to landing the fish was a blur and with the bait being in the water for around 10 seconds before it made off with it, this has to be the quickest bite from a pike I've ever experienced! Weighing in at 19lb this was the 3rd biggest fish I've had from the Bristol River Avon and the fish of the season for me - I was completely made up. The head on it was huge and it was quite a struggle to haul it up for the camera but as you can see from the look on my face, I was made up and incredibly glad that I'd decided to make the trip to the river today.
After resting the 'beast' in the margins for 5 minutes it swam off strong downstream and I set about getting both rods out. I had a feeling that after all that comotion that the swim would be dead and wasn't surprised when 30 minutes slipped by without another sign that there were any other fish in the area. Before moving on I baited the swim with a mix of leftover fish scraps, liquidized bream, a tin of tuna fish and thai fish sauce. It completely stinks but I'm convinced it draws fish in!
Over the next 3 hours I moved further upstream and tried four more swims without so much as a knock or a tap. Although the water level was good the flow was pretty fast which made swim options tricky and having sat in the incredibly cold wind for far too long I decided to stomp back across the fields heading upstream. Arriving back in the tree swim, I tried 1st the left hand side and after 30 minutes of nothing moved back to the right hand side. Would my prebaiting bring the swim back to life?
As it turns out yes! The rod cast to the exact same spot towards the snaggy tree signalled a drop back about a minute after casting out and after a strike and a short fight this fine looking jack slipped into the net. Amazing, two fish from the same spot - proving that the river can always throw up a surprise.
I tried a couple more spots on the walk back to the car but there were no takers and I spent the last hour in the cattle grid swim watching the sun go down over the river. To have landed my fish of the season and a back up jack on an incredibly cold day with a dose of man flu has made my fishing year so far but the question is, does the river have any more surprises to throw at me before the 15th of March?!
Most of my efforts this season have been focused on The Crane stretch of the river but today I decided to check out the conditions down at the Swineford end. The thing I'd forgotten about was the recent rain we've had... The river was very, very high, fast flowing and the banks were extremely muddy and ripped to shreds! Couple that with bright sunlight and you've not got the winning conditions for pike fishing.
The big problem with the Swinford stretch of the river is the swims: there's really only 4 or so in the first two fields that are fishable and conditions dictate if you can even get down to them due to the steep banks. Not surprisingly, the two pike anglers who'd beat me to the bank were occupying the best swims and the other fishable swims had pretty much been washed away!
I did try one swim but after fishing for 10 minutes I decided that if a fish did come along, landing it would be a dangerous task so erring on the side of safety I decided to up sticks and head to the Crane section for another go.
The conditions were pretty much the same but at least I could get down to the waters edge in relative safety! But with no takers or any signs of fish in the four swims I tried, it looked like this session would be a blank. Not surprising considering the conditions! But it was beaut to be out on the bank and I used my time to study the water and seek out some potential spots for future sessions.
Fingers crossed the weather will improve over the Xmas break and into January. Although I've had loads of small pike over the last couple of months, I've yet to hook into a monster... Watch this space!
By the time I'd got to the river the conditions had completely changed. We'd gone from snow to rain to sunshine all in the space of half an hour... Madness. After picking up some sardines from the tackle shop, I set off upstream and was really surprised to see that the water level was normal, there was hardly any flow and the clarity was pretty good - maybe I was spot on for a bite or two?!
The 'cow poo' swim on the corner didn't produce a knock or a tap so after sitting in the freezing cold shadow of a tree I desperately needed to get out into the sun which by 10.30am was shining brightly. After a quick stomp across the 1st field and I decided to try either side of the tree swim on the corner, starting in the super snaggy side to the right. However, as I dropped the 2nd bait in the water I happened to glance over my shoulder and noticed a rapidly approaching huge grey snow laden cloud...
Before I knew it, the heavens opened and I was in the midst of a mini snow blizzard! If this didn't switch the fish on, what would?! But after a soggy 20 minutes with nothing to show for my efforts I hopped round to the left side of the tree for another go. The sun came out again as quickly as it had disappeared and with in five minutes of the bait being in the water the rod tip sprang into life and I'd finally got my 1st bite of the season from the tree swim!
Only a micro jack but what the hell - it was a blank saver!
The rest of the day passed without so much as a knock or a tap. The conditions got steadily worse with the sun shining and the wind getting up - it was bloody freezing! I tried 3 more swims, settling in the 'white house swim' just over the cattle grid on the way back to the car for the last hour, mainly as it was out of the wind...
No fish, but the robin that had been following me up and down the river all day finally plucked up the courage to perch next to me. Luckily I had the camera in hand and managed to snap a nice close up of him before he realised!
So another tough day on the bank. It's snowed more over the weekend but I'm looking out on another sunny day in Bristol... Fingers crossed the conditions will get better over the Xmas break and the monster pike I got into last season will put in an appearance over the next couple of weeks?!
I've had such an amazing run of excellent pike sessions on the Bristol River Avon over the last month or so, with loads of jack's and a couple of nearly double fish falling to ledgered sardines. But now we're into late November the weather is becoming a much bigger factor...
We had really heavy rain overnight on Wednesday and from checking the water levels on Friday morning I could see the river was higher than usual. As I walked into the 1st field to my new 'banker swim' just on the bend my heart sunk... Although there'd been a frost and it was very cold (great for pikeing, not great for fingers!) I could see that the river was very coloured and hacking through a quite a pace. Several of the swims that I'd fished on previous sessions were unfishable due to being the underwater!
But out went the rods and I couldn't quite believe it when the left hand rod ripped off minutes after the bait got the deck! However I struck into nothing... Very odd...
Unfortunately this set the theme for the day. My baits were being attacked and ripped to shreds minutes after being cast out. I'm 99.9% that the coloured water had brought the eels out in force and they were enjoying a free meal. It's happened to me before on the Avon and although eels are on the endangered list, they seem to be prolific in the river.
I persevered though, moving through five swims but as the sun started to sink at around 4pm I packed down with nothing to show for my efforts.
Damn. My 1st blank.
After a couple of really productive sessions I was really hopeful of a couple of bites. I'd come armed with the ever reliable sprats, sardines and mackerel and the plan was to hit the same swims as before using the same methods of drifting and ledgering.
But after moving 3 times with nothing to show for it, it was clear today was going today was going to be tough...
As it turned out, the only bite of the day came late afternoon after moving to the 6th swim. The 'dead tree swim' has produced the goods in the past and this session was no different - a good looking micro jack pike that took a stinky sardine that was nearly as long as itself!
And that was it. I didn't get so much as a knock in any of the other swims but it was lovely to be out on the bank in the unseasonal November weather.
Fingers crossed it's not a sign of things to come! I've hit the Crane Stretch a couple of times over the last month so maybe a trip to Swineford for the next session is in order?