The first one was just before the snow arrived in Bristol. I've been desperate to try Ashlea Farm since joining the Crosshands Angling Club and decided to give it a go last Monday. The sun was out and good weather was predicted for day but I arrived at the lake to find half of it frozen over... I did fish for a couple of hours but my heart wasn't in it, plus one of the local farmers was burning something disgusting and the smell was making me feel seriously ill! Not wanting to completely give up I headed to the Holiday Inn lake only to find that completely frozen over... At that point I called it quits and headed for home.
And then it snowed... and snowed... and snowed! All hopes of fishing were dashed and as the thaw set in, the river flooded meaning the chance of a end of season pike is quickly slipping away.
The snow disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived and today I decided to come up the the Holiday Inn lake for a day session. Although it's warm enough the top end of the lake towards the hotel is still frozen and try as I might at the bowl end, I just couldn't nick a bite...
It's funny, in my head I always think of winter as being November to January but it turns out March is the worst!
Last minute update: I wrote this post on the bankside and didn't have time to update it... I didn't blank! In the last hour of the session it started raining and I managed 3 fish in the space of 10 minutes! My guess is that the slight change in temperature and conditions triggered a feeding spell ;)
If you've been following this blog or my YouTube channel you'll have noticed I've been fishing up at The Holiday Inn Lake (otherwise known as 'The Crest Lake') quite a bit recently and it's yet to let me down in terms of bagging up (a rare thing in winter!). So after dropping my daughter off I headed to the lake, pulling into the car park at 3pm on the nose and then ran round to the 1st swim to get set up.
As it was late in the day I decided to fish a swim at the top end of the lake where the sun would've been on the water for the most amount of time. It's also shallower at the top end and my thinking was the fish may have moved into the warmer water as the day wore on.
The proven tactics so far have been a feeder rod with liquidized bread and sweetcorn hookbaits and today was no different as I had my 1st bite within 10 minutes of casting out! And amazingly, the bites kept on coming with 6 fish in the net and two lost. Baring in mind I've had this number of fish to show for a whole day session in the past, it wasn't a bad result. Just goes to show that reading a lake to figure out where the fish might be and getting on them can result in bites even in the coldest of conditions.
The weather is set to get mind bogglingly cold over the next couple of weeks and with chilly winds, heavy frosts and snow predicted so this might be the last lake session for a while... I'm really glad I braved the elements today even if I couldn't feel my face or fingers by the time I packed down! The heater in the car never felt so good...
Conditions looked bang on for some action with the day starting warm and drizzly and then turning overcast. But for some reason I just couldn't get amongst the fish...
The day started well with a carp falling to the feeder rod within ten minutes of the first cast but with nothing else to show for the first couple of hours it was beginning to get tough...
I persevered though, casting every twenty minutes or so and moving swims six times but nothing I did triggered a bite. Things got so dire that I wrote this blog post during the session!
Luckily the final move to the thinner end of the lake (pegs 20 and 21) produced some fast action with 4 bites and a couple of lost fish in less than an hour. If that doesn't prove that location in winter is key I don't know what does ;)
It's half term week which has meant I'm on kid duty for 99% of the time but when a two hour window presented itself I couldn't resist the opportunity to wet a line. The Holiday Inn Lake was the obvious choice as I was dropping people off at Bristol Parkway station and then picking up from UWE and with a good winter form, I was really hopeful it would produce a fish on two.
The weather was all over the place, sunny one minute followed by heavy rain the next and I was greeted at the lake by two soggy looking match anglers who were in the process of leaving. They were shaking their heads and saying it was fishing hard... But I wasn't to be put off! Prior knowledge is so useful and I put mine to good use, dropping in on peg 25 and quickly getting both rods out using the tactics that have done me so well on previous sessions: a yellow dumbbell wafter on a helicopter rig and a feeder filled with liquidised bread and a double sweetcorn hookbait. Both rods were fished as close as I dared to the died back lily pads and I sat back to see what would happen.
It didn't take long before I started to get liners and after 20 minutes the helicopter rod ripped off with a plump common of around 6lb. The feeder rod took a couple of more casts but finally the tip swung round and another smaller common graced the bank. As an extra bonus, I also snagged up on a cage feeder rig that'd snapped off during a session a couple of weeks back and managed to get it back in! Great to have it back in the tackle bag rather than in the lake.
The swim went dead after that and despite a couple of further moves to other productive swims I couldn't raise another bite. But I was pretty chuffed to have caught so quickly on such a short session!
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?!