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?!