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 ;)