A Pre Christmas Pike Session On The Bristol Avon

Sunday 20 December 2015

It's the start of the Xmas holidays which means I've got some time to spend on the bank. After my last successful piking trip a couple of weeks back, I was really looking forward to getting out on the river again, this time in the sunshine!

The weather at the moment is all over the place, the main thing being it seems to think it's currently autumn... I was really looking forward to some hard frosts to trigger my winter piking campaign but what the hell, Sunday was predicted to be sunny, warm and still with no wind. Not ideal?!

The Swineford section had produced one pike on the last session but I'd taken a look at the other end of the stretch controlled by Keynsham Angling know as 'Jack White's' on the previous weekend and was keen to give it a go. The main thing being that a majority of the swims are closer to the water level and there's far more of them. I'd also seen more anglers on this stretch who where forthcoming with info meaning I had a better idea what to expect and where to fish.

With sun up predicted for 8.30am I decided to have a lyin and arrive at 1st light. Gear wise, I was sticking with the travelling light approach and had scaled my gear back even more than the last trip. As a long time carp angler, it was really great to only be carrying a rucksack, chair, rods and unhooking mat! I think I can shrink it down even more now I've more experience...

I'd scoped out 4 swims to try on my recky, the 1st of which was opposite the weir boom. It's the 1st swim you find after turning left down the footpath in front of the Lock Keeper pub and I knew it had form as an angler I got chatting to had managed 4 decent pike and a big perch on his last session. It's a very 'pikey' looking swim with the boom, slack water and an excellent looking marina entrance. Plenty of options to keep me busy.

The first hour was spent getting the rods set up and establishing where I would be targeting. The simple one was a ledgered mackerel tail that went out towards to right hand weir boom pole. An easy underarm flick with a 2oz lead (a bit change to the 3oz monsters I had to use on the previous session!) and that rod was fishing. I'd decided to try a twitched sprat on the 2nd rod with an aim to cover all of the water in the swim.

About 20 minutes in, I received a couple of bleeps on the bottom bait rod... Although I was further up the bank with the roving sprat rod, I slipped and sled in the mud back to the rod only to strike into thin air... Eels? A pike that decided to spit the bait? A liner? Not sure... But it was a good sign!

So I had a check of the bait and a recast before setting off again with the sprat rod. Ten minutes latter, the bottom bait rod went again! This time however, I was right by the rod in the process of mounting another sprat on the roving rod so I managed to strike, set the hooks and thankfully there was a nice solid resistance on the end of the line.

One change I'd made from the last session was spooling up the reel with braid - and I'm really pleased I did. It's excellent! The contact with the fish was brilliant and although the pike only turned out to be a small jack of around 6lb. it was a brilliant 'test' run on the new line.

Unfortunately for me, although I got the fish in and on the bank, my camera decided to muck me around and it tuned off as I was unhooking the pike... Bit of a shame, it would've been nice to get some video and pics but it wasn't to be.

The pike had kindly left my bait intact so after examining some evil looking teeth marks, it was recast out to the same spot. Although the sprat rod wasn't producing a knock I had an enjoyable time 'working the water' with the bait. As I'd really out stayed my time in the swim (must remember to stay mobile!) I decided to re-tackle the rod with a float and give a trotted suspended bait a go for a short while before moving on. It's a method I was keen to try and with a very slow flow running down the cut, I figured it would be a perfect presentation. With the weather being as warm as it was, I had a feeling the bait would need to be literally dumped on the pikes head or drift past it's face to trigger a bite!

I spent another 20 minutes in the swim (chant the 'mobile' mantra on future sessions!) but with nothing happening and the rain clouds gathering I decided a move was in order. The 2nd swim was only a 5 minute stroll down the bank where the river widens out. This meant the flow was slightly faster but I'd found an area of slack in front of an old water works building and a margin area to my right which I opted to drop the float into, mainly as the flow was too fast for trotting.

As the rain kicked in, I took shelter under the trees and watched the rod tips... 20 minutes later there were no takers but luckily the rain passed pretty quickly and I didn't get too wet!

So another change of swim was in order. It was getting on for around 1ish and I was desperate to get another fish on the bank...

Although there were another couple of swims I had my sights on, I actually settled in a spot at the end of the footpath right outside what I *think* is a house the stretch is named after, Jack White's Cottage (or at least, it's the only white house I could see!).

The swim screamed pike the moment I walked through it... Not too wide, a big fallen tree directly opposite and a fantastic run of died back reeds in the margin to my right. Surely there'd be a fish or two here?!

As it turns out, there was... and I had half an hour of the most exciting and frustrating fishing I've had in a long, long while!

The bottom bait rod went out with a fresh bait to a bay next to the fallen tree. The bait held bottom and was stationary. The 2nd rod still had the float on and I figured it would be ideal to trot it along the died back reeds.

Within 5 minutes there was an almighty knock on the bottom bait rod. And another. Bang. Bang. So I got down from the footpath so I'd be close to the rods. At which point, the float on the right hand rod stood up and started twitching...

Before I had time to figure out which rod to strike, the bottom bait rod decided it by roaring off down the river! It took so much line, it was like a carp run. Although I made a bit of a mess of the strike, it was fish on... if only for a minute as the pike decided to spit the bait.

Arrg. Not to be beaten, the rod went back out again to the same spot and I turned my attentions back to the float which was still twitching...

20 seconds later... BANG, the bottom bait rod buckled over again! Again, it all went wrong... the braid somehow got caught between one of the chain links of my bobbin - what the hell?! Desperately trying to free the braid, I could feel the fish lunging away at the trace but by the time I'd managed to strike the fish must've spat the bite yet again...

Much swearing later and I managed to reposition both rods only to have the float rod peel off! But again, nothing...

So annoying! But very exciting?!

And then eventually, about 15 minutes later I got a small knock on the bottom bait rod. Although it didn't turn into a run, I noticed that the braid was now cutting through the water in the centre of the flow rather than out towards the tree... So I struck and at last, it was fish on!

A quick battle and another fine looking river Avon pike of around 5lb was in the net. Not the monster I was expecting but it was great to put another fish on the bank.

Having had so much action in such a short space of time, I was in two minds whether to move or have another pop? I've no idea if you've had one pike out you'll not see another one? And although the margin rod hadn't shown any signs of life (probably due to the amount of disturbance I'd make on the bank) I decided to give it another 10 minutes before moving...

As luck would have it, I made a good choice as I started to get knocks and taps again on the bottom bait rod! I'd been busting for a leak for about 2 hours now and decided I'd duck behind a tree quickly as I'd not seen a soul for a while...

...which of course was the trigger for another run! The rod was just stripping line as I rushed back along the bank. Striking into the fish, it felt a far more substantial weight that the previous two and after a bit of being led all around the swim, a decent double pike was sitting in the bottom of the landing net.

What a day?! With the light beginning to fade I decided to recast and pack down in the same swim as it would be dark before I made it into the next swim. Amazingly, 5 minutes later the bottom bait rod was off again! How many pike were in this swim?! But this time my luck failed and although I connected with the fish, it spat the bait within seconds...

So a really great session. I learnt loads, had three decent pike, countless runs (it's all good experience!) and almost a sun tan.

Can't wait for the next trip.