As luck would have it, my favourite swim on the Swinford stretch of the River Avon (houseboat bay) was occupied... To be honest, it was a good thing: I'd got it into my head that this was the 'only' swim worth fishing which is crazy! It maybe the most accessible, with a beautiful slow curve ideal for trotting a float and a lovely long slack but this does mean it gets a hammering.
So I headed to the 'tree swim' which I've had success in before over the winter for pike. It's a tricky swim, as most are on this stretch: the banks are very steep but the advantage of this one is that there's a set of steps cut into the side of the bank which leads down to a 'shelf' where you can just about position two rods on rests, a landing net and a bait bucket.
I've given up the swim feeder rig in favour of simply pinching 3 AAA shot on the line about 40cm above a nice big size 8 hook. I was finding that although the bites came thick and fast with the feeder, they were very difficult to hit meaning I was missing a lot of fish. This maybe due to fish attacking the feeder rather than the bait? But I've found that the new method of virtually freelining a big cube of spam into some slack water has really been working, with more fish actually self hooking meaning I can leave that rod to it's own devices and concentrate on the float.
Spam is the bait of choice, so a nice big cube went out in the slack water past the tree to the right of the swim followed by a couple of handfuls of liquidised bread, tuna fish and maize. It didn't take long... After a few 'plucks' on the line, the tip swung around and I struck into my 1st chub of the session!
The next couple of casts lead to some very tentative bites and after a few missed strikes, something really hit the bait and started to pull back. It didn't feel like a chub and sure enough, a massive eel writhed towards the net! I don't mind catching eels, they give a good account of themselfs and as their numbers have fallen in recent years it's great to see so many in the Avon. However, as anyone knows who's caught one, unhooking them can be a bit of an ordeal... Luckily for me, this one was hooked lightly in the lip so a quick twist with the forceps in the net and one plump happy eel of around 2lb went back to fight another day.
The freeline rod continued to produce a fish every 10 minutes or so meaning that the float rod didn't see a lot of action. But after the 1st hour, the bites really tailed off so I stuck some maize on the hook (so the bait would stay on for longer!), cast the freeline to the right and started to concentrate on trotting the float through the flow.
I'd been feeding up the main body of the river with my bread, tuna and maize mix in between catching fish in the slack water and the chub must have really homed in the bait as over the next couple of hours it was nearly a fish a chuck! There seemed to be a 'sweet spot' at around one clock in the trot so I started casting upstream and allowing the float to glide through this area and you could virtually guarantee that after a few knocks, the float would bury and it would be fish on.
The chub in the Avon fight incredibly hard and I had a great time hauling in fish after fish. Nothing massive so far but I had a feeling that as the light levels dropped, the bigger specimens would start to show...
On one particular trot through, the strike gave some solid resistance and I though 'her we go, the bigguns have arrived!'. But as the fish came towards the net, I could see that it wasn't a chub but a bloody huge pike! As quite often happens in this kind of situation, the pike spat the chub out as it came in close to the bank and I netted a small slightly damaged chub... I think it will be ok, it certainly swam off like a rocket when I returned it so maybe it's dice with death gave it a new lease of life!
The fishing really picked up as the light levels dropped and I found it virtually impossible to manage two rods. But just as I was thinking of packing the freeline rod down, I noticed a massive slug ootching along my bait bucket. I'd heard that chub love slugs and although it's a pretty grizzly business hooking them, I decided to give it a go.
And I'm so glad I did! The rod had been out about 10 minutes when the tip pulled round and I struck into propbably the biggest chub of the evening! I think next time, I may have to have a bit of a slug hunt along the bank at dusk as they make a fantastic bait.
Finally the light levels just got too low and it was time to (very reluctantly) reel in. The tally came in at 26 chub and 1 eel - one of the best river sessions I've had and definitely the highlight so far of the 2017 season.