Saturday, 14 January 2017

Knocking on the Door

Last week's year opening session proved to be a bit of a non event, although I did my best to make it eventful before I'd even arrived bankside.

Pulling into the parking area, I figured momentum would overcome the muddy mess at the entrance. I was right too as I glided through it with ease and sized up my spot at the end. Then, I inexplicably ignored the bleeding obvious and allowed the car to drift off the sloped hardcore and down to a low point. Not just low though, but very boggy!

After five minutes of expletive filled, gear shifting, wheel turning, mud flying, rocking and rolling, I managed to wrestle the car back to a sensible position. Job done, but at the cost of a plastered up car in big need of a clean!

The fishing yielded just a single chub, a shade under 3lbs. It came first chuck to meat and I thought a good day was in prospect. Nothing for the next 3 hours though and I took an early bath.

This week I was hoping we might have a bit of snow lingering, but it didn't quite drop right. It wasn't as cold as I expected either. A short morning pike session was the order of the day.

Standard tactics of working the margins for 30-45 minutes per swim with two deadbait rods. I'd also broken out the proper gear. Rods switched over to braid setups, coupled with the best of my stash of deadbait - some large smelt and sardine.

Swim one produced just a single jack as I was on the cusp of making a move.

It didn't alter my plan though and I hopped a peg upstream. Nothing doing though, apart from scrounging robins. Two more moves downstream gave similar outcomes. With rain now falling. I began to start writing it off. I'd even buggered up a rod through a self-inflicted tangle and decided to retire it for the day.

With an eye on the clock I figured on one last move back to the peg I'd started with. I engaged the free spool setting on the reel and began shuttling gear to my final destination, just a few yards away.

With two short trips completed I returned to remove the rod, but with perfect timing the float started pulling away. A strike and a heavy fish was on, peeling line off the reel and heading for a big snag that has been my nemesis in the past.

I had to crank up the pressure and hope it would turn. And it did - just in the nick of time. The fight was tense. Braid is great for making contact with the fish, but the lack of stretch makes for interesting fights. I took it as delicately as I could. Thankfully I netted it first time, as only one set of trebles were holding.

Once I'd unhooked and rested it, a quick call to a willing photographer upstream, helped me with the essentials. Not the longest of fish, but certainly well fed and a new one to me. It went 19lb 2oz on the Avons. Not quite the twenty pound target, but knocking on the door.

Thanks to Martin again for the photos. It's becoming a pleasant habit!

Once again, it demonstrates the fine line between success and failure. If I hadn't given it that extra couple of minutes while moving swims, things would have been a whole lot different. Perseverance, stubbornness or luck? The truth lies somewhere in between I guess.

With the season now pushing towards it's final phase, I'm hoping to put a few longer sessions in soon. Still a few targets to try and nail down. Let's hope the weather stays kind, as it has for most of the season so far.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Watching the Birds

One last short session to see the year out. A change of river to the Anker to see if I could extract something of note to boost my challenge scorecard.

Attempts were made at the perch, pike and zander across two likely swims,  but not a single taker. A blank to end the year, but one of the more enjoyable ones if there is such a thing!

The show put on by a kingfisher and an occasional accomplice, made the session drift by nicely. They definitely didn't blank!

A pair of robins popped by to mop up what the perch didn't seem interested in. Definitely a day for bird watching.

I renewed the Anker ticket on my journey home and I look forward to locking horns with it again throughout 2017. It certainly has a lot more potential than I've unearthed so far and it keeps drawing me back. Definitely a keeper!

I'm not one for making resolutions, but I will be making more time for other species in 2017. I didn't bag a tench or crucian in 2016, largely down to the waters that I had tickets for. That will change for 2017 and I'll be bringing in something to give me more variety over the spring months when the rivers close.

Happy New Year to you all. Tight lines for 2017!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Just Chilling!

A bonus morning session. With my wife insisting on heading to the gym to work off some over indulgence, I decided to take it easy and go fishing.

It was a cool, crisp -2C on arrival, as I dispatched the remnants of my morning cuppa. Leaves rustled as they became caffeine coated, but then kept on rustling. What's that all about? Ah, the ubiquitous robin had arrived once again after a feed. I gave it a small offering and headed off into the gloom.

Despite wanting to get away from the predator fishing for a little while, I backtracked on that decision. When it gets really cold I struggle to do anything else.

With limited time, I chose a peg with lots of bank space and plenty of water above and below me. I'd sit it out for the full session and work as much of the ample peg as possible.

I've mentioned it in other posts that I'm a bit of a twitcher (of deadbaits). The way I like to approach such a big swim is almost like a game of battleships. Imagine the swim viewed from above as a grid of 1 yard squares. The object is to get a bait in every square, to search out fish that perhaps aren't all that active right now. 

This means moving baits around the swim regularly, usually in a series of V shaped retrieves using 2 rods. Start long and twitch the baits back a yard or so at time, every 3-5 minutes. Keep varying the angle of the V and fish different baits on each rod (roach, smelt, lamprey and sardine on this occasion) all the way back to the nearside bank to complete the V.

A simple and cunning plan that's good for keeping busy and focused on the coldest of days. The problem was that the fish weren't having any of it!

Just one bite in 4 hours and from a fish I'd had a couple of weeks ago. A zander of 5lb 15oz - an ounce lighter this time. Thanks to Martin Roberts for the photo and sparing me another botched self-take. 

Martin, despite a later start, did me for numbers from a couple of pegs downstream. A pair of very clean fish - a zed and a jack.

The robin was pestering me again as I was packing up the car!

New Year's Eve is looking like my next brief opportunity. More predator fishing is likely if it stays cold, but a change of venue and river is on the cards next time.

With one club ticket up for renewal next week, plans are already being hatched for next year. 

The estate lake ticket is being dropped as it hasn't delivered on various counts. I'm sticking with the other three river based clubs though, which leaves a gap for something else. It looks like I'll be returning to old ground, but in search of something new.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Upholding Tradition

Christmas Eve fishing is something I always look forward to. Always a short session, but it gets me in a relaxed mood as I ease into the festive period. A cracking sunrise along the Avon valley was a real bonus too.

I'd actually forgotten how tranquil and beautiful this section of river can be. I've neglected it a little too much this year in favour of newer pastures.

This wasn't a session to be concerned with targets. The brief was to cover off a few bases and make sure of catching some fish. With fish topping regularly in the low early morning light, it wasn't difficult to get off the mark.

Roach, dace and bleak were easy to catch on the maggot. Pike were also showing an interest in my lamprey offering. An early jack got me off to a quick start with the predators.

A switch off the maggot to lobworm and then prawn, didn't bring any luck with the perch. Pike were taunting me. Three lost on the strike or to hook pulls.

I clawed back a bit of respectability by banking fish on the next two runs. The best was around 7-8lb (bottom photo).

Not hugely prolific by any means, but an enjoyable morning catching a few fish and hopefully not the last of the year's action for me. If I can get through the next few days' family obligations unscathed and with good behaviour, I should earn myself a pass out before the year ends.

Have a great Christmas everyone.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Out of the Gloom

After my doomed session a couple of weeks ago, last week wasn't much better. Arriving early and eager to crack on, I had that horrible comedown when you realise an essential bit of kit is still in your garage!

My trusty tbermal boots were the casualty on this occasion. Camouflaged by their protective bag, I failed to spot them in the early morning murk. Memo to self - turn the garage light on next time!

I contemplated roughing it with my trainers, but I knew it was utter madness. Boggy ground and knackered old trainers don't cut it - and even more so when it's only 2C outside.

Back down the A46 to rescue my boots and over 1.5 hours after originally setting out I returned to a different, slightly nearer venue. I'd clocked up nearly 70 miles that morning and ended up barely 25 minutes from home! Just another relaxing Sunday.

The river was up a little after rain. Just about peaking, it looked bang on.

I lost something decent to a snag on my first chuck on the meat. Nothing else all session though, apart from a tentative bite on a roach deadbait that saw me striking into thin air. A second consecutive blank and December was continuing in gloomy fashion.

I caught up with one of the locals who'd been out since first light and he'd covered sone of the 30+ pegs below me. He'd not had a sniff. All a bit odd really, but they just weren't having it.

On to this week and I had the whole section to myself. Another early start and I managed to bring everything this week! The plan was to attack the zander while the light levels were still low and then figure it from there.

A standard setup with decapitated roach deadbaits on single hooks, fished under a float. It took a couple of missed bites before it was third time lucky. A bit of a Trigger from Only Fools and Horses moment though!

Action had been slow and I was busy getting a meat rod ready when I saw my right hand float move slightly. I'd just moved my arm around the rod and thought I might have brushed it slightly. It went again about 10 seconds later and my eyes were now drawn to it. I definitely hadn't touched the rod that time.

A quick routine glance to check my left hand float saw that it was heading off upstream at a rate of knots. Shit! A double hook up on the cards I thought. Then the penny dropped that the movement on the right hand float was caused by the vibrations feeding through from the other rod. Doh!

A quick scrap followed and I banked a respectable zander of exactly 5lb. Right species, but a pound shy of my season's target.

Another missed bite and a longer period of inactivity saw me making a move a couple of pegs upstream. More woe though as I connected with a solid fish on a lamprey section (a pike I think), but the hook pulled. At this point I'd only converted 1 of 5 bites. Poor going and my patience was being tested, but I ploughed on.

Faith was restored when I got it right on the next bite and another zed popped into my net. A better fish and as it happens, exactly the target weight I was after - 6lb on the nose and another pb. Excuse the poor photo. Need to adjust some settings for self takes.

I love the tails on zander. Quite amazing sized paddles and you can see where they get their fighting power from. I'd love to see what a good double scraps like. Dream on...

The final action came from a jack after I'd switched one rod to a sardine.

A kingfisher provided the entertainment for the final hour on the next peg downstream. Where's bluey?:

The pike and zander will probably take a back seat now while I search for that elusive 5lb chub over the next month or so. That could be a little more tricky I think, but if I can just get a pb I'll settle for that.

Wet and windy later in the week. Hopefully it won't scupper my traditional Christmas Eve session.

The updated scores for my season's river challenge are:

Barbel (11lb 1oz - Warks Avon) - 110.63% of target - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz - Anker) - 101.36% - pb
Pike (19lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 95.94%
Zander (6lb 0oz  - Warks Avon) - 100% -pb
Chub (4lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 83.75%
Carp (8lb 0oz - Warks Avon) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz - Anker) - 45.83%
Total - 617.71 (Target 700)

Monday, 5 December 2016


Another afternoon session and with it being chilly, I switched to a full predator attack. Sadly, it wasn't much of an assault - more like a gradual and unconditional surrender.

The usual car park encounter with the cheeky resident robin kicked things off. This bird knows the score and is a proper little beggar! Incredibly friendly too, but that goes for most of these red breasted creatures. A light snack was dished out and I was on my way.

With just two cars in the car park I fancied I might get one of my preferred pegs. Unfortunately the occupants were either side of where I wanted to be, once I'd reached the river. Now I know I could have sandwiched between them, but it's not my thing. I prefer a bit of space and peace, so I headed upstream to try a new peg.

A nice enough peg, but a little lacking in depth for my liking. An hour or so of blanking followed. A move upstream to deeper water yielded the same outcome.

A final move back downstream saw no change in peg occupancy. In fact there was now more competition.

A long trudge further downstream seemed like a good idea, but when I got to a vaguely suitable peg, I found myself not really giving a damn. Some youths had appeared in the vicinity and seemed up to no good. I couldn't settle and by now any semblance of enthusiasm had been knocked out of me. The white flag was waved.

Even though I had a good hour+ of daylight left, I took one last wander across the meadow to the car. I bid the robin farewell and headed home for a date with a food cupboard. This is the annual pre-Christmas space clearing ritual where all manner of out of date crap I never knew my wife had bought, is consigned to the bin. It seemed marginally more exciting than more blanking!

Some days it's just not meant to happen, but it's still nice to be out though and the exercise will do me good I guess. A mixed bag of weather this week and if things drop right for next weekend, I'm hoping to squeeze a little more time on the bank. I just hope to get my net wet next week...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Long Final Furlong

Finally the much needed rain showed up as the working week kicked off. The Avon had returned to a normal Winter level by the time I got to chance my arm on the Sunday. It was in great nick though and still holding a bit of colour. No excuses or moans this week!

Another lazy start for me, allowing sufficient time to recover from the previous night's excess. I covered all bases, but I had two targets in my sights - chub or perch. I'd decide once I'd chosen a location.

Fancying a change of scenery, I headed to the furthest downstream stretch. With no cars present, I didn't need a second invitation. I had a peg in mind that always screams chub to me - even if it hasn't always delivered.

I dug in for the afternoon and with plenty of swim to go at, I set about legering meat on a single rod for the entire session. A little one dimensional I guess, but I just feel more confident with it. Old habits die hard!

First chuck threw up a mint condition chub of around a pound. Small, but welcome and any risk of blanking was quickly banished.

It wasn't as easy as I hoped it was going to be though. A couple of missed bites added to the frustration and I was beginning to think that I wouldn't be adding to the early fish.

Persistence (or perhaps stubbornness) paid off when a proper old wrap around bite saw me attached to my target quarry.

Now, I don't have much of a track record with chub. For some reason they tend to pass me by. I've never had a five pounder and fours have been pretty scarce too. The fish I was busy extracting was certainly banging on the door of being a pb.

The fight was pretty tame and uneventful. It popped straight into the net and was quickly weighed. A long fish that was just shy of my pb. The scales locked on 4lb 3oz. A step in the right direction for my challenge scorecard, but I'm still aiming for that elusive five pounder.

Talking of the challenge, I've now pushed through the 600 point barrier. The race to the finish is now on, but the last bit will be the hardest. Perch aside, points will now be trickier to come by for all species. The scores are:

Barbel (11lb 1oz - Warks Avon) - 110.63% of target - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz - Anker) - 101.36% - pb
Pike (19lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 95.94%
Zander (5lb 7oz  - Warks Avon) - 90.63% -pb
Chub (4lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 83.75%
Carp (8lb 0oz - Warks Avon) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz - Anker) - 45.83%
Total - 608.34 (Target 700)

A cool and dry week ahead won't do much for next weekend's prospects. Perch might get some attention next time out.