Monday, 31 December 2012

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly!

A combination of foul weather and family duties has prevented me from wetting a line this Christmas. The odd days where I have been available to fish, it has bucketed down and I took the easy option of staying at home. The days that had slightly better weather have seen me otherwise enagaged or just far too hungover to venture out.
The river has been mostly buggered throughout though, so I haven't missed much really. We have been promised some dry conditions in the week ahead and I hope that bears fruit. I have plenty of deadbait in my freezer that's just screaming out to be used before the season is done. 
As I have no reports to post, I thought I'd go back through some of the year's photos and share some of the best and worst. The worst ones are those that never made it on to the blog. Most are self takes and anyone who has attempted these will know how tricky they can be at times. Even when you prepare things properly, if that fish makes a lunge at the wrong moment, then you can end up looking like a right fool!
Here's a dozen that went wrong:

Pike Wrestling
Sleeping beauty!
Pike Wrestling 2 and where did that dog come from?!

A small carp - honest!

An interesting view of my seatbox!
An angler has a lobotomy mid photo!
An eel is returned - but it was way too quick!
Wrong on so many counts!
Half a head - a blessing some might say!

Chopped head again!

Bream wrestling!

Timing could have been better!

With that dubious selection out of the way, here's a few shots I've taken on my travels throughout 2012:






Happy New Year and tight lines to you all.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

It Never Rains, It Pours!

All week long I'd been monitoring the Avon river level and had been encouraged to see things improving day by day. The drop in level had been very gradual though, with the Avon almost stubbornly refusing to return to normal. By Friday the river was only a few inches up and the temperature was on the rise too. A long overdue return to the river was on the cards surely?

Sadly the big band of rain predicted for Friday became a reality and with the ground still relatively saturated, it wouldn't take long to push the levels beyond comfort. I got up at 6-15am on Saturday and checked the river level. 1.6m (and rising) at Warwick. Relating that figure to my normal stretch would mean that all platforms would be submerged and water would be lapping over the bank.

I decided against the river and instead headed off to College Pool which I last visited back in April. How things have changed for the better down there. On my previous visit the water level was very low. OK, the pool was still bloody deep, but the drop from the neatly laid out pegs to the water was about 4ft and it made things a bit uncomfortable.

All the rain we've had has solved the problem though and if anything it's gone too far! Most of the slabs that make up the pegs were under water. I settled on the end peg which afforded me a bit more shelter from the wind, with the bonus of being fishable from the normal peg position. 
I only had a shade over 3 hours of actual fishing time to play with, so I decided to put out two rods with a simple straight lead set up, fished over groundbait. Other preparations included setting up a brolly to keep out the wind and rain, along with donning the winter hat, having first popped in my earpiece for some essential test cricket listening. Soup and coffee were also to hand and I was as happy as a pig in muck. All I needed now was a bite or two!  

It was tough going and bites were hard to come by. Seeing a few fish topping I started to think that I should have gone on the float instead, but I was committed now and decided to stick it out on the lead. A Robin kept me amused, momentarily even perching on one of my rods. It lapped up the many free offerings I threw its way.

Finally the blank was avoided when a Bream of about 3.5lbs obliged.

A couple of small Perch were also caught before I had to call time on this brief session. Hopefully the weather will settle down to allow a return to the river next week. The forecast suggests that might be wishful thinking though, but at least the temperatures are milder.

Friday, 7 December 2012

I'm Starting To Wonder...

... if I'll fish again this year!

The recent floods wiped out my fishing over the past few weekends and I've slipped into a routine of catching up on jobs around the house. Each week I keep convincing myself that next week I'll be able to escape down to the river and it ends up with the same result - more decorating!

I know the Avon is fishable right now, but the level is still tripping on the wrong side of what I'd like it to be. If it was warmer I'd have no qualms with having a dabble with extra water on, but I've no desire to slog it out in colder conditions on a river that's still struggling to offload the extra water.

I know others have mentioned it in their blogs, but it's noticeable that the levels have been almost static - the problem being that for the gauge I use as my reference, they have been static at around 1ft above normal for some time now.

Yesterday's rain is now going through the system and has scuppered any hopes I had of wetting a line this weekend. The levels are pushing up again - only slowly, but it's just more water that the river is going to struggle to expel.

I know I could go and fish a stillwater or a canal, but I'd rather bite the bullet and score some extra points on the home front until the position improves. At this rate I'll have the entire house done before the season ends!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Caught In Two Minds

I didn't post anything last week as there wasn't much to to say. It was a strange old day which started with me clearing a layer of ice off the car just before 7am. By the time I'd reached the A46 barely 15 minutes later it was raining!

The rain eased off but started again just as I was parking up. Thankfully it passed over for just long enough to allow me to walk down to the river and get tackled up. I hate getting soaked before a session starts, but once set up it doesn't bother me - which is a good job because it then chucked it down for a good 2 hours solid.

The river was also pushing through with over a foot of extra water on. I hedged my bets with a straight lead rig and Pike rig. It turned into a gruelling session with no Pike and only a few Roach and Dace to save me from a total blank. I didn't stick it out too long. Sometimes you know when you're beaten and this was a sound thrashing!

On to this week and I'd been anxiously watching the river levels all week. At one point the gauge I use as my reference point was showing about 2.5ft of extra water on. I started to think of other options, but luckily things settled down and by Saturday morning it was just 6 inches up and looking bang on.

Fish were topping throughout the whole section and I started out on the wide section which I've neglected for quite a while. I hedged my bets again between a feeder rod and a Pike rig. As it turned out this was a bit of a mistake. I defintely suffered from trying to do too much on the day and I would have benefitted from concentrating on just one type of fishing.

I had a few Roach on the feeder set up but then hit a patch of missed bited which got me frustrated. Amongst that I landed a small Pike on a Smelt deadbait.

I eventually upped sticks and moved back down to the lower section for the last couple of hours. I spent more time on the Pike fishing after the move and had 3 further runs which resulted in 2 more small Pike on the bank - one on Smelt and the other on Lamprey section.

It's nice to be amongst the Pike again and hopefully one of the big girls is going to put in an appearance soon...

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Hat is Back!

A sharp reduction in temperature saw me delving deeper into the wardrobe this week to recover my winter gear. Colder weather usually brings one thing into focus for me - Pike. I don't need much of an excuse to get the predator gear out and the promise of a bit of frost and a brisk northerly wind made my decision easy.

I like short, sharp trips rather than long drawn out sessions in chilly conditions. My general rule is that when the coffee and soup run out, it's time to go home. That said, I'm known as a bit of a soup freak and my large food flask holds just over 3 tins of the stuff! It keeps me going for a while...

After clearing a small layer of ice from the car (which was registering 1 degree C), I made my way down to the Avon. Today was a morning session of just over 3 hours and for these swift sessions I like to turn up fully loaded to maximise my fishing time.

I have a couple of small telescopic rods that do the job admirably for short range river work. One was rigged up very simply with a couple of swan shot above the trace - this would be for the more mobile approach of wobbling/twitching deadbaits through the swim. The other one had a few more components but was simple enough - a sliding float, a trace, a small lead to anchor the deadbait, with some beads and a stop knot to make it all work smoothly.

Another part of my Pike set up this year is the TFG seat box. I bought it while it was on offer last year and it's one of those frame type boxes with a canvas covering, which also comes with internal adjustable legs. It's perfect for the amount of gear I need to carry, is plenty light enough and comfortable too.

On to the fishing itself and I kicked off with a deadbait approach - Lamprey to be exact. I have a lot of faith in this bait due to the way it oozes blood into the swim. The first action came after about 30 minutes and was caught on my video camera:

Sadly, the Pike (assuming it was a Pike!) slipped away. It was one of those annoying bites which saw the float twitching for what felt like an age at time. I was waiting for the float to dip away slightly, but it just wouldn't move off the spot. I knew I had a fair sized bait on, but was conscious of not wanting to deep hook it. It's a tricky call sometimes. Maybe smaller baits are the way to go.

I persevered in that same swim and switched to the other rod, but the moving bait didn't get any takes or follows. With under 2 hours to go I moved to the next peg and went back on the deadbait. I avoided the blank courtesy of a single small fish that also had a liking for Lamprey - a smaller section of bait as it happened.

The eagle eyed amongst you will notice the bloody hand. I'm out of practice with my handling skills and this lively little chap caught me out!

I gave it a further go back on my original peg but nothing materialised. The blank was avoided though and I'll look forward to locking horns with the Avon Pike again soon.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Video Experiment

Prior to my last Wye trip, I had been trialling a compact handheld video camera on a couple of sessions. It was actually purchased for my wedding earlier in the year and hadn't seen the light of day since. So, I thought it deserved a trip down the Avon.

With the aid of my trusty little camera adaptor and an adjustable bankstick, I was in business. I'm only in the early stages of experimenting with the camera, but I thought I'd share a couple of my trial efforts.

Bream - 4lb 12oz - taken on a rising and coloured river. One of four Bream taken that day.

The action is on the right hand rod and the fish took bread flake on a straight lead fished close in. I know it sounds like there's a right old racket going on, but the noise you can hear is a pocket radio on a very low setting. It's just that it happened to be right by the camera.

As I didn't get a proper shot of the fish on the video, here's the photo (which appeared in the original post earlier in the month):

Jack Pike - taken on a Sprat deadbait retrieved enticingly through the swim.

It's my favourite and most productive method for catching Pike on the Avon. Perhaps not the best for  consistently selecting out the bigger fish, but I've taken them to just short of 16lb with this method, so it has its moments.

For anyone who thinks that my landing net was on the small side for Pike fishing, I do always have a larger net on standby. I just pick and choose the net to suit the size of fish.

Hopefully I've now managed to overcome a few permission issues with the video settings and that everyone can view the videos. If it's all successful I'll see if I can conjure up some better action when the mood takes me (and if the fish oblige at the right time!).

Monday, 15 October 2012

Last Chance Saloon

Four of us headed off to the River Wye for the last time this year. Our trip coincided with a sudden influx of water which saw a 5ft rise over the previous 24 hour period. The river was still in good enough nick though and one advantage of the extra water is that the steep banks become less of a problem with the higher water levels.


Brian soon settled into his peg and demonstrated the value of having a comfortable set up. The fish had to wait for their breakfast!

On what proved to be a tricky day for us, Charlie had the best fish - a Barbel of 7lb 11oz.

My only Barbel was much smaller at around four and a half pounds, but it saved me what looked like being a blank.

I was also looking after Mark, with the aim of helping him shed his Barbel virginity. He did connect  with a fish in the last hour, but he failed to land it. Brian blanked.

The next day saw us return in much colder conditions than we'd anticpated. Having cleared the ice from our vehicles, it was still barely above freezing on arrival. A beautiful day eventually emerged, although some of our party were struggling to appreciate its splendour.

For me it turned into a gruelling blank in terms of Barbel. I spent an hour or so piling in maggots through a feeder in the hope of drawing some greedy Chub into the swim, but all I could attract was Dace. Charlie didn't fish much and instead devoted time to helping Mark catch his first Barbel from the banker peg much further downstream. The mission was accomplished late in the day when he caught a small Barbel of about 4lbs. Mark was rather happy, but sadly I wasn't near enough to get a photo. 
The final word went to Brian who banked a cracking Barbel after I'd gone walkabouts in search of Pike on a lure. I got a text saying "I'm in" and despite being about 400 yards away, he'd still barely just got it in when I arrived back. It had given him a hell of a battle and he was claiming a double figure fish. I doubted it (always the pessimist!) on the basis that most Wye Barbel I've seen have been on the long, lean, athletic side.
How wrong I was though and when I lifted the scales they went further than I thought. It just slipped into double figures and I credited Brian with 10lb 3oz - a personal best and a decent fish for the Wye.


Although not a very productive trip for me, it was good to see a couple of our party achieve some personal milestones. We'll be back for more next year.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Old Friends Return

Regular readers of this blog won't be surprised to learn that I was on the Avon at Alveston this week. I make no apologies for that though, as I'm really enjoying fishing there this year and making the most of the conditions.

Having seen it suffer badly with low clear water and excessive weed last year, it's been a breath of fresh air to see it in fine fettle this season. The big flush through we had during May, coupled with a few other decent rises in the water during the season, seem to have kept the river in good trim throughout.

I arrived to find the river nicely coloured and about 8 inches up. I settled for a peg that gave me a slacker area on the inside with 7ft+ of depth just beyond the rod tip.

I dispensed with the softly softly approach to groundbaiting that I'd been taking in the past couple of weeks. Instead I balled in half a dozen cricket balls close in and compressed them well to make sure the bait got down to the deck quickly. I followed up with a few big baitdropper fulls of maggots, caster and hemp.

The first fish to show was a small Roach, but the next bite was something more solid and my first Bream of the day was landed. It weighed in at 4lb 5oz. Sorry about the poor self take!

I didn't have to wait long to improve on the self take though, as the very next cast resulted in a better fish of 4lb 15oz.

I started to wonder what the day might bring at this point, as I was still well inside the first hour and hadn't even started on my coffee yet! It didn't turn into a procession, but two more Bream were banked during the session.

4lb 8oz:

4lb 12oz (the shortest, but most solid of the bunch):

It was nice to be back amongst the Bream again, as I haven't had much luck with them recently. Another old friend turned up again too - the Eel, or more precisely 4 of them! Yet again with a bit of colour in the river, they seem to be on the feed during the day. All 4 were in the 12oz to 1lb range - very much the general stamp of Eel I've seen this season. Reports of their demise seem greatly exaggerated around these parts. I've seen more than ever this season. One of them was caught on bread flake, which is a first for me.

I also had a foulhooking encounter with a suspected Carp. I lifted the rod to retrieve my bait, but it just arched over and a fish powered off into mid river. The hook pulled after a few seconds and when I checked my tackle, I was left with the hook sporting a shiny thumbnail sized scale.

The river continued to rise throughout the session and my choice of peg proved to be a good one as it turned out. I'd very nearly plumped for a peg on the upstream wide section, but the platform I would have been fishing from was fully submerged by the time I was leaving. The water was just starting to creep over the bank around my peg too.

Bites were at a premium in the last hour or so and the debris in the water was increasing. With my feet getting ever closer to the water and ever colder, I called it a day mid afternoon. I'd had over 20lb of Bream and Eels, with a few bits (Roach, Dace, Gudgeon) thrown in. I went home quite content with my day's work.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

No Place for a Dace

I've neglected the blogging recently, so I'll start with a brief catch up from the past couple of weeks down on the Avon..

Two weeks ago I fished on the Sunday which turned out to be the same day as the rescheduled annual raft race. I hadn't registered that it had been postponed earlier in the year. I was now thrust into the midst of this annual spectacle that saw around 50 rafts making their way down river from Wasperton to Stratford Recreation Ground.

I picked a peg that had an upstream bush protruding out quite a way into the river. This gave me a nice inside slack area as well as creating a barrier from the rafts who had to steer out towards mid river. This left me quite a decent area I could plunder and be confident that no rafts would pass directly over my baited area.

As it happened the rafts didn't bother the fishing one jot. It was a fish a chuck for the whole session, with mainly Dace, Roach and Perch showing up. The fish were of a generally small stamp though with only a Perch of about a pound leaving me grabbing for my landing net.

Last week was very much a case of deja vu - another session with lots of fish being caught throughout the day but yet again nothing of any size.

This week I returned with Brian, who was fresh from his recent trip to LA and Las Vegas. The river looked bang on after the flush through from earlier in the week and despite it having returned to almost normal level, it retained a very healthy colour.

Confidence was high and once again the fish were responding straight from the off. It was mostly Roach and Dace, with the occasional Gudgeon and Bleak. Again they were all of a smallish stamp. In an attempt to put that right I tried a worm on my wand rod in the margins to see if one of the resident big Perch would take a fancy to it.

The worm rod produced some small fish before something a little better grabbed the bait. I thought it was a nice Chub when I saw it flash through the water, but it turned out to be a Pike that eventually got free. That set the tone for the day, with various other Pike encounters cropping up throughout.

I did eventually manage a nice Chub that took a liking to my floatfished double caster offering - a fish of 4lb 2oz.

Back to the Pike and over the past few weeks I've been gradually running down my old supply of deadbaits ahead of this year's campaign. I hadn't had a sniff of a fish in the past couple of weeks, albeit I 've only dabbled for a few minutes here and there during each session.

As a result I only slipped a couple of Roach into my bag this week but I could have done with a whole lot more as it turned out. I went for my tried and trusted wobbling approach and it didn't take long to get the first hook up, but I suffered a hook pull and half of my bait stash was gone. The other Roach came up trumps later on and I banked a small jack with it. 

Now deadbaitless I returned to my normal fishing and I later had a couple of fish nobbled on the way in by Pike - one of which saw a Dace eventually being swung in with a severally mangled rear end, albeit it was still alive somehow. I changed over the Pike rod to a plug and thrashed it through the swim a few times. I managed to get another small jack for my efforts.

Brian also had 2 fish snaffled by Pike but he failed to bank either of them. I don't know what has caused the swing in Pike fortunes. After the previous 2 weeks where there was no hint of a Pike, they were clearly rampant now. Maybe I should start the winter Pike campaign early this year!

The Perch on the other hand were conspicuous by their absence and neither of us had one all day, which is quite rare at this time of year. That said I did get sight of a Perch and it was one of the bigger samples of around 3lb+ that roam the margins. It went for a Dace that I'd returned to the water and then stuck around all day and kept popping up in front of me from time to time. I tried to tempt it with a lobworm but it wasn't having it. I'll get a decent Perch from there one day!