Bloggers Challenge – Aiming for Europe

While Leicester continue to confound expectations in the Premier League, I don’t think it’s any surprise to see James Dennison running away with the Bloggers Challenge 15/16. A very good angler indeed.

I think Russell and George have second and third place tied up respectively, but beyond that I think there are Champions League and Europa League places up for grabs!

I’m quite pleased with my current seventh place position. And I’ll try and squeeze in two or three more short trips before the 1st May in an effort to find a few more points.

My one shot at real glory came a few weeks back on the Wye. A tricky day came to life as dusk arrived and I hooked a succession of good fish on worms. A surprise 1lbs 8oz roach / bream hybrid had me convinced I’d hooked a special roach in the gloom (and earned me an invaluable ten challenge points) and was accompanied by a number of good perch to 2lbs exactly.

Tintern gulls
Tintern gulls
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A nice perch of two pounds - how I wish I'd landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!
A nice perch of two pounds – how I wish I’d landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!

But the last fish I hooked was, I’m 99% sure, a very special perch indeed. I never got a glimpse of it, but having had the two pounder just previously on the same gear, this fish felt easily twice as heavy, with my 6lbs line and medium feeder rod at times feeling seriously under-gunned. I finally steered it away from the nasty snags downstream, got it to the relative safety of the near bank and out of the flow, only for it to do me on a totally innocuous looking twig right under my feet.

I went back for a couple of hours at dusk a week later – but the river had dropped and was cold and lifeless.

I finished the river season in traditional fashion – at the wonderful Britford fishery with my friend, Mike. Mike’s getting hitched this summer, so we had a mini stag-do of sorts, fishing followed by beers in Salisbury.

It wasn’t easy, but a couple of swims on the old river produced the goods. I was hoping for a decent grayling for the challenge points, but also as I’d not had one in a few years. I think third trot down I had a lovely fish around a pound, followed by one a shade bigger at 1lbs 1oz.

A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
An Avon perch
An Avon perch

We had dace, trout, perch and minnows – all great fun on the float. After a good few beers in town and an overnight stay, we awoke to the most horrid weather. Very wet, very windy and bitingly cold. ‘Orrible. We put it off for as long as we could, but eventually trudged down at 1pm. The river was rising rapidly and to be honest we toyed with the idea of heading straight home. Still, at least it hadn’t burst its banks – yet. We headed to the sluice to hide in there for a bit, have a coffee and see if things might improve.

We decided to flick out big baits from the sluice and see if a suicidal trout or chub might oblige. None did, so Mike went wondering and I set up a maggot feeder and began casting from the sluice again. Half an hour later I had, during the briefest of lulls in the wind, a subtle pluck. Next cast and I was in. I just presumed it’d be a small chub or trout, so when a big roach rolled on the surface I eased right off!

It was a stunner of 1lbs 9oz and a best of the season for me. Neither of us had another bite, but it’d been a good couple of days in great company.

1lb 9oz Avon roach
1lb 9oz Avon roach
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike braving the elements!
Mike braving the elements!
Couldn't resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.
Couldn’t resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.

Bloggers Britford Christmas Bonanza

Well, the plan was to meet up with Russell and James for a bloggers Britford fish-in – but after settling into a nice swim right at the top of the stretch and with plenty of bites forthcoming, I was loathe to move…

I love Britford. It’s such an absorbing, interesting place to fish. I started out in a favourite pool that fishes really well at times, yet the mild weather and surprising lack of pace meant it was minnow city. River keeper extraordinaire Stuart came by and suggested a move to the main river. With a tinge of colour and decent flow, this was clearly the place to try.

A glorious place to spend the day trotting.
A glorious place to spend the day trotting.

And it was there I stayed for the majority of the day. The fishing was totally engrossing – I had to run my float across a very specific path, a few feet off the far bank, and then hold back at a certain point to get bites from the better roach and dace in the swim. Anywhere else and a minnow was the inevitable outcome. The width of the river, coupled with blustery, swirling wind made it that bit more difficult to control things. But with steady, accurate feeding and sticking to a routine of feed, cast, run, hold, run and repeat the bites, at times, came every cast.

A quartet of Hampshire herrings.
A quartet of Hampshire herrings.

I had loads of clonking Hampshire herrings, with best dace weighing in at 8ozs. I had a couple of fat gudgeon and some small chub. The pike were highly active too. If a dace was grabbed on the way in, the pike would let go eventually, but with a pike rod set up in anticipation of such a situation, the dead dace would simply be lowered back in the general area of the attack, and a pike was usually the result. I had three jacks in the end, only up to 5lbs 8ozs, but great fun.

Avon pike web

Back you go...
Back you go…

The roach were proving tricky though, and just when I thought I was set for a run of them, they disappeared again. I managed six at intermittent stages, but frustratingly lost a couple of better fish – one which certainly felt just like a good roach: thump, thump, glide… thump, thump, glide… ping!

A trio of Avon roach.
A trio of Avon roach.

I mistakenly tried for a big chub with big baits during the last hour, but the area I tried was still clogged with weed and no chub turned up. I probably should have stuck it out in search of roach.

All in all a really great day – even if I never did catch up with Russell and James!

Ending the season at brilliant Britford

I finished the season with a trip to the wonderful Britford fishery on the Hampshire Avon last week. Accompanied by my old mate Rob, we spent a couple of days trotting likely looking spots in the hope a few bites. Rob was really after his first grayling and though we didn’t find any sadly, we did manage minnows, dace, chub, pike, salmon parr, sea, rainbow and brown trout and a solitary, special roach. The cold nights, gin clear water and bright sunshine made things tricky, but the chub certainly obliged and hooking those bruisers at range on light float gear was great fun.

Rob trotting the river
Rob trotting the river
... and the end result - a nice Avon chub
… and the end result – a nice Avon chub
A fin-perfect Hampshire Avon roach at 1lbs 14ozs
A fin-perfect Hampshire Avon roach at 1lbs 14ozs
The sun sets on another season
The sun sets on another season

Fishing the Edgelands

I’m halfway through reading a wonderful book called Edgelands. It’s a charming read that explores the overlooked and undervalued spaces that exist between urban and rural areas – spaces authors’ Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts argue represent Britain’s true wilderness.

A lot of my favourite fishing places past and present are located on the Edgelands. I find it thrilling to find signs of life in these disparate and often neglected areas of the UK, and as Farley and Roberts note, many species of bird, fish and plant prosper in such places.

The majestic river Avon that flows around the edges of the Cathedral city of Salisbury is one of my favourite spots to fish and while the Avon’s lauded angling history mark it out as a more special place than the average suburban stream or pool, its location alongside busy roads and under graffitied bridges make it a venue on the Edgelands.

I travelled down to Salisbury to meet a friend, Mike, at the end of last week. At the beginning of the week the freezing weather had us in two minds whether to make the trip, but as the temperature slowly began to creep up and with the river at a good level, we opted to head down to the Avon.

The river was cold but things felt positive and after half an hour of priming my swim with maggots I trotted my float through a pool towards a narrower, reed-lined area that I’ve taken many good chub from in the past.

It took a while for the first bite to materialise, from a nice dace, then another and then a nice roach. My fourth fish was a special one – a dace of 12ozs and a new personal best.

Avon Edgelands
Avon Edgelands
A new personal best dace of 12ozs
A new personal best dace of 12ozs

Before long the swim really came to life, and for a while a big dace or chunky roach (and the odd missed bite) came on nearly every cast.

A big Avon roach, magic

I’d recently replaced the missing eyes and whipped on some new ones to my favourite Shimano Hyperloop match rod. It’s a smashing tool for trotting using light tackle and I’d soon got into that mesmerising routine of feeding, flicking out the float and then working it downstream and my DIY repairs were working well.

By the early afternoon things had slowed down. I had a cup of coffee and a cheese roll and rested the swim, keeping the bait going in.

Upon resuming, I took a lovely roach just over pound followed on the next run through by a wonderful grayling of a pound and a quarter, which twisted and turned in the water.

A nice grayling and roach taken on consecutive casts
A nice grayling and roach taken on consecutive casts

After that, things really slowed and while I continued to pick off the odd, nice roach, they’d dropped right back and were obviously a lot more cautious.

Holding the float back hard worked for a while and it felt like I was almost easing the bait into the fish’s mouths. A fat, bristling perch of a pound or so gave a good account in the flow and a couple of six inch salmon parr also put in an appearance.

A chunky Avon perch that put up quite a scrap
A chunky Avon perch that put up quite a scrap

But eventually the swim died completely and I really wanted to try and get a chub, having not had one since October. I decided to rove around for a couple of hours, but even the swims I’ve taken good chub from in the past were quiet and I didn’t manage to tempt one in the end.

It was a great session though, and putting together a really mixed bag of wild, river fish that are living and prospering on the Edgelands was immensely enjoyable.

The fat lady will soon be singing…

I’m over the cold weather now. I do hope we get a consistent spell of mild, rain-free weather before the end of the season. Fortunately the last four weeks of the river season – and the last fortnight especially – usually provide some great fishing, even when it is cold.

It must be something to do with that extra hour or so of daylight that wakes the fish from their winter slumber and with the snowdrops poking through, things just feel a little more positive from here on in.

Britford is on the agenda before the 15th March and I’d like to try for a Wye pike or barbel before it’s all over for another season.

A nice Hampshire Avon roach - I hope to get on the Avon before the end of the season
A nice Hampshire Avon roach – I hope to get on the Avon before the end of the season

 

I'm already looking forward to getting into the sea and chucking a lure around some quiet coves in the summer
I’m already looking forward to getting into the sea and chucking a lure around some quiet coves this summer

 

 

Ending the season on the Avon – in pictures

I spent a really enjoyable final session of the river season with a friend, on the Hampshire Avon at Britford. It really is the most superb coarse fishery and the quality and variety of fishing available make it one of my favourite venues in the UK. Here are a few pics from the afternoon:

Avon chub
My first decent fish of the day, a golden flanked chub at 3lbs 2ozs that fell to trotted maggots.
16lbs 6oz Hants Avon pike
After a quiet hour or two, I went for a wander and came across a couple of nice pike lurking in a slack. A dead minnow tempted this superb pike of 16lbs 6ozs - my best croc in quite a while.
Bread mash and bread flake hook bait
Bread mash feed + bread flake hook bait = ...
Hants Avon chub
... chunky Avon chub.
Hants Avon roach
For a short period, a shoal of roach arrived in the swim giving subtle plucks and pulls on the quiver tip. However I only managed to extract one from the swim - this beauty. Britford produces much bigger roach, but this is easily my best from the stretch.
Britford chub at dusk
The last fish of the season. Another chunky Avon chub that fell right on dusk and rounded off a great day.

Ending the season on the Avon

As I write this piece in late March, temperatures are now in the high teens and the rather gruesome winter we’ve just endured already seems like a long time ago. The carp and tench are really waking up and as soon as I get some free time, I’ll be heading out for a day to try and land a few, hopefully using a little float in the margins.
I would dearly love to make contact with one of the big crucian carp that reside in a local pool. I witnessed a chap land one of two and three quarter pounds last spring and he had already landed some other big crucians that day. My best ‘cru’ is about a pound, a fish from Somerley lakes in Hampshire.
I’ve also yet to land a 20 pound ‘king’ carp – my best is a common of 19lbs 2ozs that I hooked one April morning eight or nine years ago now. The same pool that the big crucians hide in has some big carp, and I’ve had them to just over 15 pounds there. I would really like my first ’20’ to be a dark coloured, clear-water fish – even better if it was from a river. But finding such a fish could be both time consuming and tricky. The lower Lea around Enfield may be worth a shot and the Suffolk Stour has produced some great looking fish over the years, so when the river season kicks off again perhaps I’ll spend some time looking for a big river carp.
Finishing the river season at Britford on the Hampshire Avon is becoming a bit of an annual treat. Bight sunshine and a difficult side wind made things difficult, but in the morning I managed a lovely trout, a little grayling and some small dace to trotted maggots. I settled into a favourite swim at dusk, link ledgering bread by some overhanging trees. As the sun went down a couple of taps were followed by a more substantial pull and a lumpy chub gave a powerful account of itself in the flow. He weighed four pounds and twelve ounces and was a great way to end what has been a good season.

Avon trout
A lovely trout from the Avon.

A Hampshire Avon chub
The Britford chub that fell to link ledgered bread at dusk.