Artful Angler

Rob Kavanagh's fishing blog


The inside line on fishing

Little Avon & River Cam

Monday 16th August 2010

I decided to fish the Little Avon near Stone for the first time in a number of years today. I used to have some good days down there stalking chub, often catching several from the same shoal on freelined bread or on simple float rigs. The average size was about 3lb which always led a merry dance in this narrow river that is little more than a stream in places.

Arriving mid-afternoon I was soon on the river with the sheep all gravitating towards me assuming I was there to give them a feed. Leaving them disappointed I set off downstream heading towards an old favourite chub swim with a deep hole on the outside of a sharp bend under an overhanging tree. Checking on several old favourites as I strolled along it appeared that most of them were still there although the banks were very overgrown and difficult to fish as a result. I feared that I would spook any residents in several of the swims as I was sure to cause a fair bit disturbance as I battled through the brambles and nettles to get close enough to the river. The river was low with a tinge of colour to it that made fish spotting tricky, but with so many fish holding features and a wide variety of swims to try I was confident of a fish or two, even if I couldn't manage the target chub.

Forcing my way through head-high nettles and dense, taller stands of himalayan balsam I approached the corner swim as quietly as I could, hunkering down behind the marginal rushes. A variety of baits were in my bag; bread, worms, corn and maggots and a stick of Pepperami giving me a range of options for a variety of species. Rigging the rod up with 3lb8oz line I employed a simple running paternoster set-up with two AA shot on the link, just enough to hold bottom in the hole under the tree. A size 12 hook completed the rig and for starters this was baited with a nice fluffy chunk of breadflake. Action from chub was always pretty instant in the past if they were in residence, and after fifteen minutes of getting little taps from minnows whittling away the bait I swapped to a bunch of maggots. An instant take resulted from a small brown trout that dashed around the swim like crazy, repeatedly leaping in an attempt to shed the hook before I could swing him in. A similar response came on the next cast as a larger brownie was hooked, this time dashing from snag to snag rather than taking to the air, before I could slip the net under it in the confined space.

I chose to leave the swim alone after this second trout and made my way back upstream, stopping to freeline bread in several swims along the way but with no takers. About halfway up was another old favourite where shallow water fell over rocks to a deeper section with an overhanging sycamore the ideal refuge on the edge of the main current. Getting into a decent fishing position here was always a bit perilous as the bank is high and vertical with a narrow earth ledge about six feet above river level and three feet below the top of the bank. I feared that the ledge would have vanished over the years as the current runs under your feet eating away at it, and in the winter the volume of water is forced up due to the narrow steep banks, but I was relieved to see that the ledge was still there although somewhat narrower than I remembered. Edging along, it became apparent that I'd have to sit with my legs dangling over the edge, and awkwardly assuming the positon I had a few exploratory casts upstream under the tree allowing the bread to trundle back down towards me with a single AA enough to keep it down. At the end of my third cast as I began to lift the bait out or the river a large chub dashed out of cover and make a grab at the bait. Caught by surprise I bumped the fish and it sank out of sight. Further casts resulted in several small taps before I spectacularly failed to connect with a good pull sending the rig into a tree downstream. Curses!

Time was marching on and I had planned to fish the river lower down at Berkeley before switching rivers to the little river Cam on my way home, but decided to have a couple of casts at the top end of this stretch where I'd seen plenty of small fish flipping and topping. A small pinch of flake cast to the edge of a weedbed soon brought lightening fast bites that I failed to connect with so four red maggots went on the hook as I speculated that the culprits were dace and whipping the bread from the hook before I could strike. At least they wouldn't knock the maggots off so easily and I might get a second chance...... First cast produced a much more positive bite and a sharp strike resulted in a hooked fish that at first glance appeared to be a small chub. Closer inspection of its anal fin revealed it to be a plump little dace of exactly 8oz, a beautiful little fish that had me hoping it had a few bigger sisters nearby. The largest dace I've ever had - a 13oz beaut - came from this river, albeit at the Berkeley stretch, and just maybe there a a few bigger ones lurking somewhere too........

More bites followed but it seemed that a group of grayling had muscled in on the steady trickle of loose feed, and I caught several of these and another small trout before I opted to call it a day, heading back up the A38 to Cambridge to have a look at the Cam for a couple of hours rather than give Bekeley a go. It soon became apparent that I was rather undergunned to fish this stretch, spooled up as I was with just three and a half pound line, it being very shallow in places and choked with weed. There was little if any flow and the river resembled a disused canal with steep overgrown banks and dense patches of lillies in places. Several years ago the EA put in disabled fishing platforms but access hasn't been maintained and I struggled to wade through waist high thistles and long grass. Although the river looked in poor condition plenty of fish were in evidence, with numbers of dace topping and plenty of decent-sized roach cruising about amongst the Canadian pond-weed. After spending a short while trying to tempt a roach I headed back upstream spotting a couple of decent chub as I went. I settled down opposite the pumping station where a bit of clear water would allow me to get a half decent cast in towards a solid looking chub of at least 4lb but with no result. I'll definitely give it another go soon, equipped with studier gear bearing in mind the number of snags and the size of some of those tacklesmashing chub....

Rob, 20/08/2010


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