Artful Angler

Rob Kavanagh's fishing blog


The inside line on fishing

Upper Bristol Avon, Christian Malford

Wednesday 27th October 2010

Deciding against another trip to Malmesbury with the water so low and clear I opted to give the Bristol Avon at Christian Malford a go, a stretch also available on the Amalgamated Fisheries ticket. I'd walked the banks in the close season but was yet to wet a line there. Arriving early afternoon my plan was to explore the river to see what I could catch. Chub were my main target and with this in mind the bait bucket contained a range of options; lobworms, bread and cheesepaste being my main baits with a stick of peperami as backup, and a pint or so of leftover maggots if things became desperate and a spot of tiddler bashing was called for.

Strolling downstream the river was looking good with a faint tinge of colour, the weather was settled with the bright autumn sun muted at times by the high patchy clouds. It was delightfully warm with the sun on my back, but I was cautious in my approach to my first choice of swim lest I cast my long shadow across the river. Unsure of the snagginess of the swim I set up with 6lb mainline with a slightly lighter hooklength to a size 10 hook and cast a lobworm to the upstream end of a large partially sunken tree. Shallow water dropped away as the river rounded a tight bend, with the trees at it's apex stretching halfway out across the river providing a decent amount of cover.

I'd been there just a few minutes when the steady drone of aircraft became a roar as a pair of C130 Hercules dived steeply, losing altitude fast before breaking in opposite directions, turning low and tight before their final approach to nearby RAF Lyneham. Rattling off a few photos I missed my first bite but hooked the next shortly after recasting. A perch of about half a pound was the culprit and successive casts resulted in several similar sized fish. Switching the swan-shot on the running paternoster link for a small blockend feeder stuffed with maggots resulted in bites coming quicker but the fish became smaller, some smaller than the worms they were taking!

Although it's always reassuring to get plenty of bites on a new water it was chub I was mainly after so I moved a few yards to the right further round the bend where a dense tangle of trees screamed chub. It was a proper birdcage and with everything crossed I gently swung the bait out with an underhand flick, the bait plopping into position as far under the line-snagging branches as I dared. I can see why some anglers drop their rigs in such places with a pole and cupping kit as the "cast" can be achieved without risk of the line hooking up on it's way out, as well as being able to place the rig with pinpoint accuracy as deep under cover as is desired.

My hooklength had been replaced with one of 6lb fluorocarbon tied with a knotless knot with a cork ball mounted on the hair around which was moulded a good lump of cheesepaste made from old Danish Blue stiffened with liquidized bread, and so smelly I felt sure it would be irresistible to any nearby chub. Fifteen biteless minutes passed and with it decidedly chilly in the shade of the tree behind me I reached for the restorative powers of my flask of hot sweet coffee. Inevitably, mid-pour the quivertip rapped twice leading to a bungled strike. How do they know.......? Miraculously my next cast was once again on target and this time I was ready as the tip bobbled before tapping round positively. A dogged fight of a few minutes ensued with the fish banging away under the rod tip and trying to get into any one of numerous snags. As it attempted to snag me amongst the dense bed of rushes extending out from under my feet I was glad that I'd set the rod up at its 13 foot length, enabling me to apply pressure over the fish and steer it into the waiting net at full stretch. A pristine chub of 3lb 2oz was soon returned and although I felt that the swim may produce another once it had settled I decided to move on as my intention for today's session was to try several different swims.

I didn't move far as the other side of the tree also looked tempting and a slack area under a downstream sycamore on the near bank caught my eye. Stealthily creeping into position I plopped the bait under the tree before retiring a few yards paying out line as I did so and settled back to await events. My careful placement of the rig paid off as the tip soon belted round resulting in a brassy little chub of about a pound and a half. With so many features in this swim I decided to fish them in rotation, my next cast heading across to the far bank where a small raft of leaves had built up on a few low hanging branches. Leaves on the riverbed had been a bit of an issue masking the hookpoint,and a good bite was missed, so a slightly smaller ball of cheesepaste was used with a no.6 shot attached a couple of inches away allowing the bait to pop-up off bottom slightly keeping it out of the detritus.

The light began to fade fast and I still hadn't had a look at further downstream. After having a couple of casts in a few different spots I settled in a peg halfway down a slippery high bank. A partially submerged willow opposite looked promising as did a dense tangle of branches a short cast down the near bank. Unfortunately the cast was lame, swinging the rig into an overhanging bramble and forcing me to pull for a break. Struggling to re-tie the rig in the half light I repeated to process, conscious of the rapidly fading light and once again rushing the cast, catching the bramble and forcing me to rig-up once again. Not wanting to start blazing the area with my headtorch and with fingers numbed by the cold I decided one last cast was in order, this time a simple freelined lump of cheesepaste on a size 8 direct to the mainline. Ignoring the nearside this time, (I felt sure the disturbance caused by repeatedly jangling the brambles in the water as I tried to jerk the rig free would have spooked any residents), I plopped the bait across to the sunken willow allowing it to trundle under the tree before it settled and touch legered, the onset of darkness making picking out the rod tip impossible. A few minutes later a fish took, the bite transmitted up the line feeling like an electric shock. A smart strike and the fish was hooked and soon netted, although somewhat precariously from my perch on the steep, slippery bank. Returning a slim two and a half pound chub it was time to go home, feeling daft for rushing my last few casts and wasting good fishing time.

I hadn't explored the river as much as I'd intended but in fishing, there's always another day.

Friday 29th October 2010

A short session at the top end of the Amalgamated stretch below the bridge was inspired today by a bit of nosing around on the internet and seeing the potential of the barbel in this part of the river. A great picture of a double figure fish got the juices flowing so off I went in an attempt to see if I could catch one of these elusive beasts.

In a nutshell; No.

The session wasn't entirely wasted, indeed no fishing trip ever is on such a picturesque river with kingfishers to watch, and as dusk fell a barn owl silently ghosting around on the hunt.

I began by rolling meat around the pool under the bridge before moving downstream to the tail end where a leafy overhanging tree dragging the surface certainly looked the part. With nothing doing I moved to the other side of it, casting towards a far bank raft twenty yards downstream, hoping a fish may work it's way up into the pool under the cover of the overhanging trees. The highlight was a long chat with another angler who slithered down the banks towards me. Grateful for and complimenting him on his stealthy approach we mused on the times when after sneaking silently into position some noddy comes striding over, skylining all the way before inevitably booming "ANY LUCK?!"...

"Not any more......"

His particular tale of woe had involved a mid-double barbel that, over several hours, he'd managed to get feeding confidently in the shallow water beneath him as he lay on his belly carefully peering over the edge of the high bank, vanishing never to return before he'd been able to show it a baited hook.


A wealth of useful information, it was refreshing to openly discuss tackle and tactics with another angler keen to share their successful rigs and baits without any of the cold-shouldering secrecy that can sometimes permeate the would-be specimen hunting world. After an hour or so of companionable chatting dusk began to fall and a quick tap on the tip had us eagerly anticipating a barbel's three foot twitch. Sadly nothing materialsed and we decided it was a chub having a go at the link legered jumbo maize hookbait and with it getting dark fast my companion left to head home. It was dark when I decided to head off myself but not before a last cast or two in the pool beneath the bridge, an uncomfortable prospect as the gusting, blustery wind I'd been pummeled by all afternoon was now laced with a steady cold rain, where all I caught was a large twig.

Rob, 16/11/2010


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