Coarse and Carp Fishing Articles

'Kez' with a nice Carp
from Avallon Lodges

Our Coarse fishing articles and tips offer Carp and Coarse Fishermen advice on fishing in our Westcountry region

Some concentrate on specific areas and techniques for the coarse angler, others are of a more general nature. There are also contributions from the Environment Agency, Angling Trust, Salmon and Trout Association, Angling charities, Trusts and associations. We hope you enjoy reading, and find useful angling information within. The South West of England offers so much for the coarse angler to enjoy!

Decline of the European Eel

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

The European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) is an incredibly important, but often under-valued fish species in the Atlantic Area. It is essential to the economic viability of many small-scale coastal fishing communities in Europe as well forming part of the traditional fishing economy in the UK.

The eel, like the salmon, lives alternately in freshwater and seawater, but unlike the salmon, the eel spends its adult life (yellow eel stage) in freshwater then swims down river where it is thought to migrate out to the Sargasso Sea to breed (silver eel stage). This mass spawning produces vast numbers of larvae, which drift/swim with the ocean currents across the Atlantic. These larvae eventually reach the European coastline where they metamorphose and move up into rivers during the spring (elver stage).

Recently a massive decline in the number of eels arriving at European Rivers has been noted. ICES/EIFAC working groups recently defined eel populations as 'outside safe biological limits' with critical levels reached mainly in Northern Europe.

Match Fishing - What's the attraction?

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

Max Palmer is from Tackle Trader

Over the last 15 years coarse fishing has seen many changes, not just in the south west but as a whole. Match angling is no exception, in fact it has probably changed more than any other area of the sport, but why?

There are some things that will never change. Man versus fish for one and a competitive spirit and determination to do better than others is another. These two ingredients are the main reasons that match fishing continues to be so popular, from the grass roots club level right through to international level. The way matches are run has also changed little over the years. Booking your place, turning up on the day and signing in, paying pools, drawing pegs, fishing the match and gathering with great anticipation to await the results. These basics are, however, where any similarities between modern match fishing and the sport of old come to an end.

There are two major contributing factors to coarse angling that have brought about this change. Firstly, the emergence of heavily stocked commercial fisheries and secondly, the massive changes in the fishing tackle industry, fuelled by the rapid development in technology which have given todays fishermen a huge head start on anglers of just 15 years ago.

There is a general consensus that numbers of match anglers have declined over recent years, and many theories as to why. In truth, there has probably been a minor decline in terms of numbers. But with so many 'commercial' fisheries offering almost guaranteed sport, there are now maybe three times as many matches taking place each week, with far fewer anglers in each. Gone are the days where 'open' matches on our canals and rivers, saw weekly attendances of 100 plus, consisting of anglers from a wide area, all travelling to the same venue! If a comparison is possible, 80% of the anglers of today would split down into 4 matches of between 15 and 30 anglers on a familiar venue, that is generally a well stocked commercial, and that is much closer to home. Who can blame them!!

We are fortunate enough in the South West to have many such waters offering the kind of sport to which todays angler has become accustomed, the vast majority of which are present in this publication. With waters like Andy Seery's Stafford Moor, we also have a high quality match venue capable of holding events with 100 plus anglers and offering an incredible standard of angling at all times of the year! Something that the rivers and canals of our region, and other regions, simply cannot provide. Coupled with the changes in fishing habits and venues frequented, the quality and price of fishing tackle available today also has a major bearing on peoples attitudes towards match fishing. It is now an option for all anglers to obtain quality tackle at affordable prices, not least when it comes to poles. (although some poles can cost the equivalent of a decent car!!)

There are very few match anglers who do not own a pole. It is regarded as an essential part of a match anglers' armoury. Ten years ago, £200 worth of 10 or 11 metre pole resulted, for many, in a hernia or back ache! Today, for similar money, a fishable pole of 12 or 13 metres is widely available. This means the average match angler, using average priced tackle, is able to cope with 95% of match situations. In the past if you didn't break the bank, very often you where unable to compete. These facts mean that more anglers than ever before can enter matches in the knowledge that they have a chance, without being handicapped by inferior tackle and if, arguably the biggest factor in all fishing, LUCK decides to grace them on that given day, everyone can have their moment of glory.

I am positive that given the gradual decline of some of our natural waterways and canals, if it wasn't for the modern style of fishery, match fishing would have suffered a similar decline decline, and for myself and many others, that would be simply unthinkable. One thing is for certain. Getting up early on a Sunday morning, drawing a peg that you detest, giving 100% for the duration, regardless of the elements, and coming back week after week, sets a match angler apart as one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic participants of angling!

Man versus fish to the extreme?

Tight Lines

The Gift of Angling

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

If you are a keen angler with children I feel it is only fair to introduce them to the sport of angling with the many benefits it can bring. In this day and age many anglers it would seem do not make an effort to give kids the start they need. Angling will hopefully give a lifelong interest in the environment and a means to unwind in an ever stressful world.

I have been an angler for as long as I can remember and have never regretted my obsession with the pastime I love. Of course not everyone is destined to like fishing, I mean it must be in the genes or something. Your child may not be cut out for it but many are if given a good start.

So how do we go about introducing our children to our hobby? First of all you must try to see the world through a child's eyes. A couple of hours fishing is all you should aim for at first. Bites and plenty of fish are essential if interest is to be maintained. Children especially boys have short attention spans. So for this reason choose a venue that has an abundance of small fish. At first do not fish yourself, give all your attention to assisting your child with the task at hand. You will inevitably spend a considerable time sorting out tangles, don't lose your cool just keep calm and encourage. Spend the session shouting at your pupil and they will never want to go again. Have regular breaks for a snack. If the going is slow try a new spot. If the fish are really not having it go home, do something else and try again another day. When they do catch try to show enthusiasm, a tiny Roach or Rudd may not excite you but it will probably thrill a child.


Well I guess I jumped the gun a little with the above introduction as they will need to have some tackle with which to catch a few fish. Now they could use yours but that probably isn't a good idea. If its good gear it may get damaged and lead to frayed tempers, if its old cast offs it may hinder them not being suitable for the job at hand. Now I am assuming that your child is aged five to ten years. My son James is seven now and has been fishing for a couple of years. I started him off with a 3 metre Whip which he could use to catch small Roach, Carp, Rudd etc. A tackle box, a few hooks, Floats, split shot, disgorger, a bait box full of maggots and a permit will be all you require for that first trip. This should all cost you £25.00 or less.

  • Whip £6.00
  • Packet barbless hooks (16) £1.00
  • Split shot £2.00
  • Floats £2.50
  • Disgorger £0.50
  • Spool of line £4.00
  • Bait Box and Maggots £4.00
  • Permit £5.00

Compare this to the price of a playstation game or similar and I am sure you will agree its not that dear.

The main consideration when taking a child fishing is of course safety. Many children drown by lakes and rivers every year so you must supervise at all times and choose a safe venue. It would obviously be foolish to take a child fishing on a flooded river. Hygiene is also important. Many venues are infested with rats which unfortunately carry the very real threat of Wiels Disease. Make sure that you carry some anti bacterial wipes for washing of hands prior to eating and to clean any cuts or grazes picked up on the waterside.

Get it right and you'll enjoy teaching them as much as they enjoy learning!

A Golden Pleasure

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

My float has been bobbing up and down, showing signs of movement from rudd and roach. I've caught, in the hour or so I've been here, about twenty small fish, and one large, and very beautiful, golden rudd, the first I've ever caught. I was surprised at how golden it was. It's back was almost orange fading to a brilliant gold leaf colour on its body. I felt so happy to holding it, as if I'd caught my first salmon or carp. It released a new and bright enthusiasm over me, reminding me of my old feelings of why I fish, which sometimes, after spending weeks after uncatchable carp, fades and disappears.

The enjoyment of catching fish is overwhelming as my float sinks and I'm reeling in another.

A rudd. Its silver scales glisten and sparkle in the sunshine, its blood red fins move in time with its mouth and gills. The hook is easily removed, with a disgorger, and then the fish happily swims away.

I caught my largest roach to date from this pool, it must be a little over a year ago now. I'd spied three well rounded tench skulking close in to the bank, but hidden by an overhanging hazel. I'd managed to crawl through a labyrinth of bamboo, under the fence that surrounds the water, and slithered my way close to the tree. There in full technicolour where the tench but to my surprise, four very large roach nudged the water's surface. They looked lazy and arrogant, as though no one knew that roach that size inhabited the pond. How big? The largest looked to be close to three pounds and the others very nearly the same.

I then fished in earnest for them. Stooped in a very awkward position, I managed to thread my rod's tip through the undergrowth and out to where they basked. I tried all manner of baits, even artificial flies, but they seemed to know all about the threats from above, perhaps this was why they had grown so big? I eventually made the mistake of leaning to hard on the branch of the hazel tree and promptly fell in!

It took three weeks of being scratched and torn to find their new hiding place, again they were with the tench, but under the roots of a fallen tree.

I tried to lure them out. I did proudly catch two of the tench, one of which weighed over four pounds. The weeks turned to months and I found out that they had a routine of moving with the sun. The water was incredibly clear and as the light moved around the pond, so did the shadows from the surrounding trees. They'd drift slowly, staying well away from the large shoals of dead-bait sized roach and rudd, who were content to bask in full sunlight.

When the sea trout were running in good numbers and the carp season was at its height, they took up a lot of my time. I slowly started to see sense and realise that I could never catch them, and with the greatest of respect left them alone.

The autumn rains came and stirred up the water making it into a thick stew of run-off and silt.

On my last outing of the year for the carp I had pre-baited with sweetcorn; and was happily float fishing for them around the groundbait, when the float sunk to my surprise and I reeled in, after a small scale tussle, the largest of the roach! It was entirely luck and not due to the skill or the amount of time I'd spent, that finally caught the emperor of roach!

But I don't hold out any hope of catching him or his brethren today. I cast out again and manage to curve my float as it sails through the air. It lands very close to the reeds which stretch out to my right. Almost immediately it ducks under again but I miss the bite. I'm using bread as bait and if I fail to hook a fish when I strike then it falls off, and I have to reel in, re-bait and re-cast.

Two black silhouettes drift under the water's surface near the reeds. They look to be carp about the size of my fore-arm. I fling my float and bait out near to where they are but they sink down and swim out into deeper water.

A wind whispers in the trees and wrinkles the surface, which moves my line and float closer towards the reeds.

It's hard to see my float tip when the ripples from the wind swallow it, and it also rides up and down on the swell.

My eyes lower and look at my rod point, then I follow the curve of the rod down to my reel. My line jerks out quickly and becomes taught and tight. I raise my head quickly and try to find my float, which has gone. I lift my rod and am instantly amazed as the fish on the other end is hardly a small rudd. My light float rod hoops over with force.

The fish on the other end bends it as if it's a car aerial. I sharply stand up to apply more pressure. My heart begins to pound once more.

The fish dives towards an overhanging holly tree by my left hand side. I lean out and lever the fish around in my direction. It rises to the surface and I have a pleasant surprise to see a small carp.

I bring it closer to me and lift it out of the water with my hands. It looks to weigh three or so pounds. A mirror carp and its small scales along the ridge of its back are silver and grey.

I should really fish more often like this. Casting in hope for anything that swims really! My line is four pounds breaking strain, so it's fine and light for the smaller fish yet man enough to handle any surprises. The same as my rod I suppose. 'Pleasure angling' is the term used, but surely all fishing is pleasurable? I do feel particularly satisfied when I fish in this way though and I never feel that frustrated emptiness that fishing for salmon and carp can often bring. However you can't have the pleasure without pain- can you?

Luck and Stuff

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

Even the most professional and experienced of anglers must admit to there being a large degree of luck involved in the sport.

Perhaps luck isn't the right word, it's more 'unpredictability'. I'm sure most have caught a species or size of fish which was completely unexpected at the time. This has to be one of the attractions of the sport. The anticipation when watching the float dip, hearing the buzzer blip, feeling the fly line tighten, whatever the method of detection you can never be sure what's on the other end.

An occasion springs to mind last February when I took Josh and Alf (two sons aged 11 and 9) to local coarse water Elmfield Fisheries. Just going in February was, unexpected to start with. It's normally very cold but we were having a spell of unusually mild weather and it was a bit of a spur of the moment thing.

The boys both fished with whips and pole rigs (saves me a lot of time undoing tangles) and I used a 11ft match rod and waggler set up. For the fist 3 hours they out fished me completely. Maggot was the bait and they were catching small roach, rudd and perch. The wind changed direction at about 10am and we moved to new swims to keep the wind behind us. The boys continued to land fish with a couple of bream now amongst the catch. I'd been helping the boys, showing them how to unhook the fish and use a disgorger but decided it was time to sit down and fish properly for an hour.

I just loose fed with maggots, little and often, and caught a perch of about 10oz followed by a bream of a pound or so but the next time the float dipped I struck and nothing moved. Then line began to run off the reel as something large started off across the lake. I was using 4lb line straight through so knew I stood a good chance of landing the fish as long as the hook held and I had the patience to tire the fish on an underpowered rod. The other problem was the pathetic landing net I'd brought. I have perfectly good landing nets, large and small but couldn't find them this morning and the only one I could find had a 5ft handle and a head about 1 ft across.

The boys were pretty excited and we hadn't even seen the fish as it swam up and down in front of us, hugging the bottom. Inevitably the fish did begin to tire and broke surface for the first time. There was a chorus of 'Wow!' from behind me as we got our first glimpse of a carp, and a double at that. The owner of the fishery happened to turn up at this moment and did a great job of getting the fish in the net. A beautiful common estimated at 14lb (no scales to weigh it!) was quickly photographed and returned.

A classic case of me being lucky? Certainly was, it took a degree of experience to play and land the fish but, as Alfie proved later by losing a good fish on the whip when the hook pulled out, the fish could have just as easily have picked up someone else's bait. This style of fishing must be the most commonly practised, loose feeding with bits of hookbait, fishing with a float and catching whatever comes along. Really enjoyable, especially when you get 'lucky'.

Roach, Carp & Parenthood

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

Any bites Josh?

Josh, you OK?


Josh was asleep.

Well, it was just past midnight and he'd never been up that late before.
How many of you have experienced taking one of your children on their first 'all nighter'? How was it for you? for me it was hugely enjoyable, a mixture of pride and excitement and memories flooding back of how I'd felt on my first nocturnal session.

We arrived at the fishery at about 7pm on a fine July evening to get set up. Josh had been fishing with me before, mostly spectating, and this was to be his first time in control of his own rod and line.
I set him up with an eight food light spinning rod, fixed spool reel, 6lb main line and a 2lb hook length to a 16 hook suspended from a float.
Bait was to be maggot and with a good population of small roach and skimmer bream in the water he was pretty sure to have some sport.
I tackled up an eleven foot rod with a small sliding ledger and maggot and a second rod with a cream flavoured boilie.
I baited up an area between a couple of bushes on my right and put a boilie on the hook!

On the hook? Yes, obviously boilies have been around for a long time and I have never used them before so I just assumed you put them on the hook. I have since been educated in such matters and the beauties of 'hair rigs' et al.
By this time Josh was getting bites and it wasn't long before he caught his first fish. WOW! I doubt that the three inch roach that devoured the single maggot will ever bring such a huge sense of joy and achievement to anybody again, and Josh was pretty pleased too! What is it that we enjoy so much about fishing? Outwitting the fish, the thrill of the fight? Neither would seem to apply in the case of this little shimmer of silver but the joy on Josh's face was as easy to read as a book. It's perhaps a little sad that many anglers lose this basic joy as the capture of such small 'easy' fish becomes a little tedious. We would do well to remember something of that first exciting catch and banish the phrase 'trash fish' from our vocabulary. Whoops, that's enough moralising for now.

By loose feeding with maggots Josh caught several more roach before the light faded and the float vanished into the evening gloom.
I retackled his rod with a sliding ledger and sweetcorn as hookbait and he recast. He actually picked up casting much quicker than I thought he would. The only difficulty he had seemed to be that the reel was physically a bit large for him to handle. When most people cast they hold the line against the spool with their index finger, Josh's isn't long enough so he had to hook the line over his finger which does make it harder to release the line at the right moment.

My usual setup is to use two storm lanterns adjacent to the seats for lighting and then washing up liquid bottle tops, clipped over the line between the first and second rod rings, as bite indicators. A bit Heath Robinson perhaps but it's cheap and it works. The only drawback is, of course, that you have to sit and watch instead of being woken by an alarm but that's no real hardship.
I have to say that Josh was not over impressed by this change in tactics and it wasn't hard to see why, no bites!
I explained that this is the way things were and if he did get a bite it was likely to be a bigger fish and this fuelled his enthusiasm for a bit longer. About two hours in fact which was when I discovered that, beneath copious layers of clothing, he had fallen asleep.

I woke him and suggested we had a midnight snack, good idea. I've got an old Renault Trafic van which makes a superb tent so we retired to the car park and brewed a cup of tea while Josh ate the chocolate, well most of it.
He got in his sleeping bag and went back to sleep and I returned to the water to do some serious 'undisturbed' fishing.

By 5am I'd caught one fish, a roach of about 4oz, well it was a slightly bigger fish. It was getting light now so I went and woke Josh and suggested some breakfast. Bacon eggs and fried bread went down very well, he wolfed it down although I have to say it looked a bit like someone had wolfed it down the previous evening but it tasted great.

Back to the fishing then. Needless to say Josh wanted the float back, I obliged and before long he was back into the small roach and the odd skimmer bream. I was, however,
catching very little so I decided to chuck out a few crusts. This is something I almost always do at first light. I cut half a dozen cubes from a nice crusty loaf and drop them in some likely spots along a nearby bank. On some waters you give up right away as the water boils with fry but on others it's frequently productive. Ideally you can see all the crusts from where you are fishing and spot any activity. Sure enough after about twenty minutes a crust was sucked down by a good fish, followed by another. At this point the boilie rod was re-tackled with a crust and we crept around to the area of activity. I dropped in another 'freebie' which was taken in five minutes so in went another, this time with a size six barbless hook in it.

Ten minutes later the crust was taken and I lifted the rod, waiting for the line to move off. It did, I struck and handed the rod to Josh. Surface hooked Carp usually move off at a rate of knots and this one was certainly no exception. Josh held on tight and looked on in astonishment as the line screamed off the lightly set clutch on reel, I actually grabbed hold of his coat to stop him sliding down the steep bank, after the small stuff he had been catching he had no idea that a fish could actually pull this hard. He made a fair attempt at playing the fish and after 5 minutes or so I netted it for him. Pleased or what? I took a photograph and let Josh gently return the fish to the water.

Now I was really pleased and proud that Josh had caught this fish but was not aware that it might have a downside. The immediate one was "lets catch another". Hmmmm, well it's not quite that easy Josh, we'll have scared them off. And more recently "let's catch some carp, I love catching carp".
To add strength to my argument (it's not always that easy) we recently had another all night session with the express intention of catching a carp for the cover shot of this years Get Hooked! It was at a local fishery, with a good population of large carp, that had been fishing well recently. A local angler was also there all night to 'reduce the odds' and another turned up before light. The sum total of our efforts... three carp anglers nil (one lost ghost carp) Josh about thirty rudd, golden orfe and golden tench to about 8oz. You can imagine the conversation; "have you caught anything Gra?", no, "I have. Has that man over there caught anything?", no. "Has that man caught anything Gra?", no. "I've caught more than anybody haven't I?", yes Josh.
He couldn't really grasp why people should 'deliberately' not catch fish, which were easy, in pursuit of something unseen which was obviously very hard to catch, that's very easy to grasp, isn't it?

Back to our original expedition and it was now about 9am. I was still fishing ledgered corn on one rod and boilie on the other and Josh was back with his floatfished maggot and catching fish again. Suddenly the bottle top on the boilie rig shot up and I struck. I knew right away that this was a good fish as it made off, hugging the bottom and taking line. After a solid fight I slid the net under a mirror of about 91b which was immediately returned.

Well that's about it, we fished on until about 11.30am and I spent most of the time watching and helping Josh who was still catching by generous loose feeding with the remainder of the maggots. He was a bit disappointed when we went to empty the keepnet, which had been kept in an outside shed, as some small rodents had surreptitiously enlarged the mesh sufficiently to allow all but a few of his fish to escape but on the whole he really enjoyed himself. He just about made the twelve mile journey home without falling asleep but wandered around like a zombie for the rest of the day and slept like a log that night.

To conclude this little tale I'd like to offer a few thoughts from my experience. If you need patience to be a fisherman, treble it and then add some if you intend taking your offspring. You'll spend a lot of time undoing tangles and getting hooks out of seats and the like. (pick a swim with no trees nearby) This also means, if you are fishing yourself, you are going to miss fish, I missed at least two 'sucker' runs on the boilies. Be as sure as you can that your subject is actually going to catch fish, he/she will get bored very quickly. Take lots of grub and treats, this is great for staving off the aforementioned boredom. If it gets really bad pick up and go home, don't inflict fishing on your pupil (you can always go again on your own). Six years old, in my experience, is the minimum age if your pupil is going to fish with any degree of independence.
Whatever the drawbacks, with a little extra patience I know you'll find it an extremely rewarding experience.

A Selection of Baits for Coarse Fishing

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

Coarse fishing has spawned a huge variety of baits, both natural and 'unlikely'. Some of these, and the species you are likely to catch, are listed below.

Bread will make at least five forms of bait to assist the angler when fishing,

1. The crust on an uncut loaf is perfect for floating on the top of the water for Carp.
2. The inside of a fresh loaf is ideal for pinching onto the hook as flake.
3. The inside can also be soaked and made into a paste.
4. A fresh sliced loaf is used with a bread punch. (perfect for Roach)
5. Left over bread can also be liquidised and frozen down for use at a later date as a cloud bait or to mix with shop brought groundbait.


Getting back to basics

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

It was with some trepidation that I decided to return to coarse angling after a break of some 20 years. What had sparked this renewed enthusiasm was partly the fact that my son had taken up the sport following a holiday in France and was pestering for someone to take him fishing. My own return has led me to realise just how difficult it is to get back into the sport and how daunting it must be for new people wanting to give it a try.

So why do people who have been involved in angling move away from the sport? In my own case I suspect that it was because none of my friends fished and it was seen a slightly odd thing for a woman in her early 20s to do. Basically it was not considered 'cool' or whatever the trendy word for fitting in with everyone else was at that time. It wasn't just my female friends who thought the activity unbecoming, it was suggested by my male friends that I might be a tom-boy. So I hung up my fishing rod and moved on to other 'normal' activities like going to pubs and discos.

Bitter Sweet

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

By The Editor

There are many bitter sweet experiences in the life of an angler.

We must all know that feeling of getting a good fish to the net only for it to shed the hook at the last moment.

Even worse perhaps is striking into some unseen adversary of (obviously) gargantuan proportions only to lose it before even catching a glimpse. Maybe just a huge swirl on the water, some seconds after you have parted company, the only clue as to the undeniable bulk of the long departed specimen.

These fish are frequently the largest you will never catch. No photographic evidence, perhaps no one to verify the tale?. Such specimens sometimes grow larger, not only in reality but perhaps also in the imagination, and sometimes the diet supplied by the imagination is a far more nutritious than any available to the wild fish.

Why bother?

It can work the other way though. A fruitless session in disgusting weather, the kind that makes you wonder why you bother, can end with that one fish that makes it worthwhile.

Coarse Fishing in the Bristol Avon

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

The Bristol Avon flows from its twin sources near Sherston and Tetbury to its confluence with the River Severn at Avonmouth and travels some 117 kilometres in total (72 miles). The river has five major tributaries, the Rivers Marden, Somerset Frome, Chew, Bristol Frome and the By Brook. All provide excellent coarse fishing although the By Brook is mostly controlled by private syndicates so it is not available to the average angler.

Most waters in the area are controlled by local angling clubs and membership must be obtained before fishing. Club membership can usually be purchased from local tackle shops. There are some sections of the river in Malmesbury, Bath, Saltford, Keynsham and Bristol that are considered "free fishing". These sections of the river are mostly owned or controlled by local authorities and not leased to angling clubs. It is important to note that a valid Environment Agency rod licence is also required when fishing any of these waters; licences can be obtained from all post offices as well as from local Environment Agency offices.

Malmesbury, a picturesque old Cotswold market town with its 12th century Abbey as its' focal point, is the uppermost point on the Avon open to the coarse angler. Although fishing is difficult when the water is clear it has produced roach and perch of over 3lb and carp of 20lb plus in the past two seasons.

From Malmesbury the river meanders its way downstream to the market town of Chippenham and has many weirs that provide impounded sections above weirs, with riffle and pool below. Barbel, chub and roach predominate in the faster water giving way to large bream shoals just upstream of Chippenham town. Notable catches include a five hour match record of 140lb of bream. Individual records include a monster pike of over 33lb and the almost unbelievable tench of 12lb 7oz caught by Rick Seal from Cardiff in the river at Christian Malford in November 1998.

Downstream of Chippenham town centre "free fishing" extends from the weir to the bypass road bridge (fishing the right hand bank) and then transfers to the left hand bank downstream to and including Mortimers Wood. This section is some 1.25 miles in length and contains good quality fish. Most notably barbel to 12lb, chub to 4½lb, bream to 7lb, tench to 4lb, perch to 2lb and pike to 18lb.

Further downstream at Lacock, the river passes by this National Trust village, best known for its Abbey and as the home of early photographer Fox-Talbot, and onto Melksham which is dominated by the Avon Tyre factory (now owned by Coopers of America). Match weights vary from 2lb to 12lb on the upper reaches to perhaps 60lb on the lower reaches near Melksham (if the bream are feeding!).

Onward to Staverton, then Bradford on Avon with its tythe barn, old church and antique shops (a must for tourists), Avoncliffe and Limpley Stoke. All have large impoundments above their weirs. Here fish can be a little more difficult to locate but large bream shoals are here to be found and caught. The liberal use of ground bait, an open ended feeder with a hook bait of red maggot, worm or caster usually does the trick. One place not to be missed after a hard day's slog on the river bank is the Cross Guns Public House at Avoncliffe — well known by the locals for its good beer and steaks at a reasonable price. Below Avoncliffe are the Limpley Stoke and Claverton weirs, nestling within a scenic valley, where wooded sides rise in places, some 300 feet above. In these sections where the water runs faster and is quite weedy in the summer months, lie the haunts of very large barbel. The best captured so far, nearly 15½lb weight, is very close to the national rod caught record. Most other species can also be caught with good roach, dace, chub, tench, perch and bream. Also, it is not unusual for the pike angler to capture specimens of 12-20lb with the best reported fish of 26lb caught by Gary Court at Claverton in 1988.

The city of Bath with its Roman Baths and internationally renowned Georgian architecture provides a scenic backdrop to over 2.5 miles of "free fishing". Below Pulteney Weir hot water spills into the river from the Roman Baths, which provides interest for carp of over 20lb. Individual anglers have reported superb roach catches of over 30lb, just upstream of North Parade Bridge and 40lb plus nets of chub, taken on caster at Widcombe. Another hot spot near Windsor Bridge produces large quantities of bream, with individual fish weighing over 7lb in weight. It makes this particular stretch well worth consideration.

The river below Bath becomes slower and boat usage more intense. Newbridge, Saltford and Keynsham provide excellent match stretches where individual weighs vary from 2 to 20lb with roach, chub, bream and eels predominating. There are further "free" sections at the Shallows in Saltford and a small area 200 yards downstream of Keynsham weir on the far side of the roadbridge.

At Hanham the "free fishing" extends on the right hand bank through Conham Park to Netham Weir some 3.5 miles in total. Conham Park has a car park, toilets and facilities for the disabled. Fishing on this stretch is quite good with mixed nets of dace, roach, chub, perch and eels. From Netham to the river's confluence with the River Severn at Avonmouth, the river becomes an estuarine environment with one of the largest tide variations in the world. Near Netham Weir some coarse fish can still be caught together with the occasional mullet and flat fish.

Bristol has numerous attractions, few more inviting, for the angler, than the sight of a large expanse of water. The City docks, also known as the Floating Harbour, is a large area, and situated in the centre of the City. This, together with its connection to the main river, the Feeder Canal, provides a venue with numerous swims for the match and pleasure angler. Permits are available both on the bankside and from tackle shops or the Harbour Masters Office, situated near the restored SS Great Britain. The Docks have an average depth of 15 feet. Roach, dace, bream and perch can be caught in good numbers with carp or chub as a bonus. Most fish are caught using an open ended feeder with a hook bait of maggot, bread, worm or sweetcorn. In the summer months fish tend to feed off the bottom more, float fished baits presented at a depth of 3 to 6 feet can produce good catches.

Most barbel fishing is upstream of Bath, popular venues being Warleigh, Limpley Stoke, Avoncliffe, Lacock, Chippenham, Peckingell, Kellaways and Christian Malford. Any of these venues offer the realistic prospect of a double figure barbel. Legering with large bait such as meat, flavoured paste or lob worm will often bring results, though this approach generally works best when the river is coloured. In hard fished areas or in clear water conditions, try using particle baits like maggots or sweetcorn, which can be put down with a bait dropper or fished in a feeder. Hemp will usually get fish feeding, but in some areas barbel have become wary of feeding on hemp. Experimenting with different baits and techniques is often the key to catching barbel consistently. Where permitted, fishing large baits after dark is without doubt the best way to target the larger fish. It is best to return barbel to the water as soon as possible, avoiding the use of keepnets. They can become exhausted when caught, particularly in hot weather, and should be supported in the flow until they regain strength to swim away.

The Kennet and Avon Canal, a navigation built to join the rivers Thames and Bristol Avon, was opened in 1810. After years of neglect in the 1950s and 1960s, work started on its restoration. Now some 30 years later and with many millions of pounds spent, the canal is nearly restored to its former glory. In North Wessex, our area commences at Horton just east of Devizes. From

Horton it winds its way through Devizes and drops down the spectacular Caen Hill flight of 29 locks to Sells Green, Semington and onwards to Bradford on Avon, Limpley Stoke and Bath where it joins with the River Avon, a distance of approximately 25 miles. The canal will provide the angler with plenty of sport, particularly during the summer months, with favoured swims for large carp in the ponds below Devizes.

Most species can be caught throughout the canal's length with roach, rudd and bream falling to float fished punched bread with small balls of liquidised bread used as an attractant. Tench, crucian carp, perch and eels can be tempted with red worm, maggot or caster used as hook bait. Small amounts of chopped worm or pinkies added to the ground bait keep their interest. Remember to stake your keepnet securely to the bank or it may be carried away by a passing boat. Also please remember that walkers and cyclists are entitled to use the tow path and you must not obstruct them with fishing tackle, rod or pole. The Waterways Code is available from all Waterways Offices.

There are more than 100 lakes and ponds in the North Wessex area for the angler to take advantage of. Some are managed by syndicates, others privately owned and available to fish on day tickets. Lakes such as Sevington, a small village on the outskirts of Chippenham, Erlestoke near Devizes, Longleat (a series of lakes in the grounds of Lord Bath's Estate) and Ivy House Lakes at Grittenham in the Wootton Bassett area provide good coarse fishing. Trout fishing is also catered for with large lakes like the nationally renowned Chew Valley Lake and smaller venues like Mill Farm at Great Cheverell. There are many lakes and ponds run by angling clubs such as Newton Park which are available through Bathampton AA membership. Bristol, Bath and Wiltshire AA has Shackells, Sword and Sabre lakes. Both clubs have other larger facilities, two of which are:

Tockenham Reservoir near Lyneham lies just three miles from M4 intersection 16 via the A3102. This beautiful 12.5 acre lake, surrounded by oak woodland, was created in 1836 to provide water for the Wilts and Berks Canal. Purchased by Bristol, Bath and Wiltshire AA in 1980 it has since been developed into a magnificent fishery stocked with carp to 30lb, tench to 7lb, bream to 8lb, plus roach, perch and crucian carp. All fishing is from platforms, including three purpose built for the wheelchair disabled, and there are good parking facilities.

Bathampton AA's Hunstrete Lakes are situated 7 miles west of Bath. They comprise a mature 5 acre lake plus two newly constructed lakes of 3.5 acres. These are set in 21 acres of landscaped grounds and provide picturesque and tranquil surroundings with provision for 120 swims. The main lake contains carp to 28lb, tench to 7lb, pike to 20lb and plenty of other fish to maintain your interest. The new lakes, Bridgepool and Withypool, have been recently stocked with over £30,000 worth of fish, with carp to 5lb, bream to 4lb, roach to 2lb, plus perch, crucian carp and chub. Car parking and toilets are provided with facilities for the disabled, including 15 purpose built platforms.

Please remember that as an angler you are an ambassador for the sport. It is important to remove all litter and discarded line from your swim and return all fish to the water with the utmost care.

The Big Freeze

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

Graham Sleeman is Editor of Get Hooked!

I don't often attempt to fish in January but it was a really nice day with plenty of sunshine and no real wind.

There was sweetcorn and bread in the freezer so Alf and I loaded up and headed out.

Unfortunately when we arrived the lake was completely frozen over. We are not put off easily, so we set about clearing a swim.

This was new to us and throwing stones was a waste of time as they either got stuck in the ice or punched stone sized holes through it.

We got around the problem by tying a bit of branch, about a pound in weight, on the end of the carp rod and dropping that on the ice. This did work, but it took us an hour to clear a passage from our bank to the nearest island. We fished with sweetcorn and then bread, feeding gently and we did get a few bites. Predictably as the fish appeared to be moving into the swim we had to go, I'm sure another hour would have seen some landed! honest.

How do you get around the problem? I reckon by the time we'd broken all that ice all the fish must have been on the other side of the pond with their fins over their ears! If you have the solution let us know.

Email: [email protected]

Best Laid Plans

Submitted by admin on December 9, 2008 - 4:08pm

Every year we seek a stunning cover picture. We plan it meticulously and it's a great excuse to go fishing. But it doesn't always work!
This year it was a two man, all night carp expedition to local water Clawford Vineyard. November is not my favourite month and I actually cancelled the trip on the preceding weekend due to forecasted `hurricanes' which didn't arrive on the night in question anyway.
My partner for the trip had, however, spent a not inconsiderable amount of time and money in preparation so we had reached the point of `have to go'!
The weather was actually pretty good when we arrived at the water, mild and a bit breezy and we decided to fish the newest lake of about 4 acres. There was no way we could get a vehicle near the lake with the ground being so wet and consequently we had to carry all the gear, which meant about six trips. The lake itself has been recently finished and stocked and it is a marvellous piece of design. Islands are positioned along its length to provide excellent spots to feed up in and such features really make a lake so much more interesting.
We picked our swims, assembled all the necessary gear and were fishing by dusk. I am by no means a carp enthusiast when it comes to the sit and wait approach. Floating baits are my passion and the sight of a Carp sucking down a crust six feet from your rod tip knocks spots off being woken by a hundred pounds worth of electronics every time, but I'm more than willing to learn. Boilies, back leads and bolt rigs? It's a whole language and I'm sure no sector of angling has become such a science as that of carp fishing. It's easy to scoff and often hard to understand how such seemingly insignificant changes to terminal tackle can make a difference, but the hard facts prove that they do, time and time again. The more cynical may see it as a major coup by the tackle companies and marketing departments but nobody is forcing you to spend that money and although all this technology may give you an `edge' none of it is really essential.

Anyway back to the fishing. We were using home made boilies (Solar fruit mix and esterblend 12) over a bed of Party Blend with extra hemp and, on a relatively new water with some green fish, our hopes were high.Mike's setup is fairly state of the art and had invested in a"budget" bite alarm for one rod and relied on the old fairy liquid bottle top for the other.

We cast into the baited swims and settled down for the night. Stringers - what a great idea! This was the first time I'd used them and, as with most good ideas, it's brilliantly simple and the perfect way to get extra feed right next to your bait.
As the night wore on (and to the uninitiated like myself November nights are very long) the wind increased and with it came rain. Mike was equipped with a bivvy which wouldn't move in a tornado. I had recently bought some second hand carp gear which included a decent brolly and a very basic dome overwrap. Brilliant in the calm of summer but not really up to this particular winter night. It did the job as far as keeping everything dry was concerned but it was not very stable and, through fitful sleep in the small hours, It was very difficult not to keep a hand on the pole as everything was moving so much and every time the wind really gusted the wrap would crack like a rifle, no I didn't get much kip!

We had not managed a run between us by 6am and Mike changed his hookbait to his failsafe `monster crab' which I could smell 50 yards up the bank. It worked, the optonics broke the silence at around 8am and a Common of about three pounds was brought to the net. Not quite what we hoped for but the first bite is often the start of some increased activity and always serves to wake you up. An hour or so later the monster crab brought a second fish to mike's rods and proved to be the best of the session. I did manage two small carp on boilies and, after it got light, I tackled up a float rod and was catching small carp and rudd every other cast on maggot, which suited me fine.

There were several anglers fishing the syndicate lake at Clawford and one of them had two high doubles during the night so we couldn't blame the weather. The lake we were fishing did, we discovered, have a lot of grass on the bottom which probably didn't help and pop ups may have been a better bet.No cover picture though, to be honest the weather wasn't very conducive and I only shot two frames of the one fish.
If you decide you'd like to try this type of fishing I'd say the first rule is to keep yourself warm. It was a pretty miserable night but had I been cold it would have been intolerable. What was keeping me warm was a borrowed thermal fleece one piece undersuit made to go inside a drysuit, brilliant piece of kit, in fact I went and invested in one of my own shortly after the trip. Gloves and a hat are also essential, as are thermal socks.

I still don't think I'll get over enthusiastic about this style of fishing. I can understand the appeal of fishing a water where you know there are very big fish and keeping at it until you catch one, but a three day session with all the gear required and a telly etc. doesn't really appeal. It is certainly still fishing but the emphasis seems to have shifted from the traditional skills to bait selection and tackle set up, letting bite alarms and bolt rigs take care of bite detection and hooking.

Interestingly, one aspect of the sport that remains vitally important across the board is watercraft. Whether you fish for Salmon or Roach, knowing your water is perhaps the most effective weapon you can have when it comes to catching fish. Ask any successful Salmon angler and he will be in no doubt as to the importance of knowing the lies. He will probably know all the best lies for any given height of water and this will be reflected in his success.

The location of wild Trout on rivers is a bit easier and you soon learn the likely spots and can spot them even on waters you have not seen before. On lakes which, on the surface, look pretty much the same a bar or deep hole can prove very productive and it's this sort of knowledge above, I believe, the latest piece of tackle that will improve your catches.

We did obviously find a cover picture, and I didn't have to sit out in a glorified bin bag again for a night to get it, but that's another story.

Pleasure Carp Fishing

Submitted by admin on December 2, 2008 - 2:52pm

One of the most rewarding days coarse fishing you can have is to spend a day on a well-stocked commercial fishery. If you pick the correct lake good sport can be enjoyed 12 months a year with fish that average between 3lb and 7lb. These are a nice size because they give a good fight but allow you to use normal tackle. This type of fishery is a relative newcomer, as over the last decade many smaller lakes have been built to meet the growing demand for coarse fishing. The lakes are usually between 1 and 4 acres, not too deep and have easily accessible swims. The stock is predominantly of mirror and ghost carp that have been artificially reared at a fish farm, and it is this is that holds the key to success. In normal fishing location is the prime factor in catching species by design. You go to your local lake for Tench or Bream and pick a spot you know (or hope) will produce them. Once there you choose the appropriate method, be it pole, waggler or feeder and bait or baits that you know they will eat if you’re in the right place. The commercial carp fishery is stocked with between 1000lb and 2200lb of fish per acre, or 30 to 75 fish for every swim on the lake. With this head of young, hungry fish you don’t strictly need to locate them, as they will soon find you once you start putting in feed. They are not easily scared away by your presence either, as these lakes are fished nearly every day, often with large matches too. Foremost, the key to success lies with choosing the right baits for the day, half a pint of mixed maggots will not really unlock the full potential of these fisheries very often. For warm water carp fishing a 1-kilo bag of frozen sweet corn is better value than tins, next on the shopping list is meat. Cheap luncheon meat is best left on the shelf, buy the Bacon Grill as the fish are far more sensitive to poor quality foodstuffs than people are, your success or failure in carp fishing can be down to bait quality more often than not. If you can stand the smell on your fingers one bait will out fish the previous ones and that is cat food. You need the chunks in jelly so the rubbery pieces of meat can be picked out and used on the hook. For several months now cat food has dominated the main match-carp lakes in Cornwall, and with so many brands and flavours it should have a long life span. Lastly we have the most important bait of all, pellets. These carp remember their fish farming background and a good quality fish rearing diet will out-fish most of the brightly coloured and flavoured fishing pellets. The pale brown standard trout pellet isn’t bad for un-pressured fish, the darker winter or high oil diets are better but the one that’s head and shoulders above them all is the Marine fish farm Turbot pellets. These are used to farm Turbot and Halibut, both of which are so fussy about eating pellets that only the highest-grade ingredients are used to make them. If this pellet has not been used on your lake yet it will out-fish all that went before. The pellets will make up half your feed and if used in conjuntion with an elastic pellet band alternative hook bait too. A very good alternative is the soft pellets and these can be put on the hook in the normal manner. By carrying a selection of pellet sizes from the tiny 3mm up to the 13mm you can cover all requirements and offer the fish a varied diet that can keep them interested all day. Arriving at the lake I’d pick a swim with a little marginal weed to the left and right but I wouldn’t worry about wind direction. Set up your chosen tackle, the pole is very effective but the waggler is good, especially if the fish go over 10lb. Use the smallest float conditions will allow on about 4lb line with a barbless carp hook in a size 12. Plumb the depth EXACTLY on a spot in the margin to one side, and then find a similar spot on the other side that is the same depth. While getting ready feed a handful of pellet and a dozen hook-bait samples to each side. Start fishing on the left hand spot but don’t feed around the float, this will lead to line bites and foul-hooked fish. The bites should come within 30 seconds to 10 minutes. If not move the float to the second area and only then feed the spot you’ve just fished. Keep this rotation going, feeding one spot while fishing the other, even when you are catching as it lets the fish settle on the bait and feed confidently before you drop your tackle in. The margin method will be very reliable until the water cools down and the fish move out into deeper water. When this happens a small ground bait swim-feeder comes into it’s own. Use a quality fishmeal ground bait with no additional food items in as you are aiming to put a smell in the water not too much bait. Tie up a short hook-length of 6lb line to a strong 16 hook with three red maggots, this will out fish any other hook-bait. Cast out practically anywhere and after 5 minutes twitch the feeder along the bottom once, if an immediate bite does not materialise instantly wind in and repeat. Never leave the feeder in the water more than 10 minutes as the fish respond to the noise of the feeder hitting the water. It doesn’t pay to cast too accurately to one spot, if you’ve just fished an hour in one place with no bites why cast back there? You must hunt around the swim looking for the fish. To use the float in winter set it slightly over depth at a distance of 10-12 meters. Feed very sparingly with the micro pellet and use corn or maggot on the hook. I’d leave the luncheon meats at home in the winter as the cold water solidifies the fats and makes them un-digestible. Three small balls of fishmeal ground bait at the start will be enough to keep the fish mooching for the day, after that rely on loose feed. The carp will probably take an hour or two to respond on the float line so fish the feeder at the start but have a look every 20 minutes and feed a little every 15 minutes until you start getting bites. The methods I’ve outlined will regularly produce 100lb pleasure catches as long as you’ve chosen the correct venue. This is critical because you can’t catch fish that don’t exist, so watch the match results on your local venues, as these cannot be exaggerated for publicity purposes. Multiple 75lb weights and top weights of 100lb+ show that the lake has enough fish to go round and not just one good swim. Be lucky, Marcus

The Bristol Avon's Best Kept Secret

Submitted by admin on November 21, 2008 - 11:22am

Since their introduction in the 1950s at the hands of the local water authorities and the Angling Times, barbel have come to dominate the middle and lower reaches of the Bristol Avon. Venues like Lacock, Peckingells and Claverton have achieved national recognition, and specimens in excess of fifteen pounds have been caught.

To many, the Avon is a barbel river now, and I have pursued old whiskers in its waters as keenly as anybody. And yet, I don’t think of the Bristol Avon as a barbel river, or at least not exclusively so. The stocks of chub, bream and silver fish are healthy, and the trout fishing can be excellent too, in the upper waters towards Malmesbury. Our Avon, thankfully, is still a thriving mixed fishery.

Every year I spend hundreds of hours on its banks – usually fishing, sometimes baiting up or scouting out new reaches. I see a lot of fishermen. Most are after the silver fish, or the ever-popular barbel. Very few are setting out their stall for pike, and this baffles me. The Bristol Avon is as good a pike fishery as any in the country, if one knows where to look.

Perhaps it’s the abundance of quality stillwaters in the area, or the lure of the Somerset drains or the Thames that keeps the pike anglers away. I really don’t know, but whatever the reason is, I’m grateful. Pike, above any other species, thrive upon neglect. Repeat captures and rough handling can damage stocks with alarming speed, and it delights me that the pike on the Bristol Avon are, largely, left alone. They are, in my view, the river’s best kept secret.

The casual pike angler is often put off river fishing, preferring the sit-and-wait tactics of stillwater piking. The thought of finding fish in moving waters, and presenting a bait effectively, is widely regarded as difficult. Nothing could be further from the truth. River pike fishing is all about movement, and about roving. It is also all about simplicity, and I urge you to try it.

The first step towards catching pike from the Bristol Avon is to pare down your tackle to an absolute minimum – you will be doing a lot of walking, often in heavy mud and over rough ground. This is no time for carp barrows or bait boats. One rod will suffice – something with a test-curve around 2 ½ lb is ideal, with a length anywhere between 10 and 12 feet. Your usual carp rod will be fine. This should be coupled with a fixed spool reel with a reliable clutch - I use old Mitchells, but I’m funny like that – and a quality braided line. I use 30 lb. test. A small rucksack, a folding, easily-transported landing net, and a bucket will complete the outfit.

The rucksack will contain your floats, traces, scales, camera, unhooking equipment, unhooking mat, permits and other ‘essential’ ephemera. The bucket will contain your bait. It will also provide brief respite if you need to sit down. A heavy specialist chair will slow you down, and gradually sap your will to move regularly. Twenty minutes perched on a bucket and you will want to move!

The river piker can choose from a number of different approaches – dead baits, live baits, spinning and lure fishing, even fly fishing. They all work, but in the autumn and winter months, fish baits will out-fish artificials. Many of the clubs controlling the Avon prohibit live baits, and so frozen ‘deads’ are the way to go. Fortunately, they are highly effective. My favourite bait for all river piking is a small herring – they are high in attractive oils, appear to be accepted by pike without hesitation, and survive repeat casting. Smelt, lamprey sections and sardines all have their day, but it is rare for me to set out without herring in my bucket.

Invariably, I float fish. Usually, my bait is nailed to the bottom with 1-3oz of lead, and so effectively it’s a float-leger set-up. Occasionally, I’ll take the lead off and trip the bait slowly along the bottom past reed beds or sunken trees. It would be misleading to describe it as trotting, and ‘lurching’ strikes me as a more accurate term. Pretty it ain’t, but you will experience days when the pike want their food on the move, and this will invoke a take when static baits are being refused. Fish towards snags, reed beds, overhanging trees and anywhere else that offers the pike some degree of sanctuary. If nothing materialises in twenty minutes, move on – the Avon’s pike are largely uncaught, and if you find them, you will usually catch them, and in short order too. The sit-and-wait approach can yield fish too, but keep mobile and try lots of swims. You’ll find them.

Every river has its weir pools, roadside access points and easily-reached hot spots that see the bulk of the pressure. The Avon is no different, and you will find some areas where the pike receive concerted pressure. Avoid them – the best of the pike fishing on the Avon is off the beaten track, and the rewards can be considerable. An average day on the middle river can produce more than half-a-dozen takes, with a couple of good doubles among them. The bigger fish are there – the Bristol Avon has surrendered its share of thirty pounders in the past – and I have yet to get through a winter on its banks without encountering at least one twenty-pounder. Unless you compare your results with the unique bounty found in the trout reservoirs, that’s serious pike fishing. I used to drive to the West Coast of Ireland for much the same, little realising I needed only to drive one junction down the M4.

If you do decide to target the river’s pike, there are several clubs to consider. The Bath and Bristol, Bathampton, Chippenham, Calne and Keynsham associations all offer quality sport for those willing to do a bit of pioneering. There are others, but I have yet to try them – if the prey fish are there, the pike won’t be far behind. Speak to the local match and pleasure anglers – they are usually all too willing to reveal the location of unwelcome pike.

When you do find them, enjoy your sport. If you are among the first to fish a stretch for pike, you can expect the action to be fast and furious at times. Ensure you are ready for them when this happens – long-nosed forceps, wire cutters, a soft mat and barbless trebles will make the business of returning these wonderful creatures so much easier. For all their perceived ferocity, pike are fragile animals; clumsy unhooking methods, gags, hard ground and barbed hooks can all cause irreversible damage, and have no place in modern predator fishing. The Avon’s pike are, after all, a secret worth protecting.

My top ten tips for catching your own Bristol Avon pike:

  1. Travel light, and be prepared to walk long distances – the biggest specimens won’t be in the car park swim!
  2. Use barbless snap tackles, and don’t be afraid to step down to Size 8 or 10.
  3. Strike as soon as the float stays under, or when it is moving steadily across the surface. Only the little ones fall off from striking too soon.
  4. Pop up your bait with an orange poly-ball, especially if there is some colour in the water or leaves on the bottom.
  5. Tread carefully and quietly – the pike are often under your feet in the margins, and can spook easily.
  6. Try to get fresh bait from the fish counter – it is better, and cheaper, than frozen bait.
  7. Experiment with added oils and attractants – one of my favourite ploys is to add a garlic or fish-oil pill (the clear jelly-type ones sold by health food shops) on to the bend of one of the trebles. It leaves a tasty little slick for the pike to home in on.
  8. Don’t be put off by a little colour in the water, but try to move your bait a few inches at a time around your swim – the pike will be less inclined to chase after a bait when visibility is poor, but they will seize a bait that ends up on their nose.
  9. The Bristol Avon often carries a hint of colour, but if heavy rain leaves it thick and soupy, leave the pike alone and get your barbel rod out!
  10. Make sure you have a long, extending landing net handle. There will be swims with high banks where you will struggle to net your pike with anything less than an eight-foot pole.