Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Urban Angling - the Bristol Avon

Fast forward to late August 2019, and a trip away with work put me about an hour south of the Bristol Avon. Keen to explore a new river, I reached out to Clive Shipman and Ryan Heard on facebook to put me on a stretch with a decent chance of a late-summer barbel. Both were fantastically helpful but it was Ryan's recommendation that won favour, with Clive's spot added to the list for next time!

I left work a little bit later than planned so the journey to Bradford-on-Avon was a bit of a mad dash. A quick call to Ryan en route gave me a few more details about where to park and how to get down to the swims. He sounded confident, a trait which always seems infectious!

Parking up in the centre of Bradford-on-Avon, I caught my first glimpse of the river. With floating weed mats and rushes punctuating fast runs and deep glides, the river painted a beautiful picture of what urban angling could be. In my excitement to get down to the bank I forgot to take any photographs; so have pinched one from online to set the scene!

Bristol Avon at Bradford (Photo courtesy of t'interweb)

This was only my third attempt at angling in the middle of a town center (the previous being Bewdley and Ross on the Severn and Wye respectively). Rather than the usual hike across fields to reach a swim, the approach to this river included finding my way behind the library, climbing over a set of railings and then squeezing myself along a 15ft-long 12"-wide run down between a hedge and a second set of railings. From there it was a tricky descent down a muddy embankment and onto the combined sewerage overflow outlet which would be my platform to fish from. Aside from my landing net snagging in the vegetation when squeezing through that tight run leaving me anchored between the railings and hedge, I managed my way down to the river without incident.

The river was narrow and slow, with plenty of small fish moving and what I guessed to be a uniform depth profile. Being such a small river I didn't want to cause too much disturbance by plumbing the depth, and figured it was narrow enough for the barbel to search out a bait wherever I put it! I positioned my first rod slightly upstream just off the end of a tree. This would cover a line of the near bank which included overhanging trees and a run of rushes; and looked perfect for a chub. Urban stretches can hold some mammoth chub, even in the smallest of rivers; and I was keen to try for one. My second rod was positioned just beyond the central channel near to some overhanging vegetation. There was nothing sophisticated to my set up, just a small free-running bomb to a 3ft hooklink; and SVBP 14mm pellets - Ambush on the barbel line and Spicy Frankfurter on the hopefully-a-chub one.

Urban Angling - the fish aren't fussy about their surroundings!

Introducing a few loose baits I settled down to enjoy my dinner, hunter-gathered from an M&S petrol station en route! It was barely a moment before the nearside rod hammered over. I struck into thin air, stifling various expletives so not to disturb the swim further. This is always a problem when fishing for barbel but hoping for a bonus chub. A hard, hair-rigged pellet is easy for Mr. 'rubber-lips' Chevin to pick up, test and eject without snagging the point of the hook. I quickly changed the hook and mounted a couple of prawns from my dinner directly onto a Size 8. Alas the opportunity was gone and the fish never did return for a second attempt.

An hour or so passed without event before I heard a rustling in the bushes and Ryan's head popped out over the embankment behind. It was nice to meet him, as we'd chatted a few times over facebook about the pursuit of barbel and in particular the River Wye. It would appear he brought the good luck with him as not long after his arrival my second rod hooped over and before I'd even lifted into the fish it tore off in the directon of Bristol. Barbel in narrow rivers always give a tremendous account of themselves. With so many snags lining the banks and warm water temperatures my clutch was set fairly tight and it was a bit of a tussle as I tried and failed to hurry the fish to the net. They're never ready til they're ready! By default a pb, Ryan was on hand to net the fish just shy of 6lb. Not a huge fish, but fantastic to add another river to my list of those I've taken barbel from. It always interests me to see the different colour variation in barbel from each river. Swale fish for example are a deep bronze from the peaty colored water. Severn and Wye fish are bars of gold. Bristol Avon fish it seems have more of a pewter hue to them.

A beautiful Bristol Avon Barbel! Mission successful!

After photographing the fish Ryan said his fair wells. I gave it until just after dark and then called it a day. There was no further action but I'd achieved what I came for. A quick pint to celebrate marked the end of a long but rewarding day! I've not had the opportunity to make it back yet, but look forward to trying 'Clive's spot' some time next season!

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