The car thermometer was showing minus four as I drove across the New Forest towards the Avon for a long overdue day’s pike fishing. The weak sun trying manfully to burn through the thick frost, the sky a glorious deep winter’s blue. I parked up, applied more layers than a Pink Floyd track and wandered towards the river. I’d chosen Winkton, a superb stretch where the main river splits into a treelined backwater which screams pike for much of it’s length. With two sluice gates creating lovely pools and over a mile of main river there is pretty much every style of swim available on offer. Numerous ‘twenties’ have come from the stretch and I’d had fish to just under 15lb previously.
Much of the Avon Valley was still in flood but the higher banks of the backwater ensure this stretch is always fishable. The main river was pushing through and a foot or two up but contained. It looked fantastic. A couple of likeminded souls were already in the area I’d hoped to target so I decided on the long walk to the very top of the stretch. Here, a large, sweeping bend allows a little protection from the main flow whilst the Sopley Mill Stream enters from the far bank. As I strolled along a buzzard soared overhead and a kingfisher taunted me with the speed in which it travelled upstream. Whilst wandering I saw several large fish darting out of the flooded marginal reed beds, kicking up trails of silt in the foot or so of water. I guessed these could only be pike holed up amongst the dead foliage waiting to pick off any silver fish taking sanctuary in the stationary pools. The deep margins, where the submerged banks immediately dropped into 6 foot of relatively slack water, would be my main areas of attack.
I dropped in between two nearside trees and swung a float fished mackerel tail about 15 feet out into the refuge they created. Within seconds the float bobbed, drifted left then right like an old drunk staggering merrily home before finally giving up it’s struggle for buoyancy and sinking away.
The lack of resistance was disheartening but it was good to get off the mark almost instantly. I chinned out a small jack of about 4lb, slipped the hooks free and hoped it would be the first of many.
After re-baiting and dropping back into the same spot I baited up a second rod on a simple, running leger rig and fished it on a bobbin 10 yards downstream. Over the next few hours I made my way along the stretch, leapfrogging each rod with the other to cover a fair distance in a short time. A brief switch to trotting the bait down next to the far bank treeline brought no success. One further missed run was all the action I saw, unfortunately.
Four hours after parking up I was back in the car and heading back towards the M3. A thoroughly enjoyable day in stunning surroundings not dampened in the slightest by a lack of specimens on the bank.