The recent rain has kept the pace and colour in the river and the whole river, top to bottom, has been fishing well. The Chippenham area of the river has seen big weights of bream and plenty of roach and chub have been showing above Bath, there has even been double figure nets of bleak on some pegs. Monday's evening match at Chippenham was won with 25lb of roach on a stick float, by good friend and 'eccentric' angler Gary Etheridge, not bad for two and half hours fishing.
The lower river below Bath, which is where most of the opens are held, has been totally dominated by bream weights, there are so many bream on most stretches that when conditions are right for them to feed it is a waste of time fishing for anything else, bream are even showing on pegs where they have never been caught before. I am expecting the roach to start to feed before the big day, and if there is colour in the water there will be a lot of 10-15lb bags, 13m over groundbait is the best way.
Last Sunday I fished the Bathampton Open at Newbridge, the river was just starting to clear the day before, when overnight rain put some more flow and colour into the river for the sunday morning, conditions like this at this time of the year, mean a very simple one rod approach for bream.
30 plus anglers lined up at the draw bag, including a few friends from far away, who were having their first look at the venue, and Im pleased to say that my recent good luck at the draw bag continued, I drew peg 52 a good area for bream, just above the famous 'bream hole' peg 54. The 'bream hole' is at its best when the river is clear as most of the bream from this stretch shoal up near the cover from trees on the far bank. Over the years this peg has won many matches, but as the water colours up the bream move up and down the stretch and it becomes a much better match length, with a chance of some bream or skimmers from most pegs.
My match started with a feeder approach, chopped worm and caster, fished just past the middle of the river, a 30g feeder would hold just nice and would drop back whenever a fish gave a bite. The start was slow, typical for these conditions, and I caught my first bream after an hour, followed by another on the 2 hour mark. The best hook bait on the day was red maggot, but another day it could be worm, after about 2 and a half hours my peg really livened up and I started to catch decent size bream regularly, the odd small chub or skimmer made an appearance and I finished with 14 bream and 3 decent skimmers, for a wining 60lb 1oz, this is the best start to a river season Ive ever had and Im doing a rain dance every night before I go to bed!
I will be very surprised if there is colour and flow in the river by the time the big day arrives, but if it has it could be one of the best Nationals ever, at this time of the year everything will be feeding and with such a lot of water that hasnt been pegged for years I think there could be a few surprises. It was only a few years ago the river record was broken from the Melksham area with a weight of about 290lb, big bream on 6 meters of pole, if some one gets amongst this shoal who knows what weight could be caught. The stretch where this was caught sees about 1 match per year, so somebody could be in for a massive weight.
More than likely the river will be slow and clear at this time of the year and the bream tend to do most of their feeding at night, there will be some bream caught but they tend to shoal up very tight and only a small number feed compared to all that are in the shoal. Most anglers will catch roach, dace and perch for there points and the odd big fish will be caught around feature pegs.
The lower river will be straight forward when it comes to team tactics, but when you get above Bath, every peg is different, the depth and flow will vary from peg to peg, some pegs will have lots of cover and some wont have any at all, when you take into account the large variety of species in each stretch the choices are endless, so I am expecting a team of anglers with river watercraft to win this title, there are quite a few good local teams fishing and their knowledge of the pegs will be worth there weight on 'gold', but they still need a good draw to win it.
If your fishing the match, Im expecting the majority of anglers to have a decent day, but as always there will be a few 'moans'. River angling is a dying art these days, so a team of 'Old Skool' anglers will probably be lifting the silverware on the day.
Hope you have a good day and see you on the bank.