The new job took me to live in Ringwood on the banks of the Hampshire Avon, arguably Britain's most famous fishing river, with a reputation for producing fish of specimen proportions. Pike are no exception to this rule and 30lb plus fish are landed each year. Like the Frome, the Avon is a fast flowing chalk stream that is rich in plant life. However, differences in prey species composition and behaviour, habitat availability, water clarity and temperature regime will influence the size structure, distribution and behaviour of the resident pike population. Consequently, those techniques used successfully on one river may not necessarily produce equivalent results on a different one.

As I had now moved to within a short walk of the day ticket Upper Severals stretch of the Hampshire Avon, I decided that here was a good a place to test the effectiveness of the wobbled deadbait rig with Avon pike. So with my brand new Ringwood and District Angling Club book, 2lb test curve carp rod and a few frozen dace deadbaits in hand, I set off to walk the banks. In the past I have found that this is one of the best ways of learning about a new stretch of river. By static fishing you get to intimately know a small number of swims, and by just walking the banks you get a superficial overview of a much larger area. By walking the banks and fishing a lure or a freelined bait, you wonít cover quite as much water as you would just walking, but you will get a better feeling for the characteristics of the water that you do cover Ė and you may even catch a fish or two.

On the day in question the Avon was running high, but with only a touch of colour and the first few hundred yards fishing were pretty uneventful. As the sun started to burn off the early morning mist I was beginning to get a feel for the character of the river. It was quickly apparent that one of the main differences between this section of the Avon and the middle Frome, was that here there were far fewer areas of slack water. The bends were gentler, more like long sweeping curves rather than the hairpins that are present on the Frome. Consequently, the deep slacks on the outsides of the bends, classic river pike haunts, were much smaller, or even non-existent on this section of the Avon. However, I was confident there would be some pike around, but locating them, and presenting a wobbled bait in a manner which would tempt them, was going to be trickier than I had anticipated.

About half a mile down from the top of the fishery a pikey looking slack behind some tall rushes on one of the straight sections was located. Although no action was forthcoming from under the accumulated weed raft, a fish did rocket out from the undercut bank beneath my feet and grab the deadbait. I struck immediately, and the fish was hooked. I tend to play my pike fairly hard - they arenít designed for endurance swimming, and I like to get them on the bank, unhooked and back into the water as quickly as possible. So after a few short bouts of thrashing and head shaking the fish was tired, and I was able to reach down and lift a 7lb fish onto the bank. By kneeling astride the fish I was able to control any movement by the fish with my legs, whilst removing the semi-barbed treble from the upper jaw. Within a few seconds my first Avon pike was back in the water, and I was on my way, feeling a bit more confident that the method was going to be just as effective here as it had been on the Frome.

About fifty yards downstream was a shallow braided section, and on the nearside gravel bar a large branch had become grounded. It had obviously been there a little while, as some weed had accumulated around the few remaining twigs, and the water had scoured out a bit of a channel around either side of the branch. Behind the obstruction the water was slack, and probably no more than a foot deep. I swung out the deadbait, and had only completed one turn of the reel handle when a jack of about 1lb rocketed out from under the weed and nailed the deadbait. I struck straight away and after a short splashy tussle I was able to grab hold of the trace and lift the fish onto the bank. At this point the hook fell out, and before I could get hold of it, the fish wriggled its way back into the river. Figuring that the fish could use the meal, I threw the now tatty looking deadbait into the slack behind the branch, and set off downstream in search of one of the Avonís weightier specimens.

It was probably a mile or more further downstream before I found the next area which I was confident would hold pike, so I hooked another dace deadbait onto the wobbling trace and dunked it in the margins to defrost. I tend to gut my deadbaits before freezing them. This serves two purposes. Firstly, they sink better once the swim bladder has been removed, and secondly, they defrost much more quickly, as the river water is able to penetrate into the bait.

The area I was fishing was a long glide of slow moving water at the edge of a fairly straight section of river, with dead reeds providing some cover and dead slack water right in the edge. Had this swim been on the Frome I would not have rated it as prime area, however having seen so few other likely spots thus far, I was sure there would be at least a jack or two in residence. It was under the dead marginal reeds that I expected the pike may be sitting, and my hunch was proved right on the fourth cast when the reeds at my feet erupted just as I was about to lift the bait out of the water. Because of the very short line and the speed of the take, the fish was hooked instantly, ripped line off the clutch, and shot straight out into the fast water. Once out in the flow, the fish made a number of short, powerful surges upstream, and I had to move downstream a little to keep the line out of the rushes. However, once I had managed to turn the fish and get it heading back downstream towards me, it was clear the fish was beginning to tire. After a few more surges, each one less powerful than the last, I was able to lift a lean 11:13 Avon pike onto the bank. Of course I canít be sure that the fish had been sitting at my feet all along, as it could have followed the bait in on one of the previous casts, but either way the net result was the same and I had my first Avon double on the bank.

I didnít have long to wait for my second! Having weighed and returned the first fish, I hooked another gutted dead dace onto the big single, and nicked the semi-barbed treble in the root of the pelvic fin. Having moved to what can only be described as the opposite end of the same slack, I slung the dace back upstream parallel to the bank, and gave it a couple of twitches along the edge of the rushes. Owing to the glare from the morning sun I couldnít actually see the bait in the water, but the rapidly slackening line, closely followed by a huge boil on the surface indicated that another decent pike had grabbed the bait and moved towards me. I quickly wound in the slack and struck as soon as I felt contact with the fish. This fish, like the previous one, rocketed straight out into the main flow, and proceeded to make a number of short but powerful runs both up and downstream. Fortunately, knots, traces and hookhold all held under some not inconsiderable pressure, and I was able to lift a beautifully marked 15:02 Avon pike onto the damp grass.

After a couple of quick self-taken photographs I slipped her back into the river, and decided that would be an appropriate end to thoroughly enjoyable outing. The session had lasted four and a half hours Ė much of which was spent walking and observing rather than casting. During this time four pike were caught, certainly comparable if not better than the results I was used to on the Frome.

Overall I have fished 6 short sessions with wobbled deadbaits on the Avon, totalling 15 hours on the bank. During this time I have caught 11 pike, 4 of which were doubles. Of course a handful of good days does not mean that you have cracked it, but I have proved to my satisfaction that the method will transfer between 2 different, albeit similar venues. The next test will be to try the technique on another river with different characteristics. The lower Dorset Stour, whilst chalk fed is not really a chalk stream, and tends, during the winter at least, to be much more coloured than either the Avon or the Frome. In the past I have found extra colour to be the kiss of death for river pike fishing, particularly with lures and wobbled deads, so the Stour should provide an interesting comparison, and who knows, may be even more suited to the wobbling method than either the Frome or Avon.