Although I can't rightly remember the first time I fished Saxon as it was that long ago, I do remember that it was love at first sight. Anyone else who reads this and has fished there knows full well it is not the resplendent summer river I talk of, but is instead the bare naked, freezing cold winter that inspires us anglers out of bed way before dawn to secure a good pitch.
Once the temperatures begin to drop before Christmas, the fish from miles up river seem to drop down and congregate in huge numbers above the ancient weir. Any of the ten or so accessible spots above the weir are well populated throughout winter, but the last three in my opinion are some of the best winter fishing spots on the Warks Avon you will find. The only fly in the ointment of this wonderful bit of river that gives so much when the going is so hard, is how little respect is given to it by some of the anglers that frequent it. Not really wanting to point any fingers, but beer cans of all nationalities are always present littering the banks, along with all kinds of rubbish like ground bait bags, old margarine tubs that were probably makeshift bait tubs, food packaging, coffee cups, tackle packets and so much more.
It incenses me to see all the mess left by people who come here. This bit of water has been and will be an oasis in many an anglers long fruitless winter and really should be respected by those who fish there. Seriously, how much bloody effort is it to take the rubbish away. For me it was a sad day when Leamington Angling Association passed up the opportunity to acquire this gem of the Avon. I feel sure had they taken it on they could have done wonders with this lawless bit of river.
Back to fishing though and it is one species that draws me to these muddy banks, the dace. I have real soft spot in my heart for the dace and there aren't that many opportunities to catch them round these parts. In fact the numbers of them at Saxon Mill does seem to have dropped in comparison to the amount of small roach present, but still they are here and with the plying of plenty of maggots you can work your way through the numbers to root out a few better ones here and there.
More often than not it's the float, or more specifically trotting a float, that people use on this venue. For me though the maggot feeder works best. So in the dark the other day I struggled to thread a loop of line through a tiny swivel atop a small maggot feeder ready for the light to come up enough for me to begin feeding the horde. The light finally came up and I swung out the first feeder brimming with fresh maggots to a run two thirds across the river. The feeder barely made bottom before the tip was bouncing under the attack of hundreds of hungry fish.
It took a few casts to get into the swing of things, but soon I was repeatedly dropping the feeder onto a area about the size of a pool table and with plenty of feed on the bottom, things calmed down enough for me to wait for a solid pull of the tip before striking into a fish. The roach were coming one a chuck and did so for maybe half an hour before I landed a small dace. With this place it's just a case of numbers and I worked the numbers hard all morning, fishing with the rhythm of a match angler until finally I found a few nicer sized dace.
With this many silver fish present and this much activity concentrated in one spot it is always going to attract some attention and Saxon Mill has its fair share of fish thieving pike. A couple of splashing silvers had been torn from my line and several others had been slashed at through the morning, but these pike weren't dealing with the average dace angler were they. I've fished here so much I know exactly how they attack and I had brought along a pike rod especially for the job.
I fished a small dead roach on a free running paternoster two feet off the bottom in the flow. By mounting the dead roach with a slight bend in it, I could see it moving around in the flow, pretty much like a hooked fish. Using such a cumbersome rig it took a bit of effort a few casts to make sure it was tangle free, wiggling around in the area just below where I was lifting fish from the water and tossing them back. It didn't take long for the bite alarm to bleep a little as the rod tip bent over and the line pulled from the clip of the drop off indicator. After a fierce and frantic battle a solid jack pike was landed, had its picture taken and was released well away from where I was fishing.
The next attacker ripped into the spinning dead bait so hard I barely had chance to blink before line was whizzing off the reel. Luckily I had set the free spool very lightly on the reel or the rod may well if taken a dive into the river. I don't think that fish had the bait fully in its mouth, as after a single run it just seemed to let go.
A while later I saw some odd pike behavior. After answering the call of nature in the scrub behind me I returned and before sitting down I peered into the water. Was it not for an odd pinkish growth protruding from her mouth I would have never seen the decent sized pike lying a foot from the bank in the dead weed bed, but once I'd clocked her head I could soon pick out the other three foot of her. After a while she rose up in the water and swam up stream. Thinking I'd never see her again, I sat and got ready to fling more maggots, but as I bent over to load up the feeder I saw her drift back into the edge from downstream and settle close to where I'd seen her before. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so I slowly picked up the pike rod and carefully drew the bait back in towards her. She definitely saw it, I could tell from the way see moved a little as if to line it up, but then she turned back.
I watched that pike for half an hour as she observed the bait, moved off and returned to her spot. She did this three times and every time I was sure she'd hit the bait when she came back, but no nothing. Then after she moved off again a second slightly smaller fish came moving in quickly. This one was going to have the bait for sure, but then the one with the growth drifted in and the new fish bolted off. Finally thinking she just wasn't into feeding I gave up on her and moved the bait back out into the flow a bit.
The pike distraction over I began casting the feeder again and happily the silvers were still lined up ready to go. But after a few casts fish came flying out of the water just beyond my casting zone as they were chased by a predator. Quickly I chucked the dead bait into the area and sat it on the rests. I'd not even sat down before something took the bait violently. I struck hard and was soon playing another hard fighting pike. After running me a merry old dance right through where I'd been fishing sending fish scattering clean out the water, I managed to subdue the angry fish into the net. It wasn't a huge fish but it was bigger than the first, and like that fish it too was heavily patterned and certainly well fed.
After releasing that last pike to sulk under a tree in the margins upstream I went back to the maggot feeder to finish off the session. Sadly though that last pike's antics, combined with a clearing sky, had changed the dynamic of the area I'd been feeding. For all my efforts with the last of my bait I only scraped a few more small roach to finish off the session. I wasn't disappointed though after catching literally hundreds of silvers, a few nice examples of my target species and two nice pike. I reckon that I had pretty damn good session as once again Saxon Mill came through on a cold winter morning.