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Avonmouth and Aust

Codling from Avonmouth, December 2006. Sole from Aust, June 2007.

There are several miles of good shore fishing between Avonmouth and Aust in the Bristol Channel near the two Severn Bridges. I think many have previously overlooked this area as it starts to appear more like an estuary than the open sea. However, appearances are deceptive, in this case, and most of the regular species can be taken including cod, bass, conger, dover sole and the usual flounder, eels and whiting. It is more popular these days due to publicity in the angling press, but if you're prepared to walk you'll easily find plenty of room.

Autumn and early winter are the most popular with good catches of codling possible on the right day, and even if they're not about there are often some nice flounder to keep the rod-tops nodding. But, like any channel mark, it can be fickle -- bag-up one day, and blank the next! Having said that, it's more consistent than many other areas, and it's one where you catch more often than not.

Fishing is over high water, with around 1.5 hours before, to 1.5 hour after fishable, although that depends on exactly where you're fishing, and the size of the tide. In some areas you can get longer where the beach is firmer allowing you to get out to meet the water, but extreme care must be taken as the mud is very soft in places. There are a few low water marks, but I've only rarely fished these, and you can get cut-off by the tide which would result in a reasonably good probability of death, especially in winter, so I'll not discuss those further. This area is fished on neaps to small springs. Anything much over 12.5m can spill over the ledge, the top of which is around 12.5m above the Avonmouth datum, onto the grass area of very low gradient, making fishing impossible. On bigger tides there is the option of the sea wall at Severn beach, but the tide can be fierce.

Standard channel gear is best, and I stick to the trusty pulley rig with 2/0s or 1/0s in a pennel configuration during winter months. In summer, you're better off with smaller hooks on a 3 hook paternoster; what I think's referred to as a flapper rig in modern jargon. Summer means dover sole, flounder, eels and bass, with perhaps a conger thrown in for good measure. On a good day it can be great fun, with plenty of bites, and comfortable fishing from the grass bank. It can be worth hanging on as long as possible into the ebb, during the summer, as this seems to produce the sole, like the one in the picture. Unfortunately, they're usually smaller than those caught lower down the Channel at Portishead and Clevedon.

A variety of baits can be used, but favourite has to be lug. The flounder are very fussy, and most days won't touch rag. The codling can be the same, but peeler and squid are good baits for them, also. If you want a challenge, then a calm summer day sees lots of mullet active near the edges. I've even seen people flyfishing for them in some of the tidal lagoons, but never witnessed one being caught!

There are a number of access points, but a good place to start, for the newcomer, is Old Passage at Aust. There's a road that runs parallel with the coast that you can get onto by turning off the main road between Avonmouth and the motorway junction by the old Severn bridge. It's best to check this out on a map, first, to get your bearings. You can park up on this road and walk across the grass to the water. There's plenty of space down channel of this access point towards the wall at severn beach, too.

It's interesting to note that there's good fishing even higher up the channel than the old Severn bridge, though the marks are similar to those discussed here with a mud bed terminating in a 3' or 4' ledge at the edge of a flat grassy saltmarsh type area. Species are similar, but it would be interesting to know exactly how far up channel cod can be caught. I suspect the answer may be quite surprising, and I may try and find out one year when I have some time.

Just to sum up, this stretch of coast is great if you want the best chance of bites and action. It can be muddy, but in the summer the ground on top of the ledge dries out nicely providing very comfortable and clean conditions. At that time of year expect to be fishing for flounder, eel, sole and bass. However, the codling arrive early in the Bristol Channel and it's not unusual to be catching them on a hot, sunny September day. Don't overlook the importance of bait, though. Get it wrong, and you'll blank, even if others are bagging-up.

Shore fishing near the old Severn Crossing.
A catch of codling from Avonmouth, December 2006 A Bass from near the old Severn Crossing