A brace of tench as I begin my gravel pit campaign
Left to right: the windswept gravel pit, the first tench, in bright sunshine, the second fish, look at the mouth on that
As a genuine all-rounder, not only am I happy to fish for all species, I am also keen to fish a variety of venues as well. When you combine the many options, that works out at quite a few permutations on offer. Up there somewhere near the top of the list though must be gravel pit fishing for tench. As an angler I like a challenge, and you don’t get much more of a difficult proposition than that which a gravel offers. Most pits tend to be of a decent size and that in itself can be a daunting prospect to many anglers; after all where do you start?
Although they may look featureless from above the water’s surface, beneath it they are far from uniform. Bars, gullies, drop-offs and plateaus – all as a direct result of how the pits came into being in the first place – offer plenty of opportunity for the angler to focus on a fish-holding feature. Of course it takes time to discover these and that’s where a marker float and lead comes into its own, as not only will the angler be able to plot an underwater map in terms of features but also in regards to the bed make-up of the pit. Yet there are still many that simply turn up and cast out without any knowledge of what they are fishing into.
On this session I visited a venue that I have spent hundreds of hours on in recent years, so it’s somewhere that I know intimately. Confidence is a massive ingredient in fishing, and it helps when you set off from home with the belief that you will catch. In with that positivity though is also a dose of realism, and like gravel pits in general, this one is a difficult water and doesn’t give up its bounty easily. But when it does the fish are definitely quality and that suits me. I’m happy to catch an average of one fish per night if that fish is going to be a good one.
And that’s the beauty of angling, it can be whatever we want it to be for us. Too many anglers criticise other forms of fishing simply because they don’t do it. Just before I started writing this article I visited a forum and saw a thread absolutely slating carp anglers who camp out in bivvies. Why? For no other reason than the person who started it doesn’t do it himself. I read the first few posts and then lost interest as it was just full of negativity and based on ill-informed prejudice. If you don’t want to pitch up for the long-haul then don’t, but if others do then that’s their business.
Anyway it’s a bit stereotypical to think that all anglers bivvied up are after carp, because here I was, setting up base camp next to the gravel pit where home for the next two nights was going to be a Trakker Armo. Not to mention my bedchair, sleeping bag, pod, bite alarms, hangers and carp porter. A carp angler in all but name and species! Once I had put my marker float in place alongside the gravel bar some distance from the bank I set about baiting up. With brown crumb as the carrier, I mixed in dead maggots and sweetcorn, all of which were moulded into tangerine sized balls and catapulted out.
I go into the rigs on the accompanying video, so won’t dwell too much on them here. After all, visual is better when talking tackle rather than just writing words. Bait-wise I fished a 10mm pineapple boilie and a combination of artificial corn/rig foam section. Both were fished pop-up and dipped in scopex flavouring. The second night though I switched to the latter on both rods. With the water temperature at 9.4C as I cast out I was hopeful. But the benefit of keeping detailed angling records also shows me that my opening night on the pit is usually a hard one. And so it proved to be as the bite alarms remained totally silent throughout the hours of darkness.
There was action though the next day at lunchtime, as one of the hangers shot up and down as a fish took the bait. I eventually found myself netting a nice enough tench. Perhaps at the smaller end for the venue, but at least I wasn’t a blanker. I was certainly hopeful for the next night though and as the sun set I was positively flowing with confidence. However I downgraded that to hopeful as a nasty storm blew up, that saw my pod blow over twice. I ended up anchoring it with my chair and my water canister, after having to rescue one of my rods that was swimming out to sea. Well, it seemed like I was fishing in the ocean, what with the waves that were coming in.
Casting out blind into the dark, I had to be content that my baits were at least on the bed of the pit as opposed to the total confidence of having them where I wanted them. But in the conditions I was just happy to be fishing. And against the odds, I had a run after midnight. Fortunately I banked the tench during a lull in the rain. And I was able to pack away in a dry spell in the morning as well. A luxury indeed! Overall I was happy with the start to the campaign, but obviously would like to build on that during the next month or so that I will fish there. The birding was decent enough though and I saw my first sand martins and chiffchaffs of the year.
(Originall;y published April 2010)