Usually I see the period of time from March 15 to June 16 as an inconvenience, a sort of ‘close season stopped play’. Whilst I cope well with the first few weeks – after all the novelty of fishing a stillwater carries me through for a while – eventually I find myself wishing the days away as June approaches. However, this year has been totally different. Rather than getting withdrawal symptoms from no river fishing, I have been getting great enjoyment from the gravel pit I’m currently tackling.
Of course it helps that it has been producing some nice fish, but it hasn’t been a case of simply turning up and catching – far from it. The number of fish to rod hours confirms my regular statement that it is a hard venue. It certainly is not the sort of place that I would recommend a beginner to fish, in that position you need to keep the float going under. And then as you serve your apprenticeship, if you feel the urge to move into specimen angling, you do so with a realistic approach.
Arriving at the venue for my 20th night since the rivers ended, I still had the same enthusiasm that I did way back in March when I did my first session. I think it’s important to remember that angling for the vast majority of us is not a way of earning money, it is something that we should be enjoying. For whatever the reason, I always find it sad when fellow fishermen confess that their love for the sport has diminished.
Sometimes they get disillusioned with the ‘scene’, other times distressed at the way they see angling going, or perhaps they have had bad experiences with others. That’s why I remain very focused, and being a lone angler enables me to do that, so that I am not affected by all the negative stuff that goes on. But before we think it is just angling that is tainted, it isn’t. Because the root problem is fallen human nature and not the actual fishing itself, you name it and it will have a dark side.
Because I lost my pet ferret recently, I had cause to visit a number of ferret forums. People think that they are nasty, vicious and aggressive. Well, many of them are. But that’s the owners by the way I’m referring to, not the animals. And I’m sure stamp collecting, train spotting and frisbee throwing devotees are just as bad, so don’t feel that it is a problem exclusive to angling. If you’re discouraged by what goes on, don’t give up; instead just withdraw from the ‘scene’ for a while if you must. But whatever you do, don’t let your enjoyment be spoiled by others.
I was fishing just before 4 pm, and although the day was warm, the sky was overcast and there was a gentle breeze producing a rippled surface, so conditions were not too bad. With the days now being quite long, although I had my first fish at 7.15 pm, it was far from dusk. It was a great fight, and from the off I knew it was a good tench. It covered some ground, doing everything that it could to resist capture, but with open water in front of me and no snags to be found, the odds were always very much in my favour.
Weighing the fish, it was a fantastic feeling to see the dial register a colossal 9lb 12oz. I suppose that I could have been disappointed that I was just four ounces from a double figure tench, which would have been brilliant, but I didn’t see the glass as half-empty. Instead I was focused on the fact that I had caught a new personal best tench, and saw it for what it was rather than what it wasn’t. Even now, as I write the article, some time after the actual capture, I am still on a high. Only an angler will understand the way I feel, those who don’t fish will never fully grasp the pleasure that we get from spending hour after hour in pursuit of fish, then when we finally catch one, we weigh it, photograph it and return it back to its home.
I’ve been featured a couple of times in recent years by non-angling media, once on Radio Four’s Open Country programme and the other time by BBC’s Midlands Today. And on both occasions, as the presenters came to the river bank (they were barbel related interests) they found it intriguing as to the commitment I give in terms of time, money and effort, only to then put the fish back. But I embraced both situations as opportunities to talk about fish welfare and to promote the image of the caring angler.
I was certainly on a roll on the gravel pit, as within half-an-hour I was once more playing and netting an excellent tench. This one was just short of 9lb, taking the dial to 8lb 14oz. If you look at the accompanying photographs, this fish could be taken as the bigger of the two, when in fact it is 14oz lighter. That’s why we need to be careful when we criticise other anglers’ photographs and the declared weights. They say that the camera never lies and that may be true. But sometimes it can deceive. Mind you, some photographs are obviously nowhere near the accompanying weight, but that’s another story for another day…
As the day slowly edged out I took a third tench, this time just a baby at 6lb 4oz. And once the tench knocked off, the bream clocked on for their shift. A couple of early hours fish pushing 7lb and 8lb respectively saw me end the session still wanting more. And with the countdown to the rivers in single figures as far as days are concerned, I may have to review my original intention to say good-bye to the gravel pit. Not much of a problem really though is it? If all I’ve got to worry about is how I divide my fishing cake up between barbel, bream and tench, it’s hardly sleep-loss time!
(Originally published June 2007)