A great start on the gravel pit (bream article, entry 142)

I have been itching to get started on my spring bream campaign, but the weather has really been against me. Well to be more precise, not so much the weather as the temperature. The conditions are not that important, after all that’s very much to do with the angler. But with water temperatures not moving above 5C, only a brave man or a mad man (or both!) would venture out on a serious bream session.

But with a persistent SW wind sweeping the Midlands, and with it lots of warm rain, I couldn’t wait to get going. In fact the night before my trip I was just like a child on Christmas Eve, so excited was I that the next day I was off for a two-nighter! And long may that excitement continue to grip me, as I have no plans on slowing down for a good number of years to come, if ever.

My tackle is well organised at home; I have everything in neat compartments and slots. I have the benefit of an indoor tackle room – courtesy of a very understanding wife – and it does make things so much easier when switching species. However, as I set off in the car, I kept thinking ‘catapult, catapult’. Like a dripping tap, the thought just wouldn’t go away so I pulled over, emptied my rucksack and discovered that I had indeed left it at home.

Well I won’t embarrass myself by saying how far I had travelled, except to comment that it was my own fault entirely. It’s no good looking for a scapegoat, as so often people do in situations like this. On the drive home, I also remembered I had forgotten to pack weights to use in conjunction with pop-up baits. In the words of the Catherine Tate character, ‘What am I like’

It’s a good job that I had given myself plenty of time, and so I still arrived at the gravel pit with several hours to go before dusk even began thinking about drawing in. After pitching the shelter, the next thing I did was to cast out the marker float. I have fished the swim for the last two springs for bream, so I know the underwater layout intimately. I positioned the float to the right of a plateau that exists within reasonable casting distance from the bank.

Once that was in place I then catapulted bait out to the feature. Using brown crumb as the carrier, the tangerine size balls were stuffed with dead maggots and sweetcorn. With the water temperature being a very healthy 10C, I knew that the fish would be active and so while not overdoing it with the bait, I was reasonably generous. A shoal of big bream can soon mop up deposited feed so it’s important to try and get the balance right.

Finally it was time to cast out. Fishing two rods, I opted for tutti frutti boilie on one and three grains of corn on the other – both fished pop-up style, with one of the grains of ‘corn’ actually being a piece of yellow foam. When casting I used a PVA bag of pellets (plus boilies on the appropriate rod) which ensured not only a tangle free cast but also the added attraction of pellets around the hook baits.

My past experience on the pit (two spring bream campaigns) has shown me that the majority of fish (I have taken tench as well from the water) were caught in a window of opportunity that usually kicks off about 10 p.m. and lasts for an hour. So it was a delight to be alerted by the bite alarm a good three hours before this. Standing over the rod, as the swinger moved very slowly up and down in typical bream fashion, I struck and immediately felt the resistance of a bream on the end.

Like a dead weight, with a slight tinge of fight to it, I brought the fish to the edge ready to net. So imagine my surprise, when instead of a bream I found myself edging a tench into the mesh – and a good one at that. It’s always nice to get the first fish under your belt, and particularly on this gravel pit which is not an easy water at all, catching a fish so early on (even if it wasn’t my target species) was excellent.

The night was totally uneventful, although I did have plenty of single bleeps due to the very strong winds that battered the swim I was in. If ever the term ‘windswept’ was designed for a venue, then a big expanse of water like a gravel pit must surely fit the bill. But my shelter was well pegged in, and so there were no concerns that I would be doing a Mary Poppins impression at any time!

The next day was a very warm one, and I had brought a chair for sitting outside on. Making the most of the opportunity, I also took my binoculars and did some birding. Three pairs of gadwall were on one of the islands on the pit, plus I saw my first swallow, sand martin and chiffchaff of the year. It can be a long day when bream fishing, and so it was totally unexpected when I had a fish on at exactly 12 noon. And this time it wasn’t a tench but a bream.

Just short of the double barrier, it was quite unreal posing with a big bream in the middle of the day with the sun out and a chiffchaff singing away in the tree behind me. However, during the photographing of the fish, my camera started to malfunction. Although I could get a straight shot (as long as the camera was turned on and off in between photographs) the self-timer wouldn’t work.

What a dilemma! Do I carry on fishing and risk catching a biggie and not having the ability to catch it on film, or do I quit while I am ahead? I went for the former and decided to cross that bridge should I come to it. Well, just as darkness was drawing in. the bridge became a very real one. Because not only did I get another big tench (larger than the opening fish caught), I also had another bream. Again, it was just less than 10 lb – 9.14 to be precise.

I released the tench and as I was pondering what to do with the bream as it rested in the net, along came a couple of angels. Well, a girl and her mom if you want the truth, but as they agreed to do the honours for me, they may have well been angels. No more fish put in an appearance, so no more dilemmas presented themselves. But in spite of the camera it was a brilliant session and I can’t wait to get back on the pit. Join me over the next few weeks as the campaign unfolds, when I will also be sharing more about rigs, bait etc.

 (Originally published April 2006)

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