Not for the first time I faced an angling dilemma. I had Thursday and Friday free and with the river season still current (no pun intended!), I was faced with the choice of whether to have a final couple of sessions after tributary pike or whether to begin my spring gravel pit campaign. My head told me that conditions dictated that I should go for the former, but as is often the case logic didn’t come into it as I prepared to do a two-night session on the pit. I felt like a kid who can’t wait to open his present and so instead of opening it on his birthday he tears the paper off a week before! But in many ways, I am also glad that I still feel the same enthusiasm about my angling, particularly when you occasionally hear of people quitting after many years because they have had enough.
One of the reasons why I wanted to fish the pit though was because I needed to test a bivvy that I have recently bought. I say recently, but it was in fact something that I had with Christmas money. It’s just that there were initial problems that took a while to sort, so by the time I finally got it back, I was pike fishing and didn’t need to pitch up for an overnight session or longer. The bivvy in question is a Trakker 2-man Armo, so we are not talking about something cheap as the rrp is £400. Therefore when it started to leak first time out on the lower Severn I was disappointed. But I also appreciate these things happen and so when I got home I sent a friendly enough e-mail to Trakker saying that I had a leaking bivvy. I actually praised the product just explained that it was leaking.
Not that I was expecting a reply within minutes but ten days later I had to re-send my e-mail. And not that I was after apologies either, but a ‘sorry you’ve had trouble’ wouldn’t have done any harm. But all I got was a ‘We will either repair or replace, so take it back to the place where you bought it’ reply. As it was, I had to drive to Worcester (I thought Trakker should have made it easier but they didn’t despite my request) where I originally bought the bivvy from so that the shop could return it. Eventually I did get it back but even then it took a re-sending of e-mails to check on progress. Has the experience affected how I view Trakker products? No it hasn’t, I am generally a fan of their stuff and I would never cut my nose off to spite my face. But they do need to tighten up on dealing with people. I will give them 10/10 for product but 3/10 for customer relations.
Anyway, back to the fishing, although these things are always worthwhile discussing. And to show that I am being totally objective in my report above, as I set up at the edge of the gravel pit, I unrolled my Trakker sleeping bag, opened my Trakker bag that contained my bite alarm set up and finally fished with bait that was being kept in a padded Trakker bag. So although the way they deal with customers (or at least my experience) leaves room for improvement, their stuff is good. Having a brief chat with a carp angler that I know, he informed me that nothing has come out this year at all apart from one bream. That doesn’t surprise me with the inconsistent weather that we have been having, and as I put my thermometer lead into the water and got a reading of 6C, I was beginning to think I should have gone piking instead!
I will talk about bait and tactics in future Angling Journal entries, as I will now be on the gravel pit until the rivers open again in the middle of June. Settling down for the night, it was certainly going to be a cold one, and it came as no surprise to find that there had been a slight frost during the hours of darkness. Hardly surprising then that my alarms remained silent, but there was always the next day I thought to myself as at least the water temperature was up by 1C. A degree here and there at the height of summer is pretty much irrelevant, but when you are at the bottom end of the scale it can make all the difference. But even the day proved fruitless and by the time the sun set and it started to get chilly again, I was thinking that I had made a massive error of judgement and should have been on the river instead. But forever the optimist, I was still hanging on to the hope of a fish during the second night.
Imagine what a relief it was to be woken by the unmistakeable sound of the bite alarm telling me that a bream had picked up the bait. I was over the rod in seconds and after allowing several slight movements I lifted into a fish. The thrill of big bream fishing is definitely not in the fight, and so after reeling the fish in, and netting it, on the mat it went to be weighed and photographed. It certainly put up more fight while being photographed than it did when hooked as it wouldn’t stay still and I had several wasted shots of the fish flapping around. That’s the great thing about digital cameras though. I can remember when all my photographs were taken old-style and you never knew if they had come out until you got them back after being developed. In fact, catch a decent fish and you’d end up taking a roll of film just to be on the safe side.
No sooner had the bream been returned to the water than the other rod came alive. With line being stripped, I knew this was a different fish altogether; either a decent tench or a small carp I thought to myself as I played it. It was actually a tench and although I am using bream to classify the species I am targeting, in effect I am fishing for both as the gravel pit concerned has both to specimen sizes and it’s impossible to exclude one unless you fish the margins for tench. But as I am casting to a plateau well out into the water, both will be caught.
I’m not complaining though, as I love tench and bream equally! The rest of the night was quiet and by the time I packed away next morning, I smiled at the fact that I had fished 31 hours (62 rod hours) for nothing and then within minutes I catch two fish. Altogether I did 41 hours (82 rod hours) for the fish, which is indicative at just how difficult gravel pits can be. So if ever you get tempted to become envious of the fish I catch (hopefully!) over the next few months then spare a thought for the amount of time I will be putting in!
Check out this week’s video clip by clicking here.
(Originally published March 2008)