One of the benefits of angling is that you get to have an insight into the natural world that you would otherwise miss. Take this session for example, there I am sitting on my bed chair in the middle of the day and right in front of me a weasel runs across the gravel. Realising I was there it quickly turned round and headed back into the undergrowth, only to emerge again a few moments later. After looking in my direction for a few seconds it was again on its way.
Although I obviously go fishing to catch fish, nevertheless things like this I find really stimulating. Sometimes just being there is enough, taking in the big picture of the world around. Due to the nature of my angling at the moment, my binoculars have also been accompanying me on every trip. It’s amazing what is out there if you look, as on this session I spotted a total of forty different birds, and that’s being rooted more or less in one spot.
Now that we’re well into the arrival of the summer migrants, my total was well bulked up with the likes of willow warbler, chiffchaff and blackcap. Plus the bushes around the swim are magnets for birds such as bullfinches, goldfinches and reed buntings. And of course, the water itself yields all manner of birds, from the usual suspects through to species such as shelduck and oystercatcher. Actually the latter were on the pit during the night, and were very noisy and active. Still, I’m not complaining as it beats teenage thugs any day of the week!
Although I fish during the day (obviously a bait in the water stands more chance than one out of it) it is really during the hours of darkness (and dawn and dusk) that I am expecting to catch. So at 6.00 pm I cast out again, baited up and settled back to await some action. I didn’t have too long to wait, as by 9.30 I was connected with a tench which had taken my three pop-up artificial corn pieces, which were presented just to the side of the plateau in front of the swim.
The re-cast rod was hardly on the pod when I had another fish. This time it was a bream, and as I have encountered several times this campaign, it hardly registered on the buzzer. It felt like a good fish on the retrieve but once it came to the net, it didn’t look that big. In fact at 7-7-8, it is one of the smallest fish that I have caught so far. There is no way of targeting any bigger fish specifically though, it is just a case of working through what comes. And hopefully I will reach my target of a double soon!
It was certainly a busy night as I was up again at 1.00 am, this time a heavier bream, but again short of my target weight. But I’m certainly catching a lot of fish in the 9lb bracket, which I’m not complaining about. The carp anglers report bream into double figures, but when questioned further it appears that they aren’t actually weighing the fish but estimating. And a big ‘9’ certainly could be mistaken for a good double if compared to the surface area of a carp.
That’s why I usually weigh every fish that I catch on campaigns like this. Obviously you couldn’t do that if you were landing fish every few minutes, but with only a handful for each session, it’s certainly not a bind. But it does give you accurate figures to work though, and filtering the data often enables certain patterns to develop that can then be put to good use at the water’s edge. For example, a bait in a certain area produces a bigger stamp of fish, which then allows you to understand what is happening beneath the surface more effectively, which ultimately increases your chances of catching larger fish.
On this particular campaign, and in the swim that I have been in, I have noticed that the left-hand rod (slightly off the plateau) has consistently outperformed the right hand one that is on the feature. Now these rods are just a few metres apart, yet the results speak for themselves. And whilst angling is not a science, nevertheless you can see patterns developing that can be very useful in enabling you to at least fish with confidence. And when you are casting out maybe just once in a session then you need to know that your bait is in the right place at least.
The rest of the night was very quiet, apart from the previously mentioned oystercatchers that is! I couldn’t see them but they certainly made their mark as far as noise was concerned. But it wasn’t a nuisance at all as I actually enjoyed listening to the birds. On previous visits to the gravel pit I have been sung to in the hours of darkness by a sedge warbler in the bush right next to my shelter. Now that was a very pleasant experience indeed.
To round the session off, as the sun was starting to climb in the sky I had the final fish. This was the best bream of the session, another one of those ‘just short of a double’ fish. But the amazing thing was that I didn’t even know it was on. As I lifted the rod to reel in, I felt the unmistakable lump of a bream. Now whether the fish had been there for some time or perhaps it had literally taken the bait as I made contact, it is impossible to say. But we are talking about bream here! Still, as I’ve said so many time and will no doubt say again – with bream the thrill is not so much with the fight but rather with the capture!
(Originally published April 2006)