Many outsiders think that we British are preoccupied with the weather. Well I must admit that some people, certainly when they have no particular vested interest in what’s going on, do get almost obsessive. But for those of us who find ourselves regularly on the frontline of what nature is throwing at us, we do take more than a passing interest in what’s happening. In fact as anglers, it’s in our interest to know which direction the wind is blowing, whether high pressure is coming in, what levels of rain are predicted and so on. To be even a moderately keen angler, you cannot ignore the weather forecasts.
And on that front, it’s certainly been a downer since the river season ended. With the optimism that came with the end of February’s upturn in conditions, the last week or so we have seen things go backwards to the extent where it has felt like the middle of January instead of March. But one thing that you learn as an angler is to be resilient. No matter what comes your way, you learn to take it in your stride. And whilst water temperature ranging from 6 – 6.5C is hardly going to set your pulse working overtime as far as big bream fishing is concerned, the reality is that you will never catch anything sitting at home by a warm fire!
So with a chilly north wind blowing in, I set up on the bank of the gravel pit for the second time this month. I have already previously put a marker float through the swim so I knew where the plateau was, directly in front of where I fished. Therefore it was a simple enough affair to set the marker float rod up and cast it out so that the float helped me to catapult my groundbait accurately. It’s one thing throwing bait in the margins, but the further you get from the bank, the more you need something to keep you focused.
A marker float serves two purposes for the angler. First of all it enables us to build up an underwater map of the venue. Some places are not particularly full of features, but on a gravel pit there will be bars, plateaus and drop-offs galore. The key for the angler is to locate these so that they can be focused upon as they will be fish-attracting areas. By dragging a marker float through the swim in conjunction with a heavy lead (I am using a 5oz lead at present) you get to ‘read’ the bottom. Gravel, silt and weed are all noted as the lead is retrieved.
In addition, as you come to a feature such as bar or hump, you feel the resistance as the rise hinders the lead. By casting around you build up a picture of what lies beneath the surface. So instead of 40 acres of open featureless water, you begin to realise that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Not only do you develop a lakebed topography (which is always good to write down and record as you go along, I do) but secondly the marker float enables you to record the depths of the venue.
As you drag the lead along the bottom, the marker float will be tight against it. By letting out line, you can then determine the depth of the water once the float hits the surface. So as well as a map of the bed, you can add water levels to it, which is the icing on the cake as far as preparation is concerned. Not only are you aware of a plateau but now you know how high it rises. And with specimen gravel pit fish being extremely difficult to catch, the more information you can arm yourself with the better your chances of outsmarting them. (There are a few photographs of my marker float setup on the video clip that accompanies this article.)
Once I had cast out I set up my shelter. Last week I used the bivvy, but as this was just an overnighter, my Fox Evolution is more than enough. I always feel that I take too much stuff anyway when I go fishing and was reminded of that when, as I pushed my barrow to the swim, a lady passing by remarked, ‘Kitchen sink, love?’ My Evolution shelter is now pretty much in the autumn of its life, having served me well in all sorts of adverse weather conditions over several seasons. But there’s still life in it yet, and when it finally does go I will definitely get another. They’re great value as well as being up to the job in hand.
Having caught a couple of fish last week, as the sun set and it became really cold, I wondered if I would repeat that feat. However, my mind was very quickly diverted as I became aware of numerous rats scurrying around in front of me. I would clap my hands, they would bolt, but then seconds later they would be back again. I can stand rats at a distance but when they are coming into your shelter that’s beyond reasonable expectation. If you are a regular reader of my Angling Journal – and you have a good memory – you will be aware that in a previous bream campaign I woke up to find a rat on the sleeping bag next to my face. This was the venue.
Anyway, I pulled the sleeping bag over my head and tried my best to not think about what was happening outside. I couldn’t have been that bothered either, as I soon dropped off to sleep. And thankfully I wasn’t awakened by vermin but instead by the bite alarm. It felt more like winter chub weather than spring bream and tench fishing, but after a decent fight, I eventually slipped the net under one of the latter. Although I’ve called it a bream campaign for species identification purposes, in reality I am as happy to catch tench as bream, particularly if they are big ones. And with just the one fish to show for my endeavours, it once more underlines just how fine the line is between success and failure in specimen angling.
(Originally published March 2008)