Nice bream, but shame about the company you keep (bream article, entry 196)

Now that the days are longer, it is inevitable that the temperature will also start to climb. After all, the sun has many more hours in the day to exert its influence upon us, compared to the mid-winter period, when no sooner does it rise then it’s due to set. Well that’s how it feels anyway around the middle of December. But as we edge on into April, then the hours of daylight far exceed those of darkness.

Hence it came as no surprise, when I tested the water on arrival at the gravel pit, to find that it was in double figures for the first time this spring. In fact it was a heady 12.5C, which percentage wise was a healthy increase on the previous high of 9.5C. Surely, after four blank sessions as far as bream were concerned, I would catch one this time? My confidence was sky-high anyway, as I set up on the bank as the warm rays of the sun beat down upon me.

The only angler on the venue, I again had the place to myself. I know that there places out there that are literally shoulder to shoulder, but there are far more where you can avoid the angling equivalent of a January sale at Harrod’s. I know which I prefer, and that’s one of the reasons I am enjoying my current water so much, because even when a few carp anglers do turn up, the pegs are so well spread out that you don’t feel claustrophobic in the slightest.

I’ve become a bit of a novelty amongst the regulars, for the reason that I am the only angler fishing for bream. The carp fishermen in the main can’t understand why I would spend two nights at a time on a good water, and yet target the fish that they catch in their worst nightmares. But that’s the beauty of angling – it can genuinely be all things to all people. I actually really like big bream, and the thought of catching them gets me really excited.

I went through the usual process of placing the marker float on the edge of the plateau, catapulting out balls of crumb/dead maggots/ corn, and finally casting out the rods which took me to 4.00pm. I wasn’t quite happy with the positioning, so a couple of hours later I reeled in and re-cast. As they could be out there all night, I need to have 100% confidence that they are in exactly the right place. It was a good job I did reel in though, as one of the hooks had attached itself to a sock!

Before it was even dark I had fallen asleep, as I was quite tired. But at 9.30 pm I was up and standing by the rods, as the bite alarm had indicated that a fish had taken the bait. After having caught several tench that behaved like bream, I wasn’t getting too excited, but as I reeled the fish in, I was sure that my first slab of the spring was about to put in an appearance. And as the fish broke the surface of the water I was right. It had taken until my 9th night before finally catching one, but the wait was worth it.

I am very fortunate in that I have a wife, who although isn’t an angler herself, is very supportive of my passion. And so, knowing how many hours I had spent previously in pursuit of a bream, I sent here a text telling her that I had finally broken my duck. The reply was short and sweet – ‘Nice bream, but shame about the company you keep’. The latter was a reference to the rat that keeps pestering me in that particular peg. It is so bold and keeps coming close, and even if I frighten it away, a moment or two later it reappears. In the end I just turn over and go to sleep.

As I was releasing the bream I had another on the other rod, which unfortunately came off on the retrieve. There was a shoal out there, and it was good to know that they were back, even if the rest of the night was quiet apart from a single bleep just after 10.00 pm which didn’t come to anything.

The only time I woke up after that was a short spell at 11.30 pm, when a shape as big as a cat was moving around in front of me. You hear stories of people who say they saw a ‘rat as big as a cat’ but you always suspect exaggeration. Anyway, I was very relieved as I shone my head torch to discover that I was looking at…a cat.

I was up at first light and the morning was very damp and misty. I couldn’t even see the far bank of the pit, and it was more reminiscent of a late autumn day. In fact for those people who missed the early morning start, and only caught the day when the sun was back out again in full force, they probably wouldn’t have believed some of the photographs I took at 6.00 am. But three hours later with the sun bright in the sky, I actually had a bite, which unfortunately did not result in a fish. It was a nice surprise though to see the swinger moving around when least expected.

The second night was very quiet, and occasional glances at the time left me thinking that the shoal of bream had deserted me. But they were just late, as it was pushing 3.00 am when the bite alarm came alive (well as much as it can do when a bream is activating it) and I found myself bringing a very early hours fish to the net. This one was larger than the first and so the trend is that they are getting bigger! No more followed though, but it was great to finally get off the bream mark with a brace of decent fish.

(Originally published April 2007)

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