After a weeklong spell of SW wind warming the Midlands, suddenly the direction changed so that a strong northerly bore down upon us. And what a difference it made. It was back to ground frosts and even snow in places. But now that my bream campaign has started to roll, no way was I going to bring a halt to proceedings. So with cries of ‘you must be mad’ echoing in my ears from all who know me, I set off once more to pitch up at the gravel pit I am currently fishing.
Whilst I do put a lot of thinking time into my angling, my first step is always to keep it simple. Then from that foundation, I experiment and develop if necessary. Hence, my rig for the gravel pit has been well thought out, yet at the same time, uncomplicated enough. I probably sound like an advertisement for Drennan, but the basic components consist of Double Strength 10lb line and size 8 boilie hooks.
I am using a two-ounce in-line lead with plastic rig tube, which in turn is pinned to the bed with a back lead. I always use back leads when fishing on stillwaters for decent fish as it enables the line leading to the lead to be kept on the bottom. In turn this also eliminates ‘liners’. Some anglers don’t mind liners as it gives an indication of fish present, but I prefer to not have them.
Apart from the obvious spooking of the fish, when fishing at distance you don’t actually know whether the fish that hit the line is under the rod tip or at 50 metres or whatever. So in effect it can be misleading or at best irrelevant. Hence my choice to go for back leads whenever possible.
From the in-line lead, I am using a hook length of about 8-10 inches. With the swivel pulled deep into the rubber of the lead, it is a bolt rig set up, with all fish hooking themselves, particularly in conjunction with the hair rig presented bait. The pit has a thin layer of weed in places (particularly on features such as a plateau) with the deeper water due to catch up soon now that the temperature is picking up.
So at the moment, a shot about 1-inch from the eye of the hook is sufficient to present a bait above any weed that may be encountered. Although I have used boilies (and caught as well) so far, my main line of attack as far as bait is concerned has been sweetcorn, but I shall share more about that next week. Prior to casting out I pinch a small piece of dissolvable foam over the hook.
The foam means that the hook sinks more slowly, and ensures that by the time it has dissolved and the bait risen, that it hasn’t got caught up in any weed. Thus the hook bait is presented cleanly and clearly for the bream to see and take. Well, that’s the plan so far, and it seems to be working! On the subject of weed, it’s well known that bream are not lovers of weedy areas. However, even on the plateaux surfaces at the moment, we are only talking a minimal layer. But enough to mask the bait if not presented properly.
So with confidence in my rigs, I cast out into the crystal clear waters of the gravel pit, put the rods on the pod and settled back for another overnight session. Whilst many waters reveal lots of bream action such as fish rolling, this one has hardly any surface activity at all. Although I have spent hours watching the venue at key times such as dawn and dusk, I can count on one hand the times I have seen moving fish. So although I do keep an eye open, I don’t exactly concentrate on the surface of the water.
In fact, as I was quite tired, once the night started to draw in, I pretty much dozed off to sleep. I was woken up about midnight though, but not with the welcome intervention of an active buzzer, but rather by the sound of smashing glass. With the noise coming from the car park (that also contained a couple of cars belonging to other anglers) I quickly ran round the lake to see what was going on. The other fishermen were at the opposite end so were not aware of the situation.
I was confronted with a group of drunken teenagers who were in the process of smashing up a building on the car park. I quickly rang 999 and the police were there in double-quick time. However, as they arrived, the yobs spotted them coming and they made their get-away. The damage they had caused was horrendous, certainly running into five figures I would have thought. Without appearing to be selfish, I was just grateful that they hadn’t turned their attention to the cars.
Retiring back to my swim, I couldn’t get back to sleep. What if the thugs had realised that an angler had called the police and so they came back and took revenge on the cars? It’s certainly no way to fish is it? These days, where you park your car is a major factor in angling, and sadly I conceded that this session would have to be my last on the pit.
And it looked like I was going out on a low. Not only was I fish-less, but the night was so cold that a crust of frost had formed over everything and I was feeling like a fish finger in the freezer. As the sun broke, I was preparing myself for a blank, when suddenly the buzzer came to life. Well, more stuttered to be precise, but enough to let me know that a bream was on the end of the line.
It was a very welcome fish, not a double but a good one nevertheless. And to complete my joy, when the bailiff came round a little later on and I told him of the events of the night before, and my decision to call it quits, he invited me to park outside his house in the nearby village for any future sessions. That was a brilliant gesture and so it means that instead of writing the final chapter of my bream campaign, I can continue. See you next week!
(Originally published April 2006)