The fright of my life just before midnight (bream article, entry 198)

It’s been good to get amongst the bream over the last few weeks, and so with them coming on the feed, there was no question as to where I would be heading for, as I slotted an overnighter into my schedule for the week. It was a scorcher of a day, and even though I arrived late afternoon, the sun’s rays were still beating down. There were a few carp anglers on the banks of the gravel pit, but my bream peg was free.

Wanting to get going as quickly as possible, I cast the marker float out and positioned it to the right of the plateau that lies directly in front of where I fish. As I have tied some power gum to the line, all I have to do is cast out and reel back to the knot, knowing that I am on the same spot every time. This is where time spent in preparation is invaluable. Certainly when you cast out and leave your baits in the water for 12 hours or more, you need the total confidence of knowing that everything is just right.

Once the marker float was in place, I started to catapult the bait out. I am using a simple mix of brown crumb, sweetcorn and dead maggots. I buy sacks of crumb in bulk, so the actual cost of bait is very minimal. I make the biggest balls that I can get away with, usually about the size of a small orange. On this occasion that amounted to about 40, which meant that I could give the areas where the hook baits would eventually be placed a good carpet of feed.

To get the actual bait out I use a Fox groundbait feeder, although I guess there isn’t much to choose between the various brands really. But this was the one I first had some years back and have stuck with it ever since, working on the basis that if something is not broken then don’t fix it. I’ve had to replace the elastics and the pouch, but the frame will go on forever.

By the time I had cast both rods out, there was plenty of daylight left. So I was more than surprised to see ‘the rat’ out and about boldly mopping up crumbs of bait that I had dropped. I do my mixing on the unhooking mat, and then shake the bits into the water, but inevitably the odd piece of rat attracting food will fall to the floor. But what surprises me is the total boldness and lack of fear that the animal has. I can scare it away but seconds later it returns.

I’ve been meaning to do something about it, but never really got round to it. But just before midnight my mind was made up for me when I awoke, opened my eyes, and saw the creature next to me. I don’t know who was the most frightened, me or the rat. But that was that, I said to myself, next time I visit the pit I am taking a trap with me and I am going to kill it. I can live with any other mammals; in fact I positively welcome their presence. And having encountered the likes of badgers, stoats, fallow deer and so on at close quarters I count that a privilege. But rats, no.

Still wide awake after the shock of the face-to-face we had, and my heart still beating double its normal rate, I had movement on the right rod. And whilst I felt the fish on the lift, it came off within seconds. Knowing that I don’t get many bites of the cherry, and only doing an overnighter into the bargain, I wondered if the overriding highlight of the session would be the rat.

But thankfully that was not the case, as at 1.30 am I had a screaming run on the right rod again. It must be a carp, I thought, as I struck into the fish to halt its progress. It didn’t feel big, so I guessed it was a scraper double or even a good tench. It certainly offered resistance as it battled all the way. So imagine my total surprise when I found myself netting a bream. I still can’t work the fish out on this gravel pit, as they don’t fit into any pattern at all; they surely must have identity crises, as they are totally confusing.

It was a good bream though, and it put to bed the previous bad memories. I went to sleep myself after that and was not woken any more. However, I must have been on edge (and who can blame me really) and didn’t get a proper night’s sleep as I was really tired in the morning. Usually I wake up quite refreshed but on this occasion I was feeling groggy. But I must remember that trap next time…

(Originally published April 2007)

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