Although I have been preoccupied with carp over the last few weeks, nevertheless I hadn’t forgotten that I am still hoping to get the odd bream session in as well. So with a chance to do an overnighter on Tuesday, I took the opportunity with both hands and loading the car, I set off for a Midlands gravel pit. You will have to forgive the way in which I am rather vague sometimes when describing venues. Often there are publicity bans anyway, so my hands are tied. But even when there aren’t I still go very much on the side of caution.
I don’t believe it’s being selfish, taking a line that is guarded as far as disclosure is concerned, but more a sense of self-preservation. The Internet has opened up a whole new world of information gathering for the angler, most of it totally positive. But catch a really nice fish and publish the details, and I’ll guarantee that you won’t get in that peg again! I get a steady stream of e-mails – reaching peaks when I have just caught a biggie! – requesting not only information on stretches and venues but also individual swims!
Arriving at the pit, apart from one carp angler bivvied up right down in the bottom corner, I had the whole place to myself. The pit in question is a fairly large one (40 plus acres) and to the casual observer, like other large bodies of water, is just a vast and featureless expanse. But beneath the surface it is a totally different ball game. That’s why a little bit of homework pays dividends. I have already spent some time on the pit with a marker float and, in the peg I chose to fish, I knew that there was a plateau about fifty metres out, the size of a couple of living rooms in an average sized house.
With the rest of the swim very uniform in depth, the one metre rise to the plateau, itself two metres below the surface, provides a natural feature that invites the angler to fish to. Once I had positioned the marker float to the edge of the rise, I proceeded to catapult out balls of groundbait laced with dead maggots and corn. Allowing time for everything to settle, I set up the shelter ready for the night and eventually cast out both rods, setting them up on the pod. By now it was 5.00 p.m. and with a sharp northerly breeze, although I had seen my first swallows and house martins of the year, summer seemed a long way off.
My hook bait was pop-up fruit flavoured boilie, and each was cast out hidden in a PVA bag of pellets, plus a few loose offerings. As I lay back on the bed chair to await the fall of darkness I felt confident. But then again, as I smiled to myself, on reflection I always feel that way when I go angling! The days are certainly getting longer, and as I listened to the Bolton v Southampton commentary on the radio, as the game kicked off it was still light. Whether it was boredom or just the fact I was tired, I will let you decide, but I didn’t get past the opening goal before I fell asleep!
I’m not much of a sleeper though when fishing, I think the term ‘catnap’ is more appropriate. At 10.30 I was woken by a single bleep on the left-hand rod. As I opened my eyes I saw a water bird flying past the rods as they hung over the water’s edge, and assumed it had just caught the line as it entered the water. However, a second bleep had me standing over the pod, awaiting further developments. As the swinger rose and fell a couple of times, my heart beat increased accordingly!
With bream you don’t get the screaming runs that you associate with carp, but the excitement level is not diminished in any way. Striking, I knew that I had hooked into a good bream. To describe the process of reeling the fish in as doing battle with a sack of potatoes would not be out of place. Certainly the thrill of big bream fishing is not with the fight, but rather the capture! As the fish came to the bank, it was nothing more than a case of guiding it over the net and lifting it onto the unhooking mat. None of those lunges and line stripping experiences that you get with carp or barbel.
I do love big bream though, and looking down at the fish I was really excited at catching such a magnificent creature. After a few photographs, it was returned and off it swam back to the deeps of the gravel pit. Non-anglers do find us strange people at times. We spend time and money pursuing fish and then when we catch them, all we do is take ‘buddy photographs’ of them and us and then let them go. But as I have asked on a number of occasions, ‘Have you ever tried eating a bream?’…Not that we would want to anyway off course, but I’m sure you get my point.
Lying back on the bed chair I couldn’t really get to sleep. The adrenaline was definitely flowing as a result of the fish and so I just lay there, staring at the rods and willing them into life once more. And that they did, this time half an hour past midnight. The swinger once more rose and fell a couple of times, indicating another bream. However upon retrieval all I had was a clump of weed and a tangled rig. Some you win and some you don’t! Of course I may not have been so easy going about it if I hadn’t have caught the previous fish, but having that ‘under my belt’ meant the lost one wasn’t so crucial.
By now, the wind had dropped and with the sky being a dense cover of cloud, it was quite mild. I didn’t get back into the sleeping bag, but rather lay on top of it. Dozing off, I was once more woken by the bite alarm emitting a couple of bleeps. As they didn’t develop there was no need to take it further, but well into the early hours (2.30 a.m. to be precise) I was onto the rods and striking into another ‘bream bite’. Again it came in like a dead weight, so imagine my surprise to discover at the net that I had actually landed a tench!
It was definitely a worthwhile bonus fish to accompany the earlier bream and at that I settled back, and with my lack of sleep catching up with me, finally got a prolonged period of the old shut-eye. It was only an uncontrollable dog messing around my swim, and it’s loud-mouthed owner that was trying to call it to heel, that woke me up in the morning! Who needs an alarm clock when you have certain dog walkers! Anyway I wasn’t bothered. After all, the night had been good to me!
(originally published April 2005)