On my current bream campaign, by the time I load my trolley and head off for the swim, it looks like I am moving house. In fact that was the basis for one such question I have already been asked by a bemused onlooker, as I transported my gear round the gravel pit. I have got a wife, two daughters, a Bedlington terrier and a ferret, and when we go on holiday to Wales for a week, we take less stuff than I do for a two-night session after bream.
I try to eliminate things but how can you cut out a sleeping bag, a bedchair, water or a shelter? So every time I attempt to reduce the non-essentials, I find that I don’t actually get very far. Of course, the aforementioned items in themselves won’t produce fish. But what they do is make my time at the water’s edge more comfortable, and a contented angler is one that can be more focused.
So whilst some things that get taken along don’t really need that much thought – for example when I bought a water canister I didn’t spend hours of research, I just went out and got one – other things do. And in that category, right at the very top of the list or thereabouts must surely come rigs.
As an angler who thinks about his fishing, I don’t just turn up at a venue, see what is in my tackle box and then tie something based on what is available. Instead, prior to even setting out, I have already put together a selection of rigs. Taking all factors into account, I toss the information around in my mind until eventually I put something together that I am totally confident with.
It doesn’t mean to say that I won’t operate a policy of evolution in terms of rig development though, because I do. But at every stage of the process, I am happy knowing that I am on an upward curve, and it’s more a case of fine-tuning rather than scrapping everything and starting again. The rig I am using on the current gravel pit campaign is one that has graduated over three previous seasons of fishing there.
The hook length is 10lb Drennan Double Strength, which when I go for mono (I usually use braid) in higher breaking strains, is my preferred brand. The length itself is fairly short, between eight and ten inches. But because I am using mono on a gravel bed, I check the line regularly for signs of fraying. Hook choice is Drennan boilie hook, size 6, and as I am fishing hair rigged baits I tie a knotless knot.
I use a short section of shrink tube on the shank, thus ensuring that as the bait is fished pop-up style, the presentation is just as I want it. When you cast out and the bait can remain in the water for twenty-four hours or more at times, then you need to have total confidence that everything is just right. Any hint of doubt and you will never be at peace with yourself. I like to cast out, put the rod on the pod and settle back, knowing that all is as it should be.
The bait I am currently using is buoyant artificial sweetcorn, and so to set the bait at the right height, I position a Fox pop-up shot just a couple of centimetres from the eye of the hook. When I finally do cast out I bury the hook bait in a 5 x 4-inch PVA bag of pellets. This serves two purposes – first of all it ensures that there will be no tangles on the cast. After all, if you are going to leave the rod in place for prolonged periods of time, the last thing you need are doubts that as to whether the line is tangle-free.
Secondly, the pellets give the hook bait that added attraction, which will ensure that any passing fish will linger to feed. Whilst I catapult plenty of brown crumb/dead maggots/sweetcorn out into the swim, nevertheless having pellets in the immediate area of the rig ensures that there is something different in the target area.
Anyway, I have gone on enough about rigs and bait and the like. How did the actual session go? This was my fourth on the gravel pit this spring, and although I have been catching some nice tench, I’ve yet to see a bream. And the trend continues as once more I avoided my target species but did net another good tinca.
But funnily enough, just like some of the others, this tench also behaved like a bream. From the bite to the playing of the fish, I was sure I had connected with my first slab of the campaign, and it was only within a short distance from the bank that it decided to offer some resistance. However, as with the other sessions I am not complaining, as it was another good one.
It was caught two hours after casting out for the first time, which meant that I more or less had two nights of total quiet. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I knew that, then I could perhaps have packed away as soon as I caught that fish. But then again, as anglers, we wouldn’t listen anyway, as there is always that anticipation that the next fish is just around the corner.
(Originally published April 2007)