After a great start to my bream campaign last week, it was with a high confidence level that I once more set off to fish the gravel pit. Whilst confidence in itself doesn’t put fish on the bank, there is no doubt that the angler who possesses it will constantly out-fish the one that doesn’t. And even if you aren’t convinced by that statement, I’m sure you agree that even if it is psychological, then it must help, even if only for that reason!
Gravel pits rank as one of my favourite venues, not only do they generally produce bigger specimens, but they are also difficult waters to tackle. The combination of those two factors means that each and every fish that you catch can be treasured. Forget ‘bagging-up’ or whatever term is in use – take the venue I am fishing at the moment, if I catch one fish per 10 hours I think I am doing well!
When fishing gravel pits, it is important for the angler to do his homework. Turning up and casting out (which is not ideal on any water) is not only hit and miss, but will fail to reveal any underwater features that may exist. The way the gravel was originally excavated means that invariably there will be bars, gullies, drop-offs and plateaux galore, and each one presenting to the angler an opportunity to fish to a feature rather than just casting blind.
Many gravel pits are huge expanses of water (the one I am currently on is 40+ acres) and can often be intimidating to anglers. In fact some may be so deterred by the hugeness of what lies before them that they don’t even bother in the first place. But I would say, if that is you, don’t give up. A little preparation and you can definitely ‘crack the nut’.
The first step is to set up a marker float road and cast around, obviously the fewer the anglers on there at the time the better. Draw up a map of the venue and as you retrieve the float back along the bottom and let it rise to the surface counting the depth as you let line out, then mark the figures on your map. This way all the features will be identified and you will develop an underwater topographical picture.
I have an old carp rod that I use for this purpose. Combined with 15lb line and a four or five-ounce lead, not only do you get an indicator of depth but you also get to know what the bottom is like. As you draw the heavy lead along the bed, you can feel gravel, silt, weed etc – all very important factors in deciding where you will ultimately fish.
It may take some time to complete your map, and it’s probably best to concentrate on a smaller area and do it properly rather than just one cast every other swim. And of course, a lot depends on how many times you intend to fish there. It’s not worth plotting the whole pit if you are only going to do one session.
On ‘my’ pit, because of the time I have fished there (this is my third spring bream campaign), then I have spent the appropriate time in preparation. In the swim I fished this week, there is a plateau about 40+ metres from the bank. This feature is six feet below the surface, whilst the water around it is eight feet. On arrival in the swim, prior to doing anything else, I found the edge of the plateau, and put the marker float in position.
The next step was to bait up, which I did with a catapult. I will share more about my bait in a future Journal entry (next week I will go into my rigs in more detail), but at this stage it’s sufficient to say that a combination of dead maggots and sweetcorn, with brown crumb as the carrier is my plan of attack. Once that was all in place, I then got the shelter ready, laid out all my tackle and finally cast the rods out – with each bait positioned exactly where I wanted it to be.
I was fishing pop-up baits, with the right rod (boilie) on the plateau and the left one (sweetcorn) being just to the side in the deeper water. I have to be totally happy with where I cast to – otherwise I reel in and do it again. After all, once cast out, the baits could be in the water for up to 14 hours unless a fish intervenes first.
Well in this case, the left-hand rod was in the water for far less than that. The night was still young, when at 9 p.m. the swinger rose and fell in typical bream fashion, and I found myself striking into a fish. Slightly smaller than my near doubles from last week, nevertheless it was still a good one and even if that were the only bream of the session, I would have been happy enough. I always write my Angling Journal with total honesty, so if I blank then I tell it as it is. But given the choice of course, I’d sooner catch something!
Following the fish, things went very quiet, apart from a tawny owl that landed in the small tree right next to the swim. With it being quite a light night I managed to spot the bird, and particularly so as it then flew across the pit and landed in a far bank tree. I then dozed off back to sleep, woken in the early hours by a single bleep on the buzzer that held the right rod. However, with it being quite windy and nothing developing, I ignored it.
After ten minutes I had another single bleep, which I decided to investigate. There was hardly any movement on the swinger – think 1/8 of an inch and that’s about it. But when this happened for a third and fourth time I decided to reel in, which is just as good as there was a bream on the end! Noted for their total lack of fighting quality, this one took that reputation to new heights. If ever the term ‘pacifist’ was coined for a fish then this one deserves the title!
Although no more fish followed, I was certainly more than happy with my brace of bream. However, my real target is to catch a double from the water, which if I do, will make me a very happy man indeed. And if I do manage my target, you will be the first to know about it!
(Originally published April 2006)