What a difference a few days make! There I was, on my last session, struggling for two whole nights in temperatures more akin to winter grayling fishing, and suddenly I am casting out into water that is 9C. The difference was courtesy of a wind change and instead of cold northerlies battering the area, warm south-westerlies were coming in. And the rain that they brought certainly helped to up the temperature.
Because temperature is crucial, certainly at the moment, once I had cast out and positioned my marked float, the next thing I did was to take a water reading. When I switched it on as it picked up the air first I saw a healthy 16.5C. But of course that dropped considerably, but still well above my guess of 8C. Surely I must catch something this session, I thought to myself. And with optimism being my middle name even in the most trying of conditions, it was with a great feeling of conviction that I catapulted several balls of brown crumb, sweetcorn and dead maggots out to the plateau that lay directly in front of me on the gravel pit.
I then set the rods up, cast them out before finally pitching my shelter on the hard gravel base and settling down the afternoon. I was really quite tired and soon found myself asleep, although I woke up late afternoon in time to make sure everything was set out for the night. I am often asked if I get frightened fishing all night long on my own, but the answer is ‘No, I don’t even think about it.’ ‘But who knows who may be lurking around in the bushes?’ people often enquire. Well, I think you have more to worry about walking through your local town centre on a Friday night than you do out in the wilds of the countryside in my opinion!
The only concern I have is of the rats that seem to abound everywhere these days. And this gravel pit is like a rat super-city. They are everywhere and when I’m sleeping under an open-fronted shelter they come right up to me – and even on the sleeping bag in one incident last year! But my drive to fish is greater than the fear of rats, so I carry on regardless!
Once darkness came I drifted off to sleep once more but was woken by a blast on one of the bite alarms. Surely a tench I thought, as I quickly got to the rod and struck into what seemed like a decent enough weight at the end. But it didn’t put up any resistance and so that confused me as I drew it in. The initial take was a tench but the fight was a bream. I only found out what it was when it broke the surface and I eased it over the landing net. It was a bream! And how close I came to losing it as well, because the moment I lifted it from the water, the hook came free.
As I handled it for the first time on the unhooking mat, it felt quite chunky. Although it wasn’t that big in terms of surface area to lead me to believe that it was a double, as I actually held it I did wonder if it might be a scraper. But in spite of weighing it three times (well, you do have to make sure don’t you!) it kept falling the wrong side of the magical mark. Although I would have been very happy if it had broken the 10lb barrier, I was still pleased with the fish. The gravel pit I am fishing is a hard venue and big bream are notoriously difficult to catch. And with just a couple of doubles from there in several years of fishing, anything that can come close is still an achievement.
One thing that has been unusual, although I’m not complaining, is that on this visit and my previous one I have been asked for my permit by two separate bailiffs and one even asked for my rod licence. The latter was close as well, as it was April 1. I have a direct debit with the Environment Agency (have done for a couple of years or so) but my licence still didn’t arrive until March 31. What would have happened if I had been out on a two-night session that coincided with having no licence? It’s no use trying to explain to the bailiff that ‘it’s in the post’. That’s the same as road tax – everyone who doesn’t have it uses the same excuse.
Last year (or was it the year before, I forget now) the EA were so late sending out licences that they gave special dispensation to fish without the actual paperwork. You would think that they would have it sorted by now wouldn’t you? After all, they have twelve months to get it processed. Perhaps they are so busy though at this time of the year catching all the people fishing rivers, says he with tongue firmly in cheek! Anyway I don’t want this to sound like an EA bashing exercise so I’ll stop now!
The rest of the session was quiet, which again confirms just how thin that line is between success and failure when specimen fishing. I did see some decent birds though – in the times that I wasn’t asleep that is. But the best of all wasn’t seen at the water’s edge but on the journey there. Although they are easily seen if you go to the right part of the country, they aren’t resident here at all, so to see a red kite battling the wind at the side of the road was a great sighting.
Even when I am driving I am still observant as to what is happening and the quick glance of a forked tail confirmed the species. Even when I see ‘just another buzzard’ I always check, and in the past this has resulted in a couple of local goshawk sightings. So it shows that it pays to keep your eyes open. But don’t forget to focus on the road though if you’re driving!
(Originally published April 2008)