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In last week’s Angling Journal entry I wrote about what has been the slowest start on the gravel pit since I began spring fishing there several years ago. However, while there is a fine line between stubbornness and dedication, I like to think I’m on the right side of that dividing mark. Hence I was back on the venue for a two-night session, full of confidence – as always. It was a beautiful sunny day that saw me setting up on the edge of the pit, and with the weather forecast being warm and dry, my shorts had their first outing of the year. I also wore my Wolves shirt that I had for my 30th birthday, and with April 21st signalling my last year of 40’s, it reminded me how time flies. Whilst I can’t do anything about that, I can make the most of it as it unfolds. And that’s why I fish in the fast lane. In fact that’s my approach to life in general; make the most of it while we can, because before we know it, it has passed us by.
One of the benefits of a flexible lifestyle is that I get to fish mid-week, and so with just a couple of other anglers on the vast expanse of water, I was able to drop into my first choice of swim. Like any angler I always set out with a spot in mind, and of course the back-up ones should I have to look elsewhere, but in the years I’ve been making a spring pilgrimage, I think it’s only been twice that I’ve had to look elsewhere. The first thing I did was to set up the marker float, put it in position and then catapult some bait out. Although I had posted on my twitter/facebook pages that I was after tench, I had more than an eye on bream as my target species. It’s just that they have been really thin on the ground in the last few seasons, so I’ve been conditioned to think tench. But I made a few adjustments, mainly that the groundbait mix consisted of just brown crumb, dead white maggots and corn. Plus I fished a few yards on to the plateau that is my regular target in that swim.
The photographs (3,5) above, taken either side of my swim, give an idea of the venue. It’s a typical mature gravel pit with a variety of trees bankside and hanging over the water, although not really features as it is quite shallow until a rod or so out where you get a drop-off. From then on the depth varies depending on which end of the pit you fish. It’s like a traditional swimming baths with a deep end and a shallow end. Then of course there is variation in each peg as there are lots of features such as bars, gullies and plateaux. Like anywhere, these can be found with a marker float. Some anglers may be put off by a vast expanse of water, but a few minutes spent casting out can throw up plenty of interesting anomalies from the standard bed. Then there are gravel sections, weed and silt to work out, so all in all, what appears to be a featureless inland sea is anything but.
Once everything was in its place I got the camera out and took advantage of the beautiful conditions to photograph the blackthorn hedge behind me that was in full bloom. One of the earliest of our native trees to show its blossom, it is an impressive sight when you get a clump of them together. Out of the corner of your eye, it looks like snow has fallen on a bush (photograph 1) but a closer inspection reveals a very delicate and indeed very pretty blossom (photograph 2). As a passionate lover of British wildlife, the sort of fishing where the rods are cast out and I wait really suits me as it enables me to take in what’s going on around me. Amongst the numerous birds I saw were my first swallow (4) and first gadwall of the year. They took me to 82 species which have all been self-found, thereby bring much satisfaction. I’m not against twitching and following leads, but it’s like angling. There is greater pleasure in discovering a venue yourself where you catch big fish rather than someone put you in the spot.
As night one drew in I was really confident of a fish, and during the early hours when a single bleep had me on my feet next to the pod, I was just waiting for the hanger to move some more. Unfortunately it didn’t and after that I was wide awake and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I put my ipod on and listened to some Third Day. Being a dedicated big-fish angler you need the body clock of a shift-worker that’s for sure. Wide awake in the early hours of the morning it reminded me of the days when I used to travel to the USA regularly and I would often be bright-eyed and raring to go at 2.00am in Maryland, as my body was telling me that it’s time to be up and about. I did eventually doze off again but with my open shelter facing east, I was soon woken by the rays of the morning sun as it broke over the far bank horizon.
Although it was another warm day, there was a gentle SW breeze so I was hopeful of a daytime fish. Although most of my tench and bream come during the night, I always end up with a least one daylight fish per campaign. I had a couple of rises on the hanger though but they didn’t develop, so it was down to the second and final night of the session. Well into dark I decided to switch my head torch on, thinking there may be a rat to see off from around the area where I mixed my groundbait earlier. Although I am careful, inevitably small bits fall to the ground. However, while the outside area was devoid of life, the movement and the light scared off a brown rat and a wood mouse from closer to home. These creatures are so bold and whilst I can live with the mice, it’s the rats I’m not that keen on. It was on this venue a few years ago I woke one night to find a rat on the pillow next to my head!
While I was still up and about after my rodent experience, I had a single bleep on the bit alarm. Closer inspection revealed the hanger had dropped right down. Gently tightening up, the hanger dropped again. Repeating this a couple more times I knew what was on the end – a big bream. Unlike the skimmer, which is likely to go mental when hooked and surge all over the swim, there comes a time in the development of the bream when it more or less gives up and rolls over – literally. The fish wasn’t as big as I would have wanted but it was bigger than a blanker and that’s the fish in photograph 4. Some of the carp anglers have been informing me that they have caught a few bream already this year so maybe they are making a comeback. Either way I was more than happy to catch my target species, even if I had said tench previously. It’s hard to separate the two and as the venue isn’t exactly easy, you have to take what comes along. I’ve even had the occasional carp as well, up to almost 30lb, which is why I fish with line strength that gives me a reasonable chance of landing anything that I hook.
If you want to know what rig I used and other such details then read last week’s article and the one that follows on from this. One of the things to avoid when writing what is in effect a weekly column is repetition. And when doing a short but focused campaign such as I am now, there’s only so many times you can go over some things. Bear in mind that my Angling Journal articles are parts of a jigsaw rather than total contained pieces in themselves, and that’s why a regular ongoing reading of them throws up more information than taking one in isolation. But either way, I am always happy to answer questions or correspond with fellow anglers and my facebook page is the medium that I have chosen for that. And finally, the title of this week’s entry? Well, after my midnight encounter with the bream I retired to my sleeping bag covered in slime. Anyone that’s ever caught a bream will know what I mean. (Article published April 23 2011)