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In spite of my current gravel pit campaign being a bit of a struggle, I’m enjoying it. It’s certainly the slowest I have had on the venue since I began making my annual spring pilgrimage a few years ago. I do believe that the winter we have just come through – the harshest in a century – has had a bigger impact on the natural world than we realise. In time though all will be forgotten, as nature has a wonderful way of bouncing back and reclaiming what has been lost. There have been no reports of fish deaths from the regulars on the gravel pit, even though it was frozen solid for two months. Fortunately it has a deep end, where no doubt the fish congregated to avoid getting frozen solid. In the meantime, it’s just taking a little longer to get back on track, but in due course, like everywhere else, it will be business as usual.
The first session saw me visit the pit on a Sunday evening. Now that the hours of daylight are pushing on well into 9pm, it meant I could do church in the morning (and into afternoon as people don’t rush from Tipton Family Church after the service but stay around for a chat), go home, grab something to eat and do some office work and still be on the bank well before dark. What a difference a day made as well. I practically had the whole venue of 40 plus acres to myself, whereas the Friday and Saturday had seen the place packed with anglers. I am very fortunate that I have a flexible lifestyle, and as far as my fishing is concerned, it suits me perfectly.
With it being a lovely dry and warm evening, the shelter went up last. The first thing was to get fishing, so with the marker float as my guide, I catapulted about 25 balls of bait out to a plateau. You can see the balls of bait in photograph 1 and in the video you can watch on YouTube (more about that later) I actually go through the composition. Mostly brown crumb I added some SBS Nitro Method mix (corn) and then the business end of corn, dead maggots and casters. What self-respecting tench could resist that lot eh? The hook bait (which had been in a corn dip for a few minutes), as detailed in a recent article, was popped up on a size 6 Drennan boilie hook and consisted of two SBS corn shaped boilies and a piece of yellow rig foam at the base to give total buoyancy. With the bed of the pit now beginning to sprout growth, it’s vital to keep the bait above whatever depth the weed is.
Casting out I put the rods in the pod, tightened up the line, clipped on the hangers and settled back to wait. With many types of angling you can adjust, develop and evolve as the session progresses, but this sort of fishing involves casting out and then doing no more. Once you know the baits are in the right spot, that’s all you can do. Confidence plays a big part; once the baits are out they stay there. There’s no messing around, fiddling about or anything. The only time I re-cast other than if I’m not happy where I initially cast to is if I get a take or a significant missed one that means I need to check to see what went wrong. After a busy day I was soon snuggled up in my sleeping bag and enjoying the warmth that it offered. Once the sun set it was chilly outside, but I was as snug as the proverbial bug in a rug.
Apart from the rats, the night was quiet. But at first light I had a run on my left-hand rod and a proper one at that. Lifting into the fish I felt a very good tench on the end. However, the session went from a red-letter one to a blank within seconds as the afore-mentioned fish decided to part company with the hook. Being the philosophical sort, I took it on the chin and carried on fishing until it was time to go home. Back again a few days later, ‘my’ peg was taken for only the third time ever, if my memory serves me well. But that wasn’t a problem, I dropped in a new swim, pulled the marker float through a few times, discovered a few features and set up camp there for the night instead. There was a plateau at 6 feet some 30 yards from the bank which dropped off steadily to 8 feet. I put one bait on the feature, the other on the slope. As before, I cast out and waited. And waited, and waited. And then I went home. The struggling campaign struggled some more.
I made the most of the time there though enjoying the bird life. Late afternoon saw the usual influx of sand martins feeding over the pit. With many winged insects being quite low, the birds skimmed the surface at times. The highlight though were the resident oystercatchers, this time I saw just two. And when one landed in shallow water next to one of the islands, as I had my camcorder at hand I managed to capture some footage on video, and photograph 2 above is s still from that. It’s a bit blurred but at 200 yards on a cheap Sony Handycam it’s not too bad. Common along the coast, I’m very pleased to see these birds in a land-locked Midlands county. I’ve observed them on the nest in the past, on one of the gravel islands and even viewed the chicks.
Concerning the camcorder, mine broke some time back as those who read my Angling Journal regularly will know. Anyway, on the basis of ‘nothing to lose’ I decided to have a go at mending it. You know what it’s like, you get into something and you want to see it through; hence it was well after midnight that one very happy person found that his Handycam was now back on track. It accompanied me on session two, and whilst I have no intention of doing ‘full’ angling session videos again as I have done in the past, it will certainly help liven up the promo trailers. I know the videos were popular, as I got some great feedback, but they were always intended as support acts to the main star, which is the weekly article. One of the problems was that people were watching them and not bothering to read the articles, thus I was always getting questions such as ‘What bait did you use?’ or ‘What size hook did you catch with?’ which were all covered in the articles. I still get the questions and no doubt will continue, but that will always happen, such is life.
Making the most of my time and returning to the gravel pit I once more found ‘my’ swim taken. But I wasn’t bothered in the slightest and I dropped into the peg that I fished in the previous session. I again went through the well worn ritual of putting the bait out, casting the rods, putting them on the pod and settling back. That’s my set-up in the 4th photograph. I suppose if it helps your confidence by having an expensive all-singing and all-dancing stainless steel state-of-the-art pod then there’s no harm in that, but mine is just a reasonably cheap affair that I’ve had for years. The important thing is that it does its job and that’s what really counts. I’m far more interested in the functional side of my angling gear as opposed to the aesthetic angle. If my reel handles match on the pod then it’s purely coincidence rather than by design. Not that I’m criticising anyone or anything, far from it, so please don’t misunderstand me. So don’t read anything negative into the comments.
The night was totally quiet, not even a single bleep on the bite alarm. However, the silence was shattered at 5.45am in the morning as a single bleep alerted me to something going on. Followed by a couple more and definite movement on the hanger, I was looking for a coot or a tufted duck flapping on the surface. But no, it was a fish not a diving water bird that had picked up the bait! Striking into it, I felt it kite off to the left but with no snags at all for it to head into, as long as I kept the rod high so as to avoid abrasion on gravel features I knew I would be ok. I wasn’t expecting lightning to strike twice as far as a hook pull was concerned. Nevertheless it was with a sense of relief that I slipped the fish into the waiting net.
I don’t often weigh my fish but on this occasion I did and the scales went higher than I thought. If I’d have guessed I’d have gone for a pound or more less. (Now that’s something, usually you see pictures of anglers with fish that are quite clearly well below their stated weights). But as it was well packed I suppose I wasn’t that surprised to see it pushing 9lb. The photographs of the fish show it in all its glory. I have really enjoyed my short campaign on the gravel pit this spring, and as I knew it was coming to an end, I decided to sign off on a high. It’s been a struggle, but then again, that’s specimen fishing for you. And even more so on this venue. Plus with all the sessions I have done I worked out the petrol costs, and although I never want to become negative as far as finance is concerned, the venue isn’t exactly on my doorstep. And with the cost of fuel these days going up almost on a daily basis, I had to draw the line somewhere. (Article published April 30 2011)