For a number of years now, once the river season has ended I have had a short campaign on a gravel pit. In fact I’ve been doing this for so long that I had to go to my own Angling Journal to confirm that this will be my 9th spring on the venue! But rather than become a tradition in the sense of habit, I still relish the sessions on the large windswept body of water that accompany the onset of rising water temperatures and a whole new range of species coming alive and on the feed.
While I have picked up the occasional fish during the day, it is very much a night-only venue with perhaps dawn the only really productive time where my head torch isn’t needed. It’s also a tough place as well with patience the keyword. On my first outing, which is where the video kicks off, I blanked. I did have a drop-back at 2.20am though. But as I lifted the rod there was nothing on the other end. With the average size of the fish that I catch from there, it is definitely one of those places where the line between success and failure is a very fine one indeed.
I show one of my rigs briefly on the video and said I would go through them in more detail in the article. Both were pop-up rigs, with a piece of artificial corn and SBS corn shaped boilie on one and a 10mm boilie (photo 1) on the other, pictured with a PVA bag. The leads were fixed (1.5 ounce and 2ounce) with the hook length Drennan Super Specialist 8lb. Casting them out in a PVA bag of pellets ensured no tangles. I also show the groundbait mix in the video, which was corn, hemp, wheat and brown crumb (photo 2).
Once mixed into small balls I then fire them out with a catapult (photo 3). This is a groundbait catapult, one specifically designed for the job. It has a bigger spread than a boilie or maggot catapult and the pouch of course is also larger to accommodate the fact that you are sending out larger objects. It is also much sturdier as it gets put through its paces for sure, and I find I am always threading the elastic back, as the strain of constant pressure takes it to the limit. But I’ve had this one for over 10 years and apart from a change of elastic and a new pouch no extra cost has been involved.
The key is to make the balls of bait quite small. So it’s better to make 30 golf sized balls out of a mix than 8 orange sized ones. The reason being that you in effect cover more ground. Rather than a few big piles of bait you are creating a wider spread to occupy the feeding fish. It takes more time of course but the extra work will give you the edge over the angler who just wants to get maximum bait out in as little time as possible.
In the video I mention the marker float, which is essential on a big windswept (and I do know it’s only one word, I was joking!) venue like a gravel pit. It’s just impossible to keep guessing where to cast or where to put your bait to. You need something to aid you, hence the term marker float. Plus prior to the actual positioning you cast the float around the swim with the aid of a heavy lead and find not only depths but also, more importantly, features. So in this instance I knew from previous sessions that I had a plateau in front of me. I also know how big it is, where it extends to and from. All because I took time to find these details out and map them.
On a venue like this you need to be fishing with confidence, but even then blanks are the norm. And so it was on this and the second outing. Mind you, with the levels being down due to the lack of recent rain, the plateau in the swim I fished second time round was only four feet deep. As I packed away the next day I did feel I had made an error of judgment. But who knows, I could have picked up a massive bream then I’d be proud of my thoughtful approach! Although I had no bream I wasn’t pestered by rats either as I took Twinkle my Bedlington Terrier (photo 4)!
As I mention in the video, the name of the game on this gravel pit is patience and I was back again hoping for a case of ‘third time lucky’. Personally I don’t believe in luck, but it’s a saying that is well-known, and in this case appropriate as I managed my first fish (photo 5). It came about 10.00pm and was a drop-back bite that after the initial signal saw the hanger raise a fraction. A typical big bream bite! The thrill is in the capture not the bite or the fight! In fact if you’ve never caught a big bream, if you’ve ever hooked a carrier bag full of water and hauled that in, it’s very similar!
Whilst spending reasonable time at the water’s edge, you need to eat of course. Some anglers take all manner of cooking items and dish up all sorts of meals. Me, well beans and toast is the limit of my culinary skills when I’m at home so once out on the bank it is a case of keeping it really simple. Fruit and sandwiches (photo 6) is enough for me! My wife often jokes that the fish eat better than I do! You also need to drink as well and my set up for that is also simple.
If I’m on a local overnighter I take a flask but if travelling further afield or staying longer it’s nice to start the next morning with a fresh cuppa. So in with my gear goes a kettle, gas canister and stove (photo 7) along with tea bags and fresh milk. That’s about edge of my cooking ability. And that I call making a cup of tea ‘cooking’ pretty much sums me up really. Well, I’m there to fish not spend time messing about with fancy ingredients. Other than bait additives that is.
My final outing for bream saw me switch to another venue. Not a gravel pit but definitely big and windswept. You can see my set-up (photo 7) and as the bank was soft grass I was able to use banksticks as opposed to the hard surface of the pit where a pod is the order of the day. I catapulted some bait out and waited. And waited. And waited. Then right at the end I had the unmistakable rise and fall on the hanger of a bream bite. Unfortunately though there was nothing on the lift. Would I get another bite of the cherry though, I thought as I recast?
Well fortunately I did and although it wasn’t a bream as such but a roach-bream hybrid (photos 8,9), there is no such thing as a nuisance fish in my book. Anyway, it avoided a blank and for that I was thankful. The one photo, although not that sharp is a close-up of the fish as it lay in the net. You can see the double corn shaped boilie, which was the ‘popper’ version. Dipped in 3-in-1 turbo tutti frutti it’s going to be a big part of my armory this summer as I target tench. And there’s a shot (photo 10) of the venue at dusk. It looks good but you can’t beat a good sunset shot over water anyway can you?
And finally, today is my 50th birthday! Wow, whoever said time flies wasn’t kidding. I can still remember my first fish, which was a small gudgeon from the Bratch on the Staffs/Worcs Canal, as if it were yesterday. But I’m really happy to say that I still have the same enthusiasm for angling as I did all those years ago back in the 1960’s. And I’ve still got a passion for life in general as well. In fact, this morning I will be playing a game of 11-a-side football against players who will mostly be in their 20’s. Last time on a field, a few weeks back, I even got man of the match! Not always of course, but much is in the mind. As for me I’m plodding on and half a century not out is a landmark. Here’s to the next 50 years! (article published April 21 2012)