Saturday, 14 May 2011

Silver Bream - Seeking Silver - Another Piece of the Puzzle

At this time of year many British anglers interested in catching very big coarse fish are trying terribly hard right now to catch the females of certain species as they fatten and fill with spawn. Some fish have already shot their load: perch did it in April and I know that the canal bream have already done their thing, but silver bream....
well I don't know about them. It's 'generally accepted' (no-one knows nuffink about this fish, believe me. I am fast becoming the worlds leadin' bleedin' expert...) that they breed in June/July but that seems far too late for my palate to accept considering that the species is a hardy, non-hibernating, native northern European fish that will have adapted millions of years ago to take advantage of the earliest possible extended warm period of the year in which to get their rocks off. Circa late April-mid May seems about right...

I've been up the cut again working on the 'silver bream problem', and in the light of Keith's momentous 2lb plus 'West Midlander' caught just a fortnight ago and a fish that was clearly full of spawn, I've had my eye on getting one substantially larger (an ounce larger than his will do...) than my current best of 15 ounces.

The 'problem' is based in the fact in any other venue but a farm pond they are hard to catch because a. They are (?apparently) elusive even where they are known to be, and b. they are even more elusive if you don't where they are in the first place! I know of only 5 venues (other than Mill Farm) where they are found, two of which venues are river sites and one a farm pond but of those 5 venues only two give a realistic chance of a big fish, and they're on the canal system around Coventry. Who knows how many other canal venues farther afield hold them too ?

It's hard to make progress. The trouble with this kind of research (into anything) is that you will always encounter the brick wall of ignorance and apathy that surrounds the unknown, because, as any scientist will attest, the frontier of the unknown is not the last romantic pioneer outpost of adventure left to mankind but only the lonely line beyond which no-one else but you gives a flying toss...

It's almost the defining characteristic of a worthy research area that all eyes glaze over as you babble on and on about what it is you are working on. If I ask the local anglers of the cut if they are catching any silver bream, then they think, because my accent is a poncey art school educated, Midlands inflected, formerly solid gold proper Essex cockney, that I am, a. ignorant of the fact that a 'silver bream' goes by the name of 'skimmer' up here and are just baby bronze bream, or, b. a flake.

Imagine my astonishment then, when just last night on the towpath I met a trucker on his way back to his vehicle from the pub who fully understood what I was talking about when I mentioned silver bream, and said, "they're quite rare aren't they?". I even caught one in front of him and he took its picture. We then walked back along the cut together, as friends.

I'd been out before then, though: on the afternoon before the Marsh Farm crucian trip in fact. I was walking back from Tusses Tackle laden with pellets and crucian fishing tackle essentials and spied some fishy movement under the brambles, and so I sneaked out with the dog, as you do, for a crafty hour after the culprits.

No maggots this time around, just bread, and no liquidised bread for groundbait either, but bread soaked in canal water and mashed old school style in the landing net of which a number of tangerine sized balls were lobbed onto the far shelf. A one pound bronze bream was the first to fall followed an hour later by an altogether more impressive force which was of course my first, and hopefully not my last, canal tench of the year - not a big fish by any means but as Matt Hayes is fond of saying, "Don't they 'ang on?"

I had to wait some time for the next bite but it was worth it when I saw the broad flash of silver and red fins of what I thought was a really good roach, but on unfolding the mesh of the net I realised that what I had was actually a silver bream well over a pound in weight and clearly a new personal best. It was never going to reach the dizzy heights of Keith's fish but was well on the way there at one pound, five ounces.

Unfortunately the camera made a right lash up of this fish and every pic it took was wrong in some way or other. The first set were completely overexposed on the fishes bright scales, the next were blurred on the fish and focused on me, which is the wrong way around. What can you do about this without lugging around a dirty great SLR? Digital compacts sometimes misbehave like this: I guess it's something we have to put up with but with a PB on your hands it's a real pain.

It was noticeable that this fish was not so plump as usual and the scales were very slightly duller: a healthy enough fish but a little tired looking so my guess is that this is a freshly spawned out female who has shed three or four ounces of spawn over the past few days. She would have gone a pound and a half I'll bet, before then.

Nevertheless this fish was just the lift I was looking for in terms of my weight predictions and together with Keith's fish makes pretty convincing argument for the potential for the local canal system for a real heavyweight silver bream.

Here's a trio of pictures of silver bream for you to ponder upon ~

Top is the current British record from Mill Farm at 2lb 15oz (photo flipped horizontally)
Middle is Keith's Canal caught 2lb 1oz fish
Bottom is my current PB at 1lb 5oz

I matched the finger nails for near-as-dammit scaling, so disregard head sizes - they are unreliable.

In roach terms you are looking at a four pounder, a three pounder and a two pounder...

And not so long ago even my stripling would have been a new British record.

Interesting, eh?

Well, it's no surprise that I went back a few day after this capture to have a crack at a still larger specimen. As before I fished bread flake over a few balls of mashed bread thrown into an area just at the drop off on the far side of the canal but in two hours I'd not had a touch. I then baited another area, a spot between two clumps of water lily cabbages on the shallow water up the far shelf and under the brambles, where I fished the last hour and into near darkness again without a single bite.

In the end I packed the gear down and had just set off for home, when, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a puff of brown sediment rise from the baited area...

Tench... I thought, and, as I'm not one to walk away from such an opportunity, hastily unzipped the rod bag, rejigged the rod and net and then cast a piece of fluffy flake out to the disturbance, fully expecting a bite...

It came, but I fluffed it.

It came again and I missed a second time, but the third bite was a good un' and connected with a splashy fish that clearly wasn't a tench and wasn't the expected skimmer bream either but a spanking silver bream of three quarters of a pound that gleamed like a freshly minted coin in the half-light.

I slipped her back and that's when the trucker turned up.

The float was getting knocked about by what was clearly a shoal of competing fish eager to root up every last morsel of the bread ground bait and consequently most of the bites were liners but eventually, when neither of us could actually see the float any more I sensed that it had disappeared, struck and brought in a second equally pristine silver of 15 ounces, a fish that seemed to make the trucker's evening complete.

And as another piece of this perplexing puzzle fell firmly into its rightful place, it made mine too.


  1. one two, one two, testing, testing...

    Comments posted here in the last week or so have all gone missing in the recent data earthquake that reduced the blogging landscape to rubble. My posts came back, twice in the end, but all comments were lost forever.

    Sorry about that but it wasn't my fault. Honest!

  2. Always been slightly baffled by the old name for the Bream "breswan" meaning 'to glitter' in the Anglo-Saxon. But for the silver it makes rather more sense.

  3. Yep, they certainly do glitter, especially around dusk when the scales seem to pick up every available ray of light, Mirror camouflage at its zenith.

  4. Steve in Colorado18 May 2011 at 01:35

    Jeff, have a look at the settings in your camera. If 'face recognition focus' or something similar is ticked the camera will focus on yer homely mug rather than the prize in your hands...

  5. Ah, of course! Now let me see. No, it was set to spot mode. The light was failing and I switched the flash off - this often throws the camera a spinner it can't hit