Monday, 13 June 2011

Gravel Pit Bream - Down't Pit by Crack a' Dawn

I'm really into the gravel pits this summer. It's a rekindled old flame as I always did love to fish the pits down Essex way for carp and tench but when I lived there I never really considered just what it was I had on my doorstep as I wasn't that concerned with catching lumps at that time.
I remember a conversation I had with with the bailiff of The Chase in Dagenham (a twenty minute walk away) while I was fishing the front pit for tench. I'd had no luck at all fishing up against the lilies in a far corner hoping to find my target and the only reason I had fished for them in the first place was because I'd peered into these lilies and had seen a few black shapes that weren't carp or bream loitering about down in the deep crystal water beneath. He casually mentioned that yet another 'twelve' had come out to the carp boys and more big double-figure bream too.

Bailiff talk you might think?

Not so. This little pit had produced lots of double-figure tench and just after I'd stopped fishing there in 2006 went on to produce a fish to the rod of David Pirie that is number nine in the Tenchfishers all time top ten at a collosal 14lb 2oz. So, I was fishing in water which actually contained a fish or two that at the right time of year may have broken the British record if caught and was quite unaware of the fact. With fools luck it might have been my name at the top of that illustrious pile of tench.

That's pits for you though, isn't it? No-one really knows what monsters lurk in them. Take my childhood proving ground, the Warren in Stanford le Hope. No-one ever fished for pike there when I was a kid. No-one at all. But now it is rated as one of the country's top potential pike record smashing waters and all because a fifty pound fish was found washed up dead in the margins some years ago now. Since that momentous discovery, Barry Summerhayes has caught a thirty nine pounder and a forty plus has been caught too, I've heard. In a water capable of holding such predators what the hell else is down there that they feed upon? Not blade roach I can tell you. Short of getting it on with the rubber suit, the snorkel and flippers I'd guess you'd never know.

I decided to have another go at the big bream in one of two local pits known to contain them in double figures but this time to get to the lake early rather than late and fish from first light and through the morning till noon. I arrived in the dark, though at this time of the year at 52 degrees, 30 minutes North, what constitutes darkness is a matter of perception as the sky never seems to get really black throughout the brief night.

I fished two rods on different baits and rigs, one with a stack of corn on a fixed paternoster feeder rig and the other on a free running rig with a large heavy maggot feeder to keep things nailed to the floor, which is the best policy for a really free running rig or else the feeder moves and spooks the fish, stuffed with red maggots and broken worm (broken worms crawl out, chopped don't) and this was fishing lobworm tipped off with a single maggot in the hope of picking up a big eel along with the bream.

First light

I baited up the corn swim 30 yards out to the right with balled in groundbait consisting of brown crumb (made my own from cheapo Tescos granary) with added corn and diced meat but left the worm swim 10 yards out in the deep channel to the left unbaited except for the feeder contents. I got a run on the worm rod first but struck into thin air, then the corn rod was off too with similar results. I noticed that bream were rolling over the bait after just half an hour but the bites that came one after the other to both rods could not be hit at all.

Then the 12 inch hooklink on the paternoster rig tangled so I bit it off and retied it at five inches and recast. I struck and missed yet another bite to the worm rod and while I was busy refilling the feeder with maggots and worm the corn rod was off again, but this time the bobbin rose to the blank and the rod started inching along the rests. Perhaps it was the tackle adjustment or the late strike but whatever it was it was Fish On!

Obviously not a tench this and for a time I felt it might be a big roach or rudd as the fish seemed lightweight however when it came to the net it was what I'd come for, a bream. I thought it looked huge in the net but on the scales it went just seven pounds, one ounce, which was a personal best fish by two pounds so no disappointment there but it did look huge in the half light. I can't imagine what a fourteen pounder, the kind of fish that I am aiming for, must look like. A manhole cover I suspect?

I made a right lash up of the pictures of this fish. I had been messing around trying to get moody dawn shots by taking the film speed rating all the way to 1600 ISO and without flash, a technique that produces grainy pictures but with character but had forgotten to return the program mode to default settings before setting up for the fish. Of course the flash, now set on auto, fired off in the half light and the shots were taken in what I thought were normal conditions for dusk or dawn, but of course on checking the results long after releasing the fish, all had been taken at 1600 ISO so the results were knackered. Ah well, it didn't much matter as I was sure, with a swim full of feeding bream, to get a better one before noon.

It didn't happen. As soon as the sun came up over the horizon the action dwindled away, the fish either having moved on or gone off the feed.

I fished on with just a few liners to keep me on my toes, the still misty dawn transformed itself into an overcast morning and at nine it began to rain, the wind picked up and I sat out the rest of the session under my umbrella watching the grebes fishing, rather successfully it has to be said, in the choppy water out front.

With lessons learned and a fish on the bank it can't be all bad, but I'm still scratching my head over all those missed bites. Still it's not as if I haven't read and been warned that when you set out your stall for big bream things suddenly get very difficult indeed. Catching them as a by-catch of carp or tench fishing it seems is one thing but catching them by design quite another.


  1. Well done on the pb Jeff and I must say,what a lovely picture of that pit in the light of dawn.

  2. Abramis Brama, better than a blank...