A hard slog!

   Spombs away! Putting out some bait for the bream

Spombs away! Putting out some bait for the bream

It was never going to be easy... this is known as a hard water.

And so it's turning out to be, as I haven't banked a fish in the last 7 or 8 outings now! But let's go back a few months first.

With our plan to start the Spring hunting the large bream that lurk within these waters, we embarked on a lengthy pre-baiting campaign which began back at the end of February.

While piking through the Winter on the same water, Gary and myself made use of the last few minutes of each session to plumb our swims for any features. After a few visits we found a couple of swims that were close enough for us to pre-bait a central area that we could then both put a bait on… and in easy reach of the kettle, when the tea was brewing!

With a bar that ran parallel to the bank about 35-40yds out, we baited the deep trough just before the bar, hoping it would be an obvious path the bream shoals would follow.

So the Spomb was put to good use, and a pellet, corn, and vitalin bombardment took place at the end of each pike session now, but as the weeks went by and the weather stayed cold, we did start to wonder if all we were doing was fattening up the tufties!

Now at the end of March and the pike season finished, it was a quick decision to start fishing for the bream straight off. If only the weather had realised that!

With the first few sessions we had a gale blowing right in our faces, we were on an open bank and it blew straight off the water, it didn't make for comfortable fishing. But we're hardy chaps, and kept at it, although 2 sleeping bags each definitely helped!

Not that we were rewarded for our efforts, as in those early visits, nothing came out, let alone any fish being seen.

It wasn't until Gary chucked one of his baits out to a shallow area one week that he finally made contact and brought in a 7lb'er… and on a wooden ball at that!

   How comes I always get the good jobs?

How comes I always get the good jobs?

Yep, we're fishing with artificials. Trying plastic corn, pellets, and wooden balls, that have become our stand in for boilies. With the venue rife with those ravenous clawed beasts, the signal crayfish, anything vaguely edible doesn't last long, as we'd already found out when piking.

But the bream turned out to be a solitary catch, and the following week we were back to the norm... with empty nets.

By now April had passed and we were well into May, but as I'm sure you remember that didn't bring a break in the weather, with it staying cold, and we had the pleasure of some nice downpours to go with it!

We finally decided to leave our baited area and try further round in an adjacent bay. We could both still reach the same bar, but from the opposite side, and I could also fish into the main part of the bay, which might hopefully attract the odd bream.

Well the move seemed to work, as during the night Gary banked a better 'slab', which nudged the scales to just over 9lb.

Gary then had a couple of weeks off, so after his recent capture I returned the following week to fish the bay again.

Beside a few liners nothing got me out of my bag, but I did hear a couple of fish jump during the night, so with that and the liners it seemed like the fish were finally starting to move.

Through all these weeks we kept chatting to the regular carpers, and also to a good mate of ours who's a long time angler on this water, and the general consensus was that the venue, and of course it's occupants, were 4-5 weeks behind where they should be for the time of year… not that that helped us in the slightest!

I had another outing on my own and moved to the next pit in the chain, it might give me the chance of a tench as well as a bream, and if nothing more it was a change of scenery. 

It didn't do me any good, and I got a good soaking to boot… oh, how I love packing up in the rain!

May was now fast disappearing, and at last temperatures were slowly starting to creep up, once Gary was back on the scene we chatted through our next move, and with news of a few captures now coming from the final water on this complex of pits, it wasn't long before we headed that way ourselves. This was already part of our plan with our thinking being that as the weather warmed up we'd start to target the tench in earnest, as well as possibly pick up the odd carp… I'm afraid the bream were now becoming a distant memory.

   At last, one of our target species has finally turned up!

At last, one of our target species has finally turned up!

The pit is the smallest of the three, but possibly has the most features, and it definitely seems to hold the larger carp and tench.

We'd had a good look around the water back in September of last year, and even had a couple of pike sessions on it during the Winter, but now it was tench time.

On our first visit a couple of the 'top' swims were already occupied, so we headed along to one corner of the water and settled in two swims that we thought could be promising.

With islands dotted around in front of us it certainly looked the part, and our first task was to start laying down a communal bed of bait on a gravel patch to see what it might attract.

   Bream number two... it seems like we've done a lot of work for two fish!

Bream number two... it seems like we've done a lot of work for two fish!

So a rod each on this and the others were placed tight to the islands, or in the channels between them, depending where we could find a clear gravel bottom.

Even though the crays infested this pit just as readily, we were now starting to experiment with hardened boilies. Either air drying them, or leaving them to soak in a glug.

With a normal bait only lasting a couple of hours, these 'hardened' boilies were coming in the next morning well chewed but still enough remained for us to think they would attract fish.

   The bay looked good, but I only had 'liners' during the overnighter

The bay looked good, but I only had 'liners' during the overnighter

And yet again, it was Gary who proved this point, when at 7am on our third visit to these swims he hooked a good fish off one of the islands.

A bit of careful playing and we have it in the net. It's a mirror, and goes 20lb 8ozs. 

Well that's us almost up to date, and with our last couple of trips being in this gloriously hot weather, we've finally seen lots of carp… but of course they're not interested in any bait, they're spawning!

   Now that's a carp ain't it? Been so long since I've seen one! Anyway cheer up mate, you've caught!

Now that's a carp ain't it? Been so long since I've seen one! Anyway cheer up mate, you've caught!

Still after a big snotty

Our next session and we're back at the new water. Going round the lake and plonking ourselves down the side of the spit that protudes out from the far bank.

   It's a snottie, but is it a double?

It's a snottie, but is it a double?

Gary's seen a few carp moving about, and as we're choosing our swims, one rolls right at the end of the spit. That makes up Gary's mind for him, and he sets up nearby, while I move into a spot further down, where I can put a bait into open water for the bream, and also target some overhanging branches that look like they might attract a carp or two.

Things go well, with a run around midnight, that results in a 9lb 8oz bream. Then a couple of hours later and my 'beauty sleep' is disturbed once again, but this time its only a small cat. And to finish off the night's action I pick up an 8lb 10oz bream in the early hours. So my quest for the 10lb'er goes on.

And Gary... well, lets just say he had a very good nights sleep!

Over the following two weeks with a family holiday, then a spot of car trouble, Gary's not been able to get out. But I soldier on, continuing with the big bream hunt. 

Back at the water I'm moving about each visit trying different swims, usually fishing the main part of the lake, and keeping to the same tactics that's got me amongst the fish the last few times.

Which all sounds good, but for the fact that I haven't caught a bream since!

Though I'm snaring one of the little cats each session now, they're not the 20lb+ ones that lie somewhere in the depths, and a reasonable tench graces my net one night to get me staggering around in the dark. It seems I can catch most species.. except the bream now, but while your catching, the next one can always be the big one!

Another week slips by, and here I am, back at the lake, and back on my own again. With Gary back out on our usual day, it's me who mucks things up, as I can't get out till the day after... no dear, of course I don't mind if you go away with your girlie mates on my fishing day...!

   On my own, and trying a different swim, might have a chance?

On my own, and trying a different swim, might have a chance?

Anyway, Gary gives me a full report on fish movements, and he's right, they're all down the car park end, and so I'm back in the swim I tried the other week. And how did Gary get on the previous day I can hear you say, well to use his own words when I asked  'I'm taking up golf or tiddlywinks instead!

So I'm straight into balling up the ground bait and 'pulting it out. Nothing new on the hookbait front, with pellet on one and boilie on the other. Saying that, Gary had been asking me whether the pellets were staying on the hair overnight, as they do have a tendency to break up after a while. I'd been lucky so far, but we talked about using 'Arma Braid' as a way of keeping the pellet on the rig longer. The braid looks like PVA netting, but is not dissolvable in water, so holds your hookbait in its own little bag, and I was trying it for the first time tonight.

Even with Gary missing, certain rituals have to be observed, so as soon as the baits are set I get the kettle on! It's that perfect time, as the sun sets over the water, the odd splash from a rolling carp breaks the quiet, and the anticipation of a monster soon to be caught starts to grow. You can almost feel your heart beat a little bit slower, and your blood pressure start to drop... ah yes, it's great being out.

Now if you read this blog enough, you'll know that things don't always go to plan, and being the top anglers we are, Gary and me often find that the fish we're targeting, don't always turn out to be the fish we end up getting on the bank! I think so far this season we've gone for bream and had carp, gone for perch.. and had carp, tried for carp, and had bream! So why should this session be any different!

As I'm woken from a few hours of peaceful sleep, the buzzer is beeping away intermittently, I pick up the rod and feel a little tug, is this the '10'? I wind in, and as usual there's no fight, but as it nears the bank there's a scrappy fight into the net, and I soon see it's another baby cat. These things are becoming a nuisance!

At least its good to see the Arma Braid has worked, and the same hookbait is launched back out to its chosen spot. The cat has shown that fish are feeding on the groundbait, so hopefully the bream won't be far behind. I return to my slumber.

It's funny how attuned to your alarms you get though, as I'm out cold, probably snoring my head off, well that's what the good lady tells me most mornings! But, when that buzzer suddenly emits a one-toner scream in the early hours, I'm out of my bag, down to the rods in seconds, and leaning into something a lot bigger than those little cats, and certainly pulling more than any bream!

The rod arcs over, and I'm having line taken off the clutch.. this fish wants to visit the other side of the lake! But I let it have its head before tightening up and applying some side strain to turn it back my way. It ever so slowly makes its way towards me, before a final lunge has it stuck in a line of weed about 40ft out, I keep the pressure on, and even as I feel the line rubbing on the weed, it comes free, and I'm able to play it into my waiting net. Phew!

   My PB from the lake, at 24lb 2ozs, and a stunner at that!

My PB from the lake, at 24lb 2ozs, and a stunner at that!

I secure the net, then it's back to my brolly to get my shoes on, and my headtorch out, and a proper look in the net. Wow, that's a lump.. no, definitely not that bream I'm hoping for, but who cares, it's my first carp from the new venue and it looks pretty damn big!

On the unhooking mat, open up the landing net.. what a gorgeous fish, it's a beautiful linear mirror, so I whip out the hook, get the rod out the way and lift the carp into the sling. It goes 24lb 1oz! A real cracker... and of course there's no one here to take a pic!

I try a couple of self takes, but they're not good... of course I could ring Gary? It's 4.30am in the morning. I know he's up early for his job, so I leave it till 5am and give him a call. After the luck he's had recently, he's still a top man, and a good friend, and gets down within minutes.

The pics are done, and we both watch as the fish is returned, and glides back down into the dark water. Gary's first thought is 'I can't wait to get back here and have another go', no mate, me neither!

Oh, so near!

After a couple of years on their waiting list I finally got accepted for another local angling club, which is always great, especially with the anticipation of new waters to fish.

Gary's already a member and wondered whether I fancied a go at one of the new club's venues... of course I did, so we're giving Brooke Lake a rest for the moment, and heading a few miles down the road.

We've picked a water that is well known for its carp, with fish in there up to mid-thirties, but what also had my interest tweaked were the sizes of the other species... bream to around 11lbs, tench to double figures, and a few 'cats' to over twenty pounds.

As most of the regular readers of this blog will know I've been chasing a double figured bream for a couple of seasons now, so even though Gary and myself are in the midst of our summer carping, I might just have a go for more than just the carp this time.

   Could this be the night.. when a large 'slab' comes my way?

Could this be the night.. when a large 'slab' comes my way?

Amazingly I arrive first, mid-afternoon as usual. It's park up, then off for a walk around the lake. There's a few guys here already, but that still leaves plenty of room to pick a good swim.

Gary arrives as I'm half way around the lake, so I finish the circuit, and report back on what I've seen. The lake is roughly rectangular, with a spit coming off the middle of the far bank. I've seen plenty of carp on the top, and the odd bream rolling, mainly up the right-hand arm of the lake. Trouble is, that's where 2 or 3 of the lads are already fishing, and so we do another tour of the water.

We now see fish along the other arm, and in the main body of the lake, so where to fish?

It's going to be the near bank, there's a couple of swims just along from the car park, with fish moving in front of us, and access to a large area of open water, which is where I will target the bream.

But first of all it's the 'get all the gear moved' ritual, out of the car, onto the barrow, then along to the swim. As the weather's good the first thing I set up is the rods. Out comes the pod, on go the buzzers and butt rests, and now the rods come out of the holdall.

Next I sort my groundbait. With a good helping of method mix, Expo, crushed hempseed, a tin of red sweetcorn, a tin of hemp, a few large handfulls of pellet, and finally a good squirt of Active Ade particle syrup, all mixed up with a bit of lake water till it binds when squeezed together. I then shape it into tangerine sized balls.

After nicking Gary's groundbait catapult, I fire out a couple of balls as far as possible to get my range. Then I cast out with my rod to match the same distance.. Gary always has a go at me as I'm not using a marker float to get the distance spot on, and he's right, but as we're not talking huge distances here, it only takes a cast or two to hit the spot. Then I clip up and tie a distance marker on the line.. perfect!

The rest of the groundbait is fired out, creating a bed of bait I'm hoping will attract plenty of fish. For my hookbait I'm using an 11mm pellet, fished on the hair, and tipped off with a grain of red artificial corn. With everything launched in line with a feature I've picked out on the far bank, an electricity pylon in this case, I should be accurate every time I cast.. even in the dark.

Then I bet you can't guess what happened next? Yep, that's right.. we get the kettle on! Gary tells me he's got a reasonable patch of weed in front of him, about 30yds out, and there's fish moving around it quite regularly, so he's putting a bait next to it. His other rod was going to be a long chuck toward the end of the spit, but as there's so much activity right in front of him it's now going on the other side of the weed patch!

Tea over, and we both set about getting our brollies up and our bedchairs in.. you've got to be comfortable during the night, and organised. The landing nets are laid out within easy reach of the rods, the unhooking mats open and positioned with plenty of space around them.

   Well it's a nice 'snottie' but couldn't it have been an ounce or two heavier!

Well it's a nice 'snottie' but couldn't it have been an ounce or two heavier!

Now it's time to relax, enjoy the warm weather, read a book... then have another cuppa!

Time has passed, and it's all gone quiet over in Gary's swim... that's it then, he'll be zipped up in his sleeping bag and out like a light! So with it getting to dark to read I follow suit, and settle down to check the back of my eyelids.

It seems only minutes have passed, when a couple of beeps have me sitting up and peering into the darkness. Yep, there are my two latching lights flashing away, but there's no movement on the line, and I settle back down.

Of course, as soon as I do, a few more beeps greet my ears, and this time I'm up and kneeling by the rod, as my indicator first drops away, then lifts back up again! In fact, a typical bream bite, which after a minute or so, I lift the rod and make contact with... well, not a lot really!

   That's not what I was after!

That's not what I was after!

I wind in with minimal resistance, and even when the fish is under the rod tip there's only a half hearted effort to escape, but that's bream for you. Saying that, they're a fairly impressive beast if you catch a big one, and this was bigger than any that I'd caught before... weighing in at 9lb 14ozs... and yes, I'd missed getting my 'double' by two ounces!

But it was a nice way to start on a new water, and the night was still young. So as the kettle built up a head of steam, I re-baited, clipped up the line, and fired it out into the darkness, knowing it would land right on the same spot.

More jittery beeps from my buzzer have me winding in the line a couple of hours later, and I'm thinking bream again. But no, as it gets nearer there's a flash of creamy underbelly, and then this fish decides it fancies a look under the overhanging branches of a nearby tree, not that I let it!

Once safely in the net, I reach for my headtorch, well how about that, it's a cat!

Not that it's going to break any records, it's only a foot and a half long.. but another 'first' for the new venue.

The session's action finishes in the early hours, with a final take, followed by another limp retrieve. It's bream number two, and looking in the net I'm starting to think I've done it. This fish is definitely bigger... but it seems, in length and breadth only, in profile it has to be slimmer, as it only goes 9lb 3ozs... shame!

Gary's been quiet, but then he's kept going for the carp, and good for him, but it's done him no favours as he's not had a touch all night. With my second rod also targeting the carp, and having nothing, we'll need to up our game there, but I'll go home almost happy with a couple of nice 'snotty's'.