An eventful start to my gravel pit campaign (carp article, entry 37)

Until the rivers open again in June I am going to be focusing on a large gravel pit in pursuit of carp. Actually, prior to my first visit I knew absolutely nothing about the venue, other than it contains carp in the 20lb bracket, which I obtained from the ticket. I didn’t know how many fish, which were the hot pegs, what baits were the most successful or even how many anglers fish the venue.

And to be honest I am glad that I am going in blind, as it means I can discover things for myself, and the achievement of catching fish will be that much greater. Plus of course, sometimes information can be passed on genuinely by a person that is simply not true (and not always intentionally), but because it gets repeated enough, it becomes gospel.

An example of that is a lake I have fished for pike in the past, where I was told that you never catch on dead baits. However, I did really well on the venue. But I often wondered how many people avoided the method simply because the word was that dead baits did not produce?

So, arriving at the pit, I parked my car, got all my tackle together and set off along the water’s edge looking for a likely looking spot. Not knowing what lay beneath the water I settled on a swim eventually, that in all honesty looked no different from all the others! However as we know, the bed of a gravel pit is far from uniform, with bars, gullies and plateaux ensuring that there are plenty of features for the angler to fish to.

Hence, the very first thing I did was to set up a marker rod and start casting around the swim. I discovered that there was a sharp drop-off right under the rod tip to eight feet and this depth was uniform as far out as I could cast. It all seemed pretty standard, until after about twenty minutes of casting and making notes in my angling diary, I discovered a plateau right in front of me, seven lengths out, where the level rose to six feet.

I then spent some time investigating this solitary feature, so that I knew just how big it was. Once my enquiries were complete, I re-cast the marker float, positioning it to the right of the plateau so that I could then place my bait accurately when the time came.

By the time I had set the bivvie up and was ready to cast out, a good three hours had passed since I arrived at the venue. As I will be spending several hundred hours there between now and June 16, there was no hurry to get fishing; preparation is a vital part of angling. After baiting up with particles and a few boilies it was time to cast out – one rod on the plateau and the other in the margins. Thus began the waiting game.

The police provided the only excitement during the first night! At midnight, as I lay fast asleep in the bivvie, I was woken by the sound of a helicopter that was very low and in the area. It was on the far bank and immediately I worked out that the police were looking for someone, as not only the helicopter was evident, but lots of torches on the ground indicated that the troops were also out in force.

As I watched the action, the helicopter caught me in its searchlight. Hovering right overhead, suddenly it was as if daytime had arrived, such was the brightness of the light. I quickly disappeared into the bivvie and after a few minutes, realising I was not the suspect, off it went, working its way along the bank.

I went back to sleep, hoping that the person on the run was just a boy racer or something like that, and not an escaped convict who was doing life for murdering anglers as they slept in their sleeping bags! Needless to say though, the fishing died that night!

The next day was also quiet as far as the fishing was concerned, but I did get to do some very enjoyable bird watching. I took my tick list to the year to fifty species – all seen whilst angling. I added the Dunnock, Oystercatcher, Reed Bunting and House Sparrow – the latter being my first Sparrow, whilst on the other hand I’ve seen dozens of buzzards so far!

Re-casting for the second night I didn’t have long to wait for a fish. It was just 9.00 p.m. when the plateau rod started to issue single drawn out bleeps. Although I had fallen asleep, instinctively I was out of the bag in a flash and standing over the pod. Straight away I knew that a bream had taken the boilie. Typical of its species, it capitulated and it was nothing more than a case of reeling it in.

It’s been one of my angling desires for a few seasons to catch a double figure bream, and whilst this one was one pound off that mark, it did give me encouragement for the rest of the campaign. At the moment, with just the one trip under my belt I don’t know the bream potential of the water. Although the trips will be listed under the sub-title of ‘carp’ in the archive section, in reality if I do start to catch some decent bream, I definitely won’t be disappointed. There is no such thing as a nuisance fish in my book!

That fish proved to be the only one of the session, showing that there is indeed a fine line between ‘success’ and ‘failure’. However, on a different level, the trip almost ended in disaster. The next morning I woke to gale force winds. Although I had weighted the pod with a bag of rocks, a sudden gust blew it over and caused the rods to end up in the pit.

As I watched them drifting out, I was forced to act very quickly. Prior to stripping off and swimming after them, I first of all tried the marked rod and a heavy lead. Fortunately this proved to be all that was needed and I was reunited with my tackle after a couple of casts. It was a close call though, and I was just glad to get the rods back. What with this, and the police the night before, it certainly was an eventful start to my gravel pit campaign!

 (Originally published March 2004)