Four legs bad, two legs good (bream article, entry 43)

I’ve been really enjoying my bream sessions so far this spring, and with the water temperature on the rise, I have been looking for increased action rather than blanks. However, even though the thermometer showed a constant 12 degrees C, the first session I am writing about in this week’s entry proved to be a blank. I really was expecting something, but that’s fishing isn’t it?

How many times do we have perfect conditions ahead (even the followers of the Moon Theory, if you’re into that, were predicting the days I was fishing were red letter ones!) and yet really struggle? On the other hand, when things look very grim, we end up surprising even ourselves sometimes. That’s angling!

One thing that I have found to be predictable on the gravel pit I’m fishing though is the wind. I can leave home with hardly a breeze to rustle the leaves on the trees. Yet, arriving at the pit, it’s as if someone has turned a wave machine on. The title ‘Windswept gravel pit’ was certainly coined with this venue in mind. Following my first session back in March – when the pod blew over and the rods ended up in the water – I now weigh the pod down with a bag of rocks!

In addition, although I prefer hangers for bream, I now use Fox Euro Swingers, which help to provide more resistance to the wind. Sometimes a gust would literally come from nowhere and start the buzzers going, as the lightweight hangers danced around in the wind. But that has now been mostly eliminated since I switched to swingers.

After two nights without a fish, I was very keen to get back and put things right on my next session. This time the water temperature was up to a heady 16C. As always, the first thing I did was to position my marker float to the side of the gravel bar, and bait up with balls of dead maggots, crumb and particles. Watching each ball hit the exact spot, I was feeling very confident. As I cast both rods out, I couldn’t have positioned them better if I had taken them out by boat.

Yet, my confidence was not rewarded at all. The only action during the night was a thunderstorm, which woke me just after midnight. Watching the lightning, as it came from nowhere and illuminated the sky, was certainly a spectacle. In some ways I was more than happy not to be woken by a fish! Still, there was always the second night of the session…

However, for the fourth night on the trot, I would remain fishless. Not even a line bite – and the rain didn’t let up either. By morning I was absolutely soaking wet. One of my pet hates is packing away from a session in the driving rain, particularly when you have a lot of gear with you.

The one bright spot of the session though was my friend the Mallard duck. Since I have been fishing the pit I have befriended a pair of ducks. They are wild birds, and whilst the drake keeps his distance, the duck shows no fear whatsoever. She even roosts around my bivvy, and the moment I get any food out she comes begging. If I try to ignore her she waddles into the bivvy itself and starts snatching food out of my hand!

The way my schedule worked out I was able to snatch another session before my angling journal needed to be uploaded to the web site. Surely I wouldn’t encounter a third blank on the trot. Would I? Well, actually I would! After a decent enough start on the pit, I have now gone into serious decline.

I did have a few bleeps though on the first night, which saw me out of the sleeping bag in a split second and standing over the rods. Even though I willed the swingers to move, unfortunately they refused to play ball. I eventually drifted back to sleep, lulled into the Land of Nod by a Sedge Warbler that occupied a willow next to my peg.

Although it is the Nightingale that is synonymous with night song, other birds also continue to sing way into dark. I don’t know what time the Warbler stopped, but by the time I was out for the count about midnight, it was still going strong.

I awoke naturally in the morning to a clear and sunny day. Lying there on my bed chair gazing out of the bivvy door, I was suddenly confronted with a sight that filled me with dread. On the patch of gravel in front of me was a huge (and I’m not exaggerating) rat making its way across the peg. I made a noise, flapped my arms around a little and off it went into the undergrowth to my right.

Settling back down, I shuddered. The rat is the only creature in this country that I totally detest. As an angler who spends many nights during the year at the water’s edge, I have had numerous encounters with the animals – and not one of them pleasant. Deciding to make a cup of tea, I rose from the bed chair to be no more than one metre away from the creature – as it had returned and was now in the bivvy porch!

If there is one thing I hate more than a rat it is a bold rat! I once more sent it packing into the bushes. Three years ago I fished a Suffolk gravel pit, where the rats kept chewing holes in my bivvy, and entering inside each night. I actually ended the session early, as I simply couldn’t stand it any longer. However, this time – apart from dreaming about it on the second night -–the rat didn’t return. Well, at least not to my knowledge anyway.

I thought my run of blanks was coming to an end though on the second night, as I had a drop-back bite at 3.00 a.m. However, again nothing developed. And as I snuggled back in the sleeping bag, I saw the silhouette of ‘my’ duck by the barrow, plus the Sedge Warbler was once more singing its little heart out at the water’s edge. Apologies to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, but this session was definitely a case of four legs bad, two legs good.

(Originally published May 2004)

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