Surprise, Surprise (bream article, entry 41)

It was a lovely day as I loaded my car, and set off for a two-night gravel pit session in pursuit of bream. The weather forecasters had predicted a high of 17 C, and for once they were spot-on. It’s funny how memories can be short sometimes. Driving along with the window open to cool down, it had only been a little over a month since I was sitting on the banks of the Upper Severn with snow falling all around!

Still, that was then and this is now, I thought to myself. Make hay while the sun shines; and I’m certainly doing that by trying to do as much bream fishing as I can, before June 16th rolls round, and the opening of the rivers. Arriving at the gravel pit, there was just the one angler there, fishing for carp, at the opposite end I intended to fish.

Walking to my peg, the first thing I noticed was the Blackthorn trees had all blossomed since my previous visit. I know that people fill their gardens with all sorts of exotic plants and bushes, but personally I think that our native species take some beating. Looking at the Blackthorn trees in full bloom, it was as if snow had fallen during the day and coated them from top to bottom! It was indeed very beautiful.

As it was late afternoon, I wasted no more time in setting up, and began to get everything ready. From the bivvy to the bedchair, water container to cooking equipment – not to mention the actual fishing tackle itself – there is a lot of stuff that accompanies me on a two-night session. When my barrow is loaded, it literally is a ‘kitchen sink’ job!

Even though I now know the swim quite well, I still cast out the marker float so that it was positioned just at the side of the plateau. This enabled accurate placing of the groundbait balls, which I fired out prior to fishing itself. On previous visits I have fished one margin rod and one on the feature, but this time I decided to fish both rods on the plateau. As it is not particularly big, I knew it would take two very accurate casts, and I was certainly pleased with myself to get it right first time.

I was actually feeling quite tired, and as soon as the sun set, I was asleep! However, a couple of single bleeps at 10.30 p.m. and I was wide-awake standing over the rods. A definite bream, I thought to myself, as I struck and felt a lifeless lump at the end. In true bream fashion, I simply reeled it in, with minimum fight. Imagine my surprise when I found myself netting a tench!

It was actually a decent enough fish too – weighing in at 6-9-0. Returning the fish to the water, I re-cast and once more found myself dozing off, only to be woken within the hour by a run. Ah, I thought, a carp. Striking into the fish I could feel definite resistance, although it didn’t feel like a particularly big fish, as far as carp go. I guessed perhaps it may be a tench – maybe even the big brother of the fish previously caught.

However, on netting it, I had my second surprise of the night – I had landed a bream! It took the digital read-out to 8-12-8, which meant that my average bream for the water had now gone back over the 8lb mark. Re-casting, I wondered if I would get a third fish – and also what it may be – but my beauty sleep was not disturbed for the rest of the night.

With the next day being sunny and fairly dry, I took advantage of the slow fishing to do some bird watching. Two birds were top of my ‘wish–list’ for the year, and can you believe it, I saw them both within five minutes! First up was a male Blackcap. I had previously thought I had spotted a bird in the dense hedge behind me, but I was unable to confirm the sighting. However, this particular bird gave me ample viewing time. As I moved on along the hedge I added the Bullfinch to my tick-list for the year. It was a female, and although not as pretty as the male, is still a very nice bird.

I then took my species list to the year (all seen while fishing) to 64, with two birds that had me really excited. I noticed a Tern on the pit and automatically assumed it would be a Common Tern. However, as I followed the bird round the water and watched it as it hunted for small fish, I saw that it was actually an Arctic tern. A very good sighting, but the bird I saw later in the afternoon really got me going.

As I looked up in the sky behind me I became aware of a really large grey bird of prey. I really couldn’t work out what it was, as it circled over the gravel pit next to the one I was fishing. Then suddenly it dive-bombed into the water and the penny dropped. It was an Osprey! I spent the rest of the day glued to the sky hoping to see the bird continue on its passage, but alas, that was to be my only view. This is definitely my top sighting of the year so far, pushing the Smew I saw while piking in January into second place!

It had certainly been a blessed trip so far, I thought to myself, as I tucked up into the sleeping bag and settled down for the second night, wondering if there would be any more surprises ahead. As it turned out I was not disturbed at all, and as the dawn began to push the darkness out of the way, I awoke naturally, without the need for the bite alarm to intrude into my sleep. However, I had only been awake a minute or so, when the swinger on the right hand rod rose up and down a couple of times.

A definite bream bite – or was it – if the previous two fish were anything to go by? As I struck and then played the fish, I knew it was a bream, so no surprises this time! However, it did put up a good struggle and I did wonder whether it might be my first double. (My best so far this campaign is 9lb 14oz). Looking at it, as it lay on the unhooking mat, even pushing it to the limit of my estimation, it would only be a scraper double. As the read-out showed 9-6-8, it was a good half-pound off the magical ten-pound barrier and was about what I had thought it was.

Still, it was a very nice fish, and a great way to end the session. And with a couple of surprises on each of the fish and bird fronts, I couldn’t help but borrow the title of the old Cilla Black TV programme for this week’s heading…Surprise, Surprise!

(Originally published April 2004)