I love night fishing, there’s something about ‘setting up camp’ that I think appeals to the boy in us. I grew up in a semi-rural area and much of my time was spent outdoors. A bit like the Famous Five but without the adventures. Although it’s now camping with a piscatorial purpose, nevertheless there’s still a thread that runs through the years of my life. There’s always something special about setting up in the warm spring sunshine with blue skies and singing birds all around.
In this case I was on the bank of a gravel pit. It’s a venue that I have fished every springtime, except one, for some years now. It’s not an easy water for any of the species in there, but the tench are definitely quality over quantity and that suits me perfectly. One particular year I didn’t drop below 8lb for the first half a dozen fish if my memory serves me correctly. Anyway, you get the picture. It’s a big fish venue and that is always a challenge.
As with any place you need to know what is in front of you in terms of depth and underwater features. This is especially the case with gravel pits. Usually huge expanses of water, they are anything but uniform once you drop beneath the surface, with bar, gullies and plateaus the norm. It was to the latter that I fished on my first visit. Rising to 6 feet (2 metres) it’s one of my favourite places to put a couple of baits when I can get my favourite swim.
I’ve fished it so many times, and spent hundreds of hours on there, that I know it intimately. I still put a marker float out though as I’m fishing at distance and with so much water in front of me I want to know the bait and equally importantly, the rig, is going to the right spot. I catapulted balls of bait that consisted of Flumino groundbait and brown crumb with some whisky link added to give it some zest. Mixed in were dead maggots, sweet corn and The Edge pellets. Apart from the basic crumb, maggots and corn, all SBS Baits products. This week’s accompanying video takes a look into my bait cupboard at home.
Settling down for the evening I counted c.70 sand martins, an oystercatcher, greylag geese and several singing chiffchaff. Also the carp anglers’ number one enemy, numerous tufted duck. Although I wasn’t fishing specifically for that species, nevertheless tufties don’t pick and choose as far as freebies on the bottom are concerned. They always know exactly where to head for as well don’t they, with the crystal clear water of a gravel pit aiding and abetting them perfectly. Plus, by fishing on a plateau it was handing them food on a plate wasn’t it.
In the years that I have fished the pit I have caught very few carp and that has been by choice. As an all-rounder I enjoy fishing for all species, and find that my pleasure is intensified when I target a specific fish and go all-out for that. It brings a certain satisfaction when you set out your stall and you’re successful. This particular pit has a small head of large carp and while I have caught the very occasional one over the years, they haven’t been my focus.
However, in the last couple of years 200 carp (from my understanding) have been introduced and while I am only basing my comment on one night only, it seems that the balance has changed. I ended with three carp during the session, all smaller ones than I normally catch and so safe to say from the stockings that have taken place. To use the word ‘disappointed’ would be far too strong, I’m sure you know what I mean. It’s just that I’ve enjoyed a venue that has produced some cracking tench with just the odd carp showing. Anyway, I’ll look forward to see how it works out.
The one phrase that you’ll never find in my book though is ‘nuisance fish’ – as far as I’m concerned they are all welcome. If carp do dominate proceedings it won’t exactly be a hardship. The one thing that I have picked up on is that the stocked carp are growing very well, they certainly liked my baits anyway. I enjoyed my night on the pit and as always, the nature was decent with sand martin, house martin, swallow, blackcap, chiffchaff, oystercatcher and greenfinch all putting in an appearance the next morning prior to leaving. Plus rats, lots of them including some coming up close and personal in my shelter during the night.
I’ve had some very close encounters indeed with our furry friends on this venue, including dozing off one particular night and waking to find one on the bedchair right next to my face. Goodness knows what may have happened if I hadn’t opened my eyes at that very moment. I don’t know who was the most startled though, the rat or me. I had one of those heart-in-your-mouth moments that made me jump and the rodent had the same I imagine. It certainly beat a hasty retreat.
I know some anglers really don’t like rats at all and will not night-fish so that they avoid them. In my experience, some places are worse than others. I do fish a few ‘rat city’ venues but also spend time on places where they are few and far between. At least in the UK they are all that we have to be concerned about. Imagine fishing in a nation where poisonous snakes, spiders, crocodiles, alligators and dangerous wild animals abound. I had a cow poke its head in my bivvy once, beats a lion or an elephant!
On my return to the pit a few days later (two overnighters cover four days so that’s a week’s fishing with work catch-up time squeezed in around them) I again fished corn poppers on the one rod but opted for orange coloured tutti frutti pop-up corn-shaped boilies on the other. I haven’t done as well on those in the past on this particular venue, but when you’ve already had a few fish then you can experiment. There isn’t the same ‘pressure’ as when you’ve blanked.
However, the alternative bait again drew a blank – in fact both did. When I reeled in the next morning though I found that my Plan A corn poppers rig was tangled. At dusk, and beyond, I had the dreaded tufties diving over the baited area. Usually they don’t do too much harm, other than eat the bait on the deck, but this time they reduced the rig to a knotted mess. No wonder I blanked. Still, that’s fishing for you. Think of the times we’ve cast out and without knowing, we’ve been in a snag all night.
The thing is you can’t keep re-casting to make sure your bait is ok because every time you put it out you don’t even know if it’s ok that time! Still, at least I had a few fish from session one on the bank. I will be making a few more visits to the pit during spring as I’ve done in recent years. It’s one of those places that gets very weedy and when I start bringing in clumps of the stuff then I know it’s time to move on. I have a number of other places I want to target as before we hit the winter.
It sounds like a long time off doesn’t it, next winter! However, before we know it that’s exactly where we will be. I think the older you get the more time flies and also it becomes more important to make the most of every opportunity that comes our way. If there’s a venue that you have in mind this year then go out and fish it. Don’t keep putting it. Tomorrow has a habit of never coming. I was 54 this week and although I’m still going strong, the fact is I’m not going to live forever. (Published April 23 2016)