This summer has been fairly horrendous. What with being made redundant, we had launched into re-decorating the kitchen just before I found out I had lost my job and were committed to not only a mountain of work – but hefty expensive into the bargain. Although I had managed to find employment, there was work to be done at home in every spare moment so consequently, fishing has had to take something of a back-seat. On the few occasions I had managed to get out, the lake was either full, conditions were dreadful (gale force winds and driving rain), or like this weekend, matches were taking place and the venue was off-limits.
My target lake is the School Pool in Faversham and the aim is to catch one of the few big Bream and Tench – but things just haven’t gone right. With work now coming to a conclusion on the kitchen I decided to have an evening session on Bysing Wood where there were several things I wanted to try out.
My tactics had previously focused on Method-Feeders and boilies for bait with corn and maggots as alternatives on float-fished and quiver-tipped rigs close-in to the margins. By burying the boily in the method ball I found I could consistently fish down through quite weedy swims and still have a good presentation, but I was still concerned that the bait would end up under the feeder (despite using Korda feeders with the lead on one side of the cage so that it ‘always’ settles bum-down as it were on the lake bed). I came up with the idea of fishing the method feeder Helicopter-style. Now this is not my idea – I saw Matt Hayes using it for carp on one of his programmes, but it occurred to me that the hooklength could be hidden in the method ball, much as a ‘Stick Mix’ hides the hooklength on a carp rig. The very short dangling hooklength would be very unlikely to tangle and if it did, could be folded up inside the groundbait.
I nearly lost out on my chosen swim. I left the car just inside the gate and went off to have my usual gander at the lake before starting fishing and as I was returning from The Dead Tree Swim (which I was very pleased to see available) someone passed me on the track in his car obviously making for the same place. Now the question arises here – “who gets choice of the swim?” was it ‘rightfully’ mine because I was there first – or was it the chap in his car because he’d got his tackle with him? I regret to say I rather pressed my case and asserted my claim although I am still uncertain whether it was legitimate or not.
This is one of the most popular swims on the lake and is very productive, offering many options for bait positioning. My plan was to fish across to the far reeds as close as I could cast and build a bed of Vitalin and Layers Mash groundbait on which hopefully, the Tench and Bream would eventually settle on.
I was immediately struck by how seriously, a member fishing opposite was taking Health and Safety issues – as a Health and Safety Officer myself I applauded his risk assessment skills in wearing a ‘Hi-Viz’ vest during fishing! Perhaps there were low-flying Pteradactyls, Eagles, or Flying Fish about the place. Being seen by such hazards is an important part of Health and Safety!
I catapulted several balls of the groundbait mixture out in front, just short of the reeds and cast two rods onto the feed. One rod was equipped with a Tutti-Fruitti boily and the other, popped-up Enterprise corn anchored by a number 6 shot, half an inch from the hook. I have caught carp on this bait but never Tench or Bream and I was keen to 'get off the mark' with them on it.
My Method balls were squeezed onto the cage with the hooklength between the groundbait and the cage. The idea of this was that the groundbait covered the line, disguising it, much like the carp-angler's 'Stick' rig. Almost immediately I started getting bites at the start of the session which was to produce more Bream than I have ever had in a sitting at Bysing Wood. The fish all seemed to be of the same 'year class' - fish of between two and two-and-a-half pounds, not a few ounces more nor a few ounces less. I was getting them one after another and when I changed to a 16 mm. Cotswold Baits drilled Crab Pellet the catch rate increased. Bream (and Tench for that matter) absolutely love pellets and the difference in catch rate between them and the boilies was quite marked; I think I shall make the pellets my front line bait in the future. I also had fish on the popped-up corn too so avid were they feeding.
Then there was a blank spell and the bites suddenly fell right off. I suspected that a Pike was about as there were a series of swirls and a period of small fish leaping out of the water followed by the familiar slashing vortex but it wasn't long before I had another positive bite on the pellet rod...........
As soon as I hooked it I knew I'd got one of the better ones; although Bream hardly fight at all, the dead weight on the end of the line signified a decent fish - which it proved to be at seven pounds eight ounces. I slipped it into the keepnet to see whether I could catch some others to go with it.
I suppose the rod had been back in the water about five minutes or so when there was another take - unfortunately I was away from the rod having a pee - but got back in time to hit the fish (and pee down my trousers at the same time). Again, this too felt a good fish although unfortunately it came off after having been on for only a few seconds.
I have noticed this with Bream and Method Feeders. I think you must hit them very quickly as they seem most adept at shedding the hook. Some takes will see the bobbin hopping up and down like a Jack-in-the-Box and if left the fish will get off. Theoretically, by the time a bite is registered on the bobbin, the fish is hooked (by the resistance of the rig); they do however seem to be able to shed it quite readily. Probably, this is something that varies from water to water and happens more on some venues than others. At Bysing Wood, the dominant activity is carp-fishing with resistance rigs and I imagine that the Bream have got used to being hooked with carp angler's rigs and have learnt how to shed them. The carp certainly have learnt such tricks. In future I shall try to be far quicker 'off-the-mark' than I have been in the past at striking these bites.
The Bream fed on and off for the rest of the afternoon and if I had put all of them in the keepnet I would have had a fair old weight. I hung on however for another decent one and some time after dark I had another of 6:14. Not big, but good-ish. These bigger Bream are almost like a different species. Whereas their smaller bretheren are pale, insipid, slimy individuals, fish of over six pounds or so are bronze coloured and virtually slime-free, an altogether different kettle of worms.
Perversely, the hours of darkness saw a fall-off in sport - the complete reverse of what normally happens and there was just the odd twitch and smaller sized Bream at intervals.
At some point, just before eleven o'clock in the evening, I had a more positive take. When I struck and hooked the fish I at first thought I'd hooked into a snag. I knew I wasn't in the reeds as I was 'clipped-up' to get the distance in the darkness. This fish however was completely solid.................and then eventually, very slowly, it moved and started coming towards me. At this point I was in a fair old state of excitement - the fish felt massive and was undoubtedly the biggest Bream I'd ever hooked - I vaguely saw the commotion in the water in the light of the full moon that was shining and it looked simply huge! For a long time my ambition has been to catch a 'double' and at last it seemed I was going to do it! It was far and away bigger than the 7:08 I'd caught that afternoon.
As I put the landing-net in the water and crouched down to net the fish....................the hook fell out.
To say I was gutted is an understatement. I have fished a long time for my double and having come so close on more than one occasion I am well deserving of it. This loss of such a big fish however was not the first time such an event has happened and I dare say it won't be the last. It doesn't make it any easier to bear however. It was horrible. Loss and heartache.
Although this disaster was awful to suffer, there was a positive aspect to it. It meant that the loss of the fish mattered. It had me thinking that the minute such a loss meant nothing - that it was just a mere inconvenience, then the meaning of what I was doing - the position that fishing holds in my life - is still the same that it has been all these years.
The minute the loss of a big fish means nothing, is the time to hang up the rods and don pipe and slippers.........