Fishing for Big Bream - Tony’s Specialist Scene
There’s been one particular event that has dominated Tony Gibson’s thinking recently and that’s been the capture of what is very likely to become the next official British record bream.
This particular fish has been pretty much at the top of my ‘wish list’ since it was first caught by James Rust back in March 2005 at a new record weight of 19lb 10oz from a vast Cambridgeshire gravel pit called Ferry Lagoon. As is often the case James was actually targeting the pit’s rather scarce carp population at the time, fishing sweetcorn at long range, and he also managed to catch another bream weighing over 16lb during the same period that produced the record fish.
I’d been aware of Ferry Lagoon for many years as I’d done quite a lot of fishing over the years on other pits nearby. The potential for some very big fish from the pit kept drawing me like a magnet and, after a few years of waiting, I finally managed to join the relatively small syndicate in place on Ferry in January 2008. I couldn’t wait to begin trying to catch a bream from the pit and despite the fact that there hadn’t been a single bream caught from the water since the two fish that James had caught back in 2005 I was incredibly keen and had my first bream session in February, only a few weeks after my ticket arrived through the post.
That was the first of many subsequent blank sessions and Ferry Lagoon is without doubt the hardest water that I’ve ever fished; Indeed I’ve still yet to have a bream from the water despite a good deal of effort every year since I first got my ticket.
Ferry is a difficult water for whatever species you choose to target and is an extreme example of the large (in this case nearly 200 acres), rich, sparsely stocked gravel pits that have the potential to throw up some monster fish. The vast majority of the syndicate members are after the carp, but despite the best efforts from the guys that fish there, that include a number of very experienced and talented carp anglers, on most years you could probably count the number of carp caught on the fingers of both hands.
The bream fishing, however, is much harder still and there were no reports of big bream from the water at all following the James Rust 2005 captures until carp angler Mark McKenna recaptured the record fish in September 2009 at a stunning weight of 22lb 9oz! Since then, and up until this year, there was only one other big bream caught that I am aware of; an 18lb plus fish which I assumed at the time was the same fish as the 16lb plus bream that James caught back in 2005 (although I hadn’t seen any photos of the James Rust 16 to do any comparisons, so had no evidence to back up the theory).
My own results have certainly followed the pattern and, despite the rumour that seems to manifest itself each year, I’ve not caught any bream at all from Ferry and have only landed a handful of other fish during all the time spent targeting the bream from the pit.
So to the best of my knowledge, up until this year, Ferry Lagoon had produced just four big bream. Two of which were definitely the same fish from comparisons I did of photographs of the 2005 19lb 10oz and the 2009 22lb 9oz fish, with the possibility that the 2005 16lb plus had been recaptured more recently at 18lb plus (but with no photos of the 2005 16lb plus capture to prove or disprove either way).
Then this year on the April Bank Holiday Friday night things really ‘kicked off’ big style with two huge Ferry Lagoon bream coming out to Scott Crook during a session’s carp fishing on the pit. At the time the weights were recorded at 18lb 8oz and 23lb exactly (with subsequent scales checks showing the scales to be reading 4oz ‘heavy’ and therefore weights being amended to 18lb 4oz and 22lb 12oz).
I wasn’t too surprised to discover that the biggest fish of the brace was again a repeat of the original James Rust record fish. Although it was very interesting that comparing the photos of Scott’s 18lb plus fish with the photos of the 18lb plus fish from a couple of years ago shows that they are different fish… meaning that there are at least three different big bream to have a go for!
I must confess that I had a few mixed feelings when I heard the news of Scott’s catch early on the Saturday morning, just a few hours after they’d been landed. Obviously I was very pleased for Scott, as despite being very much a carp angler, he really appreciated the significance of the two bream that he’d caught and was delighted to have caught such amazing fish. I was also very pleased to have it confirmed that the big bream were still in existence and hadn’t died off, as it’s my constant worry that they would simply die of old age or get killed by otters at some point and that I’d be left fishing for ghosts. However I must also admit to a pang or two of jealousy, especially as I’d spent four nights targeting the bream in the very same swim just the week before and was planning on getting back to the same area later on that weekend...
It all very much shows that however much we plan and organise our big fish campaigns there’s always an element of fate that can come into play and that each and every piece of the puzzle has to come together and slot into place at exactly the right time, especially when an individual fish is the target. We can get the methods, bait and even the location spot on, but the timing can also be absolutely crucial to the final outcome.
Very few anglers have the luxury of being able to fish whenever they like and for however long they want, myself included, so consideration towards the time of year along with a careful study of the long range and upcoming weather forecasts should all be part of the planning process to make best use of the available time when fishing sessions have to be scheduled alongside everything else.
The news of Scott’s bream catch meant that my planned session on Ferry Lagoon, that had been due to start the following day, needed to be cancelled and a suitable alternative thought through.
Although a huge Ferry bream is my primary target for this spring, I didn’t feel that the fish would be ready to be caught again quite so soon, so an alternative needed to be identified. Fortunately I already had a secondary target lined up, as I had my eye on two separate venues that had the potential to throw up a very big crucian.
Night fishing on one of the venues is strictly controlled and needs to be booked in advance to ensure that the venue doesn’t get over fished due to the popularity of the carp fishing on what is a relatively small water. I felt that it would be too much of a rush to try and organise a session on this particular venue, especially one starting during a Bank Holiday weekend. However the other pit that I had in mind is owned by a very good friend of mine who had very kindly indicated that I could turn up whenever I fancied.
The second venue sounded much more suitable for a hastily re-arranged session, so a quick couple of texts were made to my friend to ensure that I wouldn’t be getting in the way of the carp anglers already fishing and to arrange to meet up at the venue the following morning. I wanted his assistance to re-familiarize myself with the place, as I hadn’t set foot on there for some years, and to get the latest information that might help to pinpoint where any crucians might be found.
With an alternative target and venue identified and confirmed it meant that I needed to quickly swap over a number of tackle and bait items to ensure that I was properly equipped. There’s quite a difference in approach from long range, big pit bream fishing to short range, small water crucian hunting!
Unfortunately the initial crucian session seemed to coincide with a change in the weather to something rather colder and much wetter. I hadn’t really been expecting too much by way of action, as the pit in question has only ever produced a small handful of crucians (if indeed they are crucians), so finding one on a first attempt would probably be too much to hope for; but the deterioration in conditions was unlikely to have helped matters.
Things didn’t really get much better on a return visit, especially with the weather, and again I spent most of the session cooped up in my bivvy, sheltering myself from the elements.
The good thing with a slow start to any campaign is that things can only get better, so I’m looking forward to further visits when the conditions are a bit kinder.
I’ve already hinted that the true species identification of the ‘crucians’ in this particular pit is still to be confirmed. As far as I’m aware, no proper process of identification has been undertaken, so there’s certainly an element of doubt. I’m told that a photograph of a 4lb plus fish was presented to one of the weekly papers quite some time ago and the feedback was that they considered the fish a proper crucian. I’ve seen a single photo of an even heavier fish, but I’m no expert and many of the helpful identification features were not easy to see, so I certainly wouldn’t like to make a guess. However the owner has indicated that he would like to have one of the fish from his water properly DNA tested, so I do intend to take a suitable sample for testing should I ever be in the happy position to do so. In a way it all adds to the mystery and excitement of this particular water.
Spending some time chasing potential monster crucians was certainly a very nice change to the more demanding fishing involved with targeting the bream on the windswept acreage of Ferry Lagoon. However I couldn’t help thinking about that massive great ‘slab’ and I’ve eventually succumbed to my long term obsession and I’ve once again swapped the kit around and I’m keen to get back to the big pit to try again for the bream that I’ve spent years dreaming about.
Let’s see if I’ve got some exciting news to share with you next month?
Until then, “Happy fishing!”
By the Same Author
- Bob Church, Bream Fishing and No Bites: Tony’s Specialist Scene
- The Predation Action Group and a Quiet Finish: Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Chew Valley Reservoir Pike – Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Big Pike and Chub...But Very Little Fishing - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Tactics for Big Chub – Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Bream, a Bite at Last - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Angling Sponsorship – Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Big Carp - Tony’s Specialist Scene
- Carp, Catfish and Roadshows - Tony's Specialist Scene
- Ebro Cats – Tony’s Specialist Scene