Bream, Crucians, Floods and Blanks: Tony’s Specialist Scene
It’s a tough life being a big fish angler - this month sees Tony forced to change plans yet again in his current struggle to connect with big fish.
May is usually a month that sees me well into my main spring campaign. I would normally be concentrating my efforts on one specific water and putting in the maximum effort that circumstances allow. However this year, as I’ve already indicated in my last piece, things were happening outside of my control that necessitated the odd change of plan.
After staying away from Ferry Lagoon for a long as I could stand after Scot Crook’s capture of the record bream, I was soon back on the banks of the huge gravel pit hoping to land one of the pit’s bream for myself. I’d initially intended to fish elsewhere for a period of about a month or so but the magical pull of the pit proved to be too strong and less than three weeks later I was standing there looking out over the windswept waters once more.
There had been some interesting feedback in the forum thread associated with my last piece, including a thought provoking question asking why I had felt it necessary to switch my attention away from Ferry Lagoon and to fish elsewhere for a while immediately following the capture of the record bream.
The query was along the lines of: why did I feel that the fish wouldn’t get caught again for a period and wouldn’t it be more worthwhile concentrating on the area of its capture immediately after, as at least there was a good pointer to its whereabouts?
The question provoked some great responses on the forum itself, but I thought that I’d try and add my own response here, as it as something that I’d done quite instinctively at the time and hadn’t really thought much about. So this would be a good opportunity to analyse my own thinking behind the decision… and to share it with you.
So looking back at my thoughts at the time, I certainly didn’t feel that the fish would be willing to feed strongly (and therefore be in a likely position to pick up a hookbait) in the week or so immediately after capture. I have no solid evidence to back up this theory, as I have had experiences of certain fish, mainly pike, being recaptured only hours after being caught earlier in the day. However most other examples of individually recognisable fish, especially of a specimen size (and here I’ve mainly got carp and barbel as examples), there has often been reasonably lengthy periods of time between one capture and the next visit to the bank.
I remember back to when I used to regularly fish for the carp at Elstow Pit 1. The pit has a relatively large area of shallow reeds that the carp love using during periods of warmer weather, but which also acts as a useful safe sanctuary area for any fish that want to stay out of the way for a while. The area of the reeds could be fished, but the actual swim was situated on the bank opposite the reeds themselves and for fish welfare reasons rigs had to be cast across towards the reed bed and baits fished in front of the reeds and not within them. There was a high bank area on the bank behind the reeds that often afforded a fantastic view of the carp that were resident at the time; most especially when the water was clear and the light was just right you could see the fish in great detail and often pick out the more readily identifiable individuals.
It was very noticeable that following getting caught many of the pit’s big carp would make their way to the back of the reeds to have a good old sulk for a few days before venturing back out into the pit. Friends and I have also noticed similar behaviour with big barbel, which after a few hours recovery in the nearest cover to where they’ve just been returned, often seem to seek out the quiet areas of heavy cover/snags to sulk in for several days, or even longer, before settling back to more regular behaviour. (I’ve witnessed this several times on a number of rivers too – Ed.)
Although I can’t think of any examples that would demonstrate that big bream are particularly prone to a period of sulking after capture, I think it was mainly these kind of observations with carp and barbel that lead me to conclude that I’d be better of leaving the Ferry Lagoon bream for a while before fishing for them again… that, and perhaps just a minor concern that if I was fortunate to catch the record fish very soon after its last trip to the bank, then it might somehow lessen the value of the achievement for me personally.
However, whatever the reasons at the time, it wasn’t too long before my self imposed exile was over and I was back to do battle once again!
The first session back on Ferry was typically uneventful and apart from the odd tufted duck inquiry as far as I was aware my baits remained undisturbed. However my next session was not so uneventful, but not really for the best of reasons.
The following trip to the pit was a planned three night session. For ages leading up to the trip there had been an awful lot of rain. In fact large areas of the country had seen some very significant rainfall for a period of several weeks and many rivers across the country, despite being very low less than a month before, were now in a state of flood. Ferry Lagoon is one of several pits in the area that lie within the flood plain of the middle/lower reaches of the Gt. Ouse and even before the start of my trip there was some concern that the area would be flooded if the river had come over its banks somewhere in the vicinity.
As it was, several pits in the area were starting to become unfishable due to rapidly rising water levels, but while Ferry was fishable for most of the accessible bank, the water level was also rising at a steady rate due to both the natural draining of all the rainwater across the sodden ground and the vast amounts of water gushing in from the pipe connected to the nearby drainage ditch.
The RSPB own the pits and land in the immediate area and the day following my first night of the session the local wardens officially closed the site for health and safety reasons due to the continuously raising water levels, which had now started to flow across many of the paths and tracks in the area. Fortunately they appeared to have overlooked me and I continued to fish on undisturbed. I say ‘undisturbed’, but to be fair the Ferry Lagoon bailiffs were very good to me and despite the fact that I was the only one willing to fish the pit in the circumstances they dropped by, or phoned, several times during the session to see how I was and to keep me informed of the latest water level situation in the surrounding area.
There was also a funny incident during the session that helped to make the whole experience even more memorable than it was slowly becoming. I was scheduled to have a telephone conversation with my good friend Chris Ball, which would then go on to form the basis of a magazine feature that he was putting together.
Chris knew that I was bream fishing at Ferry, so we’d arranged for us to have the call one day during the late morning period when any fish related action was at its most unlikely and would also be before the usual time of day when I’d be preparing the bait positioning etc. for the night ahead. On the day the telephone call started as planned and we were well into the call ‘agenda’ and I had just finished answering a question from Chris on what kept me motivated on the hard, low stocked waters like Ferry, when totally out of the blue, a bite alarm suddenly went off!
Chris clearly heard the alarm over the phone and so wasn’t offended as I quickly explained that I needed to terminate the conversation to deal with a bite!
Unfortunately the culprit turned out to be a tufftie that had snuck in and snaffled one of my baits while I’d been distracted on the call, so I didn’t have any exciting news to tell Chris shortly afterwards. Chris made me laugh though when he explained that the excitement of hearing the alarm go off over the phone had caused him to suddenly exclaim one or two rather rude words that caught the attention of his lovely wife Lynne and so he’d had to explain to her that such things couldn’t be helped when he’d been witness to the potentially historic event of a bite alarm sounding off at Ferry Lagoon!
Leading up to the final night of my session I knew that I didn’t have long to go before I needed to be packed up and away before both my swim and the car park disappeared under water. As it was the water level in the pit was already over the bank everywhere, including the front of my swim which is usually a good way clear above the water during normal conditions. I’d already moved the rod rests back to help keep the rods and alarms out of the water and packed up all non-essential kit and taken it back to the car, but as darkness approached and the water continued to rise I made sure I set the alarm on my phone to go off every hour and a half so that I could regularly survey my swim and the route back to the car to ensure I didn’t suddenly get very wet and/or get cut off completely.
Perhaps not surprisingly I didn’t sleep too well that last night and eventually, not long after dawn, I was making my final preparations to leave. Water was starting to invade the bivvy itself and I knew that it would be only a short while before things got tricky in the car park as flood water had already started to creep across the track leading into the parking area itself.
As I finally reeled in and packed away the remaining items I knew that the floodwater would continue to get worse before things in the area started to improve and that once again I’d have to alter my fishing plans for the remainder of the spring. In fact Neil the head baliff at Ferry rang me a few days later to inform me that where I’d been bivvied up and even where my car had been parked were now under several feet of water!
Fishing wise the rest of the month has pretty much been taken up with a fishless return to the crucian pit and a more social carping session.
After the initial unsuccessful trip earlier in the year to the pit with the potential for a huge crucian, I decided to try and alter my approach slightly and fished a couple of swims that didn’t have a history of any previous crucian captures. However the swims chosen were based on the some really attractive close-in features that I hoped to further improve with a bit of weed raking to ensure the bottom was clear of any weed/debris and offered good presentation over clean gravel, but still flanked by either weed or cover/snags. The only problem with taking this approach on this particular pit is narrowing the choice down a bit, as the whole place looks like one giant crucian swim! I did eventually manage to choose a couple of swims to experiment with this new tactic, but unfortunately, even with all the hard work that raking a swim can sometimes entail, no bites were forthcoming.
The gravel pit that my friend Steve and I had chosen for our carp orientated social session had also been affected by the recent flooding and had still been closed to anglers for safety reasons only a week or so prior to our visit. However the water levels were now well down on what they’d been previously when the two main pits on the complex and the surrounding river had all been joined together at one point.
News was that there had been some significant movement of fish, especially carp, between the pits and the river and there was plenty of concern with the local carpers that some of the better fish had escaped into the river. What was soon to become very evident was that ‘our’ pit, which previously had a fairly low carp stock, had received a number of very new arrivals during the worst of the flooding in the shape of a gang of very small carp, probably from recent stockings to the pit next door.
The bizarre outcome of this was that the original resident male carp in the pit had become very excited about the new arrivals, which presumably were predominantly females, and had managed to get themselves worked up into a spawning related frenzy despite the low temperatures. It was really quite strange to be sitting there wrapped up in several layers of clothing to try and keep warm in temperatures that barely crept into double figures at the warmest part of the day and to look out across the pit to a bunch of crazy carp going through the spawning rituals!
I’d never fished this particular pit before, but Steve had had plenty of success there in the past, catching nearly all of the better fish at some point. However despite Steve’s great advice and our combined best efforts we both managed to blank.
Since the close of the season on the rivers my spring campaign and stillwater fishing was so far proving to be quite a struggle. I’d been forced to swap plans several times and I’d yet to land a fish of any sort. My fishing related plans for later in the year were also likely to be impacted due to the announcement that CEMEX were due to sell off the angling side of the business.
Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate to receive a complimentary Gold Card, which I’ve been very grateful for as it had enabled me to fish a number of sessions on some great waters that I’d otherwise not have had the opportunity to fish. I’ve been careful not to take too great an advantage of the privilege and have tried to avoid the more popular venues at busy times. But despite a reasonably limited amount of fishing I’ve taken three different PB’s from CEMEX controlled venues over the last couple of years, with PB catfish, eels and grass carp coming from different waters in their portfolio.
I’d certainly hoped to do some more eel fishing in the summer months on one particular venue and perhaps try one or two new waters on the ticket that I’d never fished before; but following the news of the sell-off it is looking unlikely that any complimentary Gold Cards will be issued for the forthcoming season.
With this in mind and the fact that my current ticket is due to expire very shortly I’ve scheduled a quick session on Horton Boat Pool while I’ve still got the opportunity. It’s a water I’ve never fished before, but I’ve had a good look at the place when I’ve fished the lake next door and it looks like a fabulous place to spend a couple of days. The catfish in the Boat Pool have been resident for many years and have grown consistently well over a good period of time, with the biggest fish now going over 80lb, so there’s even a chance of a PB!
I’m really looking forward to the session and I’ll let you know next time if the Boat Pool was to provide a fond farewell…
Until then, “Happy fishing!”
By the Same Author
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