Well, any approach would be a start! The fact is, I haven’t wet a line in anger since my last blog. A combination of the school holidays, disturbed work patterns, the swapping of cars, general half-arsed lethargy and a garage full of shite have all contributed to my lack of bank time. Whilst all these factors have had some bearing on my inactivity, it is probably the latter which has hindered proceedings the most – the fact that no matter how lightly I aim to travel, I cannot seem to put my hand on the items required.
Maybe I’ll find the required rod, and maybe even the correct reel, but perhaps it will be spooled with too fine a line and the spare spools happen to be buried under the lawn mower and an old bed?!
Perhaps I’ll find all the major items only to be thwarted by the absence of any floats, leads or feeders?
Maybe I could find the missing items if I was to partially empty the garage onto the driveway? Oh wait…..I can’t…..we have an extra car on the drive which wouldn’t normally be there, and it’s dark outside anyway, as I spent the last hours of daylight ferrying the kids around from one place to the next, and fixing / cleaning the afore-mentioned extra car in preparation for its imminent sale!
After a full day at work, plus this extra bollocks, I really cannot generally be arsed. Recently however, the realisation dawned on me: if I am to carry on in this manner, the whole summer will soon have passed, and then autumn and winter would be upon us, bringing with them a whole new list of jobs, obstacles and excuses not to partake in the act of splodging. I would have to make an effort, sooner rather than later, to locate some appropriate tackle and get on the bank. Fridays offer me the opportunity to finish work early, and although I would have to pick the kids up at some point, I was sure that I could sneak an hour or so on the canal situated close to my place of work. Luckily, I had in mind a “shit or bust” method which would require minimum tackle, could be executed in said time frame, and should offer instant results, although it would require favourable conditions (a warm, calm, sunny day). The method in question: surface fishing for bream.
“But bream don’t feed from the surface”, I hear you scream.
“And they don’t like bright conditions either, you fool”, I hear you mutter.
“And they shy away from calm waters, they much prefer a ripple on the water, you bell-end”.
And you would be right (not to mention a cheeky twat); it does seem fanciful that this method would work. However, I have done my research:
I walk the canal fairly often, and on warm sunny days the bream in question can be seen congregated in relatively large shoals of thirty or so fish – most in the 2lb to 3lb bracket. Indeed, I had walked the bank on a couple of occasions earlier in the week, and the shoals of bream had been present both times.
I know the whereabouts of four such separate shoals, and they are always in the same place should the conditions be conducive. And while locating is one thing but catching quite another, I am encouraged by my recent findings with regard to whether they can be tempted to feed or not. Experiments with bread have shown that while they will not take a floating crust or flake from the surface (I don’t think they can actually see it for a start, as I don’t believe that bream can see directly above them), they will take a slowly sinking piece as it passes through their field of vision. This is hook-free bread, you understand. Never before have I actually tried to catch these basking bream, but the idea was to try and make a free-lined piece of bread flake (or bread disc, as championed by the excellent Jeff Hatt) sink enticingly before them to see if I could tempt one into taking it. A substantial hook should add enough weight to make the bread sink slowly, but if not, I could always squeeze the bread to varying degrees to adjust the density. A shot could be added if this still didn’t achieve the required effect.
So, armed with a short(ish) soft action rod, and a small reel spooled with 2.9lb line, landing net, a small bag of end tackle and polarised glasses, I set off in search of slabs. Conditions were perfect, and the first shoal was easily located. A few pieces of bread were deposited amongst the shoal, just to see what reaction they would evoke. Worryingly, even the slow sinking offerings were ignored. No matter, I tackled up anyway, but the first cast was a bad one, and on the retrieve I didn't notice that the bread disc had fallen off (a consequence of not buying the Hatt standard Warburton's blue). The result was that I wound in too much line, and the hook became caught in the top ring of the rod.
When I'd figured out what had happened, I inspected the "knot" on the shank of the spade end hook for damage. It was mangled, and the hook pretty much fell off in my hand. Not a great start!
Preston man proceeded to tell me how he had fished this stretch for donkey's years. Caught this, that and the other, won this match, that match and the other. Then, he said something which rocked me slightly:
"Common carp these, mate", he said, pointing to the large shoal of what were clearly bream.
Given his supposed experience, and the fact that he was wearing an item of match fishing gear, and given the fact that the fish in front of us were so obviously not carp, his statement really did leave me speechless for a moment or two.
"Erm, I'm pretty sure they're bream", I said after a while.
"Nah, nah," he says confidently, "they're definitely not bream. They're too thick across their backs. Bream are really thin, like dinner plates. The tail's the wrong shape, and bream never swim about on the top. They come up and roll, then they go straight back down on the bottom", he says. "Yep, they're definitely common carp. I caught one on here this week", he said, "caught it on the bottom though".
In no mood for an argument, and wanting him to piss off ASAP, I held my tongue. His mate had wondered off by this point, clearly quite embarrassed by the whole conversation, and I'm glad to say that he had the good grace to leave an expectant angler in peace. Not so Preston man, who then proceeded to start throwing bread at the very fish I was about to attempt (since I hadn't even got started by this point!) to catch!
When he eventually buggered off, I was pleased to see that the shoal of bream was still present, so after being bank side for half an hour, I was ready to make my first cast (the previous feeble effort didn't count!). Imagine my horror then, when I looked up and saw a huge barge heading my way.
Boat traffic is very rare here, but this is typical of my luck at the moment. Well, it made a real mess of the swim, churning up the silt and turning the water a milky coffee colour. Bollocks!
It took around ten minutes for signs of life to appear in the swim again, in the form of tiny roach milling about on the surface. The bream were nowhere to be seen though, and I had to move further up the stretch before I caught sight of them. They were visibly deeper than before though, a good foot and a half below the surface. So, shit or bust, a cast was made. After landing above the shoal, the bread disc slowly began to sink - six inches deep, twelve, eighteen. Then it seemed to hang there, but was largely ignored, at least by the bream. Then the tiny roach began to attack it - none big enough to suck in the whole thing complete with size 10, mind. But then a larger shape approached and the bread disappeared. I struck and felt that satisfying resistance through the soft action rod. Fish on, and a bream at that. The landing net and the rest of the gear was some distance along the bank though - d'oh!
After a quick scrap, a fish of around 2lbs was in the net. Probably one of the smaller specimens in the shoal, but a result none the less. Upon closer inspection, it transpired that this bream was actually a bream / roach hybrid. My camera wasn't set up, and for the sake of the fish I took a couple of snaps with the phone and released it.
As you would expect, the commotion spooked the rest of the shoal, and despite giving the swim a fifteen minute rest, they didn't return. No matter, I had (sort of) succeeded in my very specific quest and it was probably time to pack up anyway. As I did, two familiar figures approached, on their way back with an empty bread bag.
"I bet that barge cocked things up for you, didn't it?", said Preston man.
"Yep, but the fish did come back, and I did catch one", I replied.
"Oh", he says, and in seeing the photo on my phone, he says, "Yep, definitely a bream", as if he's been right all along!
"Actually, I think this one's a hybrid - I can see a bit of roach in there", I said.
"Oh yes", says Preston man, "I can definitely see that now. It's the red fins that give it away".