A short article from the archives, at a time when I was finding one bream lake particularly frustrating – some things never change! Hopefully it might spark something in your own fishing if targeting bream this year.
Bream can be amongst the easiest of fish to catch, or the most difficult. Which makes the fishing when you come upon a venue where the fish stubbonly refuse to get caught even more frustrating than normal! I can catch my fair share from the easy venues, but on the harder venues I would put my results at well below the average, and that has got me thinking. So, please do not take what I am writing as gospel, but more as the thinking behind a different approach that has born some dividends this year, but which needs much greater development. It is also based upon just one venue, so again may or may not be applicable to your own fishing. I hope to have the time to expand some of these ideas at some point. So here goes …
Obviously, every venue is different, but as a very big generalisation I tend to divide bream venues into those where the fish behave like bream, and if you get your location right you are more than likely to catch, and those where even when you are in the right spot you have to be lucky or good to catch. Almost everything I have read in recent years seems to relate to the former venues, where you turn up, fish a good area, look for clear spots, fill it in with bait and await the arrival of the bream. But what if you are on a venue where this doesn’t happen? Perhaps the bream are too few in number, or behave differently rendering this approach less successful? How do we approach venues like this?
There are numerous venues out there though that rarely respond to the bait and wait strategy, and here’s the rub, these venues tend to be the ones that contain the absolutely colossal bream. From what I have read Queensford probably fell into this category, The Cambridgeshire pit that contains the current unofficial record caught by Mark McKenna I would say falls into this category. In fact, I can think of venues in Kent, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, and Shropshire that throw up the occasional huge fish, but where captures are very few and far between and in many instances are accidental captures, or the result of extensive campaigns.
As another sweeping statement if you or other anglers can catch several fish in a session then your venue probably falls into the first category. If the venue produces just the odd fish, often almost at random, then I would suggest that it might fit into the ‘hard’ category.
How can you tell what kind of venue you are fishing?
One reason that venues can be very hard for any species is that they simply contain a very low stock density, making location difficult, and almost a lottery if the fish don’t show. Knowing the history of past captures is key to unlocking such venues as often the fish will get caught from the same area at the same time of the year or under similar weather conditions.
Low stock density is not the only factor contributing to bream becoming difficult to catch though. Certainly, on the venue that I have been fishing half-heartedly for the last couple of years there are plenty of bream given the relatively small size of the lake. Another interesting observation on this lake is that although between the syndicate we have caught quite a lot of bream now, probably something like a quarter of the lake stock, the real monsters that we have seen sunning themselves on the surface have been conspicuous by their absence in catches.
Of course, half the battle is that with quite a secretive group of anglers, and few captures the pattern of behaviour of the bream has been quite slow to understand. Others have been quicker on the uptake and have spent longer on the lake and have caught a lot more than me by putting the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together quicker. The signs are there, you just have to be meticulous in how you put this information together.
My approach on this lake now, when the angler pressure allows, is to spend as much time as possible looking for signs, not just of the fish, but what else is going on in the lake, and then fishing in a more refined way that hopefully won’t push the fish out of the area. Signs vary from bream slicing as they move around the lake, to at times intense bubbling as the fish (bream, carp and tench) root up the bottom, to signs of fly hatches on the surface. Rather than lazily pitch up in a swim I have had to work hard to try my best to get the location spot on every time. The result is that I feel I am getting on the fish more often than not, and that bad habits picked up on other, easier, waters have been sorted out. The results have not improved though, but this is more through lack of fishing time than anything else.
The other part of the equation that I have been looking at is my baiting approach, and compared to other venues I have started to use much less bait on this lake than elsewhere. My thinking is that if I get my location right then the bream are likely to be already present and heavy baiting will only push them out of the area, perhaps for several days. I certainly made this mistake in the Spring where I had fish present in front of me on arrival and pushed them out with a bait bombardment. Fortunately, they returned the following night and I managed to bag one.
My current approach on this lake is to use the minimum of bait, and to avoid the use of spods and marker floats as much as possible. Instead of the big groundbait bombardment I use a scattering of 10mm Scopex Squid boilies put out with the catapult and a couple of pints of maggots, plus a few 3mm Scopex Feed Pellets introduced with a tiny spod spread across the four rods. You will notice that I am using boilies as bait, mainly this is to cut down on the number of tench caught and because the past history of the lake has shown that the really outsized bream have been caught by carp anglers on boilies, coincidence perhaps, as most of the carp anglers use only boilies, but perhaps it is another factor. Time will tell.
It did. I struggled on and never really got to grips with the lake, eventually calling it a day and spending the following spring tench fishing, but that is another story.