For some reason, up until that time I had not really considered fishing for big bream, but this year everything clicked into place and I just HAD to have a little try. No extensive campaigns or anything like that you understand, just a few days out to try and break my duck. My good friend and long time bream angler, Eric Edwards, had warned me of the folly of being drawn into fishing for big bream. The endless blank nights, the incessant missed bites, etc, etc. No, this was going to be just a little dabble.
So where do you go looking for big bream? I don't believe that this will be to much of a problem for anglers in the British Isles, as most parts of the country have some big bream potential, most of which is untapped. I chose to start on a water that was receiving a fair amount of publicity at the time, Larford Lake in Worcestershire. This mature gravel pit contains a good head of bream to over twelve pounds, and more importantly, they are caught on a fairly regular basis, so I was in with a shout of a good fish. Time, as always, was in short supply, so I decided to take a Friday off work and fish the Thursday and Friday nights on the pit.
The results were fairly instant. The first night produced some nice carp, small bream and stillwater chub, and then the second day produced only a solitary run, but it was from the fish I was after, a bream of 10.2lb ˆ lovely! I went home with a smile on my face that weekend I can tell you!
My second little dabble came in September, when I was invited to fish a large Home Counties gravel pit, where a good friend had been catching some very big bream while carp fishing. Although I only had the one night, the fishing once again came together, and a 9 and 11.12lb bream was the result. Now, this in itself shows that big bream can be caught by design with as long as you are fishing the right water. The other interesting fact was that these bream, and many other smaller fish that I have caught in the years past were caught while fishing the 'Method'. Now here is a technique that goes against much of accepted bream fishing wisdom. I was fishing with heavy line, big hooks and insensitive tackle. I was suffering very few line bites, and missed only the very occasional bite. Hardly classic bream fishing. So with this in mind, I hope to expand on the technique and try to theorise why it appears to work so well, so that other might be tempted to give it a go.
THE METHOD The method is simplicity itself. The rig consists of a short hooklength of around five inches with a size eight hook (I normally use the Hutchinson Vice hook, or the Drennan Boilie hook) on one end and a size eight swivel on the other. Next comes a short length of 2mm silicon tube, followed by a Richworth method feeder. The bait is normally fished on a short hair rig tied knotless knot fashion. The bait should sit just below the bend of the hook. The hooklength is normally tied from 8lb Sufix Synergy, as more than the odd carp can be expected to put in an appearance on this rig. This year I have switched to Sufix Magic Touch, in either 6, or 8lb, which is significantly softer than Synergy.
Rods need to be up to lobbing (you can not cast a loaded method feeder in the same way that you can a lead) five ounces of method feeder, which discounts most ledger rods. I have settled on a 2.5lb through actioned carp rod for the job, which is much heavier than I would choose for normal bream fishing, but which is essential when this kind of weight is in use. This rod is coupled with a Shimano baitrunner, which I use for virtually all of my fishing with lines of more than eight pounds.
Indicators at the rod end are fairly simple, an optonic, used in conjunction with a bobbin is all that is required. I normally use a drop of about eight inches, and hit bites when the line pulls tight to the reel.
HOOK BAITS Although it is hardly the classic big bream bait, a lot of waters see huge quantities of good quality boilies over the course of a year, and the bream are not slow in making use of this food source. I have caught many bream over the years on all sorts of boiled baits, but by far my favourite are mini-boilies, and in particular the tench attractor baits that Rod Hutchinson once manufactured. Unfortunately, these are now long discontinued, but I would be happy to fish a 15mm Scopex, or Strawberry boilie. Normally this will be a ready made, as I have found no preference for fresh baits, as I am relying on the baiting up of other anglers for my success. The only baits of mine that the bream are going to get to eat are the ones with the hooks attached to them! You could alternatively use a large salmon pellet, or lump of paste moulded around the hook. Luncheon meat is also a much underrated bream bait in my opinion. What I wouldn't be keen on using with this method is delicate baits, such as bread flake, which is likely to get knocked off the hook, as the fish move the feeder around. I would also avoid unselective baits, such as maggots and worms, as one of the beauties of the method is that it attracts large numbers of small fish, which are likely to get to the hook bait before the target bream. No, given a choice I would go for a boilie of between 8 and 15mm in diameter every time.
GROUNDBAIT My groundbait mix is quite straight forward:
1 measure Van Den Eynde Expo ? measure fish meal ? measure crushed hemp
This is added to water with a good dollop of molasses in a large round bowl and mixed well. I take a great deal of time over my groundbait. It is riddled dry to take out any large lumps. Then added to the water and then left for ten minutes to reach a consistent mix. I then re sieve it through a maggot riddle to remove the lumps. Only at this stage is it ready for use.
Depending on how many fish I expect to be present, I will use anything from five to 20 pounds of wet groundbait per night. This might sound excessive, but believe me, on waters where there are a lot of small fish, it will soon be mopped up. Casters, hemp and a few maggots are also added to give a bit of added food value. I like to have the bait out in the swim before the bream arrive, but not too long before. All groundbaits lighten in water, which can spook the bream, and also because groundbaits are only active for short periods of time after being deployed.
TACTICS As with all fishing, the secret is location, which is something that I am not going to cover on this article! Suffice it to say, that this is not a magical method and you need to be on the fish to catch them, so look for them, ask other anglers, use past form, whatever it takes to get you in the right spot.
Once I have decided where I am going to fish, I plumb the swim carefully, with a 3 to 4oz lead on braided main line. Not only am I interested in the depth of the water, but also the make-up of the lake bed. Surprisingly, all of my bream have been caught on what can only be described as 'rough ground' This has varied from tight to the bottom of bars, to areas of gravel amidst a softer lake bed. Why this should be, I am not clear, but it has always been this rod that has produced the fish, so bear it in mind. Obviously, you need to have a good plumb around to know what you are fishing on before hand, so get that plumbing rod out and use it.
Once I have decided where I want to fish, I will bait up each spot with a couple of pounds of groundbait mixed fairly hard, so that most of the ball will reach the bottom intact. When groundbaiting, using a catapult at medium to long range, it is difficult to avoid making your balls of bait soft enough to break up on the drop anyway, so this is pretty much standard fair. The feeder is then baited by squeezing a ball of groundbait around it quite hard, and then you are ready to go. I tend to leave the bait out for a couple of hours at a time, once I am confident that it is in the right place. A method feeder makes quite a splash, and in shallow water this can be enough to scare the fish away.
WHY DOES IT WORK? I feel that this method is so effective for several reasons: The fish are used to finding patches of groundbait on the bottom of the lake, as when fishing at range the hard balls will reach the lake bed intact. Small fish are attracted to the ball of feed, and in turn, attract the bream. The concentration of food does not spook the fish (at least initially). The self-hooking rig means you don't have to strike at twitches. The large bait means you are not pestered with small fish.
The combination of all these factors in a single method gives me enough confidence to recommend it as a starting point for others to experiment with. Just remember where you heard about it first!
WHERE TO GO To help the budding bream angler get started, below are listed ten of the waters I would expect to produce the goods with this method. I have tried to cover as much of the UK as possible, so there should be a water fairly close to everyone listed, good hunting!
Larford lake, Worcestershire
Tring Reservoirs, Buckinghamshire
Motorway pit, Yorkshire
Layer pit, Essex
St Ives pits, Cambs
Castle Loch, Scotland
Pennington Flash, Lancs
A1 Pits, Notts
Walthamstow Reservoirs, Greater London
Wraysbury 2, Middlesex