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Alton Amazing April

11 Apr

It’s been a long hard winter this year, with daytime temperatures rarely above 8c, and nights often dropping below zero. The cold north easterly had a bigger impact on Alton than I’d expected, and fish location was difficult to say the least.  The best I had to show for my many 48-hour sessions were two or three winter weary bream.

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However, this Sunday (9th April) it all changed.  And boy did it change, with the midday sun bringing a scorching 25c.  This – like many of us – was just what I was waiting for. With the dial reading 23c at 3pm (15:00), I headed for a shallow area I’d fancied for some time and arrived around 4pm on Sunday. With the nearest car park rammed, I made a quick check to see that my fancied – off the beaten track swim – was still free. It was, so I headed back to the car, loaded the barrow, and arrived in my swim at 4:30.  With nearly 4 hours of light, I decided to have a good mark around (depth checking for those overseas unfamiliar with this term).  From a couple of previous visits, I had a reasonable idea of the overall depth.  However, having been plagued by tufted ducks munching their way through my baited area on my prior excursion, I fancied fishing closer in. One thing I have noticed with this species of duck is that although they seem to nonchalantly ignore us, while eating their way through our bait, they won’t come within 50 yards of the bank.

With a fine gravel and sand bottom, I was wary of fishing too close, because no matter how quiet I was the fish would pick up my presence.  Besides, I have a belief that no self-respecting double figure bream will come within 40 yards of the bank (no doubt, there are exceptions and one of these I will come to later). The maximum depth I had found recently was just over 11 feet – 11 feet 5 inches to be precise. Yeah right, I can hear you thinking. Well, here’s the thing, the match angler in me has a need for detail. Like the rest of you, I use a marker float.  However, I use a small silicone bead above my float. This way, I can change the depth accurately, and identify even the smallest of variants along the bottom. I am plumbing at 50 plus yards if you like. See illustration:

depth

I set my maker at 12 feet and cast it out to around 80 yards. Interestingly, the float lay flat, suggesting it was shallower. Eventually, I found it to be 10 feet. I eased my float in, checking the depth every few feet – something you can do with this set up.  As expected, I found just over 11 feet at 16 rods (64 yards). For me, this was at a distance where the Tufted ducks would have a field day. Again, I started easing the rod in and found it consistent with only the occasional variant, right into about 40 meters. Now this is where luck plays a part. With my bait ready, spod and rods all set at 40 meters, I decided to have a little play around with the marker. Am I glad I did, as I eased the float back a few feet, it vanished. I’m going on a bit here, sorry. In essence, I’d ‘stumbled upon a 14-foot deep gully, which was 30 meters long and 10 meters wide. It had a nice clean sandy bottom, perfect for big bream.

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I baited up with around 6 kilos and set up to fish along the far side of the gully. I cast my first rod out, and found myself questioning why it was taking so long to tighten down. (I like a tight line when fishing for big bream). With my rods out, I wasn’t happy, because anyone who knows me, knows I have a need for eye-ball accuracy when fishing. I sat mulling over why it had taken me so long to tighten everything up. It was bizarre, as if I was somehow dragging my feeder in. Now even though the bottom was smooth, I was using 60-gram feeders fully loaded with bait. Not dragging them in, that’s for sure.  Then the penny dropped – I am sure you’re ahead of me here – the feeder was rolling down the far shelf/slope. Even though I didn’t want to cast the marker back out over my bait, I had no choice. I found the slope dropped 3 feet over a 6-foot wide shelf. In my opinion, it was a perfect area to fish.  So, I changed all my feeders to 90 grams in-line, flat-bottom feeders. It did the trick.

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I would like to share with you my opinion on fishing near to a shelf, and in particular, the shelf on the far side of a gully. First up, the fish only has to make one movement before you get a good indication. Put another way, on a flat bottom, they have to tip up to get the bait, then sit upright and finally turn to the side before you get anything more than a single beep. On a shelf, not only is the bait right in front of their eyes, for the fish to take it requires one movement – sucking it in and turning away – that results in a ‘single-toner’. In addition, with a steep shelf like this, as they grab the bait, they dislodge the feeder and hook themselves. Bingo 😉

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On the subject of bait, I’d managed to get my hands on some of Nash Baits ‘Key Cray’ and that was my mainstay for this campaign. I am actually excited by this bait because it is the first bait that has a fresh-water fishmeal as its primary ingredient. All previous boilies have used marine source fishmeal. My mix was 2 kilo of brown crumb, 1 kilo of crushed Cray boilies, 1 kilo of crushed corn, 1 kilo of flaked maize (well cooked) and 1 kilo of Cray meal.  I had plenty more bait as back up just in case this fish were on the munch.

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I had one rod on my reliable hair-rigged lobworm, one on a rack of corn and one on a 12mm Key Cray boilie. At 9:30 pm the action started, first fish being a scraggy 7lb bream. One that looked like it had been through a hard winter.

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By midnight, I had three fish, two bream of a similar size, and a mint carp – stocked last October – that went just over 13lb.  Interesting point here, the biggest stocky went in at 11lb, so this fish had put on 2 lb over winter, which is a good sign of things to come. Besides the three fish, I’d also had a couple of indications, all of which came on the Key Cray. Although, I believe in this bait – even though this was my first time with it – I was shocked I had not even had a twitch on the worm or corn. So, with that I mind, I switched the corn rod to Cray.

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Over the next 48 hours, I had 16 bream with the best being a comfortable double, which was my biggest bream from Alton so far.  The two doubles I had were the perfect body shape to get much bigger.  I also had three carp, two stockies, and a resident mirror that was an upper double. It turned out to be a thermal underwear free, excellent session, greatly appreciated after the hard, cold, nomadic winter that I endured. Interestingly, all fish fell for the Key Cray.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my Alton exploits as much as I take pleasure in writing about them.

Go-Catch SteveD

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9 responses to “Alton Amazing April

  1. Robert Taylor

    April 11, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Another great read. Good tip about exact depth finding. Keep it up. Good angling Steve.

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  2. Denis Marks

    April 12, 2017 at 7:41 am

    Shows Steve’s methodical approach to his fishing pays off, preparation is all important. Well done Steve.

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  3. Kev Pilgrim

    April 17, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Hi Steve, good to hear that the Bream are starting to show, I`ve been fishing Alton for the last sixteen years mainly in the river close season and must say that my catch rate has dropped considerably over the last five seasons. The fishing was never easy ( that`s the main appeal to me ) but bites and fish on the bank these last few seasons have been few. When I first started fishing Alton the water would be black with huge shoals of Bream at the Lemons Hill Bridge area during April and May as they moved into the shallower water to spawn, something I have not seen for a few seasons now. I guess it must be much different for you aswel, not the water it was during your match fishing days of the eighties and nineties. I think the new night fishing rule will help improve the catch rate but I don`t think the stock density is anywhere near what it was twenty years ago. Hope to meet you on the bank in the coming weeks, don`t know if you will remember me but I met you and Wayne at Hemingford one evening and you were kind enough to pass on loads of tips regarding areas to fish and what baits to use. I did half a dozen fruitless trips there but the distance I had to travel ( over two hundred miles round trip ) and the time involved made it impossible to carry on long term. Alton is a mere one hundred and forty mile round trip so much easier. LOL. Anyway well done on your recent captures I`m sure it will continue for you with all the time and effort you have put in over the last six months, hope to see you soon.
    Kev.

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    • stephenmdavis571

      April 18, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Hi Kev. I do remember you well from Hem… An interesting aspect to the lower stock levels in Alton, is that you can focus – successfully – on the bigger bream. It is no longer a numbers game, whereupon you have to wade through countless 6-8lb fish. That said, there are still a lot of fish. The night ticket is a must in the shallower areas because the clarity of the water have made these fish nocturnal. You can watch all day and only in the last 30 minutes of light do you get to see just how many fish are there. The carp stocking has and will continue to help too. I have 3 targets this year, a 15lb bream – 10lb tnech and 30lb carp, all of which are a challenge, but very achievable. I was talking to Wayne yesterday about the bream and finally I have found some fish that are mostly over 9lb, which have the right shape and age to become very big. That said there are without doubt big doubles amongst the shoal… I hope to catch you on the bank soon mate. Generally Wayne and I are there sunday evening til tuesday. Cheers Buddy Steve

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  4. Kev Pilgrim

    April 18, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Hi Steve, good luck with your 3 targets, 15lb Bream will be a challenge but they are definately in there, 30lb Carp again won`t be easy ( there are good numbers of large Carp in the Nature Reserve at Lemons Hill this time of year ) i spotted 2 huge fish in the bay at Lemons main car park last May, you could have put saddles on them they were that big. I think the 10lb Tench might prove to be the hardest challenge never heard of Tench anywhere near that size coming out but again you might know different. I think to catch any of your 3 targets this season would be a massive achievement but it`s good fun trying, all the best for the rest of the season.
    Kev.

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    • Stephen Davis

      April 18, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Kev, there’s been a few tench in the 6-7lb bracket captured by accident, by the roach anglers. Hem taught me a few tricks that may work… The thing is, the fish are in there, it is just a matter of finding where the right size fish hang out. I think with the Bream, the BIG fish are less migratory and tend to stick in smaller shoals and spawn near where they live – if at all, once a certain size. At 340 acres, it is never going to be easy, but compared to Hem, anything is easy. I am confident about a 15 bream and 30 carp, tench – as you say – is another ball game. See ya on the bank sometime soon I hope… If ya up for a 2 nighter, let me know. I always fish sunday til tuesday, so if ya can do that, then let me know… PM on my facebook forum and we can sort something out for sure. Steve

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  5. Kev Pilgrim

    April 18, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for the offer Steve, i`ll stay in touch.
    Kev.

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