For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fishing large pits and reservoirs, primarily for big bream, tench, and “unnamed” carp. Like many venues that contain specimen fish in this category, they invariably hold a lot of small and mid-sized fish of the same species. The hard bit has always been sorting out the better-quality fish. By putting in long hours, and trying numerous baits and methods, I’ve developed a few tricks. There have been some frustratingly difficult times along the way, but anyone who knows me, knows I like a challenge. Besides, I have found that the harder the venue, the more you’ll learn.
So when I moved on to Alton Reservoir, I reckoned it wouldn’t take long to get to grips with, firstly, the size of the place, and secondly finding a way to cherry-pick the specimen fish and in particular, the bream. I started fishing it at the end of summer knowing we were not far away from the difficult winter months. I surmised that I would learn more during this period. With an array of methods, tactics and baits up my sleeve, I worked my way through the autumn, into the winter and out the other side. Although there were a few reasonable successes along the way, I felt I was scratching the surface. I reckoned that at 340 acres, with the average, regularly caught bream being 6-8lb, there must be a number of bigger fish.
The average sized Alton Bream
Locating the fish was an obvious issue, but once they were found, I had to work out the right bait and rig. In seven months, I’ve had around 200 bream. Frustratingly, most of the bream have been in that 6 to 8lb bracket, with only a couple of doubles to show for my efforts. I also managed a few reasonable carp along the way. The way I set out for big bream, invariably attracts the attention of carp. However, over the months, I have discovered something quite interesting on Alton. The carp habitually swim around with the bream, and I think this is because of the size of the resident pike. For sure, the carp are now too big to be eaten. A bizarre idea, but I am now thinking that if they’ve grown up being scared of predation, it is not unreasonable that it would stay in their psyche – safety in numbers, I guess.
Except for six bream and one carp captured on boilies, all the rest fell for natural baits such as maize, sweet corn, worms, and bread. Although many would consider my efforts successful, I wasn’t happy. Increasingly frustrated and determined to unearth an alternative big-fish-bait, I consistently used boilies on two of my rods. Fruitlessly, I’ve tried every flavour, colour and size you can imagine, all to no avail. I was beginning to think it was going to be a numbers game, where I had to work my way through the small fish, hoping to snare a decent one along the way.
A significantly bigger bream
In mid February, I found an area off the beaten track with all the hallmarks of big bream territory. Deepening off gradually, the bottom seemed relatively flat with a dip at 60-yards. Just beyond this, lay a 20-yard wide gravel bar running parallel to the bank. Then at 80-yards, it deepens off again, creating a perfect area. Having seen some decent fish role at first and last light, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with several 6-8lb fish that were showing up. Each time, I left feeling I should have done better. I had the right rigs, the perfect area, and it would seem a good number of big fish in front of me. Other than one or two doubles, I just couldn’t catch them in numbers.
Just before darkness, won’t be long now 😉
Then a couple of weeks ago, Nash released the “Key-Cray,” a freshwater sourced fishmeal, as opposed to the most commonly used marine source. For me, it was a no brainer, and even before I opened the bag, I just knew I was onto a winner, reckoning the fish would see this as a natural bait source. I have now fished two 48-hour sessions using this bait and what a game changer it has proven.
A couple of recently stocked carp
I have had seven carp, including three of the ridiculously elusive resident fish. However, it has been fishing for the bream where I’ve witnessed the biggest improvement. Of 31 bream captured in the last two sessions, 13 of them have been double figure fish, with only a couple in the common 6-8lb bracket and the remainder between 8-10lb. In any book, that is a ridiculously immense improvement in catch rate.
A nice lumpy two-tone
Game changer, now this is what I am after…
And yet two more proper sized bream, thanks to the “Key-Cray”
So the question has to be, was it due to my latest rig, the location, or the bait. Well, here is the answer – my pal fishing next to me, on alternative baits, barely had a beep. Towards the end of the session, he reluctantly switched baits, and although his rig was different to mine, he started getting indications within minutes.
Give them what they want, where they want it, and you will catch them.
Before I go, here is the rig that is working for me. You will see a number of new components, mostly protecting against cut-offs from the resident zebra mussels. In addition, this rig casts perfectly and lies superbly on the bottom, creating excellent presentation.