There are times during ones life when absolutely everything seems against you. Of course this isn’t the case at all, it just seems that way. Business had been more down than up, due mainly to the so called “credit crunch”, our family were bickering more than usual, the cars head gasket had gone and my computer had picked up some sort of spyware, resulting in a blank screen without any icons or start bar. I was not a “happy bunny”. Worst of all it was the middle of August and I’d only managed one fishing trip so far this season and to make matters even worse, I didn’t even get a bite!

Add to that my knee was “playing up” again, just to increase my frustration even further. Several years ago I suffered from a suspected torn cartilage and occasionally, for no obvious reason, it becomes very painful for a few days and then returns to normal. As if this wasn’t enough, the weather forecast predicted more rain. According to the particularly attractive weather girl, a cold front was about to unload yet more wet weather tomorrow, but not until well into the evening, the day was going to be dry and overcast, if a little breezy.

Things were finally looking up. The car had been fixed, Sie had mended my pc and we’d been working together all morning without any arguments. If only the business would sort itself out all would be well in the world again. I now had a choice, stay at home and work on the website, or take a day off and visit the riverbank? Naturally I chose the only sensible option and headed for the “Ten Mile Bank” section of the Great Ouse, north of Ely, one of my favourite local waters.

The upper reaches of this most famous river appear in the angling press almost weekly. Usually in the form of a photo depicting a very happy angler with a broad grin on his face, cradling some monstrous barbel. The middle stretches below Bedford, whilst not featuring in the media very often are equally well known for both their predator fishing in the winter and the wonderful catches of summer bream. Sadly the roach are much harder to come by nowadays.  

For me summer bream fishing is the epitome of “pleasure angling”, very relaxing, having flung in the groundbait you can lean back in a comfy chair (I now have a recliner which has taken me to new levels of relaxation) and wait for the quivertip to sail round. Even the bites are leisurely giving you plenty of time to hit them and usually they don’t put up too much of a fight so most are landed easily. And the icing on the cake, being shoal fish, having caught one chances are you’re probably going to catch another. Also being quite flat in profile they tend to appear larger than their actual size, making trophy photo’s look especially impressive.

It was therefore with bream in mind that I headed for the river. To be honest I would have been happy to pitch just about anywhere, but was hoping to fish the deep waters at Danby Drove, an especially picturesque area that had been kind to me in the past. My luck was in, there were no parked cars on the rough grass and no cars meant no anglers. Not that it would have mattered as there are plenty of swims capable of accommodating dozens of fishermen, but I was not only seeking fish, but also peace and quiet, a chance to recharge the batteries if you like.

Setting up the gear took longer than usual. I struggled to haul the mountain of tackle up the steep bank, my “gammy” leg making each step a wincing experience. On the up side, I was greeted to a stunning aeronautic display, as around fifteen house martins swooped across the river, hoovering up invisible insects as they went. In their determination to feed I was irrelevant and several repeatedly passed overhead, less than a rod length from my floppy hat. As my eyes tried to follow one martin, another would cross its path and I’d try to follow that and then another and so on.

This impossible to keep track of spectacle, only ended when a kestrel hunting about a hundred yards upstream caught my eye. I don’t know what it is about the natural world, but wildlife always puts a smile on my face. For me it’s very much a part of the angling experience. Wonderful.

I’d normally only erect the umbrella if it was actually raining, but in spite of the forecast it was overcast and some of the clouds looked as though they could spill some rain any minute, so erring on the side of caution up went the brolly. I’ve been using it for a couple of seasons now and have to say it’s absolutely brilliant. Unlike my previous leaky model, this one can be pegged down securely, the extra side flaps virtually eliminating any drafts and it’s actually waterproof!

After what seemed like an age, but was probably about ten minutes I was leaning back into my recliner, having cast my ¼oz bomb a third of the way across the river and watching the ever so slightly curved quivertip. I didn’t have to watch it for long and was soon scooping the net under a nice skimmer of about 1lb. Obviously adding sweet corn and in particular casters, as well as that magical bream attracter Brasem, to the groundbait was having the required effect. I could have adopted a fishmeal approach and used trout or halibut pellets instead, but I much prefer the rich, sweet caramel aroma of Brasem to the whiff of rotting fish, especially on a hot summers day!

Many more skimmers followed throughout the day, together with a few better bream nudging 3lb and a couple of nice roach. If it hadn’t been so windy, making seeing the sometimes quite delicate bites almost impossible, I’d have banked an absolute shed full of fish, as they continued feeding all day long. I wasn’t the only one having problems, as the bailiff confirmed that all the other anglers he’d spoken to were also missing bites. It didn’t bother me, after all fishing isn’t supposed to be some sort of race, at least the sort of fishing I do isn’t. Having said that continuing to reel in smashed maggots and casters can be frustrating. Switching to sweet corn on the hook helped a bit, at least in stayed on a little longer, giving me more time to strike.

Around lunchtime the martins returned for their matinee performance, followed by a couple of swallows and a solo kingfisher. During a brief lull in the action my mind began to wander, thinking of such trivial things as what’s for dinner tonight? And why is it that boxer shorts always turn themselves inside out in the washing machine, but if you put them in inside out they stay that way? A slight drop in the wind enabled me to detect the gentle movement on the quivertip out of the corner of my eye and hit it when it moved again seconds later. The fight, such as it was, was completely undramatic and at first when the fish turned sideways as it was drawn over the net I assumed I was landing yet another skimmer bream of around 14oz. But whilst resting the wet landing net between my knees, as I removed the barbless hook, on closer inspection I could see that its shape was, well different. The dorsal fin was more defined and the pectoral and pelvic fins were distinctly reddish pink in colour. But the most striking thing was the almost pearly silver hue to the scales and very large eyes. I recognised it immediately, a pristine silver bream.  

I’ve been aware that silver bream are present in the Ouse and it’s possible I may even have unwittingly caught one before, but would probably have dismissed it as some sort of roach/bream hybrid. However, in Anglers Mail only last week, one reader had sent in a question asking how to distinguish between a silver bream and a skimmer, hence my ability to recognise such a rarity. A quick and rather poor quality photo, due in part to the gloomy conditions and partly to my ineptitude as a photographer and she was slipped back.

In recent years there has been growing interest in this uncommon species, due mainly to the specimens caught from Mill Farm, near Pulborough in West Sussex. I think the current British record stands at just over 2lb from this venue, but if my memory serves me right, it wasn’t that long ago that the record stood at a mere 15oz, which makes my fish even more noteworthy. Either way it was a joy to catch such a beautiful creature, that splash of silver certainly lit up an otherwise grey day and even the boots full of water (yes I managed to dunk both, first the left and two minutes later the right) as I packed up, couldn’t dampen the “feel good factor” that had returned. Later that evening I learned that the business had one of its busiest trading days of the year and to think that yesterday everything looked so bleak.  

Complied by Rob Redfin Littleport Feb-09