It all started on 7th August 2007, at seven o’clock in the morning. Mum & Dad’s house in Ely, Cambridgeshire was the location, in the heart of Fenland. With all those sevens it just had to be a lucky day.
By the time I arrived Uncle Keith, Dad’s brother, was relaxing in a comfy armchair, and supping some earl grey, dunking a digestive and being entertained by my brother Sie’s son, Wilson. At sixteen months he is “full of beans” and an absolute joy, the perfect combination of smiles, mischievousness and energy. Mum and Dad helped load the rest of the gear into my trusty old Mondeo, before Dad made his way to the cathedral for the early morning service.
Plans for the trip had been hatched a couple of months earlier. Keith was visiting the area and staying over night in a nearby bed and breakfast. He’d arranged to have lunch with Mum and Dad and had suggested we spend the following day fishing, before he returned home to Bognor in West Sussex. Sie and me had jumped at the chance and so it was arranged.
The choice of venue was up to me and after considerable thought, I chose the famous “Ten Mile Bank” stretch of the Great Ouse, mostly controlled by the Kings Lynn Angling Association, but with day tickets readily available. Hot spots with historical names include, the Piggeries, Wissey Mouth, Railway Bridge, Browns Farm, Chapel, Modney Bridge, Squeaks Corner, Owl Box and Danby Drove. I’d fished mostly downstream of Modney village and therefore chose the Danby Drove section. I don’t know why, but it seemed that fishing an area none of us were familiar with would some how make it more of an adventure. Of course it could backfire, we only had the one day and Danby meant venturing into unknown territory, for us anyway. All I knew was that the banks had been opened up recently and it was deep. But, hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
A quarter of an hour after waving goodbye to Wilson, who would have come with us if we’d let him, we pulled onto the rough grass next to the farm track, adjacent to the east river bank. By now it was around 7.30 and already getting warm. After months of rainfall and one of the wettest summers on record, the weather was being surprisingly kind to us, dry, sunny and with a light summer breeze, idyllic.
The road runs parallel to the Ouse, so no long walks to your swim, just park and within minutes you can be fishing. The banks are built up for flood defence and are particularly steep here, making lugging all the gear up quite an effort, but all that was forgotten when we laid eyes on what can only be described as an absolutely gorgeous piece of water. Dense reed beds hugged the banks, mostly purple flowers, with the occasional bell shaped white blossom contrasted perfectly with the lush green grass and the almost ripple less water reflected the summer sky perfectly. There was even a small herd of cattle slowly grazing their way downstream opposite. It would have been almost impossible to paint a more picturesque image of the countryside.
We stood and stared for what seemed like several minutes, but was probably around ten seconds, inhaling the atmosphere, before I said something completely inadequate like “not bad eh”, and then like all fishermen our attention switched to the job in hand. Keith picked the upstream peg, Sie the downstream and I set up in between.
The middle reaches of the Ouse hold all the usual coarse species, including zander and some very big carp, but the large shoals of bream that inhabit the deeper areas is what it’s famous for and these were to be our main target. Although I think Keith and me were secretly hoping for some nice roach as well.
My approach to bream fishing is pretty simple, fling in a load of groundbait as soon as I arrive, about a third of the way across the river, then set up my medium feeder rod at thirteen feet, this helps keep hooked fish away from bank side vegetation, assuming I actually catch a fish, and cast out either a groundbait feeder or straight lead. That’s about it really.
And so it was, whilst the rest of the “Bream Team” were threading line through rod rings, pushing bank sticks into the soft ground and assembling various nets, seats and other paraphernalia, I was moulding a dozen jaffa size balls of groundbait fresh from my bucket, ready to be sent into the depths with a gentle under arm throw. Mixing all the balls first, ensures complete accuracy, as the circular ripples on the surface from the first ball provide the target for the next and so on, my aim being to deliver the bait into an area about the size of a large dining room table.
Preparation for any fishing day is always exciting, especially so this trip, as I hadn’t fished with Keith since childhood and fishing with Sie is always an adventure. For me there is one thing above all others to get me in the mood and that’s the visit to the tackle shop the day before and the subsequent mixing of the groundbait.
My recipe is as follows: 1 x bag of continental groundbait, 1 x bag of brown crumb, 1 x tin of sweetcorn, 1 pint of hempseed &Brasem flavour.
For hook bait I had a couple of pints of red maggots, with a few whites as a change bait and some sweetcorn, both flavoured with liquid Brasem. As you can probably tell I’m a big fan of this sweet caramel additive, having caught some nice fish on it and if nothing else it smells a lot better than sweating maggots on a hot summer day!I wasn’t the only one who’d visited the tackle shop. Keith had picked up some pellets, amongst other things as well as a new reel. But, in spite of the modern bait and tackle, he like me, would be pinning his hopes on more traditional baits. I would be using a couple of maggots on a size 16 to start with to get things going, switching to corn later in the day, hoping to winkle out a larger specimen. Keith would also change tactics throughout the day, but his preference is to fish “the bread” on a sliding float rig, the proper way to do it, according to him. I must admit there is something magical, almost hypnotic, about watching a float, waiting for it to dither before sliding beneath the surface.Sie, on the other hand doesn’t bother with the tackle shop. He just heads for the kitchen, to concoct some sort of foul smelling paste. Now Sie is not a regular angler, the only time he fishes is with me a couple of times a year, if that, and when we do go, he always takes the same approach, massive fish, or nothing. Invariably he catches nothing. In fact his biggest fish to date is a grey mullet of around 3lb, caught from Brighton marina more than twenty years ago. The paste recipe remains a secret, thank God, but contained octopus and prawns as well as some other highly aromatic ingredients, which thankfully we weren’t privy to. It absolutely reeked. In fact if I close my eyes I still get a faint whiff of it now!
So there we were, after about twenty minutes or so, all three of us leaning back in our chairs, having made that first cast. Every fisherman will know that heavenly moment, when all of life’s annoyances, pressures and worries just evaporate, leaving behind just the fishing, nature and a feeling of complete relaxation. That was until my 1oz quivertip trembled before being pulled round a good couple of inches, enough for even me to hit and before I new it I was reeling in a pristine skimmer of half a pound or so. The first of approximately twelve to fourteen pounds worth taken that day, not exactly what we were hoping for, but great sport none the less and a fish first cast is always a huge confidence booster.Although I missed the next bite, my third gave a more spirited fight, resulting, because of the clear water, in a superbly coloured river perch of around a pound and a quarter. Keith popped over to check out the fish and we both gazed at the bold stripes and crimson fins before she was returned, unharmed, to fight another day.Inevitably, after making some sarcastic comment about me slaying every fish in the river, my swim died completely. During a cigar break, a frequent occurrence throughout the day, I seem to remember saying to Sie that I think I’d peaked too soon, to which Sie replied that he hadn’t peaked at all! This had me in stitches for several minutes. Meanwhile, Keith had begun catching skimmers and some nice roach. Sie of course, was still using a large lump of paste on a size eight hook and the only thing he was attracting was swarms of flies.
And so we continued throughout the morning with Keith and I landing silver fish and Sie remaining fishless. That is until around eleven, when suddenly I heard those immortal words, “I’ve got a good un” from upstream. Looking round, all of a sudden up shot this beige baseball cap with Keith underneath, holding a stick of carbon with a very healthy bend in it. Reeling in, I made my way over, shouting at Sie to bring his video camera to record events, but by the time we arrived it was all over. Keith was kneeling down unhooking a superb bream of over 4lb. Unlike the pale 2lb’er he’d landed earlier this lived up to it’s name, deep bronze in colour and not a mark on it. I don’t know who was more pleased him or me? I was certainly a little relieved, as he’d travelled a long way and I’d hoped we’d all catch a decent bream. Sie made us laugh by saying something like, “it’s a fish, I don’t think I’ve seen one of those before”, which considering his bait, phew, is hardly surprising and “what a beauty” and “it’s a cracker” seemed equally inadequate to describe such a creature, but they were the best we could come up with. A quick photo and we returned to our respective pitches with renewed enthusiasm. Keith sat back down to a Cornish pasty with a contented grin on his face, not only had he landed our target species, but on the slider with bread flake. Life just doesn’t get much better than that.
The sight of a great crested grebe and her three chicks working their way upstream and catching a reasonable roach as they passed by, spurred me on and by complete fluke five minutes later I was netting a good roach of about 1lb. In contrast Sie was struggling and spending more time filming than he was concentrating on the fishing. As it turned out I was very glad he’d got his camera with him. Around mid afternoon I had yet another bite, much the same as all the other bites I’d had that day, the only difference being I had a decent fish on. The feel and weight told me I was attached to a bream and not a bad one. Luckily Sie had seen me stand up and was there in seconds recording the entire fight. Fortunately Keith had also seen the commotion and arrived at the same time and was ready with the net. Bream are not the greatest fighters in the world, but this one obviously hadn’t read the script, repeatedly diving deep, in spite of the considerable pressure I was exerting. Therefore we’d only had the briefest of glimpses before she came to the surface for the last time to be quickly netted. Keith’s, “Ho, ho, ho, ho, he’s a biggy. That’s the biggest today” and Sie’s, “that’s a beauty”, said it all.
Of course we had to weigh her and as I wetted the weigh sling, my throw away comment, “that’ll make it go heavier” had us all laughing. She went a very satisfying 5lb 12oz on the scales. I was delighted it was one of the biggest river bream I’d ever caught and our target species. It is always immensely rewarding to catch your intended quarry and made particularly special as all three of us shared the experience together.
The only thing preventing this from being the perfect day was Sie’s lack of fish and although he’d caught a small skimmer earlier, him saying that”we can’t go now I’ve still got some sweetcorn left” meant that he was still hoping to get one. Time was ticking on. It had just gone four and our luck was running out. If Sie was going to catch, he needed to catch now and it was just as these thoughts were drifting through my mind that I heard……..Bob, Bob, BOB!! Sie was yelling, “I’ve got one”. By the time Keith and I arrived it was almost ready for the net, thank God. I’ve never been so relieved to see a fish landed. Miraculously it weighed 5lb12oz, the same as mine.
The photo says it all, his biggest bream ever. In fact his biggest fish ever, bloody fantastic and caught on sweetcorn, the same as mine. Both Keith and me were very relieved that he didn’t catch it on his homemade paste, or we would never have heard the end of it. All of us fished on for another three quarters of an hour or so, but we’d had the best of the sport and when we finally packed up our gear, it was three tired, but very happy anglers that made our way back to the cars. Just as we were about to depart, having said our goodbyes and already agreed on another trip in the autumn, I think it was me that said, “we’ll have to call ourselves The Bream Team from now on” and it kind of stuck. Over the ensuing weeks countless emails were sent and received and photos exchanged. I even had three coffee mugs printed with our own logo, one for each of us. Both my fellow anglers were surprised and pleased with their memento, as they were with the metal bream mission badge that arrived in the post from one of the monthly coarse fishing magazines a couple of weeks later. The badges are awarded for any fish caught over the target weight, which for bream was 3lb 8oz. Sie had always wanted one, so I decided to enter all of our fish and we each received a badge. Unfortunately none of our photos appeared in print, maybe next time!
Complied by Rob "Redfin" from Littleport