I’m a little fed up with carping at the moment. I seem to spend the vast majority of my time either up trees looking for them, or behind alarms waiting for them, so I thought I’d return to one of my favourite day ticket waters to have a go at something else; big bream from Baden Hall.
Baden Hall is owned by Jamie and Debbie Goucher, and has a huge choice to offer the visiting day ticket angler. If it’s peace and tranquility you want, try the Duck Pond tucked away at the top of the site amongst the woods where you can catch big tench and carp. If you want still water barbel to put a bend in your rod, then visit the Old Match Pool where whiskers to almost 10lbs will have an argument with you if you are lucky. The Main Lake consists of more than 60 comfortable pegs and has almost anything you can think of residing within its 10 acres, including carp to more than 20lbs and some whacking bream shoals of fish averaging 3-4lbs! Match anglers can fish The Canals, Doughnut or the Match Lake to take huge weights using a variety of methods.
Today, I’m fishing the Old Dam Pool which was once part of much bigger lake before changes were made some years ago. This water is around 3 acres in size and has depths to 13’. Bankside cover is extensive; reeds, rushes and overhanging trees all combine to make it a beautifully peaceful place to spend a few hours in search of the double figure bream known to frequent the banks.
Reaching the venue, the weather appears fairly overcast with a slight ripple on the water: perfect bream conditions. There are a few fish showing on the surface, but these are mainly carp, although there have been a couple of big swirls as bream have rolled over feeding areas. I’ve chosen to fish peg 19, which gives me a good view over the majority of the lake, an easy 35yd cast into deep open water, but with the option of fishing the nearside ledge which is about 2 rod lengths out where the water changes depth and starts to drop away sharply.
Because I think the bream are already on the feed, I’ve not bothered with the traditional swimfeeder rig, as I know the fish in here will take bait confidently. I want my bait nailed on when the bream take it, so I’ve opted to fish ‘the Method’ using one of Preston Innovations flat feeders and a speed mould. I’ve seen the match lads use them to bag up, but I’ve never used this type before, so I’m keen to get to grips with it.
I’d already mixed my ground bait the previous evening, so it is just a case of adding a bit of lakewater to freshen it up and rehydrate it. Consisting of a jumble of micro pellets, feed pellets, fishmeal method mix, tinned tuna and a splash of vegetable oil, I know it will give off an oily slick as it breaks down and create a plume in the water to draw feeding fish onto my baited patch. Before I add my hook link, a dozen or so quick casts gets a bed of feed down for the bream to find. Once completed, a size 16 hook on a 4 inch link will hold the hook bait.
Hook baits for bream can cause a real headache sometimes. It’s not unusual to get a couple of bites on corn, then a couple on maggots, then 2 or 3 on meat and so on. Bream can be extremely finicky when it comes to picking up a bait with a hook in it! I’ve brought most things with me today; meat, corn, maggots, soft hooker pellets, worms and bread will all take their turn as I try and find out what is going on.
My tackle consists of my trusted Shimano ‘Beastmaster’ medium quiver rod teamed with a 5000 series baitrunner. I’ve chosen to use a 2oz tip today to ensure I get the loaded feeder out accurately, but also to give me enough finesse to see bites developing before the bream take the tip round properly. Too often, I see anglers chucking out coconut sized method balls with a rod that just isn’t up to the job! My mainline is 6lbs straight through to the free running method feeder, then a 3lb bottom completes the set up. I prefer a free running rig when I’m after bream, as the fish will confidently take the bait and hook themselves without resorting to a potentially dangerous ‘bolt rig’.
After casting out and placing the rod on the rests, I tend to sit on my hands; there is nothing worse when bream angling than striking at ‘knocks’ as this often spooks the shoal enough to move out of the area. Wait until the tip wraps round and it should be impossible to miss! Recasting every 5-10 minutes for the first hour or so will ensure the bed of bait is topped up until the bream move in and start to feed with confidence. A couple of vibrations rattle the tip early in the session, so I know the fish are in the swim as they brush against the line; bream are a very deep bodied fish, so often come into contact with the end tackle as they upend onto the bait.
Within the first hour, I’ve had several cracking roach to around 12ozs, a couple of bream up to 3lbs, but none of the bigger fish. I’ve also had a bonus carp, which stirred up the swim and may be the reason the bream appear to have moved on for the time being. I try to have a chat with anglers on the water when I’m there, as regulars can be the best source of information on any water, so it’s off for a wander to let the area settle a bit. The weather has failed to live up to it’s early promise and the sky is now full of glorious sunshine and the wind has dropped to almost nothing, leaving the surface of the water calm; not good for catching bream, so a walk gives me the chance for a tactical rethink!
An hour later and I’m back in my peg, having established that no one else is catching much. The chap on the next peg has had skimmer bream and perch, the lads on the opposite bank have taken a couple of roach and smaller bream between them, but nothing huge. The area I’ve baited gets topped up with more feed, and using my far bank marker and my line clip, my rig is quickly back on the correct spot. I always keep an eye on what else is going on and I’d noticed large patches of bubbles reaching the surface in front of my peg; not the patch where I am fishing, but close in where the bottom shelf drops off in front of me…..
I still wanted to try and see if the fish would return to the feeder, so I stuck at it for a while and took some more small bream. However, the bubbles were now being clouded with silty mud as whatever was feeding close in continued to tear up the bottom. Being crafty, I’d chucked some bait into this area in case the longer line didn’t produce fish and it looks like this might pay off…….
A change to the float seemed like a good idea. I don’t fish with a float rod half as much as I should do, so it was a pleasure to get set up with a 13’ rod and 2 ½ BB crystal waggler. I plumbed up and found just under 3’ or water and a completely flat bottom, so set the float just an inch overdepth to lay the bait flat on the lake bed. The float was locked with 2BB and a no.6 shot as bulk, and 2 no.8 shot were strung down the line to give me some sensitivity. The final no. 8 was placed 3” from the hook to give a lift if the bites became timid.
I fired out some maggots and a few kernels of sweetcorn to add some colour, then flicked the float over the top. The maggot hook bait was taken ‘on the drop’ by another s
tunning silvery roach of 4ozs, which came in stroppily. These are absolutely beautiful fish at Baden, and, with the roach rumoured to reach more than 2lbs, I’ll certainly be back to try and catch one! Maggots brought a succession of roach and small perch, so a change of hook bait to double corn was needed to avoid the attentions of the smaller fish. I knew I’d have to wait a bit longer, so settled back for a few minutes to watch intently. Without warning, the float sailed away and I struck into….nothing! This is something I find happens a lot when I’m faced with roach and bream. I know roach can be exceedingly fast when taking a bait, and that bream can be very clever when it comes to pinching food, but after nearly an hour, I’d had several bites and connected with none of them!
I had hoped that the shotting pattern with a no.8 close to the hook would give some indication with a slight lift when a fish neared the bait, however this wasn’t happening and I couldn’t be sure why. Setting the float an inch overdepth was obviously allowing the fish to feel some resistance, so moving the float down to dead depth, changing the hook for something slightly bigger and adjusting the position of the ‘tell tale’ shot a couple of inches was the next option. Lobbing the float back out to the baited area, I waited for it to cock and settle so just 5mm of bright orange tip showed above the surface. The corn on the hook was there to prevent ‘bits’ snatching it on the drop, and, after a few minutes, the float dipped and sailed away. A sharp lift was met by solid opposition as the rod bent into a nice fish. The lack of immediate fight told me it was a bigger bream and it slowly came to the waiting net. Weighing in at just over 7lbs, I was sure of more to come!
Corn gave me a couple more smaller bream, so changing to meat seemed a worthy option; anyone who fishes regularly for these fish will know that swapping hook baits can often bring consistent action when after these particularly finicky feeders. Lifting into another bite, a second big bream, again of around 7lbs, came to the bank. It appeared that the bigger slabs were holding back just outside the main area of bait and picking morsels off from the edge as the smaller fish charged about in the midst of the bait. It can be a great tactic to fish just off a larger bed of bait as wary specimen fish will hang back to avoid being caught. Further changes gave me more fish and all was going well until something with a bit more attitude moved in. I’d noticed more silt and mud being kicked up so had a suspicion that carp had found my baited patch. With carp to about 20lbs in the Old Dam Pool, my float fishing rig wasn’t up to the job of holding onto one if it took a liking to my offerings; you can guess what happened next……. The float shot under so fast that the rod tip arched over as a much bigger carp charged off after grabbing the bait. I had absolutely no way of stopping it and it smashed my 3lb hook link as though it was thin cotton! The commotion definitely scared away the bream in the swim as I’d seen fish ‘bomb burst’ out of the area as the big carp scarpered across the front of them, so it effectively put an end to the session…..
Bigger baits on bigger hooks and feeding a couple of separate areas certainly allowed me to target the bream effectively. If I’m truthful, it had been quite hard work on a venue I know well, but perseverance and willingness to change tactics rather than just sit and wait had paid off. I ended the visit with seven good bream, a carp of around 6lbs, and a net full of cracking little roach, perch and rudd. Bream can be a frustrating beast to catch, but once they get on the feed and can be kept there, then a good catch is on the cards. Don’t be afraid to change things, as the slightest adjustment can bring reward. Do your homework before you go, prepare thoroughly and get the tactics right and who knows what you could achieve? Baden Hall has several lakes which offer big bream on a day ticket, so if you want to catch in beautiful surroundings with the chance of a double figure fish, why not give it a go?