Most bream anglers might have a favourite formula for success, but the season sees quite a wide variation in approach. Like roach, bream will gravitate towards areas where birds are fed and free food is introduced. I was once pegged near to an old couple’s back garden in a winter match and watched with interest as the birds were fed prior to the contest. My neighbour had drawn right opposite the garden and fishing directly over the area with bread, catching several bream and skimmers to build a tidy net.
A proper net-filler from a turning bay, which is always classic bream territory.
Bread is an absolutely key winter bait. Tactics can be similar for roach fishing on bread punch, but you can be more liberal with introducing feed and it is well worth trying a bigger hook such as a 12 or 14 with a larger piece of punch.
The method feeder is a good tactic for bigger bream, turning fussy bites into wrap-rounds.
Out of left field: this three pounder took a wet fly six inches under the surface on a baking hot day.
The disadvantage in winter fishing can be the clearer water, which tends to lead to shoal-mates spooking when you start hooking bream.
Basingstoke Canal Fishing Gallery Photos
Basingstoke Canal Fishing
One solution is to rest the swim, perhaps introducing more feed in a separate area, so you have another line to try should the bream shy off your initial feed.
It goes without saying that bream can respond to swim feeder tactics, but another slightly improbable ploy is the method feeder. This can be absolutely lethal in warm weather, when a frame feeder loaded with sticky groundbait and a very short hooklength can do away entirely with fussy, shy bites and see the fish virtually hook themselves. It might seem crude, but if you can get them feeding hard and cast a method feeder, it’s usually a case of ignoring all the taps and simply waiting for the rod to pull right round. Admittedly, a small open-end feeder is better for smaller skimmers, but the method works excellently for the better ‘slabs’.
As for the broader habits of bream, these shy fish are a subject of quiet fascination. I have caught the odd fish on lures during May and June, when the fish start to enter spawning mode and can develop a bizarre aggressive streak.
Perhaps my most unusual canal bream captures have been with the fly rod, however. In baking hot conditions, it is not unusual to find a whole shoal of fish simply basking within inches of the surface. They look docile and uninterested, but on occasion I’ve managed to tempt one of these fish by dropping a slow sinking wet fly into their eye level. Such captures are anything but the norm.
As a final thought, bream fishing often seems at its best during or just after periods of grey, rainy weather. This could be due to the extra colour in the water, levels rising and the canal getting stirred up or simply the species’ greater confidence on duller days.
Whatever the theory, grim skies can equal quality bream fishing.
Dull, overcast skies and a wide section of canal – a good combination for bream. Or so Paul Marks was hoping on this occasion.