The Tidal Trent AddictionBy Lewis Gaukrodger

Grazy’s Glorious 16thBy Grazy

The Cheese Paste RevolutionBy Christian Barker

Bream On Betaine ProBy Terry Theobald

The Barbel Society Barbel ChallengeBy Jerry Gleeson

In The Press


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Hook Bait Co. owner Darren McCann has recently tweaked the mix on the already successful Spicy Fish Pro range which has already helped put a significant number of specimen fish on the bank so far this season. Darren said “I have added Atlantic Salmon to it plus a couple of inducers as well but that’s not to say the original Spicy Fish Pro won’t do the business because it’s still a top quality bait”

Grazy Roberts with a 12lb 8oz barbel caught on Spicy Fish Pro boilies from the Hook Bait Company

Field tester Grazy Roberts was sent the first batch of bait this week and has just returned from a session on his favorite river Dove in Derbyshire, Grazy takes up the story…

I’ve had a great start to my season and used no other bait apart from the Spicy Fish Pro. So far this season the original bait has resulted in 25 barbel consisting of 4 x 11’s, 4 x 10’s and the remainder good back up fish to 9lb 12oz as well as 31 chub to 4lb 15oz. I was quite excited when Darren said he’d tweaked the latest batch and even more so when the courier arrived with the parcel just in time for my latest trip.

Spicy Fish Pro dumbell boilies from the Hook Bait Company
Spicy Fish Pro dumbells

Along with my team shirt the new bait was discreetly packaged and the Spicy Meat Pro was a gift for my good friend and angling partner Bruce who was already on the river Dove and had 3 barbel through the night to 10lb 10oz on his favorite Hook Bait Co. River Secret.

I arrived mid afternoon on the Saturday and setup alongside Bruce, who’d had a few dropped runs from chub. The river was still up a little on normal levels and had a good colour to it so with 3 barbel the night before we were optimistic for the following 24 hours. The new bait was dispatched into the swim in moderation, half a dozen dumbells broken in half and a small amount of the Hook Bait Co. 6mm salmon pellets loose fed over each spot. My usual micro pellet in a blockend feeder was tried but the lack of flow meant I retrieved an almost full feeder after 20 minutes so instead I swapped to a 2oz grippa lead plugged with a little paste to slow release into the swim and hopefully draw the fish in to investigate.

We spent the afternoon chatting and drinking tea, it was my birthday the day before and Bruce had brought the cake so ‘Tiffin’ was the order of the day.

Dove 03-09-16 (34)

Late into evening and still no sign of a bite for me, Bruce had a couple of chub plucks but the swim seemed devoid of life, a disappointing start but still my hopes we’re up and I decided not to recast again until the morning hoping that a fish would find the single hook bait on it’s own merit.

At 6am the following morning a short bleep on the upstream rod had me hover over it waiting for a further sign, if it was just another sneaky chub I’d have to re-bait and disturb the swim. The isotope glowed in the early morning dawn and then disappeared as the rod strained to stay put on the alarm, I lifted in and felt that very reassuring resistance, this was definitely not a chub!!

It headed for the snags to my left but cautious of last weeks hook pull I applied a little pressure and managed to turn it back into open water. When it eventually surfaced I could see it was a good fish by the size of it’s mouth ‘big enough to swallow an orange’ as they say but having had it’s first gulp of unfamiliar fresh air it lunged back down to it’s watery home and this time seemed even more determined to escape. I tightened the clutch a click at a time and after a further three very powerful runs it surfaced again, I pushed the net towards it and it flipped as the net cord brushed it’s side, the line started to whine under stress but I stayed focused and after another minute she was mine!!

Resting in the net was a very broad set of shoulders so I secured the landing net handle and setup the weighing gear and camera, Bruce was on hand to assist and gave me the thumbs up from the bankside, could this be my next step after 4 x 11’s and a PB of 11lb 10oz on opening night?

Dove 03-09-16 (2)

After 10 minutes resting in the margins I lifted her out of the water and I knew straight away it was a very decent fish, the first glimpse of it’s depth told me I had a new PB but Bruce wasn’t sure, “a good double mate” he said “probably an eleven”.

The Avon scales were zeroed again and checked by both of us, Bruce lifted the fish up the needle spun around to 7lb, what the? It was still on the mat as Bruce inquired on how the Avons registered a double, it’s 10lb for a full revolution I said so he lifted all the way and we both watched as it flew past 10, 11 and 12 and then settled on 12lb 8oz, wow a new PB and the most perfectly proportioned barbel I’ve caught to date.

I’ll leave you with the photo’s and declare this field test a massive success as I moved swims later that day and had a further 2 barbel and plenty of chub including another new chub PB of 5lb 8oz. Spicy Fish Pro – Bait Sorted.


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A large River Dove chub
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Dove 03-09-16 (86)

By Lewis Gaukrodger

The Tidal Trent in appearance can be daunting- from is bleak sand bank stretches to its boulder lined rugged bends. It can have the most competent anglers questioning their sanity in angling with 6oz leads rolling up stream as the water comes back up the river on the turn of the tide. In certain conditions an eerie, droning siren can be heard that will appear to get closer overlapping with other sirens as the village flood warnings are triggered. Picturing the scene I was sat on the outside of a sweeping Tidal bend last summer as sirens echoed for miles around, thinking the world was coming to an end or the Russians had done something really stupid the sirens were drowned out with a roar of noise as the water pulled away from the bank…the aegar wave rolled powerfully around the bend and upstream filling the river by another 3 feet as it crashed into the banks on either side.

Moody at the best of times the river and it’s features can be a real tackle cruncher but with selective swim choice, watercraft and knowledge of certain stretches there is something about the Tidal Trent which gets under your skin and becomes ever more addictive. What is certain about the Tidal Trent its potential to nurture some of the best barbel in the country and year on year the number of doubles caught seems increase ten fold. This could be due to the rise of social media with catch reports being more widely available though I doubt this and truly believe the river is flourishing in ever improving conditions. Salmon runs now feature alongside most weirs and their numbers are also ever increasing.

With such a volume of water especially if she is up a few foot up and heavily coloured a planned approach is crucial and this equally applies to lower water levels during summer. I don’t want this article to come across as though I am teaching people to suck eggs, this is simply the approach that works for me.

It terms of swim choice I limit the number of swims I fish to enable me to begin to understand the area I am targeting much better. Personally I now solely sit in swims that others don’t usually target and try to get to know the swim and map a picture in my head of the area I am fishing. There are too many questions to note when selecting swims – When do the fish move into this area? What time suits feeding habits? Does the tide effect feeding? Can the swim be fished in flood and in low clear conditions? Does the swim produce early season/ back end of the season? What features are there to fish to? Does the river bed vary? Are there gravel runs? Is the swim boiling with bream?……you get the idea, make sure you ask such questions though. Using short sessions at different times of the day, lead around and find the answers. Of course if you have one of these all singing all dancing castable fish finders it will give you a lovely picture on your phone of the swim your fishing which may help.

Another benefit of focusing on a select few swims is that you can build the confidence of the resident fish on a certain bait/flavour. I personally over the last 3 season have select 2 flavours of boilie to use, this season I have cut down to just one. Doing this also rules out the tendency to chop and change baits when a session doesn’t produce the expected results, but if you have confidence in the bait such as what I do with the Hookbait Co there should be no reason to doubt it.

The main spear head of my approach is to get a lot of scent in the chosen swim with little free offerings. With hemp being the base of my groundbait this is blended to a pulp allowing a milky cloud to work its way downstream and avoids barbel getting obsessed with rooting for whole hemp seeds. To this I add basic crushed trout pellets, this allows the scent of a full bag of pellets to be release on the river bed with no solid freebies. Additionally I also mix in matching flavoured Hookbait Co groundbait to get relevant scent in the swim that relates to the flavour of boilie hookbait. To bind this mix together bread crumb and a very generous glug of CSL allow the mix to be balled together using a Nash Deliverance Ball Maker and catapulted into the swim.

Catapulting the balls of groundbait upstream of the area I am targeting, I try to keep all the feed within a 5 meters square area. One rule I do abide by is that when you feel you have over fed the swim, feed the same amount again- this is possible due to the mix being scent based with no freebies.

The only free bait that I want available is a large hookbait that has been soaked in matching glug or gloop to enhance it flavour longevity and appeal. This season I am currently using a fishy flavoured test bait that Darren- founder and owner of the Hookbait Company is developing. I prefer this bait to be around 20mm therefore hopefully ruling out smaller fish and bream; however with buckets mouths even the smallest barbel is quite happy to engulf a 20mm bait.

Being meticulous and anal about my approach I purposefully check several things each cast. The first being my main line specifically the length that my lead clip runs on and also the area just above the buffer bead. I find this area is the most likely area to attain any abrasion simply because it’s the line closest to the river bed. Moving down to the business end of the setup I also will check the braid hook length to make sure this has not rubbed up as it makes contact with the river bed. To finish I also check the sharpness of the hook and keep a sharpening stone to hand to ensure they remain razor sharp. With some ruthless snags and features a simple nik or roughed up mainline, hook length or blunt hook could cost you the fish of a lifetime; and with that in the back of my mind I check these 3 areas every cast (day and night).

Taking this to another level I also use high viz pole elastic to mark the distance I am fishing, this does 2 things; firstly it ensures I am casting back onto the same line therefore the feed in am catapulting upstream of my top rod benefits both rods I am fishing. Secondly it allows me to fish tight up to snags (within reason) for example if I am aware that a snag is 2 rod lengths further away from the distance I am fishing and my line marker after casting in is at the top eye on my rod I know I only have 1 rod length to play with. This would then result in my tightening up the drag to avoid the fish easily making its way to the snag if hooked.

As I mentioned previously this is the approach that works for me and is still developing session on session- as I blank, get snagged up and watch fish crash all over my swim. As long as I learn something from each blank session whether it be that an area I thought was a snaggy unfishable swim is actually fishable or I find a new feature then a blank is a success. With success comes confidence; If you can find confidence in your approach the results will not be far behind and the hand on the scales will no doubt spin and settle that little bit further!


The eagerly awaited eve of the new river season was here at last and as I wandered across the familiar field I couldn’t help pondering what lay ahead. It was 7pm on Wednesday 15th June as I settled in my chosen spot, I scanned the opposite bank and was pleased to see I had the place to myself. The spate of torrential downpours had found their way downstream and I surveyed a swollen and rather coloured river Dove.

River Dove 16-06-16 Up & Coloured

I’d packed the tidal Trent gear just in case and a quick cast around with a lead confirmed the heavier tackle would be needed out in the main flow. I waited patiently until the all in at midnight and cast both rods out to what I hoped was some feeding fish.
My technique was changed slightly to last season, still using a rod on the inside but this time introducing some micro-pellets through a block-end feeder the logic being some of the payload would get lodged in the surrounding stones and gravel and encourage the barbel to root them out and hold them in the swim eventually finding the hook bait.
The chosen bait for this session was The Hook Bait Co. Spicy Fish Pro a relaunched bait for the 2016 season and as the name suggests contains very fishy contents, I was to use the 14mm dumbell mounted length ways on the hair.
HBC Fish-Pro
I was recasting every 20 minutes to ensure that plenty of micropellet was introduced into the swim and by 3am the rain was falling in heavy showers as I huddled under the brolly. By 4:30am I’d resided myself to the usual open season anti-climax and had shut my eyes for a short nap when the near margin alarm broke into song and I lifted into a very solid fish.
Whether it was the increased flow or my poor memory I’d forgotten just how hard a Dove barbel fought and I was grateful for dispensing with my usual traditional tackle in favour of a sturdy carbon rod and a smooth clutch on the reel that absorbed the lunges of the fish as it made a break for freedom. A couple of minutes went by and I caught my first glimpse, it was a good fish and one I most definitely didn’t want to lose. Three passes of the net and I was struggling to hold the fish against the flow but more by good fortune than skill it eventually landed safely in the net.
After a good rest I lifted it into the weigh sling, I knew it was a good double and settled on 11lb 10oz on the Avons, a new PB and a great start to the 2016 season.
River Dove 16-06-16 11lb 10oz
A few texts later I was packing up for an early morning meet with the lads and a welcomed full english breakfast.
Big Breakfast Celebrations
The day was spent in good company with plenty of laughs and a chance of a really big fish, Rob was first to land a decent chub of 5lb 2oz followed by Mark with a very good chub of 6lb. I waited patiently for dark and managed a splasher barbel of around 5lb and a chub of 4lb 15oz again caught on the HBC Spicy Fish-Pro dumbells.
Happy with our lot we packed up mid-morning and after another hearty breakfast said our goodbyes and headed off to our respective club beats. It was 4pm when I next cast a line, the Dove was still up and coloured but it looked spot on. It wasn’t long before the near margin rod was off and an 8lb barbel in great condition was posing for the photograph.
River Dove 16-06-16 8lb
Whilst resting the fish in the net the mid-river rod was away but by the time I got to it whatever had taken a run had gone, a daytime Dove barbel is not the norm but to have two runs within 10 minutes of each other from the same swim could only mean one thing, I was in for a productive evening.
A small trout took the bait at 8pm followed by 3 barbel 2 hours apart at 7lb 12oz, 8lb 8oz and a splasher 5lber at 1:30am.
River Dove 16-06-16
River Dove 16-06-16
Less than an hour later I was doing battle again but this time it felt like a better fish and safely rested it went 11lb 8oz, two 11lb Dove barbel was making a good session into a great session!!
River Dove 16-06-16 11lb 8oz
River Dove 16-06-16 11lb 8oz
It was almost light by 3:30am when the next run resulted in a hook pull so I rebaited and recast settling down to watch the day break in spectacular fashion as it always does. It was 7am and I must have nodded off because the nearside margin rod was away again, I lent over and lifted the rod expecting a gentle pull back but instead it almost lifted me out of my bedchair.
I scrambled down the bank to get more leverage on lt only to see the far bank trees wafting in sync with my rod, somehow it had made 30 yards on me whilst I scrambled down the bank and the pull was like nothing I’d ever experienced at least not on a river. One last gasp effort resulted in the hook pulling and everything fell silent, I was gutted as you’d expect but the optimist in me said I’ll be back and one day I’ll hook up with you again, literally!!
So far I’d had seven barbel to 11lb 10oz and a near 5lb chub and not forgetting the trout but my tactics remained the same and all fish had come to the near margin rod lowered into position, using micro-pellet in a block end feeder and the Spicy Fish Pro dumbell as the hook bait.
A further seven chub came to the same tactics although one chub thought it that good he’d try it again and again so I ended up catching him 3 times within 6 hours!!
River Dove 16-06-16 Two Tone Chub
River Dove 16-06-16
River Dove 16-06-16
The final morning and again I was woken at 7am by a screaming run and immediately thought the ‘biggie’ was back to do battle but again the bait was dropped. I hadn’t fished with 2 rods during the night as the nearside margin rod had accounted for all the fish and negotiating the second rod whilst playing a fish have proved challenging at times. I decided to place a single Spicy Fish Pro hook bait way upstream in an area I hadn’t fished at all and see what happened and sure enough within the hour a chub of 4lb+ had found it and taken the bait, just shows how good the Hook Bait Co. baits are!! Now it was time for my breakfast which always tastes nicer out doors.

River Dove 16-06-16

The HBC bacon and beans & sausage breakfast what’s not to like?

Whilst packing down I discovered the lob worms I’d brought with me from a previous cat fishing trip a week earlier so removing the feeder and just using a small lead I recast to the far bank and continued packing up, sure enough 20 minutes later and it was off with the final fish of this 3 day session a chub of 4lb 4oz.

River Dove 16-06-16

By Christian Barker

This season I have had a fantastic year Chub fishing and looking back through my catch records, I attribute part of this success to adapting my techniques and exploring the possibilities using the Laguna SAC products and a brilliant new product designed by Darren from the Hook Bait Company. The SAC juice product has some unique properties – not least of which its ability to resist freezing and has been tested down to temperatures as low as -46 degrees. The Hook bait company? Their expertise helped to eliminate some nagging doubts using an ‘all-time’ classic Chub bait – Cheese paste!

Making the most out of cheese paste.

Winter Chubbing is synonymous with cheese paste; in fact as soon as the nights start to draw in and the first early frosts have arrived signalling the onset of winter, I can’t wait to get my mixing bowl out in anticipation of spending many days and nights in search of my favourite species. There is no doubt that plain cheese paste is a fantastic bait. The problem as I see it, it is a victim of its own success – everybody uses it!cp11 (1)

Cheese paste is both bold in sight and smell and Chub simply adore it. But by association with capture, they learn to avoid it – or certainly approach it with caution. I am sure this fear diminishes with time after capture, or is less of an issue in coloured water – but is certainly worthy of consideration.

It’s quite interesting to watch the reaction of feeding fish to different baits and presentation. If a single fish senses danger or uncertainty this fear is transmitted to any fish in close proximity and it’s as if the whole shoal gets the message that something is wrong. It can certainly be alarming to place cheese paste in good swims with chub in them, to return the next day and observe the same said pieces uneaten!

Does pastry have a role in cheese paste?

Cheese paste is simply a brilliant paste bait – but made in the traditional way it does have significant drawbacks. It is possible to reinvigorate cheese paste beyond recognition with the addition of a few flavours. Better still, this season I felt I was able to address some of its other failings.

cp11 (2)Cheese paste is dead easy to make, 500g of the ripest vintage cheddar, 600g of Danish blue cheese and a 450g block of frozen short crust pastry – just as it comes in packets from the Supermarket. Simply grate all the ingredients, add any additional flavours at this stage and knead them together to a smooth consistency.

On reflection, I am certain the addition of pastry to a cheese paste has perhaps cost quite a few Chub too. Let’s face it… Cheese paste comes into its own in winter months; thinking logically, it hardly seems ideal adding more fat!

Does flavouring cheese paste work?

The greatest part of experimenting with a bait like cheese paste is that for the most part, you can work on a hunch. I have caught Chub on elderberries, blackberries and other fruits and have always been surprised how preoccupied they become on such a low energy food source. Is there something inherently attractive that makes fruit flavours so effective? I suspect that old Chevin has a surprisingly sweat pharyngeal tooth.cp11 (4)

With this in mind, I was inspired to experiment with the Laguna SAC juice. It appealed to me principally because it is actually made from the real thing! Don’t ask me why, but I was instantly drawn to the banana flavour and promptly ordered a few bottles. It’s not a highly concentrated flavour and felt that the whole bottle needed to be used in my first small exploratory batch.

The use of Banana flavour as a Chub attractor is in-fact nothing new. The earliest reference I could find to its use specifically for Chub was indeed Peter Stone in his foreword to the brilliant Chub Study Group book ‘Chub’. It also transpired that some other rather talented Chub anglers have managed to capitalise on this rather unusual attractor over the years.


Suffolk Chub go bananas over…… well, banana flavoured cheese paste!

First outing with a new idea is always a leap of faith and in this instance it was no different – except for one thing. On this occasion I also had an angling companion; a competent angler, so the pressure was on.  My approach is always mobile. We walked up to the top of the fishery in order to work our way back to the van. I always like to start on a ‘confidence’ swim just to anticipate from the fish’s reaction to what type of day it’s going to be. The plan being to work each swim, leap frogging back every half hour to an hour or so, to cover as many potential features as possible.

The first cast fell perfectly just brushing the raft. The line falls slack; I gently pull back the bait and observe the effect on the tip of my feeder rod. It feels perfect as it easily trips back a few inches indicating it had found its resting place on the clear gravel patch. Introducing a bow in the line, I set the rod on its rest.  I like this additional form of indication as I feel it gives a wary fish a little more confidence under minimal resistance. I find on slow flowing rivers, if you tighten up to the bait, this results in a lot of missed bites.

Everything in place, I draw deeply on a cigarette trying to focus on where the line enters the water. I enter an instinctive and primitive heightened sense of consciousness, poised to act. A hesitant twitch!!!! Heart race pulsing, an instant metallic sensation floods my taste buds… the line tightens and before the tip fully deflects I have pulled into the first fish of the day; a lively fish of 3lb 13oz. I rest it in the net in the margins in anticipation of another fish. Nearly instantaneously, a second fish fell to the same presentation of banana cheese paste, at 4lb1oz, a good result for a small river! The brace was quickly photographed and the fish returned a few meters upstream to minimise disturbance to the swim.

It is unusual to get multiple fish from a small swim due to the commotion of playing and landing a lively Chub, but on this instance I was soon to be admiring a second brace from the same swim; this time  a 4lb2oz and a stunner at 5lb2oz! Four fish in little under an hour was obviously enough for this swim; however, I did give it another 40 minutes before moving off downstream.

After allowing myself to settle into the next swim, I cast and eventually received a tentative, twitchy style bite which I allowed to develop before finally striking into thin air! Now in this instance, this may sound alien to anyone used to fish a river an appreciable flow, I recast and left the bail arm open to allow the fish to ‘run’ with the bait under minimal resistance. After about 25 minutes, the tip sprung into life and line began stripping off the reel. Pointing the rod towards the fish, I closed the bail arm, waiting for the tip to deflect and pulled into the fish, a beautifully conditioned fish of 4lb 1oz. A note of caution regarding this technique; used appropriately I have yet to land a deep hooked fish, but I would resist using this method other than to solve the problem of missing bites having first used conventional bite indication methods.

bananas october 2012 chub go bananas 011 - Copy

The session ended with a ‘red letter’ day tally of 9 fish, 7 over 4lb with the best fish remaining 5lb 2oz; very respectable for can only be described as a small, slow flowing Suffolk river. My angling companion? A missed bite – and plenty of action behind the camera – this made for a pleasant change as more often than not, it works the other way around!

It would have appeared that on this day, at least, the fish seemed to have a specific liking for a banana flavoured SAC juice cheese paste over more traditional offerings of bread and luncheon meat… From my perspective? What a great way to let them get one of their ‘five’ a day!

The perfect cheese paste?

In many ways, pastry in a cheese paste is superfluous – it’s just the way I had always made it… read any chub article and there it is! I have always accepted it as a bulking component and to a greater extent a binder to produce a paste of the ‘right’ consistency to stay on the hook. Nutritionally, the flour and fat could be considered a great energy source – but let’s face it, cheese is the secret ingredient.

Typically, winter baits would ideally have a low fat/oil content otherwise they tend to solidify and have reduced flavour leakage. In the coldest of conditions, the fats in the cheese and pastry turn an otherwise soft pliable paste into a hard lump that I am certain has cost fish due to impeding the hook on the strike.

cp11 (3)Considering these concerns, it was during a conversation with good friend Darren McCann from the Hook Bait Company that he suggested he may have the perfect solution. A new product based on his successful ‘Milk-pro’ base mix. The benefits of using a milk protein base are more than evident – highly soluble and attractive to chub. Better still when Darren mentioned he had devised a cheese paste version called ‘Big Cheese’ based on his brilliant ‘Milk-pro’ base it seemed the perfect solution. To be fair, there is little Darren and his team of consultants don’t know when it comes to specialist baits and his advice is always very welcome.

As my paste baits have a habit of being constantly refrozen and thawed I opted to produce the Hook Bait Company ‘Big Cheese’ base mix without eggs. The initial problem of not using eggs in the mixing process was to get the base mix to bind in a way that it could stay on the hook whilst still withstanding a cast.

In place of the eggs, 20ml of Big Cheese liquid flavour, a bottle of Laguna Blue Cheese SAC juice and a further 2 parts water would be added to mix the base mix. After a bit of experimentation, I found that by further adding a grated block of mature cheddar, a block of Danish blue and a glug of vegetable oil I arrived at the perfect consistency – better still, you have a cheese paste that absolutely reeks of cheese!

It has to be said, the Hook Bait company have got their ‘Big Cheese’ liquid flavour spot on…. a nice creamy cheese flavour with just the right levels of n-Butyric acid. Leaving out the eggs makes the paste far more soluble allowing attractants to dissolve out and draw chub to the bait. It quickly became apparent there were other more crucial benefits… No longer did my cheese paste become anywhere near as hard in cold water. In fact whilst remaining pliable enough to stay on the hook for casting, even in the coldest conditions it could be struck from the hook cleanly!

Another great little trick, I discovered that it was possible to ‘crumb’ the paste up by gently breaking it apart between my finger tips. For the majority of my Chubbing I use single hook baits; it is good for confidence on occasions to be able to draw fish to the hook bait using the minimal amount of free offerings. I want to catch them – not feed them.

Have I arrived at the perfect Cheese paste that meets my demands? I would have to say yes! Firm enough to cast, a steady leakage of soluble attractants, ideal in mild conditions and most importantly, no more nagging doubts about its use in really cold water. Combining the Blue Cheese SAC juice and the Hook Bait Company ‘Big Cheese’ base mix, I really feel I have nailed it.cp11 (5)

Over the course of a season, it’s these little attentions to detail that make the difference; these little refinements really do give you that all important edge. It’s certainly worth giving careful consideration to bait and presentation. It gives you confidence to concentrate on what is really important… Catching fish!

By Terry Theobald

When the nights are drawing out and the clocks are imminently about to shoot forward an hour, it is always warming to know, as sure as the buds on the trees burst into life, the bream in our gravel pits are shaking off the rigours of Winter and looking to feed in earnest to give strength for the impending spawning ritual.

For several years my Spring onslaught in search of a huge slab has taken me to a beautiful charismatic seventy acre mature gravel pit in deepest Gloucestershire and mid March 2013 saw my size eleven boots once again trudge across the field with a pained look upon my face as a laden trolley is pushed before me.

The pit is a wonder in itself with an array of birdlife to keep you occupied.  Flocks of Grey lag and Canadian geese fight for supremacy, sometimes cackling all night keeping weary anglers awake for many hours.  Owls call from all corners of the pit, bats flit in and out of the trees in search of tasty winged morsels and on occasion the bone chilling screech of a rabbit echo’s through the trees as it meets a grisly death in the teeth of a cunning fox and always there are the early arriving sand martins taking flies off the surface.  All this adds to the atmosphere of a place that has an electric vibe all of its own and, beneath the surface live carp, bream and tench of huge proportions.

The carp used to fill my mind, but now the attentions have turned to the bream that, when seen ghosting underneath the boat are huge to the eye and many times mistaken for carp.

In March 2013 I bit the bullet and made my way to the pit in conditions that were to say the least arctic, still, the bream were there and hopefully ready to eat their fill of my tasty offerings.  Surprise, surprise, the weather was atrocious and I blanked miserably, so, plans were put on hold because of the freezing conditions.

Early April I did manage to get to the lake for an over night session and I was pleased to get one take during the night that was a nice fish of a little over 10lb, I was off the mark. It wasn’t until 15 April that my next visit was scheduled and for a change the weather was quite favourable with South Westerly winds, patchy cloud and a bit of sun.

On arrival at the lake I chose to fish a swim half way up a spit that juts out into the lake about two hundred yards.  To the left of the swim about a hundred yards out is a mature Island that shelters the water I would be casting too from the wind a little.


I readied the bivvy, bedchair and other assorted kit and then it was time to throw the life jacket on and head out in search of a nice bit of ground to place my markers.  As I slowly made my way out against the breeze I spotted a couple of bream, my hopes were lifted as I knew the shoal were nearby and shouldn’t move.  Seventy yards out from the bank a large patch of clean gravel and thin silt was discovered in amongst beds of rotting Canadian pondweed and it was either side of this spot the H blocks were placed about twenty yards apart in five feet of water.

An hour before a bright red dusk I was accompanied in the boat by a 5 litre bucket of crushed vitalin mixed with two tins of sweetcorn and a kilo of crushed betaine pro boilies from The Hookbait Company and a lot of water to make it sloppy and cloudy.  This bucket of slop was spread all over the swim between the markers and on top was scattered at least four kilo of betaine pro pellet, as in my opinion bream will walk across land to get to anything betaine and the pro pellets are an excellent attractor, often bringing bream into the swim in a very short time.

My rigs were made up of one with fake corn that had been soaking in betaine liquid popped up and critically balanced just to lift the hook off bottom,  the second had a straight forward 12mm betaine pro boilie on a hair attached to a size 10 Drennan specimen hook and, the third had three pieces of sweetcorn on a hair and all were cast out with a pva bag of betaine pro pellet attached.

Settling back in the chair on a beautiful evening my anticipation was at fever pitch, there were bream rolling not more than fifty yards away and I just knew they would arrive soon to feast on my bait.

At about 10.30pm I hit the sack a little disappointed nothing had happened and then as always happens when I got comfortable a single beep on the boilie baited rod indicated the arrival of what I was waiting for, a shoal of bream.  I sat watching the bobbin and it twitched without a beep and then it moved up an inch before dropping about four.  I hovered waiting and when the bobbin rose with purpose I picked up the rod and felt a weight on the end that was unmistakably a bream.  In the darkness it came closer and was soon in the net and to my satisfaction it was a nice two tone fish that was weighed at a very pleasing 11lb 6oz that I put into a large pegged out keep net ready for an early morning photo.

Whenever bream fishing I always use a large keep net and only ever put two bream at most into it.  As the fish get bigger I take the smallest one out and release it until I am left with the two largest to photograph.

Within the hour after several line bites another positive bite came to the sweetcorn and a brief battle was had with another two tone fish that was almost identical apart from being two ounces lighter at 11lb 4oz.

After this fish things went quiet for an hour and then a few twitches and bleeps indicated that the shoal had possibly come back and in no time another fish was hooked and this time it felt a bit heavier and turned out to be a short fat gorgeously coloured bream of 13lb 2oz, wow what a night!


It doesn’t take long for a shoal of bream to mop up a bed of bait and by 3am I guessed it had all gone as things had gone quiet, yet, just before day broke in the sky behind me another drop back came out of the blue and this fish turned out to be a fin perfect young looking bream of 10lb 9oz, a great way to finish a session.

The next morning I went out in the boat to the baited area and it had been cleaned out as I guessed it would be.

In previous years I have put out as much as twenty kilo of bait for a one night session just to keep the fish in the swim long enough when they are feeding hard.  A couple of guys on the lake spend the night spodding over the top of the shoal which doesn’t spook them at all and is very successful.  I must admit to not particularly wanting to do this as it is hard work and I am too old and need my rest and, that is another reason I bait heavily and spread it around a lot.

If it is big pit bream you are interested in I would recommend baiting heavily with a good sloppy mix and the one thing I can recommend is the pulling power of betaine pro pellets from the Hookbait Company which should always spread over the top to get the bream searching for longer.

Best of luck

Terry Theobald

by Rich Frampton

Things had gone to plan so far this season.

By following Steve Pope’s advice I had beaten my personal best at the start of July and then again just two weeks later.

The caster and hemp approach had worked on both occasions and it was with a touch of confidence that it would work again that I invited Will Smith to come down to the Kennet in Berkshire for the day.

Will was going to fish the same swim that I had at the start of July, a deep glide with an overhanging bush and a raft it its tail. I was going to go further downstream to fish an area that had been kind to me two weeks previously.


We hoped the same technique of three or four droppers every 25 minutes would lead to Will’s second ever double figure barbel.

The drive down from Shropshire flew by and at 6am we were walking along the drive to the river. Will had read articles by Steve and my own first attempt at an article on Steve’s blog in which I had described the capture of what was at that time my new personal best. Here though was Will’s first opportunity to put that knowledge into practice.

The method of fishing is to use a bait dropper to build up a swim with casters and hemp. The chosen swim was indeed ideal for this approach and soon the first of the hemp and casters were being lowered out.

I left Will to it and headed off downstream to a spot that only two weeks earlier had given me my new personal best, a fish of 13lb 5ozs.

My swim was a glide alongside a bed of streamer weed that reaches half way across the river. A clear channel no more than four feet wide before it reaches the trailing branches of the far bank willows and alders. Another perfect spot.

By this time however the weather wasn’t so perfect. The drizzle had increased to a light rain and the clammy conditions made just being out in it uncomfortable.

A short while after I had finished baiting up and chilled out for a bit the first text came in. Will had caught his first Kennet barbel and, at somewhere around three and a half pounds, it was probably one of the smallest in the stretch. But that didn’t matter a jot – it was the first and a good sign.

I had set up a running Stonze weight with a smaller backlead. As usual there were no knots apart from the hook knot with the 20lb Powerpro braid being fished straight through to a size 10. A mono hair was tied off the bend and to this was super glued a cluster of casters.

Despite this tried and tested approach the reel remained silent while the morning wore on. I deposited 3 or 4 small droppers into the glide ever 30 minutes to try to trigger a take but …nothing.

Meanwhile, another text, then another, and yet another had indicated that Will’s swim was rewarding his efforts! Three more fish, all relatively small but, more importantly, getting bigger each time at around 5, 6 and 7 pounds.

My attention had drifted away to a Red Kite that was lolloping in flight above the meadow opposite. Last week in the warm sunshine it had sailed effortlessly in the thermals. Today in the dull but now thankfully, rain free conditions it looked leaden.

It had just landed in the willow opposite when, as if on cue, the reel screamed out.

Grabbing the rod the fish obliged and took off downstream, with me in pursuit. The major weed bed now out of the scenario it moved from one clump of streamer weed to the next and after a strong run upstream I made out its shape below the second Stonze backlead as once again it headed back down past me.

That sight made me realise that this was going to be my third double in as many weeks and so it was to prove.  I was soon weighing an immaculate fish, the Reuben Heaton’s settling at 11lb 2ozs. Just at that moment a text came in from Will to say that he had had another fish of 8lb 14ozs and that he was resting the swim again. Perfect timing I thought, a photo was required.

After a short chat, Will headed back up to his swim to continue, with the sight of this double his enthusiasm was charged up even further (as if it needed it!).

I had to make a decision and it was soon made. I was going to move. It had now hit mid afternoon and I shifted upstream, past Will, to a swim that I had always wanted to try below a steep vertical bank about 4 feet above water level.

The top limit of the swim was marked by a bush that grew out into the water and which, in turn, created a slack area immediately in front of me.  It was all very close in and tight and I knew I’d have to be really careful to stay off the sky line.

I had seen John Found fishing there before and he had told me how vital it was to use a backlead in that swim. I had one on already but now I needed at least four feet between the leads, the first one would lie three or four feet away from the bank.

This arrangement would allow the hook to be positioned right in the middle of the slack while the five or six feet of line on the river bed would enable even a good sized fish to turn around and feed without causing a line bite – that occurrence would almost certainly spell disaster.

Out went several droppers, and I sat well back to allow the swim to settle down before I made a cast.

A dart of blue caught my eye and a Kingfisher came to rest in the small willow that grew into the water opposite. It sat and shook the drizzle off as if it had just dived in after one of the hundreds of minnows that were frantically charging around in the shallows.

A beeping of my phone woke me from my trance and I grabbed it like a cowboy drawing his revolver. Another fish and this one needed a photo. At 9lb 12ozs Will was justifiably over the moon.

I left him with the message, “The next one will be a double!”

My reel had remained silent for what by now seemed an eternity. The dull day was closing in fast and I was thinking, hoping, that Will could end the day with the target, a double figure fish, when my reel started to turn. Now the line was going straight out so the rod tip remained calm and it reminded me of a carp run in a lake. Just picking up the rod set the hook and the fish immediately took off upstream. Holding the rod high I moved downstream where it was possible both to get to water level and find some space to control, or rather try to control the fish.

The river narrowed here and the flow was incredibly strong. Keeping pressure the fish used this to its advantage and just hung there, almost immovable.

Again, it relented to the pressure and at the third attempt, because of the strong flow moving the net away, I managed to envelope it in the mesh and next thing a large shape was resting at the bottom of the net.

At 10lb 2ozs I was really happy …two doubles in a day! I couldn’t believe it.

Fully rested the fish headed back to its home under the bush.

Now we needed just one more.The darkness was approaching and rather than move again I packed up and spent some time chatting to the trappers who had arrived to take their crayfish.Their stories and knowledge of the river are limitless and as I walked downstream to get Will their words rang in my ears.

Just at the moment I arrived Will’s rod tip heaved around and he was into a strong fish which tore downstream and then up. He knew that this was as heavy as the previous fish but would it make it, would it make the magic 10lb?

It certainly fought hard and after a strong upstream run it turned and I was able to hold the net so that Will could steer it into the waiting maw. Silently we just looked at each other, thinking the same thing, it was going to be close. And close it was.

The scales read… 10lb 1ozs! Will had done it and I’m not sure who was the more pleased, him or me. It was a fantastic moment that even whilst writing this has brought the euphoria flooding back.

CIMG1916 10.2

It had all gone to plan …again.

Walking back to the car we noticed that the cloud was breaking to reveal a beautiful star lit night – what a perfect end to the day!!!