Amer Jawad reveals his secret to sorting out the quality fish from the masses of small silvers on a monster gravel pit.
Words and photos: Steve Martin
Looking out over Sewells Lake, a 50-acre gravel pit, you wouldn't expect it to be a location where you could catch a net of quality silver fish on the pole. Nevertheless, Rive's Amer Jawad was quick to point out that there are numerous mature pits throughout the UK that offer real quality roach and bream fishing if you can get a permit to fish them.
“The sad thing about gravel pits is that many are syndicate carp fisheries so are not open to other anglers to discover the real potential they offer to pleasure anglers,” Amer stated, having just netted a 6oz roach on his short line.
He had got a head start to the day having arrived ahead of the PF cameras and already had a 5lb bream in his net, so the session was off to a flyer!
“I just had a look on my sleeper 13m line and managed an early bream. It's often worth a quick look while the feed settles down because you might pick up a bonus fish in the area.
“That one was a complete surprise; I had it on a grain of corn. I did have a second look but now I'm going to leave it to settle down. If more fish turn up I will know by the telltale bubbles.”
Amer then explained his plan for the session, which was to target big roach and hybrids from the bottom of the first shelf, which was just over five sections out. The sleeper line was to try and snare the odd slab or tench that lurked in the slightly deeper water.
“There's a lot of water in front of me but it's quite coloured. That's because Alconbury Brook feeds the pit, which, when it has extra water flowing through it, quickly colours it up, even in winter.”
Amer also pointed out that the stock had all come from the brook naturally over many years and the roach, bream, tench and even chub had thrived and multiplied.
He then swung in another good roach – risky, but that provided the opportunity to take a closer look at his short-line setup.
“I'm fishing a 4x18 Preston PB15 float on 0.12mm Rive Rig Line with an 0.6g olivette, plus trimmers set 12 inches above the hooklength and three No11 droppers. The hook is a size 18 Tubertini Series 2 on 15 centimetres of 0.10mm Rive Hardline.
“I like the Series 2 hooks because they are sharp, red, which is good for red maggots, and have a nice round bend for hooking hemp.
“I guess I've given away my secret! Yes, it's hemp. Not a bait you would expect to fish on the hook for stillwater roach, but when you are faced with shoals of small roach, rudd and little hybrids, it's a method that I've found to be excellent when it comes to tempting the bigger silvers.”
Amer then explained that after that rouge bream he had switched to the short line with a single-maggot hook bait, having first fed a small helping of seeds via a pole cup, followed by a pinch with a catty on every other put-in.
“I'm fishing the maggot just to get a feel of the size of the fish feeding close to the bottom. If I start to catch bigger silvers then I will try the hemp.
“I'm not feeding maggots because they will pull the fish up in the water, which would defeat the object of the tactic. The hemp sinks quickly and it's very visible in the coloured water, so by regular feeding I hope to create a carpet of seeds on the bottom, which will draw the fish down towards my hook bait as it falls.”
Preston 4x18 PB15 float – short line (5 sections) hemp/maggot rig
He had mostly 2oz roach and little hybrids early on but he did tempt a few net fish, which prompted him to increase the amount of to a pinch every put-in. Then, after about 10 minutes, he started to catch more hybrids but fewer roach.
“I'm that the roach will turn up but I'm going to rest the line while I have another look on the sleeper line. I'll keep feeding the hemp and try seed on the hook when I go back on the line.”
Hemp is the seed that keeps on giving
Before he shipped out on the 13m line, Amer went through his rig for the deeper water.
“With bigger specimens possible, I'm fishing a 1g Preston Inter Carbon float on 0.14mm mono, with a 0.75g olivette, three No10 droppers and trimmers.
“I'm fishing big baits – corn and worms – so my hooklength is a size 16 Kamasan B560 on 15 centimetres of 0.12mm mono.
“I've attached it to double No5 Rive solid elastic, and to counter any tow – it's a big water and it's often quite strong here – I've set the rig to fish eight inches overdepth.
“I fed five initial balls of a 75 per cent Rive Bream and 25 per cent brown crumb mix, with casters, chopped worms and a sprinkling of corn, so there's plenty to attract the bigger specimens if they are in the area.”
It was a tentative look because there had been no indications of any fish over the feed and with no more bites forthcoming, after five minutes Amer made the call to feed a little again.
“Five balls is a lot of groundbait but with so many small fish, it wouldn't take long for them to mop it up.
“All the time I was on the corn you could see the rig moving due to all the small fish worrying the bait.
“I'm going to top up with more corn and a small nugget of groundbait. The bigger grains will survive longer but I still want some smell from the feed in the water.”
Returning to the short line, Amer stayed with the maggots, which produced a few better hybrids plus two good roach. That prompted him to try hemp for the first time and from the first put-in he started to catch quality roach to 6oz.
“The bites are really positive but I have to wait a little longer, compared to fishing a maggot. The rig isn't the sort you would associate with hemp fishing because it gets the bait down quickly rather than allowing it to drop down naturally. However, the bigger fish are feeding on the bottom so I want to get the bait down to them and fishing quickly.
“There are still a lot of small fish pecking at the bait on the way down and they can knock the seed off the hook. So to try and keep them feeding higher in the water I'm going to start pinging maggots over the top every other put-in.”
The hemp attack saw a string of roach to 8oz, plus some nice hybrids netted. However, it was clear that Amer needed to rest the line when he started to only catch small roach.
“I think those bigger fish have backed off. I've been catching well but all the action seems to have spooked them a little.
“They have reacted well to the feed so I'm going to be more positive and feed more maggots with the hemp while I have another look long.
“I had a few better hybrids on the hemp but I think I might catch more on maggots if I increase the feed to try and get more down on the deck.”
A further look on the long line with both corn and worm failed to get any attention, so Amer decided to feed the line really positively by adding another three balls of feed, this time laced with casters and corn.
“I fed lots of chopped worms initially but that just attracted small fish. When I landed that early slab I thought that I might be on a few.”
Retuning to the shorter line, Amer immediately started on a single maggot. However, before shipping out he adjusted his rig by pushing the bulk and droppers down the hooklength loop.
“By getting the rig to drop down quickly I'm banking on the bait to miss the small stuff and get down to the bigger fish.”
After a few smaller silvers, which Amer felt had taken the bait on the drop, he got the bait to settle. By swinging the rig out beyond the feed and away from the mass of small fish, he started to catch hybrids to 10oz and the odd good roach.
It was only short run of fish before they backed off, so to try and keep the better fish coming to the net he regularly switched between hemp and maggots. This meant that he had to adjust the bulk and droppers, depending on the bait, but it certainly resulted in more net fish than earlier.
“There are so many small hybrids and, although I've had some better fish on maggots, the roach are the real weight builders, so I'm going to concentrate on them for the remainder of the session. I think that the better fish are starting to feed off the bottom, so I'm going to shallow up about six inches to find out.”
He also stopped feeding maggots. At first he was pestered by small roach intercepting the hemp, but if the rig settled he hooked the quality fish. Again he discovered that the best way to get through the small roach to the better fish was to swing the rig out and let it come back towards the shelf.
Increasing the frequency of the loose feed also improved the sport, but rather than feed more every put-in he fed a small pinch twice so that there was a regular fall of seeds through the water.
“I've noticed that if it's a small fish, the float darts under because the hemp hasn't settled. When the rig does settle I have to wait for the bite, which is a slower take, and that normally results in a good roach.”
The session finished with a flurry of quality roach and a few bigger hybrids, with Amer estimating that he has 15lb plus, along with the bonus slab.
“It did take a while for the hemp to tempt the quality roach but it's not a surprise considering the masses 2in to 3in fish in this pit. I'm not entirely convinced that feeding maggots was the best way to try and keep the small silvers busy. It's hard to tell, but it might have just pulled more into the swim.
“Maybe more loose-fed hemp would have been better. It certainly drew more quality roach in as the session progressed and there were loads there towards the end. Considering hemp is usually associated with clear water and rivers, it's been a real eye-opener to see just how good it can be when fished static on a coloured Stillwater. I'm sure it will work just as well when the water clears.
“I was never confident about the 13m line because after that early slab there were no signs of big fish feeding, and the few big fish that I spotted rolling were much further out into the lake.”
Name: Amer Jawad
Pole: Rive R16 Professional
Sewells Lake (Racecourse Pit)
Where: Brampton, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 4TD
Controlling club: Brampton AS
Contact: via Facebook – Brampton Angling Society – Cambridgeshire
Permits: £20 per annum, from Stanjay Tackle, Godmanchester
Contact: 01480 453303