Very different from purpose-built fishery waters, gravel pits are created by flooding when gravel extraction has finished. They are also generally much larger and have sharply denned deep and shallow areas. Although they have no dam, they possess a vast array of underwater features which make for some fascinating fishing.
The other main feature of such fisheries is the quality of the water: it is almost always superb. Alkaline, clear and pure, the water in gravel pits supports abundant insect life and weed growth, creating perfect conditions for stillwater trout.
Follow the features
Gravel pit fisheries can range from just a few acres to several hundred, but typically they cover 15-30 acres with depths up to 6m (20ft). In some places they can be very exposed until planted trees and bushes become established – or until a range of wild plants takes hold. The main tree to colonize the margins is willow, with alder a close second. They often need regular maintenance work to keep them in check.
The variety of bottom contours – ridges, shelves, holes, sharp drop-offs, islands, deep margins, shallows – gives an immense range of habitats in a fairly small area. Look for these and you’ll soon build up a picture of fish-holding areas and lies.
Most gravel pit fisheries have an area set aside as a nature reserve; this is usually brought in as part of the planning requirement even before the gravel is extracted. It is an excellent idea from the angler’s point of view as it leaves an area where fish can live unmolested and put on weight. Because of the rich feeding available you often come across fish which have evaded capture and grown on to make first class specimens. This is particularly true of brown trout.
A mixed menu fisheries since virtually any method from
You can see the whole spectrum of trout dry fly to lure stripping can work. feeding behaviour on these fisheries. There
The secret is to be versatile and aware of are excellent hatches of buzzers and sedges, what is happening on the day you are as well as tremendous damselfly popula- fishing. With such rich populations of tions, and very often there is the bonus of a insects it often happens that the fish mayfly hatch. As gravel pit fisheries almost become preoccupied with a particular style always support a coarse fish population, of feeding. While early morning may see you can also see the trout engaged in late good feeding on buzzers, it is quite possible season fry bashing. that as the sun climbs higher in the sky the
It is, in fact, quite hard to know which damsels start to hatch and the fish change style of fly fishing to use on some gravel pit to feeding on the emerging insects.
What fish where?
Rainbow trout are the usual stock in gravel pit fisheries. In addition to being easier and cheaper to breed and rear, their wandering habit makes them more prone to being caught. The territorial brown trout can be a difficult fish to catch and hence is of small benefit to the fishery manager.
However, where a percentage of browns are stocked it may pay to seek them out since they can and do grow to a considerable size, remaining undetected for years in the deeper areas. These long-term residents sometimes make mistakes during fry time at the end of the summer or perhaps on very windy, wild days when they seem to lose their caution. On such days try fishing a large Muddler Minnow for an hour or so through the waves on a slow sinking line (but make sure you use a strong leader as takes are sudden and hard).
Among the weed In gravel pits the weed is the angler’s ally – normally the presence of weed beds greatly assists in locating trout. Fishing along the edge of beds you can usually find feeding trout. Look on weed beds as being the natural larder for the trout and don’t be afraid to fish in and around them rather than keeping to clear areas where the fish are not so numerous.
In the winter Even in winter, when the water can look grey and lifeless, there are always fish over the remains of weed beds. If you know where they are then you can score. Winter rainbows fight hard and often the best of the sport can be had in the colder months when the fish are at their physical best and fewer anglers are around. Fighting fit Gravel pit trout are known for their strong fighting ability and long runs are quite normal for even modest-sized fish. The clear water and good feeding soon naturalize newly introduced stock and they become quite silvery and behave like the fish in large reservoirs. Many anglers hold the fish too hard when playing them and broken leaders are not unusual, especially as it’s often necessary to fish quite fine in order to get a take.
Make use of the wind
The effect of wind can be the dominant factor in a day’s fishing, and while logic usually says that you should fish on the downwind bank where, unfortunately, it is the most uncomfortable, this is not necessarily true for some pits.
Where the bottom consists of extensive ridges the wind may not turn over the water layers in so pronounced a way as usual, and the fish don’t move around as much as they would on a pit with a more even bottom contour. Bear in mind that surface-feeding fish usually follow the wind and concentrate more on the downwind shore.
Always search the downwind side of islands for fish feeding on the surface. There are calm pockets of water immediately downwind of islands. Land-borne insects which fall from trees and shrubs can sometimes accumulate there.
Don’t ignore the dry fly
Dry fly fishing on gravel pits can be the absolute cream of the sport. The clear water and abundant natural life encourage the fish to be surface feeders, and the emerger style of flies can be a tremendous method of catching if you can place the fly accurately in the path of a cruising fish. If you can’t see any feeding fish, a Daddy-Long-Legs fished either static on the surface or slowly retrieved just sub-surface will bring fish up from quite deep down.