Hidden beneath the surface of many gravel pits lies a rotting landscape of dead trees, ditches and weed. Find these and you will have found the larders and lairs of all the pit species
Faced with a vast acreage of gravel pit, with no indication as to depth or character, no angler can decide where to fish without some reconnaissance. When no currents or slacks give a picture, one has to consider other factors – depth, movement of water by wind, temperature fluctuations, plant life and underwater structures.
Only areas within casting range can be charted and it takes time to plumb a big gravel pit. But by counting down a lead until it touches the bottom (timing it with the second hand of a watch is likely to prove more accurate), deeps, shallows, reefs, drop-offs and other features can be located. The nature of the bottom can also be discovered by ‘feeling’ the lead on the retrieve, and by studying anything clinging to the lead as you pull it out.
Reed or rush margins, lily-pad holes, and soft weed beds all indicate the presence of fish. The weedbed may be a dense patch of milfoil, hornwort, or Canadian pondweed, and it pays to use a hook attached to the lead to bring some back for study. Weed frequently indicates tench, bream, roach or rudd, and while it is not advisable to fish directly into it, fish may be drawn from it towards groundbait.
Lily beds for food and shelter
Lily beds are also potential fish holders and in many gravel pits are the only recognized fish spots. They grow only in comparatively shallow water and offer food, shade and shelter for foraging fish, so the deep water surrounding them often remains fishless.
Giant reed mace, Norfolk rush and bulrush beds are also good fish-holding spots, and rudd in particular haunt them for days, while bream and tench seek their shelter in hot weather. Round-stemmed bulrush beds grow on gravel bottoms and are good hunting grounds for perch and tench. Tench love mud, yet will often patrol a hard bottom, where they eat snails, small mussels and caddis grubs.
Old and well-established pits often silt up, and muddy areas located with a plummet usually indicate tench. The digging tench, unlike the hard-bottom dweller, stays put more and responds well to groundbait or to loose feeding.
Other likely holding spots are little bays or inlets, or steep banks where bushes and trees overhang. Pike often ambush there and are almost certainly in residence when small fish are seen to leave the water in a silver shower.
Wind direction plays an important part in fish movements, and the case for fishing into the wind has often been proven. Surface food blown across the water causes fish to accumulate on the windward side.
Small fish dimpling the surface, grebes diving continually in a certain spot, and splashy rises to surface flies all indicate fish. Any prolonged activity may attract pike.