A headline that used to appear frequently in the angling press during the 1970s and early 1980s was ‘Double-figure bream taken from a Cheshire mere’. Often, Graham Marsden was the one who had done the taking.
Of course, such a headline leaves a burning question on any angler’s lips, namely: which Cheshire mere? Even the angler who has never been to Cheshire and has no intention of going there wants to know. The reason is that all anglers are, by the very nature of their sport, curious if not downright nosy! So when Graham Marsden stands by one of his favourite meres (in this case just inside Shropshire) and confesses that he will “take a lot of flak” for publicizing the water, you tend to prick up your ears and listen very carefully.
A younger-looking Graham Marsden looks suitably cheerful after the capture of this 9lb 3oz (4.16kg) bream. It was taken in the mid 1970s from the Cane Swim (‘Marsden’s Swim’ as Graham jokingly refers to it) just before first light. The cane is no longer there but the bream certainly are. Oss Mere is situated on Mile Bank Road about two miles from Whitchurch. The country lane route from Nantwich through Wrenbury is the most direct but rather complicated. A simpler way is to follow the A530 to Burleydam then take the A525 to Whitchurch. Park at the side of the road.
Looking from the left-hand bank up towards the shallows – where it can be good for tench in summer.
Along the roadside, bank erosion has left alders stranded on their own little islands. The distant swan is still over very shallow water. Graham plays a jack pike. Just beyond the trees is the landing stage which is gooc for roach in summer. Recently stocked carp haven’t started to show yet
The pike that took Graham’s half herring had the last laugh. Graham caught himself on one of its teeth while unhooking it. It left him with a rather sore finger!
Graham fishes for pike on the roadside. Opposite are the woods where you can take good catches of roach, tench, perch and bream on the float in summer. In summer algae tends to break away from the lake bed and a bait fished hard on the bottom may be lost. Graham gets round the problem by using a bomb rather than a feeder, with a short hooklength and a long bomb link.
On the up and up
Graham has caught about five double-figure bream from Oss Mere (pronounced ‘Ozmere’) over the years and estimates his total catch of double-figure bream to be around 50-60. So you don’t have to be a logician to conclude that most of his fish haven’t come from Oss Mere. However, his largest Oss Mere bream is an 11 lb 1 oz (5.02kg) fish, which is not to be sniffed at and certainly shows that the place has potential. “The water is well known for its peaks and troughs,” says Graham.
Apparently, the size of the bream fluctuates over maybe a seven-year cycle. “They go down to about five to six pounds and reach low double-figures — that’s a maximum. At the moment they’re around six seven pounds and on the way up.”
The deepest water
It’s a cold February morning on Oss Me and Graham says that the only realistic ta get is the mere’s pike. “In the 1960s an old pal caught two hundred pounds [of pike] in one day. Since th< it has produced the occasional twenty pounder. Twenty-three pound is the biggest that I know of but that’s exception, They’re generally around the eight twelve pound mark.”
Dish-shaped in profile, Oss Mere is typical of many Cheshire and Shropshire meres. Nowhere is it more than about 3.7m (10-12ft) deep and in most places is considerably shallower. Set in fairly low-lying grazing land and shielded on partly on one side by woods, its 30 or acres are exposed to the wind.
There’s nearly always at least a ripple I and as a result the banks have been extensively eroded. The margins are shallow and, if you are seated on the bank, it’s necessary to cast a good way to reach respectable depth of water. When it’s cold as it is today, Graham believes that the deepest water gives him the best chance catching – which is why he has decided set up on the roadside.
So where can you catch those bream Graham admits that he hasn’t fished he for ages but explains how the bream used follow a recognized patrol route. “On a summer night… they’d come across the front of the woods about 40m offshore, then pass into the corner [to the right of the roadside], round here about 50-60m out. Then they’d go into the corner [to the left of the roadside] and head along the left bank. There used to oe a cane sticking out of the water about 50m out – marking a swim – and they’d swim past that. Then they’d disappear and that would be it for the night.” Of course, they may have changed their route since, so it’s up to the angler to make some careful observations. Fish rolling on the surface are conclusive evidence.
According to Graham, the woods are good in the early part of the season while the front is good from August up to October. ‘After that you can forget it.” Although Graham once caught five bream over 9lb (4kg) between 6:00am and noon, he maintains that night time is best. The eleven pounder was taken from the Cane Swim to the left. Although swims in this area are deeper than most, a cast of at least 40-50m (44-55yd) is still needed.
There are some fabulous roach. They’ve come on in leaps and bounds, from being a pest to one and a half pounders. Some are over two,” says Graham.
The landing stages along the road are favourite spots for roach but are in need of repair and quite slippery – so watch your footing! If you can set up comfortably on the end of a stage it gives you a great advantage, putting you only 3-4m (10-13ft) from the drop-off. “They catch roach and perch off there on the pole in summer,” says Graham.
The shallows at the far end of the mere are fringed with a mature bed of Norfolk reed. If you are after some early season sport with tench, this is the place to head for. “At the moment the tench are about four to five pounds but it has produced an eight pound one ounce fish – that’s the biggest that I know of. It was caught when there were very few tench coming out.”
A pleasant surprise
Today Graham is legering a couple of tail halves of herrings. He has pushed some foam rubber in them so that they fish off the bottom and has injected them with pilchard oil – for added appeal. “We might get a run if we’re very lucky,” he says, huddling up against the cold. Graham’s mate Eddie the Scouser has come down to lend some moral support and Graham expects another mate, Ronny ‘Snarler’ Charlesworth – to swell the ranks later. Graham explains a little about his bream tactics while he waits. “I usually leger with a fixed paternoster with a 3/40z bomb or a feeder. If there isn’t too much algae breaking off the bottom then I’ll use the feeder, otherwise I use the bomb. In the very early days we used bread but now it’s nearly all maggot – three maggots on a size fourteen or four on a twelve.”
The arm of Graham’s bite indicator drops and his optonic sounds. A small pike of around 4lb (1.8kg) has taken the right hand herring. It puts up a lively struggle – kiting left then right – but relentless pressure soon subdues it.