Coarse Fishing for Bream: The Common Bream and Silver Bream

1. The Common Bream (Abramis brama)

Other names include: bronze bream, bronzed bream, black bream, carp bream, bream carp, etc.

The back is green-brown, grey-brown, brown, slate-coloured, or even black in old age. The flanks are paler, being olive-coloured or green-brown with metallic bronze tints. Young fish are silvery flanked with a touch of pale green and develop the brassy or bronze hues in maturity, becoming darker with increased age. The underside is buff, white, or cream, with scarlet streaks and pink tints.

The body is deep-bellied, hump-backed, and thin in section. The total depth of the body is often about a third of the length or even more and the width across the body is a third of the depth. The abdomen is rounded, with the scales lapping evenly over each other. The tail is deeply forked, but asymmetrical, being pointed on the upper lobe and rounded on the lower one. The body is covered with a very thick layer of slime, and the anal fin is very long, reaching from the mid point of the belly almost to the tail.

2. The Silver Bream (Blicca bjoernka)

This species differs from the bronzed or common bream chiefly in being considerably smaller and in having predominantly silvery flanks, which it retains into full maturity. It is sometimes known as the white bream or ‘tinplate’. Because of similarity in colour, young common bream are often confused with mature silver bream, but identity can be established by scale and fin ray counts.

During the first year, young common bream attain a length of 7.5-10 cm (3-4 ins) when they weigh less than 25g (1 oz) being very thin in body section. During the second year they may more than double their weight and length and by the end of this season may be 15-17 cm (6-7 ins) long and weigh more than 50 g (2 oz). In three years they are about 22 cm (9 ins) long, filling out in the body, and may become sizeable (30 cm or 12 in) during the fourth year, when they may weigh up to 350 g (12 oz).

Considerable variation in growth rates occurs from one water to another, and the figures given are for good waters such as the Thames. In reservoirs or suitable still waters these may be improved upon.


In rivers, bream prefer the muddier reaches, where there is plenty of slow-water weed, and the deeper sluggish stretches. They are occasionally taken in gravelly places where ROACH are found, but this is largely due to their moving from one suitable reach to another and feeding spasmodically en route. They move in large shoals comprised of fish of about the same size and age. Owing to the large numbers in a shoal the fish find it necessary to move about considerably, both in rivers and still waters, to visit fresh pastures.

They patrol the banks, and also the deeps, hugging the bottom in the search for food. Between feeding they often play on the surface, diving and splashing about in a manner which many anglers believe means sport. Unfortunately the sport is often just for the bream.

Their food consists of worms, molluscs, small crustaceans, and insects, as well as microscopic animal organisms found in the bottom muds and silts. Much of their feeding is done by sucking at the bottom detritus, or by blowing water upon it to bring food to light. When a shoal is feeding in this manner it displaces a great deal of mud and discolours the water for some distance. In shallow lakes or rivers this discolouration is fairly easy to see, and when it is accompanied by the release of gas bubbles trapped in the bottom mud the colour is brought to the surface even in fairly deep waters. A good angler knows by these signs that the bream are feeding and selects his swim accordingly. In rivers the colouring is not so marked because the current is continually washing it away. Because of this, the angler must present his baits somewhat upstream of the coloured water if he is to locate the shoal.

Bream spawn between early May and June. After a cold spring they may still be busy spawning after the opening of the season in mid-June. Their condition is then easily recognizable by the wart-like growths which form on the scales of the male fish at this time, by their roughness to the touch, and their having rather less slime on their bodies. Female fish are recognized by the swollen abdomen.

Spawning occurs in the shallows, often right in the middle of quite thick reed beds, or among marginal bottom weed. The newly hatched fish remain in the weed for the first few months of their lives. Soon after spawning the older fish make for deeper waters where they remain during the summer months, becoming more and more mobile as the season lengthens. When frost kills off the weed, the fish drop into deeper holes; in still waters they cease to feed except in warmer periods during the winter. In rivers the continual forage for food is maintained except in the coldest weather. Winter fish frequently feed at night when the water temperature is higher than that of the air around it.


Most ROACH baits will take an occasional bream, but the really exceptional baits are bread derivatives, worms, freshwater mussels, and maggots, in roughly that order of efficiency.

Flake from the inside of a new loaf can be pressed on the bend of the hook (No. 8 or 10) or the flake can be firmly pressed in the centre and the hook passed through the compact nucleus. Bread cubes of about 2 cm (1 in) size can be used on a No. 6 or 8 hook. Crust is a good bait and remains on the hook well if damped and pressed between boards overnight. Bread paste is probably the best of the bread baits; it may be made with white or wholemeal bread and thickened with flour or custard powder, or by teasing cotton wool into it. It can also be flavoured with aniseed, pilchard oil, or icing sugar, or by working in a little slime from a freshly caught bream according to preference. Flavoured baits should certainly be made with clean hands, not even with hands smelling of soap.

Worms are another highly successful bait. The larger the mouthful, the better the bream like it, and in spite of their comparatively small mouths they have little difficulty in managing quite large lobworms which are presented on hooks suited to the bait size (6-8). Any worms will do. Brandlings and redworms are also useful, but these require smaller hooks (10-8). When worm baits are used, bread ground-baits are often useful. Many anglers like to wrap the hook-bait in a lump of bread ground-bait prior to casting, on the principle that this soon crumbles and helps attract fish to the hook-bait.

There is no doubt that maggots are good baits in many parts of the country, especially in those regions where maggot baits are practically ritualistic in use. Opinions vary about hook sizes. Single maggots are used on 16-12 hooks, and bunches on 8-10 hooks. In one district the angler with his single maggot can work havoc amongst a bream shoal; in another region, such as the upper Thames, twenty maggots on a No. 8 can be every bit as effective.

In waters where freshwater mussels are found they make excellent baits. The mussel is removed from its shell and hooked through the toughest part of the body, then tied in place with a piece of cotton.


The match-type rod is not the best for bream fishing although it can obviously take medium-sized fish if the angler can spare time to land them on this delicate tackle. The average weight of specimens in many waters is generally such as to strain light rods and a far stronger rod is preferable. A rod with action in the tip and middle joints such as the Avon-type rod is ideal. The butt may be of whole-cane with the tip and middle of built-cane or fibre-glass. Length is often important in waters where deep reed fringes border the margins, or where the deeper holes are well out in midstream. The longer rod (3.6 m or 12 ft) enables the angler to control laying-on’ tackles (for fishing with float but with bait on the bottom and line between float and rod top tight) well out in the brisker currents which are often found at the surface, because the bream may well lie in sluggish waters amongst the bottom holes and beneath the fast surface layers.

In still waters the rod may usefully be shorter (3 m or 10 ft) because the bait is more easily controlled at any distance; for canals and sluggish drains also this length may suffice. Choice of reel depends on the angler’s preferences, many bream anglers preferring the centre-pin because this permits fishing direct from the reel in a very sensitive manner. On the other hand, where long casting is required, the fixed-spool reel has much to recommend it. Ease of casting is its main advantage.

The line is usually of or 2 kg (3 or 4 lb) breaking strain, which gives the fisherman a fair chance of dealing with medium-sized fish. Where weed growth or fish sizes warrant it, somewhat stronger lines are used. When conditions demand ultra-light tackles, a cast of lower b.s. Than the main line can be used to improve the presentation.

Float-fishing is a much used method of taking good bream and the angler will require a variety of floats for varying conditions on different kinds of water. For still waters, the small porcupine quills from 10-20 cm (4-8 ins) in length may be ideal, but for running waters the bait often needs heavier shotting than such floats would carry. Here a cork-bodied quill or Thames-type float is more suitable.

Apart from the normal range of split shots and half-moon leads carried by every angler, weights will also be required for legering and laying-on. Much depends on the water, but as a general guide the drilled bullets are useful for float tackles requiring heavy shotting, and the Arlesey Bomb types are better for leger work. A variety ranging from 7 g oz) to 25 g (1 oz) should cover every eventuality.

Fishing Methods

Ground-baiting is vital in bream fishing because the large shoals take so much food that if the angler is to get a share of the fish before they move elsewhere he must keep them in the vicinity by continual ground-baiting. Bread is the staple ground-bait, but manufactured packet ground-baits are also very good. The ground-bait for serious bream fishing can be reckoned in buckets. The bait is mixed with rusk, bran, maggots, and chopped worms. To begin the session, several large balls are thrown in, and a lump is added to the swim from time to time as soon as the fish begin to feed. Consistency must of course vary with the type of water, in brisker waters being fairly stiff, in still waters somewhat thinner.

Bream are essentially bottom-feeders and most successful fishing methods require the hook-bait to be placed on the bottom. For this reason, swimming-the-stream and trotting tac-tics are seldom employed except where the bait is presented by tripping the bottom or stret-pegging. The main methods are therefore laying-on, float legering, and legering.

For ordinary tripping the bottom, the float tackle is arranged as if for swimming the stream, but the float is set higher to keep the bait well down. Few fish are taken by this expedient.

Laying-on, sometimes known as ‘tight corking’, is the standard method of bream fishing. It requires the float to be set up to 1 m (1 yd) further from the hook than the depth as indicated by the plummet. The shots are arranged on the lower part of the cast so that they actually lie on the bottom when the float is cocked slightly sideways. Usually the float is shotted to balance it with slightly positive buoyancy, but in some circles an additional shot is added 30 cm (1 ft) or so higher up the line so that the float is negatively buoyant and will sink the moment the bottom shots are lifted by a taking fish. Bream bites can be deceptive to the point of frustration; the fish often seem to nibble at the bait for an eternity before making a positive move off with it. During this time the float may sink slightly, rise slightly, or even keel over and lie flat on the surface. When a definite run occurs, the float usually submerges distinctly enough. Opinions are divided as to how such bites should be dealt with, some anglers preferring to strike when the float lies flat, others insisting on awaiting a real ducking of the float.

When laying-on in a brisker current, the angler can select a suitable combination of floats and weights capable of working properly without being continually submerged by the pull of the current. Often the rod must be arranged to exert a light pull on the float from the rod tip in order to balance the tackle between current and rod tip. When a knock occurs it is sometimes necessary to lower the rod tip momentarily to prevent the fish feeling any resistance and allow the bite to develop.

In such a water the float can be allowed to swing down and towards the bank at intervals, so searching out a considerable area of water. These tactics are valuable in locating the fish. The tackle is re-cast when it swings right under the near bank.

In still waters, the tackle might consist of a small quill weighted with one or two shots, especially when fishing within a reasonable distance of the bank. For longer casting, however, the terminal tackle must be slightly heavier to give good casting, and also to allow the angler to control the tackle in light winds or surface drift. Sometimes it is a good plan to attach the float by the lower ring only so that line between the float and rod tip can be sunk. This can give very sensitive fishing, but in running water it requires considerable practice. For sluggish waters, light tackle can be used for close range laying-on; in brisker water a Thames-type float weighted with several shots may be necessary.

Innumerable variations on float, shotting, and tackle will suggest themselves and the float can even be fitted to the line temporarily after the cast has been made. Carefully positioned on the line near the rod tip, and free to slide down the line when a fish is taken, the float can be used as a sort of swing tip indicating bites by bobbing on the surface, or on the line. Slider Floats are also valuable in still waters where the depth is greater than the length of the rod.

Leger tackle is set up with an Arlesey Bomb slipped on the line and stopped with a single shot below it about 45 cm (18 in) from the hook, although the distance varies with conditions; sometimes a long trail of up to 1.5 m (5 ft) can usefully be employed. On other occasions a very short trail may be more efficient. A pear lead and swivel can be used instead of the bomb, with the advantage that if a spring-link swivel is employed the weight can be changed at a moment’s notice with little trouble.

In waters where the bottom is exceptionally soft the problem is that the lead tends to become buried in the mud, so stifling bites and muffling the strike. This is overcome by attaching a short nylon ‘leg’ to the weight, with a swivel at the end. The running line is then passed through the free eye of the swivel and stopped in the usual way. This makes a smooth resistance-free tackle which is often most effective. If the bait itself is thought to be sinking in mud, or beneath soft flannel weed where it is obscured, this can often be overcome by flattening the bait on the hook to dispose its weight over a larger area. Alternatively, the balanced bread bait developed for carp fishing by Richard may be adopted. This consists of a piece of crust moulded to paste so that the buoyancy of one cancels the weight of the other when it lies on the bottom.

Detecting the bite is always a problem for Leger anglers but there are several ways of providing for the accurate and sensitive detection of the bites. The simplest is to use a dough bobbin, a small ball of paste, attached to the line somewhere between the butt and the reel. A little slack line is allowed to give free movement and bites are usually indicated by a definite movement of the bobbin as line runs out. Some anglers prefer to attach the dough close to the rod tip, hanging a foot or so below it. This is the principle of the ‘swing tip’, the dough swinging as the line is tightened when bites occur.

The angler can of course fish directly off the reel. If a centre-pin reel is used it must be free-running and the rod must be arranged to point in the same direction as the line so that runs will not cause the tip to vibrate before the reel begins revolving and so put off a taking fish. The angler strikes at the running of the reel, stopping it as he does so. If a fixed-spool reel is used, this can be left with the pick-up open so that line is quite free to run. A small piece of silver paper attached to the line gives easy visibility when the line does run, and the angler simply closes the pick-up and strikes simultaneously.

In fairly brisk waters, the angler must fish with a tight line, depending on movements of the rod tip or the feel of the line between his fingers to inform him of bites. Often it is necessary to lower the rod tip at once to give the fish enough line to `run’.

Probably the best method of all is the slack-line style but this is suitable only for still and very slow waters and requires a windless day. The cast is made, the line drawn tight to rod tip, and then a little slack is eased back through the rings so that the line lies in a natural curve from rod tip to water. The angler watches the line at the water’s surface, and when this runs out, he strikes.

All the methods described here are suitable for silver as well as common bream fishing. Note that the silver species is very slightly more inclined to take baits fished just off the bottom.


River fish are, usually considered to be better fighters. Amongst the exceptional bream waters must be included the many Lincolnshire drains, the Norfolk Broads, and the Fens. The Thames (the upper reaches round Pangbourne), Medway, Arun, Witham, Nene, Welland, and Great Ouse are also noteworthy.

Bream are found in all parts of Great Britain except the most northern and western parts; they are very common in Ireland.

15. July 2011 by admin
Categories: Coarse Fishing, Fish | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Coarse Fishing for Bream: The Common Bream and Silver Bream


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