May the 21st, 17 fished.
A Hall Green Home Guard A.C contest today at Blythe Waters, and we were on Bridge, a pool I’d only match fished once previously – an icy December affair I managed to win with a low 30lb weight.
In the week leading up to the match I did a little online homework, searching the angling forums for advice regarding tactics, depths, stamp of fish and so on. This forage for information returned a staggering amount of posts relating to the behaviour of fishery manager, Gail – few of which were complimentary. There were tales of feuds and fights, accusation followed by counter-accusation, and one incident that got so out-of-hand the police were called to intervene.
For this reason I came to the venue with some apprehension. First impressions though were that the fishery is just beautiful: hanging baskets at the lodge, well-tended grounds, dense, well-established foliage everywhere. Stunning.
Jody picked me up for today’s match, and we arrived at the fishery early as I was on pegging-out duty. We unloaded our shuttles from his van and placed our nets out, ready to be inspected. Gail enforces a dry net policy at the fishery and asks that all anglers’ keepnets and landing nets be “bone dry”. She checks each and every one fastidiously, before anybody is allowed to wet a line.
Whilst I understand her vigilance on this matter, as it is proven that Koi Herpesvirus is often passed from venue-to-venue by anglers’ nets, I believe this dry net rule is flawed. The fact that a net is dry doesn’t guarantee that it is free from infection; it is how the net has been dried/aired that is the important factor. It is widely accepted that UV destroys the KHV cells:
“KHV did not survive exposure to sunlight. There were no positive cells for KHV in both ‘light and damp’, and ‘light and dry’ conditions” – https://marinescience.blog.gov.uk
In the week leading up to this match it rained heavily every day, so I dried my nets in the garage. It would have been more effective to have placed them out in the garden, arriving at the fishery with damp nets that were sure to be free from infection.
So, as a precaution, I pegged my nets out behind me on the bank before the match began.
At 9 o’clock we gathered in the car park to draw. Today’s match was the 2nd round of the knockout competition and I had been pitted against workmate, Richard Caswell. Into the bag of dreams and I pull out peg 4, which is permanent peg 9, not a flyer, but certainly not a bad peg. Richard found himself on permanent peg 31, again, not one you’d run to, but a fair draw.
A lot of fish had been caught recently from peg 34 round to 6, where there is a floating boom, so I expected Ian Gibson to do well from this area. I also fancied Mark Seaborn to have a few from peg 18.
For company today I had travelling (and drinking) partner Jo Wood to my right, and Steve Wheeler directly behind me.
Plan of attack today was to start on a feeder of some description, to the island out in front. A few exploratory casts should make it clear if it was to be a tip day or a pole day. I decided to hedge my bets and set up a pellet feeder and a small hybrid, I then scanned the island for rat-holes to chuck into. There was a bush directly in front, a small bay to the left, and lots of fishy-looking little areas to the right.
I called over to Mark “Moggy” Downing on 23, “can I chuck my feeder into that little bay?” He called back “yes mate – I’ll cast mine to the left”. All very amicable. I had a couple of practice casts with a pellet feeder, it soon became apparent that overhead branches would make the chuck difficult, and that I’d be up the tree sooner rather than later. I shouted over, “you have it mate, I’ll cast mine to the right”, so Moggy proceeded to cast into the shallow bay (more about this shortly).
Once my rods were clipped-up and ready, I moved onto pole rigs. I decided on a simple approach today: pellet up and down at 14m, right hand margin to an empty pallet and left hand margin under a tree.
Now, here’s the bit you’ve all been looking forward to – rigs for the occasion were as follows:
– Shallow rig 1, MW Cookie, PR36 – 18 – .15
– Shallow rig 2 (deeper) Hillbilly Ratcatcher 3, PR36 18 – .15
– Deck rig (5ft), Malman Roob 4 x 14, PR36 – .15
– Right hand edge (2ft), Hillbilly Edge Hog .3, Kaizen 15 -.15
– Left hand edge (3.5ft), Hillbilly Thick Chump .4, B911 16 – .15
Bait for the day consisted of 2mm and 6mm pellets, a few tins of corn, 3 pints of dead maggots, some worms, and half a lorry-load of groundbait. I mixed around 3 kilo of groundbait up before the match, I had been told that the fish at Blythe come in and out of the peg, my thinking was that by feeding a large amount down one side they might come in and stay.
At 10.15 the “all in” was called; I shipped out to 14m and tapped in around 30 pellets. I then catapulted two or three pellets over the top, to find my range.
After a couple of mis-casts (just getting my eye in), I sent my pellet feeder tight to the island, I had the odd small indication but no proper pull-round. Meanwhile, Moggy was catching regularly in the shallow bay I had kindly donated to him. Sometimes the water would erupt as he hooked a fish. I couldn’t get a bite on the tip, despite trying both the pellet feeder and the hybrid, with various hookbaits. This is how it continued for the first hour; Moggy put 6 or 7 good fish in the net, while I managed my first carp when I came onto the 14m pinging line. The second hour followed a similar pattern, I caught two carp shallow while Moggy increased his lead by snaring another 5 or 6.
At this point I felt that Moggy’s lead was already unassailable, and that I should prepare myself to finish in second place, at best. Either that or I could employ some unsportsmanlike Jedi mind-tricks to beat him; basically this would involve me fantasising that he becomes caught-up in an incident which stops him from being able to complete the match. Nothing too drastic, I just hoped that he’d fall in or soil his pants.
As it stood, Mark masterfully kept control of his bowel-movements and avoided falling into the drink for the full five hours, handing me an angling lesson in the process.
Into the third hour and I needed to make something happen. While flogging the shallow line I had been firing 8mm pellets to my side of the island, in the hope of drawing some of Moggy’s fish towards me. I threw the hybrid feeder and 8mm pellet into my loose-offerings and had 3 decent fish in a half an hour spell. But, just when I thought I had it sussed, I suffered a dreary, biteless half an hour and was left scratching around for bites.
The fourth hour of my match was a complete disaster. I absolutely filled-in my right hand margin, expecting big carp to turn up in numbers; I didn’t manage a fish from this line for the duration of the match. I caught nothing on the tip, nothing on the pole, and nothing down the edge to add to my tally of six fish.
Into the last hour and I made the decision to spend ten (timed) minutes at a time on three lines: the hybrid feeder, the right hand edge, and the freshly-primed left hand edge. There was little finesse involved with my feeding of this line, I merely grabbed two big hand fulls of corn, two balls of groundbait, and lashed them in; making as much noise as possible, hopefully mimicking the sound of an angler packing away. To an extent, this did the trick, as I managed two carp from under the tree in the final half an hour on double corn. Add these to one last tip fish and I ended the day with a total of nine. They were all carp of a decent stamp, so I estimated I had 45lb-plus.
As we waited for the scales to be brought round, knockout opponent Richard Caswell arrived to see how I’d fared. I told him I had nine carp; he informed me he had eight or nine – this could be close. When the scales got to me, club Chairman, Bob Warwick was leading the way with 26lb. My fish went 53lb, the same weight I managed last time out, and a similair, frustrating, pattern-less match.
My 53lb was top weight all the way round to Moggy on peg 23, then he plonked a very respectable 82lb 8oz on the scales. Looking at his peg, the little bay I’d earlier claimed was directly in front of him, and rightfully his to cast in to. It was very generous of him to have offered it to me at any point.
Next to weigh was Moggy’s travelling partner Kev Dickinson, as he heaved out his net he said “this is gonna be close”. It sure was – Kevin beating Moggy by just 6oz with a weight of 82lb 14oz. He had several worm-caught big perch in his net which boosted his weight, already giving him his second win of the season.
Next up was knock-out rival, Rich Caswell – his eight or nine carp went 16lb. He was obviously on a small stamp of fish; sometimes there’s nothing you can do about that.
All in all, a nice match today; tricky angling in gorgeous surroundings. And for the record, Gail was an accommodating host. Polite, generous with her time and information – she even waved us off the car park. We’ll be back next year.
Today’s Man of the Match award goes to Kevin “Dicky” Dickinson. Not for the simple reason that he caught more fish than anybody else, you understand. See, by his own admission, Dicky spent his entire Saturday – midday until midnight – in the Colebrook, drinking beer. He woke on Sunday, horizontal, fully-dressed, thumping head ache, fell out of bed and stormed the contest. Sometimes, all you can do is applaud such a lack of dedication.
My favourite moment of the day came mid-match, when I asked Moggy if he would reconsider and let me have a sneaky cast into the little bay. I’ll not give you his reply verbatim, this isn’t the place for such profanities. But his response brought to mind something my dear old grandmother once said, “mind your language… you little c#*t”.
Until next time…