June the 4th, 14 fished.
An unusual venue for today’s Wythall Royal British Legion AC contest. Not a commercial fishery this time, but a pool on a syndicate water in Wolvey, Warwickshire. Kingfisher Pools are located beside Makins Fishery, Phase 2, and are only occasionally used for matches. There are two pools; when you enter the fishery, the first one you come to is Heron. I’ve fished this on numerous occasions, usually during the winter months, it’s well-stocked, very deep, and sport is generally good. Today we would be on the bottom lake, Grebe; I’ve only fished this one once before, a couple of seasons ago. On that day I drew an average peg and posted an average result.
Although not a commercial water, the stocking of both pools is commercial-typical: f1s, bream and carp being the main species. There are some huge fish in both pools, including the odd twenty-pounder.
Fishery manager, Dennis, doesn’t like these big fish held in keepnets. So, in the interest of fish welfare, he applies an unusual rule: anglers are asked to weigh any fish over 6lb immediately. There are scales placed at every few pegs, and weights are recorded on a sheet of paper.
I once fell foul to this rule. I was fishing a Wythall match, catching well on the pellet waggler. I caught a few fish which I believed were 6lb, or thereabouts. I held these fish up to neighbouring angler, Pip Maddox. “What do you think, 6lb? 7lb?”. Each time, Pip would tell me not to worry: “no mate, 4-5lb… at most”. It turned out that he was on the wind-up – and come the weigh-in I had several fish in my net over 6lb. Dennis was apoplectic with rage and threatened to ban me for life. I apologised, and thankfully he accepted this apology. I vowed to take more care this time – and to trust my instincts.
A recent rise in temperatures has prompted fish to spawn at waters up and down the country. I hoped they’d be finished before today’s contest. I don’t like wetting a line during spawning time, primarily because I believe it’s important to leave fish in peace to do the necessary. As well as this, the sound of big carp crashing around the margins can be off-putting – anybody who has been to a lake when they are in their raptures will tell you that the racket is quite something. I don’t purport to be an expert on the sex lives of fish, but it’s seemingly no tender affair. This courtship appears to be a three step process:
1. Find some reeds.
3. Kick fuck out of each other.
It is rumoured Sir David Attenborough was once approached to make a documentary on the breeding rituals of Cyprinus Carpio. The esteemed nonagenarian naturalist refused, stating that “… they’re just a bunch of dirty bastards”. His words, not mine.
Onto today’s events, and word from those in the know was that Peg 3 would be the place to draw, it’s situated in a lovely-looking little bay, and is where Dennis feeds the fish between matches. Failing this, somewhere up the top end of the pool would be favourable.
Into the hat and out comes… 19. Nowhere near where I wanted to be, and a draw met with pitying looks by those who know the venue.
When Ollie Corbett – arguably the best angler in the club – drew flyer peg 3, most believed it would be a race for second place.
For company today, I had Steve Siddell on peg 20. Steve joined the club this season along with his friend, Lee Westwood. Evidently, this year’s recruitment criteria stipulates that new members must have the name (or at least a very similar name) of a famous sportsman.
On the waiting list for next year we have two lads from Wolverhampton – Bryan Giggs and Mick Faldo.
As I had no feature to cast to, my plan of attack today was to fish the pellet waggler/bomb at 30m, long pole shallow/on the deck at 14m, and my edges.
My right hand edge was obscured by some dense reeds, I decided to hack at these to make a little gap to fish through. For some reason I decided on my cupping kit as tool-of-choice to attack the reeds. After a couple of ‘thwacks’ it exploded – leaving me with a handful of shattered carbon. This didn’t bode well for the day ahead.
The rigs I assembled were:
– Shallow rig 1 – MW Cookie, PR36 18 – .15, band
– Shallow rig 2 – Hillbilly Rat-catcher 3, PR36 18 – .15, band
– Shallow rig 3 – Hillbilly Rat-catcher 2, B911 18 – .13, lasso
– Deck rig – Hillbilly Thick Chump .6g, PR36 18 – .15, band
– Edge rig – Hillbilly Edge Hog .3g, B911 14 – .17
Bait comprised of: 6 pints of dead red maggots (in case they turned up down the edge); 4mm, 6mm and 8mm Coppens pellets; a two pint tub of wetted micro pellets and corn mixed together.
At 10.15 the “all-in” was called. I fed a small amount of pellets onto my long pole line, then chucked the waggler. After a couple of repetitions of the feed-cast-feed-twitch process, my float dipped under and I landed my first fish of the day, an f1 of about 2.5lbs.
Another twenty minutes went by on the waggler without a sign. So, I fed some more pellets onto my long pole line and chucked the lead. After 6 minutes (I was timing casts) my tip slowly went round and I snared a carp of around 5lb. Next chuck on the lead was unproductive, so I took a look on the long pole line. Presenting a bait proved difficult, the wind had really picked-up and my rig was blowing right to left. I had a small carp and a skimmer, but gave it up as a bad job as I couldn’t get the rig to sit naturally for any length of time.
Into the second hour now and it was becoming a real struggle. I gave all of my rigs little cameo appearances, but couldn’t make anything work. I tried the long pole shallow at various depths, feeding different pellet sizes, I tried slapping the rig, laying it in naturally – everything. All of my attempts proved fruitless, so I decided to sit it out on the bomb for the next while.
Despite trying different hook bait combinations, the lead also yielded nothing. We were now two hours and fifteen minutes into the match and I had less than 10lb to show for my efforts. In normal circumstances this would have been alarming, but those around me weren’t faring any better.
As the wind had eased, I thought this would be a good time to drop back onto my long pole line. I went in with the deeper shallow rig; this time I decided to cut out 4mm pellets altogether and concentrate on feeding, and fishing, 6mms properly. Although sport was slow, the next hour and a half proved to be the most productive of my match. I put just over 30lb into the net by fishing shallow at 14m, and thinking about what it was I was trying to achieve. Small changes in depth bought bites, variations in feeding also made a big difference. A ploy that tricked a few was to ping pellets singularly, one every few seconds: plop-plop-plop. This seemed to give the fish something to home in on, the lack of choice helping them to find my hook-bait easily.
I fished shallow until the final hour and fifteen, even putting two “weighers” onto the board; a common of 7lb 8oz and a mirror of 9lb.
Then the wheels fell off…
After my second “weigher”, I felt that I’d built up enough of an advantage on those in my eyeline to afford me a little look down the edge. I’d been feeding dead maggots down there by hand, at regular intervals. Pegged opposite me, Eddie Swann had a look down his right hand margin and snared a decent fish almost immediately. I went in on mine and within thirty seconds the float thumped under and it was “fish on”. This was a proper one, I was fishing a .17 bottom and black hydro, but it kept going and going until my hooklength gave way. So, I pinged a few pellets back onto my shallow line to keep it ticking over, then went back down the margin. Again, within a couple of minutes the float disappeared, this time a small carp of around 3lb found its way to the net.
Opposite me Eddie was now motoring, landing fish after fish – many of which were “weighers”. Having somebody catching so well in your view can be off-putting, and for the last hour I committed the cardinal sin of match angling: I didn’t fish my own match. I hooked a further 9 fish in this period, getting just 2 out. Meanwhile, Eddie hooked a similair amount losing just the one.
I tried shallowing-up, fishing away from my feed, altering my shotting pattern, the length of my hooklength, size of hook – all to no avail. In hindsight, I got my feeding wrong, and fed the wrong bait for the depth of water. As it was around 3ft (the shallowest water I could find) I should have fed a heavier bait which the fish couldn’t waft around, pellet and corn, perhaps.
Despite my best efforts to keep my shallow line fed, this also dried up in the latter stages of the match. It’s impossible to give a line the same attention whilst looking elsewhere, as you would when fishing it. As the match drew to a frustrating end, it was obvious that Eddie had easily overtaken me, and judging by the splashing coming from the next peg, Steve had too. I packed my gear away, really disappointed at my performance. I guessed I had just under 35lb in my nets, added to my two weighers, this would give me close to 50lb. If I kept plugging away shallow, I reckoned I might have ended up with 60lb-70lb.
I followed the scales around and Eddie weighed in first, he already had 42lb on the board. He then added a further 48lb from his nets to this to give him a hard-earned 91lb – 60lb of which he caught in the last hour and a quarter.
As we made our way around the lake it appeared that sport had been very patchy. There were a couple of 17lb weights, a couple of twenties, a DNW.
On flyer peg 3, Ollie managed 55lb of very small stamp fish. Then, continuing his great start to the season, Tony Corbett put 75lb onto the scales. There were no other weights of note until we reached Dave Richards, who won the match from peg 15 with 108lb of edge fish.
I was next to weigh, and I sheepishly placed 51lb on to the scales. My third low 50lb weight on the bounce, but easily my worst performance of the three matches. As expected, Steve beat me off the next peg, weighing-in 56lb. Last up was Dave Brain with 49lb.
An exasperating match today. If I could fish it again, knowing what I know now, I would spend the first four hours on the shallow line, then venture down the edge for the last hour fishing corn and pellet. That’s fishing though…
Today’s Man of the Match award goes to Eddie Swann, a zero-to-hero performance. He even had an audience for the last hour. Well done, Ed.
A special mention must also go to this handsome chap:
Best line of the day came, as it quite often does, at the weigh-in. As Lee Westwood emptied hundreds of lovely little silver fish from his keepnet onto the scales, Ollie cheekily said “Perhaps I should’ve brought some pinkies too…” Classic.
Finally, to give you some idea of how badly I got things wrong today, I ended up in The Blue Pig pub in Wolvey.
Everybody else went to The Bulls Head over the road.
Until next time…