June the 25th, 17 fished.
Today’s Wythall Royal British Legion AC contest was to be held at the prolific Elmbridge fishery, in Worcestershire. There are three pools on the complex: Peacock, Heron and Pheasant. Whilst Peacock is generally used for small club matches, the latter two pools are big-weight waters; most summer contests are won with 100lb-plus, and 200lb weights are not uncommon. In fact, on a club match on Heron Pool in 2014, I drew beside Ollie Corbett as he broke the club record with 279lb; next door I managed just 139lb for 7th place on the day.
Today we would be fishing Pheasant, the largest body of water on the complex and home to some huge fish. I’d only fished this pool twice previously, once on a club match and once on an open, on both occasions I weighed around 50lb, and on both occasions I finished in 3rd place.
Walking around the lake pre-match with Danny and Andy, we were all of the opinion that the bottom bay looked fishy, especially with a warm wind blowing into it. We also all agreed that a peg in the middle of the pool wouldn’t be a favourable draw, particularly those on the far bank that are set back from the two ‘point’ pegs. Still, on a venue so well-stocked, we predicted a day’s fishing for every angler, from any peg on the lake.
Coming into the match, I was on a strong run of form, with two wins in my previous three contests, yet I felt low in confidence somehow. I’m a strong believer in positive self-criticism, and it’s fair for me to say that my f1 angling is far stronger than my carp angling. In fact, my four match wins so far this season have all come on f1 venues. On carp-dominated waters I tend to get caught up imitating what other anglers are doing, rather than being single-minded and fishing to my strengths. Today I decided to adopt a similar approach to my f1 matches, only with heavier lines and stronger elastics. Basically, I planned on fishing hard pellets up and down on the long pole, feeding with a cad pot or a catapult. I also planned on feeding frugally down the edge – the big pot would only come into play if the anglers in my eyeline were adopting this tactic with any level of success.
At 9am we gathered to draw in the car park. By the time I squeezed my way to the front of the queue, a couple of the less desirable pegs had gone. Unfortunately, the four pegs in the bay had been taken too, and to make matters worse they would all be occupied by good anglers: Tony Corbett, Graham Green, Danny Hamilton and Dave Richards. When I finally had a dip, peg 34 stuck to my mitt. Not knowing the pool well, I asked for it to be pointed out to me, “over there, by the tree”. Not bad at all, the first ‘point’ peg on the far bank. I unloaded my car and headed to my home for the next five hours, on my way round I passed resident drawbag and weekend horticulturist, Graham Green (Fingers).
I dropped my gear off at my peg and gave myself a moment to assess it: a long right hand margin that looked lovely, a short left hand edge and plenty of open water out in front – I fancied it for a few. As it transpired, Val Timms fancied it too, as he plonked his gear down at the peg and said ‘I think this is mine, mate’ (very few of the pegs are numbered). A quick shout over to Dave Richards confirmed that Val was correct, 34 was two to the left, on one of the set-back pegs, right where I didn’t fancy. Joe Wood, who is a tidy angler, had drawn this peg on a club match a couple of years ago and endured a tough day. I can’t pretend I was pleased with my draw, but I vowed to give it a good go.
For company today I had Andy “Power” Bellingham to my left, Val to my right and opposite, Pete Holtham. Now Pete is a great bloke, very well liked, but he takes being contrary to a whole new level. He once stood inches from the “House Pool” sign at Tunnel Barn Farm and insisted it was Extension pool – he steadfastly stood by this claim, even when the sign was pointed out to him. Another example of how headstrong Pete can be in the face of overwhelming opposing evidence, came during an exchange with Dave Richards that went like this:
Pete – What’s your surname, Dave?
Dave – it’s Richards.
Pete – Richards?
Dave – yes mate, Richards.
Pete – no it’s not.
Dave – what?
Pete – it’s not Richards.
Dave – eh?
Pete – it’s Crawford.
Dave – my name isn’t Dave Crawford, it’s Richards.
Pete – Richards, you sure?
Dave – yes, Richards, it’s my fucking name.
Pete – … no it’s not.
I plumbed up and was surprised to find just 3 and a half feet at 14.5m. Although I set up a couple of shallow rigs, I expected to catch on the deck in that depth. Rigs for today’s match were as follows:
– Shallow 1, MW Cookie, Super MWG 18 – .15 lasso
– Shallow 2, Hillbilly Ratcatcher 3, Super MWG 18 – .15 lasso
– Long-lining rig, .4 Drennan Crystal Dibber, Super MWG 18 – .15 band
– Deck rig, Malman Roob 4 x 14, Super MWG, 18 – .15 lasso
– Paste rig, Maver paste float 4 x 12, Kaizen 14 – .17
– Edge Rig, .3 Hillbilly Edge Hog, Kaizen 14 – .17
With a little time to spare before the all-in, I went for a wander. I like to look at other anglers’ set-ups pre-match, to get an idea of how they intend to approach the day; what baits people will be using, how many rigs they have set up and so on. When I got to Big Trev on peg 22 I noticed his side-tray was full, he had 8 tins of sweetcorn, 5 tins of luncheon meat and a loaf of bread… but I’m not here to write about his mid-match snack.
At 10.15 the all-in was called. I fed some pellets and corn at 2 + 2, with the intention of going over it with a lump of paste should the long line not produce. I then shipped out the long pole with around a dozen pellets in a cad pot; the idea was to group some feed tightly then draw fish in by catapulting pellets over the top. This tactic appeared to have worked when fifteen minutes in my float dipped under, I struck and a small amount of 13h came out of my pole tip. Unfortunately, I pinged out of this fish and my rig flicked up, wrapping around my pole.
This tangle turned out to be a moment of fortunate misfortune – I felt the 4 x 14 float I’d initially set up was too heavy for the depth, and impossible to present on-the-drop, so I took this opportunity to scrap it off and set up a 4 x 12 of the same pattern. The 5 number 10 shot presented strung out gave the new rig a lovely, slow fall and in the next half an hour I managed two carp, both coming as the float settled.
Into the second hour of the match, my long pole line had dried up to some extent. I had a feeling feeding heavier might provoke a response, but I didn’t want to force the peg at this early stage. I was quite concerned at this point, because of the eight anglers in my eyeline, not one had managed a carp. The pool was fishing incredibly hard; big fish were coming through the peg, usually very quickly, creating vortexes and tail-patterns. In such murky water they were impossible to mug, I tried flicking a long-lining rig around the swim in the hope that I dropped it on the nose of one, but this felt too much like chasing shadows. Over the next hour or so I also tried both of my shallow rigs, paste short and a brief look down the edge, but I didn’t have as much as a liner on any rig.
Into the third hour and I decided to look back out long, I managed one carp in this spell, a mirror of around 6lb. Still, nobody else I could see had managed a proper fish. Word on the bank though, was that Greeny and Eddie were snaring a few, including a 15lb specimen for Eddie.
At the half way stage of the contest, Dave Richards called over, “haven’t you won it from that flyer yet?”. I suspected there was an element of kidology at play here, as my peg was certainly no flyer. My suspicions were confirmed when Dave followed up his initial comment with, “… I’ve won three matches from that peg.” See, Dave hasn’t won three matches this decade!
With just under two hours to go, and with around 16lb in the net, I made the decision to focus on two lines and two rigs for the remainder of the match. I would fish hard pellets on the deck out long, feeding heavier, and the same bait up my left hand margin, where I would feed by catapult. My thinking was that nobody I could see had caught down the edge yet, and they were all big-potting dead maggots, so why follow suit? I doubled my tally in the next hour, from three to six, with two fish taken out long and one up the left hand edge.
I entered the final hour of the match five or six carp ahead of those anglers I could see, a healthy lead, but not an unassailable one. I felt that my best chance of keeping myself ahead would be to plug away on the two hard pellet lines, hopefully picking off the odd fish. I think this was the right move, as more edge fished turned up for many other anglers in the closing stages of the match, but I managed to net four more carp, giving me a total of ten. I caught three out long, two of which took the bait on-the-drop, and one more down the edge. The interesting thing about the margin fish caught on hard pellet was the ferocity of the bites, on both occasions I sat staring at a motionless float one second, the next my pole tip thumped into the water.
At 3.15 the all-out was called; I felt reasonably pleased with how things had gone, it had fished awfully, but I felt I had got a lot from my peg, beating all those in my view in the process. I hastily packed away and made my way round to follow the weigh-in, where scalesman Dave Richards declared a DNW. Dave has an excellent record at Elmbridge, fishing many opens at the venue and recording some big weights, the fact that he didn’t trouble the scales today shows how poorly the venue fished. Next up, Danny Hamilton put 11lb on the scales, followed by Graham Green’s 9 fish for 44lb (7 of which were caught in the first hour).
Next to weigh was Tony Corbett, who was biteless until the final hour of the contest, then found a few welcome lumps for 35lb. After this, Val placed 6lb on the scales before it was my turn. My ten carp went 51lb, making me the lake leader, but with a further 11 anglers left to weigh, anything could happen. I maintained this lead until we reached Eddie Swann at the dam end, who was owning up to 56lb on his clicker. As it stood, the fish didn’t seem to be weighing post-spawning and Eddie’s fish went 45lb, putting him in 2nd place. Aside from a couple of low 30lb weights, Eddie’s was the last net of the day of any note, handing me the match win.
As an indication of how poorly it fished today, 6 anglers didn’t trouble the scales, and the 11 anglers that did weigh in managed 316lb between them – a mere 28lb per man. Now, to give you an idea of how the pool can fish, last September former club member and top angler, Neil Carless managed 278lb from peg 16 on a Solihull Angling Centre contest.
Today’s Man of the Match award goes to Chris “hasn’t got a” Chance. Beating his mentor, Jim Smith off the next peg and generally fishing it right on a tough day. Well done, Chris.
Today’s funniest moment came mid-match, with Big Trev complaining about the lack of depth down his edge, “I’ve only got about 3 inches down my margin!” To which, Greeny replied, “What did you measure it with, your cock?” Possibly not the most sophisticated line ever, but the fact that Trevor was on peg 22 and Greeny was on peg 40, and still felt it necessary to shout the length of the pool to mock him – well, I laughed for a good fifteen minutes.
A cracking day today, spent in good company. It’s a shame the fishing wasn’t up to much – but a couple in the Robin Hood on the way home more than made up for it.
Until next time…