July the 9th, 11 fished.
Today’s Wythall Royal British Legion AC contest was to be held on Arles Pool, at Woodland View fishery in Worcestershire. Just eleven anglers made it for this, our sixth match of the season, the lowest turn-out I can recall in my time with the club. Several anglers were away on holiday, the others were either working or had family commitments – that is, apart from one member who will remain nameless (for the sake of this we’ll call him Trevor Faulkner, from the Maypole area of Birmingham). This mystery angler refused to fish, stating that Arles is “the worst pool in the Midlands”, a wayward and completely unsubstantiated claim. In my opinion, Arles isn’t even the worst pool on the complex.
With just eleven anglers occupying forty pegs today, I didn’t mind where I drew. Of course, some areas would be better than others, but a decent day’s fishing should be achievable from every peg. Walking around the pool with Pete Holtham to peg-out, it was clear that there were a fair few fish in the upper layers of the water, and plenty of big carp already mooching around the margins. With this in mind, I imagined that shallow and edge fishing would form the basis of my attack for the day.
At 9am we gathered in the cafe to draw; as Graham Green would be tasked with recording anglers’ names and peg numbers, he asked that I draw his peg first. I pulled out number 10, a good area with plenty of room – I fancied him to do well from there. When it was my turn, I grabbed 34, another good peg, and the only one on the pool where the island can be reached with the pole.
For company today I had “Big” Phil Southgate to my right and “Not on my” Nelly Palmer to my left. For reasons known only to him, Nelly once decided that I am an Aston Villa supporter, and unswervingly stands by this belief despite my protestations and all evidence I have to suggest otherwise. Apparently, following Birmingham City since 1982, having been to every cup final, play-off final, through each heartbreaking relegation battle, having travelled the length of the country to countless away games, through the dark years of the Kumar regime through to the Barry Fry era, just isn’t enough to satisfy Nelly. So, unless I get a huge Beau Brummie tattooed across my torso or change my name to Jasper Carrot by deed poll, he will always lovingly refer to me as “That Villa Twat” whenever we meet.
For “company” today we also had a bunch of lads from The Blackcountry on High Pool, directly behind us. Now, I have no problems whatsoever with our cousins from the other side of the Clent Hills, but they can talk a bit. Silence for them is a sin, something to be filled immediately. So much so that when they are fishing, it sounds like a group of residents from a mental institution on a stag party. One riveting exchange went like this:
– Have yow gorra ton?
– Ya jowkin, I ey gorra ton
– Yow av, ya cunt
– No I ey
– You’ve gorra ton
– See-ree-us-lee, I ey gorra ton, I’ve got seven-tay foy-iv, max
– Yam a lying cunt Kev yow am
– I ey
– Yow am
– I ey
– Yow am
– I ey
And so on, for a good half an hour. Just for the record, Kev went on to weigh 150lb, and was thus proven to be the aforementioned “lying cunt”. Perhaps I’ll avoid booking matches when Rowley Labour club or Penkridge Ex-Servicemen are at the venue in future.
Plan of attack today was to start my match fishing hard 6mm pellets at top kit plus one, if and when this dried up, I would fish lassoed 4mm pellets up and down at 15m to the far bank reeds. The big advantage of fishing hard 4mm pellets in the lasso is that the pellet can quickly be changed to a caster, and presentation isn’t compromised (see image below). I also decided I would feed hard pellets all match down my short right hand margin, by hand; and dead maggots down the long left hand edge, by big pot.
For bait today, I had a bit of everything, but I would base the main part of my match around hard pellets and casters, before going down the edge with dead maggots and worms late on.
Rigs for the day were as follows:
– Short pole, 4 x 12 Malman Roob, 18 Super MWG – .15 lasso
– Long pole – deck, 6 x 11 MW Slim, 18 B911 – .13 lasso
– Shallow rig 1, Hillbilly Ratcatcher 3, 18 B911 – .13 lasso
– Shallow rig 2, MW Cookie, 18 B911 – .13 lasso
– Long-lining rig, .4 Drennan Crystal Dibber, 18 PR36 – .17 band
– Edge rig right, .2 Hillbilly Grizzly, 18 PR36 – .17 band
– Edge rig left, .3 Hillbilly Edge Hog, 14 Kaizen – .17
At 10.15 the all-in was called, I slipped a 6mm pellet into the lasso, shipped out the short pole and threw a dozen pellets over my float. After a couple of minutes my float dipped under sharply and a skimmer of around 1lb was my reward, this was soon followed by another, then a small stocky, then a carp of around 3lb. This was no lightning start, but with 20 minutes of the match gone, I had around 5lb in the net. I took this opportunity to have an early recce over to the reeds, there had been some movement where I had catapulted pellets – just a dozen 4mms every couple of minutes since the match began. I ventured over with my deck rig and the float shot under almost instantly, I missed this bite, and the subsequent couple of bites before I finally connected with a carp, a small fish in the 2-3lb bracket. I was obviously getting a lot of liners on the to-depth rig, so I wasted no time in shipping over with a shallow rig instead. To some extent this worked, as I put the odd small carp in the net for the next 45 minutes, still I was suffering with false-indications on the float. My thinking was that as the lake narrows on Peg 34, the far bank is a passing point for fish, big carp darting-through at mid-depth, line-bites are inevitable in these circumstances.
An hour and a quarter into the match, with somewhere between 15lb and 20lb in the net, I took the decision to present casters out to the stick-ups. Instantly, there were signs of fish daring to leave the reeds to get at the lovely brown bullets. They were still quite tricky to hook, but it was clearly more effective than fishing pellets over the same line. I plugged away at this for the next couple of hours and although sport wasn’t frantic, I caught just enough to keep me interested. I managed 7 or 8 fish an hour for two hours, adding 35lb to 40lb to my weight.
With around two hours of the contest remaining, I decided to come back short, where I had fed 6mm pellets regularly by hand. Although I caught a couple of fish on this line, I foul-hooked as many as I got out. Plumbing-up pre-match, it was difficult to find a firm area on the lake-bed; presenting hard pellets in silt will invariably lead to foul-hooked fish. I tried shallow over this line, but this also slowed me up, so with an hour and a half remaining I shipped back over to the island.
It was clear that the rest had done the long pole line some good, as I had 3 carp in as many put-ins when I went back over to 15m. On my 4th visit to the reeds I encountered that strange commercial fishery phenomenon – the flying skimmer. As it made its flopping bid for freedom, my hook pulled, and lifting my rig out of the water it was clear that my caster had gone too. I shipped back to re-bait and disaster struck: the joints of my pole came apart at the 14.5m/13m sections and it hit the water with a sickening splat. I told myself to remain calm, the pole was afloat, lay on the water’s surface between my keepnets. I tried kneeling on my footplate but I couldn’t quite reach the section, I moved around the side of my nets but still, the pole remained agonisingly out of my grasp – and now it was starting to take on water. It was time to act quickly, so I lunged across my keepnets and grasped at the sinking pole, but I overstretched, entering the water with a huge, slow-motion belly-flop. I grabbed the pole and threw it up the bank to safety, all the while holding onto my seat-box which had flipped onto its front during the commotion. My top kits were strewn across the bank; my bait, mobile phone and accessories were all slowly sliding off my side-tray towards the water. The top rings of my nets were submerged for quite some time while I tried to hold everything steady, struggling to find any purchase as my feet sank into the thick silt. Somehow I had entered the water with one flip-flop on, I worked my foot out of this and abandoned it on the lake-bed, then I grabbed my keepnets and seatbox and, with a sort of upright bench-press, forced my gear back onto the platform. Finally, I flopped onto the bank, soaked-through and exhausted, to a ripple of ironic applause and howls of laughter.
We’ll interrupt the fishing now for a quiz, the title of which is “How did Nelly Palmer react when I fell into the lake?”
A, Call out ‘are you okay mate?’ and promptly run around to drag me from the pool.
B, Call Pete Holtham from his neighbouring peg, to assist in case my predicament was too serious for one person to handle.
C, Not say a word but sprint round immediately to ensure my safety.
D, Shout ‘The Villa fan’s gone for a swim, everyone, he’s fucking FALLEN IN!’, stay put and actually almost die laughing.
For those of you that answered correctly (D), drop me an email and I’ll send you a signed rig, or a single flip-flop (the remaining left foot one, so a -flop).
Once I had tidied up my peg, I sat down and contemplated how I would approach the final hour and a half of the contest. I planned on fishing back over to the reeds, then feeding the long left hand edge with an hour and ten to go. If there were any signs of feeding fish down the margins, I would have a look, otherwise I would keep plugging-away long. I managed another couple of fish on the 15m rig before I pulled out of a decent fish and my float flew up into the tree opposite – ‘this is going well!’, I thought. I pulled for a break and the elastic stripped through my top kit, snapping off into the far-bank foliage. Rather then setting up another top kit, I put a big pot of dead maggots down to my left and settled down on the short pole.
Within a minute of feeding the edge swim, I spotted some tail patterns and swirls. I picked up my edge rig, baited-up with two pieces of worm and hurriedly shipped out. I was into a fish straight away, and it was a better stamp than those I’d caught long, a mirror carp of around 5lb. This is how I spent the last hour; big potting after every fish, foul-hooking the odd carp but landing some too. I probably caught 30lb in this, the best period of my match. When the final whistle blew at 3.15, I estimated I had between 80lb and 100lb, but I was concerned that I may have lost some fish when my keepnets were submerged. Aside from my stint in the drink and some general clumsiness, I was reasonably happy with how my match had gone. It was time now to pack away and follow the scales around.
First to weigh was Paul Timms on peg 6, with 73lb. Next up, Graham Green plopped 117lb onto the scales from peg 10 (I’m hoping for 2nd at best, now). Then Danny Hamilton weighed-in 87lb from peg 13 (this could be close). Then, Dave Richards’ 72lb was the next weight of note before it was my turn. My first net went 41lb and my second went 46lb, putting me on exactly the same weight as Danny H, until my few silvers in the 3rd net gave me 90lb 14oz, and second place in the match. I felt happy with this result after what was an eventful day.
Today’s Man of the Match award goes to Paul Timms, he chose the wrong elastic for down the edge, otherwise he would have pushed the forerunners in the contest. A good weight none-the-less though – well done, Paul.
This week’s funniest moment goes to… me! Apparently, my Jaques Cousteau routine is an absolute certainty for this week’s award. Everybody loves it when somebody goes scrotum-over-shoulder into the wet stuff. Personally, I fail to see what might be funny about a tiny man jumping around his keepnets shouting ‘my flip-flop my flip-flop help my flip-flop!’ According to Nelly Palmer, I was only saved from a more permanent fate by my ‘face snorkel’, a body part more commonly referred to as ‘the nose.’
That’s it for this week, but I can’t go without mentioning a good friend of ours…
Until next time…