October the 1st, 18 fished.
A good turn-out today for this Hall Green Home Guard AC contest, at the beautiful Blythe Waters, near Solihull. We had originally been booked onto Willow Pool for this one, but after receiving reports suggesting it wasn’t fishing well, we took the decision to move our match onto the adjacent Bridge Pool, where we had enjoyed a lovely day’s fishing earlier in the season.
As I had been asked to assist Tony Newbold with pegging duties, I arrived at the fishery with plenty of time to spare, but it appeared he already had matters well in control. Tony had visited the fishery in the week leading up to the contest, discussing how best to peg the match with fishery manager, Gail and her husband, Dave.
Whilst there, Gail grilled Tony on a couple of subjects:
“So, which twat changed the match booking…?”
(Ah, that twat will be me, then.)
“… and who writes the blog for your club?”
(Again, that will be me.)
Naturally, Tony kept shtum.
Although there has never been any sign of conflict and Gail has always treated me kindly when I have visited Blythe, I’ll freely admit that I’m terrified of her. In the best of circumstances I find her an unnerving presence, but because I had aired a few opposing views in my blog and on top of this had the temerity to amend our booking, I arrived at the fishery with some trepidation. I didn’t so much as hide, but by the same token, I didn’t stroll into the cafe, shake Gail’s hand and announce myself as “The booking-blog-twat – I’m here for the match.”
At 9am we gathered to draw, I had no real preference as far as pegs were concerned; of course some areas looked better than others, but the pegs at Blythe are generously spaced, so every angler should have a little water to go at. Into the bag of dreams and out comes… peg 3, which is situated mid-way along a peculiar ‘arm’ at the far end of the pool, where two banks are separated by a floating boom. This feature can be reached with 14 meters of pole, so essentially I would be fishing a snake lake, but with nobody on pegs 2 and 4 I had a fair amount of room for exploration.
For company today I had Tony Newbold on peg 5; at 97 years of age he is an inspiration to us all – he must be the fittest-looking nonagenarian in the Midlands! Tony recently completed a charity bike ride from Landsend to… a town a couple of miles from Landsend. Okay, he stopped at a number of pubs along the way, but it only took him four days to complete – a fantastic achievement.
When asked to divulge the secret of his sprightliness, Big T put it down to one thing and one thing only: milk. He drinks an astonishing 5 litres of the stuff a day!
Directly behind me on peg 11, I had the pleasure of Mark “Moggy” Downing’s company – it’s always good to see him. He only gets to fish the local matches now due to his state-imposed curfew and electronic tag – but boy is he still handy with that pellet feeder!
Assessing my peg pre-match, I decided it would be a pole day. I set up several rigs for fishing over to the boom and a rig which would cover three lines down the edge: long to my left at 16m, short to my left at 5m and 10m to my right. The details of the rigs being thus (skip this bit if you want to avoid losing three non-refundable minutes of your life):
– Deck ‘boom’ rig, Malman Roob 4 x 14, 18 PR36 – .15
– Shallow ‘boom’ rig 1, Hillbilly Rat-catcher 3, 18 PR36 – .15
– Shallow ‘boom’ rig 2, MW Cookie, 18 PR36 – .15
– Dobbing rig, Preston Dura float 4 x 10, B911 16 – .15
– Edge Rig, .2 Hillbilly Thick Chump, B911 16 – .15
I decided I would adopt a softly-softly approach to my feeding for this one. Although the temperature gauge on my car had been showing an unseasonable 15 degrees, the trees had shed the first leaves of Autumn and the nights were rapidly drawing in. Also, with my peg being so narrow, I thought it sensible to feel my way in to the contest, not spooking the fish with huge piles of bait.
At 10.15 the all-in was called, I placed half-a-dozen 6mm pellets in a little toss-pot and shipped-out to the boom. After ten minutes of waiting patiently, I hadn’t had an indication on my float, so I shipped back in and repeated the process. Surprisingly I still didn’t have as much as a liner, so I picked up the catapult and ‘pinged’ the odd 6mm across. 40 biteless minutes into the contest and already I had decided to give the boom line a rest and have an early look down the inviting left hand edge, firstly…
Neither line produced a fish, but the 16m line was particularly frustrating. It had plumbed-up perfectly at around two-and-a-half feet, so I really fancied it for a few bites, but once the match got underway every leaf on the lake drifted into the corner, rendering it virtually un-fishable.
With just over an hour of the contest gone, I was already running out of ideas, so I picked up the deeper of my shallow rigs and shipped out to the boom. A twenty minute stint on this again produced nothing, a predicament only made worse by the fact that Joe was now catching well on the tip over on peg 33.
At this point I got up off my box and set up a 9ft Preston Mini Carp rod and pellet feeder arrangement; I clipped this up to the end bank. As I sat down to contemplate my next move, I received a phone call from Steve Wheeler over on peg 25, he informed me that he too was yet to have a bite. It appeared to be fishing hard, Mark Seaborn on peg 14 was also fish-less, as was Brian ‘Christmas-face’ Fowler on 10, on peg 5 Tony Newbold had one f1. So, I decided to get my head down and see if I could snare a few fish, as it appeared that a low weight might be required to frame.
Just after speaking to Steve I caught my first fish of the day, an f1 of around 3lb, on the deck rig to the boom. I had upped my feeding with the catapult – a bit of a ‘shit or bust’ move but it appeared to be paying off. I was now getting regular indications on my float-tip, but they were obviously line-bites as I couldn’t connect with any of them.
I took this as my cue to try shallow again, instead of laying my rig in gently now though, I moved my float right up to just beneath the pole tip, pushed tight into the boom and tapped on the water’s surface. Surprisingly this did the trick, and in a welcome purple patch I added another f1 and 3 reasonable-sized carp to my total, leaving me on 5 fish with two hours of the contest remaining.
Bites quickly dried up fishing to the boom, and after a fifteen minute period without a fish, I decided to have my first chuck on the pellet feeder down to the end bank. It was a bit of an awkward side-cast, more suited to a left-hander, 18m and around a tree, but more often than not I got it to land in this spot…
I had a lovely hour fishing down here, catching the odd patrolling fish. I didn’t get lots of little indications on the tip to suggest carp were competing in the peg; one minute I would be sat wondering if it was time to reel in and re-cast, the next the rod would wallop around.
At one point, I threw my feeder tight to the end bank and it entered the water with a lovely little ‘plop’. “That was a nice cast, young Dan!” – Tony Newbold was watching me as he had a piss (“probably onto his 4th litre of milk”, I thought.) Before I’d really had a chance to answer, the tip flew around and a 4lb ghost carp made its way to the net.
I added 5 fish to my tally in this period, a couple of which were around 5lb, the best bait being one I rarely use on the feeder nowadays: double dead maggot.
Joe was still catching well over on peg 33, chucking a little pellet feeder tight to some stick-ups, landing some proper ‘units’ along the way. He’d been in my eyeline all day and was fishing a great match. I knew that his lead over me was unassailable going into the final hour, but felt that if I could put the odd fish in the net I might sneak into the frame.
I thought it wasn’t to be my day when I lost two big fish in quick succession: the first felt huge, slowly plodding around under the rod-tip until the hook eventually pulled; the second gave me the absolute run-around, dragging me all over the peg until it severed my hooklength on an iron bar at the end of the boom. All of this disturbance killed the swim for a while, and no more fish followed until the final thirty minutes of the contest when I snared two carp on the tip and a last-gasp f1 shallow to the boom.
All in all it had been a difficult day, but I felt relieved to have found a few in the end. Two hours into the contest I was staring down both barrels of a blank, so my final tally of 13 fish was pleasing. These carp weren’t a huge stamp as Blythe fish go, but I felt confident I had 40lb, at least. Anyway, I didn’t have to wait long to find out, as Mark arrived at my peg with the scales and I was first up. My fish went 52lb, a result I had to be happy with after an awful start.
Following the scales around it was clear it hadn’t fished: on peg 7, the winner of our previous match at Blythe, Kevin Dickinson hadn’t hooked a carp all day, weighing in just 4lb of perch. More unfortunate than this was Steve Wheeler on peg 25 who remained bite-less for the duration of the contest. Steve knows how to fish, he won a match the previous day at Ockeridge with over 70lb, his blank is a good indication of how difficult the fishing was for many.
Just 27lb was 2nd best weight on the pool when we got round to Joe, with several pegs producing either single figures or low-teens. Joe’s two weighs went an excellent 75lb, handing him a comfortable victory in a tricky contest.
As already mentioned, a difficult day today at Blythe Waters, but who better to spend it with than your mates? Speaking of which, this week’s Man of the Match award goes to travelling partner and drinking buddy, Joe Wood – it just had to. He had the match sewn-up with a couple of hours to spare, made the right decisions at the right time, a top performance – well done!
I can’t go without thanking Dave and Gail for their hospitality, they were nothing but helpful all day; a beautiful fishery with great hosts – I don’t know what all the fuss is about!
And Gail, if you’re reading this, next time we’re at the fishery please pop by and say hello, you’ll recognise me, I’m quite distinctive-looking, I’m the one with beautiful eyes and thick black hair…
Until next time…