December the 3rd, 12 fished.
A poor turn out today for this Hall Green Home Guard AC contest, at a gloomy Tunnel Barn Farm, in Warwickshire. After a week of biting frosts and fierce gales, I could understand why many club members had shied away – I too am no great fan of winter angling. I mean, I enjoy the technical aspects of fishing once the temperatures drop, setting little traps and attempting to present a bait in such a way that a passing fish just can’t resist, but given the choice I’d rather be out on the bank in shorts and flip-flops, sun beating down, catching a few fish shallow.
Today we had the ‘fur and feather’ to enjoy, where post-match every angler would receive a prize for his season’s endeavours: a bottle of booze or a tin of chocolates. This match would also be the final of the knockout competition, where I would be pitted against Carl Inman in this, his last contest with the club.
For this match we booked the whole of High, the largest body of water on the complex at 51 pegs, and the most consistent pool on the venue in recent months. On Saturday’s winter league 3 of the top 8 weights came from this pool, with peg 15 winning the round overall. Peg 15 is a fantastic peg with acres of open water, two islands to fish to and generally an abundance of options; whoever drew this would be in with a great chance.
At 9 o’clock we gathered in the car park to draw, knockout opponent Carl had his dip first and came back with peg 2; soon enough it was my turn and I plucked peg 42 from the bag – both nice pegs and a fair draw for the final. Some other good anglers found themselves on decent pegs, Dicky on 44, Mark Seaborn on 46 and Steve Wheeler on 50 to name three. The much-coveted peg 15 stayed in the bag until very late, when it stuck to this lucky gentleman’s mitt…
I was fortunate enough to have a little info regarding peg 42, as workmate and top angler Neil Carless had drawn it the previous day, weighing 41lb for a very credible 5th place overall in the winter league. Neil caught nearly all of his fish in the deepest water in the peg, 7ft down the track; drip-feeding maggots and micro pellets worked best for him.
I planned on starting my match similarly, down the track, moving left and right or adding a section when bites dried up. I would also set up rigs for searching along the far bank, both dobbing and on the deck, in around 5ft of water. Just 3 rigs were required today to cover all of my options:
– Track, 4 x 14 Des Shipp Maggot, 20 B911 f1 – .10
– Across (deck), 6 x 11 MW Slim, 20 B911 f1 – .10
– Dobbing, 4 x 10 Des Shipp Maggot, 20 B911 f1 – .10
Bait would be based around standard winter fare: maggots, pinkies, 2mm pellets, various sizes of expander pellet, a small amount of Sonubait’s ‘F1 Dark’ groundbait and some bread.
For company today I had Kevin “Dicky” Dickinson over on peg 44, this would be a first for him as the only contest he had EVER approached sober. I told him that if it became overwhelming and that living in a teetotal world should feel simply too frightening, he could come down to peg 42 and exchange all of his class A’s, legal highs, hip-flasks and Rizla’s for some of my ‘Performance Enhancing Hugs.’
See, I too know how daunting the sober world can appear; I had a go at that ‘Dry Wednesday’ recently and I have to say, it was bloody horrible.
At 10.15 when the all in was called, I was away from my peg taking some photo’s, by the time I got back Dicky was already playing his first fish of the day, an f1 caught on the method feeder. I slipped a maggot and fluro pinkie onto the hook, a dozen maggots into a cad-pot and shipped out to 8 meters. It didn’t take long for me to get a response, and within five minutes I too had an f1 in the net.
In the first half an hour of the contest I caught 4 f1s and a couple of silver fish; two of the f1s fell to pellet, two to the maggot/pinkie combo. The fish soon drifted away though, and moving left and right didn’t bring any more bites. I added a section and re-fed but again, no more bites were forthcoming, so, with an hour and a quarter gone, and just 5lb in the net, I picked up my dobbing rig – initially set at around 8 inches off bottom.
Dobbing was incredibly slow, even searching the extremes of my peg left and right yielded nothing. After twenty minutes of lifting and dropping, pushing my rig into little holes, I had my first dip, landing an f1 of around 1.5lb. A further fifteen minutes dobbing proved fruitless though, so I fed around 100 maggots through a big pot down the track – with the intention of leaving this line until the closing stages of the contest – and decided to fish a deck rig across to the island.
Nobody was running away with the contest at this point: through the gaps in the far bank vegetation I could see Rich Caswell catching sporadically on peg 21; next door neighbour Dicky was catching at a similar pace to me; a phone call from Steve Wheeler confirmed that it was fishing hard, as up to this point he had moaned very little onto the hook; on peg 2, knockout opponent Carl was yet to snare a fish.
The deck rig to the island was a good move, I had plenty of bites out in front at 14m fishing the fluro pinkie and maggot combo. Although sport was good, I felt I needed somewhere to go to rest this line. I fed half a big pot of F1 Dark groundbait up against some bare bank to my right, but the fish either didn’t want to feed against the bare bank or settle over the groundbait, so I had to fish at 16m to my left in order to rest my main swim.
By switching between the extreme left swim and my main line, I kept fish coming steadily for around ninety minutes, the trick being to feed one line then fish the other. I got into a lovely little rhythm, finally beginning to enjoy myself. In hindsight I probably wasted a lot of time early in the contest as I stuck too steadfastly to Neil Carless’s advice regarding catching down the track, I should have gone long to the island much earlier. The fish were obviously more comfortable in 5ft today, whereas yesterday when it was colder they were happy to sit in 7ft of water. Lesson learned: every fishing day is different.
As we entered the final hour of the contest, it was time to look down the track; I had kept this line topped-up with around 100 maggots, fed through a big pot, every half an hour for the last three hours. I had plenty of indications here but began to foul-hook fish (inevitable perhaps, when fishing such a light bait in deep water) so I rotated between this line and back out to the island for the remainder of the contest. I needed to keep odd fish coming in order to maintain the lead I had built up over Richard Caswell on peg 21, who was now putting a strong, late run of fish together presenting his rig 5ft deep in 7ft of water – something I hadn’t considered, but which may have improved the foul-hooking situation.
At 3.15 the all out was called to bring to a close an enjoyable contest – the final one of a brilliant season.
I felt reasonably pleased with how my match had gone, although at times my decision-making left a bit to be desired. I felt ring-rusty, not making the necessary moves quick enough, and was often found guilty of sitting around waiting for a fish to catch me.
As I packed my gear away, Carl Inman popped-along to congratulate me on my knockout win, he had only managed five roach over on peg 2 and, having tried every trick in the book, felt that his peg was devoid of f1’s. Carl then said his goodbyes; he will be missed by everybody in the club, but we wish him all the best for next season as he fishes with a famous old angling club more local to him: Coventry United National Team of Sportsmen (they tend to use the acronym.) Best of luck mate – you’ll be missed.
Also leaving us this season is veteran angler, Pete Turner. Again, we wish him all the best for the future – and hopefully he’ll visit us soon in his beautiful angling wagon…
To cut a long story short, the pool had fished rock-hard; unsurprising after a week of terrible weather. Even an angler of Brian ‘Christmas Face’ Fowler’s caliber didn’t trouble the scales today, and fancied peg 15 produced just 7lb for Bob Warwick. There were only weights of low-teens or lower until we reached this week’s Man of the Match, Richard Caswell on peg 21, who caught his f1s in small bursts, managing 22lb on a difficult day – well done, mate.
I was pretty confident I had Richard’s weight beat and so it proved, my 25 small f1s went 31lb, handing me the match win. I’m a big believer in positive self-criticism though, and it’s fair to say my peg was worth far more than I got out of it on this contest. If I had reacted quicker, finding the correct depth the fish felt comfortable feeding in, I believe I could have weighed-in a further 15lb – 20lb.
Still, a win is a win, and what better way to spend a day than out in the beautiful British countryside, torturing fish with a bunch of geriatric reprobates? Speaking of which, here’s a picture of this week’s lucky match winner…
Aside from this giddy care-in-the-community banter, what could make a Sunday outing more complete than to hear those two words which sit so beautifully side-by-side in the vernacular of the boozehound: “free” and “drink”…
Lastly, I’m not one to spread malicious rumours but apparently so glad was Dicky of his free, post-match bottle of grog (a litre of sambuca, I believe), that he fell spectacularly off the wagon, downing the lot before Moggy had even pulled off the Tunnel Barn Farm car park and out on to the Old Warwick Road.
Dicky, if you’re reading this, you should try that ‘Dry Wednesday’ mate. Obviously I won’t be joining you though – it’s bloody horrible.
Until next time…