December the 27th, 21 fished.
A great turn out today for this regular Wednesday open – to keep things festive though we’ll call it “Tony’s Chronies’ Turkey and Tinsel Bash” – at Lower Park Fishery, in Worcestershire. After a night of snow and sleet I contemplated rolling over in my pit and giving this one a miss, but not wanting to let Tony down, I eventually dragged myself out of bed and loaded up the old jalopy.
Driving to the fishery, it was clear that a heap of snow had fallen overnight, and this convinced me we were in for a poor day’s sport. F1’s are notorious for switching off the feed when sleet, snow or even cold rain goes into a pool – and boy had we suffered our share of bad weather…
For this contest we would be using the venue’s 4 ‘strip’ ponds: Spring, Willow, Lowland and Swan. The latter two pools had been stocked in the week leading up to this contest, and for this reason this is where I hoped to draw. Steve Siddell and Lee Westwood had practiced on Lowland Pool a few days prior to this match, both of them ‘emptying it’ on a variety of tactics. However, I couldn’t see anybody catching a big weight of fish today, feeling that 20lb should be enough to take the spoils and in many areas just avoiding the dreaded DNW would be an achievement.
At 9am we gathered in the cafe to draw, where Pete Bampton showed off his new, ultra-cosy, super-warm Matrix winter suit. A toastie ensemble finished off with every discerning angler’s sub-zero footwear of choice: the Mafia brogue…
Although I was first in the queue to draw, I let dear old pal Eddie Swann have first dip, as I had an inkling there might be a stinker which should be removed from the bag before I took my turn. Eddie pulled out Swan, peg 23, before I drew 27 on the same pool. Not knowing the venue particularly well, this draw meant nothing to me, but I was happy to find myself on a recently-stocked body of water.
On arrival at my home for the day it became clear just how much sleet and snow had gone into the venue; our pool had burst its banks and in many areas water was flowing into the adjacent Abbey Pool. This movement of ice-cold water worried me, and I imagined the fishing would prove to be extremely difficult. For this reason I planned on a negative approach for this contest, feeding nothing or next-to-nothing, fishing for one bite at a time.
For company today I had a new friend on peg 29: Glasgow’s finest, Brian Cochrane.
Over on peg 25 I had fishery bailiff, venue regular and top angler Fred Reynolds; I’d have to fish well to beat him today. In rear of shot you’ll see Eddie Swann, giving it the middle finger. Ed has recently returned from a Moan-a-holics Anonymous sponsored stint in rehab in an attempt to cure his complaining addiction: he discharged himself after just two days though because, in his words, “the food was shit… the beds were uncomfortable… the place smelt funny… the other inmates were all wankers…” and so on.
Rigs for the day were as follows:
Pellet Rig – 4 x 16 Malman Roob, 20 B911 F1 – .10
Maggot Rig – 4 x 14 Des Shipp Maggot, 20 B911 F1 – .10
Lead – 10ft Preston Mini Carp, MAP ACS 4000, 1/3oz lead, 14 QM1 – .19
Banjo – 9ft Preston Mini Carp, MAP ACS 4000, 8g home-made banjo feeder, 18 B911 – .13
Bait for the day was a simple side-tray of 2mm pellets, a pint of maggots, a tin of corn, a couple of slices of Warburton’s Toastie and some expanders.
At 10.15 the all in was called, and as is usually the case, I still hadn’t decided upon my opening tactic for the contest. Somebody who had a defined plan for his tactical gambit was Barry Counsell over on Lowland Pool, he went straight down the edge (I hadn’t even set up an edge rig – or plumbed-up down there) and snared a ghost carp of around 4lb.
As Fred had started his contest fishing the pole at 9-10m, I decided to chuck the banjo feeder 3/4 of the way across, using Fred as a gauge to see if the f1s were willing to feed short. I started my contest with a double dead maggot hookbait…
I didn’t even get to tighten-up to the feeder before my first fish of the day was on, an f1 of around 10oz. Next chuck I managed another f1, a smaller specimen of 6oz. Still, with a pound of fish in the net so early on, in what might prove to be a difficult contest, I had to be happy.
The first hour followed a similar pattern, I managed 10-12 small f1s for approximately 6lb. It appeared that I had some of the recently-stocked fish in front of me – beautiful little things; if they stayed I could make the 20lb I felt would be required to frame.
Best hookbait for these f1s was two 2mm expander pellets, they blended-in perfectly with the pellets moulded around the feeder.
Into the second hour and things began to slow a little on the tip. I took the clip off and had a few casts left and right, but I had to wait far longer now for bites. As the f1s were such a small stamp, I needed to find a quicker way to catch them, so on the 90 minute mark I had my first look on the pole. I decided to brave the wind and fish to a stick-up at a full 14m, as next door neighbour Fred hadn’t put much in the net fishing short.
The long pole was a more reliable source of bites than the feeder, and there was the bonus of the occasional larger f1 amongst the stockies, but it was difficult to present a bait in such fierce gusts. My ever-reliable Malman Roob just wasn’t up to the task; even with three number 8 back-shots, a long lash and plenty of clamping down on the pole, the rig still pushed through right-to-left. For this reason I fished maggot, rather than pellet, over micros. Maggots present naturally with a little movement, whereas it’s better to keep things super-stable when presenting a pellet. The catch 22 here is that I felt the fish wanted pellet today, especially the recently-stocked f1s who had been reared on pellets, so would deem them to be a “natural” food source.
At the midway point of the contest I had around 20 f1s in the net, most of these were of the two-to-the-pound stamp, with a couple of larger specimens thrown in, for a total of around 12lb. To give me somewhere else to go should the micro pellet-fed line dry-up, I fed a maggot line off at an angle to the right, topping up with around 50 maggots every twenty minutes. I planned on leaving this until the final hour of the contest.
I began to struggle a little at this point, the gusts were becoming fiercer and more frequent, so I couldn’t present a bait properly. This patch of poor form coincided with Carl Inman popping by to say hello, I’m not blaming him at all for my poor showing, but I never seem to fish well when I have an audience; I feel obliged to engage in conversation and invariably lose focus. This spectacle of shoddy angling came to a humorous climax when a gust took my pole sharply to the left and my entire rig wrapped around the stick-up at 14m. Trying to be philosophical about the situation, this was a great opportunity to change over from the 4 x 16 float which was impossible to hold still, to a 1g float of a more stable pattern: the Hillbilly Thick Chump.
Before I ventured in on the pole line I had a brief recce back on the tip, this time throwing my feeder off to the extreme left, as Brian over on Peg 29 had decided an early bath was a good idea. This yielded a solitary ide, so I made the decision that, for the remainder of the contest, I would focus my efforts on fishing the pole.
Back out at 14m, with the 1g float on, and the rig sat perfectly still; in hindsight the 4 x 16 float I’d originally chosen was far too light for fishing in 7ft of water – particularly in such stormy conditions. For the final ninety minutes of the contest I fished at 14m straight out in front, adding 15 small f1s to my net, giving me a total of around 40 once the all out was called. A brief look over my maggot line in the final stages of the contest gave up one f1, and was much slower going than the long pole line, where I caught on either double maggot or a 4mm expander pellet, over micro pellet feed.
As the final whistle blew, I felt reasonably pleased with how my match had panned-out, I made a few glaring mistakes, and I believe my peg was worth another 15-20 fish, but the most important thing was that I had enjoyed myself and managed to keep warm.
First up we weighed in Lowland Pool, where Sir Alan Higgs placed 15lb onto the scales. Next along Barry Counsell weighed-in 36lb, an excellent return on a tough day: a haul which contained two ghost carp and several large f1s. After this Jim Burton managed 20lb – it appeared Lowland Pool was the place to draw.
Next up we moved along to our pool, Swan, Steve Roberts was first to weigh and his few bits and pieces went 3lb – he had set his stall out for bigger fish and they simply didn’t show. Due to Brian’s early exit, I was next to weigh, my net of small f1s going 27lb. Next door Fred placed 8lb on the scales, before Eddie added his name to a list of notable DNW’s.
I didn’t follow the weigh-in after this, preferring to head off to The Village Inn in Beoley for a swift half as I waited for my fellow anglers to filter in. Soon enough everybody was present and Tony proceeded with the payout, my 27lb was enough to hold on to 2nd spot on the day, a result I felt happy with, especially as I was fishing against many venue regulars.
Considering the horrendous weather conditions, it had fished well, but it appeared that the middle of any pool was the place to draw, so I was lucky in that respect today.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day out today, spent in the biting cold, in great company – even Eddie didn’t moan. Okay, he moaned a bit but not too bad. Okay, he complained quite a lot. He didn’t stop. He was terrible.
I can’t go without mentioning this week’s Man of the Match, fresh from recording his Christmas feckin special of Mrs.Brown’s Boys: our very own Dave Richards. He won his section with a bit to spare, landing a lump along the way. If there’s anybody you’d task with finding you a huge fish, then Dave would be the man, he has an uncanny knack of regularly snaring the biggest specimen in the pool. Well done, David.
That’s it for 2017 folks, thanks for taking the time to read my blog – I’ll see you all in 2018.
Until next time…