March the 25th, 18 fished.
A good turn out today of 18 (for want of a better word) “anglers” for this, the first Wythall Royal British Legion contest of the season. Today we would be fishing the picturesque Lambsdown, a 13 acre lake renowned for its stock of hard-fighting carp and hoardes of skimmers and skimmer-bream.
In the week leading up to this match we had experienced some changeable weather and for this reason I didn’t expect sport to be hectic; a telephone conversation with the fishery bailiff confirmed that the venue was fishing hard. That being said, it was positively spring-like as we arrived at the lake: lambs were lolloping along the hillside, birds were rejoicing in the trees, everything felt good in the world; and what better way to spend a Sunday than out in the beautiful spring sunshine with a great bunch of blokes – and Nelly Palmer.
I was tasked with pegging out duties for this contest, but a combination of the clocks going forward and a few-too-many Saturday evening gins meant that I arrived at the fishery a little late. Still, I soon got to work: starting at the far end of the roadside bank and working my way along it was apparent that we had plenty of room, so a decent contest might be on the cards. As I reached a fishy-looking little bay at the top end of the pool, I found myself with a couple of friendly sheep for company. As I innocently took a few snaps of this pair of woolly jumbucks, Chris Chance called down to me “Get a picture of the one on the left Dan… that’s it son, the good looking one… and put it in your blog.”
Well, far be it from me to question anybody’s sexual proclivities – each to their own and all that – but, “…the good looking one”!
Anyway, Chris, as requested…
At nine o’clock we gathered in the car park to draw; I think it’s safe to assume that everybody fancied an end peg, or failing this one of the pegs from 19-21 that are positioned on a point that fans-out into the lake. One-by-one the gruesome bunch made their way towards me, desperate to stick their hands in my ball-bag – I have to admit, it was an unnerving experience.
As they left the queue, many anglers had grins on their faces – it appeared all of the better pegs had been taken: Jim Smith on 1, Joe Wood on point peg 21, Dave Richards on 25 and Tony Corbett on end peg 40. When I saw that TC had drawn such a fishy peg with so much room I thought we were all fishing for second place; he didn’t seem to mind though, he just grinned at me and did a little, excited wee.
Once it was my turn to have a dip, I found the number 13 staring back at me – not a peg I’d hoped for. A chat with the fishery bailiff as I bought some pellets confirmed my suspicions: all he offered me was a little grimace and the consolation that it is “a decent skimmer peg.” Well, I love fishing for skimmers, so if the carp failed to make an appearance, I believed I might still catch a few.
On arrival at my peg, there was nothing about it that filled me with confidence. It looked wide and deep, with no decent edges to attack – quite nondescript really. Still, if the fishing didn’t produce, I was in excellent company for the next five hours, with gentleman Val Timms over on peg 11…
And old double G himself, superstar Graham Green on peg 15…
Plan of attack today was to feed a long pole line with micro pellets for skimmers then, as that line settled, I would sit it out for an early carp. Hopefully, when I dropped back in at 13m, I would make the skimmer line work. If this didn’t happen I would either throw a hybrid feeder in at various distances or fish a bomb at 25m, a line I would feed sparingly with 8mm pellets from the off. I also plumbed up edge lines left and right, finding a depth of 3ft, but I didn’t hold out much hope of this coming good.
Rigs for the occasion were as follows:
– Long Pole, 37ft deep (okay 11ft), 1.25g Hillbilly Dweezil, 18 B911 f1 – .10
– Edge, .3 Hillbilly Thick Chump, 16 B911 – .15
– Chucking rod, Matrix Carpmaster Method 12ft, Preston PXR Pro 6000 reel, 36g Guru Hybrid, 12 QM1 – .19
– Bomb/Short method, Preston 10ft Mini Carp, Map ACS 4000 reel, snap-swivel attachment for either method/hybrid/bomb.
Bait for the day was a big smorgasbord of pellets, wafters, boilies, corn, groundbait and dead maggots.
At 10.15 the all-in was called, I went straight out and fed two thirds of a pot of pellets and a smattering of corn at 13m. On the next peg Graham kicked-off his skimmer line very sparingly, it would be interesting to see which worked best. Then, I picked up the chucking rod and launched a hybrid feeder as far as I could. The plan was to sit this out, hopefully snaring a big, ugly old carp, while the skimmers built up confidence over my pellets.
I left the hybrid in for twenty minutes without a sign…
After my first biteless cast I reeled in, changed hook baits, and had another twenty minutes out long – it’s hard to wind back in when your trap has been set for such a long time. After this I planned to give it one final twenty minute stint on the hybrid, that was until Graham had an early look on his pole line and snared 3 skimmers in as many chucks: this made my mind up to bring the feeder in a little early and follow suit.
Out on the long pole it didn’t take long for me to hook my first skimmer of the day, a little scrap of tin-foil of around 5oz. Next put-in I foul-hooked a fish, next drop the same result – I put my plumb-it back on and found that somehow I was fishing around 4 inches under-depth – perhaps the skimmers had tore-up the lake-bed feeding over my micro pellets.
By now Graham was getting into a lovely little rhythm next peg, catching a skimmer every put-in, occasionally netting a good stamp skimmer-bream. I wasn’t quite keeping up with him, but as I was still catching the odd fish, I wasn’t panicking just yet. After around forty minutes on the long pole, and with six small skimmers to my name, I struck at a sharp dip on my float and shipped-back, as I watched my pole back over the rollers something felt wrong, and I turned back to see my top kit floating across the lake. I desperately pushed and pulled at it with the remaining length of carbon I had in my hands, gradually bringing it closer, all the while trying to keep it level so that it didn’t take on water. Seeing the predicament I was in, Graham rushed down from the next peg, eventually pulling my top kit – fish and all – towards him with my landing net.
Although I hadn’t fished a particularly tidy match before the top kit incident, this seemed to be the point where everything went rapidly downhill, as my day on the bank turned into a catalogue of unforced errors and ineptitude – it was as if Fawlty Towers’ Manuel had taken up competive angling and placed himself on peg 13, Lambsdown.
Because he had thrown his pole to one side as he rushed to my aid, Graham returned to his peg and found that his rig was in a huge tangle and would need to be scrapped off. Although I felt a morsel of guilt that my friend would be put off his rhythm for a short while, there was an element of karma here. See, on the Friday prior to this contest I had been out boozing with Graham at the Wythall Legion, when I reached over to pick up a load of peanuts that some scruffy malcontent had thrown on to the floor, Graham poured half a pint of beer down my builder’s cleavage. I attempted to dry my jeans under a hand-drier in the gents but this didn’t work, so I was left to endure a squealchy-arsed evening on the pop. Enjoy your tangle, Mr.Green…
As we entered the third hour of the contest, I felt that I would need to snare some carp if I was to catch up with Graham Green who was fishing a lovely match next door. He was catching a skimmer every drop-in, the stamp of which got bigger and bigger. Also, Dave Brain and Nellie Palmer on the early pegs were catching the odd carp – including a couple of lumps tempted on the pellet waggler. My single-minded quest to catch a carp was a moronic decision, my peg was clearly good for a weight of skimmers, but rather than search for a carp for half an hour while I rested the pole line, I pigheadedly chucked the hybrid here, there and everywhere for a full two hours. In this period the tip went round just once, resulting in a carp of around 5lb. To emphasise just how pathetic a performance I was putting on, I wouldn’t have actually seen this bite as I was chatting away, daydreaming and generally not concentrating; fortunately the passing fishery bailiff alerted me to the fact that my rod was being dragged into the lake.
This two hours on the feeder was absolutely soul-destroying, I don’t understand how anybody can enjoy gawping at a motionless tip when you could be on the long pole, chucking a waggler or snaring a big lump down the edge. Still, these tip only events such as ‘Feedermasters’ and ‘Golden Rod’ are hugely popular, so perhaps I’m in the minority in thinking that feeder fishing is actually, well… boring.
To confound my depression, while my tip stayed stoically still, double G’s swim didn’t fade – quite the opposite in fact, he caught more and more fish of an increasingly large stamp. I was left kicking myself, all week I had planned to fish for skimmers if I found myself in a swim where this was viable, and I prepared for the contest accordingly. Somehow, come the day, I found myself hopefully/hopelessly throwing a feeder around, while the angler next door fished the match I had planned to fish; the one crumb of consolation being that he was making a beautiful job of it.
Into the final stages of the contest now, and already I was dreaming of the public house: a pint of San Miguel and a packet of salted peanuts. Still, I optimistically fed my edges and threw the twatting feeder back out: and guess what, the twatting twat didn’t go round. So, with half an hour to go I had my first look down the edge, the left hand side to begin with, where I had introduced some corn and pellet; nothing doing here. Next up I looked right, where I had fed micro pellets and dead maggots. A surprising little dip on the float (was that an optical illusion?), followed by a little sideways movement, then the float dipped sharply under. With lightning reflexes I struck and, true to form, my pole snapped in half where I was holding it, releasing a sickening, expensive carbon scream.
“This is going well…”, I thought – or words to that effect.
Having taken enough punishment for one day, I made the decision to give the hybrid feeder one last cast while I slowly packed my tackle away. As he had taken on god-like, fish-whisperer status during the course of the contest, it seemed perfectly sensible to ask Graham where I should make my final cast of the day. “Chuck it long, mate” was his unbiased reply. So, I loaded the hybrid up with 2mm pellets and a wafter, sent the feeder behind me, putting the rod under the compression required to send it to the horizon, then I gave it one almighty push, hoping to reach half-way of the lake at least, and… CRACK. I lost the lot.
On the next peg Graham was in fits of laughter, and I couldn’t help but see the funny side too. I was almost as low on luck as I was skill-less; it was as if Fawlty Towers’ Manuel was still on my peg, but now he’d consumed several strong lagers, taken some hallucinogenics and was wearing nothing but boxing gloves.
I’ll admit that I was beginning to feel sorry for myself, in fact, I desperately needed a wee at this point but thought better of it in case a sparrow hawk swooped down from the nearby trees, swiftly snatching my penis from my groin before fleeing back to her nest where she would feed my flapping appendage to her hungry chicks (that’ll keep them full for a few minutes).
– A brief aside here, I just want to make you all aware of what lengths I go to in order to make my blog enjoyable. Take the above image, many bloggers would have taken the easy option and used an application such as photoshop to superimpose a penis onto a picture of some hungry chicks in a nest. I like to ‘keep things real’ though, and to get this image climbed 30 feet up a tree to drape my penis over three waiting nestlings, of course I couldn’t do this alone so I’d like to thank my wife for joining me and for taking the photo… and for bringing along a picnic. Love, I promise, next time I’m 30 feet up a tree eating a scotch egg I’ll put my cock away.
At 3.15 the final whistle blew, and what a beauteous sound it was – like an angel whispering in my ear. Naturally, I greeted it with an hilarious, ironic ‘fish on’, then I hurriedly packed my gear away, ready to follow the weigh-in round. To cut a long story short it had fished terribly, that is until we reached peg 15 where Graham Green placed a remarkable weight of 57lb on to the scales – and not a single carp in sight. I made the decision there and then that no matter what the anglers on the remainder of the pegs produced, GG would be this week’s Man of the Match, not only was it the best performance of the contest, it was the most accomplished I had witnessed in my years with the club. I’m not sure if they call him Mr.Punch because of his skill at fishing bread on canals or because of a striking resemblance to an aggressive seaside puppet, but there’s only one thing I can say, Graham…
Next up it was my turn to weigh, and I sheepishly snook 10lb and a few ounces onto the scales (but we don’t need to talk about that.) The remainder of the weights were all in the low-teens until we reached Nellie Palmer on peg 3 and Brainy Dave on peg 6, who weighed in 31lb and 29lb respectively.
And that was that for the day: a contest I can’t imagine I could have got much more wronger (like that sentence), yet I somehow enjoyed in a masochistic kind of way. Still, I felt hugely relieved to be sat in the beer-garden of a lovely pub, with peanuts and a cold pint, with no beer poured down my backside, no motionless tip, no shattered carbon and no attractive sheep, no crack-offs and no long, carp-less hours.
Yes, what better way to spend a Sunday than sat out in the beautiful spring sunshine, having a laugh with a bunch of brilliant blokes – and this man, Nelly Palmer.
Until next time…