April the 22nd, 16 fished.
A good turn out for this Hall Green Home Guard AC contest, as we ventured into deepest Worcestershire, and a new venue for most of us in Ockeridge Lakes. Today we would be fishing Oak Pool, a small, 30 peg water known for its hard-fighting carp, some of which were stocked many years ago and are now nearing specimen size.
In the week leading up to this contest we experienced some exceptional weather, as we made the transition from Winter into Summer in just two days, bypassing Spring completely. Due to this remarkable rise in temperatures, the fish had woken from their winter stasis, quickly finding their appetites, as huge catches were taken all over the country: the venue record at Tunnel Barn Farm was smashed with 385lb of f1s; the Hillview Wednesday ‘rover’ was won with 293lb and Saturday’s Maver Match This qualifier at Heronbrook produced a winning weight of 358lb – ridiculous sport, I’m sure you’ll agree.
I woke early for this contest (I’ll admit it, I didn’t sleep properly because I was excited) feeling remarkably clear-headed, this being the first week of my self-imposed month of sobriety. This spell of abstinence is long overdue, I can’t remember the last time I spent a day on the bank without a hangover of some sort, although I suspect it was when I fished the Staffs-Worcs Canal at Alvechurch in 1989 – I was 11 years old at the time and was off the drink because I had an important football match coming up.
Due to a forthcoming house move, I felt that today was the time to return some club treasure to Chairman and custodian, Bob Warwick. So, as I waited for Joe to arrive in his van, I took a final opportunity to view these riches in all their glory:
Trophy: for ‘Smallest Angler in the club 2016/2017’
Medal: for ‘Most Annoying Twat 2014 – Present’
Wig: for hiding from Gail at Blythe Waters.
On arrival at the venue first impressions were encouraging; it’s set in a peaceful location and is beautifully kept. Also, small tackle items/bait can be puchased from the on-site portakabin. The one negative aspect of the fishery though is the size of the pools, or more specifically the spaces between pegs: although Oak is home to some 30 swims, it has the dimensions of a 20-pegger, and with 16 fishing today it would be a little tight.
At 9 o’clock we gathered in the car park to draw, and while some of the club’s more enthusiastic members were preoccupied with last-minute tactical chat, we released Steve Wheeler from the big green tin where we ‘store’ him between contests…
I had no huge preference as far as today’s draw was concerned. I mean, a corner peg is always nice, but if I could avoid numbers 14, 15 and 16 I would be happy, as they were the only pegs on the pool with no space inbetween them. As it stood, I let Craig Seaborn draw for me – my luck at the drawbag has been woeful recently – and he pulled out number 12, midway along the left hand bank.
On arrival at my peg I felt pleased, although the pool is largely featureless, I had a long left hand margin to explore (made better by the fact that peg 11 couldn’t reach it due to a tree), an aerator off at an angle at 14m and two nice, short edges. Also there were plenty of fish cruising through the swim – although Ockeridge rules prohibit ‘mugging’ so I would have to fish for these in a conventional shallow fashion.
Plan of attack for this contest was to start long – probably shallow – and then work my way back, hopefully emptying it down my edges late on. Rigs for the occasion were as follows:
– Slapping rig, MW Cookie, 18KKM-B – .15, band
– Deeper shallow, 4 x 12 Shippy Shallow, 18 KKM-B – .15 band
– Long line shallow, .3 Drennan Crystal Dibber, 18 KKM-B – .17 band
– Long Pole deck, 4 x 14 Malmam Roob, KKM-B – .15 band
– Short Pole, 4 x 12 Malman Roob, 16 B911 – .15
– Edge, 4 x 12 Shippy Island, 14 Kaizen – .15
Bait for the day was a simple affair: fishery pellets in 6mm and 2mm, dead maggots, a tin of corn as a change bait and some worms for the hook.
I found myself in great company for my five hours this week: to my left I had club legend and all round lovely bloke Dave “The Glove” Coyne…
To my right I had an angler I had never previously drawn beside (on a club contest at least) – and this guy is a venue expert, so I’d certainly have my work cut out today.
In the week Dale Winton died it feels right to reveal the identity of this mystery angler in the style of the late, high-camp light-entertainment favourite. Those of you who remember Supermarket Sweep (if so, you were unemployed in the mid-90’s) will recall that Dale would often introduce guests with a short, hilarious rhyme, so here goes…
“He’s from Halesowen… he’s drawn right next to ya… he’s on the sex offenders register… that’s right guys, it’s none other than…
At 10.15 the all-in was called, I kicked off my short pole swim with half a pot of dead maggots/micros then went out long, fishing shallow. After 10 minutes of feeding 6mm’s with a 6mm in the band I was fishless, so I came back in and changed the pellet to an 8mm. By feeding nothing and continuously slapping the rig in, I managed to put 3 carp in the net in the opening forty-five minutes. A steady start but already a couple of fish behind Mark Seaborn pegged opposite, who had gone straight down the edge fishing hard pellet and found the lumps queued up.
Aside from Mark’s lightning start, there were few carp coming out in the early stages of the contest – it appeared that the pool wouldn’t produce any of the huge weights it is capable of. So, on the hour mark, and with slapping becoming less and less effective, I decided that I would give my other lines a try. Firstly I went in on the short pole line, fishing double dead maggot over kinder-potted maggots/micros; this produced just one blade roach – not a good sign – so it was time for an early look down the edge. A brief recce down my right margin fishing pellet produced nothing, so I took the decision to leave the inviting left-hand edge alone until later in the contest, as I wanted the fish to feed confidently here. My final tactic to get an outing was the long pole on the deck, pinging pellets, this yielded a skimmer of around 1.5lb; something to add to the tally but not the weight-building carp I had hoped for.
Before I knew it two hours of the contest had passed and all I had to show for my efforts were three carp and a couple of measly silver fish, for a weight of around 20lb. To make matters worse, Mark Seaborn continued to catch, taking his tally up to nine or ten carp as he built what appeared to be an insurmountable lead. Joe was also catching steadily two pegs to my left, fishing the short pole and his edges. Aside from this just the occasional fish was being snared by the rest of the anglers around the pool.
Although I was mostly staring at a motionless tip, I was actually having a great day, the sun was breaking through the clouds and everybody was in top form around the pool. Paul Sumner was belting out 80’s classics – even taking the odd request; Steve Wheeler was delivering a Dragon’s Den type sales pitch for his favourite Red Hydro; Dicky was having an uncomfortable conversation with the West Midlands Police. All brilliant fun – but you can’t weigh in banter, can you Daniel.
So, with less than three hours of the contest remaining I decided to gamble and feed my left hand edge, a full hour earlier than planned. I wouldn’t venture down there though until I saw some obvious signs of fish activity: the water muddying up or a tail vortex. I kicked this swim off with a full pot of micros and dead maggots, then cupped in some water over the top, to see if an inquisitive fish would be drawn to the noise. I then went out on the short pole, always keeping an eye on my edge – and after ten minutes there were definite signs of feeding fish.
I hurriedly shipped-in, put a bunch of six or seven maggots onto a size 14 Kaizen (if there is a better edge hook I’m yet to find it), filled up a cad pot and shipped-out. After a few minutes my float slowly pulled under, I struck and it didn’t feel right, I had hooked a fish outside its mouth. I had him on for a few wobbly seconds then we parted company. Still, encouraged by the fact that some fish were now present, I repeated the process, the only problem being that the outcome was exactly the same, this fish was also foul-hooked and so was the one after it.
I reattached the plumb-it for reference, but the rig was definitely set right. On the next peg Steve Wheeler suggested I shallow up, but I felt reluctant to do this in two feet of water – and anyhow I believed that this foul-hooking issue was down to my feeding. So, I went out and fed a full big pot of maggots/micros, placed my rig in quickly over it and almost immediately hooked one, this time in the mouth, a mirror carp of around 6lb – coincidence or not? I repeated the process and snared another one, a smaller sample of around 4lb. This was my cue to attach the Preston ‘You’re ‘Avin It Pot’ to my pole tip, so that I could fish over a large volume of feed immediately after introducing it.
The next hour and a half went well, I often had to wait for bites – sometimes as long as ten minutes – but I caught steadily, and the edge fish were a decent stamp. At one point I ran out of my maggot/micro mix and lazily topped up with just dead maggots; the difference was incredible, I couldn’t buy a bite. This just shows how tuned in to pellet the resident carp were on the day.
Over on peg 4 Mark Seaborn’s catch-rate had now slowed considerably; I felt that it was either neck-and-neck between us or I was a fish ahead, whichever way it would be very close going into the final half an hour. I set myself a target of two fish going into this crucial period of the match, managing a total of zero; I had pushed my peg hard for two hours, rarely resting my edge line, so it was little wonder bites had dried up. Still, Mark had added nothing to his tally in the final stages either, so it would be close. In fact the only anglers who seemed to catch fish late on were Rich Caswell, pinging maggots along the left-hand bank and Ian Gibson, who caught some proper ones shallow on the short pole.
At 3.15 the all out was called, to bring to an end what had been an interesting contest. General consensus around the pool was that it was between me and Mark for first place. I finished the contest with 13 fish in the net, one of which was a ‘squeaker’, the others would average around 5lb. If this was the case my post match estimate would be approximately 60lb. Mark probably had one or two fish less than me, but had snared a couple of proper lumps which were comfortably subdued on Brown Hydrolastic – he is the only person I’ve met who owns a length of this tow rope.
We started the weigh in with Rich Caswell, who placed a hard-earned 38lb on the scales. Next along Ian Gibson pulled out a bag that I believed might take the scales round past their 60lb limit, in fact this net went 47lb; the fish really weren’t weighing, perhaps they were hollow after a long winter of eating very little. We swiftly moved along past Paul “One Perch” Sumner before the moment of truth, as Mark tipped his fish into the weigh-sling: astonishingly his net “only” went 46lb, losing out to Ian Gibson by a pound.
There were no other weights of note until we reached Mr.Consistent himself, Joe Wood, who plonked 38lb on to the scales. Now it was my turn: I lifted my first net out, this contained 7 fish, I could see straight away that they were a bigger stamp than those we had seen so far, and so it proved as my first weigh went 47lb; my second net contained 6 fish of a similar stamp and went 43lb, giving me a grand total of 90lb. I was absolutely flabbergasted by this weight – we all were, we genuinely believed there would be little to separate me and Mark.
After this there were a few weights in the low 30’s, handing me my first club contest victory of the season. The lads were absolutely made up for me…
For the anoraks amongst you, here’s the weigh sheet…
An immensely enjoyable day today, not merely because I won the contest – although that helps – but because I had some great laughs with a lovely bunch of lads. I also have to acknowledge that I fish far better when I’m sober, so no more Saturday excesses for me. I even refused a drink in the beer garden on the way home – it’s called a BEER garden for a reason you twat, not a J20 garden.
I can’t go without mentioning this week’s Man of the Match, a true zero-to-hero performance from Ian Gibson. If he had found the fish short-shallow earlier he could have done a proper weight. Anyway, well done mate…
Until next time…