May the 20th, 14 (ahem) fished
A bit of a change this week, as I’ve made the decision to announce my Man of the Match at the beginning of the blog, rather than the end. My reason for doing this? Well, I wouldn’t want to present to you the illusion that this is a piece of writing about an actual fishing contest. So, this week’s Man of the Match award goes to: everybody that failed to turn up. Well done – a superb decision.
Today we would be sitting next to Boddington Reservoir, a vast expanse of water somewhere. It’s full of big carp, but today these fish would mostly be having sex: fucking in the rushes, grinding along the shallows, writhing around in raptures of carpy ecstasy.
This is no tender courtship; no balletic dance performed by a pair of plumed birds of paradise, played-out to the gentle narration of David Attenborough. When carp breed it is basically a subaqueous swingers’ club, and a violent one at that, like their meeting room has been double-booked with a bare knuckle boxing society – but, rather than go home, they all decided they ought to give it a go. Everybody is fair game and there will be bloodshed.
Ask any angler that has wet a line during spawning season, and he will tell you that the chances of a fish taking a break from this lusty vigour, just to eat a pellet, are very slim. Think of it this way: when was the last time you halted mid-coitus and reached for a Scotch egg (no need to answer that one, Bob Warwick.)
An important question that required answering this week was, ‘what will I wear on my feet?’ Regular readers of the blog will be aware that I’m a fan of that barefoot feeling, so during the warmer months I don flip-flops when fishing. Since our last visit though, the wearing of any form of sandal/flip-flop has been banned by British Waterways, due to a number of complaints about Steve Wheeler’s feet.
Apparently, several members of the 2nd Banbury Scouts group, on a sponsored trek that day, were so traumatised by the sight of Steve’s feet that they “refused to hike again… ever.” Another complainant had been walking her dog around the reservoir that afternoon, upon seeing Steve’s distressing toes the poor Border Collie could walk no further and, after being carried back to his owner’s car, proceeded to “vomit all over the back seat.”
I asked Steve how he managed to come by such unsightly feet: a mutated gene perhaps? Some horrific accident? His answer was that he wasn’t completely sure, but growing up in Halesowen he used to play something called “Hot Rocks”. Basically, one of his friends had stolen a bowling ball from a local alley and this game involved dousing it in liquid paraffin, setting it alight, and using it to play street football. “That might have something to do with it”, I thought.
Arriving at the fishery I felt relieved to have chosen trainers as my footwear for the day, as there were signs everywhere prohibiting visitors from wearing sandals of any sort. One such sign read, “Please do not wear flip flops if your feet look like you could swoop down and snatch your dinner from the lake.” A humorous message with serious undertones.
Imagine my surprise then, when I went to speak to Steve Wheeler pre-match, only to find that he had disregarded completely the rule that was implemented because of him!
Now, on to today’s contest, and this will be brief, as even I can’t dress up such an absolute non-event as something it isn’t. Such an abject, tedious yawn-fest, such a soulless, dreary waste of time. Boring: it was like having a huge mug of Horlicks while Nigel Mansell describes to you the colour grey. It was like Trevor Francis reading out a recipe for cheese on toast. It was like taking co-codamol and listening to Tim Henman whisper the words “shopping trolley” over and over. You get my drift.
To give evidence of how poor the contest truly was, from pegs 80 to 94 – the most consistent area of the lake – just three carp were caught. To emphasise further still just how woeful this “fishing match” was, just one angler caught more than a single carp. For extra, unnecessary clarification of how dire a day we had to endure, a solitary carp won the contest – and this was foul-hooked.
I had been looking forward to this match for quite some time, I absolutely love this type of fishing: sitting out before a vast expanse of water, catching wild, hard-fighting fish. But today the carp were either on the far side of the reservoir or up in ‘the sanctuary’, all doing the necessary.
So, there was nothing else for it other than to enjoy the glorious mid-May sunshine, fire some pellets in, and go through my entire repertoire of tricks and tactics in an attempt to get a bite.
I tried: the pellet waggler, the candle, the slow sinking waggler, the hybrid, the tea bag, the bomb and the long-range method feeder.
Nobody could accuse me of giving up easily: I chopped and changed all contest, experimenting with a variety of hookbaits, I tried casting past my feed, chucking short of my feed, I tried throwing the waggler without feeding. The only method to win me a bite was the slow sinking waggler, I snared a mirror carp on this tactic after fifty minutes – and that was my lot for the day.
Unbelievably, everybody stayed until the end of the contest – probably because we had all heard that very little had been caught and that one carp might nick it. Whichever way it was a sterling effort from the 14 anglers present, and for such stoicism I believe we deserve a round of applause.
At 3.30 the all out was signalled, to call time on this near life experience. I had cast out hundreds of times, made countless tweaks to my approach and at the end of the five hours, had fed eleven pints of pellets. Contrast this with a trip to Tunnel Barn Farm on the Wednesday prior to this contest, where I caught 131lb of f1s – on little more than a pint of pellets!
The weigh in started in the woods, quite aptly, with a blank. Next along Dave Law put two fish on the scales for 17lb 8oz (two fish – you big show off!) After this we made our way to Steve Wheeler, who was owning up to one carp for “around 5lb.” I knew that something was amiss when Steve passed me his phone before he got his net out and said “get a picture, Dan.” Nobody has their picture taken with a 5lb carp, and Steve is no exception, as this lump took the scales round to 18lb 4oz.
He’s as crooked as they come and his feet are a hate crime – but this is some fish…
Next along it was the turn of Old Christmas Face himself, Brian Fowler, who failed to catch a carp but had, in his own words “strangled a lovely perch.” How right he was, as this brute of a stripey went 2lb 14oz – taken on an 8mm pellet…
After this we weighed in Mark Seaborn, his single carp and two roach taking the scales round to an ounce over 14lb. Then Moggy weighed in a small sample for Boddington standards, a common carp of just under 5lb.
The following eight anglers managed to net a measly three carp. Tony Newbold snared one on the method feeder short for 10lb 12oz. Ian Gibson, owning up to a carp of around 5lb, was obviously suffering from an attack of “The Wheelers” as his beast went 14lb 7oz tut-tut – tut-tut. I was last to weigh, my carp going 12lb 8oz – handing me a section win and 5th in the match (not that it was any consolation.)
So that’s it for this week’s contest, a full five hours of my life I can’t claim a refund on. I’m not proud of this, but before I go I have a small confession to make: so mind-numbed was I mid-contest that I ventured down to Dicky on the next peg and, knowing that he would be in the possession of various class A’s, barbiturates and hallucinogens, placed an opened bottle of water on his side-tray and whispered ‘please, spike me.’
No post-match pint in the pub this week; no cider and no fun. See, I could think of no better – and more fitting – way to round off my day than to go home and dig out a couple of classic CD’s. It would be difficult to choose between ‘Michael Owen reads The Shipping Forecast’ and ‘Steve Davis: a Lecture on Tupperware.’ But, if I couldn’t make my mind up, I would make a big mug of Bovril, close my eyes and imagine former Prime Minister John Major, reading from his shopping list: “croissants… cheddar cheese… custard creams… toilet roll… spaghetti hoops…” Beautiful!
Until next time…