June the 3rd, 15 fished.
A Wythall Royal British Legion contest this week, at Manor Farm Leisure, near Evesham. Today we would be fishing Middle, a largely featureless body of water of just over an acre in size. This pool is absolutely stuffed with fish; contests are regularly won with over a ton and 200lb weights are not uncommon. To give you an idea of just how good sport can be, when fishing a midweek open on Middle Pool in 2013, Chris Telling smashed the venue record, landing a colossal 353lb of f1s and carp – a record that stands to this day.
Leading up to this contest, the fishing at Manor Farm had been similar to the sport at many other fisheries around the country: poor. It appeared that the carp had been stopped in their tracks mid-spawn, and had failed to pick up where they had left off. For this reason, they had chosen to indulge in a giant, simultaneous sulk – with a hunger strike thrown in for good measure.
On the Thursday prior to this contest, the Affordable Open on Middle was won with just 64lb – a low weight by this venue’s standards. I had received reports that the carp were cruising around, disinterested, and seemingly unwilling to take a pellet. For this reason I arrived armed with six pints of casters, bought from Smithy’s Angling Centre in Longbridge. I had recently used some of Scott Smith’s casters at Alvechurch Fishery, so impressed was I with the quality of his bait that I vowed to mention it on my next visit to the shop. Scott’s reply to my compliment was, “Thanks, but I know mate – I supply the England team with bait when they go to The World Champs.” I left the shop with six pints of beautiful casters in a carrier bag and my tail fixed firmly between my legs; I felt like I’d just told Lionel Messi he’s quite good at football.
It was my turn to peg out today, and walking around the pool it gave me some much-needed confidence to see lots of fish giving themselves away: big carp were mooching around in the margins, there were dozens of “cruisers” out in the middle of the pool, and there seemed to be a lot of activity around the two aerator ropes. The top end of Middle Pool – from 11 around to 22 – looked like it might be the place to draw, as the water was black with fish in places.
At 9am we gathered in the car park to draw, and one-by-one some good pegs were taken from the bag. I fancied Joe Wood to do well down on peg 1, also Graham Green, up the other end of the pool on peg 20. When it was my turn to have a dip I picked out number 22; happy with that, a good area of late and a peg with a rope to fish up against. With 15 on the pool though, I genuinely believed it could be won from anywhere.
It was at this point that the contest almost became a non-starter, as several people objected to Brian’s footwear – or rather what he was wearing beneath this footwear. I freely admit, I also have strong opinions regarding this matter; so please, take a look at the image below and decide for yourself…
There was a lot of disgruntled mumbling amongst the club’s members so, being the diplomatic type, I took it upon myself to have a quiet word in Brian’s ear, in an attempt to explain to him how this fashion no-no might ruin the day for some. I decided I would quote some Wikipedia guidance on this sartorial misdemeanour:
“Brian, listen – wearing socks and sandals together is a controversial fashion combination and social phenomenon. It is a…”
But, before I had a chance to finish my advice, there was an unwelcome interjection, as somebody shouted out, “He looks like a fucking… GERMAN SEX OFFENDER.” Not the most tactful observation, I’m sure you’ll agree. Brian looked suitably hurt and as I placed an arm around his shoulder in consolation, he whimpered, “I’m not bloody German…”!
On arrival at my peg, I couldn’t believe how many fish were showing in the upper layers – it looked like it would be an out-and-out shallow day. So, I set about assembling my rigs, trying not to create too much bankside disturbance.
I set up three shallow rigs:
– 4 x 12 Shippy Shallow, 18 KKMB – .15, band
– Mick Wilkinson Cookie, 18 KKMB – .15, band
– Hillbilly rat-catcher 2, 18 KKMB – .15, band
A mugging rig:
– .4 Drennan Crystal Dibber, 18 Super MWG – .17, band
Two edge rigs, one for meat fished short to the right, in three foot of water:
– 4 x 12 Shippy Maggot, 16 Kaizen – .15
And one for fishing long to the left, in eighteen inches of water:
– 4 x 14 Shippy Island, 14 Kaizen – .15
I also assembled a small pellet waggler, for casting at cruising fish.
For today’s contest I was flanked by two tidy anglers, to my right I had Graham Green. The last time I drew next door to Graham he quintupled (that’s five times!) my weight, handing me a skimmer-bashing lesson at Meadowlands fishery.
To my left I had another angler more than capable of snaring a few, in the shape of Dave Brain.
At 10.15 the all-in was called. In normal circumstances I would prime a shallow line for at least half an hour before trying it, but as there were so many fish showing I went straight out with banded caster, at 14.5 meters. When the pole tip thumped into the water after just five minutes and a lean common carp of around 6lb made its way to my landing net, I thought that I had chosen the right opening move. This proved to be a false-dawn though, as I spent the following half an hour biteless. There were fish swirling through my loose-fed casters and carp crashing against the rope, so I tried flicking my long-lining rig in amongst them, I experimented with fishing at various depths using my standard shallow rigs, but whichever way I presented my bait I couldn’t buy a bite.
As little was being caught around the pool during the early stages of the match, I made the decision to stay on the shallow line for a while longer. It was frustrating watching big carp and f1s swirling through my casters, seemingly aware of which one was my hook-bait. But as we approached the hour mark my patience was rewarded, as I landed my second fish of the day: a mirror carp of around 4lb.
With just over an hour of the contest gone, I took the decision to stop pushing my rig into this carp jacuzzi, before it damaged my sanity beyond any reasonable repair. Instead I cast a pellet waggler to half way, where I had been priming a line with 6mm pellets from the off, but twenty minutes of the feed-cast-feed-twitch process yielded not so much as a dip on my float.
Looking around the pool, it was clear that it was fishing incredibly hard. Brian and Eddie were catching skimmers, and down on peg 1 Joe landed the odd proper one – aside from this there was very little happening. It appeared that those fish that were caught were being taken on the deck, and for this reason I got up off my box and assembled a bomb rod, to chuck over my loose-fed 6mms.
Regular readers of the blog will know that I’m no fan of straight-lead fishing, it’s a method that feels too “random” to me. I don’t see a correlation between the amount of bait I feed, the regularity of my feeding, and how frequently the tip goes around. Undoubtably there is a good measure of skill to bomb fishing, as those that have the knack are successful on a regular basis – but I find it boring, so it’s a method I generally avoid.
Reluctantly I chucked a 1/3oz lead out, fired a pouch-full of pellets over the top, and sat on my hands. After five minutes the tip went slowly ‘round and I landed a little, lean carp. I managed a further 4 in the following hour, not huge fish by Middle Pool standards, but something to add to the net on a hard day.
After a bite-less fifteen minutes on the lead, I elatedly threw my rod up the bank. I had no shortage of liners on the tip, so I thought it made sense to chuck a waggler over the top. Again, the pellet waggler was very hard going. So when I mis-cast it, throwing it over the rope and pulling hard for a break (much to Nelly’s amusement), I decided to retire that particular method for the day.
With two hours of the contest remaining I was rapidly running out of ideas, so I resorted to a little tactical ploy I adopt when the going gets tough: I pick a few methods and each one is allocated a timed ten minutes. If I catch a fish on a method inside the ten minutes, then it is “rewarded” with a further ten minutes. If I catch nothing, I move on to the next approach. This little strategy has got me out of jail on numerous occasions.
First up I gave mugging its allocated ten minute slot, but despite there being lots of fish visible just beneath the water’s surface, I caught nothing.
Next up it was the turn of fishing shallow, this time though I added a pole section, taking me a full sixteen meters to just off the aerator. Again, there were enough fish present in my swim, but they were incredibly spooky and I couldn’t trick one.
After this I fed a big pot of casters and meat down my left hand margin, then ventured down to my shorter right hand edge, where I had fed meat by hand all contest. Fishing double 6mm luncheon meat over loose fed meat, I began to get the odd indication; there were clearly carp in the swim. After six or seven minutes my float flew under and I landed my biggest fish of the day, a common carp approaching double figures.
This fish was followed by three smaller specimens, in what proved to be a welcome purple patch. I hadn’t expected this swim to come good, the depth being wrong at around 3ft – in fact I only prepared a rig for it at the last minute, seeing it as little more than a “throwaway line.”
With an hour of the contest remaining, bites became a little iffy on my meat line, so when I foul-hooked two fish consecutively, I saw this as my cue to give the swim a rest. I fed more caster and meat long to my left and had a recce out shallow, and after ten minutes of lifting, dropping, slapping and tapping, managed to snare another carp.
Things were beginning to pick up around the pool at this point: Brian was picking off some big carp to add to his earlier skimmers, Greeny was catching out long on the deck and opposite, Val Timms was having the odd one on the waggler. If somebody could put a good, late run of fish together the match win would be theirs.
I was hoping for a strong final forty minutes to the contest but alas, it wasn’t to be. My solitary fish caught in this period was a 6lb mirror carp, foul-hooked in the flank from down my left-hand edge. How the hook held I’ll never know – if there’s a better margin hook-pattern than the Guru Kaizen I’m yet to meet it.
At 3.15 the hooter tooted to call time on this week’s contest. It hadn’t been an easy affair for most – in fact it was a little disappointing – but it was interesting nonetheless. I had around 14 fish: 4 proper carp which might go 30lb and 10 smaller specimens for a similar weight, giving me a combined post-match estimate of 60lb. I felt like I’d fished a half-decent match, I made a fair few mistakes and I’m sure my peg was worth more than I had extracted from it, but at least I’d winkled a few out on a difficult day.
As we packed away our gear, the scales made their way around. Joe Wood was first up, weighing in 52lb from peg 1, he had suffered a frustrating day, losing more than he landed from his deep edges. After this we went anti-clockwise around the pool, where the next four anglers proved just how hard a day it had been: Steve Siddell, Dave Richards, Lee Westwood and Brainy weighing-in 18lb, 20lb, 33lb and 21lb respectively. After this it was my turn, my first net went 31lb exactly; then I unclipped my second net from my toolbar, turned to walk it up the bank and quite inexplicably fell into the pool. It wasn’t as if I had lost my footing or stumbled in – I merely placed my flip-flopped foot on the water and, quite Jesus-like, expected it to take my weight. My wife is of the belief that I keep jumping into the lake accidentally-on-purpose, just to keep my blog interesting, while I feel I ought to protest, she might just have a point, because I don’t fall in in the Winter months, do I! Anyway, once I had dragged myself from the drink, I got my second net on to the scales – it went 37lb, giving me a final tally of 68lb.
The following three weights were very close, next door Greeny weighed in 32lb, before Chris Chance ounced-out Smithy: 34lb 10oz to 34lb 9oz. We then made our way to Brian Cartridge, who started off with 14lb of skimmers. He had eleven carp to go with his silvers, as he took his nets out it was clear that they were all proper ones. They went 60lb, giving Brian a hard-earned 74lb, overtaking me into pole position.
Next angler along was Papa Timms with 36lb, doubling the weight of next-door neighbour Nellie, who managed 18lb. After this we made our way to Eddie Swann, who had only caught 4 carp but had managed lots of decent skimmers on his trusty corn over micros – in fact he put over 30lb of silvers into his keepnet and 4 good-sized carp, for a very respectable 55lb.
After this it was the turn of Trevor Faulkner to weigh in, and although he only placed 19lb onto the scales, he receives this week’s Man of the Match award. See, apart from on Google Earth, I haven’t seen Big Trev in ages. I’m not suggesting he’s fat, but he’ll only open an email if there’s spam in it. Or to put it another way, if I had to name five of the fattest people I know, Trevor would be three or four of them. In fact, so obese was he as a boy that in the school nativity play he was selected for the role of Bethlehem. In all seriousness – and I’m not just saying this in case he throws me in or eats me the next time he sees me – it was great to see our Trev today, he’s had a tough time of it lately, so I’m sure I speak for everybody in the club when I say welcome back onto the bank, big man.
Somebody else who seemed pleased to have Trevor back was “Gentleman” Jim Smith, as Trevor now leapfrogs (wrong choice of word) him, leaving him in 2nd position for the award of Club’s Fattest Angler…
That’s it for this week, a tough contest for most, so we were all relieved to head back to The Vineyard pub in Harvington for a pint of ice cold cider. Perhaps he was feeling a little conscious-stricken after “Sandal Gate”, as I saw Brian there at the bar, looking genuinely remorseful, queueing up to buy some “ball trimmings” for the lads – at £7 a portion, he must have felt desperate to make amends.
Finally, and while we’re on the subject of German sex offenders, one other thing I feel the need to clear up this week: just what was going on down on pegs 27-29. Answers on a postcard please – or an email will suffice…
Until next time…