July the 1st, 13 fished.
A Wythall Royal British Legion AC contest today, and the second match of a rare weekend double-header. In normal circumstances I would look forward to a visit to Elmbridge fishery, but after several nights of excess in “preperation” for my 40th birthday, I woke on the day of the contest feeling less-than-enthusiastic.
Now, before we get started, I know what you’re thinking, “40, really!” Because many people find it hard to believe I’m now entering my early middle-age. Quite often complete strangers will come up to me in the street and say:
“Dan, how do you keep yourself looking so young!?”
To which I’ll reply, “You’re a complete stranger, how do you know my name?”
And they’ll say, “… I call everybody Dan.”
Then I’ll say, “That’s a bit weird.” Before revealing the secret to eternal, lustrous youth: alcohol.
Now, when I say alcohol I mean, ALCOHOL. No messing around here, no measly glass of wine with dinner, or two pints on the way in from work. Maintaining this level of youthification (is that a word?) requires true dedication, and I suggest at least ten stiff drinks a day. Consuming this amount in normal circumstances can be hard to maintain, so I have a little catchphrase: “to get out of your box, think out of the box.” I recommend keeping an almost flavourless drink – vodka and orange perhaps – on the bedside table and downing it in the middle of the night. Or you might want to consider making ice lollies out of a favourite alcoholic tipple, something to enjoy on the drive to work.
I understand that this advice goes against that of many “experts”, who suggest drinking copious amounts of water to achieve that fresh-faced complexion. But before you rush off to glug down gallons of expensive H20, prepare for this piece of irrefutable evidence: the adult elephant drinks up to 225 litres of water a day. Okay, on first reading this is an innocuous and quite plausible statement. But answer me this, have you ever seen an elephant with no wrinkles? Point proven – mine’s a gin. Actually, make it a double, it’s 8am and we’re in Wetherspoons.
Where was I? Oh yes, fishing blog. So, Eddie picked me up for this one and we arrived at the fishery early as he was on pegging-out duties. I took a back seat as Dave Richards and Eddie debated which pegs ought to be put in, which areas threw-up weights consistently, whether or not to place an angler down the far end of the pool, if odd or even numbers would be best, that type of thing. I was happy to shuffle along behind, keeping right out of it.
At 9am we gathered in the car park, all of the talk was that the left hand side of the pool would be the area to draw, or failing this the solitary peg on the dam wall. Being a little fuzzy-headed though, I didn’t mind where I drew, I was just glad to be out in the sunshine with the lads, content to be a “passenger” for the day.
But, as is often the case when you’re feeling relaxed about matters, you let go and good things happen, so I pulled out an absolute flyer – my second one of the weekend – Peg 13 on the dam wall. I had plenty of open water out in front, an island to chuck to, no other anglers on the four pegs to my right and a lovely, long edge to my left. With this flyer in hand I “miraculously” woke a little, rushing to Nelly’s van to register my draw.
On arrival at my peg I was actually embarrassed at how many fish were present, I hoped nobody would come around for a pre-match chat as they would be astounded at all of the black shadows in the swim and the pressure would suddenly be on for me to win.
Feeling that a big weight might be on the cards, I opted to keep things super-simple and assembled just a mugging rig, a couple of shallow rigs, a short pole line and an edge rig (which would do for both sides.)
As the all-in neared I received a WhatsApp message from absentee Joe Wood, who was away sunning himself in Corfu. Joe wanted to wish me luck and to ask if I had drawn a decent peg. Below is the video I sent to him, it will give you an idea of just how much room I had – basically I was pleasure fishing.
On some devices the sound won’t work, but if it does please accept my apologies for the singing and, more pertinently, the swearing. If there are children in the room and you’re viewing on a mobile device, I’d suggest you either plug a headset in or hit the mute button.
At 10.15 the all in was called, I fed some hard pellets onto the short pole line, a pot of dead maggots and micros down the right hand edge, then went out with the mugging rig. Now, mugging isn’t a tactic I’m particularly proficient at, but I was astonished that I couldn’t tempt a bite from one of the many carp cruising through the swim. I tried a bunch of dead maggots in a band, a hard pellet, I tried plopping the rig in at different depths – I just couldn’t make it happen. So, after twenty frustrating minutes I dropped back onto the short pole, fishing a banded 6mm pellet.
I fished the short pole for ten biteless minutes, but whilst doing so primed a shallow line at 14 meters. Up the right hand bank Lee Westwood and Greeny had both started the contest well fishing pellets shallow, so hopefully I would follow suit. But twenty minutes of lifting, dropping, pinging and slapping yielded nothing; the only reason I could think of for this inactivity was the lack of ripple down my end of the pool. Things were not going to plan.
Far earlier in the contest than I had anticipated, I had my first recce down the edge. It looked perfect – surely with so much room a few carp would now be mooching confidently over my feed. After a few minutes my float dipped and I struck hard – only for a 2oz perch to fly eight feet into the air. Not a good sign.
At this point I was rapidly running out of ideas. I had another fruitless attempt at mugging. I gave the short pole a brief, boring, biteless cameo. I slapped an 8mm pellet about for ten minutes or so. Nothing – and so dispiriting. With two hours gone and staring down both barrels of an embarrassing blank, I cracked open a can of cider (just keeping on top of my “ten-a-day”), walked up the bank and got the rods out of the bag.
I would like to say that getting the rods out was a resounding success – it wasn’t. It did however spare me a blank. By chucking a pellet feeder right in amongst some rushes, I managed to snare two carp for around eight pounds.
With just over two hours to go I filled my right hand edge in with three big pots of maggots/micros, I then threw a few big handfuls of pellet/corn down my left margin and gave the waggler a chuck. Nelly Palmer was now throwing the pellet wagg’ and had managed a few decent fish on it. Elsewhere, “End Peg” Eddie was already owning up to 40lb on his clicker, Greeny was still catching shallow and Lee was steadily putting fish in the net. Although it didn’t look like being a huge-weight contest, everybody seemed to be catching something, so I believed that when I ventured down the edge with two hours remaining, I was coming stone last.
First put-in down the right hand margin, fishing bunches of dead maggots, and the float flew under, I struck and a huge bow-wave went out of the peg. Not the start I was hoping for but at least a few fish were present. I went back in and within two minutes the float dipped, I lifted gently and this time it was “fish on” as the first margin-dweller of the day made its way to my net.
This fish was soon followed by another, smaller specimen – I had doubled my weight in around four minutes and it looked like a few carp had arrived for a munch. The next half an hour was quite productive, with four decent fish landed.
I was finally starting to enjoy the contest – that is until I hooked a big fish that sped off under the pallet I was fishing up to. My black Hydrolastic went round the pallet leg and off at a right angle, then everything went solid as the hook set into the landing stage leg. If I may interrupt the fishing here for a moment, can somebody explain to me how a hooked carp can shed a hook, leaving it impaled on some foliage or an inanimate feature such as a pallet leg? As the carp tears off, the elastic, rig and all comes under more and more tension, at no point should the hook-hold loosen. In fact, the hook will only set deeper as the carp screams off. So, tell me this, at what point does the hook leave the fish’s mouth and prick something else – the pallet leg on this occasion? I’ve posed this question to several people and am yet to receive a satisfactory answer, so please, somebody put me right.
As we entered the final hour of the contest, some lumps arrived down the shorter, left-hand edge. I enjoyed a decent end to the match here, extracting around half-a-dozen decent fish, fishing dead maggots over micros. This left me on a total of fourteen carp when the all-out was called at 3.15.
Considering I had struggled for the good majority of the match, I felt relieved to have found a few fish in the end. I believed I had a weight of around 65lb – so not the blow-out I had feared.
Being self-critical, I have to concede that I had fished a poor contest, getting so much wrong on the day. In hindsight I should have focussed my efforts on the edges and nothing else; I believe I didn’t feed enough down there in the early stages of the contest to encourage the carp to settle.
Once we were packed away we started the weigh in, kicking-off with Tony Corbett on peg one. Tony placed 42lb onto the scales, but this doesn’t tell the entire story – he lost a dozen carp consecutively at one point, so can count himself unlucky.
Next along Phil Southgate and John Bushell chipped in with 53lb and 29lb respectively, further evidence of how difficult the fishing had been. Ollie Corbett was next to weigh, an angler who always winkles a few out. Ollie was owning up to “somewhere between ten and twelve ounces” – a good estimation by his standards, as his fish took the scales around to 68lb.
Last to weigh along this side of the pool was Steve Siddell, his level 32lb proving that pre-match predictions of the left-hand bank dominating the contest were nothing short of wayward.
It was now time to move around to the right-hand bank of the pool – where the match winner was touted to come from. Eddie Swann was first up, his carp going an excellent 90lb – all caught down the edge on corn over pellet. Pete Holtham then placed 44lb on the scales before we made our way to Lee Westwood and Graham Green, who had enjoyed a tight, next peg battle all afternoon. After several weighs and some tallying-up, Lee just squeaked it, with 97lb to Graham’s 95lb.
There were no other weights of note until we made the long walk to my peg, my two nets going 71lb, handing me a fortunate 4th place finish on the day.
I had thoroughly enjoyed my day but without wanting to sound precious, felt a little miffed that none of my friends had made a fuss over me on my Big Birthday Weekend. I didn’t expect a cake or anything, just a pre-match rendition of “Happy Birthday” – or forty bumps in the car park.
As I finished packing my gear away, feeling a little downbeat, I heard a whistle. It was Nelly, beckoning me over to his van. “Come here you big nosed cunt” he shouted – it was great to hear him in such good spirits. As I got to his van he handed me an envolope, inside lay a thing of beauty: one of Nelly’s famous Snoopy and Bart Simpson compositions – this time the cool duo were enjoying a round of golf!
Alongside this cartoon was a note, handwritten by Nelly, it was quite possibly the most tender, heartfelt thing I’ve known him to utter. It read “Danyul I probaply don’t hate you quiyte as much as you think I do – or maybe I do from Nel.” Such beautiful words – and a sentiment I didn’t believe he was capable of.
After this we made our way to The Robin Hood, to top-up on our “ten-a-day” and discuss the afternoon’s events out in the sun. Whilst there Dave and Eddie attempted to explain the worst pegging out in the entire history of match angling…
As is tradition, I can’t sign off without announcing this week’s Man of the Match, winning his first contest with the Wythall Royal British Legion club, weighing-in a fantastic 97lb, none other than Lee Westwood. Well done, mate.
Until next time…