July the 15th, 11 fished.
A pitiful turnout today for this Wythall Royal British Legion contest, at Boddington Reservoir in Northamptonshire. Every year there are several requests for me to book this venue, yet each time it is our lowest-attended contest of the season. I don’t know if it’s the long journey that puts club members off visiting “Boddy”, or perhaps the nature of the fishing isn’t to everybody’s liking. Whichever it is, I really hope a few more anglers turn up for next year’s contest.
… That being said, we actually came close to cancelling this fixture at the last minute, as we believed we would be watching Gareth’s young lions playing in the World Cup final. Well, if you’ve just come out of a coma and haven’t heard the news, then I urge you to look away now, because football didn’t “come home” – instead it hung around in Russia for a few days before fucking off to France.
Before I begin this week’s blog proper, I’d like to send out two messages of congratulations. Firstly, to club stalwart and pellet waggler Jedi, Jim Smith. Some mean-spirited people will say that he merely spent a week in Cornwall stealing pound coins off partially-sighted octogenarians, but I believe that winning the Whiteacres Veterans festival is a huge achievement. So Jim, from all of us in the Wythall Royal British Legion Angling Club – well done, mate.
Secondly, an incredible result that deserves a mention is that of former club member Pete Black, who absolutely smashed the Fish’O’Mania final at Hayfield Lakes on Saturday. At 21 years of age, Pete is now officially the youngest ever winner of the biggest competition in match angling – a truly awesome achievement.
Onto today’s events now – and being a bit hungover (anybody spotting a pattern here?) I’m finding it hard to remember what happened, but if you’re prepared to bear with me, I’ll give it a shot.
We’ll begin with the journey to Boddington. This was all a bit of a blur, as I attempted to catch up on some much-needed shut-eye whilst Joe did the chauffeuring. I don’t recall arriving at the reservoir or unloading the tackle – in fact, the first lucid moment of the day came as I went for my ritualistic pre-match poo. Here I was confronted by arachnicus deathicus himself: a gruesome Gorilla’s hand big hairy bastard spider, loitering in the portaloo…
Once I had wiped my derrière (that’s French for “arse”) and sprinted from the portaloo, I made my way to permanent peg quatre-vingts (that’s French for “eighty”) where everybody had congregated for the draw. With eleven anglers and twenty-eight well-spaced pegs to choose from, I didn’t believe the draw would be too critical – although Graham and Dave, returning from pegging-out duties, said that the pegs up in The Sanctuary were “Black” with fish. Even as low as peg 80 there were a number of big, dark shadows 25-35 meters from the bank – it certainly looked like being a pellet waggler day.
Into the ball bag of doom and I pulled out peg 5. For those of you who know Boddington, this is somewhere close to permanent peg 89/90 – and anybody familiar with the venue will also be aware that this is a favourable area.
So, I got to my peg and set about tackling up for the day. A simple ensemble of:
– Bomb rod: 10ft Preston Mini Carp, MAP ACS 4000, 12QM1 – .22
– Chucking rod: 12ft Matrix Carpmaster Method, Preston PXR Pro 5000, 12QM1 – .22
– Waggler rod: 11ft Middy 4g Baggin’ Pellet Waggler, MAP ACS 4000, Guru Pellet Wagg hook – .19
And finally, a bit of a change here, as I opted to fish a pellet feeder, rather than the venue standard method/hybrid.
– Pellet Feeder: 10ft Preston Mini Carp, MAP ACS 4000, Preston 30g pellet feeder, 14 KKMB – .22
I always toy with bringing the pole to Boddington, invariably dismissing the notion at the last minute, today’s contest being no exception. I don’t leave my pole at home because I’m frightened of hooking huge carp on my treasured length of carbon, as I wouldn’t hesitate to fish this way on the Specimen Lake at Larford or Lambsdown on the Meadowlands complex. I usually just come to the conclusion that big, wary carp are unlikely to come within pole range on a day match. Today though, there were huge ‘V’s’ coming through the peg at around 16m and I was kicking myself for having not thrown the pole and a couple of top kits in with my rods.
My pre-match suspicions that this might be a pellet waggler day were confirmed when not just one, but two anglers snared a carp before the whistle. Next door neighbour Pete Holtham landed a near double-figured fish before Eddie Swan got in on the act, with an even larger specimen. Both anglers had ‘takes’ on a bare hook while checking their pellet waggler range!
At 10.30 the all-in was called, and it was like a scene from The Dam Busters as a load of pellet wagglers, bombs and feeders were wanged into the drink with a collective “spla-doosh.” It didn’t take long for many anglers to hook their first fish of the contest; neighbour Pete Holtham snared one on the waggler after just five minutes, closely followed by Dave Richards who had kicked-off on “The Method.”
For whatever reason (probably because I was still half-pissed and couldn’t see straight) it took me quite a while to get a bite. I hooked my first fish after around half an hour of frantic pellet-waggling (not an angling term) but man and carp soon parted company. So I persevered, steadfastly following the “ping-cast-ping-twitch-repeat” process, until on the forty minute mark I gratefully landed my first fish of the match: a common carp of around eight pounds.
Pete Holtham, pegged to my right, already had three carp to my one. We were both fishing pellet wagglers set at a similar depth, pinging 8mm pellets and casting to a distance of around 30 meters. The only noticeable difference in the way we were presenting our baits was that Pete was casting infrequently, firing pellets over a static waggler. I believed I was doing the right thing, never leaving the float still for more than ten seconds, twitching the rig to mimic the falling of loose-fed pellets. It goes against all pellet waggler convention, but on the day Pete’s tactic of keeping the float still and grouping pellets tightly was definitely the correct ploy.
Into the second hour and I had a moment of fortunate misfortune. My reel had become snarled up with the surface fluff that covers many fisheries in springtime (does anybody know the correct name for this?), I went to wind in and my line came off the spool in a giant bird’s nest. I tried to find my way out of this horrible tangle but it was a vain attempt, so I decided I would have to break the line and set the waggler rod back up from scratch. Just to confirm my suspicion that leaving the waggler still was the best way of presenting a pellet, while I attempted to untangle my reel line my waggler – which had now been static for a good four minutes without a single loose offering catapulted around it – flew under and a carp tore away before cracking off as it bolted against the rod tip.
You may be wondering how any of this could be deemed fortunate, so I’ll explain. While I was re-tackling the waggler rod, I decided I would chuck the bomb out – and for the next hour I didn’t get an opportunity to set my wagg’ back up as I hooked six decent fish, landing five of them. With the amount of big carp showing in the upper layers of the Reservoir, I wouldn’t have thrown the bomb unless I had suffered this tangle.
At this point, with three hours of the contest remaining, I was still a couple of fish behind Pete and further still behind Dave who was now bagging on peg 7. But, after a poor start, my match wasn’t going too badly and I was slowly beginning to put a weight together.
I spent the next ninety minutes of the contest chopping and changing, the bomb line had dried up so I threw a pellet feeder over my loose-fed 8mm’s, fishing a washed-out Ringer’s Wafter hook bait. I managed a couple of decent fish on this but it didn’t improve my catch rate enough for me to deem it any great success.
My next tactical change was to change the bomb on my chucking rod over to a candle. Sometimes, when fish are shying away from wagglers, the candle can be a great way to tempt a fish into taking your bait. Wary carp will more readily feed beneath the candle, often inquisitively nosing against it before noticing your hook bait. I hooked three fish on this method in a relatively short space of time, landing just one. I had been using a Preston PR38 hook when I lost fish, only putting a carp in the net when I changed over to a Guru Super MWG.
The only other carp I landed in this period was an opportunistic attempt. I was about to cast my pellet waggler out when I saw a dark shape travelling towards me around twenty meters from the bank. I cast my waggler 10ft in front of it, feathering the line so that my float entered the water with a lovely little “plop.” The dark shape then disappeared, there was a dramatic pause and the water erupted as the biggest fish of the day was snared, a lumpy big mirror of around 14lb
Into the final 90 minutes of the contest and I still had some ground to make up on Pete and Dave, pegged to my right. I thought I might be ahead of the four anglers to my left, drawn in the lower numbers, but they were obscured by a bush so it was difficult to say for sure.
The closing period of a contest at Boddington will usually be when the fish feed with confidence, so I decided to up my feed in the hope of drawing in some lumps. I’m not suggesting there’s any great skill to this, you just flick a bomb out and keep catapulting – like Dennis the Menace on speed. The occupational hazard of this heavy feeding is a whiplash wound, latex recoil and the dreaded pingers’ fingers.
For an example of this injury, see below…
I would like to say that this pellet barrage did the trick, and that I caught up with and eventually overtook Pete and Dave as the contest drew to a close. But Pete managed to stay a couple of fish ahead of me all contest, keeping me masterfully at bay like a boxer with a reach advantage over his opponent.
I found a few carp in the final hour of the match, but caught no quicker than I had at any other point. When the all out was called at 3.30, I had eighteen or nineteen carp for 145lb on my clicker – the first time I had ever used one, so it would be interesting to see how accurate my estimations had been.
Once our gear was packed away, we made our way up to The Sanctuary to start the weigh-in. First up was Nelly Palmer, who was claiming to have lost as many as he had landed, which is a lot of carp as after several weighs, his nets went 178lb 5oz. Next along it was the turn of Graham Green, he had caught some huge fish, also losing a good number to an underwater obstruction. Greeny ran Nelly ridiculously close, in fact there was just 8oz in it as Double G’s lumps went 177lb 13oz.
After this we made our way in to the woods, where Brainy Dave weighed in just over a ton – closely followed by Chris Chance with just under a ton. I was already beginning to feel sorry for club scalesman Eddie Swan, hauling huge weights on to the scales in the searing, July heat.
Once we had left the woods, we reached Dave Richards, who was owning up to “a high 170lb” on his clicker. Dave is never far out in his estimations, and this match was no exception, as his feeder-caught carp took the scales round to 182lb, handing him the Yellow Jersey in the process.
Next up it was the turn of Pete Holtham, who had fished a tidy match on the pellet waggler. Pete had a huge weight of 179lb 9oz, falling just half a fish short of Dave’s total, in what was proving to be an incredibly tight contest.
It was my turn to weigh in next, my return of 153lb being only good enough to take me into fifth place, a position I ultimately retained. Although the four anglers on the low numbers had returned an excellent average of almost 100lb a man, it had clearly been much harder work in this area and impossible to compete with the pegs in The Sanctuary.
I had thoroughly enjoyed my day out in the sun but was disappointed at my slipshod performance; I felt that my peg was easily worth the 30lb required to challenge the framers.
… which brings me to this week’s Man of the Match, contest winner “Dazzling” Dave Richards, who fished a blinder of a match from an area where I’ve seen many anglers struggle. Stationed in a little bay where the water shallows right up, his decision to fish the method feeder was the correct one given the nature of the swim. On top of this Dave is handsome and incredibly funny too. If it sounds like I’m sucking up to him because he caught me urinating on his stink bag after the contest and I’m terrified of the kind of revenge he could wreak, then think again – I just think he’s a wonderful human being…
Apologies here, as this is where I would usually include an image of the day’s weigh-sheet. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible this week, as Nelly went away with the paperwork and wasn’t ahem forthcoming when I requested a copy…
A great day out in fantastic company today – and what better way to round it off than in the pub, where we chewed the fat over the day’s events over a few ciders. Somehow the conversation got round to penis size, and Jim Smith declared himself to be “a Walnut Whip – even in the good weather.”
Eddie on the other hand was “owning up” to a lot more on his clicker…
Until next time…