October the 7th, 11 fished.
A bit of a ranty grump-fest of a blog this week, as there are a few things I’d like to get off my chest before I move on to the contest. Basically, I want to talk about the treatment we’ve had as a club this season at a few Midland’s fisheries. I generally shy-away from writing a blog when there has been a matter of contention with a fishery owner, but I feel the need to speak up as recent events have left a sour taste in the mouth.
I’ll begin my complaints with a contest at Ockeridge Fishery in July, where a member of our club (who will remain nameless to spare his blushes) was kicked-off mid-match for having luncheon meat on his side-tray. Now, meat is banned at Ockeridge, so why would I feel aggrieved?
Firstly, the angler in question had checked-out the fishery online in the week leading up to the contest, but came upon an out-of-date set of rules and based his approach around this. There is an up-to-date list of rules on a board at the fishery, but this was obscured by a van.
Secondly, as this was our first (and last) visit to Ockeridge as a club, I believe the fishery owner should have run through a list of directives pre-match, making sure that everybody was present and understood clearly. Also, he could have confiscated the offending bait and brandished a yellow card, rather than overreacting, making a huge scene and leaving somebody feeling embarrassed for what was a genuine mistake.
This angler had around thirty cubes of meat on his side-tray, for using on the hook – something which was permitted in the now-obsolete rule list available online. As a point of interest, a few other anglers in the club were fishing to the same set of out-of-date directives, meaning they too had banned baits with them. For whatever reason though this went unnoticed – or was simply overlooked.
The second occasion this season I feel we were hard done by was on a contest at Solhampton Fishery, where we endured the most depressing day I can recall in my years with the club.
I arrived at the fishery early to peg out, along with Eddie Swan and Dave Richards. As we walked along the right hand bank of the pool there were dozens of carp milling around in the margins; I thought we were in for a great day’s sport, that is until Dave drew my attention to some fish that were behaving unnaturally towards the middle of the pool. Both Eddie and Dave keep fish at home (presumably in ponds – although it is rumoured Eddie has several eels in his bath) and both seemed to believe that the carp were struggling for oxygen.
This situation worsened as we tackled-up, until we approached the all-in and there were hundreds of fish visibly in distress.
Please see the image of my peg below, this was taken moments before the contest began, there are dozens of fish mouthing at the surface, like a big carpy choir about to burst into song.
We started the match but it became clear that the situation wouldn’t get better any time soon, so Eddie and I took it upon ourselves to find fishery owner Burgess (actual name) Homer (honestly.) Nowhere to be seen around any of the pools, in the café or the bait shop, we reluctantly knocked on his front door.
We told Burgess that things were dire down on Kingfisher Pool and that his fish appeared to be starved of oxygen. His reply was emphatic:
“… are you being serious!? Why didn’t you fucking tell me earlier!?”
The answer to Burgess’s question is a simple one: it’s not our job to do so. But, out of goodwill and concern for the well-being of his fish, we thought it best to make him aware of the situation.
Burgess huffed and puffed, effed and jeffed, and after a little while rigged-up an emergency aerator, powered by a mobile generator which clanked and chugged through the remainder of the contest.
The fishing didn’t improve, the noise was horrendous, and we all felt relieved when proceedings came to an end. To give Burgess some credit though, he made a point of apologising to me after the contest, thanked us for bringing the situation to his attention and, as a gesture of goodwill, offered us a free contest next season.
Onto today’s events now – and an entirely new gripe. A few weeks prior to this contest it was brought to my attention that Pheasant Pool had undergone a considerable amount of work: some rickety landing stages had been repaired, an entire straight had been cut back to combat bank erosion, and the island had been resculpted due to the owner’s intentions of using the site as a wedding venue.
Seeking reassurance that all would be in order come the day of our contest, I made a call to Elmbridge Fishery. I was promised that I had absolutely nothing to worry about, that any unsafe staging had been removed, yet there were plenty of sturdy pegs remaining to fish from. I was also assured that the cut-back bank was fine, and that in general the pool was in good condition.
I arrived at the fishery to find an entirely different situation to the one described. The fishery management had failed to tell me that a good two feet of water had been pumped from the pool while maintenance work was in progress – Pheasant isn’t a deep water anyway. The landscaping of the island and the cutting back of the straight was brutal – the place looked an absolute mess.
Had there been a little more transparency during this phone call we would have either changed pools, changed the date of the contest or asked for a refund and taken our custom elsewhere. I can’t claim that the pool was unfishable, as the weights turned out to be very good for the time of year, but fish welfare has to be questioned when anglers are landing double-figure carp in inches of water. Levels were so low in fact, that when we returned our fish after the weigh-in, many became beached, stranded there in inches of muddy water.
Please understand that this isn’t a tirade against fishery owners, people like Dave Byrd and John Burchell are a pleasure to deal with. It’s the lop-sided nature of this manager-customer exchange that gets to me; I can think of no other situation where I would tolerate such poor service. It’s like visiting a restaurant where the food is cold and the staff are inept, but you don’t make a fuss because you’ve been going there for years – and you’ll more than likely return. Then, just as you are getting ready to leave, the shift manager notices a smudge of lipstick on your wife’s wine glass. This goes against restaurant rule number 42 and you are both barred for life, with immediate effect.
Onto today’s events now, and I’ll keep this brief for two reasons: Firstly, I’ve gone on enough already and secondly, there’s not a great deal to write about.
Here is a photo of my home for the day:
Set back a good fifteen meters from neighbouring peg 32, I didn’t fancy my draw one bit – and when I put a plumb-it on I fancied it less. I had around two and a half feet of water at fourteen meters and my “edge” was a depth of fifteen inches, six meters from the bank. Plumbing-up to empty peg 29 I found a depth of three inches, I had a whopping five inches against the pallet of peg 31 – safe to say the fish were unlikely to venture here.
The first three and a quarter hours were an absolute non-event: I had two perch, two roach and one skim-bob in the net for around 3lb. I was soaked-through, tired and felt utterly miserable. So I decided to call it a day, head home to dry off and drink some tea. As I went to pack my pole away though my plans of an early exit were scuppered – all of the sections from my no.5 down were stuck fast. I considered the following options:
A: To drive home with the pole poking out of my car window, like a seven-seater chariot with a carbon jousting lance, hurtling along the M42.
B: To throw my pole into the lake and claim for it on my insurance.
C: To throw myself into the lake (although even I would find it difficult to drown in 3 inches of water.)
Eventually I came upon the novel idea of fishing on for a while, and it was actually a tiny bit enjoyable, as I put almost 70lb in the net in the final third of the contest. It was awkward fishing as I was only out at 6 meters, but my sections were fixed so firmly together that I was forced to fish with 7 meters of pole waggling around behind me.
Enough of my own botched efforts now, as we move onto the main plot-line for this week’s blog, “who will win the season’s averages?” After three years of holding this title (I felt the need to mention that) it was time for me to move aside, as Eddie Swan and Graham Green battled for supremacy. It was basically a straight shoot-out, as both anglers came into the contest tied on points.
At the draw, Graham Green pulled a far-from-desirable peg 1 from the bag. Meanwhile, Sir Edmond of Swanford went in with the jammiest of mitts and pulled out peg 32. This is one of the two “point” pegs on the far side of the pool, and as mentioned earlier this placed Eddie a good 15 meters in front of the closest angler to him: me.
Both competitors were in my field of vision and I kept a keen eye on them; this is how the day’s events played-out:
If Eddie had started the match odds-on to win the aggregate, he finished the opening hour of the contest long odds-on, as an early burst of fish put him into a strong lead.
In the second hour of the contest, sport slowed for Eddie as his short pole and corn line stopped producing. Meanwhile, Graham came off his long pole line which had yielded just one fish to this point, following next peg neighbour Trevor Faulkner’s lead in fishing short. A steady run of fish put Graham back into the running.
The third hour was the real turning point of the contest, as Greeny continued to catch fish steadily on the short pole, fishing expanders over micro pellets. Eddie on the other hand was now scratching around for bites, searching his edges in vain.
Into the fourth hour and Graham built a lead which appeared to be unassailable – although you can never count anybody out at Elmbridge, as even an idiot like me can catch 70lb in 90 minutes. Eddie had now found a few back on the short pole, but for whatever reason – I’m not sure even he knows this – endured a torrid run of foul-hooked fish.
Ed finally landed some fish again in the final hour of the contest, but it was too little, too late, as Double G continued with his steady approach, putting the odd decent carp in the net.
Being a proper sportsman, when the all-out was called at 3.15, Eddie was the first to call across the pool and congratulate Graham on his league win. Nobody can say that this victory wasn’t deserved; Graham had fished well all season, picking up impressive match wins at Lower Park and Meadowlands, topping up his catches with skimmers when the going was tough.
On top of this, Graham had to carry a maximum score after being kicked off a fishery for using a prohibited bait… apologies, I realise I’ve just “accidentally” revealed the identity of the angler at the heart of Ockeridge-gate…
“He cheats with meat… he causes a scene… he’s not discreet… it’s Graham Greeeeeen!”
If that was the main plot-line for this contest, then the sub-plot is no-less intriguing. The battle for today’s match win was heavyweight in every sense of the word, like Big Daddy versus Giant Haystacks; King Kong versus Godzilla; Cat Funt versus Bat Fastard; Jabba the Hutt versus that purple Tellytubby.
It went to the wire – then one of them trod on the wire and snapped it. And who should claim this victory but a man who believes he can solve the obesity crisis – by eating everyone.
After winning by a margin of just six ounces, weighing in 115lb 12oz to Jim Smith’s 115lb 6oz, Trevor Faulkner dryly remarked “I’ve always been heavier than him!” Classic.
That’s it then for this Wythall Royal British Legion AC season. Before I sign off I’d like to thank the lads for yet another brilliant year – here’s to many more.
I’d also like to thank you all for taking the time to read my blog.
Until next time…