December the 2nd, 18 fished.
A good turn out of eighteen anglers today, for this Hall Green Home Guard AC Christmas contest, a number bolstered by five fishermen who had taken up the opportunity to come along as guests. Under normal club rules non-members are not allowed, but with this fixture falling outwith the regular season we decided to give our members the option to bring along a friend, for a taste of what the club is all about and to offer the option of joining next season.
Usually the Home Guard’s December contest is a “fur and feather” affair, with each angler recieving a small gift such as a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates for their troubles. Due to Brexit (this and the fact that Chairman Bob has raided the club piggy bank to fund the fitting of a level crossing – complete with lights – onto his model railway) the furthest we could stretch to this year was a few soggy sandwiches in the clubhouse – with a rake of oven chips thrown in for good measure.
Leading up to this contest Packington had been fishing poorly, with sport on our two pools being the slowest on the venue. On the plus side though, after recent frosts and heavy downpours, the weather had settled into unseasonable double-figure temperatures for several days. So who knows, perhaps both Willow and Annie’s could be worth a few bites.
For a change, we decided to run this match as a pairs event, with partners placed one on each pool: nine anglers on Willow and the same number on Annie’s – nice and simple then.
Aside from a few tight pegs around the narrower side of Willow, I had no real preference regarding my draw. I also had no preference as to who should be my partner for the day; I just felt happy to be out in good company – and fishing in some decent weather for a change.
As is often the case when approaching events in a relaxed state of mind, good things come your way. And as I placed my hand into the ball bag of destiny, I was pleased to see a little disc staring back at me with ANNIES 2 punched into it. I’ve never fished Anniversaries, but going by the fishery’s weekly report, it is usually a prolific area. A fact confirmed by Packington regular Dan Tresigne, who stated that peg 2 is “The best peg on the pool mate, easily…”
Just an aside here, but alongside Dan Tresigne, other frequent attendees at Packington include Ronnie Savage, Tony Musticone and Ray Quiney. Is it just me, or do all four sound like characters from The Sopranos? Perhaps this is what mafia hitmen get up to when it’s finally time to retire the revolver, placing it back into the safe one last time. When pistol-whippings and concrete boots become a thing of the past. Maybe it is a natural progression to step away from the mob and eventually settle at a commercial fishery in the West Midlands, filling the days fishing the jigga for big, golden f1s.
… Back to the contest now, and once the individual draw was made, it was time to sort out the pairs. I found myself matched up with former club member and guest for the day, John Little.
Apparently, John has been out of action for quite some time but is a very capable angler, so drawing him as a partner would be my second stroke of luck of the day. Not that we would have things easy, as other notable pairings included Kev Dickinson/Ian Gibson, Tony Newbold/Carl Inman and newcomer Darren Mills who found himself teamed up with “Moggy” Downing.
Upon arrival at my peg, I could see why it is such a noted area; it looked lovely, a proper Mr. Crabtree affair and full of features. Starting off quite narrow to the right, gradually widening towards peg three and onwards, with two bushes at 16 meters to the far bank which would be guaranteed to hold some fish.
Plan of attack today was to kick off at 13 meters down the track, fishing pellets to begin with but changing to maggots if bites were hard to come by. This would give the fish somewhere to back off to, and as the match progressed I could work my way towards the far bank, hopefully dobbing a few at some point.
Wanting to keep things simple, I set up just 3 rigs and one rod:
13m track: 10 x 11 MW Slim, 18 f1 Pellet – .11
14.5 track: 6 x 11 MW Slim, 20 f1 Pellet – .11
Dobber: 4 x 10 Des Shipp Maggot, 18 f1 Pellet – .11
Rod: 9ft Preston Mini Carp, MAP ACS 3000, home-made banjo feeder, 18 QM1 – .13
Bait for the day was a simple winter staple of maggots, micros, 2mm and 4mm expander pellets and bread. Oh, and the obligatory tin of corn I open every contest, just to wang into the drink at the all-out.
At 10.15 the all in was called, I placed a pinch of micros into a cad pot, slipped a 4mm expander onto the hook and shipped out to 13 meters; after ten patient minutes of lifting and dropping I was biteless. Rather than move swims though, I decided to come in and re-feed. This time, instead of the single 4mm expander, I went in with a double 2mm, feeding a few samples of the same.
This change of hookbait did the trick and within two minutes the day’s first fish was safely in the net: an f1 of around 2lb. Not long after and I landed my second fish, a slightly smaller sample but a steady start nonetheless.
When the float dipped around ten minutes later I found myself attached to something more angry and solid than my first two fish, and after a five minute tussle a carp of around five pounds was safely in the onion bag.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well my peg was fishing, I felt confident of an indication of some sort every put in. I was also surprised by the size of the f1s I was catching, by no means were they the record-breaking specimens of Molands and Little Geary’s, but a fair stamp considering they were only stocked a few seasons back.
I try to be realistic about my fishing, and although things were going very well in the early stages of the contest, it was clear that there were a number of fish present in the peg. I believe that this is the thing to bear in mind when attending a contest in the winter months: the fish are quite often balled-up, so when drawn on a few it pays not to get too carried away, believing you are a God of Angling who would teach Des Shipp a thing or two. Likewise, what’s the point of being too despondent when you draw an area lacking in fish activity; just catch what’s available and don’t ruin everybody’s day with your belly-aching.
I arrived at the ninety minute mark of the match with around 30lb in the net – a weight I predicted pre-contest would be enough to take the spoils. I was helped along by a few proper carp to go with my f1s, one of which was around the 10lb mark. Knowing that it could be a difficult contest, I played this fish extremely carefully, giving a bit of elastic back when it pulled hard, trying not to spook it with my landing net in the clear water. As any match angler will attest, it’s a great feeling when you land that bonus lump on a tough day.
Just when I thought it might be wise to put another keepnet in, my swim showed signs of slowing. I think this was due to a strong tow which now dragged my float through from right to left. I tried to counter this by fishing corn, believing that a heavier bait might anchor a little better; conversely, I also tried fishing maggots, my thinking being that a light bait would naturally waft and move around in the water column. None of these baits produced a bite, so I concluded that the fish were tuned-in to pellets on the day.
After this biteless half an hour on sweetcorn and maggots, I finally did the right thing: adding a section to take me to fourteen meters. Sport was by no means frantic, in fact it was how I had expected my contest to pan out; tapping in small amounts of bait, waiting patiently for an indication. Over the following hour I put four f1s in the net, all on the double 2mm expander. I’m not sure if it was down to the water clarity, or a particular strain of f1s stocked into Annie’s, but all of the f1s I caught today were picture-perfect, deep-golden and very welcome.
With around 90 minutes of the contest remaining, and finding bites hard to come by on the pellet rig, I took the opportunity to give the dobber its first outing. Slipping on a 7mm punch of bread, I initially dobbed at 14 meters, but after a fish-less fifteen minutes searching the extremes left and right, I was reaching for another section of carbon.
Now, I’ve not owned – or even used for that matter – a lot of top-end poles. I fish with tackle my budget allows me, at the moment that is a Daiwa G20. When I use this pole at any length up to 14.5 meters it is excellent, I can slap and tap with it, waggle it this way and that; it is reasonably light and responsive. When I add another section though it is a saggy, cumbersome thing and quite horrible to use. Also, the pick-up is slow, leading to missed bites. If I may use a football analogy here, when I add the final section of carbon to my G20, it becomes a “Zigic.”
Let me explain. I am a Birmingham City supporter (because somebody has to be), this means I have had the misfortune of watching some truly awful footballers over the years, “players” so lacking technically that I am often left scanning the Tilton End, wondering if there is a pie-eating 52 year old in the stands who might waddle on and do a better job. Footballers so unencumbered by talent it would be laughable – if you weren’t paying £30 to watch them repeatedly fall over. Players not fit to lace their own boots; I’m thinking Dean Peer, Cameron Jerome, Mark Sale, Miguel de Souza – the list is long and uninspiring.
Now, I’m not suggesting I would add Nicola Zigic to this lowly catalogue; like clothes pegs and can openers, he has his uses. While it has been suggested he was basically just a tree in football boots, I can’t forget the huge part he played in bringing home Birmingham’s only piece of silverware, scoring in the Carling Cup final against Arsenal – and against the Villa en route. The problem with Big Ziggy was that at six feet seven and a half, his feet were simply too far from his head. By the time a signal had left his brain and travelled the ridiculous length of him, once all of the nerve cells, motor neurons and axons had delivered the message “control the ball”, the thing had trickled through his legs or squirmed under a size eighteen boot.
So, to continue the Daiwa G20/Zigic analogy, at any length up to 14.5 meters the signal is sent and received in good time, the pole is responsive and comparable to a technically gifted footballer, something not usually associated with Birmingham City, but we will use the enigmatic Christophe Dugarry as an example. But, add the dreaded Zigic section and you are left striking limply into thin air, or worse still not having the responsiveness to counter a hooked fish before it buries you into some snags – something which happened on more than one occasion in the latter stages of my match.
As it stood, I managed to steer a few fish away from the far bank foliage, dobbing five small f1s until we approached the final half an hour of the contest, when I was suddenly left scratching around for a bite. I took this opportunity to have a quick look on a maggot line I had primed all day, off at an angle at 13 meters. All this produced was two blippy little roach (pairs of eyes), confirming that today was definitely a pellet day.
So, I finished off my contest exactly where it had started, fishing expander pellets at thirteen meters out in front. I added two f1s to my tally on this line, finishing the day with four proper carp and fifteen f1s for a weight of around 45lb.
I didn’t have to wait long to see if this estimation was accurate, as the fishery staff arrived to weigh me in first. I was pleased to see the dial continue around a little further than expected, to a satisfying 54lb. A fair return for the time of year but being honest with myself, I hadn’t fished a brilliant match, it being more a case of “well drawn” than “well done.”
Anniversaries is a strange-shaped pool, all islands, dead arms and peninsulars, so I could only follow the scales along to my two neighbouring anglers. Over on peg 4, Dan Lunn placed a hard-earned 11lb 8oz on the board before we moved along to club legend Dave “The Glove” Coyne. Stationed on peg 6, Dave had enjoyed a lovely day’s sport, bringing 19lb 8oz to the scales. He was absolutely made up with his catch, which in turn made me delighted for him, this is surely what club fishing is all about: enjoying each other’s small successes, having a few laughs and returning home safely.
So, a huge well done Dave Coyne – this week’s Man of the Match.
Once we arrived back at the clubhouse, news filtered in that Willow had fished ridiculously hard, with just 11lb being best weight. More worryingly, all five of the guests had been unfortunate enough to draw on this pool. The last thing you want when trying to encourage new members to join a club is for them to suffer a horrible day’s sport.
My partner John had endured a particularly miserable day, weighing in 3oz from a tough peg 10 on Willow. However, we were fortunate enough to take top spot, as the next combined weight behind our 54lb 5oz was Joe Wood and newcomer Matt Grimmet’s 24lb 13oz.
So, that’s it for another great season with Hall Green Home Guard AC. Thank you to all the club members and in particular Mark Seaborn, for his behind-the-scenes organisation.
Also, a big thanks to the guests who joined us on this contest, although the fishing was woeful, they all seemed keen to sign up for next season. We look forward to fishing with you.
Lastly – because this is beginning to sound like an Oscar speech – thanks to everybody who has read deepshallow this year (that’s right, all ten of you.) Next season I will be making a few changes to the blog’s format, to make it more accessible to people like Nelly Palmer and Paul Sumner who ent very gud at tha readin bollox. I intend to cut the word count and include more videos and digital media. Also, when possible, I hope to run competitions – a new feature I will kick off right now.
Whoever answers this teaser correctly will win a priceless, unusable prize: the sixteen meter barrel of my G20 pole, a length of carbon commonly referred to as the “Zigic” section.
Question: who is the worst player ever to have represented Birmingham City FC?
Send me an email titled ‘Mario Melchiot was a useless, money-grabbing twat’ to stand a chance of winning.
Until next time…