February the 14th, 27 fished.
A trip to Lower Park today, for the Senile and Shirkers’ Thursday Open – and it would be fair to presume that a number of the anglers attending this contest might be classed as “experienced.” In fact, being just forty years of age, I believe I only received an invite to fish for the following reasons:
1. To weigh in.
2. Because some of the anglers (or “fishing fossils” as they are commonly known) might get a mention in the blog.
3. To bring the average age down by a couple of years.
4. Because I’m a practicing first-aider, so could be called upon to perform CPR at any given moment.
Apologies if this appears ageist – or even disrespectful – but visit the Lower Park fishery cafe on a Thursday morning and experience it for yourself. The smell of biscuits and stale urine is unmistakable, and as the dear old gents break into a chorus of Vera Lynn’s wartime classic “We’ll Meet Again”, the place begins to resemble an old people’s home, only each “resident” has a disgorger tucked behind his ear.
The astute among you will have noticed that this match is a Valentine’s Day affair; so a special mention here for my wife, who every year gives her blessing for me to compete in a fishing contest on such a romantic day. As far as I’m concerned, this act of selflessness, her recognition of my need to be at one with nature, is the very definition of true romance, making corny greetings cards and tacky gifts pale into insignificance. Also, she’s usually quite keen for me to fuck off out of the house.
Regular readers of the blog will notice that I haven’t posted for a while, this is because I’ve only fished twice over the winter period, both contests producing acronyms I’m not particularly proud of. Firstly there was a DNW (Did Not Weigh) on the Solihull Angling Christmas match at Packington, then I recorded an acronym you may not be so familiar with, as I followed-up with an FOE at Alvechurch (Fucked Off Early.)
Onto today’s events now, and as I loaded my car to travel to the fishery, any confidence I had held that we were in for a good contest soon subsided. The temperature was clearly way below the overnight forecast of five degrees, so I was left with a windscreen to scrape before travelling through the country lanes in a thick, cold fog.
Arriving at the fishery a little late, my peg had already been drawn for me; Joe did the honours, picking 8 Willow from the bag. I had no idea if this was a decent area, until a conversation with a fellow angler who revealed that I had drawn “A good peg, middle of the lake… but on the wrong pool. It’s not fishing well at all.”
Well, I fancied getting a few floats wet so vowed to give it a proper go. I planned on fishing maggots or hard pellets on the long pole and a maggot out-of-the-hand line short. I also set up a waggler for exploring the far bank and a micro banjo feeder to sling all over the peg. Out of a combination of stupidity and blind optimism, I also tackled-up a jigga.
For company on Willow today I had some capable anglers, aside from fishery bailiff Fred Reynolds who had drawn the end peg, I had a regular framer to my right in the shape of Paul Gartshore…
To my left I had an angler I’d never met before, Packington Somers regular Dave Atkins. Once I was set up I ventured down to his peg to introduce myself; as an ice-breaker I complimented him on his headwear, “I love the hat mate – I really like the motif!”
I think he must’ve misheard me, as he replied with “Hat. Yeh. But who the fuck are you calling NO TEETH!”
At 10.15 the all-in was called, I popped around a dozen 4mm pellets into a cad pot and shipped out to 14.5 meters. I chose two lines for fishing lassoed 4mm pellets, off at angles of 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock (which means absolutely nothing if you wear a digital watch.) I would feed the right hand line with a little Guru pole-mounted pot and the left hand line sparingly with a catapult, hopefully indications on the float would be my gauge as to which method of introducing bait was best.
My first bite came around the fifteen minute mark, after I re-fed the right hand line with half a dozen pellets. After such a stiff overnight frost the contest seemed to have started slowly for most, so I was pleased to have my first fish of the day in the bag: a little f1 of around a pound.
By sitting patiently, but occasionally lifting and dropping to entice a bite, I managed a further three f1s in the opening half an hour. All of my fish coming from the cad-pot fed right hand line, including this striking-coloured beauty.
I continued fishing the two hard pellet lines for the following hour or so, occasionally taking an f1 from the ‘pinging’ swim but mostly catching where I had introduced my feed accurately. Sport was fairly steady, and I managed a further seven f1s in this period, giving me a modest total of eleven as we approached mid-day.
On neighbouring peg 6 Paul was struggling – as was Dave pegged to my left. But, rather than continue what I was doing, fish a tidy contest and consolidate my lead, I went giddy with my feeding, introducing lots of bait in the belief that I would draw fish in – perhaps even catching a few shallow at some point. This lead to me pricking a couple of fish that were sat just off-bottom, disturbing the shoal and leaving me with no other option than to look elsewhere for bites.
The right move at this point would have been to start new pellet lines away from my initial feed. Rather than do this though, I embarked on a series of bad decisions. I kicked off this shambolic mid-match episode by feeding a good handful of maggots with a big pot, off at an angle to my left. While I left this to settle, I threw the micro banjo feeder two-thirds of the way across.
After not so much as a twitch on the feeder, I wound back in. Rather than lay a rig in over my maggot swim though, I followed up with my next, ill-judged course of action. Although I had seen no evidence to suggest that there were fish present shallow in my swim, I disregarded all instincts and common sense, going in with the jigga; needless to say this produced nothing.
After a wasted half an hour, I finally went in over my maggot line. This produced an indication almost every drop, the only problem being that I was plagued by tiny, two-to-the-ounce roach – and with Lower Park rules stating that every fish must be netted, catching micro-roach at fourteen meters can be time-consuming. I attempted to feed these nuisance fish off by potting in a medium Guru cad-pot of maggots every put-in, I also catapulted in pouch-fulls of maggots, but if I fished on the bottom I couldn’t get a bite from any ‘stamp’ fish. Shallowing-up helped to some extent as I managed the odd ide fishing mid-depth, but these better fish were few and far between.
With two hours of my contest now remaining, and clearly still not satisfied that I had scuppered for myself any chances I had of framing, I came in for a look on the short pole line. I had fed this by hand all contest and hoped that a few f1s had arrived for a munch. Unsurprisingly though, all I could catch on maggots were the same blade roach I had been pestered by out long.
With around ninety minutes of the contest now remaining, I finally did the right thing, returning to my opening tactic of fishing lassoed pellets on the long pole. Both of my neighbouring anglers were still having a tough time, so much so that Dave began to pack away his kit. Down on the end peg though Fred had clearly started catching some fish down his edges, the ‘give away’ being that when a bank walker dared to approach Willow Pool, Fred started to subtly scream “Don’t you bloody dare – go away!”
My switch back to fishing hard pellets was clearly the correct move – although I felt I had returned to this tactic a good ninety minutes too late. The closing stages of my contest were spent finally doing the right thing: tapping a dozen pellets in and waiting patiently for an indication; sometimes moving out to sixteen meters if bites weren’t forthcoming.
When the all out was called at 3.15, I felt disappointed with my performance – although I had thoroughly enjoyed being back out on the bank. After a long winter of inactivity fishing-wise, I can forgive myself a little rustiness, but felt annoyed that I had clearly chosen the correct tactic to kick-off my contest, only to abandon it in favour of various ineffective methods.
A post-match chat with Fred confirmed that he had indeed found some fish late on, and he was owning up to eighteen f1s for around 27lb – a few fish less than I had managed, but I believed we would record similar weights.
We didn’t have to wait long to find out, as the scales-man made his way around. It appeared that the venue had fished very hard, with just 36lb being top weight from Spring and many anglers struggling on Highland and Pebble – two pools which are usually prolific. I placed my fish on to the scales and the dial went round to 31lb 11oz, not a terrible result by any means, but I believe my peg was worth a great deal more.
We then moved down to the end peg and the only other angler to weigh in on Willow, Fred Reynolds. As he pulled his nets out it was clear his edge-caught f1s were a far bigger stamp than mine, taking the scales around to a hard-earned 34lb 8oz.
After this we moved along to Abbey pool, where Barry Council-Flat was owning up to thirty-three f1s and a carp, all caught on the tip. His two weighs took the scales round to a superb 46lb 10oz, making him the outright contest winner by a clear 10lb – and an extra 1oz for good measure.
For the record, my return of 31lb was good enough for 4th overall. Not a bad result, but being self-critical, my peg was comfortably worth the extra 5lb required to put me into 2nd place.
Still, I had a superb time out on the bank today, spent with some great old boys – proper colourful characters. It really made me look forward to the day when I can retire and fish three or four times a week.
I took a selection of pictures of the “lads” throughout the afternoon today, and have lovingly prepared this collage. Enjoy.
That’s almost it for this week folks; it’s great to be back out fishing and equally as pleasing to be back blogging. I hope you have enjoyed reading this bunch of slung-together madness; if you have then please hit ‘subscribe’ and you’ll receive notifications whenever I post something new.
Before I go, I’d like to thank my wife again for being so understanding about my fishing obsession, and for me spending Valentine’s Day out on the bank. Of course I made it up to her, leaving hundreds of beautiful poems on post-it notes around the house. Here are just a couple of my most tender odes…
Until next time…