March the 10th, 14 fished.
A healthy turn out of fourteen anglers today, for this Hall Green Home Guard contest – and after last month’s bluster-fest at Alvechurch Fisheries we decided to venture just a few miles up the road, to the gustier-still Lower Park. A venue often referred to as “Blower Park” due to the extraordinary winds that whip through the fishery.
For today’s contest we would be fishing Abbey Pool – often referred to as “Slabbey Pool” due to the piles of housebricks, rocks and chunks of concrete present in the margins. Rumour has it that all of this building detritus came about when fishery mascot-cum-bailiff Fred Reynolds attempted to erect a hobbit-hut on the central island of the pool, eventually abandoning the project when it became apparent that he has no practical skills whatsoever – this and the realisation that there would be no bridge to reach his new home.
Well, as luck would have it, fishery owner Jain recently installed a shiny new walkway joining the perimeter of Abbey pool to the island, meaning this ambitious project can now be resumed. I don’t mind admitting it – I’m very excited at the prospect of one day seeing Fred’s erection in all its glory.
In the week leading up to this contest the weather forecasters predicted 40mph gusts, as the terrifyingly-named “Storm Gareth” arrived on our shores. At any level such high winds will make for an uncomfortable outing, but at Lower Park it could be lunacy to contemplate wetting a line.
When faced with extreme weather conditions like this, I use a simple equation to decide whether or not it is wise to risk my fishing tackle – and possibly my sanity – for a day on the bank. Firstly, I take the night time temperature (in this case five degrees) and multiply this figure by the predicted wind speed (in this case 40mph), I then divide this number by 2.346 before fucking off back to bed.
Tempting as a long lie-in was, I decided to make the short drive to the fishery and see how my day panned-out – with the option of an early trip to the pub to fall back on if the going was tough. After all of the preparation I had put in mid-week, I felt it would be a waste to not give it a go. Aside from the fiddly, time-consuming nature of this pre-match prep’, there is also the cost to consider. As any match angler will attest, a trip to the local tackle shop for “bits and pieces” can be a perplexing affair, as you exit with a brown bag containing hooks, shots and a spool of line, yet somehow your wallet is £60 lighter. These small items of fishing equipment are known as terminal tackle – presumably because that’s how ill you feel when you see the transaction on your bank statement. In fact, match fishing is such an expensive pastime that I’ve often considered taking up a cheaper hobby, something like golf or heroin addiction (before there’s an outcry, I would never condone playing golf.)
To compound this unplanned spend-up, in the week leading up to this contest I got absolutely Duncanned – for the uninitiated this phrase will mean nothing, but any fisherman who has set foot in Solihull Angling Centre will perfectly understand the term.
Duncan is the manager at this brilliant little tackle shop, and has the gift that all great salesmen possess: he will show you a product that you didn’t know you wanted, in such an innocuous, unremarkable way that at first it feels like nothing has happened, until you leave the shop with a quiet desire, a feeling that festers, growing daily until this object, this thing somehow becomes essential to your future happiness.
For me this was a Preston Innovations side-tray, a product presented to me in such a casual, unbiased manner that I barely paid it any attention on first inspection. But when I arrived home, this well-designed piece of fishing apparatus crept from way back in my sub-conscious to the forefront of my thoughts, until eventually I succumbed, frantically calling the shop at 9am to make sure there was one left in stock, and to have it put aside for me. I had been Duncanned.
For a more detailed definition of this term, see the entry below:
Duncan; noun, a masculine name.
Duncan; origin, from the Gael Donnchadh, lit., brown warrior
Duncan; verb, Duncanned: to purchase items of fishing tackle you don’t realise you require – and probably can’t afford.
Example., “I got proper Duncanned the other day, I went in for a pint of maggots and came out with a full Gore-Tex suit and five catapults!”
On a serious note, if you are looking for a well-stocked tackle shop, sound advice and friendly service, then look no further than Solihull Angling .
Conversely, if you want to drink tea with Eddie Swan then you should visit Kings Heath Angling.
Back to the day’s events now, and on arrival at the fishery cafe it was great to see everybody in good spirits:
Brian “Christmas Face” Fowler was regaling the new club members with a story titled “The Day I Fell Into Barston Lake” – you just can’t get bored of it!
Steve Wheeler was telling anybody naive enough to listen about a success he once had at Ockeridge Lakes. Now I’m not suggesting he lives on past glories, but Steve has a fifty meter swimming badge – awarded to him at Halesowen Municipal Baths in 1971 – sewn onto his fishing jacket.
Meanwhile, Tony Newbold was showing-off some art he recently created, an abstract piece, simply titled “Ex-Girlfriend.”
The more observant amongst you will have noticed that we’re rapidly approaching one thousand on the word-count, and I’m yet to move along to the actual act of extracting fish from water. If it feels like I’m avoiding the subject, then that’s probably because I am. Basically, I’m attempting to put off the inevitable by hiding behind a bunch of big words. Is it working?
Here goes – so, I drew a peg I really fancied in the shape of Abbey 14. An end peg with a long left hand edge to go at, some nice holes in the far bank to chuck a feeder into and plenty of open water. Also, to make a decent draw even more favourable, I was sheltered from the wind by some big conifers on the hill to my left. I felt so confident in my peg that I set up a couple of shallow rigs, in case some fish came up-in-the-water when I pinged pellets.
At 10.15 the all-in was called, and I went in with a lassoed 4mm pellet at thirteen meters. Within seconds the float dipped and my first fish of the day made its way to the net, a little barbel of around 2oz. Next drop in I caught a slightly smaller barbel. Soon followed by a micro-barbel. Then a “bonus” 4oz barbel. Another micro-barbel. An “is that a gudgeon?” barbel. A 2oz barbel. And so on.
After around twenty of these fish I decided to change my lassoe over to a Super LWG, so that I could fish expander pellets or corn, my thinking being that if these barbel were reared on 4mm pellets then they may present as a natural food-source. As I had expected, this didn’t work, and for the opening ninety minutes of the contest, no matter what bait I put on the hook, in whichever part of my peg, Bertie barbel put in an unwelcome appearance.
I had been pre-warned that hordes of these hungry little whiskers had been stocked into the fishery, but I hadn’t imagined they would be present in their gazillions. If I dared to drop my rig in the margins while I filled a cad-pot, mico-barbel would snaffle my bait before I had the chance to ship out.
Eventually – and probably a long time overdue – I gave it up as a bad job, chucking the feeder into a little rat-hole against the island.
My half an hour stint on the tip produced two small f1s – not a great return, but it was nice to catch something without whiskers. But, a fifteen minute period spent staring at a motionless tip left me running short of options. I came in for a little stint on the short pole line but again, I was straight back into this plague of micro-barbel.
Things were going from bad to worse, then they went from badder to worser, as I was forced to frantically rescue top kits, my roost, hang onto spare sections and basically attempt to save anything that wasn’t fastened down, as the wind arrived in spectacular style, howling through the fishery in eight directions all at once. At this point, Daniel felt very sad.
We were now at the mid-way stage of the contest, and rather than take the sensible option of a stroppy wheel-spin off the car park followed by a trip to The Village pub in Beoley, I stoically stood my ground, taking the decision to venture down the left hand edge – albeit a little earlier in the day than I would have liked.
For a glorious twenty minutes here I enjoyed my most productive spell of the contest, catching five f1s consecutively, all on the ever-faithful micros and expander pellet combination. Until, with a sickening inevitability, the barbel muscled-in down the edge, kicking fuck out of any f1s that we’re cheeky enough to hang around, snaffling anything I dared to impale on a hook, proper ASBO behaviour – all of which completely ruined my day. Leading me on to this…
Before I voice this small gripe, I’d like to say that I’m grateful to have Lower Park on my doorstep. The work that Jain and the team have undertaken at the fishery is fantastic, the level of investment is admirable, the pricing is very competitive and the amenities are good.
But, I believe that the decision to stock such a huge number of 1oz to 3oz barbel was ill-judged. By the time these fish reach maturity they will have been in and out of keepnets, hooked, unhooked then hooked again hundreds of times over. I can’t see these pretty little barbel being in good condition by the time they reach a pound in weight – if they manage to make it that far. In my opinion, a more sensible option would have been to keep these fish in a separate stock pond, away from anglers and the pressure of regular fishing contests, until they reached such a size that they could thrive comfortably.
Back to the day’s events now, and the final stages of my contest were spent scratching around, trying not to attract the interest of these barbel by introducing any amount of bait. To an extent this frugal feeding worked, as I managed to winkle out a few more f1s, leaving me on a dozen when the all out was called at 3.15. Added to this my micro-barbel and I predicted I had a disappointing total weight of 18lb – 20lb. I’ll admit it, I was quite tempted to not trouble the scales-man, but I believe that if you don’t weigh-in, then you didn’t catch, so better to suffer the embarrassment of a poor bag of fish.
We kicked off proceedings down on peg 2, where Brian Fowler tipped an excellent 50lb into the weigh-sling; followed by Rich Caswell on peg 4 with a hard-earned 37lb. On pegs 6 and 8 Steve Wheeler and Joe Wood recorded 32lb and 31lb respectively. Looking at the weights and the way they were decreasing peg-by-peg, it was clear that the fish had followed the wind down to the low numbers.
Next up, on peg 12, Mark Seaborn weighed-in 18lb of feeder-caught f1s; then it was my turn. My big bag of hollow silvers taking the scales around to 22lb.
Now, if you believe I have exaggerated in any way about just how ravenous the Lower Park barbel are, I implore you to look at the picture below. As I held two of these little fish up to the camera for a shot, one launched itself at the other, almost engulfing its head in his greedy jaws. I never imagined at the start of the day that at some point I would have to physically restrain a 3oz barbel.
Moving round to peg 19, Tony Newpotatoes had also been subjected to this barbel infestation – these stock fish had obviously found sanctuary in the calmer water at the top end of the pool. Tony had done a more efficient job of extracting his barbel than I had, as coupled with some big ide, he plonked a very respectable 29lb on to the scales.
After this we moved along to Matt Grimmett, an angler who had suffered such a torturous day it put my own tale of woe into perspective. Not only did Matt struggle to find the fish, he also broke two pole sections, lost his wallet and, as he loaded his fishing tackle into his car, had the wind send a fellow angler’s car door crashing into his. I’m not sure if Matt farted on the drive home, but if he did, we can be absolutely certain that he followed through. Onwards and upwards mate.
The only weight of note after this was one worthy of both the contest win and, more importantly, this week’s Man of the Match award. Step forward new club member Darren Mills, who stayed out on the pop until 4am but still managed a 60lb bag of lumps, most of which were caught chucking a hybrid feeder to a far bank pallet – well done!
That’s it for this week folks – probably best to sign off before I get my ticket from every tackle shop and fishery in the West Midlands.
Thanks for reading about my miserable day. Tight lines and remember: a bad day bashing baby barbel is better that a good day at work – try saying that after a drink!
Until next time…