July the 27th, 11 fished.
A rare outing with Rolls-Royce Angling Club this week, at the prolific Ockeridge Lakes in Worcestershire. This would be the first contest of a much-anticipated weekend double-header – and a welcome spell on the bank after a “dry” month since moving north of the border.
I had been really looking forward to seeing my old work colleagues, and felt sure they would still be buzzing after their victory in The Lucas National (see ‘Packington Somers, Lucas National’ and ‘Lower Park, Lucas National’ for previous years’ blogs.)
Until recent times, we were always placed last or second last in this event, but after creating the Rolls-Royce club and fishing a competitive match every month, the team has gone from strength-to-strength, gaining new skills and experience, all of which culminated in this brilliant victory.
Congratulations lads, I’m gutted to have missed it, but proud none-the-less.
Onto today’s events now, and at 8.30am we gathered in the car park, where I received some perfectly-chosen leaving gifts from my old work mates. Whoever picked these obviously has me down as a fishing-obsessive with a burgeoning drink-problem – and rightly so, as the landing net pole, accessory bar and selection of miniature Talisker whiskies went down a storm.
Once me and Steve Wheeler had sorted the pegging out, downing the whiskies on our way around (only joking – I drank them all, on the drive home), we gathered in the car park to draw. The pegs facing the central island of the pool looked lovely, with the far bank fifteen to twenty meters away and plenty of fish showing in the area. The near side of the pool also looked fishy, with the island a short ‘chuck’ away and some nice edges to go at. The featureless far end of Apple would be an unknown quantity, but with carp cruising and rolling all over the place, everybody should be guaranteed a few fish.
Anyway, once it was my turn to have a dip, I picked lucky number seven from the bag, a draw I wasn’t best pleased with (see below image.) That is until I arrived at the peg and took a proper look around. Although there was just open water to go at out in front – and not much of it – the edges looked fantastic. I had around twenty meters of inviting-looking margin going down to my left and a little bush some eight meters to my right – I was glad I’d brought six pints of dead maggots with me. The plan was to fill it in.
For company today I had none other than The Halesowen Hawk, the angling leg-end that is Steve Wheeler; I knew I would have my work cut out if I was to beat the venue expert from the next peg. If there’s one thing Steve knows about fishing, it’s everything.
To my right I had James “slug” Sayers. James also has a good match record at Ockeridge, catching big bags of fish even during the winter months. It would be interesting to see how both anglers approached their pegs.
At 10.15 the all in was called – actually, that’s not strictly true. At 10.15 Simon Brooke tooted on a broken whistle from Poundland to signify the beginning of the contest.
My pre-match plan was to kick off down the long left hand edge, feeding and fishing dead maggots. This gambit was soon abandoned though when Richard Caswell, pegged opposite, threw in a handful of casters to start his contest and every carp in the pool arrived for a mid-morning munch.
I had two pints of casters with me, but they had been left vacuum-sealed in my bag for a few weeks, and although they were a lovely, light colour, they gave off an ungodly stink. I thought it a safer bet to fish pellets out shallow – only trying the rank casters as a last resort.
There were lots of fish present shallow, but no matter how I presented my pellet, I couldn’t buy a bite. Meanwhile, I had to watch Bagger Caswell net five fish in the opening 45 minutes – two of which were proper lumps.
Like me, Steve Wheeler was also fishing pellets shallow – and like me, he wasn’t catching. So, fifty minutes into the contest, and with nothing whatsoever in the net, I gave the stinky casters a go.
There were definitely fish moving through my loose feed, but aside from one foul-hooked lump that took me on a guided tour of Apple Pool before nonchalantly shearing off my hook-length, I struggled to make something happen.
With Richard still catching well opposite, and odd fish coming out all over the pool, it was time for Plan C: The Short Pole. I had been priming this line since the beginning of the contest with hard, 6mm pellets. I initially went in short with an expander pellet, but was suffering with finicky little dips on the float, presumably from nuisance fish. I tried a hard pellet but the float sat motionless. A switch to dead maggot gave me some indications, eventually leading to my first fish of the day: a half ounce micro-perch. Not what I was looking for, but at least it saved me the blank.
Ninety minutes into the contest and I was already rapidly running out of ideas. Aside from Matt Deakin on peg 3 who was yet to catch, I was coming last on the lake. It was time to make something happen, so I fed a big pot of micro pellets and dead maggots down to my right, and went in at thirteen meters to my left, where there was a tree to fish to.
Almost instantly I was getting indications on this line, and after a couple of strikes into thin air, I bagged my first carp of the day: a little common of around three pounds. He was was soon joined in the net by his slightly bigger brother – things were finally looking up!
A small roach taken from the left hand margin led me to believe there were no carp present, so I topped-up with a pot of micros/maggots and had my first recce down the right-hand swim, feeding a cad-pot of bait and threading six dead maggots onto a size fourteen Kaizen.
Although I expected the right hand line to be the weaker of my two edges – being closer to me and plumbing up badly – I was pleasantly surprised to catch five fish down there in fairly quick succession. One of these being a great big mirror carp of around 14lb – it was a tight squeeze shuffling him into the fishery-provided Guru landing net.
At the mid-way point of the contest, I took the decision to fish my match out down the margins. I felt I had caught up with James Sayers next door and probably overtaken most other anglers, but was still well behind Rich Caswell. In my eye-line all afternoon, fishing a lovely, steady match, Rich looked to be in with a shout of breaking the club record: a weight of 157lb recorded by Dan Drust.
If I were to make any head-way on Bagger Caswell, I would need to land my fish a lot quicker, so I stepped my elastic up going into the final two hours of the contest. I had been told that the fish in Apple averaged three or four pounds, so started the day on a sensible Dura 12, but after being seen off by a big double, I got the tow-rope out: the ever-reliable 17h.
I really enjoyed the early afternoon stage of my contest. The right hand edge was full of fish but the best ploy was to resist plundering it; by catching two or three then going long left, there were always feeding fish when I returned.
For whatever reason, the left hand margin never really took off, I would have to wait at least five minutes for a bite here, whereas indications were almost instantaneous down to the right. In fact, the right hand edge was so strong it felt impossible to give the fish too much bait, so eventually I decided one cad-pot was not sufficient.
As we approached the final hour of the match, I had my only spell where I felt I made up some ground on forerunner Rich Caswell. The fish in his aquarium, I mean peg had sulked-off, and a look down his margins gave up just the one fish – in a period when I snared six or seven.
But, resting his shallow line seemed to do it the world of good, as Rich went back out feeding caster in the latter stages of the contest and his swim once again resembled Birmingham’s Sea Life Centre.
In fact, the fish seemed to really wake up all over Apple Pool as the match neared its end: Adam Drust was beginning to do very well on peg nine – catching some proper hippos down his edges on pellet. Next door neighbour James Sayers found a few carp feeding up-in-the-water. Even quiet-so-far Steve Wheeler was picking some big boys off, fishing up to the end bank. Elastic was streaming out all over the place, it felt like every fish in the pool was determined to find its way into a keepnet.
I also caught a number of fish in the closing stages of the contest, pretty much abandoning my careful rotation of lines now and pillaging the right hand edge as much as I dared. Probably due to the amount of feed I had introduced, I foul-hooked a few fish in this period, but with sport being so hectic, this felt like a tolerable irritation.
At 3.15 Simon gave a hearty toot on his broken flute to indicate the end of the contest. As I slowly packed my kit away in the pouring rain, Richard Caswell came over to give me his left-over bait and talk about the day’s events. We both agreed that it had been a brilliant contest, and estimating the weights, concluded that he had around 140lb to my low 100lb.
We started the weigh in at golden peg one, where Dan Drust had a quiet day, placing 23lb on to the scales; narrowly beaten by next angler along Matt Deakin with 28lb. After this Chairman Simon recorded a respectable rod-and-line snared 42lb.
We then weighed in Pat Jordan, who had caught a few shallow for his 28lb, before we made our way along to Richard Caswell. As we put Bagger’s carp into the fishery weigh-sling, it became clear he would fall short of the club record. Still, his 125lb was a brilliant bag on the day, and a new personal best weight – well done mate!
We then moved along to peg six, and Steve “me old mate” Wheeler. A few last-gasp lumps had got him out of jail, contributing to a hard-earned weight of 56lb.
After this we walked along the end bank, to my home for the day, peg seven. I attempted to pull my first net out but struggled, so Big Matt Deakin gave me a hand. My first weigh went 87lb – I must stress here that I would never condone putting this many fish in a single net, in my opinion 60lb is a sensible limit. As we were about to begin today’s contest though, fishery owner Steve instructed us to split all of our fish between two keepnets – presumably because the fishery was quite full and there were no other nets available. My second weigh went a slightly-more-fish-friendly 73lb, giving me a surprising total of 160lb.
These edge fish were a good stamp, we weighed one carp individually that went 15lb 14oz and I was helped along by a couple of others of a similar size.
After my weighs, James Sayers plonked 47lb on to the scales, before we continued along to Adam Drust, who had done incredibly well from a peg nobody fancied pre-match. Adam tempted some lovely fish from both out in front and down his edges, finishing with a weight of 92lb and receiving this week’s Man of the Match award in the process…
We then weighed in the far end of the pool, where both Ian and Ollie had struggled. Young Ollie’s contest had only been saved by a large carp caught late in the day; he asked us to take a picture of him with this munter, while displaying some of the worst – but most hilarious – fish-handling “skills” I’ve ever seen.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, I hope you have enjoyed it. I couldn’t sign off without satisfying the number nerds amongst you, so here is a copy of this week’s weigh-sheet.
That’s it for this episode then folks, but before I go I’d like to thank the Rolls-Royce gang for having me as a guest. What a wonderful day spent out on the bank, having some great laughs, netting a few fish and catching up with old work friends.
I wish I could make it to more of these contests, but now that I’ve moved three hundred miles north of the border, this seems like an increasingly unlikely proposition. Still, in the spirit of fairness, I’ve asked the Rolls-Royce AC committee if they would consider holding one of next year’s fixtures somewhere close to Glasgow, perhaps at a fluff-chucking venue. Let’s just say I’m still waiting for a response!
Until next time…