Monday, 25 May 2009

Ard as Nails at Avalon

I travelled to Avalon on Sunday with Warren Bates, the finest carpenter in Keynsham, and as I arrived in my new Ford Mondeo estate I expected the gear to fly in. It was a tad more difficult than I thought, as Warren seems to possess the biggest net bag and holdalls ever made! We were soon on our way though and looking forward to a very warm sunny day, as we walked into the Shipham cafe ( always a great brekkie) I was greeted by many familiar faces. Bob Sheppard was fishing, and it was the first time I'd seen him since last summer and he hadn't changed too much, well once you're bold you're bold!

Avalon is a very picturesque fishery, the surroundings being mainly wildlife reserves and managed peat bogs. If you like wildlife this is the place, Cettis Warblers burst out in song, as do the parasitic cuckoos. Still I'm sure most of the anglers are completely oblivious to most of this, and the air was turned blue before the draw with a raft a jokes from Dave Haines, Les Williams, Martin Reyat and others. Unfortunately none of the jokes can be repeated here for they would probably result in my blog being shut down! I drew peg 30 which is a peg Dave "Dodgy" Downton has won off this year, he told me it needed a left to right wind to do well. Warren had drawn next door on peg 32 and we decided to have a pound on it, on my right was Bela Bakos with his better half out for the sun bathing. I remembered that I had drawn Belas peg last year, and that day came 3rd with 50lbish on the feeder, Leon Hubbard had been on my peg that day and caught nowt. Fish were showing very well in Belas peg before the match, and I thought he'd do well from it.

The wind was doing nothing at the start, and as a few fish were showing on the island but nowhere else I fed the pole line but started on the pellet wag shallow. I hit a fish 3rd chuck, it was on for all of 3 seconds until the 0.18 hooklength gave in.... It took a long time to get another bite, but I managed a carp of 5lb. On the opposite bank Tony (Mr) Rixon had started on the pole and at one stage had lost 7 landed 0 (he tried to claim it was only 5 he'd lost, but I know better!). I had been looking for signs on my pole line all this time but the first drop in yielded no bites, but on the hour mark I had a bite but this fish came off within seconds. I never had another bite on the pole all match! The wind had now started to blow ever so slightly and the lake was soon covered in willow blossom, this stuff snags your line in the rod rings making casting nigh on impossible. The amount of people (myself included) who removed the stuff and then forgot not to try to cast so hard and put the float in the far bank were to many mention! Commenting on the various mutterings around the lake Bela Bakos said the fishery should be renamed as "Fu&k it! lake".

The majority of my match passed off with no bites, the wind was the wrong way (right to left) and it created a strong drift which pulled my wag away from the island in seconds. The island was also bathed in sunshine and there were no signs of carp there for hours, meanwhile Warren and Bela had islands in shade and with 2 hours to go had 5 and 7 carp respectively. I said to Bela that during the match the only part of my peg that was in the shade was where I was sat, so I couldn't even catch a bloody suntan! Thankfully A few carp turned up in my peg in the last hour and I had 3 nice fish to 9lb on the wag and pulled out very quickly of 2 foul hookers. Warren only managed 1 more carp and Bela never had another fish, never the less I chucked back approx 28lb had been beat both sides and lost another £1. Warren weighed 38lb Bela 40lb. The elements on the day meant the peg I had was not the best, but I can imagine it being very good on its day.

Paul Elms won this match with 80lb, Martin Reyat was 2nd with 74lb from peg 27. I didn't rate Martins peg at the start as he was in the middle of the long last island, but it turned out the carp were there and he said they were showing all day. Martin had 10 decent fish, one was pushing 15lb, all caught on the pellet wag. There were a few fifties and a number of forty pounds weighed in so most people had a few fish. Back in the car park Dave Haines was sporting a nice sun burnt head, but then he lifted his T shirt to show even more red skin, although this time it looked nicely patterned with white, I guess the rolls of fat kept some skin sun free!

I just heard from Glen Bailey, he has won his section at Cider Farm from peg 17 on Yarlington ( by double default) with 80lb+ seems this venue has fished well all weekend, even on Sunday in the bright sunshine.

I guess if it remains warm the carp will soon spawn and hopefully most venues will then be more consistent!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

1989 and the infamous Frome Match!

This was a great time for me, I was going to many new venues and learning about new methods. After Shillamill I tried my luck on the Grand Western Canal at Tiverton. I walked the first match to get an idea of what to do and although people thought I was mad (you had to get about 3:30am for the early morning draw) it was well worth it I thought. Mind you the first match I fished was not so hot, I blanked, but to be fair only one person caught in the whole section! Next time and I drew an early peg in the town, I started down the middle while feeding across (I'd watched Geoff Salisbury do this) and was chuffed when a small tench arrived after about 15 mins. I then took 3 tench from across for a total weight of 12lb and a section win. I caught all the tench on caster over groundbait and caster. I also spent some time pleasure fishing at Upham Farm and Hogsbrook lake near Exeter, I had fished these lakes for a few years and had some great fun here.

The river season started and I managed 11 trips out during the first 13 days! Although none of these trips were bag ups it was good learning and practice, I always found the beginning of the season tricky, fish still spawning and bream tightly shoaled. However, one match that will always stay in my memory took place on the 1st July on the River Frome at Lullington, this was Bristol Amalgamation versus Frome in a DFDS regional round. We had walked the river and fished it once in practice with a local lads help, we had found out what an awful stretch it was. Minnows were all you could catch on some pegs, and the best pegs were not pegged as the locals thought this made it harder for a visiting team to win. When we drew our pegs most of us knew what we were fishing for, I was on a minnow peg (Dave Haines had caught them off this peg the week before) and was told to get my head down on them. You can't really get motivated to catch minnows, but never the less I was going to get bites and go for it. I wanted to fish as close and quick as possible, so I used the top section of a link ledger rod I had (real gnome stuff!) with a small pole float attached with a little bulk close to the 24 hook for pinkie. I set up a stick float, and a lead rod but I did not expect they'd be used.

When the match started it was simply a case of getting a minnow back every chuck as quick as possible, I soon had the depth right and was into the swing of it. I've never been able to count my fish and no way could I do it today so I never really knew what I had. Word came back that Andy (Bacon) Leonard had caught a small chub and was now on minnows, Woody had a few Dace and Paul Lumbard and Mark Holbrook a few roach. Apparently the opposition would not say anything, so unless one of our runners saw them catch we had no idea what they had. In the last 30 mins the minnows in my peg drifted out, and I tried the stick float where I'd fed some hemp but only more minnows, a worm down the edge for a perch or an eel was also a useful minnow trap!

When the match finished and I'd packed up I spoke to the guy below me and said are you coming to watch them weigh down to us, he said no and explained their Captain had told them not to leave their pegs in case we emptied their nets! These guys were so serious it was untrue. When the scales got to me the lads told me they thought we were losing (it was on total weight) and that the Frome angler on peg 1 was winning with 2lb 12oz, the guy above me weighed in 11oz so I hoped to claw some weight back. When I lifted my net from the water and brought it up the bank some of the team were laughing, they couldn't believe the "nest" of minnows I had. I weighed in 2lbs 7oz and this made things tight between the teams, although there were still more anglers to weigh in. Back at the pub for the results and due to the fact Frome had kept the results sheet close to their chest and some of our team couldn't be sure of the weight they had we weren't to sure if we'd won. Finally the result was announced and we'd won by exactly 1lb, and I'd came 2nd overall framing with minnows, wow! The Captain of Frome would not believe this and added up the weights at least another 3 times much to our amusement! (Apparently the angler who'd helped us was later banned from the club!)

Much drinking was already taking place in this pub, and carried on afterwards; we played skittles, first with proper pins but then with kids toys (!) and some of the lads tried to chat up a couple of local girls, the barman told me they were lesbians but we let the lads carry on trying! Finally we left, I think we may have decided it was a good idea to leave as we were annoying the locals, and got back into the battle bus which was being driven by no less than Paul Lumbard. On the way back Mark Holbrook stuffed a trout he had caught into Paul's mouth, instead of spitting it out Paul bit the trouts head off! We finally got back to the Butchers arms (after a stop at Nigel Saunders house for a bit of "decorating") to continue the celebrations.

1989 turned out to be a pretty good year for me, and I've got lots of good memories of this year. Although the next round of the DFDS was going to be interesting I was also hoping to be involved in the Sundridge Super League. Such was the interest in team fishing that there were enough teams for 3 leagues in the South West, Bristol Amalgamation was put into League 1 and Silstar Bathampton into the Super League, we were not amused! This meant that we had to finish our league in 1st or 2nd position to get into the Super League. The venues were River Axe, Bristol Avon (Newbridge), Bristol Avon (Avoncliffe & Limpley), Bristol Avon (Sutton Benger), Taunton & Bridgewater Canal. I'll let you know how the team and I got on....

Nicola Lunn has asked me to let people know that she is running a blind pairs match on Tockenham Reservoir on June 7th. Last years matches at Tockenham saw weights of bream and skimmers up to 90lb taken so it's worth fishing if you can make it!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Cidered off me 'ead!

On my own this week for the journey to Cider Farm, as Glenn decided to grab some more money by doing overtime. Well he said he had to go in and finish the job but it wasn't long before he was calling me to ask where I had drawn!

It was great to see Bill Milton back fishing after his illness, he seemed a bit quiet in the morning and not himself, but by the end of the day he was back on form, more of that later.

I had a bad day, and I guess it all started when fishery owner Mark Gibson told me we were on Dabinett. It's not that I don't like this lake (although my preference is Yarlington) it was simply that when I booked it was on Yarlington and so I did some rigs up for this venue! I knew that a good draw on this lake was a must as the gaps and end pegs had seen most action in recent matches. Drawing peg 19 was not really what I wanted, but it did have a big bed of reeds opposite and peg 18 was empty. As usual carp were showing well in the gap and in reed beds but the bright sunshine told me to forget a big weight today. I set up rigs for right across ( 2 lines either side the reed bed ), in front the weed bed in the deeper water and in the margin toward peg 18.

It was a slow start for virtually all, but the lad on peg 16 was into fish quite regularly. After an hour I had only 2 carp from right across, the reed bed deep swim having failed to register a bite! The guy on my left had a couple more fish than me but other than peg 16 the action was slow. I had taken both my fish on hard pellet and was catapulting pellets across to both swims regularly. Odd fish would move but not stay around for long, and if I did get an indication it was invariably a liner. I tried altering the feed and potted for a while to try to get the fish in more of tighter feed area. Initially it seem to work with a few more liners and 2 more carp in the net, but it was short lived. The guy on my right had lost nearly every carp he had hooked in the reed beds, and was making rigs, I was only one hooklength down. I was Preston hollo 19 after a couple of fish losses and never looked back, although it wasn't tested very much!

The anglers in the gaps were now getting the odd fish, not bagging but more than me, and it was becoming an uphill battle. However, half way through I hadn't given up as I knew if the fished moved in an hour or so bagging could make the frame. Glenn had rang me a couple of times, and when he rang me with an hour to go I was only on 5 fish and he could tell I was hacked off. By now the guy to my left, Derek Cullip, had been catching for half hour, the carp had moved in his peg. I asked him to let a few swim past towards me and I did manage two more. I tried the inside line a lot more than usual but it only produced one liner and with 20 mins remaining I waved the white flag. I watched Derek to the end of the match and checked out his tactics. He was doing the same as me feeding with a catapult and potting a small amount to the far side on both sides of a reed bed, although he did use soft pellet on the hook. The good last two hours meant Ray ran out winner with 69lb, Ray Bazeley from peg 7 was 2nd with 50lb odd, Ray caught in the deep water on paste and just beat Martin Lenaghan off the next peg. The lad on peg 16 struggled in the 2nd half of the match and ended with 45lb.

Here's Derek with some of his catch, when asked to smile I said show us your gums, if you meet him you'll understand!

Jess Jordan of Enterprise angling was the other side of Derek in the gap, he was getting some action but from the amount of swearing it was obvious he was loosing a few. Later in the match he got into a bit of rhythm only for a section to crack and 10 metres pole lay in the water carp on the other end! Thanks to Derek's help the pole was retrieved and Jess played the carp to the net for it to come off! More swearing and I think Jess lost the plot, he had 43lb and was not fourth but not far off the top 3.

The end of the match was funny, people shouting all out at 4pm, but Ray and Martin shouting we're finishing at 5 mins past, apparently Mark told them this but nobody passed the message round! Bill Milton, who had travelled down with Ray and Paul Haines, started to wind Ray up about this shouting obscenities from the end peg. Somehow Bill managed to get, Rolls Royce, Unions, Labour, Tony Blair and Homosexuals into his verbal assault on Ray. The two lads to my right were in absolute fits! But mostly I was pleased to hear that the Bill I knew was back on form! I hope he's looking after his good lady Mary (she had a soft spot for me!).

Martin Alexander was on peg 22, and carp were waving at him from the reeds, but getting them feeding was not easy and he like me chucked back about 20lb. Martin complained that the midges were feeding on him and he never used to have the problem when he smoked. I retorted that I had no problem (I don't smoke) and perhaps it was because the midges saw Martin as a "big" target! I saw Martin in Avon Angling recently and we got onto the subject of healthy eating, Martin said he does eat healthy meals and I quote "last night I had sausage, mash and vegetables round a friends, that was a healthy meal. But when I walked home I stopped in the chippy for chips and curry sauce." Top bloke Martin!

To sum up this day, the fishing for me and many others was very tough and it's never nice to have the winner next door. However, there were some good laughs and having a radio on to listen to Jenson Button winning the Grand Prix kept me awake! Three bottles of cider were waiting for me in the fridge at home so I monked off early.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Back to 1998

After the high of winning the Poppy Match and an ATWL round in the space of a month I was on a real high, but I had to complete the rest of the ATWL rounds and was also looking forward to the XMAS matches. Still, you can usually be sure that it doesn't take long to be brought back down to earth and the next round of the ATWL was at Newbridge and I had drawn in the trees (we used to call it the Cricket Pitch back then) and was to told to try not to blank! To cut a long story short I had one bite on a maggot feeder for 1 roach of 3.5oz, this got me 9 points from 13, not bad but a boring days fishing. The team won on the day and were in 2nd place overall now.

The Xmas matches this year were a complete disaster for me, and although I caught something on every match 2lb was my best weight, a 1oz dab saved a blank at Frys although I nearly shook it off as I thought it was yet another leaf! Going into 1989 I needed to turn over a new leaf myself and the first match I took part in was the ATWL at Newbridge, this time I drew peg 52 just above the bream hole. I got hammered by the angler on peg 54 (Les Williams) but I managed 6 bream for 16lb and this gave me 3rd in section and 4th in the match overall. My diary does not tell me how the team did on this day, by the state of my writing I think I must have had too many beers that night! I do know that the following weekend I won the knockout cup in the Commercial House league beating Bob Warren with just 3oz, and I thought perhaps my luck was in again. Jan 22nd, and for the last round of the ATWL I was drawn 3 pegs below the New Fence (peg does not exist anymore) but the river was up and coloured. I fished like a fool, to small a hook and lost a bream that cost me a section win. 7 points meant that I ended up 3rd in the knockout and 2nd in the team, the bream would have won me the lot.... The team once again had to settle for 2nd against Silstar Bathampton. Looking back to these days my results on flooded rivers were poor, and I had not learnt to adapt my feeder tactics to the conditions.

Of course to soon the close season had arrived and boredom set in, although as I was in my last year of my apprenticeship I spent virtually every weekend catching up on the previous 6 months College work! In May though Bob Sheppard had organised a match with a friend of his who had moved to Cornwall, the Amalgamation team were to fish against a Cornish team at Shillamill Lakes. The match was on Sunday but of course we made a long weekend of it, Bob, Kev Boltz and myself went down on the Friday. That night we went for a curry in Saltash (I think) about 4 miles from our digs, we ended up having to walk home at midnight! This wasn't much fun as Bob and Kev were so drunk they kept on winding me up, can you imagine me a 10 stone weakling trying to give 16 stone Kev Boltz a piggy back... I took 3 steps collapsed and they then decided to stuff gravel & grass in my mouth, oh what fun!

During Saturday the rest of the team turned up for a bit practice on the lakes, then a large amount of beer drinking practice on the night. The match on the Sunday was one of the strangest I have ever fished. I caught a small carp and 6 roach in the first 20 mins and then the whole lake I was on went dead, nobody could get a bite! Once the on site bar was opened most of us went there, much to the disgust of the local team who wanted us disqualified. We thought our team had no chance of winning but we then saw that Dave Haines was catching on the bottom lake and as the match was on weight we literally ran back to our pegs for the last hour. The end result was we won by 1lb and Hanier was the hero (first and last time I believe) more beer just about finished me off and I woke up outside my house. Oh to be 20 years old again !!!!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Avalon Fishery - Additional Material

Apparently I have some of my facts slightly wrong about Avalon. I have been told that my congratulations should have gone to Leigh Nutland for all the improvements that have taken place at the fishery. Well I thought Vic Bush (MOSELLA MOGUL) owned the place and so he must be doing all the work!

I'm sure there is a large amount of endeavour by both Vic and Leigh, and perhaps my glowing report on the venue and this correction will earn me a free days fishing at the stunningly superb AVALON FISHERY... Mind you I used to fish with Vic at Thatchers, and he was always a bit shy when the bar opened so I won't hold my breath!

If anyone knows when the next open match is to be held at Avalon let me know please as I can't wait to get back there. As it is I'm going back to Cider Farm this Sunday, there were 4 tons there over the weekend, again proving it fishes best when it's overcast.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Avalon Fishery Open Sun 3rd May

Perhaps the better title for this post would be the Tony Rixon benevolent fund open match....

Fishing one of Tony's open matches meant a lie in for me as he does a 10am draw (I usually start fishing at this time at Cider Farm). This was very nice as I was still recovering from the effects of an operation to remove a lump from my tongue, and the general anaesthetic seems to take a while to leave the system.

The journey down to Avalon was made with Veals Maver ace Glenn Bailey. We stopped for breakfast at Shipham cafe, this was the first decent meal I'd ate since the op and it tasted great! There was lots of discussion about the forthcoming day, and we were concerned by the strength of wind and hoped it would not wreck the fishing. Pellet wag to the island has always been good at Avalon, but you can lose a lot of gear, we both hoped the pole would be as productive as it had been in previous weeks. On to the draw and Tony was puzzled by the amount of pegs used for the draw, he questioned Leigh Nutlands intelligence of the venue... I drew peg 9 on the start of the 2nd island, and Glen was on peg 12, we had one angler in between us. I have to admit the pegging was a tad strange, I had an empty peg either side of me yet Glenn had anglers on both pegs either side! Tony on peg 16 (big smile on his face) also had plenty of room and was destined to catch lots.

Vic Bush told me that he liked my peg for waggler fishing, and there were indeed carp visible on the corner of the island inside the reeds. However, it is best to keep the feed away from the island, so I decided to feed 6mm pellets across as it would be harder to feed these too far. If your feed lands right next to the island then there is no need for the fish to come out, then it's virtually impossible to get at them. It was only a short cast to the island and a 2 swan corby wag was more than enough. I used 5.5lb Preston Mono direct on the reel line with an 0.18 hooklength to hair rig an 8mm pellet with a size 14 Preston PR36 hook. I also fed a pole line at 14.5 metres to my left a bit, and had set up two rigs, one for paste and one for banded pellet. On the start whistle I fed a big pot of pellet on the pole line but started on the wag, I would look for signs of bubbles or other anglers catching on the pole before trying it I thought. I think it was on my 3rd cast that the wag disappeared and I connected with a lump, immediately the rod was bent to the handle and as I was clipped up all I could do was hold on. Eventually a 10lb mirror (hooked in the belly) was netted. I had a couple of funny dips on the float in the next few casts and thought I was fishing to deep so shallowed from 18" to 12". Even at this depth I still had what I think were liners and lost a few fish, but everything else netted was hooked properly. After an hour and a half I thought I had 25lb, but bites were now hard to come by although the carp were still in the island reeds but reluctant to venture out! Dean Malin next door on peg 7 was getting a lot of fish on the pole and I thought he was beating me, but he was losing most of his fish using a light elastic and a pulla bung. I managed 3 fish on the pole in 2 spells on it, one of the fish I estimated at 14lb, you could have put a saddle on it! During the match the wind became a bit of problem and would blow left or right, this made casting and feeding to the island difficult and feel in hindsight I have should have tried either the pole longer or the straight lead to the island.
With just under an hour to go I tried the margins but to no avail, and at this point Vic came past and asked how I was doing, I thought I had around 65lb. As if the fish were following Vic the corner of the island became alive with fish again and Vic was laughing at the amount of activity in the reeds. A switch back to the waggler was of course a must, and five carp in the last 45 mins including one landed after the whistle was a nice way to end.

The final result was :-

1st Tony Rixon 140lb (No picture of the winner as he's in the press enough!)
2nd Gary Wall 136lb
3rd Tim Ford 94lb
4th Glenn Bailey 92lb

Talking to Glenn after he had caught 9 of his 13 fish on paste on long pole, but he had a bad last 1.5 hours which cost him. Most people had lost a lot of fish, Tony reckoned to have lost a dozen, and Dean Malin even more! I asked Dean to let me have some of the elastic he had used as it looked perfect for river roach, I cannot repeat his reply!

In my opinion Avalon is a changed fishery, the carp are now coming on to the pole line which makes them easier to get out, where as in the past the pole was a virtual waste of time. In virtually every match I have fished here I have caught well to begin with and then again in the last hour, just have to work out the middle of the match! I never lost a wag on this match (a first at Avalon for me, but I did put one up a tree before the start but got it back!) but I think I got through 6 or 7 hooklengths due to catching reeds or hooking unstoppable fish. I'd like to fish a few more matches here, as both Glenn and myself agreed it's a venue where you have to keep working to make the most of your peg. Well done Vic, your hard work is paying off and I hope the venue keeps improving, there are some lovely fish in the lakes, the commons fight like demons!