Sunday, 24 January 2010

Commercial House K&A Round 5 aka Pike Fest!

I was awoken by the alarm on Sunday morning, which meant no time for breakfast. I had decided that if I had a good nights sleep and woke early then fry up it would be, alas the night was spend mostly awake as the wife was not well at all. A couple of weetabix and a banana were soon scoffed and the gear loaded, I got away without scraping the ice off the car thanks to the Ford Mondeo heated windscreen! The drive to the draw was in thick fog and I was wondering if the canal would have frozen over.

At the draw it was good to see the team and the other anglers some for the first time since early Dec. I pulled together the team sheet for Thatchers A and wrote my name on the sheet last of all. Steve Tucker drew for the team and put me on peg A3, this was at Darlington Wharf on the narrow peg with thick reeds just before the bay. To my right was Martin Barrett for Thatchers B and to my left Andy Turton. I have known Andy since the days of Silver Dace Juniors, Andy told me he has moved to Hemel Hempstead due to work and will not be fishing in this area anymore, good luck Andy hope the Grand Union throws up a few fish for you.

Chatting to Martin as we set up, I said I felt my peg would be good if the skimmers didn't show but I could be battered if they did show! I assembled one punch bread rig (4x14 Drennan Roach), a bloodworm rig (.4grm Desque), a chopped worm and a caster rig. The depth hardly changed all across the canal so the rigs could be used for near and far. I saw one fish top before the start and this gave me a lot of confidence as I have always thought a fish topping on the canal to be a good sign.

On the whistle I cupped in some liquidized bread and went straight in on a 4mm punch. I had 2 small roach in the first two casts but then nothing for a couple of minutes, so I dropped the size of punch and took another 3 roach before a 4oz skimmer showed up. At this stage a boat came through and I feared the worst, but I resisted the temptation to feed again and after about 10 minutes the roach were back. I had another 2 small skimmers, 1 about 12oz and about 35 roach all in the first hour and a half. At this stage the boats started to become a bit busier and I was forced to refeed the bread line as well as feeding some joker against the reeds. Only a few more roach showed on the bread so I went across over the joker lines and took a couple of net roach on pinkie. Unfortunately straight after this the joke of a boat for this canal came through, the "John Rennie". So wide is this boat that it actually went right over the reed bed and left me with oxtail soup and bits of reeds every where. I could see the peg would take a few minutes to settle so I went for a quick walk. Andy and Eddie Wynne in the bay were struggling as were the next two anglers, but as I arrived to Andy Ottaway he was landing a 10lb pike! He already had a 4lb pike in the net and then told me another pike had been caught a couple of pegs up, brilliant not!

I spent the rest of the match trying to catch roach on bloodworm as well as trying chopped worm, I had just one bite on the big worm rig and landed a near 1lb eel! I knew I had no chance against the pike weights but just tried to be the best of the rest. When the weigh in came I followed the scales down to my peg; Robbie Mann had taken 4 pike for 18lb, next peg Shane Caswell 2 pike for 9lb 9oz, next peg Andy Ottaway 4 pike and a couple of perch (one superb specimen of 2lb 15 1/2oz) for 27lb 5oz and next peg Paul Barnfield 1 pike for 5lb 9oz. The next 3 anglers weighed 1lb+ and then I weighed 6lb 6oz before Martin weighed 3lb 8oz. It was gratifying that a few anglers said I had the best net of fish and had won the section without pike, but as pike count in the CH, well..... The pike were all caught on worm of course, lobs on the hook and the anglers who caught them also lost a few.

I had come 4th overall in the section (best of the rest) and in the A division my weight had come 2nd to Andy, and so as he had won the match I got the £30 A div section money by default. I think I was probably just a couple of places out of the frame. Unsurprisingly the 3 anglers with pike were 1st, 2nd and 3rd overall. Paul Barnfield got the B div section by default, even after a visit by two policemen who had received a complaint that he had been foul and abusive to passer by! On the team front Maver Veals must have had some Viagra because they won A div, Thatchers A & B and Avon Aquatics were all joint 2nd, so Avon Aquatics are still way out in front and odds on winners with one match to go. The canal had been peggy today and some areas had iced over with some anglers only managing ounces even with B&J, so despite being piked off I was more than happy with the day I had.

Hopefully next week the weather will be kind to us and the last match of the CH will go ahead on the canal and the weights will improve. Better take some sprats next time methinks!

Bathampton, who rent this section of canal, do not allow "sweeps" on any of their waters, and in a previous blog I had thought Martyn Reyatt was considering running a sweep on the canal but this was in fact wrong and I had been misinformed by another angler.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

August 1990

I fished my very first Silstar Pole Qualifier on the Bristol Avon at Newbridge in 1990. As you may know these matches were pole only and attracted good turnouts, and you had to win your section to progress to a semi-final. On this match I drew peg 87 which is a few pegs above the stream, not normally a good area. The river was in typical summer conditions with not much flow, although back then we seemed to have more colour in the river all the time.

As I approached the area where my peg was I could not find it, it needed another more experienced angler to advise me where it was, and I had to walk through 6ft high weeds to find it! The bank was a sheer drop so I would have to fish off the high bank, but despite all this I was upbeat because I could see about 20 chublets just below the surface!!!

I set up one pole rig, most likely because I probably only had one sensible elastic set up back then. I used a 1.25 grm float, with a bulk 18" from the hook with just 1 no8 down. Hook length was a 1.5lb maxima to a 20 hook.

As I waited for the match to start the chublets gradually disappeared, the sun was moving over the peg and they just slipped away to avoid it. However, my first five casts gave me 5 chublets and then they went never to be seen again! After this I managed to pick off roach and small hybrids by feeding maggot with the same on the hook. I ended the match with 11lb 1 1/2oz which was enough to win my section. This meant I had to fish the semi on the River Lea next Saturday!

Andy Floyd, Kev Winstone and a couple of other team mates had qualified so we organised travel and tactics. We got help from Dave Coster, and he said that Bloodworm and Joker was the "in bait" but he felt you could still do well without it. There was no point us using B&J as we would not be able to compete with the likes of Bob Nudd etc, so we opted for a groundbait and squatt and pinkie approach, with caster and hemp for further across. When I drew my peg it was simply a case of finding out where it was as there was no information offered by the organisers of what to expect. As I set about putting my gear together John Amatto walked up on the way to his peg, he had a little map with him which had been drawn by a local angler, and it suggested my peg held chub. I set up two rigs for this match 0.35 grm float with a bulk 12" from a 22 hook which was attached to 14oz double strength. The other rig had strung out shot with a 20 to 1.5lb maxima, this was for the caster.

On the match I balled in 6 cricket balls of gbait, with pinkies on the hook and I took a few small roach and bumped a better fish. After an hour I was not catching but others around me with B&J were not doing that much better. Then I caught a chublet over the grounbait line and decided to go onto the caster line. It was not instant and I just got the odd bite for the rest of the match, picking up 8 chublets in total. My weight of 5lb 4oz won me the section and meant I had qualified for the final! Back at the results it was clear B&J had won all the money, and I was very fortunate to have drawn a peg with some chublets in, had I possessed a pole longer than 11mtrs I would have caught more as the far bank was at 14mtrs! I made the decision not to fish the final, as it was on a canal in Manchester and I was told don't take anything but B&J.

The following day I fished an open on the Thames at Kelmscott and won my section with 4lb 8oz of bits on a waggler. August ended on a low when I fished a match on a lake at or called Steeple Langford on bank holiday Monday. I managed 1 1/2oz and I wrote in my diary "How can i say what I caught on! 1lb was a good weight, don't go here ever again." I never did!

A match that stays very well in my memory was the NFA S/W Champs fished on the K&A around Devizes. I think I was fishing this part of the canal for the first time and was not sure of what to expect. I was drawn to fish Semington and had a very experienced Bathampton angler next to me (forget his name now!). I was using a Silstar Powerwind pole which was 12.5 mtrs long and this would not reach the far bank. I put some gbait straight down the middle and loosefed caster and squatt across fairly heavily. The angler next to me had fed gbait over and was soon into the odd tench, my middle line was desperate and I was way behind him! Roger Amos then walked up to me and told me all the better fish were coming from across, so changed rig to a dibber float and went across on the caster. For about half an hour I had no bites, so I changed to double red maggot on the hook and took a bream! I was fishing about 12 mtrs and obviously, loose feeding as I was, I had spread the bait about a bit. I took another 4 bream but was then forced to fish further over, I had to hold the butt of my pole on my knee and lean forward, it was very hard work! By the end of the match I had 11 bream for 24lb 3oz won the section and come 2nd in the match, which was nice! The Bathampton angler had 19lb and was distraught that I had beaten him off the next peg cos he was on his fav venue, as he was walking back he kept saying to his team mates "I can't believe he's beat me!" oh happy days!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Boyd Valley Lake Sweep

Whatever the weather or the conditions I was going fishing this weekend! Martyn Reyatt was putting together a small match which was to be on the canal, but it was then decided to be put on Boyd Lake. I made a call to Martyn Saturday afternoon and he said the ice was melting fast and in his opinion it would be ice free Sunday.

I don't know why but Saturday night I felt wide awake and just could not get to sleep, as a consequence I didn't wake up until 8am Sunday which was OK as the draw wasn't until 9am and I only live 5 mins from the lake. When I left home the car said the temperature was 5C, but in the valley it was 1C and my car skidded on frozen puddles. As I drove into the car park I could see the lake was mostly frozen, and as it turned out the ice was in some places over an inch thick! I could see pegs 4 and 5 were ice free and I was told these would be good pegs. At the draw I avoided the ice free pegs and ended up on peg 10, I walked around to Mike (drawbag) Nicholls who was on peg 4 and borrowed his ice breaker. It took me around 30 minutes to clear ice to 4 mtrs, it was that thick, and I decided that 4 mtrs would have to do! I returned the ice breaker to Mike and he told me he had seen fish topping, and indeed I saw a fish top in peg 5 on the walk back to my peg.

On peg 11 was Martyn (3rd match on the trot he has had this peg) and on peg 9 was the big man Leighton! I had brought caster and a bit of red maggot with me, and a bit of pellet, but as I had a very short swim I decided to take a caster and maggot approach. I set up just two rigs, a 4x12 Chianti with no10 and no11 stotz spread out, I used a 18 PR33 hook to 0.08. The other rig was a canal rig, it was a 0.4gm wire stem / wire bristle jobby, and on here I had a 20 hook to 0.07. I shotted this last rig with a bulk mid depth and 2 no12 droppers below well spread out.

I started the match by cupping in 8 casters and decided to cup in 4 to 6 casters every fish. I started on the Chianti and it was a slow start and it took me 10 mins to get a bite on single red maggot which resulted in a ounce roach. In the first hour I had about 9 small roach whilst I could hear that Mike on peg 4 and Mike Ferris on peg 5 were catching. Just a point here that peg 6 was empty, this was because Bill Ferris never turned up for his 4 pegger on the lake, it turned out he had cracked some ribs falling off a ladder. Darren Gillman came for a walk round the lake and confirmed the bottom pegs in the deeper water were catching best. I switched to loose feeding caster by hand and also used the wire stem float which was better for the small roach in that the bites developed more. I was not catching well though as I would get 2 or 3 fish and then nothing for 5 mins, but I was now getting the odd 2 and 3oz fish. Martyn next door could hardly get a bite and after a couple of hours he went for a walk.

I kept trying the caster on the hook to try to pick up better fish, but if after a couple of chucks I had iffy bites or just tiny roach then I returned to a maggot. Halfway through the match the wind picked up and the sun went behind some cloud, I then had a good hour and a bit when I caught more roach on caster and the bites were much better, I even had some 6oz netters! Both rigs were used and I was swapping between them to change the presentation. Unfortunately when the sun returned my bites slowed and I endured a tough last hour until the last 10 mins when I caught another 6 decent roach on caster.

Mike Nicholls easily won the match with 21lb 10oz (see his blog for more details) and Mike Ferris next door to Mike was 2nd with 12lb+, both Mikes had taken some reasonable skimmers plus lots of roach. My all roach net went 9lb 7oz and was good enough for 3rd, which I was more than happy with.

There were some tight weights, with Leighton weighing 7lb 13oz next to me, beating Sean Townsend off the next peg by 1oz! Martyn eventually had a late run of roach to end with 4lb 13oz, beating his travelling partner Dave Tippett by 1oz for their £5 side bet!

Young Joe McMahon was in the 4 pegger match, and he was on peg 12 which has recently been good for decent roach. Joe fished caster at about 5 mtrs and did a fantastic job to catch 17lb. I think he could have caught more but his dad was behind him giving him bad advice most of the time!

Well it was really nice to get out on the bank, and the Boyd Valley Lake silvers did not disappoint me giving me some bites and keeping me interested all day. I'm sure the colour in this lake helps keep the fish on the feed. I hope this weather holds and the Commercial House on the canal goes ahead next week, I have heard that Kev Dicks caught 25lb of skimmers there on Saturday, they must be hungry!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Eskimos rule OK!

I received a text from Martyn Reyatt on Saturday asking if I was interested in a sweep on the River at the Crane the following day. I thought about it for all of 1 second and replied "Are you having a laugh!". He wasn't and it seemed five hardy souls were going to turn up. I had gone for a walk along the river on Saturday from the Marina to Bitton Brook. I didn't see any fish top or caught, but I did see lots of ducks and geese which had obviously been forced onto the river from frozen lakes, there were wigeon, goosander, coot and about 50 Canada geese.

I spent a few hours in the Queens Head on Saturday night and Martyn said they were going to start fishing at 11am and would peg from the cattle grid to the Boys Hole. This was an area where skimmers had been showing since mid December, and it would be interesting to see if they would feed in such bad conditions. I decided I would go and watch them fishing for a bit.

I arrived at the river about 20 mins after the match had started. Martyn Reyatt was on the end peg on the cattle grid and had one 12oz chub, next peg was Richard Lacey who was blanking, next was Jerry Pocock who had taken a 4 1/2lb bream 2nd cast, next Dave Tippett who was blanking, and last of all was Shaun Townsend who had one 2lb bream on his second cast. Everyone was chucking out a groundbait feeder 2/3 to 3/4 the way across the river. In the main I could see a dark groundbait was being used, which made perfect sense in the clear conditions, along with chopped worm and caster. Rich Lacey had no worms as he had found his frozen, most of the others had bought a pack in the morning as they knew their worms were dead.

Things were very quiet whilst I was there (maybe it was my fault walking around with a bright red skiing jacket on!)but then just past midday Shaun had a skimmer. His first fish had come to red maggot and pinkie, the second one to double red maggot. Then at 12:20 Martyn had a good bite on double dendra and landed a near 3lb bream. At this point I went home to the warm and a nice cooked dinner, and I had to scoot off pretty quickly as I had hit a few of the guys with snowballs!

The final result was :-

Shaun 14lb (4 skimmers and 1 bream)
Martyn 7lb (2 bream and 2 small chub) He also missed a bite and got snapped up!
Jerry 4 1/2lb (the one bream!)
Dave blank
Rich blank

No small fished showed at all, and it seems to me that the roach and dace are in a state of torpor, but once the water warms up they will wake up and go on the feed. Personally I think when the thaw comes and after the snow and salt has run through the river and if conditions are fair we could see some end of season bagging.

The Commercial House for this weekend on the canal has been cancelled, but I really feel the need to get out and fish this weekend. I'm not sure what the conditions are going to be yet, but it will be tough whatever, have to see if any matches are being run anywhere sensible.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Back to 1990 and Warmer Weather?

The freezing cold weather has kept me away from the bank this weekend and will do so the coming weekend as the Commercial House match has been cancelled. Looking at other local match results it's not really much fun at the moment, and I've just watched Richard Angwin forecast the potential for 20cm of snow Tues night and for even colder weather at the weekend!

It has been a while since I recalled the old times, and I last left off going into June 1990. I'd like to say the weather was better, obviously it was warmer, but my diary states "Horrid weather for the middle of June". A few evening sessions on the Avon at Chequers brought roach, skimmers and hybrids (which used to abound in our river)on the crowquill and bread. The first match I fished was the Super League on the 24th June and it was on my least favourite venue the Exeter canal. I drew on the end of the Lime Kilns section and fished the groundbait feeder from start to finish. I ended up with 2 skimmers for 2lb 10oz and last but one in the section. I made a big mistake on this match, I had taken a soft feeder rod which I always used on this canal, but in the Kilns it was not strong enough to chuck the feeder the distance required! Still I was not alone in the bad results stakes and the team came 10th, oh dear!

The following weekend I was back on more familiar terroritory fishing a Bristol & West open on the Avon. I was drawn at Jack Whites on what is now two pegs below peg 123, not a good draw back then as the pegs upstream were better. Fishing a mixture of crowquill and feeder I caught 11lb to come nowhere. The best method by far was the feeder, with caster in it and red maggot on the hook; 3 chub, 2 skimmers and my first river carp of 4lb all came in the first 3 hours and then the peg died. 26lb of bream won this match and if you wanted to win on the river in the summer you had to catch bream on the feeder.

In July there was a team match called the Skanderborg Challenge at Newbridge, I had a quick 2 1/2 hours practice on the waggler at peg 90 (1 below the stream) on an evening. Fishing 3ft deep and feeding 2 pints of maggots I quickly amassed 9lb of small chub, dace, bleak, and most surprising was a 1lb eel caught at this depth! Andy Floyd was also with me and he caught well on the whip. On the actual Skanderborg match I drew 5 pegs below Newton St Loe bridge. I set up two wagglers, one deep and one shallow and started deep feeding maggot and hemp. I caught odd roach and small chub but spent the last hour shallow blitzing it with maggot catching the odd chublet. My final weight of 5lb 12oz was good enough for 2nd in the section, beaten I recall by Clive Branson who had fished the pole and fed large amounts of hemp and maggot to catch roach and eels. The team must have not qualified as I did not record how we fared!

The first match I framed in of that season was right at the end of July in round 2 of the Super League on the river Axe. I do not recall the section I was drawn on, but I was on permanent peg 69! I suppose you could say I fished to my strengths, yep waggler and maggot and hemp with a 22 hook to 14oz double strength. I fished the waggler right across and feeding 2 pints of maggot and 1 of hemp I weighed 4lb 10oz; this was mainly roach, but 3 skimmers and 2 eels were welcome bonuses. That was good enough for 2nd in the section but also 6th and last in the frame. Looking back now, I wish I had fished the Axe more when I was younger as I picked up there more often than not.

Off the fishing line for a bit, what a star Phil Taylor is! I love watching darts, and to see a man dominate his sport as Phil Taylor does is quite extraordinary. I know there are those people who say it's not a sport, but that's not the point I'm making here. What he can do with those 3 arrows is better than any man before him, and nobody is as yet able to match his consistency, truly exceptional. In fishing we have more variables that can help stack the odds in our favour, and so making it not a forgone conclusion who will win!