I was busy on Wednesday and couldn’t make the White Acres mid week match, by Sunday I was chomping at [&hellip
Little by Little
Going into Round 5 of the Winsford Winter League on the River Weaver, our team Last Cast was leading the league by five points, from Hazel Grove. We had stuck to a small fish approach which seemed to be working, but could we make it last? In the individual league I was lying third equal. Preparations for Round 5 were disrupted when Sean Mulheir rang me the Monday before to tell me he had been diagnosed with a detached retina, and was being taken to hospital to have it operated on. A quick call to Neil Lloyd ensured we had a capable replacement.
Having adequate cover when team fishing is essential. I now don’t enter a team for a series unless I’ve got at least one angler as cover ie 6 men for a 5 man event.
In the week leading up to this round the weather had been mixed – essentially mild with some rain but not loads. So it was likely to be an in-between river, although when we arrived on the Sunday morning it was fuller and dirtier than expected. Many regulars still felt skimmers would be necessary.
I’ve not talked much about my pegs in this series – this is because the aerosol section is essentially relatively fair. There is not much to choose between the pegs, with the end pegs being worth perhaps a few extra fish but not that much. The pegs are permanently marked, and number from 569 downwards. In round 5 I drew Peg 563. You can see my peg in the photo below.
Although I planned a roach-on-the-pole attack, the last round had taught me the importance of having a tip rod to fall back on (not literally), so I set up a light bomb/feeder rig, and a 1.5g pole rig. My roach groundbait was 50% VdE Supermatch, 40% damp leam and 10% pigeon shit. Using my pole pot as a target, I balled in 5 balls at the start at 12 metres, with zero loose offerings. I then cupped in a single small ball with half a dozen squatts in. I added my half butt to the pole, put a flouro pinkie on the hook, and dropped the rig in just past the feed.
I was into fish straight away, and put 30 small roach in the net in the first hour. As soon as I realised fish were there and ready to feed I started to loose feed squatt over the top. I couldn’t see many other anglers, although I could hear from their conversations that the tip anglers were catching roach, but fortunately not (yet) skimmers. In the second hour I again put exactly 30 fish in the net. Steady progress but could I catch them any quicker? On the two hour mark I chucked the pole behind me, put a tiny quarter ounce bomb on my tip rig, and cast it out over my pole line. You may recall from my previous blog that you can fish two hooks on the Weaver, so I hoped my two hook baits would increase my catch rate.
I cast the bomb out, and waited for a tremor. It came straight away, so I gave the reel handle a quick turn to try and hook the fish. But I’d missed in. Leaving the bomb where it was I waited, and another tremor saw me ‘reel-into’ a fish that this time I did hook. Bonus time – it was a double header with two fish on! In the next three chucks I had 2 very quick fish and then another double header, so that in the first 6 minutes of the third hour I had caught 6 fish – I had doubled my catch-rate by switching to the bomb. However, despite keeping the feed going in, the roach quickly backed off the bomb. I started chucking it round a bit, and continued to catch fish but at a slowing rate, to the point that I switched back to the pole line after about half an hour.
Just a quick note on this light bomb method. It works best if you have a mega-sensitive quiver tip, so you can read the tremors. When you get a bite leave the rod on the rest and give the handle a quick turn to reel into the fish. This does work, but sometimes depending on the day it is best to do a ‘mini-strike’, that is, jerk the rod slightly (moving the tip no more than a foot). Of course with both methods, if the fish isn’t on you leave the rig where it is ready for the next bite. I have also experimented with a heavier bomb, to try and create a bolt-rig effect. Again, this seems to work some days but my preference is still for a light bomb. This whole method works less well if there is heavy flow on – because when you dislodge the bomb in flow it moves much more than a foot.
So, with the match half-gone I had a couple of pound in the net, and decided to stick on the pole fishing the squatt. I know I keep droning on about this but on the Weaver you do need to keep changing things for roach. Add a pole section and go further out, take one off and come nearer in. Fish directly over you bait, then downstream, then upstream. Go dead depth, then deeper, then shallower. Run it through at pace, then half pace, then hold back hard. Basically, when roach are having it on the aerosol – everything works, but nothing works for long.
At the all out I had put 141 roach in the net. Slightly below my 150 fish target I set after the first hour. By the time the scales got to me 7lb 11oz was best, caught by Bobby Birks of Hazel Grove, our nearest competitors. I knew it would be close but wasn’t surprised when my net fell short with 7lb 6oz. Next best weight on the bank was 6lb so I was second in section.
Back at the car park, the news ranged from good to very good. Darren Mulheir had won the match again with 21lb roach on the slider (not on the stick float as reported in the weeklies). Ernie Ayers also won his section, so overall we had two firsts, a second, a third and a below-half way to give us great team points. Some sympathy has to go to Hazel Grove, however, who were a man down owing to one of their team being in hospital with pneumonia – best wishes to him.
So with one round to go, Last Cast is 20 points ahead at the top of the league. A strong position, but as I posted in my previous blog, the imminent cold weather brings the prospect of a raft of blanks in the final round. This could turn the league on its head.
Round 6 – The Ice Man Cometh
And so it proved. Overnight temperatures of minus six, combined with the attentions of numerous cormorants in the week preceeding this final round, meant the fish would be in pockets. On the Marina section we knew we had to draw between the bridges, basically a draw of 1 to 9 (from 13 pegs) would be ok. Into the drawbag went Sean’s hand, and out came… Peg 11. We all looked at each other, and knew we had our work cut out – “just one fish” was the mission for each of us.My peg on the aerosol was 559, and it looked cold, hard and uninviting – as you can see.
The river actually had some pace and colour to it, so I set up two float rigs – a standard 1.5g rugby ball and a 1.5g Cralusso Torpedo (flat float) for holding back dead still. For the tip, which was to be my main line, I used a small 14g Drennan cage feeder, with a size 20 B520 hook to 0.07 line. Very fine for the tip but these are hard times.
I had decided to change my groundbait mix for this final round. Instead of the VdE Supermatch/leam combo, I instead mixed up (the day before – to deaden the mix) 1 bag of VdE Secret with 1 bag of plain brown crumb. Secret smells of molasses so I enhanced the water with some Dynamite Baits XL Molasses flavouring, and I darkened it with Sensas Tracix Noir (black). This recipe represents a much higher feed content than the Supermatch/leam combo, but I just thought there might be a skimmer or two about, and roach love brown crumb too. My previous experiences with flavourings have always proved a complete failure, so I’m not sure why I tried it this time. Basically, I had a bottle left over from the Dynamite Baits festival so gave it a whirl.
On the all-in, I cupped in one hard ball at 12 metres containing 4 flouro pinkies. And then I chucked the feeder to 33 metres (ie 33 reel handle turns of a TDR). I sat back and prepared for a long, long wait. But I was in for a major shock. After 5 minutes there was a tremor on the tip – a definite bite, which I missed. The anglers either side – both also on the tip – remained motionless, so I tried to contain my excitement. I replaced the flouro pinkie, and chucked out again. Second time there was no mistake, and a half-ounce roach was placed carefully – in fact, very, very carefully – into the keepnet.
In the first hour I put 11 small roach in the net. I could tell from conversations further up the bank that all were having bites, so in truth the section was fishing better than expected. I had my first look on the pole after an hour, but two runs through without incident were enough to put me back on the tip. This was a race I couldn’t afford to fall behind in. Hour two on the tip produced 8 fish, giving me 19 in total before another wasted 5 minutes on the pole. On the tip, missed bites were a real problem. Despite a super-sensitive quiver tip, there was simply no indication, and yet totally smashed pinkies when you reeled in. I couldn’t go any lighter and still hold bottom. Other anglers said the same afterwards about missed bites. So I was back into my inching the rig to try and reel into the fish. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
For me, hour three started to slow down considerably, and I only managed 7 fish. I could feel the swim slipping away from me, and was alternating between the feeder, a half ounce bomb and a quarter ounce bomb, to try and induce bites. I feared I had overfed it. Hour four saw me with long periods of inactivity. Stuff started to go wrong – bites slowed, then I started losing fish off the hook – you know how it goes. I came in on the pole, and had two fish on the flat float, which I thought was a new dawn but again they disappeared. I’d lost my way. When things start going wrong I believe you have to break the rhythm. So I stood up, went for a pee, poured myself a tea from the flask, and re-grouped. The good news was that I felt I was ahead of the anglers either side of me, who I think were fishing big maggot for skimmers. (I had tried big maggot – the result? Same small fish, but bites twice as slow). So in the last hour, I decided to concentrate on the tip again, replaced the bomb with the feeder and committed to keep feeding whatever the cost.
Ten more minutes produced nothing, but then I had a quick bite. Then another, and in that last hour I added 11 more fish to give me 42 small roach by the end of the match. My fish went 2lb 6 oz, which was leading the weights all the way to the end peg, where our closest competitors, Hazel Grove had drawn. Bobby is a good angler, what would he pull out? The answer was 1lb 2oz, so I had won the section by a pound.
Back at the car park the news was mixed. Some had caught but some had struggled. But on the upside it was the same story for all of the teams. So it was with excitement that we all waited for Dougie to work out and announce the results. And then it came: “The winners of this year’s Winter League are… Last Cast”.
I was made-up, especially for Pete Mulheir who has been unwell with heart problems this year. The final placings were Last Cast, Trafford Angling and Hazel Grove. On the less-important individual front, I finished second, behind winner Eddie Robinson. Well done to him. He dropped only 6 points over the six match series, to finish with 72 points! With two firsts, two seconds, a third and a fifth I dropped 8 points, taking 70 points from a possible 78. I’d love to have won it but Eddie was unbeatable this time round. Big thanks to Dougie and Alan who organise it. Their effort is appreciated.
Now, I wonder if molasses will work on Cudmore…