I was busy on Wednesday and couldn’t make the White Acres mid week match, by Sunday I was chomping at
The ‘Million Bites Week’
Hmm. The ‘million bites week’ didn’t exactly go to plan! It was more like a ‘what went wrong week’, but there was a silver lining to the cloud that descended over the Wraggy household by Saturday night, so it was a case of alls well that ends well in the end. Right, enough of the clichés, let me tell you about my mixed fortunes for the week.
Before I go any further, can I send my apologies to the lad who asked for the pics of the fish from Mexico, I didn’t reply for two reasons, firstly when it comes to computers I’m as thick as they come, and Tom hasn’t showed me how to post a reply yet! Back when I was an apprentice joiner, the bloke I was working with and learning from bestowed me with a pearl of wisdom which went something like “don’t thee worry lad, computers will never be able to put a kitchen in or hang doors, tha’s no need to get involved wi’ ‘em”, so I’ve always given them a wide berth, and adopted something of a ‘head in the sand’ approach to them generally.
However, I am learning slowly, so please forgive my apparent ignorance, it’s not that, it’s just that I’m as thick as a Whale omelette! Oh, and if you want proof of that last statement, the other reason why there aren’t any photo’s of the fish is that one of the only things Mandy asked me to do before we went away was to check the batteries in the camera. “Done it”, I said, all smug, and I had, I’d changed them the week before we flew, when I went up to Bank End to take some shots for a feature using GOT baits atomic cloud.
That was in sub-zero temperatures however, which takes a lot out of the batteries, so we arrived in Mexico, took a couple of pictures, and when it came to the catch shots the batteries had died! To cap it all off, we didn’t realise until we got back to the room (where the spare batteries were) that they had gone down! Mandy was happily snapping away, with me putting my best ‘Brad Pitt with an angel fish’ poses together, and nowt was happening! I reckon that’s why my mate Ian draws next door to me on such a regular basis; I really shouldn’t be allowed out on my own!
So, the week of a million bites. It started with the trip up the M180 to Messingham, to fish Paul Burton’s excellent Grange Park fishery. Situated behind the café that anyone who has visited Messingham Sands will know, the venue comprises of three former stock ponds, rectangular and uniform in shape and depths, and each one has ten well spaced pegs on either side. This might not sound very endearing to the purists among you out there, but the fishing more than makes up for the lack of aesthetic beauty.
In a nutshell, its speed fishing for small carp, goldfish, crucians, skimmers and ide, bites are never that hard to come by (usually) and part of the battle is hitting them. Goldfish, crucians & F1’s are notoriously shy biters, and on this venue the skimmers seem to have got in on the act too, so rig choice is critical. One change from the standard approach is if you draw one of the corner pegs. These can hold some bigger fish, up to 4lb, so at some point you have to decide whether it’s worth your while to break your rhythm catching the smaller samples and take time out to try for one of these lumps, which add up to a lot of little ‘uns.
On the Thursday I drew one of the corner pegs, and was informed that although they were more of an advantage in the warmer months, there should be a few fish on the peg to boost a small fish net up to a frame place. At the peg, I half-heartedly rigged up my usual 0,2 and 0,3 rigs, together with a 0.3 rig using a hook in the loop set up, which has brought me some success on these sorts of venues. I was itching to get a rig into the corner, in my own mind I would be so far in front by the end of the first hour with big fish from the end bank margins that I could have a nice afternoon’s fishing topping up with a variety of mini carp and skimmers. How wrong could I be?
At the last minute, I decided a more prudent approach would be better, mainly because the dead or newly sprouting reeds and rushes meant I couldn’t find a clear spot as tight into the bank as I would have liked, so I fed a little way away from the bank and started in the open water in front of me. 40 minutes in all I’d done was watch the lad opposite me catch a dozen small carp from his open water peg, while my float remained motionless! This was a new concept to me here, struggling for bites, and I was at something of a loss as to work out why it wasn’t happening. Just then a voice behind me said “what you messing about at Wraggy?” I looked round to see Dave, one of the lads who I fish with at Bank End on Sundays. “Can’t understand it Dave, I’ve not had an indication”, I said. “You’ve got your box facing the wrong way kid” came the reply.
“When I draw these corner pegs all I do is fish down into the corner, you’ll still catch the small fish there, but it puts you in with a chance of a bigger one if they come into the peg”. I was going nowhere, so I didn’t need any more encouragement to swap lines. A dip first drop was followed by a nice steady bite, but the 4oz carp that resulted wasn’t quite the stamp I had in mind! Still, I was off the mark, and feeding fish will always encourage more to have a go, so I shipped back out with renewed optimism.
A run of these tiny carp was broken by a two-pounder, but then it was back to the tiny fish, and the subsequent dodgy bites. They wouldn’t take pellet, but seemed too small for corn, which was whittled down till it was small enough to fit in their mouths, when a bite would see a fish on the way to the bank. The problem I had was that any amount of feed seemed to kill the peg stone dead, so I settled on catching a couple of fish from each line, feeding the swim then moving to another spot.
Even this saw all my lines die a death after a while, so I decided to try something that has worked for me here in the past. A big pot of maggots fed on each of my lines and left for 20-30 minutes can sometimes see the peg come alive with fish, and while the cold water conditions tended to point to it being the kiss of death, by now I had nothing to lose. It worked, to some extent anyway, as I saw an upturn in my catch rate, but still the fish were tiny, and by now I was fishing 17.5m down the bank to try to keep them coming. 17.5m of pole, with a string of 2-3 oz carp is not what winning bags are made of, so I wasn’t too disappointed to hear time called.
My 11lb put me below half way in the match, and got me my usual slagging from owner Paul at the weigh-in! On the way home I reflected on the day & where I could have improved on it. Many of the signs pointed to there being not too many fish in the peg, no bites in the open water, tiny, easily spooked carp from the end bank margins, and so on, but I couldn’t help but think I should have done better from the peg. The only consolation was that I’d gone for it to a degree, so I wasn’t saying ‘if only’.
The word went round, and on the Saturday six of us made the trip up, Ian and me, young Tom and fellow Bladesman Dave Tomkinson, Phil Broomhead, and big Geoff Ardron from Rotherham, who has a good record on the lakes. Geoff is an absolute nutter, one of those lads who lights up the room when he walks in, and he was on form as usual with his machine-gun delivery of jokes, this turned out to be the highlight of the day though, as a bustling, jam-packed café slowly emptied as firstly the Fishing Republic League, then the Messingham Winter League drew their pegs and set off to the lakes up the road.
This left a dozen hardy souls, two of which turned out to be pleasure anglers, so a grand total of ten were left to fish the match. To say I was disappointed would be a massive understatement, 18 had fished on the Thursday so we were expecting a decent turnout. My mood was darkened by my draw, towards the end of the middle lake, a peg that had only thrown up a single figure weight on Thursday.
I just couldn’t get into it at all, feeling guilty about dragging all the lads out on a 100-mile round trip to fish a ten pegger, struggling for bites, horizontal rain and one of those ‘pole smashing’ winds all added up to me walking round half way through the match, and when Ian packed up with an hour to go I was quick to follow. My first ‘early bath’ in a long time possibly two or three years.
Just to add insult to injury, the peg I’d drawn on the Thursday went and won the match, walked it actually, with 27lb, 3-4lb fish from the corner! One bright spot was that Phil managed to sneak into second with 16lb 12oz, just ahead of Tom on 16lb 6oz and two other 16lb weights.
If you stick with my ramblings on the site you’ll notice that while I would never claim to be unlucky, when the wheels come off for me they do so in a big way, and today was no exception. We managed to pick up radio Sheffield on the way home, only to listen to a series of dodgy and bizarre refereeing decisions rob the super Blades of any points at Preston, and by the time I walked into the house I felt like I’d been shot through the neck with an arrow, then found a gas bill tied to the end of it!
A good two- hour sulking session in the garage, while drying all the gear out got me back in the mood for my weekly trip to Bank End the following day.
A much better morning on Sunday saw me parked on Ian’s front just after 7 o’clock. With no sign of him by half past I was about to phone his mobile when he emerged from the house like a rocket! “Not put the clock forward kid?” I said “Too right mate, our lass’s just give me a nudge!” came the reply. It’s my usual trick, so I know what it’s like! We still made the draw with plenty of time to spare though, and neither of us fancied the pegs. Ian was on peg 6, a bit too far down we thought, while I was almost opposite on peg 30, again a little way from where the main weights had been coming out.
A saving grace for me though was that I was on an end peg, meaning that I had plenty of water to go at, albeit not exactly full of fish going on recent results. But with there being a section every six pegs to fish for, I fancied being the end peg would be something of a leveller, so set about the task in the usual way. I’ve had a really good run of late by simply feeding green and black Swim-Stim groundbait through the feeder, and mixing GOT baits Atomic cloud into it in varying degrees, and simply fishing a dead red maggot or an expander pellet on the hook.
In the week I’d been experimenting with some micro feed pellets, adding gelatine to them in an attempt to make them hookable. The thinking behind it is the same principle as when you are fishing joker on the hook on canals, or even squatt, you will often pick up your better fish by using these tiny baits on the hook, whereas a bloodworm (or pinkie) sees you catch smaller samples. An hour into the match and my worst fears about the peg were coming to light, not a bite or even an indication, while the pegs to my left had all had one or two fish apiece, and the lad opposite on the other end peg had four.
In desperation I tried one of the micros on the hook, which by now had been swapped right down to a size 22 Tubertini 808 to 0.09 hooklength. It had barely been in for 30 seconds when a vicious pull round on the tip had me half expecting to wind in minus the hook, but fortunately the trusty Ultra II did its job, and a 14oz fish was played gingerly to the net. 20 minutes and three casts later saw a repeat, this time with a pound-plus fish being the culprit. A further ten minutes saw fish number three, quickly followed by a fourth and it was one a chuck for the next half an hour.
I got a bit greedy and decided to switch back up to my heavier gear and standard expander hookbait, but never had so much as a knock while doing so, meaning it would be a day on the ultra-light hooklength. As I said last week, Bank End is deep, and the fish only really start to have a go when you get them under the rod tip, so I had one or two hairy moments, especially as the stamp of fish I was catching was much bigger than the previous two matches my arse was like a chewed orange by the time I came off the bank!
Fortunately everything held, due in no small part to the action of the Ultra II’s I’m sure. If you happen across any of these rods for sale I’d strongly advise you to have a serious look at them, they do everything I ask of them and more.
Anyway, first to weight was Graham Webster on the opposite end peg. Graham is one of the lads to beat at Bank End, and his 16lb weight was above and beyond any that have come from the area recently. Ian was a couple of pegs further on, and another sterling performance saw him tip 13lb 7oz onto the scales. These were the top two on the opposite bank, but word was that the corner pegs on my bank had been getting among the fish. I walked up to meet the scales, as they were half way down our side. “Done it again haven’t you Wraggy?” asked David, the owner. “No way mate, what’s winning it?” I enquired. “Webbo’s top weight, and he says you’ve got more than him,” he said. I did think I had more fish than Graham, but then I was surprised to find he’d weighed 16lb, so I wasn’t sure.
A 14lb weight of silver fish had split Graham and Ian from the top end of my bank, and when I lifted my net out I knew it would be close, but it turned out I’d underestimated by quite a bit, as the scales settled on 21lb 2oz. Two wins in two weeks, at what is rapidly becoming my favourite venue, for obvious reasons! The end peg had been a bigger help than I’d first thought, but more to the point it now shows that the fish are spreading out a lot more, meaning a very fair venue for the weekly sell-out events.
I’ve got quite a few things on this week so it might be a case of jumping onto a midweeker at the last minute, or more probably a couple of practise sessions now that the clocks have gone on, but next weekend I’m off to Grange Farm Fisheries with the Frecheville AC boys on Saturday, then back to my ‘spiritual home’ of Bank End Sunday. The Frecheville lads are a great bunch, and all fish the opens on the local KJS fishery so they are no mugs, and a hard fought match is normally the result of a day out with them so I’m looking forward to it. I’ll let you know how I get on, tight lines for now.