Friday, 26 August 2016

The brothers go fishing

If this fishing lark was supposed to give us a chance to chat and see more of each other then it may not have worked.  The subtitle of this blog refers to couple of blokes. All year it has been just me. Tim, the other bloke has not been fishing since November, last year. This has been mainly down to his new job. A more perfect job could never been invented for Tim. Do you remember a kids game called Operation? It involved removing organs from a cardboard figure printed on a flat surface, using a pair of tweezers. If you touched the sides a buzzer sounded. Tim would play with this blooming thing until the rest of us were climbing the walls in expectation of another buzz. Much the same as fishing next to someone with a bite alarm set at full volume. Tim's job involves the tracking and cleaning of medical instruments, all the sort of things you see laid out on the tray next to the operating tables on those medical dramas. He now has pictures of them on his phone with all the technical names so he can learn them, so he says. This is a bloke who's bedtime reading was Grey's Anatomy.

The upshot of all this is that the job is worked on shift as the facility is staffed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Until recently it did not work out that we could get to the bank at the same time. Now he has changed shifts all that has been made easier as he gets a few days off in a row and this week we managed to make a day at Beaver.

Even though Tim had been working until  10 o'clock the night before, he still managed to do the hour-plus drive and make it to Beaver before the gate opened at 07:00. I was impressed.

"TIM, smile" - "I am smiling" - "Oh sorry"... Click!
We paid our day ticket money for two rods each and after being told that our chosen spot was not going to be available as the lake needed topping up and guess where the pump was standing? Yep, right where we had planned to fish. Never mind there are plenty of other good spots. We decided to fish on the far side of Major's Lake, where I had fished before and had no luck. This time we had a more sedate plan, a plan that produced a drama of its own involving an 11lb+ carp, a bailiff and a boat. See HERE. After that early drama we knew there were fish about and our bait worked.

I cast the bait out, Tim fed the line and Andy landed the fish - joint effort?
Tim had decided he wanted to just sit there and catch silvers on the waggler and preceded to tackle up for the same. My carp rod was tackled the same as Tim's with a chod rig and Ringers Wafter on a boilie spike.  To be honest, this was more of a get together with a bit of fishing thrown in. I decided to have a go at fishing around the lilly pads in the margin with my 5m 'Hippo' (a cross between a short pole and a whip - See HERE). looking for silvers and perch.

It must have been like silver fish soup down there as every chuck was producing a bite almost instantly. After an hour or so I gave up trying to get past the small fish and decided to give it a rest in favour of the feeder rod. This produces a few bream but nothing exciting. Tim was happily catching silvers of all kinds just fishing maggot on the hook and feeding a few at a time over his float. The tactic seemed to work and he was as happy as Larry - whoever Larry was.

As we (Well, Tim) were doing more talking than fishing it was time to give in and get the float rod out. I had tackled up my very nice old float rod that my mate Dave 'The Fish' had kindly given me. It was his dad's rod and he thought I would make good use of it, as he had plenty of rods of his own. I love it. Last time I had this rod out for the day I caught a lot of fish including a very nice 6lb+ ghost carp from Maze lake. It's striking colour scheme and its forgiving action is like nothing else I own. It may not be state of the art but it catches fish.

My very nice 'vintage' float rod

The peg we have settled on is another one that has a tree problem, or rather I have a problem with the trees. First cast and my tackle is talking to the acorns - or what will be acorns very soon. A long landing net pole is useful here. Next time I will be tempted to pack the long arm loppers and a three-leg orchard ladder  - The chain saw may be a step too far!

Time to practise my underarm/flick technique. I threw a handful of maggots out, lobed the float into the swim and caught a little roach instantly. I re-baited the hook and caught another, and another and... Well, this was getting silly. I changed the shotting pattern to a lower bulk of shot much closer to the hook and added a shot on the hooklength in an attempt to get the hook bait past the small fish as quickly as possible. This worked, to a point, as I didn't catch any little fish. In fact I did not catch any fish at all. I think the shot by the hook was sinking the hook and the bait in the silt.

I removed the shot on the hooklength. Inspecting the line it seemed to be fine so I did not replace the hook length. The next cast produced a small perch. Progress, I was not catching the small roach/rudd. A couple of casts and it was perch all the way. no big ones but changing the tactic had made a difference. I continued in this vain for a while but the stamp of fish remained the same. I was just about to think about changing hook bait and feed when the float took a spirited dive and I automatically struck (I am getting the idea of this nowadays). The rod tip bent over and I was onto a 'real' fish. I played the fish for about a minute or so. I was getting quiet excited, this fish was obviously a monster, as all the ones that get away are by defult. Just as I was starting to think I had at last caught something worth photographing the line went slack and the rod straightened. The fish had gone.

I reeled in expecting to find my bare hook dangling from the end of the line. Instead I was greeted with most of a hook length and a very neat, clean cut line. There were no curly bits, as the line formes when it has reached its breaking point. I am fairly sure it broke where the shot had been earlier. There is a lesson to be learned here and I learnt it the hard way. Even though the line felt as if it was not damaged, after removing the shot, it obviously was and became the weakest point by a county-mile. Bye bye fish.

Fed up with messing about with the float rod I set about showing Tim how to fish with my 'Hippo' He is not comfortable without a reel. There he was, bemoaning the attributes of pole fishing, when all of a sudden the elastic berried itself in the lake and the tip swung around as if to follow it. "My!" Tim said and promptly passed me the Hippo. Thanks! There was or had  been a fairly big fish on the hook that had taken it straight into the lilly pads. Try as I might, Hippo bent almost double that fish was not coming out. The rig became stationary and by now I was starting to realise that all I was holding was a lot of vegetation. I let it go slack and reapplied the pressure only to end up in exactly the same place. Time to pull for a break. The light rig parted at the loop and was lost. The elastic returned to the Hippo in one lighting fast flash. I am fairly sure the fish had long gone leaving the rig tied up in the lilly pads. Even if the fish had taken the rig with it, it was only light tackle and it would easily self destruct.

Here fishy, fishy...
Tim went back to the float fishing and his silvers and I persevered with the Hippo but nothing was pulling the elastic. Tim had to leave a couple of hours early as he had to get back for a family bash. When he had gone, I recast the two carp rods on fresh bait and while I waited I started packing up all the gear, by the time it was all away I had not another sniff of a fish and packed them away too.

All in all it was an eventful day that produced more natter than fish, but we had a good day and the fish will still be there next time.


First double is a joint effort

Andy and Tim with the 11lb 2oz common carp
For the first time since November, Tim managed to find time to come fishing due to a new shift pattern. We arranged to meet at Beaver as he wanted to have a dabble in Major's Lake and I was happy to go along.  There are a lot of bigger fish in the lake so we took carp rods to set as sleepers and the idea was to sit float fishing and chatting; that is how all this fishing lark came about. See HERE.

My mate Duncan had showed me, and kindly given me, a carp 'chod' rig that I had used successfully when we spent a day on Major's a few months ago. This week I have got around to making some of my own so we put out a couple of rods baited up using my newly made rigs and Ringer's Wafters.

Andy searches for the rod
Tim had never used a carp rod before so I showed him how to progressively get closer to the target area by casting clipped up and then letting out a few feet of line until the range was spot on. I then added the hook bait and cast it out to where we had intended to fish. Great. We then set about sorting out Tims float rod. I turned my back to get on with sorting my own gear only to hear Tim shout out to draw my attention to the rod being dragged into the lake. Oh dear, that is inconvenient (cleaned up version) I said. We saw the tip of the rod appear in front of the lilly pads and then it slid back into the lake like the bow of a sinking ship.

A call to the bailiff, Andy, resulted in his appearance along with the fishery's camouflaged  Kubota pick-up truck complete with boat and paddle. After a bit of the usual banter the boat was launched. Andy made his way to where we had last seen the rod and managed to find it. Brilliant! But that was not the end of the story. now it was time to find the other end of the rig. At first we thought it was just caught up in the vegetation and Andy started to feel his way down the line. It was at this point that we discovered why the rod had been pulled in. I was concentrating on showing Tim how the bait-runner style system works and had forgotten to release the clipped up line. Tim was now relieved and exonerated from blame.

"The fish is still on lads!"
It was then realised, as the boat was being pulled into the pads, there must still be a fish on the hook. Andy battled his way through several patches of lilly pads before eventually getting the landing net under the fish. It was a nice sized common.

Andy nets the fish
As to who claims the catch, I think it was a joint effort. I cast the bait out, Tim had been feeding it and Andy Landed it. Whatever way it happened it was our first double figure carp and it made our day. Thanks Andy!


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Pass the chocolates...

Mmmm, Chocolate boilies...
A little while ago I was given an open packet of chocolate ginger biscuits by my mum. She had bought them by mistake thinking they were milk chocolate when they were in fact plain. After her and her friend had eaten several of them they decided that they did not like them. Being from am age where food was precious and rationing was part of daily life, the had to find someone to eat them, so on our next visit we were presented with said biscuits. I tried one; they are disgusting.

As I hate wasting anything they were instantly designated as 'fish food'. I though I might use them in a groundbait mix but then it occurred to me that they would make a good basis for a boilie mixture. I have not made any boilies for a while so it was out with the big saucepan and get the water boiling while we got to the ingredients together.

The recipe:
  • 100g Dry Breadcrumb
  • 150g Ground Plain Chocolate ginger biscuits 
  • 1½ tbs Drinking Chocolate Powder
  • 150g Semolina
  • 75g Rice Flour
  • 75g Dried Skimmed Milk
  • 5  Medium Eggs

All the dry ingredients were mixed together. The eggs were whisked in a separate bowl and then progressively added to the dry ingredients while mixing with a fork. Once the mixture became too stiff, the fork was put to one side and it was in with the hands to continue mixing until a firm doughy consistency, that did not stick to the hands, was achieved.

This was loaded into a boilie-gun and squeezed out to make sausages that were rolled on a rolling table to make the boilies. These were left for a few minutes to air dry before being plunged into hot water for about forty-five seconds. The cooked boilies were allowed to stand on an old towel for about five minutes to cool and dry off before being placed in an onion bag to be hung up and dried for at least twenty-four hours.

Hot chocolate?
We had all sorts of trouble getting a consistent size. some were misshaped and others were all different sizes. It was not until we were cleaning up that I realised we were using a 14mm nozzle in the gun and a 12mm rolling table. Although this was a silly error the resultant boilies do make an interesting selection of shapes and sizes and look a little less unnatural. That said, I can't think of anything more unnatural than fish eating chocolate biscuits!

Ready to hang up for drying - onion bags are great for this
We also rolled some small 10mm boilies, using a small Gardner rolling table, for use as fill in PVA mesh/bags.

Small 10mm boilies will be used as PVA bag-fill
I will be using them later in the week when I am going fishing with my brother, for the first time since last November, so there is no need to worry about freezing them. Once dry they will sit in a bait box in the bottom of the fridge to keep dry and cool. I will let you know what the fish think of them...

...That is if I can stop Tim eating them first.


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Monk Lakes - Different...

How to get a bit more shipping space!
Monk Lakes is a large commercial fishery in mid-Kent. For the past couple of years (nearly!) I have been fishing the same venue most of the time. I have been to other commercial fisheries, but they have all been smaller than my favoured 'old-slippers' venue, Beaver Fishery. Although Beaver covers a fairly large area, none of the waters there are huge with Major's Lake being the largest at three and a half acres.
Bridges Lake at Monk Lakes is 16 acres on its own. For me this was a real eye opener. The lake has a good stock of fish but it is really a place to target some of the larger specimen fish. Although the fish in this lake are not record breakers, they are still big to me.

I had no idea what to expect as I had not fished there before. I filled the van with tackle and made the decision choose exactly what I would do once I arrived at the peg. The first thing I realised was that this lake is not geared up for using a pole, except in one or two places. There is a gravel road that runs around the whole lake making access as good as it gets, but the trade off is there are few pegs with any room behind them. I had looked at the lake, using Goggle Maps, and picked a peg at the far end that looked like a good place to start.

The journey from here, in South East London, is an easy one and takes about the same time as travelling to Beaver. My concern about having to navigate Maidstone town centre was unfounded, hardly having to stop at all on the way there. However, Maidstone at seven o'clock in the evening is a complete nightmare. It was bumper to bumper and took me forty minutes to cover what had taken me four minutes in the morning, coming the other way. Next time I will take an alternative route home.

As the sun starts to burn off the mist, we await the grand opening of the gate
On arrival I was about fifteen minutes early and third in the queue, on a par with a visit to Beaver. What I did not expect was the rapidly growing queue of cars and vans behind me. By the time the gate opened the queue was stretching down the drive as far as I could see. Blimey! I knew this place was popular at the weekend but this was Wednesday. Now I am wondering if this was such a good idea.

The gate opened just after 07:00 and the convoy of miscellaneous tackle haulers made its way to the office like carp cruising the margins. It was at this point that the reason for the traffic queue revealed itself; there were two mid-week matches taking place on a couple of the four match lakes.

The road runs all the way around Bridges Lake
Just a small part of the acres of water in front of me
I paid my £10 day ticket and set off around Bridges Lake to the far end and my chosen peg. It is possible to park directly behind the peg. For me, especially on this first fact-finding visit, this made life so much easier. Following my new policy of keeping it simple was proving difficult as I had no idea of what to expect until I got there. My seat-box was fully stocked and I was not sure if I was going to use it. I usually take my accessory chair if I am on a pleasure trip, unless I intend to be pole fishing. In the end I filled the van with all sorts. I packed the box and the seat (never done that before!) as well as a huge selection of rods and a couple of poles. Yes, I know, way over the top but I just could not decide how to attack this new water. The only tackle I left behind was the carp gear.

I had no intention of using anywhere near all the tackle in the van but it gave me the opportunity to choose. The road behind the peg meant there was not enough room to ship back a long pole and I did not fancy moving pegs so I made the decision to stay in my comfort zone and try my luck at feeder fishing. I had picked a peg with no overhanging branches to give me a chance of getting a nice long cast. I have not been able to let rip with my 11ft feeder rod before so it was time to have a go. There was no way I was going to land on the opposite bank, so I first cast out to where I had left the line clipped up, last time out, and released the line. I retrieved the empty feeder and cast it as far as I could. Don't ask me how far that was, but it was a long way, at least for me. I was certainly far enough to cast to the island I was looking at to the left of my peg. After casting as close as I dare to the island, progressively cast clipping up and letting out a few feet of line each cast. I was checking the travel by holding the rod at 90º to my body as the line reached the clip, a style I find comfortable and I can 'lock' into the same position every time with ease. I am getting better at this, by no means perfect, but a vast improvement on a few months ago. Once I was confident about the distance I filled the feeder and recast, without a hook length, to check that the allowance I had made for the extra weight of the loaded feeder was correct and I was not going to land in the trees. Success.

The target area for my initial cast
Now for my first cast into this new-to-me water with a baited hook. A nice chunky lump of punched bacon grill and a small 30g feeder full of my Two Dog groundbait. Plop! Bang on target. I wish I had videoed that - It was the best cast I have ever made - I even amazed myself! After sinking the line I set the rod down on the rest at about 30º to the target area, with a bend in the tip, and started counting the seconds. I will usually wait forty seconds and cast again, especially on the first few casts to build a bed of groundbait over which to fish. I didn't get that far. First, a slight flicker and then the tip whipped around and I had a fish on. If this was a sign of how it was going to be, I was in for a great day. It turned out to be a reasonable sized tench.

First cast produced a nice tench
Over the next couple of hours I landed a couple more tench of similar size, including one male, and a couple of bream. It was not the catch rate that I was expecting after the first cast, but in some respects I prefer it that way. It then went dead; if it is too easy it can become very boring, very quickly. I am now thinking I should have packed the carp gear. Other anglers were fishing with carp set ups looking for the bigger fish. My feeder set up is geared for dragging F1s out of a match lake, this is more sedate fishing more on a par with specimen hunting. There are some fairly big fish in this lake. the guy on the adjacent bank caught a couple of big common carp in the high doubles.

I changed tactics and rods to fish closer in the open water in front of me and see what I could fine there. I wanted to try out my new-found knowledge and try fishing a light (15g) feeder using a light quiver tip. I had been trying to get a bend in a 1½oz quiver tip. Last week I experienced one of those moments of realisation, understandings one of those facts that everybody fishing already knows, and omits to tell you (me!). When using a light feeder, I could not get a bend in the tip of my rod using a 1½oz quiver tip because the tip was too strong and moving the feeder without bending. Or at least bending and recovering its straight stance. The lighter (¾oz) quiver tip bends before there is enough force to move the feeder enabling me to maintain a bend in the tip. Simple really, just taken me a year or so to work that out.

I made a few casts and did not even get a single line bite, let alone a take. Time for a rethink. There was not enough room on this peg to use a long pole, but a top-kit plus two (or three) might work. I had no intention of getting the box out so I just put a couple of small rollers behind me, a 'tulip' and rod rest on banksticks in front of me and I was ready to go. I got out my cheap 9.5m Maver pole. and used the top couple of sections. Nice and short and no problem shipping it back.

My part of the lake must have been small silver soup - I must have caught a hundred of them!
I added a rig, plumbed it up and started fishing. Single maggot on the size 18 hook and feeding maggots over the top. In no time I was catching silvers one after the other. In fact I was catching them before I had finished shipping the very short pole out. I tried feeding heavier and adding multiple maggots to the hook hoping to attract larger fish. I have been told that the small fish feeding attract larger fish, so I just kept going, fish after fish, I must have caught a hundred of them over the next couple of hours but none of them would have made the scales tip at a couple of ounces.    

Now I am bored again. By this time I had realised that I could ship the whole of my 9.5m pole back if I guided it under the van (see header picture), This meant I could ship back over the part of the road the van was protecting. Come on, admit it, the man's a genius!

9.5m of pole and not even a bite - I got this bit wrong
With this extra reach I thought I could target some larger fish, so I changed the hooklength to a hair rigged size 12 hook fitted with a meat stop. This way I could fish using bigger bait, such as meat and corn, hoping to entice some bigger fish. I fished this over several lines and blanked on all of them. By now time was moving on and I did not know what the leaving protocol was. The gate closes at seven o'clock but there is also a barrier to negotiate outside the office. Just as I was wondering about this, one of the bailiffs arrived in his incredibly tatty, red 4x4 pick-up truck, that has an irritating suspension squeak that would have driven me nuts. With a huge smile he passed the time of day and reassured me that someone would be at the barrier to raise it, and let me out, until the main gate was due to close.

My day at Monk Lakes was a different experience. The place has a far more 'commercial' venue than say Beaver, which feels far more relaxed. I think that is because Beaver is nowhere near as big but is set in a natural woodland setting. Having said that, It is not a bad thing, just different. I fished this lake, at least this peg, completely incorrectly. My tactics would probably have been more at home on one of the match lakes. Next time I fish this lake, I will be fishing using the kit I did not have with me on this visit; a couple of carp rods.

Although this place is more like an undulating field with a selection of holes dug in it, it is well kept and the people who run it seem to be friendly and helpful. Once at the peg I chose, the place feels far more intimate than I have made it sound. Bridges lake has a fair bit of cover and a lot of willow trees giving it a natural look, at least from the peg. The access to the pegs could not be better. I will be back and if I fish this lake again, which I probably will, I will know what to expect.


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Something different

Fishing the one venue has its advantages, but it is about time I spread my wings further and take a look at a few new-to-me venues in Kent. The first of these is going to be Monk Lakes.

Part of the Monk lakes complex showing The two large lakes (Image ©2016 Google)
For the past year or so I have been fishing predominately at one fishery, Beaver Farm Fishery. It is very easy to put on those 'old slippers' and get into a rut. I am not turning my back on Beaver, as there is plenty of water there that has not had the experience of me fishing it yet...

Next week I am heading for the Monk Lakes complex in Marden, Kent. Just a few miles south of Maidstone on the A229, It is just under an hour away from me and the drive seems fairly painless, as long as Maidstone is not too busy at 06:30, the time I should be passing through.

I did make a quick visit to the venue this week, as I was in the area, and it does look enticing.There are several lakes, including four match lakes, a specimen lake and a couple of big pleasure lakes. It is one of the latter that I think I will have a go at first. It appears that it is possible to park close to the pegs which is something I like to do, and one of the attractions of Beaver.

Most people I have mentioned the place to, and have been there, have nothing but good things to say about the place. It seems the only thing that can be said against it is that it is very busy on Fridays and at the weekends. This is no problem to me as I usually fish during the week. Next week is no exception as I plan to visit Monk Lakes on Wednesday. I have not decided how I am going to fish it yet but I think I will go with rod, line and comfy chair for my first visit, following my keeping it simple approach that I am trying to follow. I can always make it more complicated on future visits!


Thursday, 4 August 2016

Ever had the feeling...

...that it is not going to be your day?

Peg No.1 - Talk about tight!
I try and be methodical about getting my gear ready for any fishing trip. I think my problem at the moment is I am a little disorganised. We are in the process of packing up house after 37 years ready for an impending move and making a 'permanent' home for the fishing gear is not practical at the moment. Instead I have been able to use the utility room (now officially  re-designated "The Fishing Room") to store a lot of the stock of bait-making ingredients and all the rig-making gear. The rest is stood around in odd corners and behind doors. This accommodation is transient and as such certain items have no real home.

The relevance of the above will become clear. I also like to keep all my gear clean. I do not regard the evidence of the last trip as a badge of honour. My 'regular' rods get stripped and cleaned, reels are brushed off and washed if necessary before being made ready and stored in their rod-ready bag. Other rods and reels are dismantled and put away. No problem so far. All the gear was collected together and assembled in the hall ready for loading in the morning. I have never had any gear stolen from a vehicle overnight because it never gets left in there unattended. It only takes about fifteen minutes to load in the morning and that short amount of time spent in the morning means the rest of the night I can sleep easy.

As I started to load the van I realised I had no landing net heads. These are always dried and washed and dried again before being stored in a nice clean stink bag - No smell! They should be fairly obvious, but do you think I could see them. I checked the keep net stink bag to see if that had been put in there, but no. I finished loading the van and still the nets were still missing. Where on earth can two 20 inch spoon nets in a small keep net stink bag go? I looked high and low. By now the blood pressure was rising and if we had a cat he would have been in danger of being kicked. Well, not really, but you get the idea. At this point I am getting concerned about the time so I collect a couple of other nets that 'will do' and pack those. One last look around and the nets are still missing. This is the sort of thing that has the potential of ruining my day as I would have been thinking about their whereabouts all day, concocting theories from 'the missus throw them out to 'maybe they were stolen by aliens'. I went to check the living room and there was the bag leaning against the side of the sofa. I must have had it in my hand when I went in there to watch something on the television and put it down... At least it proves it doesn't stink!

Now, with the weight of the world taken from my shoulders I can get on the road. Even after the great stink bag incident, I was still on the road in plenty of time at get to the venue in time for the August match at Beaver Fishery. I had missed last months match due to other commitments - work. Everything was going well until I got to within a couple of miles of the venue and it started to rain. WHAT!!!

I hate setting up in the rain...
That was not on the forecast. I am not that bothered by a spot of rain these days (now I am a hardened fisherman) but I hate setting up in the wet. I arrived about fifteen minutes early to be the first one at the gate. By the time the gate opened there was a respectable queue, and it looked as if I would not be fishing alone. Parking the van just behind the match control office (aka Jeff's lake chalet), I jumped out of the van to get a look at the draw. After letting out a string of words even I had not heard before, the reality of what I was looking at sunk in - peg No.1 AGAIN! It started to rain again. Only lightly, but enough to make everything damp. I don't often get a 'time to go home moment' but this was one of them. I resisted the temptation and soldiered on.

When the whistle went for the all-in, I was actually ready. I sent out an unloaded method feeder baited with a lump of Bacon Grill, just to have something fishing while I baited up a second rod, ready to use. Not expecting anything to happen, I was shocked to find myself playing a fish. The other rod was hastily returned to the roost and I battled the fish I had on, first cast. I managed to land the fish and was unhooking it in the landing net, when, with one almighty flip it launched itself straight back into the lake in the gap between my keep nets. Reflecting on what had just happened with total disbelief, I took a deep breath, rebated the feeder and cast again. Whoopee! another fish on straight away. Straight into the reeds, nothing I could do, as it snapped me off. Again I rebated, this time after fitting a new hook length, and cast. Again, I had a fish on almost immediately. This one gave fight and slipped the hook at the net.

Okay, we are only fifteen minutes in, the fish are biting like mad, all I have to do is get them in. At this point I am not overly concerned. Then it went dead. No fish showing anywhere, no bubbles no disturbance, nothing. After what seemed like an age, I gave up on the feeder and switched to the pellet waggler. I threw a few pellets in and watched them sink, I threw a few more and still no action. I cast over the pellets, zilch, nada, nothing.  I tried the pole at various lengths and the only bite I had decided it did not want to play any more. Just as I was getting it ready to net, it slipped the hook. 

The only technique that was catching me fish was the method feeder filled with good old Two Dog groundbait feeder mix and punched Bacon Grill on the hook. Although I was catching the fish in small runs of two or three at a time, between periods of nothing, landing them was becoming a problem. In this corner of the lake there is no room to allow the fish to run without connecting with reeds or other vegetation. Trying to prevent them doing this was proving difficult. A large part of this is down to my lack of experience and bad technique. I did modify my tactics to try and be a little less aggressive but this would result in the fish getting to the reeds. If I put enough pressure on to stop the fish I was in danger of having the hook length break or the hook pulling out.

I realised for, the first time, some of the limitations of cheaper gear. My reels just do not have the finesse of adjustment required of the drag control. The drag can be locked up solid and within less than a quarter turn, it is free. My rod does not have the smooth action required. In more open water I would be able to let the fish run for a much greater distance and not having to be so aggressive.

After a while I managed to find a spot where I could hook the fish, closer to the reeds, and by applying pressure towards open water I had more of a chance of getting the fish to the net. That is if it did not shake itself loose. I am sure I lost more fish than I landed. Although I do loose the odd fish throughout a match, I have not experienced this level of escapees before.

Fuzzy me with my fish
While that was all going on. I did catch a few nicer fish. In one case, I put the fish in the net, picked up my rod and wound in the empty feeder that I had tossed back into the lake while dealing with the fish. As I did so the reel stiffened to a simultaneous crackling sound and the sight of the rod tip sliding down the line. Great! I had broken yet another quiver top. because the line had blown over the tip and compressed the tip beyond its braking point - again. I put it to one side and fished with an identical (or so I thought) rod I had set up for this sort of reason. It turned out to have a different weight feeder on it and I had miscalculated the the distance I had clipped it up so that was doing me no favours. I went back to the other rod, removed the quick-change bead and feeder so I could recover the tip ring. I cut down the tip to the second ring and re-rigged it. It worked all right but my catch rate was not getting any better.

I had several attempts at fishing higher up in the water with  no success at all. The fish were just not there. I tried lengthening and shortening the rig, but nothing was even offering a twitch. Once the ripples from the pellets had subsided, the float stood there motionless like a becalmed yacht. I gave up. Last week on the other side of the lake I was catching them both on the pellet waggler and the dibber on the pole. I gave up with the shallow fishing and went back to the feeder. After resting it for half an hour or so, this produced three or four catches one after the other which I landed all but one, until the bites died again and it all went quiet.

With about half an hour to go I decided to fish for silvers close in using just the top kit. Using totally the wrong set up, I snipped the pellet band off the rig and using the size 16 hook on 10-12 elastic went silver fishing for what ever I could find. A single maggot on the hook and a sprinkling of free offering enabled me to catch a good few small roach which probably added a pound to my total bag.

The results list
That was it, six hours of frustrating fishing. I came in 9th in the end but there was not much between me and the 8th and 7th placed anglers. I missed my total of last year by 8 ounces, but I did have a much better peg last year. I am sure I would have landed a few more in open water. I now know why most of the other guys dislike this peg.

If I get this peg next time I will be fishing Maze Lake instead!

Although it may seem as if the day was a disaster, it was not. I learnt an awful lot from the experience that I will work on over my next few visits. If it all went perfectly to plan and I had a bag full of fish, I may have won a prize but I would not have learnt anything, so I was happy.

Having said that, I would have been even happier if I had won a prize!

Next time...