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...