Sunday, 12 January 2014

12 January 2014, Busbridge (Godalming AS)

Like a great deal of the country the south east of England has been subjected to non-stop heavy rains and strong winds since my last match – this bad weather causing a lot of flooding along my local river Wey (though the only inconvenience I personally suffered was an 18 hour power cut on Christmas Eve when falling trees downed all of the power lines into Haslemere). However over the last few days the weather seems to have changed dramatically with mild, wet conditions replaced with a drop in temperatures and sharp frosts – ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ from a fishing perspective!!!

The usual pre-draw anticipation!!!

Today’s match was a Godalming AS club competition at Busbridge. I’ve written about this venue in previous blogs, but for the benefit of any newcomers to All the Gear, No Idea this venue is typical of a lake formed by building a dam and flooding a valley – it is quite long and thin (about 75 yards from bank to bank at its widest) and gets shallower as you move from the deep end near the dam wall (probably 12-15 feet) to the far end (which is only a couple of feet deep). The target species are bream/skimmers (if they feed) and dumpy roach (more reliable), though the venue does also contain a very limited number of specimen (25lb plus) carp. (Big pike are also present and especially active in the winter – though of course they don’t count in coarse fishing competitions.)

Looking right from peg 7 towards the dam wall

The last few matches I’ve fished at Busbridge have all been won from the shallower end of the lake, so like the rest of the 21 strong field I was looking for such a draw – so as you can imagine I wasn’t best pleased when peg 7 (one away from the end peg nearest the dam wall) appeared from the bag of dreams!!! This meant I’d be next to local legend Ian Covey (though I couldn’t actually see him due to the dense foliage between us) and something got me thinking about those anglers often referred to as ‘drawbags’ – all I can say is that if you get to your peg and you have Guildford AC stalwart Giovanni Barbato or anyone from Daiwa Dorking (especially Tommy Hiller or Pemb Wrighting) for a neighbour then you are either on a flier or at worse next door to one!!!

Like many swims on this venue, peg 7 is something of a bird cage with trees overhead and a very narrow, steep bank behind that makes fishing the pole impossible (unless you are willing to break-down section-by-section). As noted above it is also one of the deeper pegs on the venue and hasn’t won a match in the post-war era (this last point is unverified, but I wouldn’t be surprised).

New silver fish feeder hooklengths

As the pole was ruled-out for logistical reasons my pre-match plan was based around chucking a small feeder towards the middle of the lake with a waggler set-up for fishing as far as I could loose-feed maggots via a catapult with a reasonable level of accuracy. Unlike my previous match at Busbridge (where I went ‘all or nothing’ for proper bream) I also decided to adopt a ‘catch anything that swims’ mindset and to try and build a decent weight bit by bit – especially prudent as I’d blanked in my last match and not actually caught anything since early November!!!

Baitwise I had some Sonubaits F1 Dark groundbait (that had been in the freezer since the Christmas match and included some bonus dead pinkies), maggots (both dead and wriggling), (live) fluro pinkies and worms. (I also had my usual supply of pellets, boilies and Goo with me but they didn’t come into play on the day.)

Gear for the feeder

On the whistle I cast my feeder short of the imaginary dividing line between myself and the anglers pegged on the opposite bank and was pleasantly surprise to see the tip rattle immediately – a small roach was soon winging its way into my keepnet and although it probably only weighed an ounce I was relieved to avoid the dreaded blank!!! (Following a lost fish in my last match (from my only bite of the day) I’d invested in some Guru LWG eyed hooks and tied-up some 16s, 18s and 20s on 45cm of 0.13 N-Gauge – I started on an 18 today and coupled it with a 15g Drennan cage feeder and 4lb Daiwa Sensor main line. Hookbaits were typically live or dead red maggots.)

This pattern continued for about 20 minutes when I decided that if I was going to build a weight of small roach then I’d be better off catching them closer in on the waggler as opposed to at range on the feeder – unfortunately for me (but very much to the amusement of Lee Simmons and Paul Etherington who were pegged opposite) my fish cast on the float saw me hooked-up in the overhanging tree above, so I was soon back on the tip and saw out the first hour with about 15 small roach for roughly a pound.

I should also mention that after about 45 minutes the tip pulled ‘round to the butt and for about 3 minutes I was convinced the bream had moved in and I was attached to a five pound specimen – that is until a 5lb bream turned into a 10lb pike with a one ounce roach in its mouth!!!

Waggler gear

At the start of the second hour I decided to give my (re-rigged) waggler another go and by casting over my right (as opposed to the usual left) shoulder I was able to avoid the troublesome tree and actually get my rig into the water! This improved both my catch rate and the stamp of fish I was catching – by varying the amount of maggots I was loose feeding and the depth I was fishing at I was able to maintain a regular stream of dumpy roach and rudd.

Interestingly I never plumbed the waggler line – instead I started at about 4 feet deep and simply kept adding a further 6 inches until I got a bite. Even though the peg must’ve been 12 feet deep the most productive zone seemed to be between 6 and 8 feet. (My waggler of choice was a loaded 3g Drennan crystal insert jobbie on 3.2lb Drennan Floatfish main line to a pre-tied hook-to-nylon consisting of a size 20 Silverfish Maggot hook and 25cm of 2lb line. This hooklength was attached via a tiny swivel tied into a figure of eight loop – the only other weights down the line were two number 9 stotz spaced at 30cm intervals from the swivel.)

The view to the left

The small fish kept on coming and combined with a couple of bonus 8 ounce skimmers I entered the final 90 minutes with an estimated 6 or 7 pounds in the net – word on the bank was that no proper bream had been caught, and whilst I knew I was behind Paul Etherington (who’d been catching small fish at an alarming rate in the waggler and short pole all day) I thought I was probably up there for second place with Wayne Hughes who had managed an unseasonal 6lb tench on the feeder!!!

As a result I continued on the waggler for small fish – though I very nearly swapped back to leger tactics when Lee Simmons opposite latched into a proper bream on the tip. Fortunately just as I was pondering a switch I managed a decent (one pound) skimmer on the waggler – this was to happen a further four times before the end (though I did loose one to another big pike that came out of the blue 10 feet from my extended landing net).

The all important results

Following the final whistle substitute match organiser Dave Woolgar was soon ‘round with the scales and I was pleasantly surprised when my catch pulled the dial down to 10-12-0 and was even more surprised to learn that I was top of the leader board so far. As expected I was soon relegated to second place when Paul Etherington’s excellent 16lb won the match, but I was more than happy to start 2014 with a frame placing given I thought I’d drawn a duff peg at the start.

Overall top 4:
  1. Paul Etherington, 16-1-0
  2. Phil Morris, 10-12-0
  3. Frank Bevan, 7-12-0
  4. Wayne Hughes, 7-6-0

Section winners:
  • Lee Simmons, 5-7-0
  • Dave Lake, 6-0-0

(In the end the pegs at the top end of the lake failed to produce and generally the bream/bigger skimmers didn’t feed in significant numbers.)

Vital winter gear!!! #flaskman

Conclusions: I think the most pleasing thing about today’s match was that I learned my lesson from my previous outing to Busbridge (where I’d blown-out as a result of focussing on big fish only) and was able to build a weight of small fish by plugging away and building a weight from numbers of small fish with the odd bonus mixed in. It was also interesting catching skimmers a long way off the bottom – like many people I normally either fish hard on the bottom or shallow (no deeper than two feet below the surface) but I’m now wondering if I’m missing out on a lot of fish that are swimming about in mid-water …

Until next time …

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