April arrives and the start of the North Wessex Summer League looms. This year, with Dazza taking a sabbatical, it has lost it’s identity a bit with five matches being scheduled and it looking more akin to the Winter League in terms of venues with one noticeable exception- the first match at Patneys Woodside Lake. With this in mind I headed out midweek to have a practice at Patneys as I had heard it had been hard. I decided to fish to the left as you entered and went down to the last peg before the point. The water was a lot clearer than I had previously seen and the rumours of a large number of fish being lost to cormorants over the winter prompted me to settle on two lines. The first at 2 + 3 distance, the second at 13m. A small ball of hard groundbait went in on the short line along with 20 cubes of 4mm meat, a small handful of micros and half a dozen pieces of corn. Three balls plus the same loose offerings went in at 13m and was left for an hour while I started on the closer line. Both lines were loose fed with a few micros and 4-5 cubes of meat every couple of minutes.
Rigs were fairly straight forward, the long rig in 6-7ft of water was 0.16mm Shogun to a 0.14mm Shogun hook length to a 16 911x, this was matched to a 0.5g homemade float similar to a Chianti but with a hollow tip. The close in rig in 3-4ft was again homemade of a similar style taking 0.3g but on 0.14mm to 0.12mm Shogun and an 18 911.
After 5 minute the first fish came to the net- a stockie that had grown to about 12oz taking a piece of 6mm punched meat. This continued for the next hour with regular bites but nothing as like as manic as previous visits. Going out on the long line produced a smaller stamp of fish, so I stuck to the shorter line and after 3 hours having tried various other baits had amassed 30+ small carp to 2lb for about 25lb, no bigger carp showed at all. With that I decided to call it a day and leave before the rain in the distance arrived!
Sunday saw me at Boddington Reservoir for an MFS silvers match.The draw put me on peg 49 and the water level meant I was sitting on the second platform down. I decided to leave the pole in the holdall and set up two 5m whips and a waggler. The first whip was a 5m Chinese variety that was teamed with a Chinese float set with a bulk three feet away from the hook and three no 10 stotz droppers below. The second was a more traditional 5m whip but set up with the same rig. Both rigs were on 0.12mm Shogun and 0.08mm hook length to an 18 911. The waggler was set for 13-20m where it was fairly consistent depth with a similar hook and hook length but with 4 no 8 shot as droppers.
The whistle went and I threw in three hard balls of groundbait and followed that with a pinch of maggot every two minutes. A pouch of casters was dispatched every 5 minutes onto the waggler line. The weather was unusually kind and with the sun beating down it was a match that was soon over with 94 roach for 18-15, all but two taken the the whips. Starting on the Chinese whip I had about 40 fish before swapping to the traditional one as the fish were easier to swing to hand. I found that I needed to add a ball of groundbait whenever the bites slowed. I had an enjoyable day but came nowhere in the match (5th in section of 7 and 10th overall in match), the match was won with a superb 41-08 by Steve May (Andy May’s dad) with a couple of roach around the 2lb mark.
Tuesday saw me off to Isis No 1 pit with the intention of doing something different – trying for a carp and fishing for tench on this notoriously difficult water at this time of year. Carp rod with a hair-rigged boilie was put close in next to an overhanging tree, while a 12ft Avon rod was set up with a waggler to fish a couple of rod lengths out in the crystal clear water. – I blanked! One day I will learn that the water needs to be a lot warmer before they move in close!
Sunday arrived and the start of my Summer League campaign. I somehow had been made captain of the Pewsey 1 team with Brian (The Pewsey Trawler) Shutler, Simon Burden and Alan Gibbs my team members. The draw saw us get the end peg 7, not that gave us an advantage as the sections followed on from each other! I was on A7, in a small bay with B1, Neil Pelgim, Pewsey 2, being at right angles to me in the bay. I decided not to put up a feeder as Neil would be casting where I would be and Peter Gilbert on the point on the opposite side of the lake ultimately cast there also!
I set up the same as my previous visit but decided to feed negatively as the weather had gone cold again and the wind was very cold and strong blowing left to right. On the whistle I potted a dozen pieces of 4mm meat, 4 pieces of corn and 10 4mm pellets on the 13m line along with one small ball of F1 method match and did the same at 6m (2 +3). With 4mm meat on the hook I spent 30minutes biteless on the short line. I know that the venue gets affected by having numbers on it so decided to forget the short line and concentrate on the 13m line. I began toss potting in 4 cubes of meat, 2 pieces of corn and a few 4mm pellets with 4mm meat on the hook.After an hour the float dipped and a small pasty of 3oz was in the net- at least I was not blanking, but by this time, Paul Rice on peg A6 had about 3 carp of around 2lb on the feeder. Another half hour went by and the float buried and I finally hooked a better fish, playing it carefully on my soft set 10 hollow, the hook inexplicably pulled close in, a mirror of 2-3lb. Cursing I went out again and another half hour saw exactly the same happen, this time a common of 2-3lb. That was it on the meat, I could get no other bites, a change to 4mm expander saw a bite an hour later, the strike resulted in the elastic been stretched by a much larger fish than the ones previously lost. Heart in my mouth I managed to slowly get back to the top two and play it on the puller kit with a huge sigh of relief I put the net under a ghostie of about 7lb. Feeling much better I went back out and was struggling to hold the pole steady with the wind increasing in velocity. Elsewhere it looked as everyone was struggling, Neil had caught a similar pasty to my self and was not getting any indications.
Neil managed to get a lump then an hour before the end the float dipped and a similar fight saw me net a mirror of about 6lb, again on the expander, my only other bite came 10 minutes before the all out when I hooked a small pasty that came off on the way in. That was it, 6 bites, 3 fish landed 3 lost. News from around the lake was that it had been very hard with several blanks, one of which was Brian on B7, now if he can’t get a bite, there are no fish in front of him. The scales arrived and Neil had won his section with a level 8lb- that one fish plus a 2-3oz pasty. I weighed in 13-10 which was good enough to win the section and was second in the match, Craig Curtis winning with 20lb of feeder fish. Team wise we had done enough to win the day, despite Brian’s blank, Allan and Simon had both come second in their sections.
Wednesday saw me back at Patneys to fish the same peg as wanted to see if I could do anything differently. The weather had changed and was a lot warmer and the wind when it arrived was only a gentle breeze compared to Sunday. I fished exclusively at 13m and expander, the result was 18 carp up to 10lb for about 49lb, 4 foul hookers were lost including one big double mirror . The owner had come around to see how I had got on and was interested in how it had gone, the fish certainly seemed to be favouring that bay, he reminded me that there was an open there on the Saturday, so with nothing planned that weekend I decided to give it a go!
Saturday arrived for only 6 of us to appear at Patneys, worse still was the news from Mark Russ, that the second leg of the Summer League had been moved to May 7th when was away on holiday- I was not impressed, knowing that any chance if retaining the individual crown had disappeared with that decision. The draw saw me on peg 3, incredibly the same peg as the Summer League and the Wednesday, I didn’t quite run to it but it was a close thing! I began at 13m but also primed a swim at 13m down to my right about 4-5m out from the bank. Again it was slower than Wednesday and after a couple of hours I had 4 carp in the 2-3 lb range in the net, it then went dead after I lost a fish (possibly foul hooked ) and missed a bite. It was a case of swapping between the lines for the rest of the match with two more similar sized carp coming on the long line and then a solitary carp from down the right with a quarter of an hour to go. This proved to be vital as peg 2 had got a late run of fish and when the scales arrived was leading with 13lb+, I reckoned on having 14lb so when the scales settled on 15-14 I was relieved to have won! The other highlight of the day was the red kite that kept us amused with its soaring antics over the lake.
It wasn’t until the following Friday that I managed to get out again, this time a visit to Pewsey’s lake. I decided to fish the carp end- peg 14 as I wanted to do some method fishing. Two hours in and a selection of little nudges, 3 foot branches and twigs finally saw me land a couple of small carp before losing a lump in the rushes. A switch to the pole saw some nice roach plus a small carp come to the net before I packed in and went home.
The final Sunday in April saw me at Milkhouse Water on the K&A for a Pewsey club match. Drawing peg 10 meant a long walk past the moored boats before the pegs started and then at least 40m between each peg. I was faced with an interesting swim
I was not keen on the colour of the water but there were enough features in the peg to go at. Three rigs set up, a home made short bodied float for worm down the track, coupled with a no 6 elastic, 0.08mm Shogun hook length to a 20, a BGT Blood for punch and up the shelf with 0,07mm to a 22 on a 3 elastic and a BGT Peatmoor for the far shelf with no2 elastic and 0.06mm Shogun to a 24.
On the whistle I cupped in a small ball of groundbait to a deeper hole I had found on the far shelf to the right and a small golf ball of liquidised on my punch line. Twenty minutes later with no response on the punch, chopped worm was put down the track and a small piece of worm put over the top to no response, in fact every line I tried, everything I tried failed miserably, so after 3 hours without a bite or anything that remotely looked like a bite I did something unusual for me- I packed in and went home. I subsequently found out later that the match was won with 14oz, and only 3oz was needed to frame with lots of blanks. I felt I could have fished that peg for 10 hours and not caught so was ultimately comfortable about my decision to go home.
The Summer League is there (without me) next week, bet it fishes its head off then!