Friday 20th, two days before the Summer League I headed down to Witherington Farm, just outside Salisbury, with the intention of fishing Cottage in preparation for the two day Pete Bailey shindig at the end of May, plus to get any cobwebs out of my system for the weekend. The day did not start well with light rain (no photos of the peg!), people already on Cottage and got worse when I realised that I had left my bucket with the bait at home in the garage! Fortunately I had some pellets in one of my other bags plus some Chinese paste, so it was going to be a banded pellet or paste day! Then I find that my large barrow wheel for the Octbox is flat so I have to use my two side wheels as the main wheels and put the handles in the foot plate extension so am pushing it from the opposite end!
I settled on Sellwood peg 10 which had clear water in front and two nice looking margins. Plumbing up I found little difference in depth anywhere apart from my left hand margin which was about eight inches with s slope going down to the main depth of approx 3 feet about a metre out. I opted to try a 2+2 approach straight in front plus fed the right margin with micros and 4mm pellets, I did feed the left margin in a similar way but when tried it proved biteless so concentrated on the right margin. Tackle was a homemade slim teardrop float with a 2mm bristle taking a bulk of 4 x no 8 and two no10 droppers, a 0.16mm Shogun line to a 16 Kanto hook (a chinese hook), a 12-14 hollow elastic completed the set up. I also set up the margin rig I used at Staits with a 14 hook.
Cupping in a mix of 4mm and micros on the 2+2 line I was soon getting bobs on the float as small fish tried to suck in the 6mm banded pellet, after 10 minutes I had a “proper” bite and pulled out of a carp after a short fight with a scale on the hook, I had two more of these false bites before I managed to get and land my first carp of around 3lb. The bites continued and I had a few porpoise impersonating bream to go along with a couple more carp of 4lb and 6lb. After an hour or so I decided to give the paste a try on the 2+2 line and was greeted almost immediately with a bite I missed. Still on the 2+2 line I had the biggest fish of the day at roughly 8lb plus what looked like a crucian although it could have been a brown goldfish!
Moving onto the margin, I decided to keep the same rig as the depth was the same and proceeded to get bites from more bream and carp plus a solitary rudd, all on the paste, ending the day with 8 carp, 9 bream, the crucian and rudd for between 45 and 50lb (I actually clicked 49!) with me losing a total of 5 carp, mostly foul hookers. So not too bad given my main bait stayed at home, and at least the rain stopped by midday! The wheel was pumped up on return but was flat again within hours, couldn’t find the puncture and then found that the bearing had sheared- so a new puncture proof wheel is on order!
Sunday sees me at South Cerney for the first match of the Summer League, eleven teams of four to be split between Gilmans and Staits. The drawbag was not kind to team captain Darren or me as we ended up on very poor pegs on Staits while Craig and Nigel had good pegs on Gilmans. Anyway I was at the far end of the road bank, with the rope on my right and a snagpit on my left! I set up waggler, feeder, and two pole rigs- one for the margin and one for 11m which was about 7ft deep. I compromised with the long rig and used a 0.16mm main line to a 0.14mm hooklength and a 16 Kanto hook. My margin rig was the 0.20mm to a 14. Bait was micros and 4mm, some 8mm for pinging, expanders, worms, corn, hemp and paste, with crushed expander as groundbait. Before the start Craig came along and told me the bad news- this was the peg he had last weekend in a two day match and he came last in section after a good position on the first day! We agreed any thing better than last would be a bonus.
First 20 minutes I spent out on the feeder close to the rope with no joy. Back on the 11m line I was hoping something had settled on the three balls of groundbait with hemp and pellet. Double maggot on the hook and after a couple of minutes a half ounce perch means the blank is saved! The rest of the match was spent trying to get a decent fish but skimmers and perch came on the pole line, the margins were a waste and five roach on the waggler meant that at the end of the day I had 28 small perch, 4 skimmers and 5 roach, Brian Ballard on C8 the other side of the rope and on a flier had managed to find some proper bream and won the section with 19lb+. I was surprised to find that my fish weighed 6-09 which put me 9th out of the eleven in the section so I was moderately pleased as it had been a very hard day.
No fishing in the week as was tied up with chores and hospital appointment, so it was straight into the two dayer at Witherington Farm organised by Pete Bailey. A draw of 9:30 meant a leisurely start and I parked up with plenty of time. Sellwood and Cottage were being used on both days and it was to be a random draw each day. Peg 9 on Cottage came out of the bag and I was not too displeased with the draw as I had fished the peg several years ago and knew it would give me a days sport. I had decided to focus entirely on the pole and had left the rods at home; plumbing up I found a consistent depth and settled on a 2+2 line and two margin lines, the right hand margin being deeper but with less cover whereas the left margin had a nice bank of rushes projecting out a foot from the bank.
I set up the two rigs I had used for Sellwood but the difference was I had changed the elastic in the margin kit from a hollow to a 2mm solid Chinese elastic set soft. Starting by cupping in micros, some corn, 4mms and hemp into both margin swims I introduced two balls of groundbait on the 2+2 line and began with a banded 6mm pellet. It was slower than I expected and after an hour or so I had 4 bream in the net and had lost a carp that was probably foul-hooked. I had tried maggot, expander paste and corn with corn and expander producing most interest. I then made the decision to go down the margins early and see if there was any interest, starting with the right hand one. I had been feeding regular helpings of micros and 4mms into both margins with just a few grains of corn, starting on paste I had another bream then nothing, corn was tried and nothing, so I swung around to try the left margin on corn.
A couple of minutes in and I was getting indications on the float with fish brushing the line before finally a proper bite an another bream, then nothing. At this point I decided to rotate the three swims, taking a fish before moving on. This seemed to work and I began to get the odd carp interspersed with the bream, losing 8 carp in total, most seemed to be foul-hooked. By the end I had clicked 31lb of bream and 57lb of carp but was unsure how accurate this was! The scales arrived and I was shocked to find my bream weighed 31Lb and my carp 57lb! A total of 88lb and second place on the lake.
Day 2 and I was back on Cottage this time peg 14, but what a difference a day makes- the carp were in a full throttled spawning frenzy, thrashing around in the reeds and even under the platforms – they were not going to feed! I had set up before most people had arrived as the draw had taken place the previous evening. We had agreed that we would not fish the margins or the island until the frenzy had ceased and things were calm, consequently I plumbed up and found the deeper water was to the left of my peg, so fed two swims at 2+2 and 11m with crushed expander groundbait and the usual micros, hemp and corn.
I started on maggot hoping for a run of silvers/bream given the carp were otherwise occupied but an hour later I still had not had a bite despite trying all different baits. The wind had picked up and was cold plus blowing straight into my face. After two hours I was still biteless when I had a bite on the 2+2 line that turned out to be a carp (possibly foul-hooked) but after several minutes I managed to get it in close when it made a dive for under the platform and the hook pulled. Still blanking others were struggling also with just a few silvers being caught and the odd carp.
By about 1:30pm the carp had calmed down enough for us to try the margins, starting on the right margin the float was getting buffeted as fish went through the swim but then it slowly sank and the resulting strike resulted in a very welcome- bream of about 2lb! The blank had been saved. Continuing down the right margin I managed to get two carp of about 3lb plus lose a third that may have been foul-hooked all on corn. At this point the sky went very dark and the rain arrived in bucketfuls which was very unpleasant as the wind was blowing it straight into me, then the float sank and I hit a heavy fish that had me sweating as it took what seemed an age to get it within netting range and then ages to get it’s head up, I eventually slipped the net under a lump of about 12lb. About 5 minutes later the rain stopped but so did any activity in the right margin, swapping to the left margin I lost one carp when the hook pulled and came back with a scale and that was it for the rest of the match! The rain had the opposite effect two pegs along as the carp started to feed voraciously on the 5m line on meat!
At the weigh in I put my four fish on the scales for 20-04 only to find that was enough for second on the lake, beaten by the late run of meat fish! So Cottage had been kind to me for the two days! Next up is the Summer League Round 2 on the Kennet and Avon Canal at Hungerford, the two day Pairs at Makins followed next day by Round 3 on the Bristol Avon at Chippenham and of course Bowood opens on the 16th!