Drawing a weak peg and catching next to nothing doesn't make me think about fishing, it makes me think about taking up golf instead! But 'being ounced', by which I'm meaning catching well, but losing out by a narrow margin rather than literally an ounce, now that means I'll have a head full of 'if onlys' and 'what if I hads' on the drive home from the match.
Recently I fished the penultimate round of the None Go Bye Spring Silvers League, a series of six 22 peg matches divided into two sections of 11 for league points purposes. When the weathers cold, the drawbag decides if you're effectively in the running for the top three payout or the shallow (usually far harder) high numbers section where scratching for section points is all you can do.
I drew peg 15, a disastrous draw after a frost, but it was mild and windy, conditions which could give me a chance of skimmers and roach. I was delighted to find the skimmers were in the peg, which I knew gave me a better chance of framing than roach, and so I fished for skimmers for most of the match, only trying the caster line for roach for a brief period when bright sunshine made the skimmers back off.
The match went smoothly for me and by the shout of time I reckoned I had about 25lb in the net, probably enough to frame. Once the gear was packed away I walked along to bank to compare estimates before the scales arrived and found out that Ian Exley (Daiwa Dons) on the fancied first peg of my section reckoned on having 25lb-ish, as did Kirk Granger a couple of pegs along, but in the other section. The scales confirmed that Kirk had a section winning 27lb and Ian Exley set the bar at 25lb 8oz for my section, so I was well pleased to see the scales settle at 28lb for my catch & a couple of the lads congratulated me for winning the match.
The congratulations were premature though, Steve Michaels (Tri-Cast Highfield) had somehow extracted 28lb 2oz from another hard peg, beating me by two ounces to win the match, take the section win and so block me from winning the league before the final round. Now the pertinent bit, being ounced, what effect did it have? 2 points instead of 1, that meant that I could tie on points for the league win at worst after next weeks match, so unless I had a total disaster of a match I was still odds on to win whether it was decided on the dropped result, or total weight.
The pools payout wasn't too much of a hit either, £30 less from the pools, but I didn't have to shell out for the winners round at the pub (a None Go Bye tradition). No, the main effect was that every idle minute of the following week was spent thinking through the 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' that could have put a few more fish in the net. After much reflection I decided my biggest error had been to spend too long on my roach line when the skimmers had backed off, I'm of the belief that fish return to feed much faster without a pole over their heads, especially if the waters less than three feet deep as was my peg, so waiting too long for one more small roach when I had as much chance of a bite from a 10 ounce skimmer was bad angling. I'd known that as I had fished, but frankly I'd taken the lazy, wait for a bite, option several times.
The following sunday and the final round of the None Go Bye league. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, with a couple of frosty nights, strong north westerley winds and even a bit of hail and by reckoning some of the shallower pegs could be a nightmare as they had been for the matches in January and February. But I couldn't believe my luck at the drawbag, peg 3, an excellent peg in cold conditions owing to it being the second deepest on the lake and a good bet for both roach and skimmers. I set up to fish for both target species. For skimmers with a 4mm expander over 2mm feed pellets, with two rigs plumbed up to fish at 13M in open water. Why two rigs? Skimmers often swim around a foot or two above the feed and dip down, take a mouthful, then back up again, so as well as a conventionally shotted pellet rig I was equipped with a lift bite rig.
Many are happy to fish a double bulk rig for lift bites, with the fish needing to lift as much as 0.2g (three or four No9s) to cause a lift bite. I'm of the view that I don't need to see the top of the floats body to know that I've got a lift bite and so instead my lift bite rig is more one of having more small dropper shot than usual, thre of four No12s on the hooklength, set to be within an inch of the bottom on a rig plumbed up to be two or three inches overdepth. Couple this with a 0.4g float that has a long 1.2mm tip, the skimmers don't need to lift much weight to give me a clear indication.
The roach rigs were more straightforward, a 4x12 on the deck rig set just overdepth and three 4x10 shallow rigs set to fish depths at even intervals from 6" up to 2 feet down. I fished the first hour for skimmers, but was disappointed to find that the first 8 were on the small side, averaging about 6 ounces whereas usually they go 10-12 ounces plus occasional 2lb bonus fish. I also caught a couple of carp which would have boosted the first hour weight by about 7lbs had they counted, but instead just served to disrupt my peg as I struggled to net them on 0.10 line to No4 elastic.
To my right on peg 2, Craig Ellis (Tri-Cast Calder) had fared better, mainly catching roach and at that point I reckoned to be about 3lb behind him. Now this is where last weeks being ounced kicked in, I'd gathered a bit of a picture of how the fish were feeding, and which species were in the area, time to make choices and changes!
When I'm fishing badly I'll sit waiting for the fish to change to what I'm doing, but that's a random approach that rarely works out, good angling means thinking and acting as fast as you can. The wind had picked up and fishing at 13 metres had become difficult, both holding the pole and spotting the often subtle indications, rather than move a whole pole section shorter, I caught the next six small skimmers at progressively shorter range until I could take the 13 metre extension off, knowing they'd been happy to move in closer.
A lull in bites persuaded me to rest the line and see if the roach had taken an interest in the casters I'd been pinging to my left since the start. I started to catch roach and occasional rudd straight away, but kept switching between the three shallow rigs until I was happy that I was at the best depth, which turned out to be the shallowest, two foot rig. More roach followed, but rather than risk a dry spell if the roach backed off, I kept feeding the skimmer line with small top-ups of groundbait and pellets.
Sure enough the roach bites stopped, possibly owing to a carp in the swim, but I was able to switch immediately to the skimmer line again and it wasn't long before the lift bite rig lifted again. This catching then switching routine kept the fish coming for the next hour before the skimmers finally dried up, but thankfully the shallow caster had become stronger and I caught roach averaging about 6oz for the rest of the match, fishing as shallow as 12" in the latter stages.
During the match I think I made more little changes than usual, and I did everything that came to mind straight away. It's no good knowing what to do if you wait for the next bite, or fish before doing it. The all out was called and the usual estimates and lies were exchanged as rigs were returned to winders. Despite there being a handful rumoured to have a 20lb+ weight, including Kirk Granger and Steve Michaels who shared 2nd place in the league, I was confident that I'd got at least a 3rd in my section and so won the league. I weighed in 33lb 8oz, a bit more than I'd guessed and my thoughts turned to winning the match too! The next big weight was Steve Michaels and his 30lb 12oz proved to be enough for joint 2nd on the match, equaled by Darren Briggs on a peg no-one would have fancied, in fact he more than doubled the previous best weight from the peg this year!
With eight weights over 25lbs, I think it's fair to say that if I'd fished a bad un it would have cost me a win, but the 'ouncing' the week before made me focus on making the little changes that made all the difference.
1st Chris Kendall (Middy) - peg 3 - 33lb 8oz
Joint 2nd Steve Michaels (Tri-Cast Highfield) - peg 8 - 30lb 12oz Joint 2nd Darren Briggs (Tackle2U) - Peg 14 - 30lb 12oz
4th Ian Exley (Daiwa Dons) - Peg 18 - 29lb 2oz
5th Tim Peters (Tri-Cast Calder) - peg 9 - 25lb 9oz
6th Kirk Granger (Guiseley Angling) - peg 12 - 25lb 8oz
(best 5 results from 6 matches, 11 peg sections)
Chris Kendall (Middy) 7 points
Steve Michaels (Tri-Cast Highfield) 11 points
Kirk Granger (Guiseley Angling) 12 points
Tim Peters (Tri-Cast Calder) 13 points (dropping a 6)
Ian Exley (Daiwa Dons) 13 points (dropping an 8)
Darren Briggs (Tackle2U) 15 points