Thursday, 8 June 2017

Disgruntled - not really my thing

Two years ago, this month, I was invited to join in with an open match at Beaver Fishery. If you read the post from that day, you will see that I was under equipped and lacking in most of the basic skills. Even so I still managed to score well enough to put me in tenth place. I was really pleased with myself and decided to have another go. Over the past two years I have joined in with most of the opens at Beaver, only missing the odd one here and there, due to work commitments. Oh, and I did manage to oversleep on one occasion!

Mostly, the time spent has been enjoyable but recently I have realised I am really not cut out to be a matchman. In two years I have not got any better at it. I have never had that competitive streak. The first few matches taught me a lot. The guys that fish the matches are a great bunch of friendly blokes and made me feel welcome but like anything you have to put the hours in to be any good at it. Most of these guys spend every hour they can match fishing, and a lot of them are out at least once a week and many of them more than that, just match fishing. I don't want to spend the limited time I have to fish, practising for the next match, which is what seems to have happened.

I want to spend more time just fishing for whatever takes my fancy, when and where I like. I am not saying I will not join in with the odd match here and there, because I am sure I will, but for the time being I am going to concentrate on my pleasure fishing, experimenting with bait and expanding my rig making skills, while getting some time in on the pole.

The June Match

This week I fished the match at Beaver. I decided to take minimal gear and to leave my long pole at home. I ended up with a feeder rod, a pellet waggler rigged with a Sodafloat and a 5m tele-pole fitted with a medium strength elastic to cope with the F1s that Jeff's Lake is full of.

The new Sodafloat
The plan was to fish the method feeder to start with and then, as the fish moved up in the water, to pick them off with the Sodafloat. Finally to collect them from the margins in the last hour. Nice simple plan. It started well with the first decent sized F1in the net within the first five minutes. Almost immediately another F1 was hooked. It was fighting hard and I was probably too overenthusiastic. It bumped off. Two more fish were also lost almost at the net. That was it. I must have spooked all the fish out of my swim. I was stuck on Peg 11, which is not my favourite peg but I am not using that as an excuse.

My final catch placed me last - again!
Now I could not find the fish on the bottom, up in the water or anywhere else for that matter. I probably lost more fish than I caught. The fish in the lake are getting a fair bit bigger than they were when I first had a go at this and I have not really taken this into account. I did manage to land one from the margin on my tele-pole but that was it leaving me with six fish, four F1s, one ghost carp and a tiny roach. I was encouraged by the fact that although my weight was only good enough to give me last place, the others were not all miles better than me.

Last!- Well, at least I caught some fish this time
I have fished from the other pegs along this bank and done much better. Except last time, that is, when I managed to blank. That was back in April as I did not make it to the May match due to work commitments.

Around midday I suddenly realised for the first time that I really was not happy. It was not the lack of catch, although that did not help, but I was thinking about my next pleasure trip. I think what drove it home to me that I was not enjoying this was two-fold. First I realised I was forcing myself to practise, or rather not wanting to practise. I don't want to spend days practising for a match when I would rather be doing my own thing. Then at this match, I was pegged next to a young lad who a year ago was catching next to nothing and enjoying every moment. From that day he has spent every spare moment he can practising on this lake and improving his skills to a level far above mine. It is great to see him improve and to see how much pleasure he is getting out of it. For me however, I really do not want to spend that much time just pulling F1s out of Jeff's Lake one after to other to build my match skills.

It may sound as if I am disillusioned because I have been placed bottom in the last two matches I have entered I really don't think that is it. I think I have performed poorly because I have lost my enthusiasm for match fishing and that has affected my preparation and performance on the day.

It is so easy to get swept along with something and end up doing it because it is there, time for a change. I will give the matches a rest for the time being, I have not entered any more at the moment and that means I will be going fishing when and where I want and for as long and short as I want. Great!

Ralph.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A return to Oakley Road

This fishing locally is a new thing for me. No getting up at silly times, no long drive and very little kit. All set for another pleasant day by the lake It was not until I got here that I remembered I said was going to have .a go at the bigger fish using feeder tactics next time I came here. Oh well, that will have to be next time now as I was standing there holding the same tackle I took last time. Never mind I have a lot of things I want to try. Not least of all, the posh branded sweetcorn. Up until now I have been using Tesco Everyday Value sweetcorn. Mainly because one of the magazines recommended it a couple of years ago. It was not until I did my own comparisons over the past few weeks that I realised the brand leader, Green Giant, is canned in salt water and most of the others are in just plain water, but my Tesco Everyday offering is actually canned in water with sugar added. I wanted to see if my mediocre success with corn has been down to the brand I was using.

I arrived at the fishery at around 10:00 and had a quick look around for a spot. I picked a place on the back of the lake that looked interesting. As I went back to the car to load myself up with gear, someone else arrived and promptly claimed my place. Hmmm... Thinking I may not make myself very popular by going over there an chucking all his gear, and possibly him, in the lake, I decided to pick another spot on one of the vacant platforms along the road side of the lake.

This picture, taken last time I was here, shows my chosen peg for the day
It was not until I was set up that I realised I was sitting right under the trees. Note for self: Pole might be a better bet from this side of the lake. To make matters worse, I had a 13ft float rod and nothing else. Oh well, it will be fun trying to work out how to get to the fish.

I was going to be restricted to an underarm lob or a sideways flick. Either way, I was going to have to do a bit of experimentation as I am far from proficient at either technique. By the time I had prepared the groundbait, set up with maggots and corn and covered my home-produced casters with water it was time to tackle up. A small reel and a spool filled with 6lb line, a 12 inch hook length of 4lb line and a No.16 hook. A  pre-loaded crystal waggler was fitted with a silicone float adaptor and held in position using float stops. The extra shot was strung out down the line, shirt-button style, to set the float tip showing a few millimetres above the surface. A quick bit of plumbing gave me the depth. Right, done, cast. No splash. TREES! Oh, how easy I find I can grow to dislike trees, there is no way this lot are getting a hug. After a bit of tugging and, shall we say, a spot of  'verbal encouragement', I manage to retrieve all my tackle. A few minutes repositioning shot and re-baiting the hook with a single piece of sweetcorn, I was ready to have another go. This time it made all the right noises - Plop!

First of many skimmers fell to my first cast on corn
As soon as the rig hit the water I followed it with three pieces of corn over the float. An easy chuck by hand. No sooner the float had settled, it shuddered and dipped under the water with that casual ease that tells me there is a skimmer on the other end. Sure enough the first skimmer of the day had fallen for sweetcorn. This was an encouraging sight. I spent the next couple of hours catching skimmer after skimmer. Nothing of any size, but plenty of them and mostly of similar size. I guess the bigger ones were off having a cigarette after spawning, at least that is what the carp down my end of the lake must have been doing. I did not catch a single carp all day. Others at the deeper end of the lake had a few as I could see them being netted, but it was not a carp-fest by any means.

A lapse of concentration resulted in me hooking the heaviest catch of the day - a 15 tonne Oak tree. To my relief it let most of my tackle go, retaining the hook as a souvenir. Time to tackle up again as by now the line was stretched and the shotting pattern had been destroyed - snip!

Lots of nice roach on maggot
This time I baited up with a heavier float, which meant I could get a little bit more distance. I re-plumbed the depth at my new target area only to discover it was not much different, if at all. I switched bait to maggot and started off with a single white and as I expected the small roach were getting in on the act. I persisted and the fish got a bit bigger but nothing great. Doubling up the hook bait to one red, one white maggot resulted in a few bigger fish, but again nothing spectacular.

I continued to fish on, enjoying the challenge, it can be very boring fishing alone if it is too easy. My only real claim to fame of the day was to catch my PB smallest skimmer. The little fellow was more slime than meat. I had another great day by restricting my tackle and having limited options as far as casting was concerned. The platform I was fishing from was structurally sound and would have been perfect for pole fishing as the trees would not have been a problem. This was only my second visit to this small friendly fishery and I am still learning the topography of the lake and its surroundings. There is a smaller lake at Oakley Road to try but first I need to get to know this one - one thing at a time.


Smallest skimmer of the day - a PB (smallest) skimmer!
I packed up, was in the car by 19:00 and home twenty minutes later. I really like the convenience of Oakley Road it is reasonably priced for a day ticket venue and with membership I would be able to fish on into the evening - an attractive possibility at this time of the year. Membership would also give me a reduced day-ticket fee making it all look very attractive.

Next time I will take a feeder rod and see how I get on. It is not a very big lake so a small picker rod should do the business, so look out Mr. double carp, I plan to meet with you next time.

Ralph.        

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Canned Sweetcorn - Exposed! - Part 2

Green Giant is the market leader but is it the best for bait?
After sitting here crunching the numbers it seems there is very little point in trying to be frugal unless I intend to feed lots of corn. In which case I will use frozen corn and that means I will only ever use tinned corn in relatively small quantities. Although some corn can be getting on for four times the cost of cheaper corn, the difference in cost for a session is pennies as so little is used.
What is far more important is the quality (size, shape and texture) of the kernels and what they are canned in. Before I started all this, it didn't occur to me it would be canned in different liquids. Most of the cheaper brands are canned in water. Some are canned in water with added sugar. The nations favourite is canned in water with salt. A secondary consideration is can size and convenience.

As I mentioned in Part 1, I have been using Tesco Everyday Value sweetcorn for a while now, because it costs 35p for a decent sized can. The sweetcorn itself is okay with nice reasonably firm kernels and no mush in the bottom. However it does not have a ring-pull and it is packed in sugared water. The other thing I have realised is that I tend to 'waste' half the can because the way I use it, I end up feeding the ducks with what is left at the end of the day. Although I usually drain and box up my sweetcorn the night before a trip, the ring pull would be an advantage as I could keep a few cans in the 'van-stock' of emergency baits without all the messing about remembering to take yet another tool - the can opener.

Spot the difference... Is there one?
Now, I have decided to look at this with an open mind I am going to pick a short list of cans and have a look at what we have got. First I want to look at the Green Giant 'Original' verses 'Salad Crisp'. Well, I have looked at it, smelt it, squashed it and eaten it - I can't tell the difference. Each can has kernels of varying size and texture. You can find firm and softer kernels in each can. I am convinced there is no difference in the contents. I am also convinced it is just a marketing initiative to 'say' it is okay to eat it uncooked, straight from the tin. If anyone knows different please let me know.

Some whole kernels but a lot of small pieces and some mush
With that out of the way, looking at the also-rans, most of them use words like 'Naturally Sweet' on the label. Looking at the ingredients this is marketing speak for canned in plain water. Green Giant Original and Salad Crisp is canned in water and salt. Making it taste slightly different to the cheaper brands, some would say better. I must admit, comparing it spoon full to spoon full, I think I prefer the salted stuff. Out of all the samples I bought, the only other brands to be canned in water and salt are the Golden Country, from Sam99 and Lidl's. own brand, Freshona. The Sam99 offering has all the signs of being useful, it has a ring-pull, it is only 50p for a large can, but the can is full of small pieces and a lot of damaged kernels. I might use it for feed, but it does not look as if it will be any good for hook bait. The only other can I found that said it was canned in salted water is Lidl's Freshona Sweetcorn, This appears to be much like the Sam99 offering with lots of smaller kernels and a fair few soft and broken pieces.   

Tesco Naturally Sweet Sweetcorn
The rest of the selection are all much of a muchness. The corn is all very similar and I doubt anyone would be able to tell the difference from one can to another. Prices vary but that can change by the day as well. I have only shown three cans here, but all the others look the same.

Aldi Sweet Harvest Sweetcorn
It is really all down to what you are happy with. I am sure Green Giant works well due to its added salt most of the others are canned in plain water. It might be worth trying adding salt to see if it makes the corm more attractive as a hook bait. In the end it really does boil down to what you have confidence in and how you prepare it.

Asda Naturally Sweet sweetcorn
I hate to admit it but the Green Giant Original (or Salad Fresh) seems to be the one to go with. The own brand sweetcorn is cheaper but I feel they are using the healthy eating excuse to can the stuff in plain water. I will be buying Green Giant Original in packs of four of the smaller 198g tins in future. One tin will be more than enough for me in a session. By buying it in packs of  four small cans the price is hardy any different than buying three-packs of the larger cans. As I will only be using it for hook bait that will be fine. There will still be enough for light feeding. If I need a bit more I can just open another can. If I intend to use sweetcorn for heavy feeding, or making custard, I will use the frozen stuff as that can be be bought very cheaply and you only need to defrost as much as you need.

Oh, don't worry I am not going to survey all the frozen stuff..

I have to point out that this has only been based on the cans I could find locally. I am sure the consistency and quality of own-brands can vary from batch to batch as the retailer changes it's supplier. Most of the cans are marked with France or Hungary as being their country of origin. I  guess sweetcorn production is  huge business and the cheaper brands are canned with less care than the brand leader. All I can say is that of the cans I have bought and tested (if that is what you call it) there is no doubt that the difference between the brands is negligible, but Green Giant seem to have the edge, yes it is dearer but in real terms it is only a few pennies per outing and for me I think it is worth it.  

Now that is over, back to the fishing. I am hoping to get out this week with a trip out to Beaver as I have a few things I want to try before the match, I am competing in, there the week after. I am also hoping to get a few hours in at Oakley Road if I get time. Now I wonder what bait I will be using? 

Missed Part 1? You can find it HERE >>>

Ralph.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Canned Sweetcorn - Exposed! - Part 1

Hands up, who uses sweetcorn as hook bait and feed?

Okay, you can put them down now. You look a right lot of plonkers staring at the screen with your hands in the air...

Sweetcorn anyone?
Just to prove there are sadder people than train spotters, I have spent today traipsing around all the supermarkets and pound-shops in the area looking for tins of sweetcorn. I got some funny looks from the cashiers, I blamed the missus for having a 'thing' about sweetcorn in Tesco, when the cashier looked at the variety of tins, packs and sizes I had just bought.

The big name (groan) in sweetcorn is Green Giant and they seem to have convinced everyone to pay more than twice as much (or more!) for corn in a tin with their branding on it. Even fishermen seem to be convinced it is better. Not having a clue as to whether this is true or not I decided to go and find out for myself. The upshot of this is I now have a pile of tins in all shapes and sizes as well as various multi-packs. I will look at the huge variety of prices out there and work out how much the drained cost is per 100g to see just how much we are paying for it. Then I will compare the corn itself to see if there is any discernible difference. I will try and keep a fully open mind and just look at the facts to see what is what.

This is a snap-shot in time. All the prices quoted are what I could find today. It does not cover every brand, just the ones I could find in the selection of supermarkets and pound-shops in my local area. The places I buy my sweetcorn from. I deliberately did not include the tackle shop offerings as most of these claim to have 'special' properties and additives, making them something rather different.

Rightly or wrongly, I regard frozen corn as a good lose feed, but only good for hook bait if intending to use the skins only. The freezing and thawing process seems to soften the kernels. Again I have no idea if this is true but I intend to find out, but that is for another day, first I want to sort out this pile of tins. The can missing from the picture above is my current favoured brand, Tesco Everyday Sweetcorn. Looking at the ingredients it has sugar added... Do I need that? I don't know. I might be changing what I use after this exercise...

Green Giant

Green Giant is the brand leader by miles. As a point of interest, the name was originally used for a large green pea that the original company (The Minnesota Valley Canning Company) harvested and canned. If you want to become a corn-nerd you can read all about Green Giant on General Mills' European website HERE. All that is really relevant here is, that for getting on for a century, Green Giant have been successfully marketing tinned vegetables under their brand and making a good job of it. I am sure that most of us have the musical version of the name ringing in our heads from the repetitive television adverts of our youth.

It's fame is down to having a good product and successfully marketing it. That on its own does not mean it is any better than any other sweetcorn, just that we are brainwashed to thinking it is. Whether it is or not, I intend to find out but is it up to three times better than the cheaper brands? The most expensive way to buy it in small cans can work out to a staggering 41p/100g*. The cheapest I could find Green Giant (original) sweetcorn was at Tesco where a three pack of the of the 348g tins (actually 285g when drained) works out at 29p/100g* and a single can at 30p/100g*. Even within the brand there is a vast contrast in price.

There is a further anomaly in the sub-branding; 'Original' compared to 'Salad Crisp' labelling. For the life of me I can see no difference when looking at the labels except the amount you get in the tin when bought from Tesco. Sweetcorn has become a 'snack' product, and a convenient one at that with the now commonplace ring-pulls. Buy a two-pack from Tesco and you will pay 41p/100g* and 36p/100g* if bought as a multi-pack of six!

Only based on what I saw at Tesco, the original seems to be sold as a tinned vegetable in drained weight sizes of 285g and 165g but when it comes to the 'Salad Fresh' the tin size reduces to 150g drained weight. I have studded the tins labelling and the official website for the product and the only difference I can see between the two is its intended use. I will look at this more closely when I open the cans and compare the contents. but I am fairly sure there will be no detectable difference..

Finally, I found Green Giant cans in B&M stores labelled as 'Original' but in the smaller 150g drained weight cans, presumably to meet a price point. It may meet a price point but it is not cheap at 36p/100g*.
 

Beyond the Green Giant...

The marketing of Green Giant must be up there with the great brand names we all know and use as generic descriptions. To most people 'Green Giant' conjures up an image of sweetcorn just as we use 'Hoover' for vacuum cleaner and 'Biro' for ballpoint pen. There are very few other brands that are obvious on the shelf. Even when alternatives are stacked next to Green Giant tins at a fraction of the price, it is the Green Giant display that appears to be depleted. This leaves us with the own brands and the economy ranges, all of which are significantly cheaper, and by a very long way in some cases.

Below is a table showing the packs I bought today and their cost. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide it only represents retailers I have locally, that I can get to easily. As you can see there is plenty of variation. I am sure that when it comes to the branded product, in this case Green Giant, there is nothing to choose between. Tesco's price for the 340g can of Green Giant Original is the same as Lidl. It is also clear that the 150g and 160g cans are intended for 'snacking' and are priced at a much higher price point than the larger cans.


RETAIL OUTLET
BRAND NAME
PACK QTY
NET WEIGHT
DRAINED WEIGHT
SUB BRAND
£0.00p PACK
RING PULL
PENCE /100g
TESCO
GG
2x
160g
140g
S/CRISP
1.15
Y
41
TESCO
GG
6x
160g
140g
S/CRISP
3.00
Y
36
TESCO
GG
1x
198g
165g
ORIGINAL
0.65
Y
39
TESCO
GG
2x
198g
165g
ORIGINAL
1.25
Y
38
TESCO
GG
4x
198g
165g
ORIGINAL
2.00
Y
30
TESCO
GG
1x
340g
285g
ORIGINAL
0.85
Y
30
TESCO
GG
3x
340g
285g
ORIGINAL
2.50
Y
29









TESCO
OB
1x
200g
160g
N/SWEET
0.45
Y
28
TESCO
OB
3x
200g
160g
N/SWEET
1.25
Y
26
TESCO
OB
1x
325g
260g
N/SWEET
0.50
Y
19









TESCO
OB
1x
325g
266g
E/D/VALUE
0.35
N
13









ASDA
GG
1x
198g
165g
ORIGINAL
0.65
Y
39









ASDA
OB
1x
198g
160g
N/SWEET
0.45
Y
28
ASDA
OB
3x
198g
160g
N/SWEET
1.10
Y
23









ASDA
OB
1x
326g
260g
S/PRICE
0.35
N
13









ALDI
OB
1x
326g
285g
S/HARVEST
0.39
Y
14
ALDI
OB
4x
150g
140g
S/HARVEST
1.65
Y
29









LIDL
GG
1x
340g
285g
ORIGINAL
0.85
Y
30









LIDL
OB
1x
300g
285g
FRESHONA
0.35
Y
12
LIDL
OB
3x
150g
140g
FRESHONA
1.19
Y
28









POUNDLAND
GG
2x
160g
140g
ORIGINAL
1.00
Y
36









SAM 99
SP
2x
326g
285g
G/COUNTRY
0.99
Y
17









B&M
GG
2x
160g
140g
ORIGINAL
1.00
Y
36









B&M
B'CHLOR
3x
198g
165
IN WATER
1.00
Y
20

KEY:  GG = Green Giant, OB = Own Brand, SP = Supplies Product

Now, if you are still reading this you are officially a tinned sweetcorn geek. If you want to be elevated to sweetcorn nerd status, look out for part two where I will be comparing the actual corn inside the tins.

You can find Part 2 HERE >>> 

Ralph.