Which filter are you using? The lower numbers should result in less contrast, not more.
Have you tried split- grade printing? I find it a great way to get my tones where I want them. http://www.lesmcleanphotography.com/index.php
Les explains it well ...look under articles.
Also, look at his article on flashing....
As for your fixer, buy some Hypo-chek... A drop of this turns white in exhausted fixer.