A New Year Trio
Three matches on the bounce was a real treat for me last week and I really made the most of it with three nice pegs and three nice results!
A Friday Flyer!
The first competition was the Friday Flyer at Tunnel Barn Farm in Warwickshire. My Match Fishing Drawbags team is currently topping the 20-teams-of-four winter league on there so I felt a practice match might give me a bit of fine tuning for Round 6 the next day – and blow off the Christmas cobwebs!
Well, blow it certainly did and it was chuffing cold too! A very healthy 41 anglers turned up, which meant it was pegged on House, Extension and New Pool. I was really happy when I pulled Peg 21 on Extension from the drawbag. It’s a really good draw, but the great thing about this place is the potential to frame off so many pegs.
I surprisingly hadn’t fished Peg 21 for a number of years. It certainly made up for my last draw on the winter league, the dreaded 39 on New! The form book suggested I was bang on a good area with Peg 7 and 9 directly opposite also doing a lot of damage in recent matches. The beauty of this peg is the amount of water you have to go at, although it can be equally confusing with so many options.
Thankfully, the wind made my job a tad easier as it was a strong right-to-left and I could barely hold more than 13 metres all day. The shallower water towards the point of an island to my right was tanking through and the steadier water was the open water to my left, in the lee of the island.
My bait tray for Tunnel Barn (and most winter commercials) is quite simple, with maggots, 4mm expanders and 2mm micro pellets being top of the list. Added to that are a few of slices of bread, some pinkies if it’s rock hard and a tin of corn.
Maggots are what I prefer but I do like to start on pellets as it can sort out a few early F1s if they’re about and helps to bypass any nuisance silvers. I plumbed up at five sections of my Acolyte and tapped in 20 pellets. A five-minute wait eventually yielded a 1lb F1 on a 4mm expander fished dead depth. Four more followed plus a couple of small skimmers. Silvers are not always a good sign but welcome nonetheless in winter. The F1s actually seemed to want a few pellets today so I continued tapping reasonable amounts in each time.
For pellets I used my ever-faithful AS3 floats in a 0.3g size shotted with No9s to a 0.10mm hooklength and size 18 B911 F1 hook. For maggot I opted for the same float but with strung out No10s and a size 20. I also blacked out the float tip on this rig so that I could see it in the ‘white water’. Elastic was single black No8 Slip.
This swim soon dwindled and swapping to double maggot produced one big F1 then roach after roach so this was abandoned for now, but still fed for later on if necessary. Time to pop a few more barrels on… I shipped out to the shallower water by the island with a bread dobbing rig and promptly missed a bite. I then hooked a small F1 but it was really towing badly here so I switched my attention to the open water.
A couple of F1s and two big ide followed on maggots, sprinkling a few in each drop. I then hooked a really big, angry fish that turned out to be a very welcome 5lb common. Next cast I foul-hooked another that felt much bigger but sadly broke me after towing me all over the lake for 10 minutes! Next cast I managed another chunky common about 4lb – again not quite in the mouth!
Hmm, there were a few good ‘uns clearly about, so I got off my box, grabbed another top kit and popped a stronger 0.12mm rig on. I stopped feeding maggots and dobbed an 8mm piece of bread instead. Just as I was thinking I’d wasted my time setting this new rig up, the float buried and a big F1 was on. Next cast the same thing happened, but this time it was a very welcome 8lb mirror!
That was all the bread action, so I swapped back to maggots the rest of the day. F1s kept coming regularly along with a bonus 2lb barbel. I even had two or three off the bottom before they backed off. Once a few roach started to appear I knew the swim was flagging and I needed somewhere else to go. The short pole was just yielding roach so I switched my attentions to the base of the far shelf towards the island.
I laid my rig in and immediately had signs. The bites were ever so strange and not fully developing but I managed another five or six here including another couple of small commons. Despite connecting properly with most of the fish I felt something just wasn’t right, though. It was only when I popped my plummet on that I realised I was fishing a foot overdepth by mistake. Doh! I soon rectified that and continued to catch right up to the end. If anything, fishing overdepth had actually helped combat the tow.
It was one of those matches where I knew I was obviously on a pile of fish and just had to keep going. After five hours I was very satisfied to plonk 78lb on the scales, mostly F1s plus about 30lb of ‘proper carp’. That was enough to win the lake and the match as 56lb was 2nd overall from Peg 30 on House. Looking back, I think most people would have won the match off my peg that day as the conditions were ideal for it – and not ideal for most of the other pegs! If only everywhere I drew could be that good…
Winter League Winners!
The next day I was back at Tunnel for Round Six of the Winter League with my Match Fishing Drawbags outfit. I did the draw and pulled out House 21 for Jamie Hughes (Always worth a few fish but a split section that could struggle against noted flyers on Club Pool), Club 12 for Paul Bick (again, good but cold water was coming in that end and 11 AND 13 also being pegged was not ideal), New 7 for Joe Carass (flyer, say no more!) and Extension 38 for myself.
Four good pegs, I reckoned, but Bicky said mine could potentially be ‘iffy’. I suppose I would rather have been sat on pegs 9 or 21 to 27 but I had avoided the really bad draws and 33-39 are usually ‘winter quarters’ for the F1s on this lake. One niggle was that the pegs to my right seemed to be catching surprisingly well of late and that meant the fish maybe hadn’t quite moved into my area en mass just yet. Dave James was also on Peg 39, immediately to my right, which limited the amount of room I had to play with. My last and final excuse was that there were no far-bank reeds to hold fish. Despite all of these issues I still really fancied this area for a few bites.
It actually fished nothing like the previous day. It was just as cold but there was hardly a breath of wind, plus we had loads of cold overnight rain chilling the water. I should’ve twigged this immediately as that had pushed the fish right up into the shallower water. I therefore caught nothing short to begin with and only one fish at the base of the far shelf before going on top of the shelf and fishing maggots in 3ft of water.
I had probably wasted the best part of an hour while those around me and opposite all caught a few. However, I seemed to catch up by hour two and held my own right up to the last hour. That’s when I felt it was right to delve back into the deeps where I was promptly rewarded with four really big F1s to 3lb and a common carp of the same size, all on maggots.
At the weigh in I was happy with my performance apart from that sluggish start. I felt I may have 50lb but the scales settled on 48lb. That was still enough to win my side of the lake, but there were four 50s and in-form Steve Ringer’s lake-winning 61lb on the opposite bank. Talking to Steve afterwards, he had most of his fish in the first three hours on maggots fishing across in the shallow water against a big reed bed. That definitely seemed to be the case for a lot of anglers this time and highlights just how differently two consecutive matches can fish.
A 6th in a 20-peg section is always a decent team return in this league, so I was very happy. I was even more happy when the rest of the guys reported back. Bicky managed a 4th, Jamie a 5th and superstar Carass won his lake. That gave us 68 points out of 80 and our second team win on the bounce! However, things are so tight at the top with four rounds to go that lots of teams are still in with a chance of winning this league. I just hope my supercharged drawing arm continues to do the goods!
After two really good days I was actually dreading the Sunday at Packington Fisheries! I really like this place but the weather forecast was terrible and surely even I couldn’t draw three good pegs on the trot… could I?
62 anglers braved the elements and I desperately wanted a peg in the mid-40s on Molands or 7 to 11 on Little Gearys. I still wasn’t complaining when Peg 12 on Big Gearys stuck to my mitt. Last round I had really struggled off this lake with 6lb of tiny skimmers in the 20s where it’s really shallow. This time I had a much deeper peg on the ‘dam wall’ which always has some good form. What’s more, it had frozen overnight and it didn’t look like the ice was going to shift, so the chances of anyone hooking a carp was very low.
In my experience, when everyone is forced to fish the pole the fishing can actually be better. My thinking is that it forces any fish that want to feed to come to you. As soon as a feeder plops further out they don’t have to do that; plus I’m sure they spook when all those ‘trip wires’ are laid out. Obviously, that’s just my theory…
A weight of just 8-10lb was the modest target that everyone seemed to think would win the lake and I was inclined to agree. I therefore tried to keep things dead simple. That meant two swims at 14 metres. Each was fed with small amounts of maggots, pinkies and sweet fishmeal groundbait.
My mix was actually the leftover big bits from a few bags I had sieved off a few weeks back. This was mostly Sonubaits F1 and F1 Dark and ground down with the new coffee grinder that ‘Wifey Christmas’ had bought me!
I whizzed this nice and fine for just such a rock-hard occasion and knocked it up on the bank so it was wet and fluffy. The mix actually looked pretty bad as it wasn’t as fine as I expected and had a two-tone appearance with dark and light granules. So, after a biteless first hour and everyone else to my left having caught at least one fish I was starting to blame my groundbait!
Then, however, my float dipped and I missed a bite. I shook my head and assumed my back shot had accidentally dropped and sunk my 0.2g AS3 float. Next cast, however, the same thing happened, and this time I struck into something. I very gingerly played it to the net and breathed a sigh of relief when a 1lb skimmer hit the pan.
drennan-silverfish-matchBy this time I had already bottled it and scaled everything right down to try and get a bite, but I don’t like small hooks for skimmer fishing so, with a blank avoided, on went a bigger size 18 Silverfish Match (which is probably closer to a size 16 in other patterns). Very next cast and a 2lb bream joined it, then a 1lb hybrid! That bigger hook certainly hadn’t put those better fish off!
To help keep the fish on as I shipped back awkwardly up the steep bank and negotiated my ice channel I opted for an ultra light No4 elastic. This also helped as some of my elastics had started to freeze up before the start. My hands were so numb with cold that it’s easy to be clumsy when you play fish. I must add that the freezing fog also made it hard to focus on a float tip in the distance at times!
My match was actually quite simple as I potted in modest amounts of groundbait and maggots at intervals and alternated between live and dead maggots and pinkies on the hook. I bumped just two fish all day and ended up with five good skimmers, two decent hybrids, a few smaller skimmers, one rudd and some roach for a very satisfying 17lb 12oz, a lake win and 4th in the match.
The match was won by Matt Brayfield with 32lb of F1s from Peg 45 on Molands. Ian Crossman was 2nd with 24lb 15oz of F1s from peg 11 on Little Gearys and Keith Wooding was 3rd with 24lb 12oz from peg 47 on Molands. A hard day but actually better than I feared in the conditions.
They paid the top three, so I sadly missed out on the main frame but, other than the cold, I cannot complain. I drove home really content after three good matches on the bounce – not something you can take for granted in winter. Even the bottle of beer my wife gave me that evening seemed to hint about my drawing arm of late…