This article originally featured as part of Jon Arthur’s popular End Peg column that featured in Match Fishing magazine:
End Peg – March 2005
You’ve probably just read the columns of superstars like Darren Cox and Steve Ringer before turning to this page. If you want to read more about how to win £25,000 festivals at Whiteacres or what it’s like to fish for England then you’ve come to the wrong place. In my column I will be talking about the ‘real’ world of match fishing so sit down, put your seatbelt on and prepare yourself for a dose of reality!
I simply had to start with a match I fished at King’s Fishery in Wolverhampton. I‘ve only been to the fishery once before and that was towards the end of last season. On that occasion the venue was frozen over and everything that could go wrong did. The venue was covered in a thick sheet of ice and it wasn’t just the ice that I broke that day – I also broke my waggler rod and two very expensive pole sections (Don’t ask me how). It’s a very rare thing for me to give up on any venue but I simply wasn’t in the right frame of mind that day. That match I set myself a target of a single fish before I allowed myself to pack up early and go home.
Back to the present and I turned up at the fishery hoping that things would be much better this time around. I hadn’t been put off from going there again. It’s an attractive looking fishery that has been a closely kept secret in the Midlands but its reputation has gradually increased over the last couple of seasons. It now attracts some of the best commercial water experts from the North and the Midlands, especially in the colder months, when 50 peg opens are commonplace. On the day that I fished it all the lakes were starting to run clear as the cooler weather set in.
The fishery has some very strange rules (more of which later) and fish welfare is always put first. The only baits allowed at the fishery are maggots, casters, corn, meat and hemp (plus worm or bread on the hook only). There’s no groundbait or pellets allowed either so your options are quite limited. Feeding rather than bait choice was definitely going to be the key to winning.
I drew what was supposed to be a reasonable peg on the New Match Lake. Despite being one of the first to draw and getting to my peg relatively early I was gob-smacked to find out we only had half an hour to set up. As I had never seen the pool before I hadn’t got a clue what depths and contours I had in front of me. I take long enough just to get my box into position, let alone plumbing up so, by the time the whistle blew, all I had assembled was one rig for fishing across. Judging by the moans around the lake I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t ready. Apparently you normally get longer to set up so I’m not sure why we hadn’t for this match. Someone told me that they had found the padlock for the front gate of the fishery superglued together in the morning of our match. Perhaps they had been warned that I was coming!?
My peg was about thirteen metres wide with an aerator in the middle of the pool to my right. I plumbed two lines across in about two foot of water and found the same depth on the inside margin to my left. I would have liked to have another margin swim to my right but I was pegged immediately next to a fence that ran right up to the water’s edge. There was also a tree next to the fence that prevented me from getting my pole around it. I fed my far bank and margin lines as soon as the whistle had blown before hastily assembling another rig to fish towards the aerator. I normally like to assemble several rigs and duplicates but as I was in such a rush I stuck to two rigs all match.
It took me a good hour to settle down after the rush of getting ready. I hate not being ready at the start of a match and I was in a bit of a flap until I finally started to get into a reasonable catching rhythm. All around the lake I could hear people mentioning that it wasn’t fishing particularly well. I took their word for it as I hadn’t got a clue what a normal days fishing was like on the venue. I was catching small carp and F1s to 1lb but, for some reason I bumped a few and was foulhooking them as well. I found out after the match that everyone else seemed to be experiencing the same thing. I am sure that I hadn’t overfed my swims – It just felt that there were lethargic fish in front of me that weren’t really feeding, but were causing liners and foulhookers no matter where I dropped my rig. I was feeding a mixture of hemp, corn and casters on all of my lines and corn seemed to be the best bait. Maggots brought nuisance roach and bites on caster were slow in coming. My best few carp were however on double caster and I had several of them well off the bottom. I wasn’t catching anything huge but, two hours into the match, I finally hooked into something that pulled back a bit more. It was an angry fish and it took me all over the peg. When I finally got it closer in it hung to my right and refused to come any further than the end of the fence. My pole couldn’t bend around the fence any more than it already was and several times it made big lunges for nearside snags. Several minutes passed and I finally coaxed it my side of the obstruction. With the water being clear I could see the fish under the water. It was at least 6lbs and well worth catching. As it swam in front of me I noticed a big branch trailing from its head – it had obviously swam through a snag. I feared the worst and a sudden change in direction was enough to snap me up. Bugger! I was a bit annoyed to lose such an important fish after a lengthy battle. I could tell that it was going to be one of those days when I would struggle to calm myself down.
After losing that fish I went straight back over the far side hoping to hook another decent carp. As I continued to fish I noticed a huge rat swimming past my float. It was so big it could have been mistaken for a beaver! It looked like it was collecting twigs (Isn’t that what beavers do?) and after a couple of minutes of swimming around it decided that my float was worth a closer look. As I was catching a few fish from this line the last thing I wanted was a rat on the end of my hook so I naturally moved my float away. It swam past so I casually dropped my rig back in the same spot. The rat turned around and headed for my float again. This time I decided a bit of subtle persuasion was in order so I tapped it on the head with my Kinder Egg pole cup. Big mistake! Instead of scaring the rat away all I had done was make it angry. No matter where I moved my rig it kept swimming straight for it in attack mode. At one stage it was almost jumping out of the water for my pole tip! It really had to be seen to be believed. I had no other option but to accept defeat and fished my margin swim until I was sure it had gone! I see rats all of the time on the urban canal towpaths that I fish and they have never acted like that – this must have been one of those super rats that the papers are often on about!
That far bank swim never seemed to recover after the kamikaze rat episode but I continued to catch at a reasonable rate on my two closer lines until the end of the match. I hadn’t particularly enjoyed it because I had never really composed myself. I estimated that I had about 30lbs in one net and 10lbs in the other and so I decided to put all of my fish into the same net to let the other one dry out. As the scalesman moved around the lake several things struck me. The first thing I found out was that any fish over 5lbs was supposed to be weighed in immediately rather than retained in a keepnet. This is something that I have seen on a few other venues and is obviously for the fish’s own welfare – which I certainly don’t have a problem with. Apparently people can be banned for not shouting for scales if they have caught a big fish so, because I wasn’t aware of the ruling, it was probably just as well that I lost my 6lber! The next thing I learnt was that you are only allowed a maximum of 35lbs in one keepnet. At first I thought I was being wound up but it was actually true! I told my mates that I had tipped all of my fish into one net after the match and they burst out laughing! One of my ex-team mates, ‘Lucky’ Bob Marklew, said that I might be the fastest angler ever to be banned from the venue for having more than 35lbs in one net. I feared the worst when the scalesman said, “I can smell a ban coming on”, but thankfully he was in a generous mood. I weighed just over 38lbs and was let off with a caution!
The only problem I had with these rules was that they weren’t openly advertised. How are you supposed to know about these rules if they are not clearly displayed? That wasn’t all. I have saved the best one until last. Weighing in on this venue has to be seen to be believed. Whereas some fisheries use weighing mats or grass as a cushion for the fish when weighing in, fish welfare is taken one step further at King’s. Basically, you have to hold the weigh sling ‘over the water’ whilst the scalesman tips your fish into it! No, I’m not joking! Apparently fish have often missed the weigh sling and swam off and that is just an unfortunate consequence! The scalesman doesn’t mess about either. The fish are weighed so fast that it is more of an estimate than an accurate reading. He seemed quite generous with the readings so it certainly wasn’t a problem. Everything is geared towards getting the fish back into the water as quickly as possible. I am not criticising the fishery for this. On the contrary, I take my hat off to the fishery owner for caring so much for his fish’s well being. I am mentioning it because it is something I have never witnessed anywhere else and it is such an eye-opening thing to see. I wouldn’t want to see any of my hard-earned fish miss the weigh-net, though!
My near 40lbs weight was the third best catch on the lake and I narrowly missed out on the section by less than a pound. 50lbs won the pool and was last in the frame. I’m sure that I could have caught a lot more if I had got my act together. Overall, the lakes hadn’t fished as well as expected but I had seen enough to tempt me back there again. With all the strange bait limits and rules to get used to I felt that I had well and truly passed the induction. I think I could do pretty well at King’s in the future – now that I know what to expect!