This article originally featured as part of Jon Arthur’s popular End Peg column that featured in Match Fishing magazine:
End Peg – May 2005
Towards the end of last year I had to endure one of my worst ever spells at the draw bag and my confidence was at an all time low. I mentioned it to Dave Harrell and he said that it could be the ‘Match Fishing Curse’, an unexplained phenomenon that often strikes new columnists. Far better anglers than myself have suddenly stopped catching fish once Match Fishing magazine gets involved. I heeded Dave’s words but I’m not one to believe in all that superstitious nonsense. As I stroked my lucky rabbits foot and saluted a couple of magpies flying overhead I knew deep down what the real problem was.
A change of job with an increasing work load alongside a few niggling personal difficulties were beginning to grind me down. All it took was one or two bad fishing matches before I started to feel the entire world was against me. Once that sort of negative attitude kicks in you are often trapped in a vicious cycle that’s very difficult to break. Like most of this magazine’s readers, I absolutely love my fishing. When you sacrifice all of your valuable time and effort to prepare for your chosen sport it’s easy to feel hard done when things don’t go your way. I’m no quitter so the only way to beat the bad spells is to keep on plugging away.
Some of the matches leading up to last Christmas had been a real struggle. On a couple of occasions I drew non-descript pegs that required me to fish 17.5 metres almost all day for very little reward. On another occasion I drew a reasonable peg on the Wyrley-Essington Canal that I really fancied for a framing weight. I managed to beat the anglers around me but the peg still fished unpredictably poor and I couldn’t understand why. It was only after the match that I was told that an angler had sacked up on my peg just a couple of days earlier (just what I needed). Also, that match we were plagued by the Wyrley’s infamous floating duckweed – something that many of the Birmingham canals suffer from. When it drifts your way the only way to stop it obliterating your peg is to float something like a spare pole on the surface to act as a boom. It’s always best if the very first angler in the section floats his pole so that the entire matchlength remains weed free. The angler to my left had already given up so it was up to me to do the honours. You see very few boats on these inner city canals so once a boom is in place you can normally forget about it and get on with your fishing. Unfortunately the canal still had a couple of swans swimming up and down its length and they were determined to get past me. On a couple of occasions I had to get off my box to let them clamber over my expensive carbon weed boom without breaking it. It wasn’t the most reassuring thing to experience and it certainly didn’t help my catch rate! Not surprisingly I was well off the pace when the winning weights were announced. It was just another typical day when things conspired against me.
The very worst match I fished before Christmas was on the first round of the Goodyear teams of three league on the Birmingham-Worcester Canal at Stoke Works. I had drawn peg 1, the very first peg in the match. Normally an end peg on any venue is a good draw but peg 1 turned out to be the furthest away from the fish you could possibly be. It was a freezing cold day and the canal was chocolate coloured. It soon became apparent that my section was the worst of the lot and everyone except those pegged near the cables struggled for ounces. I had a fantastic 7 fish for 3oz and joint 14th in the 22 peg section. It was that bad that Drennan NorthWest’s Paul Keeley went to sleep in his car for a couple of hours and still managed to avoid a last in section with a whopping 1oz 13 drams!
With matches like these to contend with it was no surprise that I wasn’t exactly swimming in brown envelopes as 2005 approached. I said to myself, enough was enough. It was about time I screwed my fishing head firmly back on! Christmas Day may well have been the turning point of my season. It was a big day for me as I finally took the plunge and proposed to my long-suffering girlfriend. For some bizarre reason she said yes and, from this point on, things finally started to go my way.
I may have gained a fiancée but that wasn’t going to stop me fishing (I hope she doesn’t read this!). Just a couple of days after slipping a ring on my fiancée’s finger I was booked in on a 30 pegger on a frozen Rushall Canal near Aldridge in the West Midlands. After breaking the ice I went on to fish the perfect match and never lost a fish, a hooklength or anything else for that matter. I even managed to land a hard-fighting 4lb pike on an 0.06 bottom. The pike was obviously fed up of eating roach as it snaffled up the only perch I hooked. When many of the field had struggled I managed to weigh nearly 5lbs of small roach for a long overdue win. I know it wasn’t a huge competition but there’s nothing quite like a satisfying win to bolster your confidence. It was the start of things to come as I went on to gain a couple more decent pickups before the end of the year.
As 2005 kicked in I was determined to continue where I left off. My first match in January was the initial round of the FMS League. Organiser Tony Keeling always runs a decent match and this year’s league sold out in double-quick time. The first round for the fifteen teams of five was on the Trent and Mersey Canal at Stoke. I tried to find out a bit more information on the stretch and the general consensus of opinion was that it would be a struggle for most with low weights required to frame. Some of the comments were so negative that it was starting to sound more like the Trent and Misery.
We were up against some top teams but I thought we had a decent squad of five to represent Shimano Tipton Van den Eynde. It was up to me to make the draw for the first match and I pulled out peg E1 for myself. I was hoping that it would be an end peg but unfortunately my section followed on immediately after D section. I never particularly like a draw like that as it’s possible to beat everyone in the section to one side and yet still come last in your own section. Talking to several anglers who knew the area suggested that this could very easily happen from where I was pegged. The best pegs were apparently towards the opposite end of my fifteen peg section so I couldn’t have been further away.
Judging by all the towpath activity Stoke on Trent must be one of the fittest cities in the country. There were more joggers, walkers and cyclists whizzing past than I had witnessed for a long time. People were suggesting that they were speeding up to get past where I was pegged. I couldn’t understand that. I had Shakespeare’s Mick Hatchard to my left, his team mate Paul ‘Rocco’ Ross to my right, my team mate Dave ‘Teflon Hook’ Lloyd was the next peg along and Shakespeare’s Rob Quinn was one peg further. Why on earth would anyone want to speed up past such a handsome line of fishermen?
The match got underway and it soon became clear that it was going to be a struggle. After an hour I had managed a dozen perch on the inside but couldn’t buy a bite further across. Thankfully I was still beating everyone around me with that modest weight, at least until we had two boats pass through. The boats completely wiped out my inside lines and I struggled to get a bite from anywhere after that. Mick Hatchard had the luxury of an undrawn empty peg to his left and this seemed to help as he began catching a few silver fish. With half the match gone I was starting to curse my luck. I was still beating the anglers to my right but it sounded like everyone to my left was catching fish. I hadn’t even seen a roach and my float was sitting motionless in the water. Things weren’t looking good.
Another couple of boats passed through and my float submerged as it drifted along with the tow. I instinctively struck and wasn’t too surprised to find myself hooked up on a snag. I contemplated how best to free my rig when suddenly the snag grew fins and started to swim off down the canal! Whatever it was it was big, very big. I had absolutely no control over it whatsoever and it never looked like it was ever going to stop. The unseen leviathan had no respect for my light joker rig and, when I ran out of pole sections to add, it snapped me up like cotton. Bugger! That fish could have won me the match on its own but it wasn’t to be. In all honesty I think I could’ve added twenty more parallel extensions and it wouldn’t have stopped.
I placed my bird’s nest of a rig to one side and picked up a heavier bloodworm rig. A brief look on the same line with a bunch of bloodworms failed to produce so I reverted back to a normal joker rig. Everyone to my right was still struggling whilst Mick continued to put the odd fish in the net. Just as I was convincing myself that I wouldn’t see a roach all day I had a quick flurry of bites to rekindle my interest. My lifeless peg had suddenly switched on and, after being fishless for so long, I was now catching a roach one-a-bung. From a peg that was seemingly devoid of fish I managed to catch a small roach every single put in until the end of the match. As the whistle went I contemplated what a strange match I’d just had. After losing that big fish my peg had burst into life. I just hoped that last hour of activity would be enough to secure decent points for my team.
The anglers in D section to my right had all struggled and Rocco was well up in the section with 1lb 12oz. I was the first to be weighed in E section and was pleasantly surprised to record a level 4lbs. Mick had been putting something in the net throughout the match but my late flurry had paid off as he weighed in 3lbs 1oz. The rest of the section carried on around the corner and as I didn’t want to leave my gear unattended I returned to the pub without knowing how I’d fared in the section. As the anglers eventually trickled back to the pub I was over the moon to discover that I had in fact won the section. As other section results filtered in things were starting to sound even more promising. Despite carrying a last in section we had done enough as a team to finish second overall behind Drennan Mohmar. On top of that my 4lb weight was actually the third best weight on the day! What a way to start the new year.
Perhaps the strangest thing of all was the after match banter. It always makes me laugh when I listen to certain anglers talking. The very same ‘experts’ who informed me that I was at the wrong end of the section before the match had miraculously changed their tune after the weigh-in. By the time the results were announced, my poor area had miraculously transformed into the area that everyone knew you wanted to draw! Anglers, don’t you just love ‘em?
The next match I fished was the second round of the Goodyear league. This round was on the Wyrley-Essington Canal and, unlike the league’s previous venue, the Curly-Wyrley (as many people call it) was predictably clear. I love these clear West Midland canals because they are absolutely stuffed full of roach and perch. There’s hardly any chub or carp pegs to worry about so a good day’s small fish catching is usually all that is required to frame. I drew a fancied area near a walkover bridge on the Swan AC stretch and there was absolutely no way that I was going to struggle like I did at Stoke Works. I hadn’t drawn on this bit before but it was apparently on one of the better pegs in the section. I didn’t have far to look for my competition. I had Starlets’ Paul Downes to my right and my ex team mate Jimmy Keeling, now with Shakespeare, to my left. With anglers of that calibre either side I had to be on top of my game. The section didn’t fish quite as well as expected but I had somehow managed to keep putting a few fish in the net throughout the match to take the section with 5lbs 4oz. I was well pleased with that as Paul and Jim both had less than 3lbs. I obviously had a pocket of roach in front of me and made the most of it. My 14oz perch and 10oz skimmer may have helped matters too!
I couldn’t see how Paul had fished his match but I knew why I had caught more than Jim. He had to contend with a pike nudging double figures in his peg. He actually had it on for twenty minutes during the match. It could be seen lurking just under the surface most of the match and, no matter how good an angler Jim is, there was no way he was ever going to do a decent weight with a crocodile in his peg. My peg was solid with tiny ‘blade’ roach and yet the pike never troubled me at all. I can only assume that the busy footbridge to my right had kept it away. Whatever the reason I wasn’t bothered because it meant that I had secured my fifth section win on the trot. On top of that I had narrowly beaten Drennan NorthWest’s Andy Billington (One of my joker fishing heroes) for fourth individual on the day by a single dram. Normally it would have been me that was drammed for the final frame place so, yet again, luck was well and truly on my side.
Not everything went my way, however. With a wallet full of change hanging heavy in my pocket on the morning of the match I decided that it would be a good idea to offload some of that ‘shrapnel’ as I paid my pools money. As organiser Lee Woodhouse announced me in fourth place he took great pleasure in holding aloft £65 of coins as my prize. The whole room burst out laughing at my expense but I didn’t care. I was just happy to be catching a few fish again…