This article originally featured as part of Jon Arthur’s popular End Peg column that featured in Match Fishing magazine:
End Peg – June 2005
I might have ended last month’s article in good form but it’s been anything but predictable since then. I’ve fished some fantastic matches but I’ve had some real gruellers too – the kind that make you wonder whether it’s really all worth it.
I got off to a fantastic start on the third round of the FMS League on the Shropshire Union. The venue’s an hour-long trek from my house and, half an hour into my journey up the M6, it suddenly dawned on me that in order to catch some fish it would have been a good idea to actually bring some bait with me! I had no other option than to get off at the next exit and race home to collect it. I was ‘a little bit’ late by the time I arrived at the match. The team draw had already been made so a phonecall en route directed me to my peg. I didn’t fancy it one bit when I saw how clear it was and, with only a narrow band of ‘dark’ water to target, my options were limited. To cut a long story short I was pleasantly surprised to find the peg heaving with tiny roach and gudgeon. A positive bulk rig with bloodworm on the hook produced well over 300 fish for 4lbs 2oz and decent section points. I won my half of the 15-peg section but at the opposite end the last five anglers all beat me with quality redfins from 2oz to 12oz. My fish were so small that many of them fell straight through the weigh basket. I had obviously drawn the nursery! I know it defies the laws of physics but somehow my weight seemed to decrease as I kept tipping the fry back into the scalesman’s basket! Drennan’s Paul Keeley won the match with a huge 22lbs of roach. I never saw his catch but something tells me his fish were ever so slightly bigger than mine!
From that hectic fry-a-chuck match I went on to fish a proper grueller on the Stratford Canal at Earlswood. I won’t bore you with the details other than the fact I ended up with 12 perch and a stickleback (!?) for a whopping 5oz. I don’t think I will be returning there in a hurry!
I went on to have an even shorter match the following week at Soudley. An hour into the match I was walking the bank to try and find where all the fish had gone. Paul Turner was obviously a glutton for punishment as he managed to sit there for five hours to win the section with 6oz. There were more people walking than fishing, which really summed up the match.
I did much better the next day at Stoke Works when I was third in my 22-peg section. I never won a penny, but enjoyed it nonetheless. I had Colin Tillett and Essex County’s Ian Didcote for company either side. I ended up recording a 4lbs 8oz weight which was over 2lb clear of my neighbours’. Four plump caster roach and 30 fish from under my keepnet made all the difference. The only annoying thing, at least from my perspective, was that the two anglers that beat me both had ‘lucky’ bonus fish in the dying minutes of the match. Darren ‘I’m always on a crap peg’ Massey beat me by 2oz after snaring a 1lb 8oz hybrid on his very last cast and Mark Smith won the section by snaring a very handy 4lb bream. Jammy fish should never count in matches – unless I’m the one who catches them of course!
The day wasn’t without incident, though. On a winters day the swans were being unseasonally frisky. There were ten of them in rival gangs crashing around all day squabbling for territory. The canal turned into the runway for the Battle of Stoke Works. Throughout the match you could hear an almighty whooping noise from their wings as they charged up and down the canal. Several times they met in front of my peg, wings arched and necks recoiled before lashing out at each other, diving around and whipping the water into a froth. Shooing them away with my cupping kit was a waste of time – they were having none of it. You really had to have your wits about you as they flew over everyone’s poles and Shakespeare’s Johnny Fowler had his smashed to pieces after a swan tried to land on it! We didn’t laugh… much! I’ve seen cormorants with more consideration than those swans!
I decided a break from canals was in order so I booked myself into a Tunnel Barn Farm open the following Saturday. I fish the venue quite often in the warmer months but have never had the opportunity to fish there in the winter when bloodworm and joker dominates. With friends who fish the venue regularly I thought I knew what to expect on the day. Unusually for me, I was ready well before the start so, with time to spare, I got off my box one more time to double-check everything. That proved to be a fatal error. I still don’t know exactly how it happened but one second I was happily standing up and the next I was having a freezing cold bath! Thankfully no one noticed me falling in so I was spared the ridicule of everyone laughing at me. Honest!
Paul Newell took great satisfaction in getting in the first comment. “You’ve just done to yourself what half the people here have always wanted to see happen!” he smirked. Opposite me Darren Cox was also in fits of laughter. “Expect a phone call in a couple of minutes!” I wasn’t sure what he meant until I answered my phone to hear Dave Harrell laughing away on the other end. “Well done, Jon! That’ll make a fantastic story for your column”, he remarked. Five minutes later I received a short and sweet text message from him saying, “Jump in again and get a pic” What a lovely considerate person the editor of this magazine is!
For some unfathomable reason I decided to fish on wearing the few dry clothes I had left. With the wind in my face it was the coldest I’ve ever been during a fishing match. Looking back on it I was lucky not to catch hypothermia. I shivered my way to a modest 19lb bag of carp that put me precisely nowhere. Shakespeare’s Paul Bick won the match on the newly stocked Club Pool with 43lbs whilst Pete Caton showed his awesome consistency to claim second place. I decided that I was perhaps best off sticking to canals for the rest of the season!
The next day it was the fourth round of the FMS League and, what a surprise, everyone had heard about my escapades the day before. I tried to ignore all the finger pointing as I made our team’s draw. My peg for the day was typically “one off a flyer”. Harry Moulton was on the fancied end peg to my left and Saint’s Simon Nickless was pegged to my right with an inviting looking turning bay in front of him. My peg looked okay, situated on the outside of a bend with a boat opposite. There was one problem however. The guy who pegged out my section was obviously suffering from a stiff neck. If only he had looked upwards he would have spotted that my peg was immediately below an overhanging tree. Moving my peg wasn’t an option so a bit of savage pruning with my weedcutter was in order. Half an hour later I had cleared some of the obstruction but there were still a few stubborn branches that I couldn’t quite reach.
All the effort spent pruning that tree turned out to be a waste of time. After dropping my rig in close I was surprised to latch into a dumpy 2oz roach on my very first put in. The fish made it’s way into the keepnet but my rig ended up adorning the tree. For the rest of the match I had a real struggle on my hands. I had fish queuing up to be caught but swinging them in was a real pain. Netting fish was also problematic. With so little room to manoeuvre I couldn’t keep a tight line to the fish so the hook kept going straight through the fish’s mouth and into the mesh of my landing net – causing pigtailed and broken hooklengths. It’s so frustrating to have a pile of fish in front of when the local shrubbery conspires to stop you catching them. Increasing gusts of wind were doing nothing to help matters either. As I got more and more flustered I began trashing rigs and losing tackle. My hooks seemed to be magnetically attracted to everything around me. Despite pinching down my barbs, I kept having to cut holes in my nets and clothing in an attempt to free my hook. I can be so irrational during a match. Surely a keepnet or item of clothing isn’t worth ruining just to save a few seconds of fishing time and yet, in the heat of a competition, I always feel that I haven’t got any time to spare.
To make matters worse I bumped about 4lbs of perch along with several big roach that were literally blown off the hook in the blustery winds. It was one of the most challenging matches that I’d ever fished. I’d done well to keep catching in the adverse conditions but, on the other hand, I’d fished like a complete muppet, with 6lb of fish coming off the hook! Somehow I still managed a whopping 13lbs of roach and perch for second in the match. Lucky or what? Harry Moulton weighed in 10lb of gudgeon whilst Simon Nickless’ 18lbs of roach comfortably won the match. There was obviously a pile of fish in front of us. I just wished I’d packed an axe!
Despite all the problems I found comfort in the end result, especially as our team was still winning the league. My next few matches, on the other hand, were just plain crap. I did manage a few decent bags of fish but, generally, things really weren’t going to plan. I’m usually an angler that refuses to give up but several times during this period I found myself packing up early and accepting defeat. The most worrying aspect was that I couldn’t catch any fish at Soudley, the venue for our forthcoming Winter League semi-final. With a place in the team to fight for you can imagine my concern.
My first two official practice matches at Soudley didn’t exactly go to plan. I packed up after only two hours on an abysmally pegged Oak Tree section before struggling on the only peg in the section without a boat the following match. I didn’t fare much better on the very last practice match either. I was on a dodgy peg where the only real chance of doing any good was to locate a pocket of gudgeon or snare a few bonuses that sometimes inhabit the area. Whilst I couldn’t manage either Jason Cunningham, my team mate on the next peg, happily caught a gudgeon-a-bung all day to win the section. As if that didn’t give me enough of a sore neck Loughborough’s Alan Wright won the match with an unprecedented 16lb of chub only two pegs away! I got well and truly battered that day!
After four matches on the venue I’m ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t have managed a pound of fish combined! I was genuinely worried about getting into the team for the semi-final. After a long chat with my captain I was relieved to be given the benefit of the doubt. The one thing in my favour was the fact that I’ve never come back with a bad section result in a proper team match at Soudley. I’ve also managed three section seconds in my previous three semi-finals for Tipton. That sort of reliability, rather than my recent run of form, was what ultimately scraped me a place in the team.
When the big day finally arrived I was so relieved to find myself in a section with a few fish. I had a busy match to end up with around 150 small roach for 2lb 4oz that, on a low weight day, earned me a comfortable second in section. If that wasn’t pleasing enough I was also quite proud to beat Trentmen’s Darren Bickerton off the next peg. Drennan’s Steve Conroy made no mistakes on the end peg in the match to win my section with 5lb 8oz of roach. That performance was echoed by the rest of his team as they strolled to a convincing victory on the day. Garbolino Ossett had also performed well and thoroughly deserved their second place. More importantly for me, Shimano Tipton Van den Eynde claimed the last qualifying place and my season had thankfully ended on a high note. The last 12 months had been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. Here’s to more of the same next season!