This article originally featured as part of Jon Arthur’s popular End Peg column that featured in Match Fishing magazine:
End Peg – July 2005
After such a busy team fishing calendar I was glad when the 2004-2005 season was over. As much as I love team fishing it can start to take its toll. It had been one of my most inconsistent and frustrating seasons for a very long time and I was looking forward to a long overdue break.
Even though I enjoy bloodworm fishing, by mid-March I cannot wait to pack my trays and aerators away and dig out my carp gear instead. Just as the Seasons change so does the state of my garage! It wasn’t long before my winter bloodworming paraphernalia was being replaced by pellets, meatcutters and lots of fishy smelling concoctions.
Last close season found me fishing the Super League Final and the Builder Centre Final, both at Whiteacres, alongside practicing hard for the Woodland View Fishomania qualifier. I’ve got things easy this year. I’ve got no Super League Final to fish, the Builder Centre competition is no more (a crying shame) and I was one of the disappointed many that failed to get any Fisho tickets. Oh, and I also tried to get on the UK Champs without any success too!
I desperately wanted a few fishing-free weeks to recharge my batteries but it wasn’t long before I was chomping at the bit to get back out on the bank. I was only going to fish once a weekend but that was just enough to keep my hand in. Where to go fishing was the next decision. I could’ve traveled to some new venues and learnt new methods and techniques but, seeing as though I do that all the time with Tipton, I thought sod it, I’m going to fish somewhere I can actually catch some fish. Tunnel Barn Farm here I come! I only managed to fish there four times last year (please take note angling journalists – I don’t fish there every single weekend!) but it’s a venue that I know well and one I always enjoy returning to.
I don’t mind admitting that Tunnel Barn Farm is one of my all-time favorite venues. The place is absolutely stuffed with fish and as far as I’m concerned it’s the fairest venue in the country. This isn’t the only reason I have a soft spot for the place. When I first visited there many years ago it was so refreshing to be immediately greeted by friendly faces that were only too keen to help the young and somewhat naïve match angler that I was at the time. This is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. I have visited several venues (and tackle shops too) where people have been far from hospitable to strangers. At some venues I’ve seen people looked down upon as unwanted outsiders and you almost have to give a secret handshake before you can extract any help from them. Being young makes matters even worse. If any of you have watched The League of Gentlemen on TV then that’s not far off a decent analogy for the way some fishermen treat people who aren’t ‘local’. You can see why so many newcomers are scared to take up match fishing with attitudes like that. Like I said before, Tunnel Barn Farm welcomed me to their fishery from day one and that’s something that I will never take for granted.
Anyway, back to the present. With fishing being such a time-consuming hobby, my fiancée decided it was about time she took up an interest of her own. On one of my fishing-free weekends I drove her to a Dog Rehoming Centre where she had decided to take up voluntary dog walking. This place was only five minutes from Tunnel Barn Farm (how convenient!) so, whilst she was going through a two-hour induction lesson, I decided to watch one of the opens on the venue. It was a chilly mid-March Sunday and the fishery was only just beginning to ‘warm up’. The open match was on the Extension Pool and it wasn’t long before I spotted my long time friend Dave Armstrong on peg 33. It wasn’t exactly a favorable draw but he was putting on a decent display of fish catching and was even having a few shallow. I had been keeping an eye on the recent match results at the place and on my visit it was refreshing to notice how close in the fish were starting to venture. That was all I needed to whet my appetite. Once the fish are feeding confidently I know I can do some damage. I quickly decided that two weekends without going fishing was more than long enough to be away from it all!
As I thought about going back to my car I spotted Mike Hamlington, the fishery owner, driving along on his golf buggy. He stopped for a chat and decided to give me a guided tour of his fishing empire. He drove me to a few of his pools that I’d never seen before, including the newly dug Canal Pool. It was a bit cosy in the golf buggy as I had to fight for a seat with two of his dogs! It was also a bit of a white-knuckle ride as Mike sped around the dirt tracks trying to avoid all the potholes and ravines! I’ve heard numerous stories about both Mike’s and fishery manager Pete Rice’s inability to keep vehicles on dry land so I was pleased to make it around the complex safely! Perhaps he could start selling tickets for an all-terrain golf buggy experience?
Anyway, I was itching to get back on the bank the following week and a one-off Good Friday afternoon match seemed like the perfect opportunity. Living nowhere near the rest of my Brummie team mates (Well, as far as I’m concerned they’re all Brummies!) I rarely get the chance to travel with anyone to matches so it was a nice change to be able to travel to this match with Dave Armstrong. Pre-match we both assumed that it would be a typical low-weight affair with relatively light gear and negative feeding still required to fool the fish. Matches were being won with about 50 to 60lb so that was our target for this match too.
Everyone had a bit of room and I pulled out peg 4 on the Extension Pool, what I would class as an average peg. As I began plumbing up I was surprised at the depths. A couple of seasons ago the venue suffered trouble with low water levels. This was fantastic from a fishing perspective as the shallow water concentrated the fish – and the islands weren’t so far away either! They’ve sorted that out now and the place is back to its normal level. If anything I think there’s a bit too much water in the lakes now and it’s a bit too deep for my liking on some of the pegs. Not knowing exactly how the fish would behave I plumbed everywhere from tight in to tight across at 16 metres and set the whole lot up! All my rigs were on 0.1 lines and soft number eight elastics to a 20 808 hook. I did have one heavier rig assembled with 0.12 line and an 18 B911 to a 10 elastic but I didn’t expect to use it as it seemed a bit fierce for the time of year. Talk about getting it all wrong. To cut a long story short I wish I had set all my rigs up on the heavier gear as I ended up with 111lbs which was only good enough for fourth place! I was taking far too long to get the fish in and that ultimately cost me second place. Steve Edwards was second with 118lbs and Pete Caton was third with116lbs. As they fish there every weekend they would both have had the benefit of knowing what to expect on the day. Pete Rice also knew what to expect and he annihilated the match with a whopping 157lb from peg 17. Of most interest was that he caught all his fish on meat which, in March, was unseasonally early. Again, Ricey had the benefit of knowing exactly what was going to work as he’d won the midweek match using exactly the same tactics. With that in mind I felt that I’d done well to frame after being away from the place for so long.
As I said earlier, this was a one-off match that finished a lot later in the evening. I was actually the first angler to weigh in and the light was already fading at this point. Absolutely everyone had bagged up and I think they had underestimated how quickly it was going to get dark. It wasn’t long before it was pitch black and a mixture of torches and car headlights was needed to finish the job of weighing in! Afterwards Mike nearly banned us all for night fishing!
The one thing that really struck me was the size of the fish. They seemed to have doubled since last year so many of the F1s were well over a pound in size. They’ve been catching F1s to 3lb on some of the lakes so who knows how big they’ll eventually go? It no longer seemed like a speed race. I found myself waiting for bites and yet I still did a big weight. I know that I can catch faster than that on this venue so there will definitely be some huge weights there this season. A couple of seasons ago 50lb was a difficult target and I was one of only a handful of lucky people to get a 70lb+ hat. My best weight that season was 96lbs which no one managed to better all year. Nowadays no one bats an eyelid at 70lb weights and scanning the weeklies several matches last year were won with around 100lb.
I decided to fish one of the following weekend matches fully expecting to bag up again. I drew peg 11 on Extension Pool, which is one of the few pegs on the whole complex that I never ‘ever’ want to draw. Despite that I still felt I would have a few fish so I made sure all of my rigs were suitably beefed up. I got it totally wrong as it fished rock hard and I never weighed in. I wasn’t the only one as even Pete Rice didn’t frame. He admitted he’d made the mistake of fishing meat when he should’ve used maggot on lighter gear. I think those two matches perfectly illustrate the two extremes of fish behaviour at this time of year. Each match is different and, with the water only just starting to warm up, even the venue experts can get it wrong.
That bad match was just the kick up the arse I needed. I realised that the Good Friday event was a freak match when the fish decided to have a proper munch. The day I didn’t weigh was far more like the conditions I should be expecting at the time of year. The following week saw us taking up almost every single peg on Extension Pool. With tight pegging it was always going to be a difficult low weight affair and I was well prepared for it. I drew peg 24 which I was quite happy with, despite having an angler very close to me on either side. Fishing extremely negatively I managed to keep putting something in the net all day to weigh 51lb 12oz. No one else had got anywhere near that weight as the scales arrived and the only person who looked like a threat was Pete Caton who was also the last person to weigh. He was admitting to 40lb+, which got me worried – Pete used to be even worse than me at underestimating his weights! He had obviously got more honest at this game as two weighs later he claimed second over all with 43lb.
I was obviously elated to win a match there after only my third proper visit of the season. I’m not sure if I would have won without the knowledge gained from those two preceding matches. With a tidy sum of cash already in the back pocket I was hoping for more of the same on my next few visits.