This article originally featured as part of Jon Arthur’s popular End Peg column that featured in Match Fishing magazine:
End Peg – August 2005
Things are getting better and better for Jon at Tunnel Barn Farm…
After winning the previous Sunday I was hoping for more of the same the next weekend. All the pre-match banter suggested that you didn’t want to draw on House Pool as the Extension Pool (or House Two as some people call it) was throwing up all the top weights. People were suggesting packing up and going home if they drew House which is totally ludicrous. It’s the same thing every time I visit this venue. The locals, who really should know better, are always fiercely debating that only one pool can win all the money. More often than not they get it completely wrong and, when they do, they change their minds and start proclaiming another pool is the best! The simple fact is that it is possible to frame off almost any peg on any pool on the complex and it’s impossible to predict where the winner will come from before the start of a match. I stand to be corrected.
The draw in the morning wasn’t without incident. There was a decent turnout for this match and the pegging was always going to be a bit tight. The two bonus pegs were drawn out of the bag, 24 on Extension (the peg that I won the last match off) and peg 34 on House. Being at my usual place at the front of the queue I was instructed to shuffle the pegs before the draw commenced. Just as we were about to start another three anglers turned up to pay their pools. The three offenders had actually been standing around for half an hour twiddling their thumbs before realising that they hadn’t bothered to enter the match! Many match organisers would’ve simply turned them away but, despite the air turning blue, Pete Rice was still in a generous mood and put another three pegs in the bag. With no time to redraw the bonus pegs there was another quick bag shuffle before the draw could finally begin, albeit ten minutes late. Ricey always gets someone to draw his peg out for him first and there were groans all around as he held aloft bonus peg Extension 24 in his hand. I had the second dip in the bag and the groans got even loader as I promptly came out with House 34, the second bonus peg! After two bag shuffles and three extra pegs going in what are the chances of that happening? Despite everyone saying a draw on the House was a non-starter I wasn’t complaining as I ran to my peg – you couldn’t see me for dust!
Despite getting to my peg early I wasn’t quite ready for the start of the match. Peg 34 is an unusual peg all on its own at the end of a central island. It’s only seven metres wide and burrowed deep into the ground to bring you closer to the water. There was just enough room to plonk my Match Box in the hole but in order to fit on my sidetray a bit of excavation work was in order. On a venue like this I like to have several identical rigs set up to cover me but all that time spent getting myself comfortable meant that I’d only set up two rigs before the whistle blew. The depth was almost the same everywhere I plumbed so a light 4×10 float on 0.1 line and an identical float on 0.12 line covered all my options. The light rig was matched up to a soft 10 latex to a size 18 Tubertini 808 whereas the heavier rig was attached to a 12 elastic and an 18 B911.
I plumbed up a total of seven lines to cover my options but only began by lightly feeding three so that I could gently feel my way in. The recent winning weights were still quite low so I didn’t expect a bagging match. On House Pool there are a lot of F1s over a pound in weight so I wouldn’t need to go flat out to frame. It was a slow start to the match as the fish were in a finicky mood. I would catch a couple of fish before they backed off, forcing me to try another line. It wasn’t long before I had more lines on the go, picking a fish off each in rotation. It was busy fishing but after three hours I knew I needed a lot more to do any damage. There didn’t seem to be any difference in catch rate between my two rigs so I naturally stuck to the heavier one for the rest of the match. Throughout the day I had been feeding two lines tight against my own bank either side of me and typically only one line was producing bites. I considered abandoning the left hand line in favour of concentrating all my attentions on the successful swim to my right. I thought it was worth one last exploratory cast over the unproductive swim and was glad I did. I’m not sure what spurred the fish into feeding but for the last two hours this previously barren swim had miraculously burst into life. I couldn’t get the rig in fast enough and by feeding and fishing corn I was emptying it. My 0.12 rig had lasted a commendable four hours and 55 minutes before finally giving up the ghost five minutes from the end as a bonus 3lber broke me as it thrashed around in my landing net. I had no time to assemble a new rig so with minutes to spare I had to rely on my lightest rig to continue on my bagging spree. The lighter elastic meant that I took longer to get the next few fish in but they were all over a pound and well worth taking my time with. As the match ended I wondered whether my late run of fish would be enough to win.
I was going to be one of the last to weigh in so I had loads of time to pack away before following the scales. There had already been two 80lb weights on the Extension before Pete Rice totalled 79lb. That meant that the first bonus peg was safe so all eyes turned on me. Apparently most anglers had struggled on the House Pool so few people expected me to topple the 80lb+ leading weight – except Pete Caton that is. Pete never ceases to amaze me as he has the uncanny ability of keeping a close eye on everyone’s catch rate while still managing to bag up himself. At the end of a match he knows exactly who has caught and who hasn’t and, despite me being tucked away at the opposite end of the lake, he somehow knew I had bagged up in the last half of the match.
There was a big crowd behind me by the time the scales arrived at my peg and an 80lb weight was still in the lead. I wasn’t sure if I had over 80lb but I had everything crossed in anticipation. Two weighs later and I was grinning from ear to ear as the scalesman revealed my total winning weight of 106lb. Yes! The £300 plus winnings on the day meant that I had a very welcome £440 to take home with me. As I drove home still grinning I thought I would ring the missus up to let her know what I’d done. That was a big mistake! By the time I arrived home she had already decided how to spend it! (Note to self – never reveal winnings to fiancée)
I went on to do well in several more matches after that including the evening matches that had just commenced. I never fished any evening matches at all last season so I was looking forward to a few three hour sweepstakes. By going to work an hour early I was able to finish earlier which just gave me enough time to make the draw for the Wednesday evening fixtures. Tunnel Barn’s evening matches start at 5.45pm which in my experience is about carp o’clock, the time of day when the resident lumps decide to have a go. With only three hours of match time it’s important to have a simple and positive game plan in order to do well. For me that normally means fishing no further out than my top kit with pellet and meat on the hook. Two rigs are all that’s needed, a 4×12 float for a swim straight in front and a lighter 4×10 float for fishing tight to the bank either side of me. I tend to use 0.12 line to an 18 or 16 hook and a 12 latex elastic. Once it warms up even more I may step this up to 0.14 or even 0.16 line straight through to a 14 latex elastic. My first evening match went well. I didn’t catch particularly fast by Tunnel Barn standards but those all important bigger fish pushed out the resident F1s to give me a satisfying 79lb winning weight.
Another bonus with these evening matches is that for a few quid you can stop on and have a meal in the farmhouse afterwards. Mike and Jenny Hamlington certainly know how to feed their guests and things like casseroles and game pie are often on the menu. There are loads of pheasants wandering around the lakes whilst you fish away. Some of them are so tame that you can feed them by hand. I suppose there’s half a chance that the pheasants I’ve been feeding my pellets to at the weekend are on my plate the following Wednesday!
Fishing these matches made me realise that the fish at Tunnel Barn had developed an unseasonally early taste for luncheon meat. The fact that Pete Rice had been emptying the place with meat, especially in the midweek matches, had been partly to blame. Pete is so successful on this venue that as soon as he starts winning on a method the ‘clones’ start to appear and in no time at all everyone is doing what Ricey does. Whenever people ask me how to approach Tunnel Barn I always say, “don’t try and copy Pete Rice!” The one thing they often fail to realise is that Pete’s unorthodox approach to this venue will always be one step ahead of theirs. I don’t think it’s his bait that is the key to his success but his feeding and presentation that really matters. It doesn’t matter if it’s meat, pellet, casters or maggots – I’ve even seen him win a match at Tunnel Barn using just hemp and tares! Before moving to commercials Pete was one of the very best anglers on the Warwickshire Avon. In those days he perfected the art of fishing for roach using tiny stickfloats close in. Few could copy him then and in many ways his approach to the carp venues he now fishes is just a modification of those age-old river tactics he used to employ. At Tunnel Barn Pete rarely fishes more than three metres out if he can help it. If he has more than three metres of carbon in his hand then he’s usually struggling! Now that the fish have packed on in weight he only needs them to move in for a couple of hours to do a big weight. Such is Pete’s faith in fishing short that on one rare occasion this year when he had to ‘go long’ I actually witnessed him having to borrow someone’s pole cup!
With so much meat going in only a fool would go without a couple of tins in their coolbag. I use the very handy 1/4 and 1/8 inch Alan Higgs type meatcutters for much of my meat preparation. They’re a godsend when you need to knock up a few tins in a hurry but, whatever you do, try not to snap any of the wires on them. Getting hold of replacement wire is almost as difficult as re-threading the stuff once you’ve got it. None of the shops I tried had any in stock but a quick post on the ever-helpful Total-Fishing website threw up a few alternative materials to try. Musical instrument strings were suggested which gave me a few ideas. Keep this quiet but let’s just say that the missus wont be playing her violin for a while – that’ll teach her to spend my bonus peg winnings!