This article originally featured as part of Jon Arthur’s popular End Peg column that featured in Match Fishing magazine:
End Peg – September 2005
Jon’s got his team fishing head firmly screwed on this month as he sets his sights on one of the biggest events of the year…
Sitting on one venue all season would bore me senseless as there’s so much more to get out of this sport. The greatest thing about team fishing is that you can get to fish different waters and methods against some of the very best anglers in the country. It’s never easy to keep winning, but it keeps you on your toes. The Division One National and Super League rounds were all in the pipeline but the AT Team Champs Final was first on the list. With such important matches looming, it was time to put away my carp rigs in order to re-familiarise myself with the finer art of small fish on light gear.
Our captain, Scott Geens, had booked us all in on the very first Team Champs practice on the Nene at Peterborough. As I stood in the queue awaiting the draw, it looked like a who’s who of top-flight match fishing. I was praying for a draw at Middleholme, the section most likely to throw up a match winning weight, and my wish was granted as I pulled out Peg 20.
My Penrose barrow was seriously overloaded as I tried to push it to my peg. Amongst a plethora of gear was eight bags of groundbait and leam, three large groundbait buckets, a cordless drill, a groundbait whisk, various riddles, two pole rollers, pole roosts and every sort of box attachment you could possibly think of. I’m sure I never took this much gear with me last year – my trolley was so overloaded I was waiting for someone to shout, “Buckaroo!”
Once at my peg, the first thing I noticed was the half-submerged ocean-going vessel upstream of me. I’m not sure how it got there, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there last year, but it helped create a decent gap between myself and Drennan NW’s Paul Keeley, who was pegged above it. I had Starlet’s Mick Dagnall for company to my left and we were both praying for a few bream and skimmers. As angling couples go, Mick and his wife, Claire, are as good as they get. It’s rare to find a couple that both compete at the highest level and they obviously share a lot of angling knowledge. It seems like they also share their tackle too as, on the day, it was Claire’s turn to use their one and only groundbait riddle! I tried to convince Mick that it was only a 70 peg walk to Claire’s peg on the North Bank but he decided to borrow mine instead!
We soon noticed that the small bleak and roach plipping along the far side of the river were, in fact, hundreds of bream and skimmers cruising up and down! A few phone calls later revealed that this was happening along the entire course of the river – I think that tells you just how hot it was. Those fish were definitely not feeding so we were all hoping that some of them would eventually get their heads down once the match got underway.
After the initial groundbait bombardment both Mick and myself were immediately into small skimmers. I found that two or three bloodworm on the hook was best and, by using a double bulk, I was getting positive bites on every cast. After two hours I had already got 6lb in the net but the swim was showing signs of dying. Mick’s peg, on the other hand, was getting stronger and stronger as his skimmers got bigger and bigger. He was having trouble getting some of them out of the weed, but even lost fish didn’t seem to unnerve the shoal that had settled in front of him. His topping up seemed like the biggest difference between our pegs and two balls of a cloudy mix every 20mins was keeping the skimmers hungry for more.
Conditions were sweltering and, for the next two hours, all I was catching was the sun. Apart from Mick the only other person still in action was Shakespeare’s Rob Quinn several pegs to my left. As I started to blister in the heat I decided to have a break to wander up and see what he was doing. Half an hour later I sat back down on my box and was relieved to find that some small skimmers had returned. I ended up with 7lb 9oz but had been well and truly battered by Mick, who won the match with 29lb. Ouch! Rob Quinn also had 20lb of bream while two very good anglers either side of him struggled. This set the pattern for the Middleholme section as it was plain to see that one angler could catch bream all day while those either side struggled for a few pounds. Thankfully, Mick wasn’t in my section so my 7lb 9oz was the best weight on my board. As we cooled ourselves off back at the pub I was getting ready to collect my section winner’s envelope, only to discover that I was in a split section (something I wholeheartedly disagree with) and the very last guy on a different weight sheet had just pipped me to the money – bugger!
The following Sunday open saw me draw Peg 29 on the North Bank with Barnsley’s Andy Kinder on the next peg downstream. It was a rock-hard match and Andy’s 2lb 4oz was a measly 2oz more than my final bag. I had one decent hemp roach slip the hook on the way in which would’ve swung it my way but it didn’t really matter as Lee Addy from Drennan NW had 5lb to win the section – 2lb of bleak and a bream.
With the final being on Sunday, we spent Saturday on a Grand Union Canal open at Milton Keynes to practice for the National. Some of our anglers nearly had a heart attack when they were told it was £20 pools. Peg fees are obviously a lot more expensive the further south you go as most West Midlanders think £15 is a bit steep for a canal match! Shakespeare’s Paul Abbott and Michael Buchwalder had pegged out so they were the obvious guys to ask about the form of my peg. “Not brilliant”, was the best advice they could give. “You want to be near Peg 45 to be in with a chance”, they added. “That’s where one guy had two carp for nearly 40lb last year!” I looked at my measly little landing net and thought it was just as well I was ten pegs further along! I was ready with plenty of time to spare so I thought it might be a good idea to have a look at the fliers around the corner. My peg was 17m wide with an awkward wind catching it. In contrast, the pegs to my left were 13m wide, bramble-strewn and flat calm! Sitting merrily on Peg 45 was none other than my teammate Paul Turner. His peg certainly looked the part and he didn’t need any advice from me. “I’m setting up two rigs today, Jon – a heavy rig and a heavier rig!” He wasn’t taking any prisoners!
My match was one hell of a struggle as I had to fish 16.5m in the wind for a section winning 7lb 8oz of skimmers. The £50 section money was more than welcome but I could’ve had the 10lb needed to frame if the wind wasn’t quite so bad – or if I wasn’t such a weakling! Big carp were hooked but no one had managed to get any out. Paul had a good tussle with one nudging 20lb but, despite getting it to the net twice, it eventually slipped the hook. I told Paul that specimen carp normally get given names by the carp brigade – I can’t print the name that Paul christened his! He still managed 6lb of fish including, of all things, a 14oz catfish. The next morning Paul told me that he had played that big carp all night in his sleep and still never got it in!
It was the AT Team Champs Final the next day and my team was in a buoyant mood. The pre-match favourites had to be Starlets and Barnsley, who both had a strong team at this style of fishing. This was the third year in succession that Shimano Tipton had qualified and, after two average results, the team had serious aspirations for a medal this time around. Any spectators must have wondered what was going on as the air was filled with the sound of groundbait drills whirring away as squads busily prepared their mixes. Fresh bait was critical and, while our bloodworm was leaping out of the paper, the team’s supply of joker was chilled to within an inch of its life. Thankfully a bit of hard work, and a lot of leam, revived it and we awaited our draw with baited breath. I was praying for a good draw (Anywhere near Darren Cox would’ve been nice!) but I had to make do with Peg 35 on the North Bank. It was no surprise to discover that Coxy had drawn the very same peg on Middleholme that Mick Dagnall had won from two weeks earlier! (I bet he doesn’t tell you that!)
I got to my peg with plenty of time to spare and the first thing I discovered was that Starlets were on the downstream swim to us in every section. As fellow West Midlanders, Tipton and Starlets have always shared a fierce rivalry so this was going to make things interesting. I wasn’t sure which Starlet I’d rather have on the next peg but it certainly wasn’t Kian Wardle. They don’t come much better than Kian so I was going to have to be at the top of my game to beat him.
My match went really well as Kian and myself were locked in a friendly battle. Kian’s shorter line yielded loads of small fish at half-depth whereas I concentrated most of my efforts on the long pole for a procession of slightly bigger roach. Hemp was a non-starter and I quickly abandoned my short bleak line in favour of the slightly better fish that were lying beneath them. While Kian plundered tiny fish all day the last 45 minutes were terrible for me as the roach completely switched off. As my bank runner predicted, Andy Kinder obliterated the opposite end of my section with two bream and a skimmer for over 10lb. The other anglers near him had all caught big roach late and the next best weight was just over 6lbs. Kian was next to weigh and I wasn’t sure if I had enough to topple his 4lb 10oz total. It was going to be close so I was over the moon to record 4lb 15oz – result! Even more importantly, there were three anglers with a weight in between Kian and myself and I had recorded mega points for my team.
As we filtered back for the results it sounded as if we had done okay. Barnsley had annihilated the match and it looked like Drennan NW were going to be a comfortable second. Tipton had managed to ward off Starlets from the next peg, but it was still going to be tight for third spot with several teams in contention. In the end, Browning Central’s 62 points was just enough to secure third place – only two points away from Garbolino Ossett and ourselves. We tied for fourth place but missed out on the money after a section win count back. It was a bit of an anti-climatic end to the competition but we still left with our pride intact. We hadn’t won the Team Champs so our next target would have to be the Divison One National instead. Bring it on!