This article originally featured as part of Jon Arthur’s popular End Peg column that featured in Match Fishing magazine:
End Peg – October 2005
This month Jon’s had to deal with boats, walkers and cows at Milton Keynes, plus there’s been some big hippos swimming around on the Shropshire Union…
I managed three open matches before the big day on the Division One National. at Milton Keynes. Two 7lb-plus section wins and a near 5lb bag of squatt fish were enough to lead me to think I was doing things half right. My team is used to canals that respond well to squatt and hemp tactics and that also suffer from heavy boat traffic, so the style of fishing was right up my street. While many teams were bemoaning the numbers of boats descending onto the venue most Midland-based teams weren’t bothered in the slightest. Boats encourage fish to swim, and swimming fish have to feed. I’ve lost count of the times when a seemingly barren swim has come alive once a boat has passed. We have learnt to keep the feed going in while those around us have often lost their rag and given up.
One of my section-winning matches was a 150-pegger where I drew the biggest cow drink that I’ve ever seen. After walking past twenty or so ‘Mr. Crabtree pegs’, full of overhanging trees and other fish attracting features, I was a bit disheartened to find myself sat with an 17m wide featureless expanse of water in front of me. The whole of my section looked the same but at least there were a fish topping in front of us all. To cut a long story short, in between the herds of cows and sheep trampling around in my swim, I squatt fished my way to a 7lb 12oz bag for a nice section win against some decent anglers. The only bad point of my match was latching into a big fish on my squatt rig, a bream I suspect, that bolted off down the canal. I stopped its initial run but it somehow managed to find a submerged carrier bag to swim through. I ended up netting a ragged old sheet of polythene in the hope that the fish was somehow still amongst it, but it wasn’t. Roger Marlow won the match with 18lb, four bream and a 3lb perch, from the section in the trees and 10lb was needed to frame. If only that bream hadn’t got away…
The next Sunday saw 260 anglers practicing in the final weekend open before the National. Who said canal fishing was dead? After two good matches on the venue I wound my team mates up a treat by proclaiming that there was 7lb on every peg! Sods Law meant that I ended up with only 4lb 13oz for fourth in the section. My team mate, Dave Brown, won the section and was fifth in the match with an impressive 10lb of roach. He pocketed a £240 for his efforts while the winner walked off with a cool £500. Not bad for a canal match, eh?
National day soon arrived and the air was full of the usual buzz and excitement in the morning as Scott Geens did our team’s draw. I have never seen my team so confident and we all felt that a medal was on the cards. My peg for the day was D37 and I soon found it, two down from a walkover bridge and with a very inviting turning bay to my left. As the rest of the anglers descended onto the towpath I don’t think there was a single person that didn’t say, “That looks nice” as they walked past me! I must admit, I wasn’t disappointed with my draw, but there were some equally good pegs around me as well.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think boats are detrimental to anyone’s swim – that is unless you are pegged next to a turning bay like I was. A boat turning in front of me was the last thing I wanted, especially on such a big occasion, but, sure enough, after three hours of steadily catching fish, that’s exactly what happened! The boat in question was the longest narrowboat I saw all day and, typically, it was being driven by a lobotomised tourist, who had obviously never driven a boat before in his life. After ramming the boat’s bow into the far bank I could see him scratching his head and thinking about what to do next. The ‘admiral’ then whacked his engine into reverse while his ‘shipmates’ busily poked their poles into the mud to try and lever the boat sideways. In an instant the lovely green tinged canal had transformed into a swirling brown torrent. As the boat struggled to swing around I had no option but to get him to throw me his rope so I could pull the end of the boat towards me. It was only at this point that I realised the boat was only just going to fit lengthways across the canal. I looked at the driver’s vacant expression as his whirring propellers got nearer and nearer to my keepnet. I made a quick decision to drag my hard-earned catch out of the water, just in the nick of time! The boat finally managed its three-point turn and was now nestled amongst the far bank trees, directly over my carefully primed swims. I prayed that he wouldn’t open his engine up too hard but there was no chance of that as he powered away. The hemp swim I had primed for three hours had been wiped out in one fell swoop and I couldn’t see how any of my swims would ever recover.
As if that wasn’t enough I nearly forgot to mention the 300 or so kids with their parents walking along the towpath all day! The NFA had timed the match in tandem with the Bradwell Carnival – Great! I reckon around 300 people walked past me during the match and, as I was pegged directly in front of the towpath entrance, I seemed to spend more time checking everything was alright behind me than watching my pole float. Only about ten of us in my section were affected by the carnival-goers but, after the noisiest days fishing I’ve ever had, the entire 68-peg section wished the guy on the tannoy would shove his microphone where the sun didn’t shine!
It took 40 minutes for the mud to finally settle back down from that boat. The roach and small skimmers I was originally catching had all but disappeared, replaced by one or two tiny perch. The rest of my match was spent scratching around and it wasn’t until the last ten minutes that the roach finally returned. By that time it was too late and I suspected my chances of huge points for the team had been well and truly scuppered.
By the time the match ended I had a pounding headache and had well and truly had enough. All I wanted to do was pack up and have a pint but, as if I hadn’t already endured enough, I had also drawn the scales! This meant that I had to help weigh in no less than 34 anglers – just what I needed!
A kilo of fish was worth mega points and Saints’ Steve Embery obliterated the section with an impressive 5kilo bag of hemp caught roach. I ended up with 1kilo 740grams and 61 points – which went a long way towards cheering me up. The two pegs to my right both beat me but I am sure I would have had over 2kilos if it wasn’t for that boat.
On the team front everyone managed their kilo target except our captain, Scott Geens, who had a nightmare eight-pointer. Despite this bad ‘un, it sounded promising for a medal and, after Collins Green were read out in fourth place we knew we had done it! Hotrods were third, but it was a great result for the West Midlands as my Shimano Tipton squad took silver and Starlets claimed gold. Next year it’s on the Erewash Canal and we’ll be hoping to go one better.
It was more canal fishing the next day as I found myself at Penkridge on the Staffs-Worcester Canal practicing for the first round of the Super League. It was a baking hot day and I drew the ‘carp or bust’ section at Otherton. Despite having 10lb of fish after only 90 minutes, eight chub and a 7lb carp, I was bored stiff watching a motionless bristle most of the match. I rang my team mate Neil Russell to see how he was doing and his reply was that it was too hot and, “I’m going for another swim in a minute!” Neil is barking mad at the best of times and it transpired that twice during the match he stripped down to his underpants and swam down to the bridge, just to cool himself down – God help any barges that got in his way! I had to endure a biteless three hours before latching into a 5oz chub three minutes from the end. It seemed insignificant at the time but, after the match, I found that I had ounced Barnsley’s Alex Mitchell and team mate Jason Cunningham into fourth place – my first Kamasan point of the season too! It was all chub and carp weights – or ‘canal vermin’ as I call them – that dominated the frame. Kev Richmond had 18lb for second and Paul Boothby won with 25lb.
The heat had obviously brought out all the idiots because one angler had someone lean over the bridge to ask him if he could jump in. The angler obviously told him not to, only to be told, “Why not? It’s a public highway!” I’m not sure what jumping in a canal has to do with public highways and, despite the angler’s protest, he dived in off the bridge anyway! Leicester’s Bob Greenbury had just as much fun after a ‘double boater’ dragged his estimated 10lb of squatt fish away. He chased after the boat but the only thing he could salvage from it’s propeller was a tiny piece of material that, in his words, “looked more like a skimpy pair of whore’s knickers than a keepnet!”
I had another interesting match the following week on the ‘Junky’ at Kirk Bramwith. I love northern canals like the New Junction – they’re wide, deep and, normally, full of fish. It was a Super League round and I ended up with 9lb 6oz. That consisted of three big perch and a chub on the feeder, plus 3lb of squatt fish, for only fourth in my section. The last perch I caught was nearly 2lb and I hooked it minutes before the end of the match. As it jerked around it slipped the hook and I thought I’d lost it, as my feeder flew up into the air. I instinctively scooped my net under the water in desperation and, miraculously, the perch was still there when I lifted the net back up! The two bank runners behind me just stood there and shook their heads in disbelief!
Andy Kinder won the section, and the match, with a whopping 39lb of chub. Anyone not fishing would naturally assume he caught them on the feeder tight across but, in actual fact, he had them all straight down the middle at 16m with worm and caster. It must rate as one of the most impressive bags of fish I’ve ever witnessed from a ‘natural’ water. The next two weights in the section also framed and I think I was seventh in the match. There were groans all around as I got the section winner’s envelope by ‘quadruple’ default! I think luck was well and truly on my side that day!