This article originally featured as part of Jon Arthur’s popular End Peg column that featured in Match Fishing magazine:
End Peg – December 2005
This month sees a new start for Jon Arthur in more ways than one. As if joining a new team wasn’t enough, he’s also been trying his hand at some ‘proper’ river fishing…
Return to Redditch
Years ago I used to fish Arrow Valley Lake in Redditch with my dad and my brother. All we used to do then was hurl out a big cube of luncheon meat as far as we could cast and wait for a carp to pull the rod in. In all the visits we had I think my dad was the only person to ever catch one!
Those memories came flooding back recently when I travelled back there to do a pole test. This time around I actually caught quite a few carp on the long pole and thoroughly enjoyed reacquainting myself with the venue.
Masses of big roach were topping everywhere while I fished and, as much as I enjoyed catching the carp, I’m sure I could have had an even better day catching roach – but that nasty Mr. Harrell wouldn’t let me!
Not many people seem to fish there any more, which is a real shame. I would love to go back there and ball-it in properly with bloodworm and joker.
In more than one of our heated discussions Dave Harrell has proclaimed, “Canals are for anglers who can’t fish rivers!” In many ways he may be right. I have always found competing on a river a bit of a daunting prospect. I don’t mind tackling deep and sluggish rivers like the Nene and the Warwickshire Avon as, in reality, they are little more than deep canals.
Fast and pacey rivers, on the other hand, are a different proposition. This type of venue requires the use of things called stick floats and wagglers, fished in conjunction with something called a rod. I don’t know about you but these hallowed items are rarely mentioned on the venues that I frequent!
All that was soon to change as soon as I answered the phone a few weeks back. On the other end of the line was my old mate Dave Armstrong phoning on behalf of his Jet Breakers team: “Jon, I want you to fish the river at Barford for me in the teams-of-six. Any chance you could help me out?”
I was quite familiar with the section ‘above’ the weir at Barford. Like most Middle Avon stretches it is very deep, slow moving and clear. Seeing as though it was a rare 50-plus-peg Saturday match on a local venue, I naturally obliged. “Thanks Jon!” Dave said. “You will be fishing below the weir so make sure you’ve got all your gear sorted” he added.
“Below the weir!?” I choked. “But, err, that bit flows like, erm, a river!”
“You’ll be okay”, Dave replied. “Half the people will just sit it out for barbel. If you fish the pole and stick float or waggler all day you’ll batter most of ‘em.”
He must have been desperate! Apart from driving over the bridge a few times I had never even seen the river below the weir at Barford. All I knew was that it was a ‘proper’ river – a boiling, shallow, fast-flowing stretch full of pools and riffles. It was also full of barbel, dace and chub. I have never even caught a barbel from a river before!
It was going to be a bit of a challenge but I had always wanted an excuse to fish a river like this. With no time to practice Dave managed to give me a guided tour of the river on the evening before the match. It didn’t take long for me to realise that the entire stretch of river was textbook ‘Mr. Crabtree’.
Match day came and I was handed Peg 99. “That’s a good peg,” Dave said. “You might even win the match if you do it half right”, he added. Five hours fishing later I recorded 14lb for third in the match!
My swim was only about 10m wide, on the inside of a bend, and with the full force of the river channelled through it. My catch consisted of mostly dace with a smattering of roach, perch, chublets and a of pile minnows. Although I had a few on the stick float I took the easy option and caught most of my fish with a 6m pole fished to hand. The match was won with 18lb. With another crack at it, I am sure I could have achieved enough to win but, after one of the most enjoyable days fishing I’d ever had, I wasn’t that bothered.
After leaving Tipton both Browning Central and Sensas Dams and Lock asked me to join them, before Shakespeare stepped in with a late bid. It was a tough decision to turn each of them down, as I knew most of the anglers in both teams pretty well, but it felt like the correct decision for me.
Ironically, on my first match sporting my new colours, I had Darren Massey from Dams and Lock on one side of me, and Ian Crossman from Browning Central on the other! The match was a winter league practice on the Birmingham-Fazeley Canal and these two anglers had an enviable record on this type of water. Not only that, but my new captain, Mick Hatchard, was also in the section so I had a lot to prove!
Luck was on my side as I snuck the section with 7lb 7oz but it was a bit too close for comfort. I was only a few ounces in front of Darren and Mick and eight drams ahead of Ian! The pressure was off – at least for now…
I was on another stretch of the Fazeley a week later. I drew an unfancied peg next to the bridge behind the KFC drive-through and had to endure the mouth-watering smell of fried chicken all match! It was not a particularly good peg but, despite that, I still had 7lb 10oz of roach on bloodworm and joker. In actual fact there was 80lb of roach caught in my 10-peg section, which is awesome fishing in anyone’s books!
I never picked up a penny and was comprehensively beaten off the next peg by 15-year old Eric Yeomans! You needed more than 9lb of roach to frame and Simon Preece won the match with 92 ‘caster roach’ for 14lb 10oz!
It’s grim up t’North
The last round of the Super League on the ‘Bridgy’ in Manchester saw me honouring my final team commitment with Tipton. It was an anti-climatic finish as it rained all day, the fishing was poor and I didn’t enjoy it one bit.
I was plagued with ‘motherless minnows’ a species of fish that I have never encountered before. I can only describe them as a cross between a minnow and a tiny roach, with the mouth of a big chub! Once they are in front of you there is little you can do to avoid them. I can see where the ‘motherless’ moniker originates – the little ‘bastards’ were impossible to feed off! I lost count of the amount I caught but I finished below halfway with 2lb 3oz. It’s a bit sad when the best fish in your net is a gudgeon!
The section was won by Albert Malcolmson (or should that be Malcolm Albertson?) with 4lb of bits. This weight helped his Drennan NW team to a fine win on the day and saw them finish as league champions. Well-done lads! Mind you, with venues like that, I can see why they all keep coming down to my Midlands circuit for some ‘proper’ canal sport!
I was itching to get back on the river below the weir at Barford the following week and this time I had a proper river angler in the form of Shakespeare’s Nigel Davies for company upstream. He wasn’t too optimistic about our chances. “We’re on two of the worst pegs in the section”, he told me.
My peg was actually last in the section the previous round but the angler had apparently sat it out for barbel most of the day. The swim actually looked okay to me as it was on a sweeping bend with a definite crease at 10m and fast water beyond that. Feeding and fishing with bronze maggots I caught a procession of roach and, also, my first ever river barbel. At a meagre 10oz, it was actually more like a big gudgeon!
When the match ended, both Nigel and I had got more out of our pegs than anticipated. Nigel’s swim was completely different to mine and he skilfully winkled out over 10lb of dace on the stick float. My peg was a bit more comfortable to fish and I somehow managed 11lb 10oz of mostly roach for fifth in the match! I’m starting to like this venue!
Another couple of fish would have put me in the top four but I am not sure where those extra ounces could have come from. There was absolutely no way I was going to win the match as Steve Barlow was miles in front with 27lb 14oz – mostly four big pellet-caught barbel. They looked a bit big for the delicate gear that I was using!
The first round of the AT Winter League was my official team debut. Arriving 20 minutes late for the draw, after having to take a detour, was not the best of starts! My captain was a relieved man when I finally appeared and promptly told me I was on a flier!
My peg was one of the wider swims several pegs up from Forge Lane bridge. Any peg was capable of winning the section but mine was definitely one of the better ones. It must have been a good draw because, when I arrived at my peg in the morning, there was a guy sat there pleasure fishing! Thankfully he was a reasonable bloke and, after tipping back a few perch and a 12oz skimmer from his keepnet, he moved further along the canal to continue fishing! Before leaving he gave me a few pointers on how I should fish the swim. Unfortunately I didn’t have a waggler rod and a pint of red maggots with me so I would just have to make do with a pole, bloodworm and joker instead!
Starting on the inside I was quickly into a procession of roach and perch and, with 12oz already in the net after 30 minutes, I decided on an early look down the track. First drop in with a caster resulted in a gudgeon. The second cast produced a similar bite but a firm strike met with something a lot bigger. By the way it fought it had to be a big perch but it slipped the hook before I had chance to find out.
The next bite took a bit too long to materialise and I ended up ‘fresh-airing’ it. I really didn’t want to be wasting too much time on this line but two quality roach later rewarded my persistence.
It was time to get my head down on my joker lines. Typically, for an early-season joker match, a lot of ‘eyeballs’ were beating the better stamp fish to the bait. A few hard frosts are normally enough to see these nuisance fish disappear, but I couldn’t really afford to wait that long! By fishing a proper gudgeon-style rig, consisting of a big bulk and one dropper, I could bomb the rig past the bits to target the better stamp lying beneath.
Floating leaves were seriously hindering my catch rate so, when they got too dense, I tried the caster again – a hook buried in a caster was less likely to catch on the leaves. Once again I struck into what felt like a big perch but, once again, it came off. I didn’t swear… much! Another biteless five minutes made me realise I was wasting too much time again.
For the last two hours of the match the leaves dispersed and I finally got into a decent catching rhythm right up to the final whistle.
I followed the scalesman along my entire section and was relieved to find that I had done enough to win the section. Not only that but my 7lb 6oz catch put my fifth overall and, as 8lb was second, either of my lost perch would have earned me a few Kamasan points. I suppose that would have been asking for too much!
After a closely fought tussle with Browning Team Central, my team managed to win on the day so, all in all, things had started really well. Let’s just hope it can continue…