Friday, 20 April 2012

Looking Back- Part 2

Match fishing

"I didn't know there was another match man living in the village?" This was Tony, a local angler just before a match on a nearby pond. Truth is though although I have fished a few matches calling me a match man would be stretching it a little. I went along with it though. Bit of psyching out never hurt anyone in competition.

I've been fishing since the age of about nine. There was a small  tackle shop at the end of my street that I spent many an hour in and eventually worked. It was during my time spent in the shop I became aware of this strange part of the sport/hobby I loved. Let me explain. It's not because fishing is based on luck because it takes skill and experience to catch a lot of fish. The draw for fishing spots or pegs is where the luck comes in. You see, despite fishery owners and match organisers best attempts there are usually better pegs than others on most venues. Imagine playing darts against someone but when it came to your turn all the numbers over 10 were blanked off. That's how some matches are. You draw a bad area and have no chance of winning, you could sit there for five days and still not beat someones' five hour catch.

What is good about match fishing though are the characters.The owner was a match angler and they came in the shop all the time. One of the likely lads, Tom Bedder was a regular. Such a nice chap and sorely missed. I think his was the first funeral I ever went to. He could talk fishing for hours and I was probably only 14 or 15 but he never treated me as if I didn't know what I was talking about. "Carp are like Bream that have had their brains removed" was one of his more memorable statements. The late Ivan Marks and Steve Toone also supplied the shop and came in often. I used to ride my bike for miles watching matches all over the place. Someone recently asked me how come I could lay bricks, "Because I watched somebody do it once" I replied. Just watching those guys in action taught me so much. Pleasure fishing was always my thing though and I sometimes claimed the odd scalp. I remember walking past Andy Finlay at Brooksby Pond. He had a couple of blokes watching him try out some latest technique no doubt. I had a mooch around looking for signs of fish. A few tail patterns gave away some feeding fish and I freelined a worm over the top. It didn't even reach the bottom. "What's he doing" asked one of the blokes as I bent into a hefty carp. "He's stalking," replied Andy.

My first match was the River Soar Junior Championships. I drew smack in the middle of an area called cyanide straight. After catching the one resident gudgeon I proceeded to be bored shitless for the next couple of hours before I packed up and went home. The next year I drew a better area opposite The Boat Pub at Normanton-on-Soar. All was going well and I caught steadily until around 11.30. It was a warm summers day and the boat traffic got heavier and heavier. At one stage they were queueing to get onto the far bank moorings. I may as well have cast my stickfloat in my mates jacuzzi bath. At least I lasted until the end to find out I'd come nowhere. I fished a few more more matches over the next couple of years including some with Frank and Dean Barlow but I never really got into it. I just couldn't get my head around being restricted to one peg for such a long time.

One match that sticks in my memory was at Zouch on the Soar. I once sold all my fishing kit to buy a motorbike and I'd just manged to get back into it at the end of my teens. I arrived at the draw and drew my peg. I didn't know whether it was any good or not cause I'd never even seen that section of the river. The whistle went and I fished across with a waggler, catching steadily right from the off. I had probably four pounds in the net when I started hearing motorbikes. Donnington Park was close by and the bikers were all heading there to watch the British GP. I caught a few more fish before my mind started to wander. Losing my float was the final straw! I was off with a good couple of hours to go. The next day I found out that five pounds had won it. Not the only time I'd tip a winning catch back.

In my early twenties I got sidetracked by all the usual things and fishing took a back seat. When I did fish it would be roaming around trying to catch big Barbel on the river or sneaking down to a disused quarry to plunder its Perch stocks. I didn't fish another match until I moved here. Mill Road Lakes was my favourite venue. Countless times I would pull up and catch carp straight away off the top while all around seemed to struggle. I became friendly with the owner and was encouraged to enter one of the Friday night matches. The following week I turned up and finished second. I fished the candle, which might aswell have been a spacecraft, the looks it got from my competitors. The next Friday I was informed the candle method had been banned.

Determined not to be beaten by these blokes I kept going. They even banned floating baits all together. They all fished with poles while I plugged away with rod and line. "Fucking hell, that's not a carp, its a cow!" exclaimed a bloke opposite as I slipped the net under a mirror (17lb 12oz). It was about my fifth match and I caught fishing the smallest float I could find with double caster about six inches deep. I only had one more fish but that was 12lb 8oz and I had won my first match.

Winning on rod and line meant a lot to me at the time although the report in the Angling Times stated that I had used a pole. This pissed me off. Silly really cause I use a pole a lot now but I did resist using one for a long time. Anyway these night matches really suited me. I didn't have time to get bored or waste a whole day in a bad area. Unfortunately the match report, the constant banning of stuff and the owners obnoxious wife pissing me off on virtually every visit  meant I stopped going to the lakes altogether.

She did provide me with a laugh once though. I went down one evening with my fly rod and soon had a group of fish feeding on the top. The owners wife approached, wildlife running for cover as she did so. Adopting her usual tone she tried to put me straight- "Oh no, you wont catch anything like that, its been tried before". Here's your four quid, stick it up your arse I thought as I handed over my money in silence. Just as she had turned to walk away the biggest Carp in the group engulfed my bait. I knew the lake quite well at the time and the fish was nearing 30lbs. I struck and almost instantly I knew I was seriously under gunned. My fly rod bent to the butt and beyond, flexing wildly as the Carp went nuts. Its fortunate that a short while later the hook pulled cause I would probably still be playing it now.

Those matches were around 2002. They still have matches there now and I often see the results in The Angling Times. Its still the same people fishing them. Ten years, one venue, catching the same fish. Not for me I'm afraid. It still provided me with my first match victory though and the place still holds some fond memories.

It wasn't until 2010 that I really thought about match fishing again. A trip to my local pond with Mrs P one Tuesday night saw us squeezing in the only empty peg during a match. It was a balmy evening and Mrs P fell asleep while I eyed the match men intently. Nobody seemed to be catching much. I could beat this lot I thought as the time passed oblivious to the fact that I too was struggling.The next week I turned up to the draw and fished my little socks off. I came second with over ten pounds of Roach and Rudd. I continued to fish the matches, even notching up a couple of victories. By my reckoning I could catch 4/5 pounds of bits from any peg which would be a good weight if the Tench and Bream didn't feed. The other guys all fished for bonus fish so if my method was right I had nobody to beat cause I'd be the only one fishing that way. That's Ivan Marks logic. With the summer season fast approaching I had to knock the matches on the head in favour of work. I was really impressed with the other guys though. A great bunch that brought back memories of some of the characters that used to come in the shop. Very welcoming and willing to tell you anything I vowed to return the following year with the thought in the back of my mind that I could win the whole series.

2011 started of ok at the local pond. I scored a couple of seconds and a third in the first three matches. I was dealt a bit of a blow on the series front though. The series would not only be decided on placings but also total weight. This was a disaster for me. My 4/5 lb had gone out of the window. My results got progressively worse as I chased bigger weights. A couple of bad draws finished me off and my interest waned. The fire, however, was far from out.

Toad Hall was an old Trout fishery up the road that had recently been converted into a coarse fishery. Matches were due to start running on Thursday evenings in May. The first match was eagerly anticipated by myself and I was a bit disappointed when only six others turned up. As it turned out it was a fantastic place though. A bite could result in a five pound Tench or Carp or Bream or Chub! F1's, Roach, Rudd and Perch were also in abundance. I came second with nearly 17lb. As the weeks went by the numbers gradually dwindled but the fishing just got better. I still can't understand why the matches weren't more popular. I even managed three or four victories and it was great to learn a venue with the others as it was not only a level playing field but also a bit of a journey of discovery. Just what fishing should be, I can't wait for them to start again.

Woodlands is less than two miles from my home. I had never been though the gates. "We're having a charity match at Woodlands Phil, you fancy it?". I sure did even though I'd never even seen the place. Apparently I drew ok and I got down to my peg and set up about four different outfits as John Wilson would call them. I had never fished the method feeder and started off on this. Ten seconds into the match I was playing my first Carp! It came off as did the next two while I got to grips with the method. To cut a long story short I came nowhere but learnt more in that five hours than I had for months. If I fished the same match again I'd come second, no shadow of a doubt. Also in that match a bloke caught a big perch. I noted the peg.

The next match was also a charity affair at Woodlands. I drew at the wrong end of the lake but on a reasonable peg. I fished the method again but still spent too much time sodding around with other things. Either side of me didn't weigh in. I put 43lb on the scales which I was happy with. This was less than half of Tony's winning weight though. Again I had learned a lot, not from watching other people this time though as I couldn't see most of them!

The final match at Woodlands was another Charity match organised by the local cafe. I drew ok and blitzed it. I doubled the weight of my nearest rival. Admittedly the standard of the field wasn't the same as the first two matches but I would have been hard to beat that day. "I had to go down to a 20 to try and get a bite today" said one of the guys afterwards. "I caught all of mine on a 12!" I said. That's confidence! I even won four prizes in the raffle (I just took one) so I guess lady luck was shining on me that day. The Trophy is looking at me as I write.

One final chapter in my most prolific match fishing year is a winter league. Farlesthorpe is a venue I dislike. Despite this I knew some of the guys and thought it might be a laugh. I was right. "I can't talk for long, I'm fishing in the county champs" said Ernie as he answered his phone. We got some mileage out of that one. Anyway, first match I tipped away about three pounds of bits in disgust, eager to get home. Three pounds and three ounces won it! Bollocks. The next two matches saw me win my section and then disaster struck. On my final match there I was next to a lovely old man that had not weighed in more than a pound in the first three matches. I caught my three pounds of bits again hoping for another section win. Oh no. Unbeknown to me some Ide had been stocked. Two people caught them including the old fella next to me. They settled in front of him for an hour and he batted out eight pounds of the horrible creatures. It just made a skillful match a total lottery. I didn't return.

After a winter of roaming around catching all and sundry will I get the match fishing bug again this year? The Tuesday night matches start again next week so we'll soon find out. Read about it in my next Diary.

Till next time.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Fishing Diary April 2012

Thursdsay 4th April

Twin Lakes, West Ashby, Lincs

I'd arranged to meet Ernie and his grandson Jack at 12 noon by the big lake. Just after 11am I gave Ernie a call- "We still on for today?" I asked. "Yep, we are leaving in ten minutes" he replied. I knew it! He was stealing the march on me. Its a twenty minute drive at most so he'd arrive well before me. Sure enough I pulled up at the Lake to see him and Jack unloading their gear on the far side just where I had it in my head to fish. I wasn't too bothered though as being forced to fish somewhere different is sometimes a good thing, especially when you are getting to grips with a new venue.

I wandered round with my fishing buddy for the day, Harriet. The calmer of my two Labs, she charged around and straight up to Ernie. Now he is a big old chap and Harry hit the deck about ten feet away from him. "It's my watch this," Ernie removed his hat and sure enough Harry got up and went to greet him. How very odd I thought but pleased that my human companions didn't mind my canine gatecrasher.

 Ernie made a fuss of Harry for a while and we then went to investigate where I could fish nearby. A lot of the bank is overgrown and there were only two more pegs on this far bank. One I had fished before but with easy access and one in a gap nearer the far end of the lake. Ernie and I arrived at the far end peg while Harry went off chasing a Bee. "I've got a bait down there!" I peered though the undergrowth and about 50 yards away on the opposite bank was a carp angler. Now I've read about this sort of goings on in The Angling Times and always thought if it happened to me there would be fireworks! I said something at the same time as Ernie but his was more succinct- "You're fishing this peg as well as your own are you?" A great response I thought as the Carper mumbled something. "I'll not be dictated to by anyone, not at my time of life, fish here if you want Phil" Ernie declared. I considered it for a moment. "I'll go back up there" I said. Just to make it clear I had a choice of two pegs, if I'd really wanted to fish there I would have. If you fish and bait the margins and someone comes that's just the chance you take. Anyway I get enough confrontation in my job, this was time to relax!

I unloaded the car and got settled into my spot. Harry, ever the opportunist, ate a big mouth full of red maggots before I hid the box under a bag. She sulked on her blanket while I set my pole up. I fed a couple of balls at 4m but struggled to catch for the first hour. They wouldn't have the hemp and it's only when I went further out and fished maggot that I started catching. Small roach at first till I caught one of about a pound. I had a wander down to show Ernie and Jack and to see how they were getting on. Ernie had one small carp in the net but Jack was really struggling. "Come and have a go in my peg Jack" I offered. Jack followed me back and was soon getting a bite a cast.

I set up my tip rod while Jack hooked into Roach after Roach. Casting over his head I fished a single grain of corn on a light link, hoping for another pounder. The tip soon showed signs of interest and I pulled in a tiny Roach. Bugger! Luckily Jack wanted to go back to his own peg and I took over the pole again. The sun was shining for longer now as the clouds became more sporadic. I took my jacket off and Harry basked in the sunshine.

"Wow, this must be a record!" I turned around to see a smartly dressed chap. "Three pole anglers in one day is the most I have ever seen" he added. This confirmed my understanding that this place was little fished by non-carpers. At that moment my float disappeared and a decent Roach was quickly netted. "I was going to ask if you were doing any good but looks like you are" said the man. He sat behind me to watch for a bit while Harry sniffed him warily. My float had been in the water without a bite for longer than usual so I lifted the rig to check my bait. The float didn't move upwards though for as I lifted the elastic shot out alarmingly. "Any Eels in here?" I asked the chap, hoping for a negative response. "Oh yes, some big ones". Bollocks. No sign of a bite and fighting weirdly it was likely to be an Eel. I played it, not caring if it came off or not. "It's a Tench!" exclaimed the man as surfaced and dived back down into the depths. Carefully I coaxed it back up. The man was amazed that I was using 14 elastic but this was exactly the reason why I was fishing relatively heavy. With the angry male tench in the net we chatted for a short time before he departed. Harry likes Tench!

My observer had fished the Lake more or less every week for two years using traditional methods. Turns out there are a lot of Tench upto seven pounds with the odd eight and nine. Just that one rogue eleven pound Bream and biggest Roach he'd caught? One pound twelve ounces. That disappointed me somewhat. I'd had high hopes of a two pounder but that now seems unlikely. Not all bad news though as apparently the smaller Lake holds a lot of Bream. Must give that other Lake a go I thought as Ernie came down for a chat. We had a good old natter while Ernie generously shared his sandwiches with his now friend-for-life Harry. Ernie went off to pack away and I got my net out and selected the best of the Roach to show you.

Wednesday 11th April

Neals Pits, Lincs

Easter time is always busy at work. This combined with the never ending renovations to our Lounge means I had to grab a quick couple hours in the evening. Neals Pits are the Lakes described in my Lake Hunting post. Mrs P's dad had rebuilt the fireplace while I mixed all the cement and did some general labouring. He left at about 4pm and I quickly popped outside to get some worms from my new wormery. Car loaded up with just one tip rod and a small bag of gear I headed out to the Lakes. Halfway there a bloke decided that his side of the road wasn't enough and smashed the front of my van up. Details exchanged I limped on the half mile or so to the footpath entrance.

After a good half mile walk I plumped for the top lake. I set up a light link with 1/8 ounce bomb. A size 14 was then baited with a worm and cast blindly into the Lake. I rested the rod on my bag and watched intently. A few small fish were topping and something big stirred by my feet. After a good twenty minutes the tip wrapped round and I came back with half a worm. Re baited, I cast out again. Another ten minutes passed until the tip went round again. A micro perch was the culprit. A few more iffy bites were endured before I dropped down onto the lower Lake in the hope of something more substantial.

I nestled in among the undergrowth and cast a big worm over towards the island. To be honest I was a little irritated that my van had been beaten up and was struggling to get into the fishing. When another tiny perch came in I was unsure if my worm had grabbed him or visa versa. With the light fading and an uphill walk back to the van I packed up thoroughly dejected.

Sunday April 15th

Neals Pits, Lincs

"Careful the farmer doesn't shoot you". These were Erics' last words as I left him after buying a pint of maggots from his excellent Woodlands fishery. He was right. I still wasn't sure if I was allowed to fish these Lakes. Better keep a low profile I thought as I elected to walk over the fields again instead of driving straight upto them. Parking by the footpath it started to rain. Branches of a nearby tree scraped the roof of my van in the increasing wind. It was time for the full thermal suit again, the first time for weeks.

I hopped over the fence and made my way along the footpath. I turned off and quickened my pace over the final field. As I was nearing the Lakes I must have disturbed every Pheasant and Goose for about two miles. The two noisiest birds in the history of nature, my approach was hardly what you call stealthy. Should have driven in the other way. Settling on the top Lake again I fished where I had seen most activity on the last visit. This was hardly ideal as I was probably visible from the distant footpath.

As I hunched down the bank I heard two gunshots. On the other side of the footpath is a small wood. The shots rang out again. Were they shooting birds or were the Taliban invading Old Bollingbrook? As I set up they got closer. So close I could hear one of the guys shouting at his dog. Putting Eric's warning to the back of my mind I cast out towards the island of intermingled tree roots and branches hoping not to get shot. The tip went round after about ten minutes. A tiny Perch came to hand annoyingly.

Another three Perch followed before I sussed that the nearer I cast to the roots the quicker the bite. First Cast near the roots and a Roach of about four ounces was hooked. Then a Rudd of similar size took my three red maggots on the drop. A bite a cast followed for the next hour with nothing of any real size but great fun nonetheless. How I wished I had my float rod with me as the Rudd got more active as the light faded. I really must get either Ernie or Tony to bring me here and introduce me to the gamekeeper or owner. In fact I'll make it my mission before the end of the month, just for you.

Till next time

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Looking Back

April isn't going to well at the moment so you'll have to wait a little longer for my up to date Diary entry. A old friend of mine has been blogging about previous trips and I thought I'd join in and start a series about my favourite all time venues and fishing trips.

Nanpanton Reservoir, Loughborough, Leices

I grew up in Loughborough and Nanpanton reservoir was the closest lake to my parents home. Nestling in a dip on the edge of Charnwood forest it was essentially a concrete bowl of around eight acres in size. Features were at a premium but at one end there was an inlet pipe with an outlet at the other. The carpark, water tower, platform and rhododendron bushes were the other pegs of note. When I first visited in the 80's the whole of the top end was fenced off and the fence end pegs were always popular. The fence was later removed.

As you'll know by now I like to catch whatever is in front of me and sometimes I'd go for the roach and bream, other times the pike or carp. It held a large head of Bream and my best catch was eighteen fish on a five meter whip fishing four feet deep in twelve foot of water! They averaged about a pound and a half but the occasional bigger fish were present. I remember walking round one day and seeing a large number of carp near the surface about thirty yards out. They were definitely carp, broad across the back and some clearly very large. My mate cast a float, set shallow with a bit of bread into the middle of the fish. The float disappeared and he wound in a six pound bream!

The carp would often show themselves like this on sunny days and I had great fun launching a bubble float and chum mixer into the middle of them. More than once I'd be playing a carp and see two or three others follow it all the way in, only veering off when the net came out. Very odd. Another tactic was to ball a load of ground bait in (when the bailiff wasn't around) and nine times out of ten I'd hook a carp first cast. After losing said carp it would be a roach and bream fest for a couple of hours. I never hooked more than one carp and it was always straight after the barrage of bait. Twenty one pounds of Roach was another red letter day, fishing with hemp and corn from the platform. My mate at the time was obsessed by weights and numbers so I can tell you that was made up of a hundred and twenty one fish.

Although basically featureless the fishing was never boring. Being very deep close in the place always fostered a certain amount of mystery. The odd big Perch was always a possibility and once I caught three Tench in a row. This may not seem remarkable but I fished at the reservoir hundreds of times and I only ever caught one more Tench. Carp hybrids were also caught now and again. We call them F1's now but these were naturally occurring and rarely under three pounds in weight. The resident Pike could be very obliging and I took them to just under ten pounds. The biggest I saw was an eighteen pounder but was sure the water held bigger. Naturally I was never single-minded enough to get a real biggie.

I did a spot of night fishing more for the experience than the fishing as I was never either very prepared or successful. A particularly cold and uncomfortable night spent in a deck chair with a real case on my head for warmth springs to mind. At least it was fairly peaceful- one night my mate was snoozing serenely in his bivvy when he was startled by a very loud splash. You wouldn't have guessed in a million years. It turned out to be a safe dumped by some undesirables after a robbery!

I fished it on and off right up until I moved east in the year 2000. I did go back about five years ago to fish the opening weekend with an old mate but the place just wasn't the same. In fact, writing this now it is clear that it was the same, it was me that had moved on. Fond memories though.

Till next time.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Lake Hunting

Wednesday 4th April

"When it gets a bit warmer I'll take you down to the switchback, some big roach in there" said Ernie. A quick look on google earth revealed a couple of lakes no more than a mile from my house. Now I have lived here for ten years and I can't believe I hadn't noticed these lakes before. I've been on google earth countless times on the look out for secret lakes.

A long dusty lane runs behind my house. Behind the duck farm there are two lakes that I have only ever seen on the computer. A little further down the lane residing in a dip lies a long thin lake that I have investigated but it is very overgrown. Looks nice though and I have always fancied having a go to see what's in there. "Just stop there a minute love" a tweed clad man said to Mrs P as she walked the dogs near the lake just recently. She could see some men with guns around the lake. "Why? Are they all a really bad shot?" she replied. A valuable lesson this. You can't tell Mrs P what to do even when there is a threat of serious injury or death! "Hardly very sporting is it?" was Mrs P's next contribution to the conversation. Anyway she came back with the information that the lake was used exclusively for shooting ducks, no fishing.

As one door closes another usually opens and yesterday I fired off a quick text to Ernie- 'When you taking me to the switchback'. He rang back "We'll go Thurs but the switchback is going to out of the question with this rain. Its at the bottom of a steep muddy track and we'll never get back up the hill". We rearranged the venue and I was thinking I was never going to see this bloody place.

Fast forward to this morning and a trip into Skegness for some shopping and I was soon in the tackle shop. A chat with the ever friendly Neil and it was clear 'the switchback lakes' weren't just a myth. "There are two, one with an Island and one irrigation lake behind it that is meant to be pretty good too". Neil described. Appetite whetted I left the shop with "Some big perch as well" ringing in my ears. I got home and unloaded the shopping and bundled the chaos twins into the van. "Where are you going, it's tipping it down?" Mrs P enquired. "Just off to find a lake" I replied. Did I find it?

Not the most inviting place to start a journey

That's better

Ok, ok.......

A tinge of colour on a dull day

A distant house with its own lake

The girls point me in right direction

A red herring

We'll follow this

What's that blue circle? Irrigation pipe= Lake

Finally found them. The upper lake

They both looked fantastic and I'll be giving them a go very soon and you'll be the first to know how I get on. In the meantime its off to Twin Lakes with Ernie and his grandson in the morning. Till next time, Phil.