Sunday, 23 April 2017

23 April 2017, John's Lake (Willinghurst)

You won’t be surprised to hear that it was back to Willinghurst for yet another go today, this time the open match spread across John’s Lake and New Lake. The weather forecast was reasonable (sunny spells with a light breeze from the east) and with a bacon sandwich having eased a mild hangover I joined the queue hoping for a nice pitch where I could while away the following six hours!
Pre-match banter no doubt!
Even though I had done quite well on New Lake a couple of weeks ago, and despite the fact that John’s Lake fished rather hard last Sunday, I was actually looking to get onto John’s and for once the drawbag was kind to me as a poker chip with ‘J7’ inked on the back heralded my destination for the day.
Before ...
... and after!
John’s Lake itself is basically a fairly long, fairly wide rectangle running from east to west (or west to east if you like) with about 50 pegs – the westerly end is slightly wider, but where I was (peg 7) it was about 40-45m to the far bank (not that you can chuck to it as there are normally anglers pegged on both banks). It looks pretty featureless from the surface but there is actually a shallow bar running through the middle – this is just out of pole range so is normally attacked with running line tactics.
Ironically I drew peg 8 back in August of last year and spent the day catching from just in front of peg 7’s platform as Paul ‘Tippy’ Taylor had kindly done a little foliage trimming the week before to make it accessible – knowing that this could work again today my first job of the day was to return the favour a do a little gardening of my own!
All the gear ...
Ignoring the shallow bar (by leaving my rods in the holdall) I set-up just two rigs before the start – my ‘sensible’ margin rig (black Amber Core elastic, 0.17 Guru N-Gauge main line, 0.3g SconeZone V6, 10cm 0.15, size 16 LWG (eyed)) and a rig for fishing hard pellets into the deeper water (black Amber Core elastic, 0.17, 4x16 Roob Titan, 15cm 0.13, size 16 LWG (eyed) with a hair-rigged pellet band). (Having carefully plumbed-up I found I could get away with just the one rig for the deeper water as the depth was exactly the same all the way from the bottom of the near shelf at top kit plus three to 14.5m. Adding an extra section to take me to 16m saw the depth decrease by an inch – presumably this was the start of the central bar so this was one of those rare situations where a 17.5m extension might’ve been handy.)
Looking right from John's 7
I kicked-off my match with a quick look at peg 7’s platform but after 5 minutes of missed bites from small fish it was out to top kit plus three in front where I immediately (and skilfully) foul-hooked a gudgeon on an over-sized White Acres 6mm pellet! The second drop led to another quick bite, this time from a small carp that turned into a 3lb tench at the net. I did eventually get a carp from this line at the half hour point but it was clear that the fishing was going to be tough as the anglers that I could see were also struggling for bites.
As a result I spent the bulk of the match rotating between two lines at top kit plus three, two lines at 14.5m, two lines at 16m and the line in front of peg 7’s platform, picking-up the odd fish here and there, normally getting a bite when returning to a line that hadn’t been fished for a while.
More gear ...
Going into the final hour I knew that I was miles behind Paul ‘Tommy’ Hiller (who was on a peg on the far bank at the westerly end of the lake) but I felt I was in touching distance of the other pacesetters so it was still all to play for!
Given the time of day I decided to put more emphasis on the margin line – this paid dividends with 4 reasonable carp in the final part of the match – though in the end it was a final carp from the top kit plus 3 line with 3 minutes to go that was to prove crucial!
The moment of truth!
I knew that things were going to be tight but when Tommy weighed 68lb, Tom Arnott 47lb and Jamie Mathews 41-11-0 I thought I was sunk as my clicker read 40lb – luckily my clicking was slightly under and my fifteen or so carp went 42-6-0, just enough for third on the lake and fifth overall (last in the frame)! That result means that I’ve now framed in 3 of my last 4 matches at Willinghurst, though on two occasions if I’d had weighed a pound less I’d be back to moaning about being ‘one out of the money’ again!!!
Until next time ...

Monday, 17 April 2017

17 April 2017, Top Lake (Willinghurst)

After yesterday’s disappointing match it was straight back on the horse today for the Easter Monday open at Willinghurst. With a real reluctance to use John’s Lake again, and with New Lake occupied by pleasure anglers, match organisers Mick and Shaun took the decision to squeeze all 30 anglers around the banks of Top Lake and Old Lake – as ever there were a few grumbles but there would’ve been a lot more had John’s been used two days in a row! (It seems to me that John’s Lake can be really good in the summer, so a few more weeks’ worth of decent weather it will be the place to be.)
Looking left from Top Lake peg 29
After yesterday’s results (where the anglers on Old Lake pegs 22, 9 and 11 shared nearly 600lb between them) I think most anglers in the queue wanted to draw in this area (even though the wind had completely turned around overnight). Obviously I didn’t draw anywhere near these pegs, but I did draw a bit of a flyer in Top Lake number 29. This isn’t a peg that I’d fished before but it certainly looks the part as it has a far bank easily in reach with 14.5m of pole, an island to chuck to with a feeder and loads of room to the right where the water loops around the island towards peg 30.
All the gear
Sitting on the platform there seemed to be two spots that looked really fishy – across to the far bank (slightly to the left) where the resident wildfowl had created a patch of bare banking and the point of the island to the right (I was however slightly put off of this line when a duck stood-up in the water a foot or so from the bank).
As a result I set-up a ‘sensible’ rig for fishing next to the bare bank (Nick Gilbert black Amber Core elastic, 0.17 Guru N-Gauge, 0.3g SconeZone V6, 10cm 0.15, LWG (eyed) size 16) and a tip rod for fishing with a 24g mini hybrid feeder for chucking to the island. I also set-up a duplicate pole rig for a second spot along the far bank to the right (the bare bank had a depth of 18”, the second line was 3 or 4 inches shallower) and a rig for fishing with hard pellets into the deepest water at top kit plus 4.
The gap between the far bank and the island
The match itself was a steady if unspectacular affair – word on the bank was that the lakes were fishing pretty hard so I kept plugging away at the line to the bare bank, feeding a mixture of pellets and meat via a medium Guru pole pot and using a worm segment on the hook. At one point I hooked and landed five fish in quick succession – otherwise the key was being patient and not feeding too much (at one point I refed with the big pot and didn’t get a bite for ages).
I did try the feeder now and again (no pulls), the hard pellet rig into the deeper water (one skimmer) and the second pole line (two carp), but the bulk of my catch (a further 14-15 carp, a skimmer and a gudgeon) came from the bare bank.
Looking along the right margin
However the most disappointing part of my match today was that I couldn’t get a bite from either of my margin lines – with hindsight I’m sure my rig (which was on 0.19 straight through to a size 12 MWG) and feeding were far too crude and I should’ve adopted the same rig and feeding approach used on the far side. Having said that the inside lines plumbed-up terribly and I could only find 12” 3 or 4 feet from the bank, effectively putting me in no man’s land.
Martin Johnson on the scales
In the end my fish went 76-5-0, enough for third in section and eighth overall on the continental pay-out. I was quite a way behind Guildford Bait-Tech’s Luke Sherriff who won the section (second overall) from peg 26 with 105lb, but I was slightly annoyed that a fish lost at the net cost me second in section as only a further three pounds was required to move ahead of peg 3’s 79lb – though I did beat James Granger (peg 30) by less than a pound!!!
Until next time ...

Sunday, 16 April 2017

16 April 2017, Old Lake (Willinghurst)

Being a four day Easter weekend (something I could definitely get used to) today’s match was the first of two in a row at Willinghurst and following last week’s success on New Lake I was looking forward to another plumb draw on one of the numerous flyers!!!
End peg Billy again!
Despite drawing what can be a very good peg (26 on Old Lake) things really didn't go to plan as it seemed that all of the fish followed the wind and camped-out at the other end of the lake in the narrow section! Three nice carp in the first hour (including two in the first four casts), followed by three and a half hours without a sign, two more carp in a row followed by a biteless last two hours!!!
Adam Lee weighing-in
My 42-2-0 meant I was only 220lb behind winner Adam Lee 4 pegs to my right!!! Oh well another go tomorrow!!!
Until next time ...

Sunday, 9 April 2017

09 April 2017, New Lake (Willinghurst)

After last weekend’s trip to Norfolk for the three day Reepham Fishery festival it was back to my regular spring/summer haunt (Willinghurst) for today’s open match. I’m often the first to moan about bad weather conditions whilst fishing but today’s weather was amazing – sunny, 20 odd degrees and a light breeze. (Yes, this is April in England!)
All the gear ...
As a result of the first round of a local league series taking-up Top Lake (as well as occupying some of the open match regulars) today’s open match was limited to 18 anglers and Old/New Lakes – as I’ve done quite well recently on Old Lake (and only ever bombed-out on New Lake) I was obviously hoping for a draw on Old but was by no means surprised to find a red poker chip with New 7 in my hand!!!
In all fairness peg 7 on New Lake is a very good pitch as it sits on something of a point and as a result offers lots of open water to go at – it also provides access to peg 8’s platform (as long as nobody is sat on it of course).
Looking over my right shoulder
Prior to the all-in I set-up a record 5 different rigs! (I don’t normally find the time to set-up for than two so this really was unusual.) These were:
  1. A lightish rig (Nick Gilbert black elastic, 0.17 main, 0.15 hooklength to a size 16 LWG) for fishing tight to peg 8’s platform
  2. A rig for fishing with hard pellets away from the bank in two and half feet of water
  3. Another rig for fishing hard pellets but this time down the slope into the deeper water
  4. A traditional shallow rig with a 0.2g dibber made-up on 3’ of line in total
  5. A heavier 0.4g dibber rig for fishing shallow/mugging with a 4 foot lash
Looking towards the far bank
The first 90 minutes of the match were interesting as I caught 3 fish on three different lines and certainly couldn’t get more than one proper bite from each! The first came virtually immediately from the two and half foot line away from the bank and was actually a pretty decent carp. I stuck with this line for a further 20 minutes before switching to the more traditional 5m line – this part of the swim actually plumbed-up terribly as it just seemed to be a 45 degree slope with no start, no finish and certainly no flat spots! However I did manage to sneak-out another carp pretty quickly before foul-hooking and losing another (I knew it was foul-hooked when the float popped-up instead of burying).
That foul-hooker seemed to kill the 5m line so it was out on the long pole shallow as the hot, sunny and still conditions had led to a lot of cruisers doing what they do best – sunbathing with no intention of feeding properly! I had a quick go with the shorter (0.2g) rig pinging a few pellets but after establishing pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to work I switched to the longer (mugging) rig and managed to get a third carp in the net.
Slim shady
Today’s match was fished from 1030 to 1630 and it had been my intention to purposely ignore the margin swim until at least the final two hours of the competition. However at about noon I decided to feed a few cubes of meat next to the vacant platform to my left just to see what would happen – my thinking was that the tree to the left of the platform was casting the only bit of shade onto the lake so given the hot, sunny conditions why not give it a whirl? I potted in a small handful of meat onto this line and went back to fishing the long pole shallow – well for all of about 5 seconds as there were clearly 3 or 4 carp swirling next to the platform!
From this point onwards my match was pretty simple as, despite having quick looks on the other lines from time to time, all of the remainder of my catch came from the margin line – given the clear water and the relatively shallow depth (14/15 inches at most) I could tell when I was going to get a bite as I could actually see two or three dark shapes mooching about over my bait!!! (At times I could also see some really big fish in water that must’ve been less than 10 inches right underneath the platform.)
Nice mug
In all fairness I’d actually thought that Jon Cook had won the lake from peg 26 as every time I looked to my right he seemed to be playing a fish! However Jon had suffered a slow last 90 minutes allowing me to catch-up and in the end my 118-2-0 was enough to win the lake and claim second place in the match (on the continental pay-out)!!! (I would’ve been third purely on weight as Tom ‘Dobber’ Arnot won the match from Old Lake with 140 odd pounds and England legend Stevie Gardener took second place on Old with 121 pounds.)
Until next time ...

Sunday, 2 April 2017

02 April 2017, Long Lake (Reepham Fishery)

Going into today’s final day of the 3 day Reepham Fishery festival with two third in section scores I had a very slim chance of making the top 6 with a section win and some results going my way – however, whilst probably being the most interesting lake on the complex, the Long Lake is probably the peggiest so I was hardly over the moon when I drew a peg that had come last in section on the previous two days!!!
The peg itself (number 36) is a funny one as it faces at a 90 degree angle when compared to the other on the lake so I was sat facing peg 34 and the peg opposite was actually on my right! This gave me a long margin to the left with a post at 13m and a tree at 14.5m. Unfortunately the roots of the tree extended out into the lake so the closest I could get to it was 2-3’, the margin near the post was also full of roots and had quite a steep slope but I did find a decent spot about 1’ from the bank.
I started fishing next to the tree at 14.5m but sport was very slow – I eventually got a bite (on worm over corn) after 45 minutes and promptly lost it in a snag along the left margin! My second bite came after 2 hours but I did manage to land it (a 3lb carp)!
I then went a further two hours without a bite despite rotating between the post, the tree and a line into open water.
A few fish eventually turned-up for a short while and in a hectic spell I landed two nice carp (and lost another) in the space of ten minutes from the margin line next to the post. This gave me a final weight of 14-10-0, only gaining me three points as two others threw back!!!
As a result I ended-up twentieth out of 42 in the final standings, but more importantly had a great time and made some new friends! A big thanks to Rick and Kellie for organising a great event and well done to Jack Gill, Rob Walton and Daniel Brydon for filling the top three places.
Until next time ...

Saturday, 1 April 2017

01 April 2017, Main Lake (Reepham Fishery)

Day two of the three day Reepham festival today and following yesterday’s so-so result I wasn’t the only angler in the queue for the draw looking for an out-and-out flyer! Unfortunately my luck was out once again as I drew peg 8 on the Main Lake – isn’t it funny how you can know the flyers on a lake you haven’t even fished yet?!?
Looking towards peg 10
Peg 8 is at least on the right side of the lake but is a pretty average peg in a section full of great feature pegs – number 8 offers access to more of the open water than most but is in the same section as peg 12 (a lovely peg with a long margin to the left that won the lake yesterday), peg 10 (not for the feint-hearted but it does offer a huge patch of stick-ups that holds loads of fish), peg 2 (a narrow peg but one that is next to the bridge across the link between Main and Long Lakes) and peg 27 (commonly known as ‘the best peg in Norfolk’). Damage limitation time then!
Nice day for it!
I started my match on the pellet waggler – Marcus next door on peg 10 actually hooked a fish on his pellet waggler rig (no bait) before the all-in and whenever the wind dropped and the sun came out it was obvious that there were lots of big fish cruising about in the middle of the lake. Remarkably after just 10 minutes I had two nice fish for 10-12lb in the onion bag – not a bad start when my target was only 50lb!!! Unfortunately the following 50 minutes were biteless so I also ended the first hour with two nice fish for 10-12lb ...
The view towards peg 2
After slowly coming to the conclusion that the fish cruising about in the middle of the lake near the surface were sunbathing and not feeding I decided a switch to the bomb with a wafter was in order – after 10 minutes with just a few minor line bites I switched to mini hybrid feeder and started to have a little tidy of my side tray. Looking back at my rod I noticed it was doubled-over – game on!!!
I spent the remainder of the match focusing on this method – bites were hardly instant, but by being patient and continuing to ping a few pellets over the top I was able to keep the fish coming at a reasonable rate. (I did try the waggler again from time to time, though this approach (and my short pole and margin lines) failed to produce any bites.)
Needed to put a few more in these!
In the end my bag of carp weighed 43-14-0, once again just about good enough for third in section after beating Marcus by a mere 7 ounces and Del Maggin on peg 6 by less than five pounds! (Reg Barrass won the section and lake from peg 2 with 81-3-0 (not a bad weight when you consider he landed his first fish with just two hours to go) and Steve ‘Widget’ Crowe was second with 66-9-0 from ‘the best peg in Norfolk’.)
Until next time ...

Friday, 31 March 2017

31 March 2017, Bungalow Lake (Reepham Fishery)

After what seemed like another endless winter it was finally time for the first festival of the year – not the usual White Acres but indeed a new venue, the beautifully tranquil Reepham Fishery located in the picturesque Norfolk countryside just 10 miles or so from Norwich. This is a cracking venue recently taken over by a good friend of ours consisting of 4 or 5 lakes and some excellent accommodation in the form of a series of bungalows and some top class static caravans.
Draw time!
The festival itself is to be fished over three days and contested by 42 anglers split into 3 rotations of 2 sections each. As per usual the rotations are drawn well before the start of the festival and as a result I spent today on the Bungalow Lake, a rectangular pond situated no more than 50 yards from the backdoor of the bungalow I’m staying in!!!
Steve Crowe on peg 8
My dip into the bag of dreams saw peg 10 float to the surface – being new to the venue this didn’t mean much to me but it turned-out to be a bit of a corner peg on the far bank with a nice looking margin to the right. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to be a flyer (the pegs on the bungalow bank get fished the most and hence seem to hold more fish) and Steve ‘Widget’ Crowe (presenter of From the Water’s Edge) was of the opinion that his peg (number 8) was the worst peg on the lake so I wasn’t overly excited!
The view to the left
The lake itself is basically a rectangle with 18 platforms spread around the perimeter with no central island, effectively making it pole only. Despite the draw being at 9 and the walk to my peg taking all of two minutes I took my usual eternity to set-up and by 11 I only had 2 rigs ready to go – a rig for fishing tight to the bank in twelve inches at top kit plus 4 to the right and another for fishing into the deeper water at various spots between top kit plus 2 and top kit plus 4.
The margin to the right
I started my match with a quick look down the edge but (not for the first time) this didn’t produce any early mug fish so it was soon out to top kit plus two with a 4mm expander over some micros (the fish in this lake apparently averaged two to the pound so this seemed like a safe bet). Things started slowly, but I eventually got a few fish in the net – I did try throwing a few 4mm hard pellets at the float but this actually sowed my catch rate, though a switch to top kit plus 3 with a larger 6mm expander did improve things for a spell. The high point of my match probably came when I feed a big pot of maggots over my margin line and caught three better fish in a row on worm hookbaits – though unfortunately the fish came and went in a blink of an eye!
Yours truly in action!
I basically spent the second half of the match rotating between various spots straight in front and the margin line – this led to some smaller fish from the deeper line and two more better fish from the margin (though neither more maggots, mushy meat nor neat groundbait seemed spectacular).
Daniel Brydon weighing-in
Throughout the match I could see the guys on the opposite bank catching really well all day (luckily they weren’t in my section), though I could also see Daniel Brydon and Reg Barrass (who were in my section) also catching really well from the other corner on my bank from the vacant platforms they each had. As a result I was fairly pleased that my 24-3-0 was enough for third in section, for once being on the right side of some tight results as I just about beat a 23, a 22 and an 18 – Daniel weighed 81-13-0 to win the lake and Reg weighed 34-15-0 to beat me to the default section money.
Until next time ...