Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fishing In France - Baz Morgan - Part 2

In my last article I explained the basic licence system in France. What I failed to say was that as far as I know there are no concessions for pensioners or disabled etc, but I will check that out on my next visit. 

The river Mayenne is one of those venues that I am really keen to explore in the future. Up to now I have not fished above the town of Mayenne but crossing the road between Domfront and Lessay Les Chateau, the river, although small, looks an interesting prospect. Downstream of Ambrieres the river opens out into a huge lake. By the time we get to the town of Mayenne the river is about 30m wide and in general continues to widen gradually as we move downstream. If you follow the main N162 all the way to just above Angers the river is never far away. The river is joined by the Sarthe and the Maine before joining the mighty Rr Loire at Bouchemaine just south of Angers.

I have only fished the Mayenne in and around the town itself and on a few occasions further south at Chateau Gontier. The first time I fished in Mayenne the bream fishing was outstanding. Fishing just above the water purification plant just downstream of the town centre I set up the pole to fish at 11 metres and 2m deep. I thought the rig must have been overshotted first put in, but responsible was a 2.5lbs bream. I caught bream of this stamp regularly and was sure a big weight was possible but to be honest I lost interest it was so easy so went walk about. What was interesting was that among these bream just out of the blue I had a chub of maybe 3lbs+.

On a later visit with my great friend Chris Patten (so sadly no longer with us) we targeted the chub with blackcap maggot feeders fishing the ledge on the far bank. This proved quite successful and we both had about 6 and then the bream even moved in on this. Later that week with a more favourable wind direction we could fish up in the water on the waggler and caught chub to 4lbs and some good roach and perch, but even off bottom a few bream and hybrids nosed their way in.
Chris had some cracking chub
The flow is generally steady but from time to time increases to quite rapid for a short period (15mins maybe) lock gates somewhere I assume but we saw no boat traffic. In and around Mayenne has been very consistent and easy to get to but I have looked further downstream and there are some nice looking swims although access is varied. The banks are not awful but can be a bit steep, a good strong platform is handy, plus often a bit of vegetation clearing is necessary.

Unexpectedly I did add to my species list here when I landed a sea trout of about 2lbs. No way this beautiful creature was going to be killed for the table, returned to continue that epic journey!

My latest visit was in June 2016 and was not what I had hoped for. The section I usually fished had been almost emptied for repairs to the locks and to make matters worse the sun beat down relentlessly from clear skies. I fished right up in the town centre but only managed about 10lbs of skimmers, roach and bleak. Worse followed and my cunning plan to keep bait alive and cool failed miserably. After much searching around I did manage to get a miserly supply of maggots at great trouble and no little expense .

By the time I got round to fishing at Chateau Gontier the bait situation was pretty restricted and if anything it was even hotter. After much perseverance I did manage about 8lbs of quality roach on hemp. Later in the week with no improvement in fishing weather I managed a similar catch of roach on soft pellet but had a couple of skimmers of about 1lbs each, all the fish were in tip top condition.

The main point of this guest blog is to attempt to advise any visitor intending to fish what they may expect. This venue has fished well on a number of occasions but last year emphasised that under unhelpful conditions it can be very dour. The other point is I have never been there when the river has been in flood so haven’t yet had to check out what stillwaters are nearby as backup venues. Hope to offer some info on this at a later date.

Tight lines and Bon Peche. Baz.
 
Next up Canal du Dive.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Summerhayes - Open - 26th March 2017

The match was on Longs this week and the good news was that the weather was a lot better than it has been, the bad news was that the Torquay Tart had text me to say he was fishing today! I picked Janders up and as soon as we pulled into the car park I could see the Tart waving at us like the worst welcoming committee ever! After paying our pools and drinking coffee, it was time to draw, the golden peg was 36 and Janders pulled it out, the Tart was on peg 3 and I ended up on 39 again, it's a peg I seem to draw a lot and never do any good on it, it's in a corner and much like my peg last week, it can be good for carp. I was a bit gutted to be honest although the owner Pete had won the silvers on Friday from peg 38 with 11lb 13oz so there were a few in the area.

Me with the silvers champion from Friday, Pete Wakeling
I could see Janders on my right and the Tart on my left so I would be able to check how my side bets were doing, although in typical Tart fashion he wanted a pound on carp as well as he wouldn't be fishing for silvers (no finesse that boy!). I set up a 10 x 11 MW F1 Slim for three lines at 10 metres and a 5 metre line and a 0.3 gram NG Mini Gimp for fishing top two plus one to my right. On the side tray I had 4mm Bait-Tech Xpands for the hook and for feed I had micros that I'd soaked the night before using water with a healthy glug of Liquid Plum added. I also mixed up a little groundbait to feed on the left hand ten metre line.

On the whistle I cupped in micros on the inside, five metres and at ten metres straight out and to the right and then two balls of groundbait on the left hand line before starting on the inside. I gave it ten minutes but with no indications I soon picked up the other rig and went out on the middle ten metre line. I had to wait a little while for my first bite here and then of course missed it, the Tart had already had a carp and when he hooked another, he offered to throw me over his bristle grease in lieu of Vaseline and this was already looking like it could be a very long day. Next chuck I had a 3oz skimbob to get me off the mark and then hooked a better fish which I knew wasn't a carp and slipped the net under a nice tench around the pound mark.

The next bite resulted in lots of elastic coming out and I thought I'd hooked my first carp but it turned out to be a decent skimmer foul hooked in the wing, no more indications so I switched to the right hand line and had two good skimmers in quick succession followed by a small one and then one of 8oz or so and as the first hour drew to a close, I already had 4.5lb of silvers in the net. The Tart was still catching quite a few carp as was Jim down on peg 6 and Janders had landed a decent one too.

I had another little skimbob at the start of the second hour but then nothing for ten minutes so I tried the groundbait line for the first time but the float just sat there, I kept trying the other two longer lines but the only indication I had resulted in a foul hooked carp which wasn't on long. I'd been dripping in a few micros on the five metre line every time I shipped out and wanted to leave it as long as possible before fishing it but had to do something so I cupped in some more feed on the three longer lines before trying the short line for the first time.

It took a while to get a bite but then the float sailed away although a small skimmer wasn't the result I was hoping for, another followed and I was just thinking I didn't know what to do next when the next bite saw me hook a good fish which turned out to be a gorgeous golden tench around the pound mark. My next two fish were skimmers about 8oz apiece and I added a few more blades and a couple of small roach but the five metre line was fading and it looked like it was going to be a case of nicking a couple of fish before moving swims.
This lovely golden tench was a nice bonus
As we got to the halfway point, Janders wandered up and said he was struggling, he'd had a couple of carp but just couldn't catch skimmers. While he was with me the float disappeared from view and I hooked a fish which I said was either another tench or a crucian, sure enough a nice little crucian popped up and then the hook pulled out! Janders said he'd brought me bad luck and left me to it, I then hooked a fish which I thought was a good skimmer but then it woke up and turned into a carp so it was time to try the other lines again.

The top two plus one line was still a waste of time so it was back out to the middle ten metre line and it was slow going but I had a few more small skimbobs and out of the blue had another around 12oz before having to switch lines again. On the right hand line I hooked a flying skimmer and it was a good fish, probably 1.5lb and things got even better when I had it's twin next put in. I thought I probably had 9-10lb and there was still an hour and a half left and I was hoping I might catch a few more from the five metre line.

I had another go over the groundbait but never had a bite there so came back to five metres and started getting some small roach and skimmers but it wasn't the grandstand finish I'd hoped for, I did bump what felt like a better fish but I also had three carp in the last period of the match. I ended up with 27 skimmers and those tench plus around a dozen roach and those four carp. Janders didn't weigh so I got my pound back from last week, John White had 49lb 15oz from peg 34 and then Steve Kedge went into the lead with 86lb 8oz from 32.

Martin Addicott had 4lb 14oz of silvers from peg 30, Brian S had 37lb of carp from 27 and then Darren on peg 24 had 28lb 2oz of carp and 6lb 10oz of silvers which included a lovely perch of 2lb 11oz, peg 20 didn't weigh and Jack B had 42lb on peg 18. Next was silvers maestro, Jeff Sparkes on peg 15, he said he had around 7lb of silvers and weighed 6lb 15oz so a pretty good estimate then! Roy Hughes had 54lb 12oz from peg 12 and Exeter Mike had 26lb 12oz from peg 9. Jim Jenner weighed 57lb 1oz to go into second place but only briefly as the Tart had 61lb 10oz and I really felt for his travelling companions, Darren and Duncan who would have to listen to him recount his performance, fish by fish, over and over again, all the way back to Torquay!

I was last to weigh and was slightly off with my estimate as Adie called my weight as 13lb 12oz, I didn't see any point in weighing my carp so the side bet would be all square between me and the Tart. Back at the results and I picked up £38 for my first silvers win of the year.
My 13lb 12oz won the silvers
Todays board

1 - Steve Kedge (Somerset Angling) - 86lb 8oz
2 - Brendon Ions (Torquay) - 61lb 10oz
3 - Jim Jenner (Summerhayes) - 57lb 1oz

Silvers
1 - Jamie Rich (Against Men and Fish) - 13lb 12oz
2 - Jeff Sparkes (Summerhayes) - 6lb 15oz

A really enjoyable day apart from being near the Tart, in all seriousness, I'm thinking about bringing out a new product, the ATED (Anti-Tart Ear Defender), so any potential investors out there, please get in touch or I'm going on the Dragon's Den.

Next up - The Spring League at Perry St

Coming soon - Another great 'Quick Bite'

Check Out - My latest interview (below)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Steve Gardener Interview

My latest interview is with England legend, Steve Gardener and if you haven't read his book yet, I really recommend it, you can get it here - Steve Gardener...A Life in Match Fishing, it's a cracking read!

Hi Steve, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions;

I recently read and reviewed your book, Steve Gardener… A Life in Match Fishing, and I really enjoyed it, was it your idea or were you approached? 

No, not my idea, it was Pat Newman's who contacted me via a letter that he left with Bury Hill Fishery, as he didn't have my address. I spent a week or so trying to decide if it was what I really wanted to do. Having worked with Pat before many years ago and the way he wrote the letter, I decided why not?

Bury Hill bream
What became apparent reading the book was that you’ve seen fishing change massively during your angling career, from the decline in sport on our rivers to the first commercial fisheries and from fibreglass rods to the arrival of carbon fibre poles, what do you feel has been the biggest change in angling and is it for the better or worse?

Without a doubt commercial fisheries are the biggest change and it was obvious from the very beginning, that these were going to be the future of our sport. Yes I do think they are for the better, there would be a lot fewer anglers about today if it weren't for commercial fisheries in my personal opinion. 

Steve with a net of commercial carp
Now that you’ve retired from the international scene, do you miss it? And do you still get a buzz from fishing smaller competitions?

Yes I missed it at the beginning but not any more. I've got the same enthusiasm for matches of all sizes.

What’s your favourite style of fishing?

I have been asked this question lots of times and I have always loved waggler fishing as I did it for many years but today I love all types that catch me fish.

Your favourite species?

Over the years roach has been my favourite species but now I like to catch any species that on the day gives me a chance in any competition.


Where is your favourite venue?

Another question that has been asked many times, I always loved fishing the river Thames which I did for many years, but today I only ever fish commercial fisheries and my favourite venue is More House Farm.

A typical catch from More House Farm
 Have you any angling heroes or anyone who has inspired you?

Many anglers have inspired me in my early days like John Benham, Ray Mumford, Kenny Collings and Nuddy and in latter years Will Raison and Milo Columbo.

What’s your biggest fish in the UK and abroad?

My biggest fish in the UK is a carp which weighed 23lb 15oz taken on the pole At Willinghurst Fishery. Abroad it was a shark caught in Florida off Steve O Rourke's boat, it was 12 foot long and would have weighed hundreds of pounds but neither of us would go near it!
  

Only a small one but that's close enough!
A lot of people say commercial fisheries have been the saviour of match fishing, especially with the decline of the rivers but more recently there seems to have been a swing away from carp back towards silver fish matches and rivers, where do you think the future of fishing lies?

I still think the future of fishing lies in commercials for the following reasons,


1 - the average age of the angler in the UK is going up and therefore they like all the facilities available at commercials e.g parking, short walks, cafes , toilets and platforms.

2 - many of the commercials are full of silver fish which are now being fished for exclusively in silver fish matches which are becoming more and more popular.

Are there any titles you would dearly love to win? Have you ever been tempted by Fish O Mania or Maver Match This?

The simple answer is no, I have tried a couple of times to qualify for Fish O Mania in the past, if I was thirty years younger I would definitely try to win one of these. However I'm more than happy fishing against my friends on my local circuit and a few trips abroad throughout the year fishing pairs matches with my great friend Milo.

You’ve been sponsored by Milo for many years and are very close friends with the great man himself, do you get involved with the development of new tackle?

I have over the years been involved with some of the development, for example rods, tackle boxes and pole rollers.

You’ve just returned from a trade show in Italy, are there any exciting new items of tackle heading our way that you can tell us about?

Yes I have just come back from a show in Italy, and most of the major tackle companies were there, as far as new products are concerned, nothing I saw was totally new but there were a lot of improvements to existing rods, poles, tackle boxes and luggage.

Have you got one piece of advice that will help the readers put more fish in their nets?

I think home preparation is so important, it gets you in the right frame of mind, I don't think you can just turn up and fish on the day and expect to compete without doing this.

Having accomplished so much in match fishing, what’s next for Steve Gardener?

To carry on doing what I'm doing now which is fishing 3 matches a week most weeks on my local venues, with the exception of my trips abroad.

Well thank you for giving up your time but before I let you go, here’s a few more quick-fire questions,


What’s your favourite drink?

Wine

Favourite meal?

Bangers and mash.

Do you support a football team?

Yes and it's Chelsea.

Favourite film?

The Departed

TV show?


Game of Thrones

What music do you listen to?

I like a lot of music but at the moment it's Ed Sheeran

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

In terms of fishing, the perfect day would be, the sun is shining, light winds, I have drawn a good peg and the rest is down to me and if I get everything right......perfect!

Many thanks again Steve, from Against Men and Fish


If you haven't read the review of the book yet it can be found here - Review

Monday, March 20, 2017

Summerhayes - Open - 19th March 2017

It was back to Summerhayes this week and Janders was coming along to fish his first match in ages, the match was on Sellicks and there have been some good silvers weights coming out. I was actually early picking him up and even had time for a bacon roll while we waited for the draw. Looking at the lake, the pegs on the near side and the last few on the far side seemed to be the most wind affected so I was hoping to avoid them and as pegs 12, 13, 17 and 19 have been doing well for silvers in recent matches, one of those would do nicely.

Pete announced the draw and by the time I got near the bucket there were only a few balls left, Janders went before me and pulled out peg 19 which was spot on, that left just two balls for me and Bill, I went next and pulled out 23, gutted, its on the end, right in the wind and normally full of carp, just what I didn't want! Bill ended up with peg 8 which was also the golden peg and as he has such a good record at Summerhayes, there was every chance it could go today.

I set up a 0.4 gram Malman Pencil to fish at 10 metres (when the wind allowed) and 5 metres and also a little rig to fish along the end bank but hopefully I wouldn't have to use it. Today's menu was nice and simple, 4mm Bait-Tech Xpands for the hook, Liquid Plum flavoured micros for feed along with some 6mm pellets for the end bank.

On the whistle I cupped in half a pot of micros on both open water lines and a good helping of 6mm's at 11.5 metres by the end bank before starting at 10 metres with an expander on the hook. Jim on peg 21 was into a carp first chuck, I had to wait ages for my first bite which of course I missed, I missed the next one as well, the next bite resulted in a foul hooked carp which I only had on briefly, not a great start. In fact after the first sixty minutes, the only fish I landed was a foul hooked carp and during that time I'd seen Janders land several fish that looked suspiciously like good skimmers and Jim had added some more carp.

I missed a few more bites before finally getting off the mark with a nice little 8oz tench and then added another round the pound mark, I was dripping micros in on both lines via a toss pot but wanted to leave the shorter line as long as possible before trying it although it looked like Janders was concentrating on his short line. I was also firing pellets down towards the end bank and there were carp slurping for pellets that had overshot onto the bank. Now at this point, I should have picked up the other rig and had a go for them as there were obviously a lot of fish there and Jim was only three or four fish ahead but instead I carried on trying to catch silvers.

The wind was awful and I was struggling to get any kind of presentation on the longer line so after 90 mins I tried the shorter line for the first time. I missed a couple of good bites and then had another carp so I started another five metre line so I could swap between them and also have the odd look long when the wind allowed. I was getting the odd tench from the right hand short line but only carp from the left hand one. Janders was still catching well and his peg looked to be pretty sheltered from the wind whereas it was trying to blow me off my box, at one stage I was playing a carp when a particularly strong gust deposited most of my bait tins and lids in the lake, I managed to scoop them up and then land the carp all in the same net!

With about two and a half hours left, I had five or six tench and a few carp when out of the blue I had two 8oz skimmers in two chucks but it was false dawn, I was hoping for a good last hour but it didn't happen and I ended up with nine tench and two skimbobs plus around eight carp. The scales started with me and my carp went 18lb 7oz before my silvers (and greens) weighed 5lb 6oz, Jim had 74lb 10oz and then Janders had eight decent skimmers and five little tench for 10lb 13oz and took a pound off me.

Steve Kedge then went into the lead with 81lb 15oz from peg 17, Craig had 38lb 4oz from 15 and then we got to Paul Purchase on peg 13, he had 25lb 15oz of carp and then plonked a lovely net of skimmers, tench and crucians on the scales to weigh 17lb 3oz. Rob Birch had 63lb 11oz of carp from peg 11 before Bill had 83lb 4oz to go into the lead from the golden peg, it didn't last though as fellow blogger, Lee Williams, had 90lb 8oz from peg 6 and that proved to be enough to win.
Some great weights of carp and silvers
1 - Lee Williams (Woolavy's Wanderings) - 90lb 8oz
2 - Bill Hopping (Summerhayes) - 83lb 4oz
3 - Steve Kedge (Somerset Angling) - 81lb 15oz

Silvers
1 - Paul Purchase (Summerhayes) - 17lb 3oz
2 - John Anderson (Donyatt) - 10lb 13oz

Some great weights, despite the conditions which saw several pole breakages today and I'm looking forward to fishing Sellicks again, I should have fished for carp but saying that, even if I had, I'm not sure I'd have done the 82lb needed to frame!

Next up - Summerhayes

Coming soon - Another great interview

Check Out - My latest review (below)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

New Bait-Tech Products For 2017

There's always lots of excitement when a fashion house reveals its latest collection, similarly when a car manufacturer launches a new model, a football club shows off the latest strip or a band announces a new album. Well for me, although I enjoy footy and music, I also really look forward to Bait-Tech's new additions to their fantastic range every year.

There's always a plethora of great new products and in recent years Bait-Tech has produced groundbait, pellets, additives, boilies and hookbaits for every occasion, my personal favourites have been Pro Natural Dark (which I use for all my silvers fishing now), F1 which is my 'go to' groundbait on commercials and multi purpose glug 'The Juice' which you can add to just about everything. So as they started to reveal what was new for 2017, what was I looking forward to getting my hands on?

Liquid Plum led the charge as the first announcement and the latest addition to the already comprehensive and very popular liquid additive range. It did strike me as a rather unusual flavour to sit alongside established ones like Scopex, Tutti-Frutti and Brasem but it certainly had me intrigued and I was really looking forward to trying it out.
Liquid Plum
News of more products then came thick and fast, two more oils, Hot Chilli and Super Fish were added to the range along with loads of new prepared particles, Nutty Spod Mix, Super Seed Spod Mix in a pouch and the Growlers Tiger Nuts and the Hot Chilli Growlers are now available in jars. Then there were hookbaits galore with The Juice Dumbells available as wafters, sinkers and pop-ups in 8mm and 10mm and Super Fruit Pop-ups (10mm and 15mm).

Then came the showstoppers, firstly the new Triple-N boilie range, a super nutritious triple nut blend along with all the various hookbaits, stick and bag mix, liquid and glug, obviously aimed primarily for carp fishing, I intend to have a play around with the Nutty Glug. Next up were the groundbaits with Pro Feeder and Pro Feeder Dark, initially I thought they were just two variations of the same groundbait but they're two totally different mixes, the Pro Feeder is a natural mix for skimmers, roach and perch while the other is actually a dark fishmeal mix for bream, carp and barbel, so all types of feeder fishing are covered.
I'm looking forward to experimenting with the Nutty Glug
Then Bait-Tech raised the curtain on the main event (as far as I was concerned!), new Special G Dark which looks like perfectly complimenting Special G Green and Gold which are both massively popular. As I said earlier, I'm a huge fan of dark groundbaits and can't wait to try this one out.
There have been loads of good reports about Special G Dark already
The first product I actually used in the field was the Liquid Plum, it has a lovely soft fruity smell and is a rather gorgeous purple colour, whenever I use meat, I like to give it a boost and in recent years I've done well using Bait-Tech's Liquid Krill and Tuna and I was hoping this new flavour would be just as effective. I always add a little water to stop the meat drying out and then add a couple of squirts of my chosen additive, in this case Liquid Plum.
Liquid Plum, already on it's way to becoming a firm favourite
I fed a five metre line all match with a few cubes of meat and in the last hour I had a good carp which helped me to a section win and I've now got loads of confidence in this new product already. With any additive, it's very difficult to prove whether you've caught because of it or would you have caught without it but I certainly don't think they do any harm and they might just give you an edge. One thing additives and flavours can do is give you confidence and that's certainly no bad thing.
A section winning net of carp
You can check out the full account of that match here - Return to Perry St and over the next few weeks I'll be taking a closer look at more of the new products.

Have a look at all the new products here - New for 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Quick Bites - Steve Jackson

The latest 'Quick Bite' is with Steve 'Jacko' Jackson fresh from qualifying for another Fish O Mania final.

Hi Steve, what a time to interview you after qualifying yet again for the Fish O Mania final with over 140lbs from the Viaduct. Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
                  
Hello, yes originally I'm from Mansfield but moved to the West Country aged 19, I've been married to Jan for 37 years and we have two  lovely daughters, Sally and Emma. I'm 61 and a self employed angling coach, I also run a small wholesale angling business.


Steve with part of his winning catch
How did you get into fishing?

I started fishing aged 13, my parents were non anglers and I started going with school friends.


What's your favourite method?

Waggler and stick float.

Who are your angling influences?

Dave Harrell, John Dean, Ivan Marks and Mike Stone.

Stoner
What have been your best moments in angling?

Obviously winning Fish O Mania is right up there but also winning the John Smiths (winning Fish O Mania had the lovely bonus of paying for my daughters weddings!)

Worst moment?


No single worst moment but a run of bad draws gets me down sometimes.

Do you think coaching suits you and do you enjoy it ?

Yes I enjoy it very much and I think I'm a good coach but they say self praise is no recommendation! I have received many compliments but still strive to improve.

You always come across as a bit of a joker but are you a hard working angler?


I hate rig making etc, I'm sometimes described as a ragbag angler, not the neatest!

Your views on the close season?


I'm happy with the current set up.

Do you think angling will have more full time professionals in the future?


Maybe one or two but in general no .

Do you think there is a trend moving back to natural venues?


To some degree but it's certain that commercials are popular and here to stay, fishing is a diverse sport and there is room for both.

Your favourite venue?


It was Longleat (always went in the right entrance, those lions looked hungry!), the Viaduct and the Trent in the 70's.

To become a successful angler have you made sacrifices and have you any regrets?


No not at all and my wife Jan has been wonderful and very supportive.
Steve with yet another framing catch
Any special friends in match fishing?

I have spent a lot of time with Barry Milsom, a great guy and of course Pepe Luxa (so sadly no longer with us.

Why do you think there are less youngsters coming into match fishing?


I think there are more distractions nowadays, in the seventies working class lads either kicked a ball or went fishing!

Do you generally buy your tackle online or use your local shop?


I use my local shop, Somerset Angling, it's run by people I've known for years and they're always helpful and I like the banter.

Anything you would like to add?

I am not an angler who goes out of my way to make friends or enemies. I am a competitive person who is there to try to win. That said I would like to think I am approachable and love to chat to anglers of all abilities whether to learn or help others. I would also like to thank all who have sponsored me at various times.

Finally Steve,


Favourite drink?

Vodka and lime.

Favourite food?

Curry.

Football team?


Man U.

Music?


All sorts.

Thank you for agreeing to talk to Against Men and Fish

(And thanks to Baz Morgan for asking the questions)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Perry St Pond - 12th March 2017

I didn't get to fish the Perry St League last year due to the dates clashing with the Isle matches and I have to say I missed it, so I was delighted when Les phoned and said this years dates were back to normal. The last time I fished it, I'd done well fishing pellet shallow and meat at five metres and in the margins but a lot can change in eighteen months so I jumped at the chance to fish when Les said there was a space in this weekends match. I was hoping it might give me an idea of what to expect but with it still being only March, I also added some maggots to the menu.

We were meeting at the Millfield café for breakfast and as I walked in, everybody else was already there and greeted me with various boos and hisses, it was really nice to see everyone until I noticed the Torquay Tart lurking in the corner! He didn't put me off my food though and I have to say it was great value at £5.50, the service was really quick too and I heartily recommend it. I hadn't seen most of the guys for a long time and in the intervening months, Les had turned into Santa Claus as he was now sporting a big white beard, it was also lovely to see the sexiest man in angling, Steve Chant, as well as Bish, Picky, Hoff, Oz, Chilly, Dave, Butch, Mike Smith and Howard.

Then it was off to the pond for the draw and Exeter Mike, Bushy, Mark and Shane met us there, as always people were hoping to draw one of the corners as peg 1 had won the last match and apparently there were loads of fish moving in 10 and 11. I pulled out peg 14 which I was fairly pleased with until the Tart said he was opposite me on peg 7. The corners went to Les (peg 1), Bushy (peg 10) and Picky was on 11 so I checked my pockets to make sure I had a pound to pay him, Mike Smith was on the fourth corner (peg 20).

I set up three rigs, a little J-Range inline dibber (brilliant floats) to fish up in the water with banded pellet, a 0.4 gram Drennan Carp for the five metre meat line and a little Trabucco dibber for fishing up the edge, all three had size 16 Kamasan B911's to 0.14mm. On the side tray I had maggots, 6mm pellets plus 6mm meat to which I added a good squirt of the new Bait-Tech Liquid Plum. Les hooked a carp on a bare hook before the start so there were obviously a few fish there and odd carp could be seen moving about out in the middle so hopefully we'd get a few bites.

Peg 14 looking up towards peg 10
Bait-Tech's Liquid Plum
On the whistle I cupped in half a pot of meat at five metres and meat, maggot and pellets up the edge to my left at eight metres before starting at 11.5 metres with the shallow rig and banded pellet. I was flicking out five or six pellets regularly and also feeding meat by hand on the shorter line. I did miss a bite early on but it certainly wasn't fast and furious. Mark on peg 8 had an early carp as did Hoff on peg 2, although he lost a couple as well. I shouted across to the Tart that he was getting battered off the next peg again but then Butch next to me had a carp and I was in the same boat!

I finally got off the mark with a 4-5lb fish but that was my only action in the first hour, I fed the inside again but wanted to leave it as long as possible before trying it. Bish on peg 4 had started getting a few and having an empty peg next door obviously wasn't doing any harm. Chanter in peg 6 had three fish in quick succession and then the Tart had one as well. Things got even worse when he had another quite quickly and the crowing started and he held up a pot of bristle grease saying he didn't have any Vaseline but would that do to ease the ass whooping I was getting!

Then he hooked a big fish and although I wasn't panicking yet, he was pulling away from me, but then it snagged him in some tree stumps on the inside and after much faffing about, he lost it, I didn't laugh (much!) and reminded him of that thing called 'Karma'! There were obviously a few fish there as he added a third and he shouted over that he'd lost my number when he got a new phone and could I let him have it again, I wasn't sure I could face all the gloating texts so I made one up but I'm not sure he believed me!

Quite a few carp could be seen cruising about and I managed to tempt one by carefully stalking it (although some may say mugging!) and during the third hour I managed a couple more good fish around 4-6lb each to just edge ahead of the Tart who had lost another. I had a go at five metres and missed a bite but that was it and with lots of fish still mooching about out further, I fed the inside line again and went back out with the shallow rig.

Around the pond, Les was getting a few, Hoff had a couple but had snapped a top kit, Oz was struggling in peg 3, Bish was bagging and was way ahead of everybody else and if anything his swim was getting stronger and stronger. Chanter was stuck on three fish but still looked gorgeous, the Tart was trying to mug fish and slapping and all the while trying to drop me in it! Bushy had landed a few in peg 10 but I couldn't really tell how Picky was doing although by all accounts, Howard in peg 12 had caught some lumps. Exeter Mike had a couple of carp on my right as did Butch on my left but then I couldn't really tell how the rest were doing on my side.

I had two more decent fish shallow and started to think I could be on for a good weight when the wind picked up, it got colder and started to rain. No more indications shallow and I could no longer see them swimming about, so I tried the five metre line but that wasn't the answer and neither was the margin swim. Then to make matters worse, the Tart had two fish quite quickly to go level on numbers with me and then added another to go ahead and I didn't know what to do next. I could see Bish was catching a lot of his fish on his short line so I decided to stick with meat at five metres for the last hour or so.

Nothing for twenty minutes or so and I was just thinking about trying the shallow rig again when the float sailed away and before I could strike, elastic was streaming from the pole tip, it was obviously a decent fish and I took my time with it before netting a nice mirror of around 8lb and that was the last of the action for me and although I'd missed a couple of bites, I was pleased I hadn't lost any fish. As I packed up, Exeter Mike said he'd had three carp and that Howard had seven and Picky had five. I took my kit back to the car and asked how the others had got on, Chilly was admitting to seven carp and some skimmers from peg 17 and he had an empty peg next door as well and Mike in peg 20 also had seven so it could be tight between us.

The scales started with Les 'Santa' Braunton in peg 1 and he set the pace with 57lb 8oz, Hoff had 15lb 4oz from peg 2 and Oz had landed a lump on the whistle to finish with 18lb 6oz. Then we got to Bish and after three weighs, his total was 78lb 10oz which would give him a comfortable victory. Chanter didn't weigh and then the Tart had 26lb 4oz and conceded his pound which I didn't want to take in case I had to give it back again! Mark on peg 9 had 6lb and then Bushy went into third place with 45lb from peg 10. Picky had five carp for 17lb before Howard put some lumps on the scales for 35lb 4oz which included one that looked to be 10-11lb.
Les had 57lb 8oz from peg 1
Bish caught all day to win with 78lb 10oz
Bushy had 45lb from peg 10
Howard had 35lb 4oz which included this beauty
Exeter Mike didn't weigh before it was my turn and my seven carp pulled the needle round to 37lb 8oz, the Tart took some photos of my catch but Dave was very keen to get in the photo, luckily there was one photo I could use uncensored! Butch had 23lb 8oz and Shane DNW'd, Chilly was next but I missed him weighing in as the Tart loosened all the legs on my box so every time I picked my box up a leg fell out! When I got there he'd weighed 36lb 8oz of carp but he had 3lb odd of skimmers to give him 40lb 2oz, Dave didn't weigh and then Mike's seven carp went 30lb 4oz.
Seven carp for 37lb 8oz and a section win
Back at the results and Bish was announced as the winner followed by Les and Bushy with Chilly taking the last frame place. Section wins went to Oz, the Tart, Mike and me so I picked up £30 plus pounds from Picky and the Tart which always gives me a warm glow inside!
Today's board
1 - Steve Bishop (Chard) - 78lb 10oz
2 - Les Braunton (Chard) - 57lb 8oz
3 - Steve Bush (Chard) - 45lb
4 - Andy Winters (Chard) - 40lb 2oz

Sections
A - Steve Osborne (Chard) - 18lb 6oz
B - Brendon Ions (Torquay) - 26lb 4oz
C - Jamie Rich (Against Men and Fish) - 37lb 8oz
D - Mike Smith (Chard) - 30lb 4oz

Next up - Summerhayes

Coming soon - Some more great reviews, interviews and guest blogs

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