Thursday, 4 June 2015

Match that!

First bag - 15lb... Thanks for the photograph Andy!
Back in September last year (2014) I started fishing as something to do with my brother. I must admit, I was not that enthusiastic at the beginning. I was aiming to sit about watching the world go by while Tim did all the fishing. You see, he was the keen one. He fished as a kid with our cousin (also his Godfather) and also in the outlet to the sea of The Swale while on holiday at our chalet, that was located on what was then  Seawview Caravan Site. All I can remember him catching were eels and our Mum trying to deal with them. Our first fishing trip together was aborted and I decided to go it alone. That first time, my wife, Sue, decided to come with me. She was happy to sit there reading her book while I fished for the very first time. That day I caught four reasonably sized (for me) common carp (See HERE). I had only expected to catch a few tiny fish if anything at all.

Since September, for one reason or another, Tim has not been able to come fishing very often so I have decided to go it alone on the days he can't make it. This week my favourite commercial held its usual monthly open match and I decided to give it a go. Yes, I know, I have said on more than one occasion that I had no plans to become a match fisherman. This seemed different being aimed at getting the less experienced angler into a spot of match fishing. It worked.

Setting up on the other side of the lake
Yesterday, I spent a good few hours at the June, Beaver Farm Fishery, open match. Everybody is friendly and helpful and they could not have been more welcoming to complete novice like me. I posted a comment on the Beaver Farm Fishery website's facebook page saying that my only goal was to have a good day and if I managed not to be last, It would be a bonus.

The match was to be over six hours, split over two sessions of three hours with an hours break at the halfway point. I arrived to discover I had drawn peg 4 along the southern side of the lake. Due to a hold up on the motorway, I arrived just after 07:00 AM and the rest of the entrants were well under-way with their setting up.

Scanning my competition for last place, it looked like this was going to be a walkover. The first thing I noticed was that most were 'on the pole'. I was suddenly eleven years old again. You know the feeling, arriving at secondary school for the first day wearing a new pair of short trousers only to discover that virtually every other boy in the school is wearing long trousers... well there I was carrying my float and feeder rods.

Having never done this before, I had to make do with my limited kit. First thing to go was the chair as I had realised this was not going to be high enough as I needed to unhook the fish in the net resting on my legs. My cheap plastic fishing box was pressed into service as a seat. A couple of kneelers were added to make the seat a bit softer. These were wired together and tied to the strap of the box to prevent them blowing away. I had ordered a cheap bait waiter from eBay which screws to a bank stick. I also had a couple of keep nets, one for silvers and one for carp. These also used bank-sticks to hold them in place. By this time I was getting low on bank sticks and my pre-match visit to Mat's Angling had paid dividends as I had picked up a couple more while I was there. After a bit of fiddling with the position of everything I was set-up. I am so glad I had taken the trouble to make up the rods overnight as I was not ready when the start time came but thankfully all I had to do was pick up the complete rod from the back of the van!

A few minutes late, but I was off. The plan was to go with the feeder initially and switch to the float later in the session. I have to let you into another secret here, this was the first time I have ever used a feeder to fish. The last couple of times I have tried to use it I lost the tackle in bushes on the far bank! on that day I gave up and decided to go back to the float at that point. Here I was using the rod and a method feeder for the first time.  I cast it out light to get the range and clipped the line up. I decided to use my two-dog groundbait (See HERE) and punched meat on the hair as hook-bait. I had punched all the meat the night before and had a good selection of sizes to use. I filled the mould with my hook-bait and moistened groundbait, and cast. Andy the bailiff came around to check my set up and suggested I moved the rod rest. As we did this the line went and I had a fish on! I am not sure who was more shocked, me or Andy, This was a huge fish - at least 20lb, I can't show you because it got away... Now, you may not believe me, but it was and just because all the other fish I caught subsequently were much smaller than that doesn't mean to say that the one that got away was not that big...  That's my story and I'm sticking to it! I fished the whole first session on the method and was catching fish every few casts for a while - I must say, my scruffy casting was turning a few heads and me catching reasonable sized fish was also creating a few looks...

By the mid match break I had a few fish in my carp net and one lonely skimmer in the silver fish net. I was feeling reasonably pleased with myself having not fished the method (or any other form of feeder) before. It was obviously working, I have never caught so many fish in one session before and I still had another three hours to go.

After a break for lunch I was back on my wobbly box ready to go. This time I had decided to fish the float using soft pellet hook bait and hard pellet feed. I had pre-baited my swims in the last 5 minutes before the break. See, I had a plan! First cast produced a fish within seconds - that turned a few heads. Luckily attention was diverted by someone on the other side of the lake reeling in the first duck of the day. A young female mallard had been caught in the bill. Between the angler, and the long suffering bailiff, Andy, the hook was extricated from the duck under the careful eye of one Jack Russell terrier and the venue's resident feline rodent control officer.

Apart from that one fish, I could not get anything going with the float so I reverted back to the feeder. Again the tactic worked and although not as productive as it had been earlier I was catching steadily. To keep to plan I went back to the float for the last hour but did not catch anything.  In retrospect, I should have stayed on the feeder, I may have added to my 15lb total. At the end of the match I came 10th out of 15 participants - That'll do me - I was sure I was going to come last.

And then...  

After the match everyone was packing up and I was talking to Mick Hull who had been placed third with 46lb. Mick had been fishing from peg 5, next to me, and had seen and heard (SPLASH!) my erratic casting. He very kindly offered to give me a quick lesson in casting the feeder to a spot. Although I was clipped up I could not seem to get my aim right. Mick showed me where I was going wrong and  now I can get it right where I want it. After everyone else had packed up and gone home I stayed on and continued to practise my casting. After getting the swim going, I was catching nice looking fish every chuck. If I could have done that a few hours earlier I would have caught a few more.

I was catching these F1s on every single cast
I caught as many fish in that couple of hours after the match as I did during the match. Mainly because the lake was my own and also the guys who went home had chucked in the remains of their bait and I just fished over that, from my side of the lake - yes my casting is getting better!

What a great day. I can't wait to get back there and try out some more tactics, now I have a better casting technique I should be able to concentrate on a small area and avoid the trees.