Match Practice and Summer Fishing

The sheer amount I’ve had to write about this last month (along with some techy issues with the evil that is WordPress) have meant rather less of my own blogging lately. Apologies for that to those who like to regularly read this blog.

That said, I’ve managed to fit some interesting trips in, from local matches to a huge recent fly caught rudd (more on that later). I hope you’ve also enjoyed some of the recent stories on the Angling Trust’s “Lines on the Water” blog. If you haven’t caught this yet, it’s well worth a look. Indeed, there have been some really uplifitng stories that have been a pleasure to cover, along with current campaigns and topical articles.

Goodiford Mill fishing Devon coarse silver pond

As for my own fishing, the recent focus has been getting my match fishing skills back up to scratch. I’ve managed to be pretty consistent in the league with my local Tiverton DAA, who are a friendly bunch of lads with some good anglers among them. The margins are tight though and I can see I’ll have my work cut out just keeping in the top three or four! With most of my match fishing background in natural venues, like canals, I’m having to adapt to commercial fisheries too.

It’s definitely exciting to fish venues that are new to you and I’ve enjoyed it more than I ever expected. Some of my fishing mates get very sniffy about pole fishing, or carp on day ticket lakes, but when you fish competitions you start to understand the skill and craft it takes. Judge not what ye have sod all direct experience of, is the moral here!

My last results were a creditable section win at Summerhayes Fishery, with carp on method feeder and pole, followed by a frustrating match at Trinity Fisheries, near Bridgwater (below), where I managed a couple of bigger carp but also lost a few and should have made more of a margin swim. Indeed, these net-filling carp of eight pounds and above can be real heartbreakers in the matches and I’m quickly learning the cost of fishing too light.

Trinity waters match fishing Somerset

Summer fishing at Goodiford Mill

In between matches, I’ve also been out to Goodiford Mill Fishery, near Cullompton, to practise some other techniques and rescue my dad for a few hours. Well, someone has to. I fear that house work and crime thrillers will turn his brain into mush otherwise. The Silver Lake seemed perfect to try some light pole fishing and see if we could catch a crucian or two, because there are reputedly genuine crucian carp in here.

The old man tried the margins with just a top three kit, while I tried a bit further out into the lake, just down the slope, cupping out micro 2mm pellets and corn. Over the top of this, I tried 4mm expander pellets, a bait I’m not completely familiar with but seem excellent for shy biting fish.

A bit like bread, these pellets swell up, and over a bed of smaller, harder pellets, the expanders are almost weightless and must be extremely easy to suck in. And like bread, the hook will pull straight through on the strike.

A couple of reasonable roach came early, along with a lazy skimmer. Meanwhile, Garnett Senior was getting fewer bites, but some nice variety, with a couple of decent sized gudgeon.

An hour or so in, though, and he hooked a fish that ran better, stretching the elastic and turning in hectic little circles. I suspected as much- it was a crucian! Or we hoped it was. It definitely looked like one and I got a nice crisp image on my macro camera lens so we could ID it better later. Looking at the detail, it seems a reasonable fit, with 33 scales on the lateral line, 7 from mid to dorsal and no sign of any carpy whiskers? For those yet to see it, the official Crucian Carp Website (yes, that is an actual thing) has a handy guide to ID and even a list of authenticated waters.

crucian carp fishing Devon

On the longer pole line, the skimmers just kept coming and I had over a dozen in the net quite quickly. The key just seemed to keep the feed going in, although bites also improved on a finer hooklength with a smaller size 18 hook. Some of them fought quite well, one going clear of the surface. Others were definitely not commons, but silver bream too, with those unmistakable dark fins and large eyes.

In around three hours, I had a whole stack of them, leaving enough time for some other practise on the main lake, where we caught lots on the pellet waggler. The carp here are ravenous, to put it mildly, and if you feed aggressively the action can be non-stop. If anything, it was a bit easy, although good for the old man to experience this all-action method. There can’t be many coarse fishing venues in Devon where more bites are possible on the pellet wag; although sadly a lot of these carp have faces like retired boxers.

Match angling at Avalon Fishery

Sunday was the next match in the Tiverton DAA series, and another good turnout of twenty anglers. With overcast conditions, some good weights were expected. I drew peg 13, lucky or otherwise, on the middle of the near bank of Moors Lake, with a nice piece of island to cast to. There are some seriously solid carp in this lake, as I was to find to my cost! Here’s Tivvy AC’s Mike Edwards gritting his teeth as one does its best to kill his pole:

Match fishing Trinity Bridgwater Somerset

I set up pellet waggler tackle, but kicked off on the open end feeder. I would have fancied casting tight to some of the corners and rushes at the island with a method feeder, but with that technique banned, I settled for an open end feeder and pellet approach.

From the off, I fed a margin line and began peppering the far bank with 6mm and 8mm pellets. But it was a frustrating start. I felt the pellet waggler should have worked, but with a stiff breeze the presentation just wasn’t quite there perhaps and I just couldn’t get it working.

Gradually, the feed brought some carp in though, and following some line bites the tip slammed round to give me a five pound carp to rescue an otherwise tough first hour. Another soon followed, before I was smashed up by something really powerful at the island, which snapped a 6lb hooklength like it wasn’t there.

Avalon fishery match results coarse fishing

A little frustrated, I decided to try the margin early, where I’d been feeding groundbait, pellet and dead maggot at just top 5 distance. I landed a quick skimmer here, followed by a mint conditioned 2lb carp (above), to keep the fish coming, but unfortunately lost a 3lb bream right at the net.

For the rest of the afternoon, it was a case of switching between the two lines to keep bites coming. I had another three fish from the island on the feeder, but lost just as many in what was another tough learning curve.

One lesson I’m very definitely learning in these contests is to focus your efforts on a couple of tactics. I tend to spread things around too much, fishing three or four lines. In this case, for instance, I fed a long pole line that was never tried for long enough, while also adding some back up feed to another spot by the island.

You can only fish one line at a time though and I suspect that all I did was scatter the fish around the peg. If you must try more lines and tactics, much better to start them later in the match if plan A and B fail than try and do everything from kick off. Every match is an education, I guess, and it’s still very much a learning process for me as I return to the fold after a long absence.

Fly fishing for chub and rudd

Of course, aside from current competitions the other fishing that still really gets me excited is still with a fly rod. Now that the rivers have reopened there has been some fine sport, too, with a huge amount of venues in and around the Somerset Levels to try. Quite often, just an hour or two on the way to or from somewhere else is enough to put a bend in the rod.

The River Tone is spot on for early season chub, for one thing. For less than two stillwater trout day tickets, you can get a season pass on the Taunton AA waters, where net-sized chub are plentiful (and you can easily buy a ticket online to save you time and traffic). Provided you can avoid spooking them, catching chub on the fly really isn’t rocket science either.

At present, I tend to approach with a large dry fly first, which usually wins an early take or two. Once the fish back off a little or you land one, a nymph can then be tried to keep the bites coming (I’ve been trying gold bead nymphs with rubber legs, such as the Evil Weevil, or my unfashionable favourite, the Spider Sedge).  You can find a whole selection of my “Flies for Coarse Fish” on the shop section of this site, if you don’t tie your own.

The chub are great sport then, but across the drains and canals it’s the roach and rudd that captivate me most. The main barrier at this time of year is always the dense undergrowth and sheer hordes of small fish! Long trousers and a 10ft rod, plus extra long landing net,  are often vital to reach the fish without getting stung or falling short.

As for singling out some better samples, the trick is quite simple: keep your eyes peeled and be prepared to walk a long way. I’m not about to signpost the best areas here for the benefit of those who prefer Uncle Google to old fashioned initiative, but suffice to say fortune favours those who are active and not afraid of the really overgrown and interesting bits (for this reason, don’t go below 4lbs line, because you might need the welly to keep a bonus fish out of the weed). I’m blown away by some of the fish recently spotted- and having taken ten odd years to catch a two pound rudd on the fly, I was delighted to add another of 2lbs 3oz just recently, tempted on a Black and Peacock spider.  I was made up with this one- a very rare fish for the South West!

So, it has been a truly memorable summer so far. We all have those times we couldn’t hit a barn wall and other times we can’t seem to do an awful lot wrong, but it feels like my luck is very much in at the moment. Anything seems possible. Christ, England even won a penalty shootout yesterday, so that must be the case.

I hope your own fishing is providing plenty of entertainment too. Should you want further summer reading, there’s plenty more to come as well. Regular blog followers will know my passion for British canals and their gloriously random mix of species- and there’s a special Angling Times feature on the way covering a day on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal with the Angling Trust’s Andy Wedgbury. I won’t spoil the surprise, but we caught a couple of real canal rarities using quite unusual tactics. Tight lines and watch this space for more soon….


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