After the craziest period of snow for a decade here in the South West, spring feels especially welcome this year. 2018 has certainly been eventful so far, for mixed reasons. I managed to write off my car in the snow, which wasn’t great news. Then again, I will shortly be beginning a new part time job as a blogger and digital content provider for the Angling Trust, which is much better news. Coming to think of it, I’ve been fishing with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism.
I’ve been back at the fly fishing with an enjoyable trip to Fernworthy Reservoir, (which you can read here on the Turrall Flies blog). But perhaps the biggest surprise has been my return to regular match fishing on the coarse side of things. This is something I was keen on in earlier years but have only done sporadically the past decade. To be honest, I don’t know why it took so long because regardless of the peg or the result, I find it addictively good fun.
As you might have read in my weekly “Far Bank” Angling Times slot, I had the best and worst of canal matches in March, in blizzard conditions in that unexpected second bout of snow (above). In spite of the weather though, I scraped together a match winning catch of roach and perch on bread punch and worm on the Tiverton Canal, and was the only soul lucky enough to crack the kilo mark (below). But with thick snow and ice on the roads, I managed to skid and crash on the way home. Luckily I was only going slowly and was unharmed; but the same couldn’t be said for my poor car.
Everything has worked out since, but you can probably imagine what a relief it is to have wheels again and enjoy some milder conditions. After a third place finish on the lower lake at Oaktree Fishery last time out with Tiverton DAA, the next round was at Summerhayes. My match background in the past was all traditional venues, so this was newer territory for me, but I was excited.
We fished Longs Lake (above), where recent match results have been up and down with the mild, then cold, then wet weather. The only other time I tried this place was for specimen perch years ago; all I had was bream- which would of course be welcome today! It’s a nice looking snake lake type affair, with nice deep margins and some good features to try. It also involves one of the most random journeys to a day ticket fishery… a choice of over the railway line (via two gates you have to hop out and open/close) or a perilously low bridge by the River Parrett. All part of the adventure.
I can hardly express how much I love these days out. Match fishing is a bit like going to watch lower league football. It’s one of those places where blokes can still behave like blokes, making unrepeatable jokes and putting the world to rights. You might be rivals, but there’s a brilliant sense of camaraderie and in these old school settings it’s a bit like being initiated into a separate little world that hasn’t changed or been replaced by something virtual. Like the lodge at Summerhayes, which has tackle and old catch pictures stuck to every available surface, along with a faded “10 Reasons Why Fishing is Better Than Sex” poster (let’s not go there).
The staff were super helpful and breakfast was a monster too, with everything including TWO hamburgers chucked in the mix to set us up what would be a wet, cool day. And then the excitment of the draw. I picked peg 35 out of the bag, a fairly good spot I was told. These pegs are along the road bank and have nice marginal features and a decent island with sticky-out bits. Then again, that sounds like most of the lake.
I fed a margin swim, just down to where the bottom slipped to a nice little depression (the deck was interesting, and refreshingly less even than expected), cupping in micropellets and chopped meat. I also tried some maggots the other side of me close in and fed a pole line with corn, groundbait and pellets at 13m across, again- at the base of the shelf . But with heavy winds predicted, I also set up a method feeder.
That feeder quickly became a bloody good decision. At the all in I fed my lines and had a pot shot to the right, just off the cover with the method. After just five minutes the tip ripped round and I had a three-pound carp. Ten minutes later, its virtual twin followed.
Meanwhile, I was keeping busy catapulting pellets and corn in little doses over the long pole line. I always like at least one “busy” line to try and draw some fish. I only have a 13m pole, though, which didn’t quite hit the island. This didn’t bother me too much. The odd bit of feed was going 14 or 15m tight to the island- but I could always try the method feeder tight later on.
The long pole line was rubbish, sadly. Not that it looked like my neighbours were finding the going a lot better. One measly skimmer, then nothing. The stiff winds that were forecast arrived and put paid to decent presentation- to the point where it felt like you were holding a 13m banana made of lead, the rig towing through about as naturally as a windsurfing elf. So, back out went the method feeder. It wasn’t a bite a chuck, but at least it held still. And by alternating between corn or a bunch of dead maggots between different bits of cover, I managed to have four carp in the net by the 90 minute mark.
Even so, it felt like the method wouldn’t be enough. So I started another line a bit shorter on the pole and tried the margins. No joy, although I managed to pick up a couple of better skimmers down the middle quite soon after feeding. The whole lake seemed to be fishing fairly slow, so I fed only smallish amounts but kept it going in. When trying the pole lines, I also fed the odd ball of method groundbait tight across too, to get the carp used to these free nuggets finding them.
The opposite to the Tivvy Canal match, the fishing actually seemed to improve a bit as the day went on. I picked up another couple of carp across and even tried a heavier pole rig to try and get more stability at 13m. The wind got even stronger though and presentation was so awkward I gave it up.
On three hours I tried the margins where I’d initially fed meat and sporadically trickled loose feed in. I got a funny lift bite that turned out to be a good skimmer bream. The very next put in I thought I’d hooked a better bream, which turned out to be a not-very-enthusiastic carp of a couple of pounds.
By this stage I realised I was probably in no danger of winning, but was enjoying the match all the same. Nor had I seen anyone else really flying, which suggested I might rank well in the section. I kept ringing the changes on each of my lines, but aside from another margin carp on meat, it was the corn they seemed to want. The method feeder was the way to go and I added another few carp in the last ninety minutes, including a very welcome last gasp fish just a minute before the buzzer. So how would things stand?
I was soaked, but felt like I’d fished a decent match. Thank goodness for the method feeder, is all I can say. It’s a tactic I have slagged off in the past, but there is definitely more to it than I realised, certainly in terms of being accurate, ringing the changes and getting your presentation bang on. Not moving the feeder at all when it lands is also key- and I was finding best results by hardly tightening up at all, just very gently picking up a little slack. You get such positive bites that there’s no need to reel much- and when you’ve popped it touch-tight to cover it seems a waste to risk moving the feeder.
In the end there was only going to be one winner and that was Elliot Fay on the opposite side of Longs, with 29KG something of mostly carp. A likeable lad too- and it’s great to see some young talent at these club matches, because the sport truly needs it. Second place was Bruce Hunt with 17KG something, who is another very capable match angler who always seems to be in and around the frame at these club events. He was in the corner peg 49 and caught in the margins. Third place with 14KG something was… well, me, with my dozen carp and those three skimmers. Sorry for my lack of precision with weights; if you’re really nosey there’s a full roundup of match reports on the Tiverton and District Angling Association Website: http://www.tivertonanglingclub.com/
A really enjoyable day out then, and as something of a lapsed match angler I’m relieved to have fished respectably well. Besides, as the local angling hack you don’t want to fish like a muppet. There are lots more events on the way anyway, and if nothing else match fishing makes you a sharper and better prepared angler which is seldom a bad thing. Till next time, tight lines and enjoy your fishing. I’ll leave you with my best fish from my session on Fernworthy Reservoir.