The end of June saw the second round of the North Wessex Summer League at my least favourite venue – Horcott Lakes near Fairford. Horcott is renowned for its carp and tench but it is not a match venue! Catching a fish was the team plan! – with any microscopic rudd showing to be targeted. Previous visits had resulted in a blank (losing two carp in the abundant weed) and a 10 oz weight of small rudd. A couple of days before the match we were advised that as the main lake was fishing so poorly, two sections would be put on the little lake behind it.
The day came and with a late start and a pre-match barbecue it felt quite civilised apart from the impending sense of doom of where you may draw! Sections A and B were to be on the main lake with shorter walks while C and D were on the little lake with C1 being the longest walk- yes you’ve guessed it, I drew peg 1 and ended in C section, so a long walk plus the scales.
My peg was interesting to say the least, crystal clear water, gravel bars at 35m with thick weed in abundance. You could see fish (carp and tench) moving across the bars so I set up a feeder to cast to the bar, a waggler and was not going to set the pole up but spotted Lee on the opposite bank (D section) set one up and as it is his water I thought I had better do so. With all the weed I decided on a red hydro with 0.18mm Shogun and 0.16mm hooklength to a 16. Depth wise I found about 5 feet at 11.5m and beyond that it began shallowing up and getting weedier.
On the whistle I cupped in three large cups of loose groundbait and two solid balls plus a half pot of micros with a few grains of corn and a bout 60 casters on to my pole line then went on the feeder with a drilled pellet. I began leaving it out for no more than a couple of minutes at first to get some bait down then left it longer with trying different baits for the next hour. Only indication was a liner from a carp that got the line caught round it’s dorsal, other than that- nothing. On the other bank I could see Lee and Chris Rushton, Lee had already lost one carp that got weeded and Chris had got a tench. I could not see anyone in my section due to the trees protruding out into the water. I had a quick dalliance with the waggler over the gravel bar but soon decided to come in on the pole line that I had been feeding with 10 casters every 5 minutes or so. I put on double red maggot so see if I could get any interest and after ten minutes the float lifted and on striking the red hydro shot out and after a short but nerve wracking fight I had a tench in the net- result!
The rest of the match went in similar fashion with bites coming at infrequent intervals I managed to lose 8 tench with the hook pulling as I tried to keep them out of the weed and snags but managed to land 5. Chis and Lee had had a similar experience but Lee had managed to land a carp on this carp rod set up and Chris managed to land a tench on the whistle. Lee’s carp weighed 6-7 and won the Golden Fish (biggest fish instead of Golden peg), he also won the match with 24-4, Chris was second with 21-7 and Paul Rice was third from the main lake with 16-4 of rudd. I won C section with 14-03 and was 4th overall with the next weight being 5lb in the section. Team wise we finished 4th on the day with two blanks (main lake) a third and my section win. As I said – not a match venue!
The next week it was Friday before I could get out and and a first visit of the season to Bowood. I made the usual walk down to the main field and was greeted with the shallows covered in weed, I decided to fish peg 6 which had enough gaps in the weed to fish comfortably. I began with my usual 3 balls of groundbait and a cup of loose with some wheat and casters I had left over from the previous match at Horcott placed just over the weed bed into a clear patch at 10m.
The next 5 hours flew by and was frustrating in that I had 64 roach/skimmers each of which was chased by pike, lost another 16 when pike took them and either pulled out or bit me off but I did get one of 8-10 that only just managed to get in the net!
Once the sun came up about 11 0’clock the pike seemed to back off and I began getting some better fish. I always feel summer has arrived when you get the first tench of the season and although I had them at Horcott I felt this first one at Bowood was special – only 3 -6, but the first of the season at Bowood.
This was followed with further ones of 4-0 and 5-4 plus a bream of 3-2 to give me a total of 31-10. A pleasing start to the season.
The Sunday saw me back at Larford for another MFS match. This time I drew peg 66 on the Chalet bank and found my peg to be at the end of the chalets with a tree to my right about 10m away and open water with lots of cruising fish! The owner of the last chalet was doing some work and had his door wide open with Radio 2 on so we had music all match!
I set up a pellet waggler, method feeder and three pole rigs – one for the margin down by the tree, another for the 5m line and the final one at 11m. Basically started on the method and had one liner , so went on to pellet waggler for next hour and despite many cruising fish only had one of about 9lb. Onto the pole line which had been fed with 4 balls at the start plus loose fed pellet in between. A couple of skimmers and pulled out of one carp, landed another couple of about 5lb. Nothing on the 5m line so with 2 hours to go cupped in three pots of loose groundbait and a big pot of micros with some corn in a little bay next to the tree which had a depth of about 3 foot. Ten minutes later I am into the first of several carp, again losing 4 and managing to shatter into 4 pieces another top kit with red hydro in but managed to land the fish using 12 inches of pole!! At the weigh in the middle section (mine) appeared to have fished hard and I ended up with second in section for my 51-4. MFS matches tend to only pay sections so I picked up for the second match running- happy days!
Two days later I am back at Bowood same peg but this time armed with a spinning rod and a few jelly lures just in case the pike showed again. Started usual way, first put in, roach…taken by pike and bitten off! Out comes the spinner and third cast a pike of 7-10 is landed. Back to the pole and a lot slower than previous visit, possibly due to the wind and cooler temperature that meant I fished in my jacket! Ended the session with 23-14, another small jack of 2lb and three bream of 4-10, 4-4 and 3-4. Losses were 8 pike and 1 bream.
The next week was spent away on holiday with the in-laws. Arrived back on the Saturday and had a match on the Sunday- back to Theale with MFS. If you have read the previous visit’s blog you will know that I fished peg 57 (the swearing peg) and lost 20 carp! Managed to get to the draw at a reasonable time and drew – 57! So this was the chance to put into practice any lessons learned from the previous visit. Set up in a similar fashion to previous match with a 11m line on a red KND hollow (purple hydro equivalent but a bit softer), 5m line on a 12-14 hollow and a margin on red hydro. The big difference this time was the water had gone down about 18 inches so instead of setting up on top of the bank I was able to go to the water level. The match started as previously with three pots of loose and one hard ball plus micros and corn, but put about 1m further away from the tree than last time. Five minutes later float buried and first fish in net successfully!
The long line lasted about an hour or so with 14lb clicked and then only one fish in second hour- mistake one- stayed on long line too long! Into third hour and looked at 5m line where I had potted 4mm meat, managed to get a run of fish there before moving into the margins on my left where there were fish moving. First put in lost a lump that went straight into roots before I could stop it. Lesson learned and moved towards me by about a metre and picked up odd fish for rest of match. Weighed in 54-13 which more than doubled my previous attempt and only lost 11 carp. An improvement but still not good enough!
Tuesday saw me back at Bowood, startling a deer and buzzard on my drive down the lane to the parking.This time I decided to fish a bit further up into the deeper water and moved up 3 pegs to the next “fishable” one- peg 9. No pike trouble this time and with tench crashing about in the shallows around peg 3 it looked as if the hot weather had begun spawning activity as tench chased tench through and over the weed beds all morning. The fish were hard to get and I persevered with corn (because I had forgotten to pick up the maggots!) to get 5 tench 2-10, 2-10, 3-6,4-1 and 4-8 plus a small bream of 2-2 with just 1 tench lost.
The Sunday saw me back at Bowood but I had decided on an early start so I was there fishing at 6:30 having driven past 3 deer standing proud in the field next to the entrance and then came upon a stag with a full set of antlers standing in the middle of the track before thinking best of the situation and running off into the woods. Hundred yards on and I startle a buzzard who flies off with its prey in it’s talons. It is so easy to get blase about seeing these magnificent creatures, I keep reminding myself of how fortunate I am.
Back to peg 9-
Started in usual manner with the 5 balls of grounbait being cupped in with a liberal helping of wheat, micros and a few kernels of corn. Maggot on hook to start got a few fish in the net with no sign of pike.Change to corn saw nothing so I tried an expander- I had frozen a small bag sometime ago and had brought it to try as a change bait. A couple of plucks from the roach before a slight lift and I hooked into a hard fighting fish. After a struggle to get it out of the weed and turning some powerful runs which made me suspect a pike I was shocked when this appeared
My first carp from Bowood, albeit only 3-10. No further bites on expander so back on maggot and then rotating with corn saw a tench of 3-6 make an appearance by 10am. From 10 until 12 when i packed up I had a further 4 tench 3-12, 4-4, 4-6 and a PB for Bowood 5-5 a pike of 6 10 that took an 8oz skimmer with 1 further pike and 2 tench being lost. A nice net of 36-6.