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My best-ever Evesham Festival… so far!

(Part One – The Shakespeare Championship)

What a great three days I’ve just experienced in the Evesham Festival Bank Holiday extravaganza! Three completely different pegs, three good catches, three section wins, loads of bites and well over £3,000 in the bank at the end of it!

I was really disappointed that I couldn’t fit in any of the bloodworm matches on the Warwickshire Avon leading up to the festival but there seems to be so many big matches like Match This, Sonubaits Final, Barston Masters and Fish ‘O’ Mania going on that it’s been nigh-on impossible to get my river tackle out.

Still, I had a job to do and spent every available hour after work preparing for this weekend. I had at least three of every rig tied, loads of hooklengths and re-elasticated most of my top kits. Then, the heavens opened up the day before and I was suddenly having to sort out all my flat-float and pole-feeder rigs plus bleak rigs and rod-and-line tackle in case it was flooded!

I was as prepared as I possibly could be. That’s half the battle at Evesham as there is so much variation in swims that you need to be ready for everything. I’d managed to frame at least one day in every Evesham Festival for the last four or five years so I was hoping to keep up my good form on the river!

Day One is the Shakespeare Champs with a cool £6,000 for the winner. The river was coloured and had a bit of pace in the morning but it was still looking fishable with standard pole tackle – nothing like last year when I was fishing flat floats and pole feeders last year!

In went the hand and out came Peg 1. Oh yes! More than a few groans erupted from the draw queue and I ran to my peg with a big smile. It’s obviously the end peg in the match and somewhere I’ve always wanted to draw. Strangely, it hasn’t framed much at all in the qualifiers this year and I was told it was full of small roach, weed on the inside and lots of pike. The form peg in the low numbers has actually been Peg 2. This is because 3 and 4 are left out as they are too weedy – and, again, full of pike!

With colour in the river I thought bream may be possible but I also felt that a weight of roach would be an easier prospect and less of a gamble. It proved right as no one caught any proper bream all weekend – despite them rolling in the fancied deep pegs.

I therefore balled it in with nine or 10 jaffas at 13.5 metres (no point fishing further out on an end peg) and baitdroppered some chopped lobs and dendras plus a few maggots and casters down the peg and around six metres out. That was my very simple approach. I’d know after less than an hour if things weren’t going to plan and had a feeder rod set up just in case.

My mix was 50/50 groundbait (Sensas Noire, Match Blend and Lake with a bit of brown crumb and sweet Epiciene) and soil. I’d normally use Gros Gardons Fine but with the river having a bit of hammer I substituted that with less filling Match Blend. It’s a tried and trusted mix that I’ve caught loads of fish over when bloodworm fishing on rivers.

Top ups would be with the same mix or, if difficult, a 50/50 leam and soil mix, varying the amount of bait and number of balls to suit.
This match was pretty simple. The bloodworm line was solid with tiny roach and I only managed two stampers there all day, despite trying all sorts of rigs, hook baits, topping up, resting etc. I knew I wouldn’t win a bean if I just fished for these ‘bits’ so I began feeding hemp on and just past this line to see if I could catch anything better on the seed. I managed nine roach on this towards the end, but even these weren’t that big – the best probably going 3oz. I also had six pike on during the day which is pretty much what I expected with a weedy peg full of tiny roach!

My get out of jail swim was the choppy at six metres and I managed nine chunky perch and a 1lb eel here, mostly on dendras or three maggots. It felt really ‘tenchy’ but it wasn’t to be. Those fish probably gave me close to 4lb and combined with the silvers I managed a hard-earned 7lb 13oz for a £100 section win.

Strangely, the low numbers were completely eclipsed by the White House Bend and the high numbers. Only Gary Miller’s 8lb 4oz beat me from Peg 1 to the bridge Peg 21 and there was just one more 8lb weight all the way to Peg 46, where Spud Murphy won with 13lb of roach. There were two 12lbs further down and my catch was actually the 9th best on the day.

My best roach rig was a slim 1.5g Sensas Guillaume in the 7ft deep peg, shotted with an olivette and three No9 droppers – dead positive for speed fishing. Line was 0.117mm Xceed to 0.08mm hooklengths, size 20 PR 311 hooks and No5 or No6 Slip elastic. It wasn’t flowing much close in so the choppy rig was just a 1g Maver Polar with a 0.16mm hooklength to a size 14 Drennan Wide Gape and pink Drennan hollow elastic – no messing in weedy pegs with tench and eels about!

So not a bad start. Hopefully things would be even better on the Abu Garcia Wychavon Champs the next day…

1st Andrew Murphy (Tredeger Angling Centre), Peg 49 – 13-11-0
2nd Ian Didcote (Garbolino, Bait-Tech, Daiwa Dorking), Peg 46 – 12-11-0
3rd Lee Kerry (Preston Innovations, Sonu Baits), Peg 64 – 12-4-0
4th Denis White (Maver Barnsley), Peg 79 – 10-9-0
5th Mark Brush (Daiwa Gordon League, Peg 48 – 9-7-0

Jon Arthur

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