This year i've made the conscious decision to do something different and concentrate on commercials a bit more. That means next to no bloodworm fishing on my beloved canals. It was a tough decision to make, especially as this time of year is when I normally do so well on the canal circuit, but I feel that unless I commit myself to commercials 100 per cent I wont be able to be in tune with them and will always be playing catch up. So far it seems to be doing the trick and I'm really enjoying the new experiences and getting to grips with new venues and winter fishing on them.
This was to be my first full weekend's fishing for a couple of months and I really wanted to make it count. First up was the first round of the Larford Winter League where I was guesting for Maver Midlands Black. The team was Les Thompson, Martin Leck, Craig Goldstraw and myself and with six rounds to fish Im hoping we'll do ok. I was to be on Match Lake and so Craig and I tossed a coin to see what bank we'd each be on. The shallow bank was my destination and I was actually quite happy with that as long as I drew from Peg 12 to 22. I definitely didn't want the early numbers from 6 to 10. The deepest bit on this side is in the 20s and it's still only 3ft at 16m there! Down the low numbers its probably just 18 inches on the pole. I would personally never have put those pegs in but the idea was to give everyone a bit of space. Hopefully I can avoid this area later on in the series...
Thankfully I pulled out Peg 20, a decent area. For company I had Paul Carnwell and Matt Prosser either side as well as top names like Jamie Hughes and Si Fry either side of the noted aerator ropes and Gary Skerritt and Andy Kinder also in my section - so I would have to pull out all the stops! It was unbelievably cold in the morning. In fact it was minus seven degrees, white over and steam was coming off both lakes when we arrived. What's more it was flat as a witch's breasticles with little wind forecast. These aren't ideal conditions when you've only got 3ft of water to go at!
I plumbed up two pole rigs to present expanders and hard pellets, a tiny cage feeder rig and a waggler. Strangely, I seemed to be the only guy to set a float rod up in the whole section. I'm not sure why, as flat-calm conditions are perfect for the rod and line and you tend to find the fish don't respond to the feeder so well when it's still like this. I think they prefer to sit off the bottom and spook away from too much disturbance. that's my theory, anyway…
Even though it was so flat and shallow I decided to start on the pole as I still fancied an early F1, plus I wanted to leave the middle undisturbed to give the fish somewhere to back off to. First cast I waited 10 minutes before the float dipped sharply. A nice start. I struck, yards of elastic shot out but the fish came off. Not a nice start! Another 10 mins later and I finally connected with another fish. It was a big F1, possibly as much as 4lb, but it unbelievably came off at the net. "Sh@#!"
Nothing more happened so I moved out another pole section out and started again, just dripping in 4mm fishery pellets with a 4mm or 6mm pellet on the hook. Eventually I started to piece a few fish together; mostly small F1s (by Larford's standards) but the odd mirror and common carp to 4lb helped keep the weight ticking over. Looking down the lake, Si and Jamie were both catching well and it looked like Jamie was having an F1 a chuck. I knew his area seemed to draw more F1s whereas I could expect more proper carp so I just hoped that his faster catch rate would get cancelled out by my slightly better fish. With 90 minutes to go, however, I was now sitting biteless at 16 metres and one look down the lake suggested that everyone else's swims had slowed right down too. Time for the wag…
I cast out a 2g Drennan loaded peacock with a crystal insert fished dead depth with a banded 6mm pellet on the hook and waited in anticipation. I haven't chucked a waggler for a couple of months and really wasn't sure if I'd get a bite or not, but I needn't have worried. The float dipped and I missed it. Recasting, another bite, but this time my strike connected with a good fish. It turned out to be a 2lb F1 and a five-minute wait the next cast resulted in another. After that, I had a 3lb common and that was followed by a 2lb mirror. I was waiting for bites but at least the catch rate was ticking over while others had slowed right up. My sixth fish was much more substantial and took me nearly 10 minutes to get in. At first I thought it was foul-hooked but it turned out to be an angry 8lb-plus mirror – a very nice bonus! That was pretty much it on the waggler and despite swapping between the pole, wag and feeder I never had a bite for the last 30 minutes. I hoped I'd done enough!
When the scales arrived Jamie Hughes was the runaway leader with 78lb, while Andy Kinder and Si Fry were second and third with 55lb and 50lb. My first keepnet was tipped into the bag and a weight of 37lb was recorded. Next keepnet was dragged out and I reckoned I had slightly more in that but it was gonna be really close. I managed to tip half the fish in the weigh sling before it snapped in half and broke! That forced fishery owner Phil Briscoe to get a new sling and agonisingly prolonged the weigh in for another 10 minutes! Eventually he reappeared with a new weigh net and I nervously poured my fish in and waited for the needle of the scales to stop shaking. A weight of 43lb was called out and I had just pipped Jamie by 2lb with a 80-9-0 total!
What a result and, despite being an editor of a pole magazine, I have to admit that it was all thanks to those six bonus fish I caught on the waggler! I ended up winning the lake and the match outright for a perfect start to a new winter campaign. The team did reasonably well too apart from one bad result on Speci Lake so we ended up third on the day behind Matchfishing-scene and Garbolino. I'd thoroughly enjoyed the day so could tomorrow's first round at Makins be as good?
Follow Jon on Twitter: @JonnyboyArthur