What a weekend I've just had! After winning the previous day at Larford I was brimming with confidence for the first round of the Makins Pairs. Despite not living that far away from Makins, for some bizarre reason I never seem to fish matches on the place that much. I planned to set that right this year by entering the pole-only winter pairs competition ran by 'Big' Wayne Sharman of Lanes Tackle in Coventry. Phase Two is easily my favourite part of this massive multi-lake complex and Lizard and Lagoon pools (the two lakes used for the pairs competition) are supposed to be two of the best on the entire venue, so it seemed a perfect place to try and target this winter.
The hardest part was trying to find a partner to fish with. A few people I hoped would fish with me pulled out late while everyone else I asked seemed to be too busy washing their hair etc! I was starting to get a bit of a complex to be honest and it was looking like I was going to have to forfeit my place and have even more Sundays without anywhere to fish. Just as I was contemplating getting the violin and razor blades out, I had a last-minute call from organiser Wayne. He'd found someone willing to put up with me – thanks Dave Pritchard!
So, I was finally going to start fishing a local venue for a nice change. Apart from Tunnel Barn Farm, most venues I fish seem to be 45 minutes to an hour away on average so this was going to be something of a luxury! That's probably why I was twiddling my thumbs all morning trying to work out what to do with all my extra time! As usual when I'm excited I was wide awake at 6am so instead of having an extra hour in bed I did all sorts of jobs I wouldn't normally do - like washing up all the dishes, tidying up, liquidising bread, reorganising my pole winders, cleaning all the muck out of my seatbox drawers. I even contemplated pestering the wife…
In the end I ran out of 'little jobs' so it was time to drive to the venue. Even driving half the speed I normally go I had way too much time on my hands before the 9pm draw! I therefore went straight past the New Inn pub where the draw was being made to have a quick recce around the lakes. I'm glad I did as they were both completely frozen! Chucking a stone in broke it quite easily but it was thicker than cat ice and therefore required the trusty ice breaker. At least it would be the same for everyone.
Back at the pub it was nice to see unfamiliar anglers plus a few recognisable faces mixed in. Another 20 minutes spent twiddling my thumbs in anticipation later and we were finally dipping our hands into the drawbag of fortune. By pure coincidence I pulled out Lizard 26 while my partner Dave pulled out Lagoon 26. Apparently my peg was really good while Dave's was pretty bad! I personally hadn't a clue. I've never paid any attention to the peg numbers on these lakes before and it was refreshing to be so unfamiliar with a venue and be able to approach it with an open mind. Compare this to Tunnel Barn, for instance, and I know what I can expect to catch off almost every peg, which can take the edge off things at times.
I've pleasure fished Lizard and Lagoon a few times but never fished an actual match on them. Even though these lakes hold plenty of carp, winter fishing is obviously very hit and miss with that species so I was more interested in the silver fish sport, to be honest. With 20 anglers on each lake I knew things would be quite tight with the pegging so it's the silvers that I thought we'd be targeting on many of the pegs – especially through the ice.
My peg was next to a big tree with an island about 20 or so metres away. I also had an angler about eight metres away on either side so things would be cosy. First thing out the car was my lightest ice breaker and it didn't take long to clear a hole 14 metres out. I had four options in mind: against the nearside tree roots for perch, short pole at six metres for silvers, an 11m silver fish swim and a 14.5m long-pole carp swim.
To cut a long story short, the silvers had switched off on the day and I struggled for 1lb 8oz of them in the first hour. By then, the wind and sun had melted the ice a bit and I was able to replumb up at 16 metres. My 14.5m swim was fed with pellets and produced absolutely nothing so I decided to ditch that idea and drip sweetcorn in a section further instead. I still didn't really fancy catching any carp in the conditions until I spotted the guy opposite playing a sizeable kipper. I therefore shipped a grain of corn out with a bit more optimism and 10 minutes later the float buried with a very angry lump on the opposite end. It fought like a demon but eventually a 4lb common lay in the net. That was the end of me thinking about silvers. It was carp all the way from this point!
Next cast I hooked another carp but this was much bigger. Whatever I tried it wouldn't come anywhere near me but after a near-10-minute battle I eventually coaxed a 10lb-plus mirror into the net! I was only on a 0.12mm hooklength so that was quickly ditched in favour of a stronger 0.14mm one. My White Hydro was still perfect, as although loads of it was coming out I felt I needed that extra stretch to negotiate all the iceberg sheets that were now drifting my way.
As often happens on these lakes, the edges of the ice had melted to leave massive floating sheets drifting about and following the wind. That meant they were all heading my way! I shipped back out to 16 metres and within a minute I had just a tiny gap of unfrozen water around my float. Between here and my bank was wall to wall ice. The guy on the next peg laughed and said, "You'll have fun if you hook one now!" He was right! The float buried, I lifted into a carp and the pole tried to follow it across the lake. Unfortunately the ice was too thick for that and as the tip bent round it started grating and juddering somewhat alarmingly! I was in a right pickle. My only option was to somehow pull the opposite way and try and thread the pole back, crunching and sawing it through the thinnest sections where the ice sheets had drifted together. That's far easier said than done with 16m of pole, a carp pulling me to the left and two pole rollers nowhere near where I needed them! I'm not sure how I managed it but I somehow sawed all the way back to my top kit. Then, I had the 'fun' of smashing the ice with my landing net in one hand to create a hole big enough to net a fish while also holding my top kit with yards of elastic streaming out of it in the other hand! Everyone was obviously amused at my predicament, but at least I was having some action as the rest of the lake seemed to be struggling for bites. Eventually I managed to subdue the beast and couldn't believe my eyes when a handsome linear mirror popped up to be netted – all 15lb of it!
Once again my swim was completely obscured by floating ice sheets and a couple more quality carp caused me just as much trouble to get in! I also pulled out of two and was broken by another. it wasn't until the last hour that it finally all shifted out of my way so I could fish properly. With no ice to battle with, the wind got up and with the sun now squarely in front of me I couldn't see a thing! I had no option than to replumb a completely new swim away from the worst of the glare, undershot my float by two No10s and slip a thick piece of black silicone over my float bristle to thicken it up. That was the only way I could see my float and even then I had to guess when I had a bite half the time! It was far from easy fishing but I did manage another two carp but sadly lost two more before the all out was shouted. I was bloody relieved it was all over!
I was one of the last to weigh in and knew I'd done ok as it had fished rock hard for most. Before the scales got to me, Ian Hughes was the runaway leader on my lake with 40lb of carp while Ron Savage was second with 22lb. I was sure I had more but even I was surprised to put 60lb 5oz in the sack! Four of those fish must have been doubles, which is outstanding action through the ice!
Most people had struggled, however, including my partner so I'd obviously drawn bang on and caught the fish just right on the day. I'm sure there's a few gruellers in store between now and the end of the league so I'm going to need a bit of luck to have as good a day as this again. I'd obviously really enjoyed my first winter foray at Makins and it was a pleasure to fish such a well organised and friendly match. What's more, they had even laid on free chips and sausages at the New Inn afterwards to warm us all up! To say I'd had a great weekend would be an understatement. Hopefully this is just the start of even better things for 2012!
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