This year was no different, and I don’t actually think that the weather could have been any kinder to us for the duration of our stay. I lodged with three fellow northern boys, Matt Godfrey, Nick Crouch and White Acres virgin Sam Randall. Even though none of us did particularly well in the festival, we all enjoyed a great week, and caught plenty of fish.
I started my week demonstrating my usual prowess at the drawbag – by pulling out Peg 2 on Pollawyn. This is arguably one of the worst pegs on the lake, with the only consoling factor being that it is in with a lot of the other poorer pegs. For this reason, I decided to base my approach around fishing for silverfish, but have a brief look for a carp during the first and last part of the session, as this is the time when they are sometimes caught. I drew the same peg in the festival last year, and managed to win the section, though I did get rather lucky, catching three big carp in the first half an hour and three in the last for a 48lb total.
Given the fact that I had caught carp last year, I was quite excited when I slipped an 8mm piece of meat on the hook and shipped across to the island, as I fully expected a couple of early lumps. Sadly, my faith couldn’t have been more misplaced, and I soon found myself setting my stall out for the silvers.
I had a chat with Lee Edwards in the weekend leading up to the festival, and he told me how he felt that fishing tiny, light floats helped him sort out the bigger silver fish. For this reason, I set up a 3x8 Chianti, alongside my usual 4x10 choice. Fishing down the edge is generally best for the silver fish at White Acres, so I planned to fish down either side and just trickle bait in by hand.
I must admit, that a couple of hours into the match I was feeling a bit despondent, as I couldn’t seem to string any better fish together. Fortunately, both lines seemed to just get better and better through the day, and though I wasn’t catching a lot of fish, the stamp was really good. I caught perch to 3lb, hybrids to 2lb, bream to nearly 4lb and roach to well over 1lb. The light float certainly seemed to do the trick!
I ended the match with 43lb, though sadly this was only good enough for a second in section. I needed another 8lb for a section win, and if I hadn’t fished across for carp in the early part of the session I perhaps could have done enough. Still, you have to give yourself a chance I suppose.
Sadly, the second day my drawing arm failed to produce yet again. I drew peg 49 at Trewaters, and with a warm wind pushing down into the end two pegs at the other end of the lake (35 and 53) I thought I might have my work cut out. This turned out to be the case, and though I had a lovely day catching F1s, small carp and skimmers, I finished a long way of the pace, weighing 57lb for fourth, needing 114lb to win the section and 110lb to come second.
Trelawney and Twin Oaks was my destination on the third day, and I needed a good result to get me back in the running, and when I pulled out peg 29, I knew once again that I would struggle to compete. The previous days had seen all the fish at the top end of the section between pegs 19 and 23.
I thought my best chance of getting good points would be to target everything that swims. I set my stall out to fish worms in front of me, and casters down the edge, I was hoping that the light rig would work again for me!
To be fair, it did work, and worked well. I ended up with 43lb of mainly roach, and two small carp for a 53lb total. Looking around the lake through the day, I didn’t see a lot being caught, so I figured that I was making the right decision by keeping fish going in the net. Big mistake! I had forgotten how big the carp on Trelawney are, and I was disappointed to finish fifth in section. In hindsight, I probably should have fished meat on the long pole instead of worms, but even if I had done this I doubt I would have caught enough for good points.
The fourth day saw me heading for the famous Porth Reservoir. On previous days, you needed to catch bream to do well here. For this reason, I made the feeder my main line of attack, and planned to try and catch on the long pole when the light dropped later on in the session.
A valuable lesson that I learnt here was that I need desperately to brush up on my groundbait feeder skills! Although I caught fish on it, I could definitely tell that it had been a full twelve months since the last time I had fished in that way. I ended the day with 6-11-0, and was beaten into fourth by just a few ounces, with Steve Cooke weighing just one ounce more than me, and Lee Edwards just seven ounces! Though I had been unlucky on the three days leading up to this, I felt that Porth was a section I could and should have won quite easily had I been more accomplished on the feeder. Must try harder!
The final day saw me heading to Bolingey, which had been fishing really well all week. As far as section points were concerned, I was looking for a top three finish to see me keep in the top 50, and so qualify for a place in the Preston Festival.
In went my hand and out came peg 16. This isn’t a bad peg – but the problem with it is that you are in with all of the lakes fliers, including 17 and 18, 23, 27 and 45, all of which had framed several times through the week. Again, I was to have my work cut out. I had a lovely days fishing to be fair though, taking half a dozen fish shallow and half a dozen fish short, and one late on down the side for an 87lb total. Another valuable lesson was gleaned here, which related to feeding. I have always convinced myself that the correct way to feed the all important short line on here is by hand, constantly drip feeding meat on the line through the day so that the carp gain confidence on it. Talking to Joe Carass changed my view on this.
He had always done the same as me, but in the Preston Festival watched Grant Albutt paralyse the section by big potting bait on this line. As drip feeding had never really worked that well for me, I decided to give this approach a try. It worked too, as I caught five fish in five puts in when I went on the line. I just wish that I had tried it earlier!
Sadly, I was beaten by the usual pegs. I only needed to catch 110lb for third on the lake though, and I think If I could fish the match again then this would be an achievable weight.
I finished 72nd, and as is always the case when I come back from White Acres, I left the complex with my head spinning about things that I could have done different. There truly is no better arena to learn from, as you are surrounded by the best commercial fishing minds in the country.
To be honest, I don’t think my draws were good enough to make the 34 points needed for a frame place. That said, better angling would definitely have seen me grab a couple more points, make the top 50 and qualify for the Preston Festival. I might still get on, it just depends on how many people in the top 50 choose to take up their place. Fingers crossed!
Tom Scholey is Pole Fishing magazine's Editorial Assistant, and a keen match angler.