My drawing arm down White Acres really is crap. Everywhere else I draw flyers for fun but down here it’s so far been a different story. Nobody ever believes me until I list all the pegs I’ve ever drawn down here. They soon see the light after that! I’ve never drawn a noted flyer on Bolingey, never drawn out the arms on Pollawyn and not seen Trewaters for three years as I keep drawing the crappier lakes instead! This year I had left the violins at home as I was determined to start drawing a few flyers. They don’t call me End Peg Arthur for nothing and my reputation down here was really starting to slip.
First things first was the section draw. This decides the 36 anglers out of the 180 involved that you will be rubbing shoulders with for five days. There is always one draw that sticks out more than the others, which we all fondly call the Section Of Death (or Doom if you’re Richie Hull). This year, surprise surprise, I was in that dreaded section. In fact, I would go as far as saying the B Section I was in had the most number of household names that I have ever seen in one group. Thankfully we had avoided the Scotthornes and Ringers but we still had (take a deep breath) the likes of Lee Kerry, James Dent, Paul Holland, Pemb Wrighting, Andy Lloyd, Neil Machin, Kerry Kirkwood, Andy Dargue, Andy Nelson, Tony Curd, Stewart Lister, Richie Hull, Nick Speed, Gary Webber, Dave Swain, Frankie Gianoncelli and Lee Thornton to name just a few. Normally you get about eight or so well knowns in each section but with so many White Acres veterans in one group I knew we’d be nicking points off each other all week. It was certainly going to keep us all on our toes and I definitely needed some flyers this time around…
Day One – Trewaters 43
Now I haven’t seen this venue for several years and not since they decided to halve the number of anglers on each of the two pools. I therefore made sure to have a short fish on the top lake on practice day, which is normally the better of the two for some reason. I had a good session catching lots of F1s and a few carp on lots of methods. Hopefully it would help if I drew on there...
My draw for the day actually put me on Peg 43 on the bottom lake. This was where the wind was blowing into when I practiced so I was a bit gutted to find it had completely flipped around overnight. If you look in the picture with this story you’ll see my peg is the flat-calm one at the top right of the photo!
These fish definitely follow the wind on this lake so I feared the worst but as it was Day One I was still hoping they’d be spread out. I started on pellets short, which is what I really expected to catch best on and had two mirror carp in two chucks. A great start but I then started to worry when I had two tiny tench and a couple of small skimmers after that – these all indicated to me that there were no F1s about and the swim was already waning. I started up a new swim but nothing happened. A switch to a 13m swim yielded nothing too. Time for a chuck on the Method but I was already concerned as Richie Hull on the next peg had fished it from the off with hardly anything to show for it. In fact, everyone I could see was struggling. I had a small carp and a couple of F1s on the tip but was going nowhere and with my peg so flat calm I felt they were spooking a bit too easily. I therefore quickly set up a waggler and had a few casts for a couple of F1s but it never felt right.
That’s when I realised I could probably reach the island with a long-lining pole rig. As soon as I started on this I regretted not doing it sooner. I was now catching small stockies up to 1lb pinging across hard 6mm pellets and combined with a few fish down the edge I ended up with 44lb. Despite the ‘banker’ short pole failing to produce I felt I had worked hard and eventually stumbled on the best way to catch. It was an arm-aching way to fish swinging a 16m pole but I felt I had fished it ok. I really felt I’d be well up in the section as no one either side had caught so I was a bit gutted to end up fourth. I beat the two anglers to my left and the two anglers to my right but the three I couldn’t really see all beat me from the windward end of the lake. I don’t think the 70lb I needed to take the section was possible from my peg on the day unless I had managed to catch short but I could have definitely snuck third spot as Andy Dargue just pipped me with 48lb.
It wasn’t the perfect start I wanted but a fourth wasn’t a disaster either. I'd also nicked a £1 off Richie Hull!
Result: 44-12-0, section 4th
Day Two – Twin Oaks 14
This is a peg you should always run to at White Acres as anywhere from 10 to 16 is a good area where some serious weights can often be caught. This lake is also extremely wind-affected however so the wind can play a massive part as to where the carp sit. Some days Peg 2 will be the hotspot, other days the opposite end Peg 18 but you cannot go far wrong with 10 to 16. I suppose if I had to choose one peg on the whole complex for a guaranteed good day it would always be next door on 16, but 14 seemed a nice peg for me and as 12 had won the day before I wasn’t complaining…
In my nine pegs I was ‘fortunate’ to have top anglers like Paul Holland, Pemb Wrighting, Stewart Lister, Andy Lloyd, Andy Dargue and Andy Nelson for company – oh, and Ginger from Dynamite Baits to keep us all amused!
The weather as expected was atrocious with biting winds forecast all day. Luckily this lake is very simple to fish, even for me, as the top methods are generally feeder tight across to the far bank with a 30yd or so chuck, short pole at 5 to 6 metres and the margins. Things like pellet wag and long pole can also work but the first three are the usual bankers for bites.
Most people start straight across for an early run of carp but I know you can nick an odd good fish short on the right day. I therefore had a cheeky look on a top kit plus one straight in front on meat… and caught a 5oz roach. Hmm, perhaps this wasn’t the day. A quick look to my left however and Stewart Lister’s elastic was streaming out with a 12lb margin-caught lump on Peg 10. Peg 12 was soon following suit with a double-figure beast of his own and followed that up with two more good fish. “What the f is going on!?” I thought to myself!
I decided to stick to my short pole swim a few minutes longer and eventually caught a couple of 6-7lb carp of my own but the roach soon reappeared and I was already playing catch up.
By now the early ‘mug fish’ had dissipated so it was onto the feeder for everyone. I caught instantly but the first fish went off like a train. I seemed to play it for ages before it arced into the margins and I was forced to stand up to try and steer it out of the empty Peg 15! It was swirling and cavorting everywhere and I couldn’t make my mind up whether it was foul hooked or just a massive fish – they always pull like demons on this lake anyway. After an age the fish eventually came off and I reckon Andy may have had two fish in the time I'd wasted while I could see 16 quietly catching away as well.
After that lost fish the wind was playing havoc with my casting and I just never felt right for the first hour. To be honest I just wasn’t thinking or concentrating properly or punching the feeder with any conviction and needed to pull myself together.
Andy next door was catching well with a pellet feeder while I stuck to a pellet Method. He was catching really well and fishing a very tidy match so I knew I’d already got my work cut out. My feeder fishing was abysmal and I just wasn’t casting with any conviction or believing the tip was going to go round after it landed. I had this constant niggle that I was casting in the wrong spot so decided to chuck nearer to Andy, a couple of metres to the right of Peg 13. As soon as I did this I knew it was right. I was now chucking more accurately to a clean bank that looked more undercut and getting much tighter as a result. Why didn’t I do it sooner?
A run of decent carp came instantly before a short lull. I was about to reel in when the tip whacked round. Another long fight and I slipped the net under a carp around 12lb – a nice bonus on the tip that hopefully nudged me closer to the runaway leaders either side.
As the three-hour mark approached I knew I had to start clawing some fish back and this is normally the best time to have a look on the short pole. My only concern was that I could see Stewart spending a long time on this line and not catching while others I could see weren’t fairing any better. I still felt it was the right thing to do and lowering in a cube of meat I was soon catching nuisance roach. That wasn’t part of the script!
Four roach later and I finally hooked an angry 7lb mirror. That told me the fish were there but I simply couldn’t get through the silvers. I foolishly expected the roach to be sat on the poorer pegs 4-8 to get away from the carp. This wasn’t the case and they seemed happy to swim around with them after a free meal.
My biggest mistake was taking three units of 6mm meat and a unit of hemp instead of bigger 8mm cubes. I completely underestimated the roach problem and although double and treble cubes worked to a degree it wasn’t perfect. I had already sussed that throwing bait was a recipe for disaster as all that did was pull in more silvers so it was feeding by big pot only from now on. This brought the odd carp but I know feeding bigger cubes and less of them would’ve been better. Any other match and I would have got off my box and cut up some bigger bait but you can’t do this at White Acres – your decisions are all made at the very start before the bait checks. I also kept thinking I should’ve perhaps even fed with meat and corn together… or even just dripped in hard 8mm pellets.
Oh well, I had dropped a clanger and had to persevere til the end. I only had one margin fish while Andy continued to plunder a few. He fed groundbait and worm while I felt it was too cold for that so stuck to meat – another mistake!
At the scales I knew I’d been beaten as Andy plonked 131lb on the scales. I’d probably only got 100lb so I was surprised to total 119-6-0. I had obviously had less fish but my bigger short-pole fish had pulled me back a bit. Next door was going to be close, but it wasn’t until his three nets were added up that I realise just how close. With 119-12-0 I was absolutely gutted – just 6oz more than me. Argh! My head dropped and I was left kicking myself.
A third in section is still a good result, plus I’d still won £100 for third in the 36-peg section, but I just felt I had got so many decisions wrong and not made changes at the crucial times. Just one of those nuisance roach would have given me a valuable extra point and I knew I would regret this performance for the rest of the week.
I went back to the lodge extremely angry with myself for not pulling myself together and letting a potential section-winning peg slip away. Andy fished a brilliant match next door but I was only just off the pace and know deep down I just wasn’t my normal self. Why is there no one around to slap you in the face when you most need it?
Result: 119-8-0, section 3rd, lake 3rd
Day Three – Porth 89
I was really happy with my draw for Porth. 89 was an end peg in arguably the best and fairest section on the lake. These nine pegs seem to have a few more fish in than others and although my peg was without doubt a favoured one, Steve Ringer had showed you can win from anywhere with an unbelievable 16lb from Peg 85 in the middle of the section just the day before. Only 8lb was second that day so I knew things would be hard. In fact, Porth was fishing poor and low weights were definitely the order of the day for everyone (unless you are Steve, of course!).
For company in my nine pegs I had Lee Kerry, Lee Thornton, James Dent, Kerry Kirkwood, Chris Kitchen amongst others to contend with so things wouldn’t be easy. As it happened, Porth fished much worse than any of us expected. In the near-gale-force wind and rain most people had quite rightly just set up a tip rod but me being me set up an optimistic pole rig as well. It got a few laughs off Lee Kerry in the morning as it wasn’t your normal rig. It was a 1.5g extra long Colmic Granada that Brian Clark had kindly given me a week earlier. This float is designed for big, open venues like Porth and has an extra long tip that makes it act like a driftbeater waggler. I could only fish around nine metres out in the conditions and hoped I might get a few fish on this spot later on. Steve had actually caught on the feeder underarmed this range out the day before – that’s how bad the conditions have been on here!
I had a very quick look short on the pole hoping for a non-existent perch before chucking a three-hole cage feeder 22 turns. It wasn’t long before I was catching the odd tiny skimmer to about 4oz on dead maggots, pinkies or worm heads and kept casting every 40 seconds or so to get into a nice rhythm. My 10ft Drennan Match Pro Quiver with the 8oz tip was perfect at showing the tiny bites but the weren’t taking it very confidently and I was winding the odd fish off on the way in. A switch to a feeder with less lead on helped somewhat… then Esox moved in.
I had 10 pike on all day. Luckily I managed to get three or four mangled fish back from their teeth but they were completely disrupting my catching rhythm. Twice I had pike take a fish seconds after lifting into a skimmer. On the two-hour mark I had a lovely positive bite with a quality fish obviously on the end. It was either a skimmer or big perch I guess around 1lb 8oz to 2lb but I will never know as a pike leapt at it and snapped me off just as I was about to see it break the surface!
Later on I did manage a few fish on the pole and had a 1lb skimmer and a 10oz sample – my best two fish of the day. The fish were about but I’m sure the pike were unsettling them everywhere I chucked.
Kerry Kirkwood was next door on 88 and has stuck to the feeder all day for a tidy catch. He had included a 1lb 8oz skimmer and I knew he’d beat me at the weigh in. He wasn’t so sure though so I convinced him to have a £1 side bet. As the scales arrived Lee Kerry was top with 7lb. Kerry blitzed that with a cracking 10lb 5oz catch. He never told me about the 1lb 8oz perch he sneaked in the first hour though!
I was very surprised just how heavy my little skimmers weighed as I plonked 8lb 14oz in the sprout bag. I was one bonus fish off the section win but I was still happy with my result and felt I fished an ok match. Kerry fished an even better one so I cant complain too much and we’d both beaten some top anglers in the section in terrible weather.
After unloading my gear from the boat I was even more pleased to discover only one peg had caught proper bream (Neil Machin on end peg 16 on the roadside bank) so I had in fact taken another lake third with another £100 going to our lodge kitty - plus that £1 I won off Kerry!
Result: 8-14-0, section 2nd, lake 3rd
Day Four – Bolingey 45
Wow, I had finally broken my Bolingey duck and drawn a noted peg! Peg 45 is the top-left corner swim on the right-hand lake and in with the ‘section of flyers’. This meant I wasn’t actually fishing against those around me other than Tony Curd on Peg 27 opposite. The rest of my section was on the top lake with stand out draws like 16, 17, 18 and 23 to contend with. Basically, they lump all the good pegs together so the lake winner invariably comes from someone in this 9-peg section.
So 45 is a noted peg but it hadn’t produced so far this week and the top lake was completely dominating things. When I saw Paul Holland on 17, Lee Thornton on 16 and Richie Hull on 23 I knew id have my work cut out. Still, this was my kind of peg with a long margin to go at (albeit a very bare one after a bit of pre-festival re-landscaping) and lots of water all to myself.
I started on meat short as did almost everyone on the lake and had precisely nothing. You normally get a few fish early like this but I only saw Andy Nelson to my right catch anything early on. Out to 14.5m pinging pellets and I was finally into a few fish and had three or four small carp on the deck. The wind was blustery but thankfully off my back making things not too uncomfortable.
I knew the left hand margin was going to play a big part in my attack so I wanted to find out what bait to fish there. About 14.5m felt the best distance but I made sure to start shorter at 13m and use this closer spot to tell me whether to fish meat or pellets down the edge. Several missed bites and a foul hooker on meat convinced me a banded pellet would be the way to go and that’s what I fished the rest of the day.
Back to the open water and I had a feeling I’d be able to catch better shallow so swapped to a shallow rig set 2.5ft deep. It wasn’t instant but by persevering and playing with feed patterns and the way I dropped my rig in I was catching decent carp fairly regularly. The beauty of this approach was that I could ping pellets shallow and also down the edge and simply swing my rig between the two spots, nicking a fish or two off each.
This worked a treat for the remainder of the match. I did have a couple of looks short on meat again but didn’t want to waste too much time as I was already catching fish.
After five hours, Paul Holland had annihilated the lake with 157lb – including a very welcome bonus 17lb carp on the Method! Lee Thornton had weighed in 111lb while Richie had just pipped him with 112lb. I was one of the last to weigh and had very generously clicked 125 on my fish counter (so I wouldn’t go over the 60lb keepnet limits) so felt I’d got closer to 110lb. In actual fact I weighed in 128lb so my estimating is once again crap but at least I had come second in section and second on the lake. After a shaky Monday and Tuesday I was finally starting to get my confidence back and really felt I had worked hard to catch that weight. I doubt I could have touched Paul’s exceptional catch so I was happy for the second spot. With one day left I needed a section win and a bit of luck to scrape into the all-important top-10 money spots.
Result: 128-12-0, section 2nd, lake 2nd
Day Five – Pollawyn 36
Once again I was back in the dreaded arms but a pre-match chat with White Acres legend Harry Billing convinced me I had a chance of winning the section off 36. It’s the last peg that you can reach the island with 16 metres before it widens right up and sometimes has a few resident fish early and late. At least I had avoided the dreaded pegs 41 and 38 (I was all too familiar with them!) but my big worry was Peg 52, which had a bit of form and Dave Swain on flyer 45 the other side of the island. This peg is normally so much better than the rest of the section and had even won the entire lake the day before with 114lb. Oh dear!
For company I had Lee Thornton, Gary Webber, Andy Dargue, Richie Hull, Swainy and Andy Lloyd so things wouldn’t be easy. Still, I had a job to do and couldn’t see the pegs I was most worried about so I could simply put the blinkers on and try and do my best. Despite never drawing great on this lake I actually still have a decent record on it and have always done well whenever I’ve attacked it. I therefore never set a roach rig up and never intended to fish for skimmers too much either as they have both normally had a battering by the last day of a festival.
I started across on pellet hoping for a few stray carp and had a great start, catching four in the first hour. After this it normally goes quiet so you have to work your balls off for extra pounds the next three hours before they hopefully return in the last hour.
I decided to concentrate down the edges feeding positively with chopped worm and casters as this has worked really well for me in the past. It catches great big perch, hybrids, bream and also gives you a chance of a carp or two and with bonus fish like this on the cards I felt it was a better bet than light caster rigs for roach.
It worked a treat as I managed a dozen big perch for about 20lb, a big brown goldfish, a 2lb hybrid and two late bonus carp. Add to this a smattering of skimmers and two small barbel in open water and I had a fantastic last day with loads of bites.
I felt my final catch of 61-15-0 was my performance of the week. It was a 50:50 split between carp and silvers and not only was it a comfortable section winner (40lb was second) but it was the sixth best weight on the lake on the day. Result!
Result: 61-15-0, section 1st
With a section win, two seconds, a third and a fourth, I had an outside chance of the top 10 but sadly I missed out by one point and ended up 15th. Looking at the weights, however, I had the fourth highest combined weight so I’d obviously drawn well and caught a few fish all week and picked up quite a bit of money along the way. What’s more, I had finally broken my White Acres duck with several good draws. Hopefully I can work on this now and I now know I have what it takes to win a festival. After everything I’ve learned this week I know I can do it so hopefully it’s onwards and upwards from now on!
Oh yes, I also won the coveted lodge sweep £1 coins with Neil McKinnon and Paul Cannon – and for many people that’s the most important victory of all!