As I tucked into my breakfast at the Drome Cafe, beside the Birmingham-Fazeley Canal on Monday, I looked around to see the other 60 anglers who had progressed through to the 2nd round of the Drennan Knockout Cup. Between mouthfuls of fried egg and hash brown I spotted world champions, UK Champions, Match This and Fishomania winners... How the bloody hell had I got out of Round One on a commercial fishery?
Canals are a different kettle of fish; it's what I do, so despite all this wealth of talent surrounding me, I felt that given a reasonable draw I could get through to Round Three.
Peg 46 came out of the bucket, "just up from the Hare & Hounds Pub," I was told. "The peg to your left with the bush is a flier," was another comment made by a couple of anglers.
It was only four pegs up from the Hare & Hounds car park, so I wandered up there first with Jonny Atkins, who had travelled up with me on the day to watch. We could see a tree overhanging the canal from the bridge and presuming that to be the flier, expected my peg to be about 20 yards short, so when we found 46 painted on the ground smack bang in front of it we were both a little surprised, but we quickly hurried back to collect my tackle. Klaus Fix was on Peg 47 and although he also had a bush opposite him, it wasn’t as pronounced as the one in my peg. So I presumed I was on the peg? (Er, you must have not spotted THE tree opposite flyer Peg 45 which Luke Sears was sitting bang in front of! – Ed)
With the information I had been given in the weeks proceeding the match from some very good sources I set up the following rigs:
At four sections: a 0.4g Dufils Nord float on 0.09mm Garbo Line to a 0.07mm hooklength and a size 22 Image IM1 hook to fish bread.
At six sections straight in front of me: a 4x10 Lattimer fibre-tipped Squatt, 0.09mm to 0.07mm and size 22 IM1 to again fish bread.
At seven sections to my left over groundbait and squatts: a 3x10 Lattimer 0.09mm to 0.06mm and size 24 IM1 at depth and a 4x10 Bassett London Squatt with a 0.07mm to 22 sensas 3405 hook for maggot and pinkie overdepth.
Across at eight sections (11 metres) against the reeds: a 4x10 Garbolino DS16 0.09mm to 0.06mm a 24 IM1 and also a 5x10 Lattimer Caster on 0.12mm to 0.08mm and a size 20 Sensas 3405 hook for as close to the tree as I could get.
Two track rigs, a duplicate 5x10 Lattimer Caster rig (only deeper) for the right and a 4x14 Basset Choppy rig with a 0.10mm hooklength and an 18 B560 for the left, filled up my rig roost to overflowing!
I shouted ‘all in’ at 12pm and went straight on the bread rig at four sections. Two small roach and a gudgeon came pretty quickly before I hooked and played out a procession of plastic bags (A species you don’t see much of on my local Kennet & Avon!). After which I couldn’t get a bite here, so I moved out to six sections, again with bread, where I had two or three more quick roach before it all came to a halt. Jonno was looking up and down the canal and at this point he reckoned he hadn’t seen any others around me catch?
But slowly they did, Klaus had a big perch and Luke Sears on my right had a skimmer and had started to catch the odd fish from right across over kinder-potted squatts and groundbait.
Jonno got bored and went for a walk to hopefully see some fish being caught and report back. He was away for an hour, and in that time all I caught was a tiny perch from across despite rotating between all the swims. Although, as he came back under the bridge my float finally went under on the left hand squatt line, and a 10-12oz skimmer was carefully played out on No2 elastic and a 24 hook to 0.06mm line. I went straight back on this line to see if there were any others but had none.
By now the sun (Remember that? It's the big orange thing in the sky that has been hidden for the last month!) was shining directly onto this line and I said to Jonno "Where would I be now if I was a fish?" "Not there!" was my answer. So this rig was shipped in and the far bank DS16 was pushed out with a Kinder pot of dry groundbait and squatts deposited next to the reeds and as close to to tree as I dare. Within minutes I was into skimmer No2, albeit half the size of its relation already in the net!
And this was how the final two hours went; odd fish from next to the reeds on very little feed, and I ended the match on three skimmers and 14 other fish, a mixture of roach perch and gudgeon for what I thought would be about 1lb 8oz to 1lb 12oz.
A quick walk up and down the section, and with four anglers admitting to around a pound, I suddenly realised that I may have got through! It took an age for Alex and Jon to arrive with the scales as they had just weighed in the prolific Forge Lane section with a set of incredibly accurate beam scales and as Jon was probably the only one who knew how to work them he was calling the weights. And after sliding weights backwards and forwards across the beam my weight was called at 2lb 2oz 8drms, which was a massive 7 drams more than Andy Dargue on the end peg. That hoisted me into second place behind Luke Sears with 3lb 14oz (and probably a few drams?) for which I was awarded an envelope containing enough money to exchange into diesel to get me home with a little left over to buy a pasty and a celebratory pint of cider!
You can find a brief report of the match on this link and a full write-up in July’s edition of Match Fishing magazine.
So, I’m into the last 32, which is at Little John Lakes in Nottinghamsire, a venue which AA Routefinder tells me is four hours and five minutes from Dorset! I only normally go that far north to fish Nationals!
If you kept your fingers crossed for me last week, can you cross them again on Monday 11th of June?