After the Christmas break and a prolonged hangover, it was time to get back on the bank. I was really looking forward to the Hayfield pair’s league, and with a good turnout predicted I was confident that myself and partner, Steve Barraclough, could shake things up!
In past years the winter fishing at Hayfield has been dominated by bloodworm and joker tactics. Fishing short is usually best for the roach, while you tend to catch skimmers further out. However with a sudden rise in temperature, carp weights had started to dominate over silverfish. With this in mind, Steve and I both concurred that silvers alone would not be enough to achieve those valuable section points needed to get off to a good start in the league.
This match required a lot of preparation; with both carp and silvers in mind I knew that I had to cover several options. A bomb approach is a devastating method in winter, especially when you’re looking for just two or three bites. I prepared two Preston Innovations Mini 10ft F1 rods with PC-R 3000 reels loaded with 6lb Power Max reel line. One was set up with a 30g pellet feeder while the other had a simple bomb set-up. If the carp were going to have a real good feed, the pellet feeder gave me the option of placing my hookbait near some free-offerings.
The draw at hayfield was quite interesting, with one angler fishing on the Island Lake while the other had to fish on one of the Adams open-water lakes. I was sent to the Island Lake after a dubious coin toss, and drew Peg 57. This was a reasonable draw, and on arriving at the peg, I was quietly confident! Steve had also drawn a fancied carp area, Peg 17 on Little Adams Lake, which had very good form for both carp and silvers.
I decided to feed ten balls on my short line, consisting of a 50/50 mix of soil and ground bait. This contained 250ml of joker, with 100ml of casters to attract and hold some bigger stamp fish in the swim. This seems a safe amount of bait to feed at Hayfield, without being too positive or too negative. Rigs for the short line were a 0.6g and 0.8g Preston PT Series 6’s, shotted with a simple bulk and three droppers, and a size 20 ever-faithful Green Gamma hook.
The long line in 12ft of water was fed with the exact same mix as the short line, but contained dead maggots, dead pinkies, and lots of casters! I used a 1 gram Sensas Series 18 float, with the same shotting pattern as the previous rigs, but with a bigger size 16 hook in case I ran into any bigger fish.
The match started very slowly for everyone, with only a couple of fish being caught on the whole lake. Two pegs away was Alan Scotthorne, who had a carp first chuck on the bomb! I had my first pull an hour into the match, and knew as soon as I hooked into the fish that something was wrong. It certainly wasn’t hooked in the mouth, and after a few minutes of ‘squeaky-bum-time’ and careful playing, the fish tore off and the hook pulled! Not the start I needed!
After an hour, it was obvious that the carp weren’t playing ball. I went on my short swim in the hope of a confidence boost, but only found tiny roach, which wasn’t good as I could see Alan's net scooping up a bar of silver every chuck. After an hour with no success on the pole, I figured the only way I was going to do well was with carp. I had two hours remaining, and only a pound or so of tiny roach in the net. It was time to make a conscious decision to sit it out on the bomb.
After getting a few liners over the next half hour, I had a feeling that something was going to happen. Just as Steve was phoning me, I saw a tap on my tip before it dropped back. Fish on! I don’t think I have ever played a fish so carefully in my life, I knew this could be my only chance of getting reselectable points. The fish turned out to be a common around 7lb, which was the last indication of the day for me! I ended the match with 8-8-0 for third in the section, a respectable result given the 'okay' draw. Alan won my section with 20lb, and Sean Ashby on the other side of the lake claimed second spot with 18lb. One more pull could have seen me nick the section, but there’s always next time!
Steve did the business and claimed second spot in his section with 41lb, consisting of eight carp. One thing I can take away from the session is a lesson in perseverance. Mick Vials to my left, who was in a different section, persevered until the last twenty minutes where he nicked a carp and a skimmer in two chucks to go form blanking to second in the section! I guess patience is a virtue after all. Next week will see me fishing another pair’s league this time at the Thorne canal, a brilliant winter venue that I love. Hopefully Rob Wright and myself can get off to the good start we crave!