My name is Mark Poppleton and I live in Wiltshire. I am lucky enough to have some superb venues within an hour of my house including Viaduct Fishery, the Kennet & Avon Canal, the Bristol Avon and Landsend Fishery amongst many others.
Over the last few years I have moved away from the natural venues and base 99% of my fishing on commercial fisheries, but I do still enjoy the odd trip on the river and an annual trip grayling fishing on the River Test. My favourite winter venue is Landsend Fishery in Wedmore, Somerset, where today's blog is coming from. I was lucky enough to win the league in 2010/2011 and would love to challenge for it again.
The Landsend Individual League is organised by Tony Rixon, the southwest match fishing legend and habitual underestimator of his catch! The structure is probably very similar to lots of small leagues across the country, with 36 guys spilt into three sections of 12 and rotating around the three main match lakes (Speci, Match and Johns). Now Landsend itself is not your typical commercial fishery; it's mature and holds mainly quality fish, both carp and silvers. The latter are important in winter and with double figures possible from most pegs it doesn’t pay to ignore them. The three lakes are a similar format, being between 14 and 17 metres wide with near and far shelves plus a 5ft deep track. The end pegs, however, are in open water and offer something slightly different with long end banks to fish up against.
Today we are at Round Four of the six-match series. Out of the six matches only five count for points and it’s a random draw to mix up the sections and decide the lake rotation for the remaining matches. I have come into today on three section wins and have been lucky enough to win the match outright on two of those occasions – so I really need a decent draw today to keep the wheels from falling off!
Peg 19 on the Match Lake sticks to my hand and there seems to be a lot of bitterness in the lodge as it’s a proper good peg (but far better in summer than winter) so I take the banter and wait in anticipation to see where everyone else has drawn.
As the pegs come out, it appears I have ended up in the section of doom with Tony Rixon and Thatcher's angler Mark Brennan on the two pegs I fancied – anglers like that don’t make too many mistakes! On top of them there are a host of quality anglers in my section so I know today and the remaining matches will be tough...
So, on to the fishing. I like to keep things nice and simple on this venue and target three different depths of water. Firstly, there is the far shelf and I look for 18 inches as a starting point and set up a 0.2g Hillbilly Frostie on 0.12mm line to a Drennan Silverfish Pellet hook. The second line is 13m just up the base of the far slope in around 5ft of water and for this I set up a Hillbilly Frostie again, but this time in 0.3g size and with a 0.10mm hooklength tied to a Drennan Silverfish Maggot hook. The third line is the base of the marginal shelf in around 3.5ft of water and this is set up with a Hillbilly Billy Bob in 0.3g on 0.14mm and tied to a Carp Pellet hook.
My thinking here is that I am fishing for a range of species and if I can carefully set traps in differing depths of water I can then read the swim and see where the response is coming from. I have two lines in each depth earmarked but only feed one to begin with.
At the start I feed the far line with a mix of casters and dead maggot in the hope of attracting both the resident perch (which run to well over 3lb) and of course the carp which patrol the far shelf. The middle swim is fed with a Toss Pot of micros and dead maggot and I start there with 4mm soft pellet. I very rarely feed my margins from the start but will use the catapult to drop odd pellets and casters over it throughout the match in the hope of settling some fish for the last hour.
A Promising Start
Over the first hour things are going well with two carp, a big F1 and two skimmers, but things are slowing and I’m not getting any firm signs telling me what the fish want. The anglers in my area seem to be experiencing the same so I stick with what I am doing and try and stay confident I’m doing the right thing.
I keep trying the far lines as word on the bank is that Tom Thick is catching a few across but he using pellet, so I decide to use my 2nd plumbed line and open up a pellet swim, but it sadly fails to produce at all.
The remainder of the match is spent alternating two swims on the 5ft deep line but I can only catch from the one directly in front of me by Toss-Potting tiny amounts of micro pellet and dead maggot to keep the fish interested. It's noticeable that the skimmers don’t like being fed today and prefer to be left to settle where you can then take a couple before resting the line after a little top up.
I manage to take odd skimmers and carp for the remainder of the match and even though I kept the margin topped up the fish just didn’t come in there today. I end the match with what I think will be about 45lb, comprising around 10lb of skimmers and 35lb of carp, including a good fish of over 10lb.
The Weigh In
Word on the bank suggests my weight will be somewhere near the top with only one angler having run away with it and a few admitting to between 35 and 45lb. As predicted, the two end pegs came out on top with Mark Brennan winning the lake and match with 71lb and Tony Rixon (who admitted to 45lb) coming runner up with 64lb. Bela Bakos was third in the section with 58lb. My 48lb was good enough for 4th in the section and 6th in the match, which keeps me top of the league going into Round Five.
I come away reasonably happy with the result but felt that 3rd in the section was possible. I didn’t get the far line right today. I think I overfed it in the end by trying to draw some fish up the lake, but sometimes you have to try and force one of the lines in the hope it comes good. I ended up catching all my fish today from the 5ft swim and it turns out that Mark and Tony both caught in the deeper water, too, so it seems that’s where the fish were happy today.
The next round is on the 10th February and I’m heading to Johns Lake. It has been the least consistent lake so far this winter so it’s all to play for. I will report back and let you know how it went!