Last weekend saw me fish two crucial matches at two of my favourite Doncaster venues. Saturday was the third and final round of the Sensas Challenge league held at Hayfield Lakes. There was a serious battle for top spot as both my Barnsley team young guns and Barnsley team pensioners were joint on points at first place. Who would come out on top?
Getting out of my estate was the most challenging part of the day, as I had six inches of snow to skim my way through. I grabbed my trusty snow shovel and thirty minutes of hard battling later I was on my way to Hayfield, along with travel partner Lee Kerry.
The draw saw me placed on Peg 67 on Adams Lake, a brilliant peg considering the conditions, and good for section points. As a team we had a cracking draw, the only really bad draw was Peg 8 on Adams, a shocker! John Dunhill was on this peg, poor man! Still, fishing’s a funny old game that throws up some real surprises, so we didn’t get too despondent! My team mates James Dent and Simon Fields looked to be on very good pegs on my lake, and I was confident of team glory.
The match was run to international rules, making it only four hours long, so I needed to get off to a good start! I was greeted with an inch of ice at my peg, and after an hour of breaking and clearing it, I was all ready to start fishing. Two lines at eleven metres was my attack, and by rotating between the two I hoped it would keep the bites coming all day. I decided that a simple feeding approach would be best here. I made twelve balls of 50/50 ground bait and soil, to which I added 300ml of joker. I put six balls on each line, and on one of the swims added a big handful of casters and dead maggots, just for an extra option of hook bait and to tempt any bigger fish into having a nibble.
The barrage of snow and freezing conditions had taken its toll on the fishing. At the half way stage I had around 2lb, which was made up of a really big roach and two smaller ones. Needless to say the fishing was slow, and the three anglers to my right were all blanking, (including Lee Kerry!) although he was on a dreadful peg in a shallow corner. Tom Scholey to my left kept the bites coming from the off and was a favourite for the section.
I had a late flurry of fish were I managed to put together 20 good size roach, and was pleased how strongly my match finished. Had I done enough to beat Tom? He was the first to weigh and with all the other anglers catching just a roach between them, I knew it was between me and Tom for the section. He put 4-11-0 on the scales, which was less than I thought he had, but still a great weight on a really tough day. I was adamant that I was a pound behind him, and couldn’t believe it when I topped his weight by just an ounce! Sorry mate! I was buzzing, as he kept me on my toes all day, and I was surprised I had managed to claw back the margin. Lee had snared a rogue 1oz roach and claimed third place, but would his vital fish win the A team the league?
Whilst packing away I had a looming question of whether or not my team had done enough to secure victory. Out of the five sections of the league our team had managed to win four, and I can prodly say we smashed the old boys up! Looking back it was an incredible achievement, well done lads! John Dunhill on the dreaded Peg 8, had not only won his section, but won the match with 12lb of roach and skimmers, well done John! It just goes to show you can’t judge a peg before you've fished it!
I headed to Thorne for the second round of the pairs league on the Sunday. Rob and I had got off to a below average start, and really needed to pull something out of the bag. I had drawn Peg 194, near the marina mouth at Wykewell. I was hopeful of a fish or two as 193 was the end peg of the match. I had drawn Rob sock on, only two pegs away form his last draw on 204. With the league being run on weight we both knew that anything could happen.
Walking to my peg I saw a familiar face, it was Tom 'Tugger' Scholey, again! Not next peg this time though, he was a few up to my left along with Darran Bickerton, not to mention several other Thorne regulars.
The main thing I have learnt from fishing over the past few months and traveling with Lee, which has helped my fishing enormously, is that simplicity is the key to success. So a simple three-line approach would be my attack today, one short at 8m and two long at 13m, all with 50/50 ground bait and soil filled with joker.
The fishing was very good, but it was time to top up and this is where it gets tricky. In the first hour you don’t generally need to top up at Thorne, as there is enough bait to hold the fish. I had a bit of a brain wave and quite like f1 fishing in winter, I decided to rotate all three of my lines. In the past I had topped up a swim and rested it, whilst going on to another line.
After the initial boom of fish you seem to catch, the fish back off and you start to miss funny bites or catch a small perch. When this started to happen on all three of my lines, I put a tangerine sized ball of soil filled with joker on all of my lines. I then start on one of the long lines, catch five fish off this line and then top it up with the same size ball I started the top up with. I then move on to the other long line, catch five fish and then feed a top up ball. I then rotate to my short line, catch five fish and repeat the process. This keeps your fish count running smoothly without hammering away at one line.
The way I thought of it was that after every full rotation I will have 15 fish, and If I did this ten times throughout the match I would have 150 fish and given the stamp of fish at Thorne this will equate to about 10lb, which is a very good weight considering the canals form is far from its best.
I ended the match with ten full rotations, and with the 20-30 fish I had in the first hour I knew that I had between 10-12lb or 170-180 fish. It seems a very simple way of feeding and quite 'robotic', but I will be the first to admit that I have lost my way in a match, by loosing track of what swim to top up and hammering or neglecting one swim and then missing out on valuable fish as a result.
Darran had weighed in 12lb and fished a brilliant match, but unfortunately my stamp of fish had decreased slightly as the match wore on and I had to wait longer between rotations. Although, I was very pleased with my 11lb and I think that if I hadn’t of fed the peg the way I did, I would have weighed 8 or 9lb. Looking back at my match, I believe that I have been a lot more efficient and consistent as a result of this feeding strategy. So give it a try if you ever become confused on how to attack your swim, its worked for me.
Walking back to the car, I could see Rob's beaming smile a mile off. He had fished an awesome match to win his section with 12lb 12oz of good stamp roach. He also came second in the match behind Sean Cameron's massive 22lb weight of skimmers off the end peg 171.
My 11lb had finished fifth in the match, and with the top four being paid out, I was far from happy. There was always the default section win though so never mind, I’ll have to try harder next time. As a pair, we had won on the day and had rocketed up in the league with several pairs really struggling. The scurbfields section of the canal fished dreadful, in fact one pair drew next to each other and weighed in just one ounce! It just shows, that anything can happen and it’s still all to play for!