Now anyone that knows me will know I have an affliction with Decoy Lakes and only wish it was closer. Every year I fish a couple of festivals there but the main one is the 60-peg main festival. Most wouldn't know about the way the Decoy festivals are run. If you're fishing you can stay on site for free whether its camping, sleeping in the bar on the sofas, sleeping in your car or on numerous benches, as a few locals have in the past after a long night in the bar! The only people to lose out are the fishery owners and staff as they lose sleep keeping the bar open until silly o'clock, and even then the bar is left open with an honesty jar to pay and serve yourself! Where else would you get either, never mind both?
The fishing is awesome with masses of space between pegs and I mean numbered pegs not just pegged pegs probably 13 to 14 metres to the next pallet on the arms. There's even more on the Beastie Lake, where this 31-peg lake would have at least 60 pegs on it anywhere else! Maybe the reason the lake is sold out every day perhaps?
This year, though, when going through my dates for the up and coming fishing calendar and crossing them with the birth of my partner's baby, to my dismay it was due the day after the main Decoy Festival starts! There was only going to be one winner in this close battle (and let me tell you it was a close battle!) but it half killed me to make the phone call to drop out. You see, the festival itself is like a gods waiting room for people to get in; someone passes away and you get in. It's that popular!
A few days after I had a phone call from my travelling partner telling me there was a couple of spaces on an earlier festival at Decoy. A nice quiet chat with the Mrs and a smidgen of guilt and we were in! Then it wasn't long until we were on the 2.5 hour drive to the mighty Decoy Lakes!
We had decided to go the day before to get a feel for the venue... and maybe a trip to the local Wetherspoons as well. Just by coincidence, obviously!
So, the next morning soon arrived and with a headache and a lighter wallet it was time for the draw for the practice open on Cedar Lake. The fishing around the country was hard after the post spawning that had recently happened everywhere and today was no different. A mediocre draw and another one of my sulks later, I weighed 58lb after having a word with myself. I missed the section prize by 2lb which I could of had easilly if I'd of sorted my act out earlier. It was lesson learned and off to the on site bar!
The next day and the first-day draw for the festival. It was on Elm and Cedar. Now on these channels or arms the fish follow the wind and a change in its direction towards the car-park end brought mixed feelings on where the fish would be, as the furthest pegs are normally flyers as the wind normally blows this way coupled with them being as far from the cars as possible.
I drew Peg 23, one out the corner with the wind heading our way. Happy days! The one thing with the channels at Decoy are the marginal edges can be steep and with a lot of marginal reeds taking up the shallow water the pegs with little or no reeds are normally the best, then the ones with an odd culvert cut out in the reeds. Others basically have no edges, just reeds and five feet of water next to them! These were to be avoided and luckily I had drawn the happy medium of having a culvert 10 metres away from me down the edge to my left towards the corner. On plumbing up this line a barbel attacked my plummet - a common occurance at this venue! Opposite on the end peg with wind blowing over my shoulder into his face no other than team mate Matty Stockton. He would be a definite threat from there, even more so with sparse reeds and bare bank everywhere!
With fish already down the edge I decided on a half pot of stunned maggots to start and a quick look down there with the naughty rig - 0.19mm Reflo Power to a 0.18mm Power Precision hooklength to a PR478 hook, while feeding a long pole shallow line with a perfect wind for it!
Six barbel and a carp in as many chucks it was certainly happy days! Matt was sat opposite fishing at 5 metres with a few stocky carp. A few more fish followed but I was always mindfull of not rinsing this swim as it was my only real edge swim with potential. After going onto my normal rig, basically a size down and a few more fish, the swim felt like it was on its way out, so a rest and a good few fish waiting for me shallow I hoped.
It was not to be, though, and totally unusual for these lakes not to catch shallow. Just one F1 and 20 minutes wasted I was back down the edge in my culvert swim. Odd fish kept coming and I was still in the lead before others followed. I seemed to be staying ahead of everyone I could see but with an hour and a half to go Matty had a great run of 6lb fish; basically every chuck for an hour and was soon off for another keepnet. Notably at the same time a few on my bank from the lake that backed onto ours had gone for extra nets and my swim waned, to say the least. The last hour was my worse while Matty's was solid. Coincidently, no-one on his bank had gone for an extra net. Food for thought? The last hour seemed like an age and there's nothing worse than watching others catch while you struggle, plus other people's fish always look bigger than yours. At the all out I was worried to say the least!
Matty had put in a great performance and kept catching until the end to weigh in an impressive 175lb to win the lake and match outright. I was second in the section with 136lb with around 75lb of barbel in that weight. I felt relieved but also bugged at why it had ran out on me or whether other factors had played their part. The bankside traffic at my end maybe? The wind blowing towards the other bank maybe too, but still a relief to get two points and a decent start!
A Chinese, a chat and a few quiet pints before a walk round the pictureque lakes with the lads who'd never seen the place before today – Matty included, I might add! It was soon time for a sleep and be fresh the next day.
A prompt breakfast and the draw for the next day was done. Yew 15 was my destiny and normally I'd be ecstatic with this as it's the far end of the lake but with the wind blowing down the other way to the car park I wasn't as optimistic. Drawbag Matt was on the end peg on Oak 28, two out the corner with bare bank everywhere and the wind blowing down into it. I just thought thank God I wasn't in his section! We'd only walked him round the night before and said draw this and it's all over!
Looking down my section, local legend Nigel Baxter was on the famous flyer, Yew 12! I just told myself to forget about him and fish for second as he had a bad result first day and would never be beaten from that peg. Across from him, though, was Steve Owen on 20, a big-fish peg and next to him was another ex team mate of mine John Cockayne. Also each of these two had either won their section the day before or came second, so a section of doom for one of us at the end!
Back to my peg it was flat calm with a long edge of reeds around the corner and right on the corner 14m away there was a slight bay on plumbing holding 2.5 to 3ft perfect! Then the decision to spend half an hour of my allotted time setting about the reeds chopping and folding over the ones I couldn't reach to actually be able to see this bay. Then a duplicate rig, a 5m rig for a quick start then the usual 4 or 5 shallow rigs were soon set up just in time for the all in.
A quick F1 then a 4lb ghosty at 5m then nothing. A quick look shallow and two fish in quick succession before I looked down the lake and saw Nige also into a big fish. I first thought it was a margin fish as the rig was so short. Then I realised he was at 5m shallow. Surely not? Yep a couple of slaps of the rig confirmed it. So I started to feed a few pellets on my short line and a few cubes of meat. After another fish I had a look short and another quick couple of fish followed, but that was that. Out long and a few more decent fish followed over the next two hours for around 60lb. A quick look on the shorter line every other chuck and a couple of smaller samples followed. By now the anglers opposite Nige had followed suite and to my dismay were catching double-figure fish on it!
As the wind had carried the fish down the lake a look to my long edge was needed. Pellets and meat would be the main plan as it was carp or nothing here for a good enough weight. Soon the 15 Hollo was streaming out the pole with lively 4-6lb carp on the end and the odd mental barbel! Soon the fish were coming up in the reeds for the bait (or I'd hazard a guess oil from the meat) which soon knocked my catch rate down a bit.
On with my mugging rig set 1ft deep with a piece of meat and a small Cad Pot of meat fed down the hole. I had a few decent fish in the net but this was still not right and I was concerned my catch rate wasn't enough. The fish would get a bit iffy shallow at times so I'd go back on the deeper-edge rig but with an extra pot added hopefully to get them down. It worked and by the last hour they were lining up and playing the game.
I was sure I had caught the two on the opposite bank up but it was close. I decided to dump feed some stunted maggots into a new swim the other side of me and left it to settle, while I went back to the long-pole swim. With 10 minutes left a quick look on this dumped swim yielded two lumps and three scales on the 'naughty rig' (0.19mm to a 12 hook and 17 Hollo) and it was over.
Cocky was certain I'd done him and I hoped he was right! The weigh in went: Nige 181lb, me 174lb 15 oz, John Cockayne 150lb, Steve Owen 134lb. The worst weight in the section was 90lb. The lake behind had fished even better with a 195lb by (guess who?) Matty, then 183lb by Tony Dawson then Steve Roberts with an agonising 182lb! Matt had done the biz and was on two points!
Another takeaway and plentiful beer followed... but Matty was staying sober on the beer front, and rightly so!
On to man's fishing... Beastie Lake!
I wanted Peg 30 but it wasn't to be. I drew Peg 1 and had dreaded drawing this peg. It was only put in last minute the night before. No shallow fishing, no island chuck but I guess I'd drawn favourably the last two days so on with the job in hand!
I thought I'd fish for anything with worms and caster for the first few hours then bag down the edge in the quiet bay that never gets fished. I again spent a long time clearing the edge of long reeds so I could see long down there as I saw this as my only chance. I could have chucked a feeder longer into this bay but after setting it up and preparing a couple pints of micros for it odd big fish swimming in and out of the bay made me decide to leave it alone as I didn't want to cut them off from coming down the edge later to chow down when they were ready.
After three hours I was needing a miracle! I had 24lb with an hour and 10 mins to go. Then I had two in a row down the long edge on the 14m line. The wind was now blowing slightly towards me and odd fish started to show. A few fish Cad Potting followed then fish were up on the meat and hemp oil I'd fed. There wasn't enought time to mess around shallow down the edge so with only 45 minutes left I was off with the medium pot and on with two large pots. I cut out the hemp and fed just a few pieces off 8mm meat in the base and the rest filled with corn. No messing!
A frantic last 45 minutes with a fish a chuck and even a quick jog for another net saw me end with a weight of 114lb for a section win. I never lost a fish all day with my good mate young Mitchell Davidson ending second in the section with 90lb I had secured second in the festival with five points. 425lb of fish over three days and £440 in the sky rocket to take home to the ever resilient Mrs (and also to spend on gear for the Winter League Final on the Tidal Trent the next weekend – oh the joys!).
Matt Stockton had done the business again winning his section off a half decent peg with 126lb of shallow fish towin the Festival and take nearly £600 home. He had 490lb of fish over three days! Awesome venue, great hosts that can't do enough for you, free camping, cheap pellets, etc. Fishery owners take note!