I am part of ABC Baits Youth Team Wales and last month we competed against Scotland and Ireland in the annually held “Celtic Cup.” This year it was Wales' turn to host the tournament and the chosen venue was the fabulous Bron Eifion Fishery in Cricieth, North West Wales.
The Celtic Cup has been held there before. I always attend the festivals, so going into the two days practice sessions as a team we felt like we had some solid venue and species information. If we could tailor our approach to each individual section, we thought a result would follow.
The match was fished over two days, and good training sessions told us that there were lots of small fish, as well as better pound plus skimmers and F1s to target. The bigger carp were few and far between, but we felt that any line for these would be a quick five-minute drop then back to the smaller fish. Only natural baits were allowed as this was a CIPS rules match as with all internationals.
The first day I drew ‘E’ section Peg 1 which was on the island and faced into open water horizontally across the dam wall. The section was aptly named the “Bird Cage” as all three anglers were shipping back tightly across each other. Scotland were on Peg 2 and Ireland Peg 3. Peg 2 was the favourite, however, Peg 3 had a tree-lined tight margin which looked very carpy. I felt that a section second with small fish would be a result and was determined not to be beat by one or two Irish-caught edge fish!
The basic plan for all sections was to fish for skimmers on an 11.5m line (poles were limited to this length) using hard nuggets of ABC pellet crush ground, which is like powder and binds fantastically, mixed with black CP70 which again is a fishmeal groundbait.
I applied a little ABC sweet additive and mixed a total of four litres of this mix. Groundbait was limited to 10 litres, the other six were made up of fine worm soil ABC Detonator (red protein additive) and a special bait dye which clouded the water and held the colour. The soil and extras were mixed sloppy but firm enough to make a small ball, which could be thrown to around six / seven metres (Top two plus two or three), on impact with the water a cloud of about three feet wide and a foot deep formed drawing fish and creating a scent trail. In practice, this worked well on the deeper dam wall and the whole team returned between 10 and 15 kilo weights of F1s and roach, feeding just this soil and pinches of chopped worm added according to bite rate.
Back to the first day match, and with a five-minute prebaiting session, I set about forming two small balls of the pellet groundbait laced with dead maggot, corn, hemp and caster. I fed these slightly short of the 11me line to give myself the option of swinging my rig past the feed area if the shy skimmers backed away.
A full pot of this mix was also fed down a right-hand margin, with some dead maggot and a little chopped worm added. The left margin would just be fed with two grains of corn every 10 minutes and the tail of each hooked worm was discarded around this area. It was found in practice that by doing this and feeding sparingly you could entice the proper carp (around 10lb) to gain confidence and feel that it wasn’t so much a feed area but just a safe margin where bait was being dropped.This worked a treat in some areas and several large curb crawlers were hauled out. It was a throwaway line and not one that would be concentrated on just a two to five-minute drop in if there were any signs.
The skimmer line was left to rest for about 40 minutes so the first line I fished was the black slop small fish line. I fed this often with the cloud surface bait and managed around 30 small roach and an F1 in the first hour. I continually monitored the activity of my skimmer long line, and as soon as the silt bubbles stopped fizzing I was ready to have a look. In practice we noticed that this line could be ruined very easily due to the depth of the silt. At the venue, we estimated the silt was around a foot deep, we later discovered that there was actually around three feet of silt which made fishing for the skimmers difficult but rewarding once sussed.
The general idea was to get the commotion in the peg, wait for it to stop and then literally just feed a thumb nail of the crushed pellet mix, take two fish then feed it again, hoping that the other teams hadn’t anticipated how bad the silt was or how easy it was to ruin the swim by adding too much groundbait. This happened on the first day when Scotland fed four balls on the long line and had fizzing in the peg for hours our approach was a little more refined but worked well and I managed to plug away taking three skimmers of around half a pound in the next half an hour.
Peg 2 was producing, as expected, and I could hear the regular splashes of better fish being caught. This didn’t really sway me as I knew the peg was better than mine and second would be a good result from the worse peg in the section. Two hours in and I let the long skimmer line settle again and managed another 20 tiny roach in quick succession and a bonus F1 of about 1lb.
News from the team managers was that I was competing in the section and that Peg 3 hadn’t produced any bonus carp. During the last hour I had a quick spell of looking for a better fish but was instructed to stay on the short roach line. I was quickly running out of my quota of black surface bait and by the all out hooter I was scraping the bowl.
At the scales I weighed five kilos exactly. Scotland, on Peg 2, easily won the section with 10.675. As expected Ireland managed a last-hour bonus carp plus a few bits for 4.500. Section second was a good result. I was happy with how I fished and was never going to compete against an F1 peg. My net was mainly made up of small roach, the skimmers were the bonus fish and the unexpected F1 helped me to two points and a good finish.
Day Two saw me draw a much better peg that won the section on the previous day. G3 was the last peg on the lake and Ireland had caught nearly 10 kilos on the first round. I was confident that I could better that weight but also remembered that the peg had a battering the day before and that I would have to take it easy and feel my way into the match. The peg was much shallower than where I fished the previous day, but I had no-one to my left.
After the first day Wales were down one point behind Scotland and we knew we would have to all get the most from each peg and not have any last in sections. It was going to be a tall order but all the lads prepared and tweaked the game plan from the first day's learnings. We were confident and hopeful of a good result.
One thing we had noticed was that the lake in general was getting harder as the practice and match days took their toll and the fish filled up on the abundance of bait that had been potted or thrown in. We knew that the F1s would be harder to catch and we all might have to switch to catching small roach at any point in the match.
At 9am the first signal sounded, which meant I could enter my fishing area so I could prepare for the match. I positioned my box and took five minutes to have a look at my peg. On my peg I had an island about 20 metres away, I knew it was shallow. There was no-one to my left so I had plenty of room, which I hoped would prove a big advantage.
My initial plan was to set up two main attack lines, both out at the full limit of 11.5 metres. The first was straight out in front of the peg. I found three feet of water here and I was going to concentrate on catching skimmers and bonus F1s.
I set up two rigs. The first was just tripping bottom. It consisted of a 0.2g Sensas PPR2 float with a simple shotting of a bulk and two small drop shot. Hook choice was a size 18 silverfish pellet tied to 0.10mm Shimano Silkshock.
The second rig was purposely for skimmers. My float was a Rizov 76 float 0.6 gram float, which was simply shotted with a bulk about 10 inches away from the hook and a single No12 just on the hooklength which would show the lift bites perfectly. A size 18 wide-gape pellet hook tied to 0.12 mm Silk Shock completed this.
My second line was at 11.5 metres again, but angled left in line with the aerator. My rig to attack this line was again a Rizov 76 0.6g simple shot bulk about 10 inches away from the hook and a simple number 12 just on the hooklength again to show lift bites. I used a size 16 wide-gape pellet hook tied to 0.12 mm Silk Shock.
10am signalled the bait check, and I opted to take the same quantities as the previous days. Livebaits were two pints of caster, one pint of live maggot and one pint of dead maggot. I had half a kilo of ABC's finest worm, one pint of sweetcorn and one pint of ABC's chilli hemp.
During prebait I fed one ball of the crush pellet on my long line straight out and one cup of loose mix with some chopped worm and dead maggot, on the aerator swim. I fed three balls of crush mix and a full cup of the black slop hoping to draw fish from the left. The margin line was fed by hand and before I knew it, it was all in.
My main competitor was Scotland’s John Baird, who has fished for the Scottish senior team and had easily won his section on the first day. John was to be respected and was on a reasonable peg. I knew I would have to fish well to even compete with him.
During the first hour I started on my 11.5 metre straight out, and a small roach fell first on a piece of worm before my first skimmer graced the net, I continually fed short but planned to take as many fish as I could before moving swims. As the match progressed it became apparent that I was competing for a section win. Tension was mounting around the lake and a small crowd of people were watching our section. John and I were fish for fish, however, he had snared an F1 and a chub in the first hour and a half.
My tally after two hours was 10 skimmers and 24 small roach. Information kept coming back that I required more skimmers or an F1 to ensure a lead, I kept thinking that the one line I was fishing would fade at any point, so priming the other lines was critical as it panned out I never had to move away from the one line. It began to look stronger and as the last hour started to tick away my float shot under and a 1lb-plus F1 charged off under little pressure from the number six elastic. A short fight ensued and before long the fish was subdued and in the net.
Two further fish were bumped and I kicked myself for not quickly changing my hooklength. John Baird was catching well and my runner estimated that he had around five kilos of roach alone, that with his other bonus fish was a worry, even more so after I rushed two further F1s and lost them at the landing net. Some reassuring words from the team manager settled me but I was so nervous of letting the team down from the best peg on the lake.
Half an hour left and I committed to feeding another half a cup of groundbait to bring some better fish in. I let it settle for five minutes and had a drop on the margin line, and as I did this I noticed that John had hooked into something big at his margin. There was nothing for me so I shipped back out and was into the skimmers again straightaway. I managed to put another three skimmers in the net by the time the all-out sounded,
I hoped I had done enough, but thought I would be piped by an F1. The Team Ireland competitor hadn’t caught much but again had a few better F1. John was the problem as he had been so consistent.
At the weigh-in we all stayed in our respected areas, and news started to filter across the fishery that some of the sections that we had expected seconds had turned out to be winners. All the lads had fished brilliantly and several sections had been hard but the lads had reacted and worked to catch small roach to ensure better points. Our reserve angler who had missed the practice days had pulled a result from nowhere off a hard peg taking three F1s in the last hour just on his top kit. His peg had been terrible on the first day but he managed to keep focus and secure a section second.
By the time the scales arrived at G section the home support were already beginning to celebrate. I hoped I could cap the result by winning the section and beat Scotland’s best angler too. John weighed nine kilo odd and I must admit I thought he would have won the section with that. I pulled the lower rings of my keepnet through and tipped the contents into the sling, the scales settled and locked off on 11 kilo plus a few grams, I had done it and the reaction of the team managers and crowd made the hard week's work all worthwhile.
As a team we won by four clear points, plus Kristian Jones was the individual winner over all with two section wins and a clear margin on weight. What a result for our young team!
Thanks to all the lads, parents and the fishery owners Carole and Kevin. Also a special thanks to Denzil, Danny, Sue and all the staff at ABC for providing the team with the best bait money can buy. Scotland next year and I can’t wait!