So that's this year's UK Champs campaign over and I now cannot wait for next year's! A terrible Round One draw at Larford (the peggiest venue I know... but that 'should' suit me!?) saw my chances of winning completely disappear but I managed to claw back three good results after that to end up 12th and just a single point off the top-10 money places. I'm fairly happy with that after such a poor start.
Round One at Larford I drew around the back of the dreaded bowl on Match Lake and started okay but the fish simply deserted me and my hoped-for edge swim never materialised so I ended up catching on casters shallow. That was enough to beat the next three anglers to my left, including Rob Wootton and Andy Dare who were last and last but one in the section. As expected, Coxy on the end peg to my right paralysed the section while it got better and better as the pegs went back round the island. Anywhere near Peg 28 has been a flyer all year for some reason. Perhaps the bottom is harder? I know my peg was as silty as f...
Only Pete Bailey in my section had a stand-out result from our almost fishless bowl as he caught really well down his edge, just past (or almost in) a snaggy weed bed. There just wasn't any head of fish in the bowl on the day though, especially once the wind changed after an hour or so.
Round Two was at Lindholme Lakes and I usually manage to catch a few here. I always like this place as the hospitality is so good. I always try and stay up the night before as a dozen or more of us all go out for a curry with fishery owner Neil Grantham. It's just a great atmosphere whenever I'm up North. I actually think it was a shame that Lindholme wasnt Round One as it's a much fairer venue all-round for a points-based competition. Most others seem to agree...
We all had loads of room and I drew a corner swim, Peg 51, on Willows, once again in a very tough section that included the likes of Grant Albutt, Andy Dare, Dave Swain, Luke Sears and Sean Cameron. I asked local aces Tommy Pickering and Nick Speed what they reckoned about my peg and they both turned their noses up and told me it was a crap section peg! It turns out it's one of the shallowest on the lake. Then they both said 52 is one of the best pegs on the lake – strange! I reckoned I couldn't be that far from fish so wasn't too disheartened. I just wished I was in the furthest bowl, though, where the wind was blowing...
Anyway, after a bit of gardening down the edges, as it was so overgrown I couldn't even see two metres either side, I decided on a simple edge and short pole attack. I tried several baits during the day but kept coming back to meat, feeding nine to 10 tins over five hours. That's a lot, I know, but I did catch 58.75kg of little F1s on it, which was enough for 2nd on the lake and 6th overall!
Dave Roberts did well to win the section off corner Peg 32 on pellet shallow with 65.92kg and was 2nd overall, while Pemb Wrighting made full use of an empty peg to decimate the field with a 104kg match win on Laurels. Top dobbing!
Round Three was Viaduct Fishery in beautiful Somerset. I have some very fond memories of this place and really like the venue. That's why I cannot understand some of the moans I hear. I think the moaners simply don't like to travel as I cannot fault the place in terms of the potential for a great day's fishing. It's nowhere near as peggy as some venues I've already hinted at! There are some right beasties swimming about, too, which means you can win a match in the last hour potentially. It's also a stunning place to look at.
Anyways, I'd finally got my drawing arm back on and pulled out a nice corner swim on Match Lake (woohoo!). Again, it was a mega-hard section with the likes of Paul Holland, Nick Speed and Si Fry to compete with, plus Adam Wakelin on 119, the peg everyone wanted at the opposite corner of the lake. This was where Marc Rodger had emptied it the previous year and you could see carp everywhere up that end the night before.
As it happened I ended up sacking up… but only once I'd done what 'I' thought was right, not what all the local experts advised! Everyone told me to fish past this snaggy stump but well away from it as it was a recipe for lost fish. This was half right and I caught fairly well here, but it was simply too slow hooking and then a tug of war dragging them back around the stump.
After an hour I thought sod it and dumped a load of groundbait much closer down the edge, my side of the stump – where EVERYONE said not to bother as no-one ever catches there. Well, I emptied it and ended up with 242lb for 2nd in section and 3rd overall in the match, ha ha! Red Drennan Bungee, 0.20mm line and a size 14 Drennan Margin hook with meat, maggots or worms was the best hook bait.
Adam Wakelin won with 279lb 6oz – an agonising single ounce more than local ace Andy Power! Adam had 60 carp shallow on pellets up the edge at 14 to 16 metres to set a new UK Champs record – beating MY record of 255lb from Willinghurst, no less – boo hoo!
So, with two good results and me definitely back on form and catching a few I fancied my chances of scraping a top-10 finish with the final Round Four at Barston Lakes. It's a local venue to me and although I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the place I was enjoying my fishing there recently. Sometimes I feel Barston has been a little two-dimensional in the past – basically you either fish the pole for skimmers or chuck a Method feeder right out. This season, however, it's got a lot more interesting. The Method feeder seems to have got a little more technical, which suits me as I like something to work at, plus the tea bag is starting to get more popular too. Things like hard pellets and paste have become more prevalent on the pole as well. This is great for me as if everyone's doing the same thing it can get a little predictable as to who will win. Now a few more things are being tried it gets more interesting...
I had experienced a great Maver Match This campaign and managed to finish in the top eight six times – my last qualifying match was at Barston, a week before the UK Champs. With over 100 lines cast into the lake I was never going to beat Peg 124 as I knew all the fish would be spooked into that undisturbed corner of the lake, but I was nevertheless happy with 4th overall and a very hard-earned 76lb 4oz bag from Peg 14. It's a good area but I still felt I must have done something right. I cast anywhere from 70 to 85 yards on the day to keep in touch and had four really big carp to 14lb (a big angry ghostie no less!) plus a smattering of F1s, smaller carp and bream. All I set up was a 12ft Daiwa Spectron feeder rod and a paste rig – which I only tried twice. It was always gonna be an out-and-out chucking match with every peg in on the lake.
Come the big day of the UK Champs, I fancied Peg 124 or somewhere in the teens or 20s on the day but, true to my nickname, I pulled out end Peg 2. It's a strange peg that can be feast or famine but I felt quietly confident of catching a few. I just knew I'd have my work cut out as Peg 16 was the last peg in my section, so there were some very tidy pegs between me and there – plus I had the likes of Paul Yates, Pemb Wrighting, Steve Ringer, Neil Powell, Tom Pringle, Adam Rooney and Jamie Hawkins to contend with.
I set up two 10ft Preston Minis to chuck a 1oz Method 55 turns towards the bird feeder, which is halfway along the bank opposite the clubhouse and offers a nice hard bottom to cast onto. I also set up two margin rigs to plunder the left-hand edge. This is where I expected to do some damage late on as it almost always produces some 10lb munters –especially fishing 1-6pm.
Well I started well on the tip with a string of F1s and small carp to 2lb but nothing massive. Dead maggots or JPz both worked while boilies and meat were strangely ineffective. This continued the rest of the day. I lost two reasonable fish where the hooklength got sheared on something but other than that I fished a fairly tidy match.
The edge was a disaster, though. It was FULL of tiny stockies that I later found out had only just gone in. At 2oz apiece they were like piranhas and not really worth catching. Even a FULL bucketful of bait rammed with particles never fed them off and the hoped-for lumps never arrived to push them out. In hindsight I perhaps should've just stuck to the tip all day, but every time I rested it for five minutes I had a good run when I cast back out. Plus, just one of those lumps would've won me the match, though.
Grant won off end Peg 124 with 83lb, while Adam Rooney was 2nd with 82lb from around Peg 10 in my section. Pemb went from nowhere to 2nd in section with 76lb thanks to a late run (on the pellet waggler of all things!). I was 3rd in section and 6th overall with 74lb. It was agonisingly close. I knew I'd had a lot of fish but nothing massive this time. I felt I'd got the best from the swim and although I am very self critical I felt my simple margin and Method approach was right. Perhaps I could've fired some pellets somewhere but other than that I don't know what else I could've done. Just 2lb cost me another point and that top-10 spot I wanted. Then again, just 9lb cost me a match win and possibly a top 5 or 6 finish!
Hey ho, I came back pretty happy still. After a couple of shaky months I'm really pleased with how I'm fishing at the moment – and that's quite a rare thing with me! Shame I've got nothing big to fish for quite some time now...
I must end by saying well done to Nigel Harrhy for the thankless task of running it all. Also, a very well done to Andy Power on winning it overall. A popular winner. This man is a bit special when it comes to catching fish!
Top 20 Overall:
1 A Power, 8pts
2 R Hull, 8
3 P Wrighting, 9
4 T Hiller, 10
5 M Pollard, 10
6 D Roberts, 11
7 K Wardle, 11
8 N Speed, 12
9 A Wakelin, 12
10 D Cox, 13
11 P Holland, 14
12 J Arthur, 14
13 J LeBosquet, 14
14 P Bailey, 14
15 G Albutt, 15
16 G Norris, 15
17 S Ringer, 15
18 L Wright, 15
19 R Wootton, 16
20 S Fry, 16