Fish ‘O’ Mania Qualifier – Solhampton Fishery 19.03.16
My first qualifier of the year had arrived and to say I was looking forward to it would be an understatement. I was going into the match in good form that I had seemingly carried through from the back end of last year. In fact, since the turn of the year I had framed in every match I fished, most recently finishing 3rd in a Fisho practice open match at Solhampton.
Taking this good run of form into account I felt confident in the build-up to the match. As all anglers know, confidence leads to good results and being confident in what you are doing almost certainly brings with it a degree of success.
In previous years I have fished very little or not at all over the winter months. In contrast, this year I have fished right through, taking part in a winter series and fishing a few open matches. I feel this has kept me in touch rather than starting the new year ‘cold’ and struggling to hit the ground running.
On arrival, I made my way straight to the venue’s cafe and got a cup of tea. I recognised plenty of faces and sat with Neil Jellis, part of the Border Fisheries Match Team (Border being a local venue to me). He is somebody I have fished against on multiple occasions the last few years and I always get on with him.
It is usually about this time of the year that our respective teams draw against each other in the Angling Times Supercup. This year, however, I have entered my own team under a new name and Neil decided not to enter a team.
The draw was conducted in a rolling style and was started earlier than planned. This format worked brilliantly; rather than having people waiting around for all 130 anglers to arrive, those who were there could draw their peg and make their way to where they needed to be. It also meant that reserves who had decided to hedge their bets that spare places would be available also had a good amount of time to get set up before the all-in.
Before the match I had stated to Neil that I would be happy with Valley Pool because this was the one that I had fished in the practice match just two weeks previous. However, there were also pegs on Duck Pool and Dragonfly that I liked the look of. Pegs 5 and 6 were known fliers on Duck, 5 for its superior margin swim. It is known as the suicide peg due to its history of producing some of the beasts of the lake. Peg 6 just looked brilliant and most people stated that it shouldn’t have been in at all due to the obvious advantage it seemed to have over the pegs around it. It was situated on its own island, which was accessed via a bridge, and was eight to nine metres out into the lake.
I stuck my hand in the draw bag and pulled out Peg 7 on Duck, a decent peg, which is just about all you can ask for on such an event. Obviously not as good a peg as the two directly to the left but I was happy with this draw.
On arrival at my peg it was clear to see that pegging was tight! There are 22 pegs on Duck and all but four were being used. It was instantly clear to see why 5 and 6 were the standout pegs, due to the sheer amount of room each one had.
My peg looked good in that I had a couple of features to fish to. Down to my left-hand side I had the bridge that led to Peg 6. This would be a good area to target should there not be too much disturbance on or around the bridge. The island was at just over 16 metres so was just about reachable. The problem here was that the peg layout meant that those either side of me faced inwards and forced me to fish at an angle as well, which made shipping in and out awkward, with Peg 6’s plinth something I needed to avoid.
On plumbing the depth of my swim it was noticeable how shallow it was from the near to far bank, with a maximum depth of around four and a half feet, although it did slope off slightly the further right of the swim I went.
I set up a few lines, with my main areas of focus being, firstly, a16m island swim. Here my float of choice was a 0.2g Carpa Ape, hooklength was of 0.12mm diameter tied to a size 16 B911 F1 and a doubled 6 Preston Slip elastic.
I then had two lines in open water. On the one at 13 metres I used a 4x12 Diawa Carpa 1, again a 0.12mm hooklength and 16 B911 F1 hook but this time a White Hydrolastic.
The second open-water line, at five metres, consisted of the same float but a slightly stronger 13H elastic and a standard B911 hook.
The main difference here was that on the 13m line I would be feeding pellets with corn and my shorter line solely corn, a few grains at a time at regular intervals throughout the match.
A 0.2g Drennan AS4 was the float for my margin line. Here I found two feet of water. A 0.14mm hooklength to a size 16 B911 completed the rig with a soft-set Black Hydrolastic.
Finally, I had a dobbing rig set up, a 0.1g Carpa Ape with very little shot down the line to help with the slow and natural fall needed when trying to present the bait when fishing this method. This was set up to try and dob bread in different areas. In particular, I thought under the bridge and up the back of the island looked good for a few fish.
I started the match by half filling my Cad Pot with softened micro pellets and a few grains on corn and potting this in on my 13m pole line, following it in with a piece of corn on the hook.
Others around the lake had caught almost instantly. Lee Thornton, just a few pegs to my right, had started in the margins and was into a fish within a minute or two of the start.
It didn’t take too long for my first bite of the day. A small dip of the float and a small carp soon found itself in my net (always good to get an early one in the net to calm the nerves). The match seemed to have hit the ground running, with plenty of fish being caught in the early stages. I continued to feed via a Cad Pot, trickling a few pellets and grains of corn into the swim each put-in while also priming my other lines.
I had a good run of fish in the first hour, with 10 carp between 1lb and 3lb giving me an weight of 15lb to 20lb.
A solid start and not far off the pace, I had set myself a target of 120lb being, what I estimated was going to be needed to win.
Going into the second hour my 13m pole line started to slow down. I decided to give this line a rest and see if anything was waiting for me over to the island. Here I was using 16 metres of pole. Even at this length my Sensas 974 is extremely comfortable to use and if needs be I would be happy to fish this length for the entirety of a match.
On dropping in on this line it took about 10 minutes for my first bite, a carp of 1lb. I’m a big advocate of soft elastics and my doubled-up 6s proved to be perfect for the long and awkward shipping back of the pole. I also had to steer the fish away from the island to my left, where Peg 6 was situated. Using a soft elastic means I don’t have to worry too much about what the fish is doing in front of me and I can get my pole onto my rollers and ship back to my top kit without any problems along the way.
I managed another six carp from this line over the next 30 minutes. Noticeably, they seemed smaller than what I had been catching on my 13m line, all approximately 1lb. After a few fish in quick succession the line seemed to die completely. This usually means one of two things. Either a big fish has moved into the swim or the fish that were there have deserted you.
I decided I would sit it out and hope it would prove to be ‘option A’. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case and a biteless 15 minutes confirmed nothing was there, despite my best efforts to entice something onto the hook.
Usually it is obvious when a swim is dying and it is normally a good idea to rest it with a few fish still there, leaving them to gain some confidence over the feed. However, on my visit a fortnight ago while practising and today it seemed as though you could go from catching well and getting plenty of indications to getting nothing at all with no prior notice, making it exceptionally difficult to read the swim and judge when to rest lines.
At this point I decided it was worth having a look on my short-pole line, where I had been feeding a couple of grains of corn regularly. I attached a Cad Pot and fed three grains over the top of my float and lowered my rig in. Once again, it didn’t take long for an indication and another small carp made its way into my net after a spirited fight. A similar theme was developing and again I managed a few fish in quick succession, only to then be left scratching my head when I struggled to get another bite even though I had been catching well for a short period.
The line produced seven bites and seven small carp. After this I struggled to get another bite from here. This left me with an approximate weight of 40lb at the mid point; I had arguably caught more than anybody else on the lake.
The next hour was extremely frustrating and I struggled to get a bite from any of my lines. I did manage to sneak two small carp dobbing bread, one to the left of me towards the bridge and another by swinging my rig over to the island at 16 metres. Despite this, this slow period had really put me off the pace and I was needing a miracle to get me back on track. People around me were also struggling in comparison to earlier but odd fish were still being caught, and that is more than what I was doing; I couldn’t buy a bite!
The guy on Peg 5, who had had a slow, had started catching well in the margins and was building a weight quickly. I decided to follow suit and hope there were a few fish waiting for me here, although previous visits to this line hadn’t produced. However, with an hour remaining it was my best hope for a few fish.
Within five minutes of dropping in down the edge my float buried and a 2lb carp was the result. The next few put-ins all resulted in small carp and I was happy to be putting a few fish in the net.
I lowered my rig back down the edge just in front of the reed-lined marginal swim and within seconds of the float settling I had hooked another carp. This time it seemed to know exactly where to go to take me into a snag and as quick as I had hooked it I found myself pulling against a solid weight and the fish had got off.
A quick change of hooklength and I was ready to try again. The commotion that the lost fish caused in the two feet of water in my margin and down the left-hand channel of the swim killed this line completely. Whereas previous swims going quiet didn’t seem to have an explanation, this time it was preventable.
I spent the remainder of the match trying to pick off whatever I could from any of the lines I had fished throughout the day, all to no avail.
Following a good start and putting myself well in the running, after the first couple of hours the match quickly declined. The majority of people on my lake suffered a similar fate and for large periods struggled to catch.
It was won with 71lb from Peg 5, the majority of the weight coming from the margin, as was expected from this peg. The next weights were all between 50lb and 60lb and my 53lb put me 4th or 5th on the lake. Valley Lake was the most consistent on the day, with a couple of weights just over the 100lb mark and some good back-up weights as well. The winner, Kerry Kirkwood, came from Dragonfly Pool with 113lb 15oz, which consisted of 25 carp, 15 caught dobbing bread and 10 caught on corn in the latter stages. This was Kerry’s second consecutive year winning a Fish ‘O’ Mania qualifier, to go along with his Maver Match This qualification last year as well. A big well done to him!