Last weekend saw the second year of the Rive Masters, which was held in the Brittany region of France. The venue being used was the beautiful Duke Lake (Lac au Duc), which is on the outskirts of the lovely town of Ploermel. A very strong line-up mainly consisted of French anglers with a few Belgians and four brave souls from the UK.
The journey from my Cambridgeshire home took all of 10 hours with a couple of stops on the way. Warm weather greeted us as we checked in to a local gîte. My travelling partner was good friend Dave Beecroft, who navigated us all the way. We couldn’t wait to get out and take the short drive to the water’s edge to see what the lake was like. On arrival there were a few anglers already there practising pole and waggler tactics. I sat behind French international angler and Garbolino star Stéphane Pottelet, who was mainly pole fishing and catching mostly small roach. The lake was calm and looked amazing, a real match angler’s paradise!
Thursday was the first day of training for us and I must admit even though I had some great information from some of the very best anglers who had fished here before, I couldn’t quite catch what I felt was needed to compete with so many top European anglers. The morning was spent only on the waggler but this didn’t really work as the fish were a small stamp and much slower than the pole anglers were catching.
One thing I did notice over those two days was few anglers having waggler rods set up. I think this told me it wasn’t working as well so far. I say ‘so far’ as I felt this lake could change at any point, especially once more bait was introduced into the pegs. In the afternoon we switched tactics to the pole. What a difference this was as we caught very well. I chose to throw in eight tennis-ball sized balls of leam at 13 metres with 50ml of jokers in and cup in four rich balls with 150ml of joker, 50ml of dead red pinkies and 50ml of casters. The response just got better and better as we caught roach and small hybrids averaging 4oz.
After three hours a good 12 to 13lb had been caught and we felt quite confident with the pole fishing. Friday was spent preparing tackle, having a walk around and then we went to pick up our pre-ordered bloodworm and joker. Unfortunately in the heat our bait had not travelled well and was dead beyond use. Not what we wanted to see, but we had to get over this and make the best of what we had in the way of other baits. A good chat over our evening meal about approaching it as we would in the UK was our only choice. So we erred towards the feeder now, and to try and catch early what we could on the pole with groundbait and loose fed casters over the top.
We arrived for the draw, which was held in a big marquee by the lake side. The first things we noticed were the three lovely silver trophies on the three podiums, plus some great prizes donated by Rive in the shape of four seatboxes, pole rollers and poles, plus buckets and EVA net bags for most competitors too! A great, well-organised event in fantastic surroundings.
Every angler’s name was called out individually to come and draw their own peg for the day. My turn came and I drew Peg E3, which was in front of the marquee. I was quite pleased as I had sat only two pegs away on Thursday. I set up six pole rigs with floats ranging from 0.2 to 1.25g. Groundbait was Sensas Lake and leam, but without joker I made a 75/25 mix in favour of more groundbait.
The feeder line was clipped up at 40 metres, which was comfortable and not too far out as most fish were small on this line in practice and I didn’t want to reel these back too far. Three pints of casters, dead maggots and pinkies plus dendrabaena worms made up the simple bait table. I took a quick walk along my section to see Stéphane sitting to my left on the end peg in the section… no pressure now, then! The field was strong and although handicapped by not having joker I felt confident in my simple approach.
The gun fired, signalling the start of the pre-feeding period of 10 minutes. I cupped in six balls of groundbait laced with casters and dead maggots. Then I cast out eight feeders full of chopped worms and casters. This was followed by four feeders with just groundbait and I was ready for the start. I felt the adrenaline pumping, such was the excitement of this event.
Well after a slow first hour the adrenaline soon disappeared as my catch rate wasn’t anything to write home about. I could see anglers along from me to my right catching really well over their bombardment of groundbait and jokers! I tried the feeder line but two hybrids were all I could muster in 30 minutes on that line. With just over two hours remaining I decided to concentrate on the feeder line in the hope that the regular casting and feeding would attract a few late fish and give me a chance of decent points.
A five-minute wait and the tip bent round, which was met with a good thump! I was into what felt like a decent skimmer, but a couple of winds and it snagged me! I couldn’t release the fish and pulled for a break. I cast out my second rod and found the snag with a bomb, I hadn’t found this snag before the all-in and really never felt confident fishing this distance now. I unclipped and went a further five metres out. With the lake being very shallow I didn’t think moving a few metres would be detrimental. In fact I had bites quickly as another big skimmer graced the net!
I had a great final 90 minutes, landing 10 big skimmers and pulled myself right back into the game. I knew everyone in my section caught small fish very well apart from the next peg to my right, but was sure I had at least 9kg. That would be some doing of small roach, I thought. The scales started with Stéphane to my left on Peg 1. He weighed a nice 7kg of roach and hybrids. Peg 2 weighed 6kg of roach then my fish went 11kg! Next peg had 800g, next to end peg further up weighed a very good 16kg of roach and skimmers all on the pole. The last peg weighed 5kg, so second in the section was also seventh in the match and a great comeback to give me a real chance of a framing spot overall if I could repeat the performance tomorrow.
The second day was met with the usual anticipation of what the match might bring. The lake looked brilliant with a warm gentle breeze blowing across to the bank where most of the sections were situated. My turn to draw as my name was read out and I pulled out C6. This was a real ’ouch’ peg as it had 80g (2.8oz!) one side and managed 1kg on day one. C7 is the end peg to my right with this section’s winner Yoann Houssais on the end peg today. I had two section winners and three second-placed anglers in my section today! My thoughts were that if I could win the section I would quite possibly win the event.
Well, I didn’t want my mind to start in overdrive so my plan was the same as the day before – an early look on the pole and switch to the feeder once the fish back off. As this was a tough section I wasn’t going to wait long to switch methods.
I chose to throw in today, this was 12 balls of the same 75/25 mix as yesterday and 10 feeders at 45 metres. The match got under way and I caught very small roach on the pole from the off, as did everyone else. But within 30 minutes I didn’t see another fish being caught so I wasted no time and was straight out on the feeder.
Thirty minutes and no bites, but end peg to my right caught two big skimmers, which gave me a lot of confidence that I would soon catch, and I did! My reply was strong as I caught mainly small hybrids and an odd better skimmer. With an hour to go I was pegged back again as Yoann to my right caught a better skimmer or two.
I only had small taps and no proper bites. I scaled down to 0.10mm and an 18 and that got me a 1kg skimmer and a few more hybrids for a very close finish. I was sure I was second at worst, as I could see everyone to my left and they hadn’t caught a lot. It was between me and Yoann who would win the section, and quite possibly the Rive Cup!
Three kilos was the top weight at the opposite end of my section. My turn to weigh and 5kg 600g was recorded. I felt very happy with the weight and took the fish for the photos to be taken. Yoann put his fish on the scales to weigh an agonisingly close 5kg 580g so I was told I’d won the section. Now I felt elated, until Yoann asked for our fish to be weighed again, such was the close result. I didn’t really agree to this and found it strange as it’s not in any rules for this event, or something we are used to in the UK.
Now after my fish were passed from keepnet to bucket and landing net, keepnet, and bucket again they weighed 5kg 520g. So I lost 80g and was now second in the section!
I’ll end that there as I want to remember the whole event for the right reasons, as it’s all done and there’s nothing I can do about it now. The final result was Yoann won the Rive Masters with a perfect two-point score, my four points got me seventh overall, agonisingly 80g (2.8oz!) from a podium finish (third), €800 and a cracking silver trophy! I did win €150 and a Rive seatbox though!
French international angler Stéphane Linder finished runner-up on three points and UK-based angler Simon Willsmore took the final podium place with three points.
On the long drive home Dave and I dissected the whole experience and what we had just been involved in. We both said exactly the same thing. We are better anglers for the experience of fishing these style of events. They are so different to UK events and I felt the way the events are run with Continental approaches teaches us a discipline we aren’t accustomed to at home. Fantastic organisation, weather, venue, scenery and travelling companion. I’ll try again next year!