. S far I have made a progression from mid way on my first attempt where I was way out of my depth, to finishing just out of the top ten last year after winning my lake on the first day. Then ending up a disappointing fifth on Stretton the next day, missing out on third by just 5lb which would have put me in a framing place. So it would be interesting to see if I had improved my fishing, although I hadn't been here a great deal in the previous months which wasn’t the best preparation for the festival. I think that this style of fishing really suits me because I'm an angler that struggles to catch big weights and win matches, but I am always there about in my section which is what you need to do in these style of events. No doubt I would do even better on the longer five-day contests but I suffer with my sleeping when I am away, and my second day always lets me down. I just hope things are a bit different this year.
After my early start I headed off on my sixty mile journey to the fishery which didn't take too long, and I arrived just after eight o'clock. This gave me plenty time to book on before getting a breakfast from the clubhouse. As usual on these events there was plenty big names knocking about, plus most of the Welsh national squad as well as a few venue regulars. I feel it's important not to let yourself to become star struck because they are just normal people. Even if you do see and hear about them all over social media, just like you and me they do suffer at the draw bag, but they are also great lads to talk to, and very approachable. This took me quite awhile to get my head around which definitely affected my matches on festivals and big qualifiers.
Before too long it was time for the draw, and this year the points would be for five peg sections and not full lakes. I felt would be better for me although it could mean that a few anglers would be tied at the top at the end of the two days. The rotation would be either Stretton + Belvedere on the first day or Weir + Canal on the next day depending on where you drew. On todays straight draw, the only lake I did not fancy drawing was canal because I had not fished it for quite some time. Strangely I ended up right at the back of the queue as I was too busy talking to a few lads I hadn't seen for quite a while. When it came round for my turn in the bag of doom, I pulled out peg one on Belvedere which I was a bit unsure about because it was a bit deeper down this end of the water, plus I was up against two anglers on the pads. But I would be giving it my best shot.
When I arrived at my home for the next few hours I was a peg away from the Lily pads which I could just about reach at 16 meters If I needed too. I had plenty open water to target, plus a reed lined margin with a spare platform either side of me. Things looked really promising, and with previous knowledge of the venue, I chose to target the resident carp today and decided to set up;
Rig for in between my nets in three-foot, and I used a 4x16 joof float which had a bulk of stotz above my six-inch 016 garbo hook length. My main line was 018 garbo and elastic was Preston size 15 hollo. This might seem over the top but the fish will be under the platform in a blink of an eye, so you need plenty of oomph to prevent this happening.
Rig for at the bottom of the near slope in 4ft, I used a 4x14 joof float which had a staggered bulk starting above the six-inch 014 garbo hook length. This would allow me to flick my rig out so that it fell along the slope. This worked really well for me on my last visit here.
Rig at six meters in deeper water, I used a 4x14 joof float with a bulk and dropper shotting pattern. My main line was 016 garbo which had a 014 garbo hook length attached to it.
A shallow rig for fishing over my above rig, and I would be loose feeding casters. So used a 4x10 mini mag float with a bulk of stotz above the four-inch 012 garbo hook length.
Rig for at the front of each platform in three-foot, I used a 0.4 diamond shaped float with a glass stem. My main line was 016 garbo which had a 014 garbo hook length attached.
Bait for the day was;
3 pints of casters
1 tin of hemp
2 tins of corn
When the match started I fed my six meter swim with a pot of casters and I would keep an eye on it to see when it began fizzing. While I waited, I had a quick look between my nets without feeding anything. But ten minutes past without so much as a liner and I then tried throwing a couple of grains of corn around my float, hoping that the plop of it going in might attract the attention of any passing carp. After another five minutes I got my first bite which was a common, about four pounds and I then suffered with missed bites. This turned out to be hand sized crucians, so the carp must have been a loner. Thinking that the fish might be in deeper water with the recent drop in temperature, plus over night rain so I picked up my top three rig, and I kinder potted in some hemp, plus a few grains of corn. This produced a couple of quick carp, but without getting another indication in twenty minutes I chose to rest this swim for the time being.
I had earlier noticed that my six meter line had fizzed and now that it had subsided with just the odd bubble coming up. I decided to give it a try. My reason behind this was I expected the small stockies + silvers to be first on the scene, which would attract the attention of the bigger fish. First drop on this swim, my float dipped under a sharp strike resulted in a two-pound ide coming to the bank. Not exactly what I had in mind, another similar sized fish quickly followed so I decided to start pinging casters, and picked up my shallow rig but this only produced small silvers. Back on my deck rig, and I only managed the odd bite from nothing proper, so I put in another pot of casters then left it to settle.
I went back onto my top three-line and had a bite instantly, which took off like a rocket heading towards the lily pads. I had to clamp up on the top kit which resulted in my hook length snapping, and it was either a foul hooked carp or one of the big barbel in here. I should have learned my lesson and stepped up my hook length because my next fish after a spirited fight, darted in between my nets resulting in another breakage. After that I just couldn't get a bite close in, and just picked up a couple more big ide off my caster swim. After two hours, that was all I had in the net, which probably went under twenty pounds. Things weren’t going too well, but those anglers within eye shot were struggling just like me.
But when the rain came and it got cloudier, for some reason I began to start catching again. On my close in swims, resulting in half a dozen carp. I decided to stop putting feed in on my six meter swim as it was resulting in just silvers, and began loose feeding caster heavily between my nets. I felt this was my best opportunity to do a big weight. I kept trying it every so often during the match and I would get a couple of quick barbel before bites slowed down. So I kept resting it by going on my margin line which I fed one side with a kinder pot of corn + hemp the other with a big pot. It was very noticeable that my negatively feed line was by far the best producing, a good run of carp, but even just putting that little amount of bait in I began suffering with liners. With just forty minutes of the match remaining I re-plumbed up my margin line near the empty platform, tight to the bank in two foot and I managed four more carp before the all out sounded.
I was the first to weigh in on the lake and ended up with just less than 80lb. This was good enough for a section win and fourth on the lake, so I managed a good performance on the first day. Its all still to play for. Back at the club house after the food they had put on and a couple of beers, it was time for the day one results to be read out. Yet again there was plenty weights over a ton with 155lb taking the win. Well done to all the section winners + framers. It was then time for the draw for day two. I was praying to get on Weirpool as it had performed best today and even though I was a section winner I had the lowest weight so needed a bagging day tomorrow. I went for an early dip in the bag of doom like I usually do but I pulled out peg 46 canal not great and after looking at the results it only produced a low 70lb today for third in section. After speaking to a few of the lads who fished that area of the lake there was a lack of f1s in the area, and I had to find a way of catching the resident carp if I wanted to challenge for good section points. So off I went to book into my digs before going to the pub for a few more beers. After speaking to my mate I had come up with a bit of a plan, and was feeling a bit more positive about day two of the festival.
After the usual crappy nights sleep it was time for the second day of the natural bait festival at Weston pools. I was on 46 canal which I heard was an alright draw for good section points, but no chance of getting a weight big enough to frame. Before I headed to my home for the next few hours, I decided to call at the on site tackle shop for some maggots. I had a sneaky feeling that with all the pressure from yesterday it was going to be hard work today.
I decided to set up;
Top kit between by nets in three-foot of water and I used a 4x16 joof float with a bulk of stotz above my six-inch 014 garbo hook length, main line was 016 garbo and hook a size 14 lwg guru.
Margin rig top three towards my right in a cut out near the reeds. I found it to be quite flat, and just over two feet so I used a 0.4 diamond float. My main line was 016 garbo which had a six-inch 014 garbo hook length attached to it.
Top five towards my left at the bottom of the near slope where it was four-foot deep and I planned to fish maggots on this line. I used a 4x12 maggie float with a bulk + dropper shotting pattern. My main line was 014 garbo and hook length was six-inch of 012 garbo, attached to it was a size twenty guru lwg hook.
Six meter line in the deepest water that I could find, if the fish had backed off away from the near bank it was almost six-foot deep. So I used a 4x14 joof float with a bulk + dropper shotting pattern, and my main line was 016 garbo which had a six-inch 014 garbo hook length.
Bait for the day was;
3 pints of maggots
2 tins of corn
1 tin of hemp
When the all in sounded I started on my top kit between the nets with corn on the hook, and like on the previous day at first I did not feed anything. After about ten minutes I began getting little indications on my float which showed that there was something in the swim. I didn't have to wait too long before I had a proper bite which I bumped on the strike. I then had to wait ages for another one which turned out to be a crucian, so I put a bit of bait in and left it for a while. I then had a look down my right hand margin which I had been told was the best place to fish from the lad on it the day before, and he caught a few carp using corn. So I decided to follow suit and kinder potted in some hemp + corn before lowering my rig over the top of it, but this just got me some tiny indications and more crucians. Things were not going too well, I did expect it to be a bit difficult but not this hard.
I decided to switch to my maggot rig five meters towards my left at the side of some reed's, and I began kinder potting in some maggots. At first I kept catching small hand sized ide on the drop, so I altered my shotting putting it all above the hook length to get my bait to the deck quickly. This helped a great deal as I now began catching a bigger stamp of silver and the odd stockie which was a bit more promising. After two hours I had about twenty pounds in the net things wasn't going to well as I needed a big weight to be in with a chance of framing, I didn't really know what else to do but for some reason I just tried my maggot rig between my nets and this finally got me a good run of f1s, but I had to really work my rig to get a bite.
For the next two hours I rotated between my top kit and top four towards my left and picked up a few f1s, and it was all going swimmingly. I felt I was well in contention for the section win. But I made the mistake of forcing the peg as I started throwing maggots on both lines. The constant feeding brought in the barbel which was fun on my light elastic, and after getting broken a few times I stepped up my hook length from an 012 to 014 which got me the barbel, but reduced the amount of bites from the f1s. My last hour was really slow for me and I struggled to put anything in the net apart from a stray carp, which must have got lost down this end of the lake. I kept trying my right hand margin swim but surprisingly it never got going for me as the lad on here yesterday had three-quarters of his weight from this area of his peg.
When the all out sounded I felt that I hadn't got the most out of my peg, and should have just fished a nice tidy match, kinder potting in maggots for the f1s. But like I said earlier I felt that I needed a good weight today, plus a section win. Trying to do the first meant I neglected the second, because when the scales arrived I managed just short of 70lb comfortably beating those either side of me who struggled for 20lb. But the other lad in the bay who fished shocking on the first day, did remarkably well, catching a ton from down the edge. So this left me second in section and, a top ten finish in the festival with three points. I would have been pleased at the start, although by trying to get too much from my peg I over did the feed and blew my chance of finishing fifth, although that would have been first out of the money.
So I was feeling a mixture of happiness and regret when the results were announced, as I felt I had wasted a good chance today. That's the way it goes sometimes, I would like to say well done to all those involved in running the festival, and all the anglers taking part. I am already looking forward to doing it all again next year and I would recommend it to everyone because it really is a great experience.