I have just got back from Whiteacres, the Bait-tech Festival, and what a week it was. In the past, the first festival of the year usually meant gale force wind and driving rain, how different this year, 24 degrees and not a cloud in the sky and the fish really had a munch, lots of anglers averaged over 100lb per day if you exclude Porth and Bolingey was awesome, 240lb top weight over the week and you needed 100lb to come last in the best section.
My week started on peg 23 at Trelawney, its the widest peg on the lake and a very good draw in the winter as the carp seem to spend most of the cold months here. The day started with a real splash for me, when I arrived at my peg I put my box down on the platform, got my foot stuck in the platform and went in head first and popped up on the 5m line, much to to the amusement of everyone who saw it, still it beats plumbing up when you can go in and have a look around, so back to the lodge and get changed.
The weather was glorious, just as well when you go for an unexpected bath, 20 degrees and a nice ripple, all the signs were that it was going to be a day for shallow fishing, so I set up a couple of shallow rigs, a deep rig and a margin rig to fish to the free platform to my left along with a feeder rod to fish into the bay opposite.
I started on the feeder and caught 2 carp and 3 F1s very quickly before everything went quiet. I then picked the shallow rig and started to catch F1s and carp steady for about 3 hours, after 3 and a half hours things were looking good and I was easily ahead of everyone around me then suddenly I started catching roach and couldnt catch another carp, the 2 anglers to my right then started baggin up, the fish had moved on the wind, and I spent the last hour and a half without another carp, this time of the year the urge for the fish to follow the wind can be stronger than any other factor, the top 4 weights on the lake all came from the downwind end of the lake, they were all in a line, I finished with 97lb and third in the section.
Day 2 saw me draw peg 16 at Porth, this is the end peg in the meadow section, in the October festivals this was a good draw for big bream, but the day before only 2 were caught on the whole lake, so I wasnt going to gamble on catching them, instead I was going to take the normal feeder approach and try and catch on the pole later. There hasnt been a match on porth for nearly 6 months and huge areas of the lake havent seen any bait since the last october festival, so catching on the pole was going to be hit and miss, the day before hardly anyone caught on the pole, although my under 21 team mate, Cameron Hughes, caught late on it to win this section the day before.
My match started well with a small skimmer first chuck on the feeder, in the first first half an hour I caught 4 small skimmers, then I had a skimmer taken by a pike, I always carry plenty of hook lenghts tied up at porth because the pike can be a real pain on some days, with stories of anglers hooking up to 20 pike in a day, when I get pike trouble I always think, 'pike dont hang around where there arent any fish' it just makes you feel a little better although even that doesnt work when they only take the best fish of the day. If you have a few pike in your peg, they will go for the easiest option, a bigger mouthful. After the pike took the skimmer it went quiet for a while, from what I could see things went quiet for most people, I hoped it wouldnt be for too long. Bites now were few and far between, a quick look on the pole resulted in a couple of perch and a small roach, noskimmers that I had hoped for.
Back on the feeder and just the odd skimmer, nobody was catching much that I could see, I just hoped that the other end of the sectionwas the same. From time to time I could see people picking up the pole and they would catch a few quick fish then nothing, so a feeder match seemed the best option. I caught odd small skimmers until the end, I had another quick look on the pole before the end, but only caught 1 small roach. I finished with approx 40 small skimmers for 8lb 2oz and a section win, the next best weight was 4lb, a very difficult section, this was by far the worst section at porth, peg 71 won the lake with 20lb.
The first 2 days of the festival at porth was all feeder fishing, only a few fish to be caught on the pole, as the week goes on it normally gets better on the pole, but not this week, hopefully it will be different by the time the Dynamites festival comes around.
Day 3 Bolingey, this is the venue everyone looks forward too, this has to be the best carp water in the country at the moment, the first day of the festival 240lb won the lake, 20 of the 36 anglers caught over 100lb and you needed over 100lb to come last in the best section. Mike and Andy really know how to look after a fishery and these weight prove it.
I drew peg 25, this is not the best peg in the section but a reasonable one, Ive seen some big weights from this peg on the feeder or at 5m, so I was happy. When I got to the peg I could see a lot of carp cruising, but they didnt appear to be feeding, typical carp behaviour on a hot windless day, most places we would have struggled, but this was bolingey.
I started on a meat feeder, caught a couple of quick carp before it went quiet, I then tried long and shallow and caught a few more before eventually catching at top 5, I finished with 22 carp and a few f1s for 139lb for second in my section, peg 15 won the section with 157lb. Grant Albutt won the lake with 202lb from peg 45, he caught shallow.
Day 4, Match Lake. Another hot day 22 degrees, if this is global warming, bring it on. I drew peg 47, not a very good section winning peg as you are fishing against 45, which won the lake the day before. My normal approach on any of the arms of the match lake is to try and catch some carp early and late and anything else in between, so when I went across at 16m and caught a carp first drop in I was a happy chappy, until my top kit snapped whilst I was playing it, it must have got a bang somewhere as I have had it for years. After 3 hours I had caught 11 carp and lost a few foul hookers, this seems normal on this lake as the fish are old, very wise and can be very difficult to catch.
When this line dried up I switched to worm and caught a variety of fish, approx 35lb, an odd carp down the edge at the end gave me 95lb, which I was pleased with from this peg, but it was only good enough for third in the section, I was beaten by 9oz for second.
Day 5 at Treewaters. When we woke up on the friday morning it was a cold cloudy day with northerly winds blowing, totally different to the rest of the week, this is normal March weather. I drew peg 35 on the top lake, the new pegging on this lake meant I had plenty of room, something I was very happy about, the only downside was that it was the worst area of the lake to catch the northerly wind, which was very cold.
I started my match fishing a meat feeder to the island and caught a small mirror 3rd chuck, I caught 8 small carp fairly quickly before everything went quiet. Then I picked my 5m rig and started to fish it, I struggled to catch anything, this was the line I had expected to catch on, I could see other anglers catching well now and I had my first thoughts that this was going to be a difficult day, once you go behind it can be very hard to catch up, after an hour on this line I had only caught about 10 small fish.
I then switched to my margin lines and caught steady until the end of the match, but I was never going to catch the others up and I finished with 80lb and a 3rd in the section, so overall I finished with a 1st, a second and 3 thirds, which put me 25th, not my most successful festival but the weather, the fishing and the company was very enjoyable. Things are always very tight in these festivals, a dropped point here and there can cost a lot of money, last year in this festival I had 5 section wins and still didnt win, the new rules on 60lb net limit cost a few anglers valuable points, Cameron Hughes, who I was sharing with, went 3lb over his net limit at Bolingey and dropped a point, he finished 8th overall and would have been 3rd or 4th, but then he does come from Derby.
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