A new venue for this years final was met with a little uncertainty amongst my Dorking team mates, we didnt know what to expect, the weights looked good in the papers, but with a 3 hour drive to the venue and lots of other commitments our practice time was kept to minimum.
I had never seen the venue until the thursday before saturdays match and with Drennan North West on their own venue it was going to be difficult to win.
When I turned up to Partridge lakes on the thursday morning my first impressions was what a lovely place, I have never seen such a beautiful fishery, lots of mature trees, planted areas of flowers and plenty of wildlife running around, if I ever gave up competition fishing this is the sort of place I would want to spend my time. The owner Dave was a really nice chap who made everyone feel welcome and he was genuinely pleased to be holding the event and did everything possible to accommodate the anglers, he even sponsored the event .
These lakes have to the best looking commercial fishery in the country.
Thursday was a practice match and I was looking forward to drawing one of the snake lakes and getting plenty of bites, so when I drew the specimen lake I was slightly disappointed, even though this lake would be pegged on the day and someone from our team would draw it. I had been told that the fish follow the wind on all these lakes, but today there wasnt any. I drew a peg with an island in front of me so I started on the method feeder, casting as tight as possible. The day was pretty straight forward, I caught 9 carp and 3 F1s on the method for 40lb and never had a bite on the pole, if I had some wind on the water Im sure I would have caught on the pole, 48lb won the lake, from the bridge peg, he was fishing a long pole down to the bridge, my 40lb was good enough for second on the lake. I would rather have been on one of the snake lakes as 9 out of the 10 anglers in each team would be pole fishing on a 'snake'.
Fridays practice day was spent on one of the snake lakes, getting a feel for the water and trying to come up with a plan that might work on the day, as is normal when you are practicing and not in a match, everything you try within reason you bag up on, this happens on all well stocked fisheries and can be very misleading if you take too much notice of what you catch.
Friday nights team meeting was very interesting, I love these team meetings before a big match, everyone in the room opens up and puts all their thoughts out in the open, with the likes of Will and Des and the many other top quality anglers in the team, all having their say, everyone in the room benefits, this is very important when there isnt just one method to get the best out of every peg, for me this is the best bit of team fishing, what I have learnt over the years is amazing. Anyone who doesnt fish in a team misses out on this, it is a real short cut to the top, my advice to any up and coming angler is to get in the best team team they can, put up with not getting picked for a while, do the travelling and all the early starts that go with it and eventually it will pay off.
The outcome of this meeting was a number of methods and feeding styles that could work for different species, groundbait was going to be important on most lakes and the variety of species was going to make for a very interesting match, there was no firm plan and it was left to each angler to sort it out on the day, many of our team matches follow a similar plan, I have fished in teams where one plan fits all pegs and it very rarely works. We also realised that due to the nature of the venue every team was going to get mixed results and the final outcome would be very close.
So on Saturday morning I was really looking forward to the match, I had drawn Ribbon permanent peg 20, it looked nice, as did all the pegs on this lake, but I never had a bit of wind on the water, the pegs to my right nos 2,4 and 5 had a nice ripple and had framed consistently in recent opens, I had to forget about winning the lake and do my job for the team. My peg was only 11.5m to the island, and with no wind on the water my choices were very limited. I started the match fishing across tight to the island, loose feeding casters and caught steadily for the first hour and a half, it was very obvious that the pegs to my right were catching bigger fish and I was struggling to keep up with them. On the 90 minute mark my peg just died and I couldnt get another bite, the pegs to my left were struggling as well, I then tried a new spot along the far bank, 13m off to my left, next to a weed bed and first drop in I had a bite and I was able to keep small fish coming until the end of the match, I never had any of the bonus F1s they were catching in the wind and when the whistle blew I was playing my only bonus fish of the day a 1lb chub. All in all it was a great days fishing, bites all day and I hoped I had a done a good enough job for the team.
I weighed in nearly 26 kilos for third in my section, beaten by 100g for second but a long way behind the section winner on 49kgs. When everyone got back after the match the atmosphere was electric, nobody knew who had won as each team had mixed bag of results, so when it was announced we had won it again it was a great feeling.
Congratulations to Drennan North West, it was nice to see them in the medals again, they have some great anglers and we felt it was a real accomplishment to have beaten them on their own water.
Next Saturday its the Division 1 national on my local Bristol Avon, so I had better get some practice in to defend the title we won last year, the fixtures really pile up at this time of year and it wont be long before Im off to Whiteacres for the Maver festival.
This picture was taken before all the trees grew up, to find their website click HERE