What an amazing venue, full marks to the Angling Trust for picking this venue, it has to be the best roach fishing I have ever had. The roach migrate to this area of the Great Ouse at this time of the year and we caught it just right.
I started my practice the weekend before, I made the 3 and half hour journey on the friday and decided to fish peg 10, not really knowing much about the pegs but it didnt seem to matter, roach were topping everywhere. The match was going to be pegged from permanent pegs 2 to 66 on Littleport AC waters. This length was used in the recent Div 2 national, it fished OK then but the roach werent there then.
This stretch is top 5 deep, so positive rigs and feeding was called for, I set up 2 and 3g rigs with size 18 hooks and 0.08 hook lengths, the ground bait mix needed to be sticky in that depth and the plan was to try and catch the fish on the bottom.
As far as I could tell nobody had fished this peg the day before, so I was expecting to have to wait for the fish to find the bait. Within 10 minutes of balling in I had my first bite, followed by a run of roach, this was a great start, in a 3 hour + session I caught approx 14lb of roach all on bloodworm or pinkies.
The next day I decided to fish a peg that had seen bait the day before, so I fished peg 4, Tim Nash had fished it and had caught well, same rigs and ground bait, and as soon as I dropped in after 'balling in' it was a bite a chuck, I caught 17lb of roach in just over 3 hours.
Thursday was the first official practice day on the match length, so the Dorking team had a line up between pegs 2-7. We all fished slightly different, and all caught loads of roach, Will had top weight with 24lb and I had 22lb, the lowest weight was 17lb, we were all 'buzzing' after such a great session.
That evening we had a really great team meeting, everybody discussing how they had fished and fed their peg and the outcome was a plan for some structured practice the next day.
The next day we fished pegs 38-43 and all had a plan to fish too, mine was to fish shorter than everyone else, 11.5m. We all fed to a strict plan and hopefully we could work out the best approach ready for the next day, the first match.
I caught from the off and managed 19lb, whilst Will was our top weight again with 27lb, the 11m line wasn't as good as 13m, so that was dismissed. That evening at the team meeting we came up with a plan for how we were going to feed it based on what we saw that day, arriving at a feeding strategy wasn't easy as we caught no matter how we fed it.
Saturday was the first match day, I drew peg 21, there was no bad pegs in this section, but I was disappointed to find out that is was one of the few pegs in the match length that hadn't been fished the day before, no bait had gone in, and practice had shown this to be a bad thing.
The team plan was to ball 6 litres of ground bait, containing 250ml joker, at the start and then cup 6 balls of double leam containing another 250ml of joker. This approach to feeding had always worked well for us on other waters containing roach. When the hooter went to start the match I dropped in and the usual instant bite never happened, after 10 mins I still hadn't had a bite and could see lots of roach being swung in at the other end of the section, I was starting to curse the fact that nobody had practiced on my peg the day before, eventually I got my first bite after 15 mins, a perch, not a good sign on a roach venue followed a few minutes later by my first roach.
After half an hour I had 2 fish in the net whilst other anglers in the section were on 20 or more, eventually my peg started to improve as the roach started to find my joker and after an hour I started to catch really well. The second hour I was really motoring as I caught a roach every chuck, as quick as I could get in then things gradually started to tail off until after 2 and a half hours all the roach bites stopped. The anglers around me all had the same problem, when my next 2 bites were perch, I feared the worst, one and a half hours to go I couldn't get a bite, the other end of the section were still catching, then I caught a 6oz skimmer followed by 3 more in quick succession, between then and the end of the match I caught 20 skimmers between 4 and 10 ounces, at the weigh in I weighed 19lb+ and I had not caught a single skimmers in 4 days practice.
I finished second in the section beaten by James Dent of Barnsley who had 22lb, how I cursed the slow start. On the day Barnsley won the team event with 5 out of 6 section wins, an awesome performance, they had it well sorted. We had 5 section seconds and barring a miracle on the sunday match we weren't going to be able to beat them.
The team meeting that evening was very interesting, its not often we get beat like that, we had spotted a few things that Barnsley had done on the day, so we tweeked our plans for the next day. That evening Steve Sanders made a 4 hour round trip to Birmingham to pick up some fresh bloodworm and got back to the hotel at 1 in the morning, a true legend.
The next day, I had a lovely days fishing, I caught 17lb of roach to win my section and the team got closer to Barnsley, they only beat us by 2 points on the day, but they had done the damage on day one, so Congratulations to them and to the Angling Trust for picking what has got to be the best natural venue in the country.
I wish we had a venue like this near to Bristol, as I would be fishing it all the time, looks like I am going to have to make the long trip up to Thorne to find fishing like this, the Stainforth and Keadby is the nearest venue I know of and this is where the Barnsley lads would have learnt these skills that they used.
I finished the weekend with a first and a second in the section, caught a load of fish, that put me fifth individual over the weekend and top in the Dorking team, so a great weekend that I really enjoyed, next weekend is the Maver festival at Whiteacres, bring it on!