June the 30th, 55 fished.
A team match today – and one I look forward to every year: The Lucas National. Now in its 27th season, this event would be held at Lower Park Fishery in Worcestershire, a venue that our team, Shaftmoor Lane are all familiar with. For this reason, we hoped to improve on last year’s disappointing second-from-last finish, when we hosted the event at Packington Somers.
The unenviable task of organising today’s contest was left to Brian Coles and his Great King Street team. A lot of work goes into arranging such an occasion, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Brian for his endeavours and to congratulate him on a well-coordinated event.
In the week leading up to this contest I indulged in a sneaky practice, landing 125lb of f1’s from Highland Pool. The venue was clearly fishing very well, so I anticipated a good contest for all come the day of The National.
On any team match, rather than a quest for personal glory, competing in your given section and returning good points is the priority. Today we would be drawn in sections of seven anglers: one each on Pebble, Spring and Willow, two sections on Highland and three on the tightly-pegged Abbey – the pool most anglers seemed keen to avoid.
Before I begin with the finer details of the day’s events, a quick word on the venue. Lower Park is an up-and-coming fishery, predominantly stocked with f1s but offering great silver fish sport – and some “proper” carp angling too. The layout of the pools is good, the cafe is excellent, the access road is flat and even – the venue has a lot going for it.
What Google searches will not reveal though, is that this is The Windiest Place in The World. It is possible to leave your house three miles from Lower Park registering barely a breeze, only to exit your car at the fishery in a state of wind-swept wonderment. It blows a hoolie here, so everything should be fastened-down: sellotape your hat to your head, place a large rock on your lunch box, cable-tie your trousers to your legs – this is serious stuff.
In fact, it is so windy at Lower Park that if they erected a single turbine, I believe it would provide enough electricity to power Redditch in its entirety – that is, if there was anybody in Redditch developed enough to own an electrically-powered item.
Onto the day’s events now, and once a hearty breakfast had been dispatched, team captains were called up to draw. Being a bit handy in the bag of destiny, I was chosen for this duty, and I’m pleased to say I didn’t disappoint. Simon Brooke and Steve Wheeler had drawn end pegs on Spring and Willow respectively, Matt Deakin and Dan Drust were well placed on Highland and I would be fishing in a favourable area on Pebble. The anglers I felt for were Tony Newbold, Adam Drust and Richard Caswell, who would be left to scratch around for bites on Abbey.
On arrival at Pebble peg 9, I felt even more confident with my draw. As well as being in a great area, I had acres of room – and for this reason I decided on a single-minded approach. Usually it would be a “kitchen sink” job on a team event, setting up gear for every eventuality, but with so much space, I thought shallow and edges would work best and set about assembling rigs for the task. I say this with no hint of big-headedness, but given the look of my peg and the room afforded to me, I would be disappointed if I didn’t return good points for the team.
At 10.15 the all-in was called; I started my match fishing 4mm pellets shallow at 13 meters. I didn’t see any need to prime this line before fishing it, due to the number of spare pegs to my right. This may have been a mistake though, as sport was slower-than-expected for the opening period of the contest, as I put just two small f1s in the keepnet in half an hour.
Things began to pick up a little after this, as small f1s looked to have arrived on my feed. Unless there was a ripple on the water though, they were wary and proved difficult to catch. Even at this early stage in the contest it was clear that a big weight was not on the cards. Still, I felt that if I kept things simple I would catch fish shallow in short bursts, and hopefully this would be enough at the end of the five hours.
After experimenting with each of my shallow rigs, conventional pea and bristled floats were abandoned in favour of the jigga. I began to catch well using this ingenious little float, its bolt-effect nature making missed bites a thing of the past. I entered the two hour stage of my contest happy with how things were going, I finally felt like I was in a rhythm, catching small f1s most put-ins.
Approaching the half way point of the contest, I had thirty f1s for approximately 30lb. I only had two anglers in my eyeline, Steve Evans fishing for Gloucester and John Harrison of Marston Green; I felt I had built up a lead over both of them. So, I took this opportunity to have a little look down the edge, firstly on my hard pellet line off to the left – this produced nothing. Then I placed my rig into a lovely-looking little cut-out in my right hand margin; fishing 6mm meat over micro pellets, it didn’t take long to get my first bite, which resulted in a barbel of around 1lb.
Two more barbel followed, they were beautiful fish and on a hard day would be worth targeting, but the Wednesday practice taught me that they fight too hard, taking three times as long to land as a similar-sized f1. Added to this they are ‘hollow’, weighing little when placed on the scales. So, I made a conscious effort to avoid hooking barbel down the edge, switching to baits that aren’t associated with the species such as expander pellets and corn.
I caught the odd f1 on corn in the margin, and these edge fish were a better stamp than those I snared fishing shallow. But, I had to wait so much longer for each bite that I eventually abandoned the edge line, deciding instead to concentrate my efforts back out on the long pole.
For the last two hours of the contest I plugged-away on the jigga, I caught fish in little bursts, usually when there was a ripple on the pool. Added to these small f1s, a lump of an ide occasionally put in an appearance – and they really were stunning fish…
To cut a long story short, I spent the final stages of the contest fishing one rig, firing out a few 4mms and occasionally ‘tapping’ to provoke a response. I had a steady last hour, adding around a dozen fish to my bag, leaving me on a total of 63 f1s at 3.15 when the all out was called. These fish were very small though, averaging around 1lb a piece, added to this my silvers and I believed I had a weight of around 70lb.
I had spent some forty-five minutes of my contest down the edge and the remainder out shallow. The edges had been difficult to sort out though and I believe I would have managed a better weight if I had concentrated all of my efforts fishing long. Still, the scales would tell me if I had got it right on the day; I was confident I had the two anglers in my eyeline beat but there had been a lot of splashing coming from neighbouring peg 11.
I had been asked to weigh in two sections for this contest, so I kicked-off proceedings over on Highland peg 14 with team mate Matty Deakin. Matt’s two weighs went a terrific 70lb, all caught fishing 4mm pellet through slop – a brilliant return. Next along on peg 18, D. Hunt of Great King Street placed 30lb of fighting-fit barbel on the scales. Of the following five anglers, the closest anybody came to Matt’s weight was M. Purcell of the Pitstone team with 40lb – meaning my fellow Shaftmoor Lane angler had won his section by a handsome margin.
Matt has only been match fishing for a couple of seasons, so I was made up for him with this result, and for this excellent performance he receives my much-coveted Man of the Match award.
After weighing in this section on Highland, we moved along to neighbouring Pebble. First up were the two anglers who had drawn opposite me, and there was very little between them as Steve Evans weighed in with 44lb, just pipped by John Harrison’s 45lb. The bottom end of Pebble had fished tough, the three anglers pegged there weighing in 14lb, 3lb (although this unfortunate chap had a huge hole in his keepnet) and 20lb. Next along was A. Coles, son of match organiser Brian and my neighbour for the day. He had put together a stunning net of barbel from down his edges but as mentioned earlier, they don’t weigh, this big bag of ‘whiskers’ going 39lb. So, last to weigh in from ‘A’ section was me, my 63 f1s went a little more than expected: 75lb. Added to this 9lb of silvers and I ended the contest with 84lb and the all-important section win.
Once my tackle was safely stowed away, I made my way down to the fishery café where, over chicken and chips, Team Shaftmoor unpicked the day’s events. Alongside two section wins we had two second place finishes and a third – but we also had a couple of bad results to carry because, as expected, Abbey pool had proved a difficult draw for many.
As Brian Coles read out the results, it became clear that this had been our best performance ever as a team. We picked up envelopes for section winner and runner-up prizes; envelopes for 4th overall (Matt Deakin), 3rd overall (me) and 2nd overall (Steve Wheeler). We then picked up an envelope for finishing 3rd overall as a team, our best result in recent years. Looking at the scoreboard it had been a very close contest, in fact we were just a single point away from a second place finish and three points away from winning the event outright.
Congratulations must go to pre-match favourites Gloucester – and a huge thanks from all concerned for offering to take up the reins next year.
Well done also to Fordhouses’ Simon Whittle on winning the contest individually, with 89lb of f1s from Willow Pool. Simon told me after the contest that it was the first time he’d ever fished with a jigga float – a brilliant performance mate, well done.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank Brian Coles and his Great King Street team again, for hosting such an excellent event. The fishing was good, the atmosphere was excellent and to a man we enjoyed our day out. Long may the Lucas National continue!
Until next time…