Friday, June 30, 2017

Blueguard Socks Review

Over the years, I've had quite a few firms contact me to ask if I'd like to review their products on the blog, obviously they normally tend to be fishing related items like bait or tackle and I strive to give an honest and fair review. I do also review things that I've bought that I think people might find interesting like books or new bits of kit i.e. hooklength boxes. Occasionally I'm contacted and asked if I'd like to do a review on a product that isn't necessarily fishing related but anglers might find useful (if that makes sense!), things like water bottles or head torches, two of my favourites have been a photo canvas and a couple of Buffs, just brilliant products that I'd be more than happy to part with my cash for.

Which leads nicely on to my latest product review, I was contacted by a PR firm asking if I'd like to test some Blueguard socks, now before you all switch off your computers, I realise a sock review isn't the most exciting or glamorous review you'll ever read but if you're anything like me, you'll hate thin socks as much as I do, so I thought 'Why not?' As always I endeavour to do a bit of research on the product before it arrives and was intrigued when the first things I noticed on the website were terms like 'Lifetime Guarantee' and 'Socks Engineered for Life'.

Looking around the website, the full name of the sock is 'The Anti-Abrasion Durability Sock' and they go on to say,

'Are you throwing money away on work socks that just aren't up to the job?
Some so-called 'work socks' are just standard sports socks in different packaging.

Blueguard anti-abrasion durability socks are completely different.
They're scientifically proven to last an incredible 46 times as long as standard sports socks. And they're lifetime guaranteed not to get holes. 

Blueguard durability socks, engineered for life.'

So some pretty impressive claims but it also got me thinking that when they arrived they would be some big thick work socks more suitable to a building site than a river bank and that the only possible use I would have for them would be in the winter.

A package duly arrived and on opening it, they weren't the big thick, woolly, itchy foot mittens I'd envisaged but regular looking socks, albeit very smart ones. Black in colour with a blue heel and toe and the Blueguard logo.

According to the website, the socks are packed with features,
  • Comfort Fit
  • Cotton Rich Body
  • Reinforced Toe Seam
  • Arch Support
  • Extended Heel
  • Full Cushion
They look and feel top quality
Now for the technical bit, basically abrasion resistance is conducted under independent laboratory conditions to British Standard BS EN 13770:3002. Maximum abrasion is tested until a fabric breakdown occurs (a hole). The higher the maximum abrasion, the more durable the textiles potential.

Blueguard socks have achieved an amazing 925,000 maximum abrasion cycles compared to 580,000 cycles for a branded tough sock and are an incredible 46 times more durable than a standard branded sports sock.

I don't really know about any of those claims but what I do know is that they are very comfy and they feel like quality socks that will last you a long time, a lifetime? Well only time will tell! So I will start wearing and washing them and I'll update the review in a few months (which reminds me that it's high time I updated some of the other reviews, so expect to see them over the coming weeks).

They retail for £9.99 and are available in mens and ladies sizes and come in either black or navy.

Blueguard also offer free delivery in the UK.

Website -

*Blueguard sent me this product for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions contained in this post are my own.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sadborow - League 6 - 25th June 2017

I was at Sadborow for round six and really looking forward to it as the pond was still fishing well and the lowest weight in the last match was over 60lb! Another great breakfast at Millfield café before we headed to Perry St to do the draw, I paid my pools and collected some maggots and I'd also got the Tart to bring me on a couple of the Drennan Margin Crystal floats. I thought they'd be ideal for fishing the island pegs at Sadborow but I've since read quite a few reports saying the tips have been snapping off them so I'll let you know once I've used them.

As we had a little way to travel, we would draw first and the Tart got someone to pull out one for him and when he looked it was peg 4 behind the island which hasn't been great and Bushy was also there on peg 5 so that was two pegs I didn't want, successfully avoided. I also didn't particularly want peg 6 because although it's a good peg, it's an awkward one to fish so when Hoff said he had that one, I felt it was safe to look and was over the moon to see peg 9 was my destination for the day. It's a great peg and Chilly won the last match off it with over 112lb, although I was a little concerned that, after it being scorching hot last week, it was now fairly overcast and a lot milder so I wasn't sure my favoured shallow approach would work today.

After a short drive we reached the pond and the open water pegs were black with fish! My swim looked lovely with loads of carp swimming about and I was sure I'd catch up in the water. Peg 9 is on the outlet and there are loads of features on the inside to the right but I'd also been told it was snaggy so decided on a three line approach, shallow at 11.5 metres (surprise, surprise!), meat at 5 metres and a margin swim to my left. On the side tray I had 6mm Bait-Tech Carp and Coarse pellets, 6mm Strawberry Mighty Meat and red maggots.
The view from peg 9
My neighbours were Mark G on peg 8 and Commander Smith on peg 2, Dave A on peg 3 was standing in for Picky and agreed to have a pound side bet. I was set up with half an hour to spare so walked up to have a look at the Tarts peg, the pond level was down a bit and he only had six inches of water by the island and wasn't confident at all, with a few minutes to go I walked back to my peg and the Tart got us underway. I cupped in a modest amount of meat at 5 metres plus meat, maggots and pellets on the margin line before starting with the up in the water rig.
Bait-Tech Strawberry Meat, 6mm pellets and maggots on the menu today.
It didn't take long before lots of elastic was out all around the lake although it took ten minutes before I latched into my first fish, I was feeding pellets and lifting and dropping the rig and started to catch really well, every time I hooked one I'd fire out half a dozen pellets and unship a couple of sections before feeding again and also feed some meat by hand on the shorter line. Bushy and the Tart had flown out of the blocks but if the last match I was here was anything to go by, it wouldn't last. Mark was catching well and Smithy was also doing well shallow, Hoff was struggling a bit and Dave had only landed a couple of fish.

After an hour I had 11 carp and was doing well but from what I could see everybody was catching and there were carp everywhere. I could see the odd carp at 5 metres when I fed a few cubes of meat so dropped the shallow rig on that line while I fed the longer line and it worked a treat, the float sailed away and another carp was on, if I didn't get a bite after a couple of minutes I'd go back out to 11.5 metres and several times I didn't have time to feed before the pole was wrenched round. The second hour was brilliant and I added another 14 carp, I was sure sport would slow up but going into the third hour bites were still coming thick and fast and if the bankside grapevine was to be believed, I had a healthy lead and I started to think a really big weight was on the cards.

The Tart and Bushy had slowed up and the Hoff was having a nightmare, he'd done a bit of squirrel hunting when he got his rig stuck up the tree and while he was trying to get it back he knocked his number four section in the pond but luckily he managed to get it back. Scout Leader Smithy was still catching well and Dave had landed some nice skimmers. By the halfway point I had 35 carp and as they probably averaged 3lb apiece, I had around 100lb with three hours to go!

During hour four, sport started to slow and I was having to chase fish around a bit and even mugged a couple of fish (despicable!) but I only added another six fish, in the last few matches I'd caught really well on Juice Dumbells but never had a fish on them this week. There were fish blowing on the five metre line so with two hours to go, it was time to try it where hopefully they'd be lined up and I shouted over to Sith Lord Smith that I wanted it documented that I was using a deep rig! I lowered the rig in and fed a few cubes of meat via a toss pot but the float just sat there! I was still feeding pellets on the longer line so if nothing else, hopefully the rest would do it some good and nobody else was really catching.

I was just about to give it up as a bad job when the float dipped a couple of times before sliding away and a fish was on, several people commented they hadn't seen my yellow elastic before and to be fair, in six matches, this was only my second fish caught on the bottom! I missed a bite next chuck and I started to think they were queued up, I missed another bite and then the float just sat there again. I had a brief try in my margin swim with double maggot on the hook but never had a bite so it was back out shallow but to be honest it was a bit of an anti climax! Emperor Smith had mugged a hat trick of nice ghosties so I thought I'd give it a go and successfully stalked a lovely golden koi/ghostie of around 4lb and added another carp to put me on 44 with an hour to go.

So although it was obvious I wasn't going to do a huge weight, I was still hopeful I'd beat my biggest ever match weight of 121lb 4oz which has stood for years but the pond had switched off and everybody was struggling now apart from the Tart who had a run of fish on maggot including his tame 5lb chub he catches every time and Mark added a couple of fish from the corner. I tried the short line again but I couldn't get a bite anywhere and when the all out was called I hadn't added any more fish in the final sixty minutes.

I packed up and took my kit back to the car and Smithy let me have one of his cakes which was lovely, thanks Captain, he normally brings luscious cakes, I'll take a photo next match (hint, hint!). He was in a pretty good mood as he repairs pole sections and there had been a few breakages today (including Hoffy who hadn't had a good match!) so he would be quids in (and can afford cakes for next time!).

As Hoffy had chucked back, we started the weigh in with Mark who set the pace with 84lb 7oz, then it was my turn and after five weighs my total was 120lb 6oz, only my third ever ton although I was a bit gutted as I only needed a pound to beat my best ever match weight! Superintendent Smith was next and had 91lb 6oz followed by Dave who had 45lb 14oz.
Mark had 84lb 7oz from peg 8
Me with part of my 120lb 6oz (it would have been a nice photo if it wasn't for the gurning Tart behind me!)
Smithy had 91lb 6oz from peg 2 (is that a 'Hotter dog' behind him?)
Dave A had 45lb 14oz from peg 3
Then we got to the Tart who was admitting to 85lb and actually wasn't too far off for once as he weighed 85lb 7oz to go into third place, Bushy had 82lb 8oz and once again the weights had been really close.
The Tart did well to finish third with 85lb 7oz from peg 4
Bushy had 82lb 8oz from peg 5
Back at the results and Bish had the top weight on Perry St Low with 68lb 2oz from peg 5 followed by Chilly with 53lb 4oz and Chris Whitham with 40lb 14oz. Perry St High was won by Exeter Mike with 64lb from peg 13, Howard was second with 34lb 4oz from 19 and Mike Collins was third with 26lb 2oz from peg 14. I had a nice pick up of £90 plus pounds off the Tart, Janders and Dave A (although he did a runner without paying up).

1 – Jamie Rich (Against Men and Fish) – 120lb 6oz
2 – Mike Smith (Torquay) – 91lb 6oz
3 – Brendon Ions (Torquay) – 85lb 7oz

Perry St Low
1 – Steve Bishop (Chard) – 68lb 2oz
2 – Andy Winters (Chard) – 53lb 4oz
3 – Chris Whitham (Torquay) – 40lb 14oz

Perry St High
1 – Mike Hosgood (Nr Exeter) – 64lb
2 – Howard Watts (Torquay) – 34lb 4oz
3 – Mike Collins (Chard) – 26lb 2oz

After six matches, the top eleven in the league looks like this,

Howards Watts - 11 pts
Shane Jeffery - 15 pts
Jamie Rich - 17 pts
Mike Hosgood - 18 pts
Steve Bush - 19 pts
Brendon Ions - 20 pts
Chris Whitham - 22 pts
Steve Bishop - 22 pts
Les Braunton - 25 pts
Janders - 25 pts
Steve Osborne - 25 pts

Next up - Dillington

Coming soon - My next review

Check Out - My interview with Russell Hilton (below)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Russell Hilton Interview

My latest interview is with fellow blogger and occasional angling companion, Russell Hilton,

Hi Russell, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions,

I’ve known you for a long time now, firstly through your ‘Tales from the Towpath’ blog and then through having a few fishing trips together, your original blog is seemingly no more and you have new one called ‘Russell Hilton Fishing Blog’, it’s a very nice looking blog but I have to ask why, when you had so much great content in the first one?

Blogger is a very frustrating platform as once you start posting it is very difficult to change how your blog looks without reformatting the whole thing. I wanted to redesign mine and the only way to do that was by starting again. As it happens I'd stopped blogging entirely for a year anyway so I thought it just as well to start over. Regrettably, I'm struggling to find the time to fish, let alone blog, at the moment so once again it's on the backburner. When I started the first one I had plenty of spare time to update it and, for me, blogging is the sort of thing you need to go at wholeheartedly or you might as well not bother. I have some nice ideas for what I want to do, so it is frustrating that I can't find the time.

Ok, fair enough, right let’s find out a bit more about you? When did you start fishing and what was your first fish?

I think I was about 4 when I had my first fish; a bleak from the Lee Navigation. I can't remember ever not fishing to be honest. I was club match fishing by age 8 or 9, and every other weekend until age 16, I fished matches. My family moved from London to Devon when I was 16 and I've hardly fished matches since. I now prefer to choose when and where I go, although the way I fish is heavily influenced by my match fishing background.

What’s your favourite style of fishing?

This changes so often and is rarely the thing I did most recently, even if I had a really successful session. I get bored too easily and like to explore new species and methods.

I do think that anglers are far too hasty to deride particular styles of angling as inferior or requiring less skill but the principles of fishing are the same no matter what style you adopt. You still have to assess conditions and tailor your presentation, bait/feeding and location to suit. At the moment I am really interested in specialist style fishing and ledger rigs. I had my first bream on a helicopter rig the other day and the bite was very exciting; I was using bobbins and a bite alarm and the bite was much slower than the fast runs I'd had from tench and carp previously so I knew it was the target fish before I even picked up the rod. My main ethos now is to keep kit to an absolute minimum. As a former matchman, this has taken some getting used to but my results are much better now. I caught my PB perch after a swim move. I was sat on the towpath, poking a lob tail under a far bank tree using a pole. I wouldn't have caught that fish if I'd taken the luggage that I used to. I had to walk a mile to catch it.
A stunning canal perch of 2lb 10oz
Your favourite venue?

Again, it changes, but if it's weedy, wild and clear, I'm there. I haven't fished it much recently but it's hard to beat hooking a big fish on the pole, in 12ft of clear water, on the Exeter Canal. The Exeter Canal is probably a bit too tough to be my favourite though. It'd probably be the Tiverton Canal.
Two beautiful 6lb plus tench from a canal
And favourite fish?

This will surprise you but it's probably carp. Mass stocking has completely devalued their capture but on the venues I fish they are still mythical beasts. I saw a high double swim past whilst bream fishing on the Huntspill last year and it was incredibly exciting.

You have an impressive list of personal bests to your name, any favourites among them that stand out? And which fish would you dearly love to add to that list?

Most of my overall PBs are canal fish so it is all relative but it took me a long time to catch a 3lb perch. I finally broke that with a fish of 3lb 7.5oz last year. I'm probably most proud of my silver bream PB, and I've had two of those at 2lb 4oz. That is a huge silver bream, and the largest I can find recorded anywhere outside of the current UK record venue, Mill Farm in Sussex. It was "by design" too; caught from the local cut on a waggler fished tare. They are not taken seriously and many anglers misidentify them, but they are one of the 3 most common species found in natural waters in Somerset, I only encounter rudd and roach more frequently. To give you some idea, I have caught them in their dozens from the Parrett, Tone, Stathe Drain, Durleigh Reservoir, Huntspill, Taunton Canal, Emerald Pool and lots of other places. A pound silver is a good one, and to catch one closer to 2lb than one from a natural venue is like finding a near 3lb roach! Anglers should take more notice of them as they don't feed like bream. I have had thirty pound bags of silvers from several waters on the levels and the best approach is to try and take them as the bait falls through the water.
A nice bag of silver bream from the levels
Targets: I make them but never really pursue them with any commitment. I'd love a 7lb canal tench and to nudge my river and canal PBs for pike and carp much higher than they currently sit. My first 5lb chub is a winter target.

You’ve tried your hand at most types of angling and I even seem to recall you’ve fished a few matches and done well, any plans to do more competitions?

Not really. To be honest, I've whittled my kit down so far that I wouldn't feel like I'd be able to compete to the best of my ability. The craic at matches is the best draw, but you will always have a better days fishing if you go just yourself or a couple of mates at the more productive times of day.

That's not to say I don't miss it. I used to compete regularly, but I'm an all or nothing match angler and a pretty sore loser, so I prefer to take it much easier these days. The Christmas matches have attracted me in recent years for the fun, venue choices and size of entry.

I have some great memories of match fishing when I lived in London, and I will hopefully find time to write about those experiences before they slip entirely from my memory.

As you know, I’m really passionate about my blog and would love to be able to reach a point where I could do it full time but I think angling is a long way behind beauty, food and travel blogs where some of the top bloggers make a lot of money and they have their own awards ceremonies etc. I’ve seen some brilliant blogs like Jeff Hatt’s ‘Idler’s Quest’ fall by the wayside because it is a lot of effort for very little return, what are your thoughts?

It is a lot of effort! Personally my lack of fishing routine makes it hard for me to keep it going. I think the blog style is very well suited to match anglers as the posting and format of posts is consistent. I struggle to see how fishing blogs can generate any income to be honest. The odd free bag of groundbait is probably about as much as any of us can hope for. The quality and quantity of Jeff's content was incredible; he writes in a languid, conversational style which gives you the impression that it just comes naturally to him. I always had to remind myself not to compare myself to Idler's Quest. It has to be fun for the writer, otherwise it comes across as forced and can be difficult to read. In fact, some of the best reads are full of grammatical errors but the authors' personality in their writing far outweighs those mistakes. I think YouTube advertising is the only realistic way to make a few bob from fishing blogging, backed up by pretty persistent plugging of your own material on social media. For me, it is not just about the hit numbers though. When I get back blogging again, my real aim is to generate some decent threads and conversations from my posts. Facebook just doesn't provide this and most of the posts and debates on there are shallower than the margins of Chard Reservoir.

Still on the subject of blogs, which ones are on your reading list?

I have made friends with a lot of the bloggers I read. Idlers Quest was my favourite and has left an enormous hole which I think is impacting on popularity of other blogs as IQ drew a big audience who then gravitated to other blogs such as mine or yours, through the sidebars and widgets. The ones I tend to read first and read every word of are the match blogs on natural venues as they tend to be the most insightful. Obviously, Against Men and Fish
, Tim Ford and Ivan Currie feature prominently in this regard. I really enjoy nostalgia too, and I'd love to see blogs like your own and Lee Williams' delve into the memory bank from time to time (Against Men and Fish - I have been toying with this idea so watch this space!).

The great thing about blogs is you can follow some quite unusual campaigns as they unfold. The sort of stuff that would never make it into mags (which is probably why I don't pick them up anymore) is often the most gritty, relevant and exciting read. George Burton writes a fantastic blo
g which uses some really unexpected and creative language (his description of battling a huge canal eel is fantastic ). He fishes for 2lb roach in dirty midland canals, and his methods and successes perfectly demonstrate why some anglers should take their heads out of their arses occasionally and salute those who are genuinely innovative and not just assume that fishing like a matchman or a carper makes you a superior angler. Many will scoff at his crude, but thoroughly studied, approach, yet the results speak for themselves. Only blogs can really deliver this sort of unique, non-sponsored, thinking.

I’ve really enjoyed the trips we’ve done together even though on our first piking trip I blanked and mullet fishing on the Exe was nearly as bad, the last trip was brilliant, despite the awful weather, and I caught new personal best perch and pike so when are you going help me catch a flounder and a big rudd? 

Sneaky! I'm not really your best bet for a flounder but I could certainly do a sunny evening in July for a rudd. To be honest rudd are about the easiest fish to catch, and can rarely resist a big piece of bread. The best tip I can offer is to use a big hook and bait to avoid the smaller mouths. I use a size 6!
For Russell it's not all about the bigger, more glamorous species, here he is with a couple of ruffe from the River Isle
Before I let you go, here are a few quick-fire questions,

What’s your biggest fish in the UK? And abroad?

A 21lb 2oz carp I caught off the top recently. I'd like to beat it from a natural venue. I've only been abroad once, aged 7, to Disneyland. The closest I got to catching a fish was watching my dad scoop up a passing puffer fish in a small bucket.
Russell with his recently caught pb of 21lb 2oz
What’s your favourite drink?

Usually a Thatchers Haze after cricket or a Gin and Tonic

Favourite meal?

I do enjoy a curry, but will invariably order the fish in a restaurant.

Favourite film?

Not much of a film buff, does Go Fishing count?

TV show?

Any crude or coarse-humoured sitcom like Peep Show or Inbetweeners is right up my street. I also like a decent crime drama, although I struggle to commit to anything nowadays and only really dip into TV now and again.

What music do you listen to?

Quite a mix; The Smiths, Placebo, Kate Bush, MGMT, Oasis, Sia, Travis. I would say "etcetera" but there's not much of a pattern there really! Anything catchy with a bit of bite, so lyrics are important.

Do you have any other interests/hobbies outside of angling?

Cricket, which takes a lot of my time away from fishing in the summer. I stopped playing for a couple of summers but started again last year. I'm still very rusty so probably need to spend a few less evenings down the canal and a few more in the nets! Otherwise, fishing and all the other activities associated with it like writing, organising and photography keep me interested and busy enough to not really have time to squeeze in anything else.

Thanks Russell it’s been lovely to chatting to you and hopefully we’ll get out on the bank again soon,

Against Men and Fish

Check out Russell's blog here - Russell Hilton Fishing Blog

*All images courtesy of Russell Hilton

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Perry St Pond - League 5 - 18th June 2017

The high numbers at Perry St were my destination for round five and following another cracking breakfast at Millfield café we headed out the pond to do the draw. The first thing I saw when I got out of the car was Torquay's geriatric answer to Adam Ant! I wouldn't say Geoff was a grumpy old bugger but the back of his shirt says it all! There were an awful lot of very white scrawny legs on display as well with it set to be a scorching hot day. The lads who were out Sadborow today, drew their pegs and headed off and then it was our turn. I really wanted a peg towards the top end as they tend to be pretty consistent and when I saw the Tart had drawn 19 which has been poor and Wing Commander Smith had 16, I felt it was safe to look and I was well pleased to see I was on peg 12.
Geoff had his war paint on!
Grumpy old git!
Picky was on 17 and wanted to pay me a pound before we started!, Mark G was on 14, Bushy on 13 and the Hoff was on corner peg 11. In the other section, Exeter Mike was on the other corner peg (10) and looking very Tarzan like with his shirt off, league leader Howard was on peg 8, Richard Collins was on 7 with Janders on 5, Mike C on 3, Pup on 2 and Shane on peg 1.

My peg was fairly shaded but I made sure I had plenty of sun cream on, Hoff was going to be in the sun all day as were most of the anglers on the opposite bank. As I was setting up, there weren't too many carp on the surface although I was sure it would only be a matter of time before they appeared in the heat. Rigs were the usual dibber for fishing shallow/stalking/dobbing/mugging, a Drennan 0.4 gram for the five metre line and a margin rig. The side tray contained Bait-Tech 6mm Carp and Coarse pellets, some red 6mm meat, red maggots plus 8mm Juice Dumbells for a change of hookbait.
The view from peg 12 (if you look closely you can see Tarzan in peg 10)
On the whistle I cupped in some meat at five metres plus pellets maggots and meat in the margin to my left before starting at 11.5 metres with a 6mm banded pellet and firing in a few pellets on a regular basis. Tarzan was into fish quite quickly but I wasn't too worried as he was in the other section and after about fifteen minutes I hooked and landed my first carp around 3lb. The next action was a foul hooker that took off towards the Hoff's peg before the hook pulled and there was no stopping that one. I did have two more carp before the first hour was up and was fairly happy with that as neither Bushy or Hoff had caught a carp yet.

I had number four quite quickly but then hooked one that didn't do a lot until I was just about to net it and it went berserk!, it ploughed into the lilies on my right and twice I got it out and was feeling pretty pleased with myself but then it went under some vegetation to my left, I got it out again but then the poxy hook pulled out!. Things got worse when Hoff started catching and then Bushy had a couple of carp in quick succession and cut my lead in half. The heat got a bit much for Janders and he walked up to see Mike and sat in the shade of a tree, I assumed he must be struggling and was a little taken aback when he said he had five carp!

I shouted across that I needed another to draw level then and dropped a white dumbell in front of a passing carp which, to my surprise (and to Janders disgust!), took it and I landed my fifth carp which prompted him to go back to his peg to try and get ahead again. Both Hoff and Bushy had gone in front of me and the bankside grapevine was saying that the Tart had six or seven carp and after a great start I was now struggling. It was now scorching hot with loads of carp cruising about and not really interested in feeding, it was a case of playing cops and robbers and dropping the rig in front of them and hoping the odd one would take it.

I hooked a decent fish and was taking my time with it as I wanted to make it count when it took off towards the lilies and even though I wasn't giving it that much stick, there was that sickening feeling as the line went slack. I assumed the hook had pulled or the hooklength had snapped but on closer inspection the main line loop had given way and I felt I really needed that fish to stay in contention. Bushy added another fish to go further ahead but the Hoff had a spell of losing fish and I learnt a few new swear words (and there was me thinking he was such a nice man!).

I managed to land number six to put me level with Hoff and then I had another to inch in front although I was still behind Bushy. I couldn't tell really what was happening in the rest of my section but Bushy did say Mark on 14 only had two or three carp. I got to 11 carp with about two hours to go and then had a 2lb skimmer, Hoff had slowed right up and I was gaining ground on Bushy and even got to within one fish of him but then he would pull away again.

Tarzan from somewhere near Exeter had caught well all day and thankfully had put his shirt back on, Howard had managed a few carp but had also spent a fair chunk of the match hunting squirrels judging by the amount of time he spent up the tree! Rich C was getting odd fish but I couldn't really see how Janders was getting on. I did try the five metre line which I'd fed all match but only had a couple of knocks and it was a similar story with the margin line and I didn't want to spend too long there as there were carp milling about on the longer line again. I had another three carp to put me on fourteen when the all out was called, I was three behind Bushy but Hoff had hadn't added anymore and finished on seven.

Picky walked up and said he'd had nine fish and that Smithy and the Tart were admitting to ten or eleven fish so this could be tight although the Tart was saying he only had 40lb!. The scales started with the Hoff and he had 28lb 10oz, then it was turn and my three weighs went 63lb 6oz which was a bit more than I thought. I knew Bushy had beaten me and his three nets went 79lb 8oz, Mark had 12lb 4oz before Supreme Commander Smith had 49lb 14oz.
Hoff had 28lb 10oz in peg 11
I had 14 carp and a decent skimmer for 63lb 6oz

Bushy with part of his 79lb 8oz from peg 13
Mark had 12lb 4oz
Sergeant Smithy had 49lb 14oz
Picky had 29lb 10oz and gave me a nugget and then last but not least was the Tart and when he pulled his net out, he obviously had more than ten carp and can't lie straight in bed, his first weigh was 33lb 2oz, his second net was 24lb 4oz which took him to 57lb 6oz and it was going to be close but his few silvers added 2lb 6oz which was just short as his total was 59lb 12oz so another shiny nugget was going home with me although to be fair, he'd done well off a peg that had struggled in the last two matches.
Picky had 29lb 10oz
The Tart had 59lb 12oz which included this nice eel (both very slimy, Brendon's the one with a hat on!)
As expected Exeter Mike (Tarzan) won the other section with 84lb 4oz, Janders was second with 37lb 10oz so I was another pound to the good, Shane did well to finish third with 33lb 8oz from peg 1 although he did smash a pole section in the process, Howard weighed 29lb 12oz of squirrels, Pup had 24lb 8oz, Richard had 16lb 8oz and Mike C had 8lb 2oz.

We then all sat on the grass and waited for the others to get back from Sadborow, it had fished well again with Chilly taking the top weight with 112lb 12oz from peg 9, Chris W had 99lb 4oz from peg 6 and Les had 89lb 8oz from peg 5. More good weights followed with Geoff weighing 85lb 12oz from peg 3, Butch was close behind with 85lb, Oz had 77lb 4oz from peg 2 and Dave A had 63lb 6oz from peg 4.

Les did the results and I had a nice pick up of £55 for second in the section plus the £3 in side bets so a really nice day. The league has tightened up a bit as well with Howard still leading on 9 points followed by Shane on 11 and Bushy on 14.

Perry High
1 - Steve Bush (Chard) - 79lb 8oz
2 - Jamie Rich (Against Men and Fish) - 63lb 6oz
3 - Brendon Ions (Torquay) - 59lb 12oz

1 - Andy Winters (Chard) - 112lb 12oz
2 - Chris Whitham (Torquay) - 99lb 4oz
3 - Les Braunton (Chard) - 89lb 8oz

Perry Low
1 - Mike Hosgood (Nr Exeter) - 84lb 4oz
2 - John 'Janders' Anderson (Donyatt) - 37lb 10oz
3 - Shane Jeffery (Chard) - 33lb 8oz

Ilminster AA had round four of their Summer League at Dillington on Sunday and some great weights were recorded, Adie Bishop won with 41lb 4oz of bream and chub from peg 1, followed by Bill Hopping with 15lb 6oz of skimmers from peg 14 and Jeff Sparkes with 13lb 10oz of bream and skimmers from peg 15.

Dropping the two worst results, Bill leads the league with a perfect two point score followed closely by John Dursley on three and Jess Jordan and Graham Field on four.

Adie with part of his winning 41lb 4oz catch from peg 1
Next up - Sadborow

Coming soon - Another great interview

Check Out - My great interview with Darren Cox (below)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Darren Cox Interview

Hi Darren, I realise you are a very busy man so thank you very much for agreeing to do an interview,

As the UK General Manager for Garbolino can you tell us what constitutes a typical day, if there is such a thing?

Most days are different but there are some things I must do every day wherever I am and whatever I am doing that day. My actual job is UK General Manager to a company called SERT Fishing, a huge business based in France and a major player in the world of fishing. We have many brands which we sell around the world and I am part of a big team. I travel to Bordeaux once per month for a week to be with the team and build our strategies for the future. This covers a lot of product development work across several key brands not just Garbolino. We have Sakura and BIWAA which are dedicated Lure fishing brands, Prowess which is a specialist carp brand and Anatec who are the Rolls Royce of bait boats, Sunset is our sea fishing brand to name a few.

A lot of my day is spent liaising with the sales team as well as retailers and the media. There is always plenty to do that's for sure!
Darren with a beautiful 20lb Koi carp
What exciting new for 2017 Garbolino products can you tell us about?

We have a huge seatbox project underway and have launched the first phase of boxes 6 months ago. We will be expanding the range of seatboxes and accessories for next season.

We also have a fantastic new range of Distance Feeder rods which will be available around August/September time. If you need to cast a method or conventional groundbait feeder a long way you will be able to do it easily with these rods. Whilst testing the recent prototypes we could consistently get 110m in a head wind and they still have lovely fish playing actions for bream, skimmers and of course carp.

We have masses of new items coming through in all our ranges, the brand is certainly growing very well at the moment.

What’s your favourite style of fishing?

The one I need to use to catch the fish in the circumstances I am in at the time! I love all kinds of fishing but if you had to pin me down it would probably be catching skimmers on the long pole or roach and dace on the waggler on the river. I do love carp fishing but I can’t do it all the time especially in summer as it gets a bit tedious. I love to change and will fish to the seasons. In autumn /winter I focus on the rivers and stillwaters for silvers as the fishing is much fairer generally. I love the spring for carp and bream fishing. I generally fish the big matches as I like the atmosphere and don’t mind where I go.

Your favourite species?

Historically I would say roach and chub as these species taught me how to fish, they are very hard to catch especially in clear water and they don’t get much clearer than the River Wharfe in Boston Spa where I grew up. But you may have guessed I love catching skimmers and bream. Once you get the feeding right you can build big weights of them but it’s not easy to do.
Darren loves catching bream
Where is your favourite venue?

In winter it is Meadowlands near Coventry, in summer it has to be the River Avon around my home in Stratford Upon Avon

Have you any angling heroes or anyone who has inspired you?

Absolutely I think we all have. My dad is my biggest hero as he actually started fishing just so he could take me when I was 7 years old. He taught me loads and took me to places where I could learn even more from others. Ivan Marks was my all-time hero as a kid and I was privileged to be able to call him a friend in later years when I fished the same circuit as him and his son Chris. Kevin Ashurst is also an angling God. I have Howard Robson from Leeds who is sadly not with us any more to thank for turning me into a winner, not just a good angler.

What’s your biggest fish in the UK? And abroad?

My biggest UK fish is a 24-12 carp but I have had bigger fish abroad whilst on holiday. I always have some gear with me and have a few days guiding or on a boat wherever we go.

You’ve done a fair bit of fishing abroad, are there any countries you still really want to visit and any species you would dearly love to catch?

I am very lucky, I have travelled all over the world fishing with England, with my job and some nice exotic holidays. I’ve caught some amazing fish and finally fulfilled a boyhood dream of catching a bonefish last year in Cuba, in fact I caught loads! I would like to go to India to catch a mahseer and still want to catch a big permit on the fly.

A lot of people say commercial fisheries have been the saviour of match fishing, especially with the decline of the rivers but more recently there seems to have been a swing away from carp back towards silver fish matches and rivers, where do you think the future of fishing lies?

I can assure everyone that commercial fisheries kept a lot of the industry and anglers passions alive for many years as the rivers hit an all-time low in the late 80’s and early 90’s. When the rivers went clear because of new EU regulations releasing sewage and hot water into our rivers came in to play the rivers took a lot of years to recover. Now I would say that the rivers are actually better than they ever were! There are now masses more roach, perch, and especially bream in our rivers and the dace are now back all over the country. Hopefully the chub will recover soon. Anglers fish where there are fish, and our rivers are now full of them. The river match organisers are doing a great job and we have some really good circuits around. But also what Dave Harrell has done with the Riverfest competition has really helped and the Feeder Masters is also doing the same for our rivers and natural lakes, means that ‘natural venue’ anglers can also have a chance at some great prize money now, and rightly so. I think the immediate future is very good for match fishing however the longer term may not be. Too many of our pleasure anglers go straight from beginner to carp specialist and are not interested in our style of match fishing. That’s a shame and a difficult task drawing them back. Big money will certainly help this.

Match angling is such a complex sport with so many variables, that overnight success is rare, in this day and age of instant gratification and the ‘want it now’ culture, how do we get more youngsters into the sport? and have you got any tips on how they can become successful match anglers?

Like I mentioned above, big prize money will help to an extent but there is a need for cultural change moving youngsters back from the screen to the bank and into the open air. Lure fishing is a great way of getting non-anglers interested in fishing as you can go for 30 minutes rather than have to sit down and set up for one hour to coarse fish. If we can get people into the sport like this then they may stay in it and start match fishing.

Looking at your profile on the Garbolino website you have an enviable roll of honours, which have been your biggest achievements? And are there any more you would like to add to that list?

Fishing for England was always a dream as a 10-year-old kid. That will always be my biggest achievement ever and nothing will top that. When I decided to step down from international fishing I took the decision to move away from team fishing too and concentrate on individual matches. I love team fishing but I have won virtually everything with Starlets and every team competition these days is so much smaller than those we won a few years ago it does not mean as much when you win I’m afraid.
A nice net of fish caught on England duty
I am very proud of my individual achievements and would like to continue to add to them. I would like to win another one of the ‘majors’ again such as the Parkdean, Maver, Fisho, Golden Reel, Riverfest or Feeder Masters.

You mentioned you fished for England several times, have you still got International ambitions?

No not at all, I fished for the Float only Drennan Team England at Home Nation and European level for 12 years. Then I became part of the Preston team England Feeder team for 4 years. I am still one of only 3 anglers which has represented both teams at this level and am very proud of that.

With my work and family commitments I could not put the same effort in as others so decided it was time to give my family some time as they had supported me for so long. Both my son and daughter compete swimming and rowing at very high levels and are knocking on National level so I need to give them the same kind of support my Dad gave to me to try and help them get as far as they can too in their sports.

I absolutely loved every single minute of my time fishing at International level but do not miss it one bit!  

If you had a time machine is there one moment in fishing you wished you could go back and change? i.e. a dream fish coming off at the net or a decision in a match that’s cost you a title?

Yes loads! But I always say that fishing is a memory game and you need to make the mistakes as well as the good decisions and remember them for the future. That is what makes you a better angler.

Have you got one piece of advice that will help the readers put more fish in their nets?

If you think it then do it! Your angling instinct is obviously telling you to do it so you must. If it doesn’t work then you have eliminated that idea at that time and you can carry on going through the process, which in fishing is as much a process of elimination as it is remembering what works in what circumstances.

Match fishing has been steadily becoming more professional with anglers smartening up their appearance, big money televised events and more and more sponsored anglers but there are still only a handful of full time anglers, do you think there will ever be a time when match angling can become a viable career, like say professional footballers?

Sadly, I don’t believe this will ever happen. There are a few anglers who make a living out of fishing matches but they cannot rely on results alone to support a family. There are very few lucrative sponsorships available as we are in a relatively poor market compared to golf or football.
Big wins galore
On the subject of the big money events like Fisho, MMT and now the Golden Reel, do you enter the qualifiers? Is there a burning desire to win one of those events? 

Yes absolutely. I love these events, even the qualifiers are exciting. The finals are amazing!
A net of carp caught in the Embassy Pairs
Well thank you for giving up your time but before I let you go, here’s a few more quick-fire questions,

What’s your favourite drink?

Red Wine – Saint Emilion or Sainte Estephe which are Bordeaux wines where we are based!

Favourite meal?

A good ribeye or rump steak

Do you support a football team?

There is only one football team of course! The mighty Leeds United!!!

Favourite film?

Pulp Fiction and the Shawshank Redemption

TV show?

Game of Thrones

What music do you listen to?

REM, Robbie Williams, Coldplay, Bruno Mars.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

A day on a match at Barston, Meadowlands or Larford followed by a nice meal out with the family, then back early to chill out with a bottle of red with Jules, the real star in my life!

Sounds lovely, many thanks again Darren, from Against Men and Fish

Check out the website here - Garbolino

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summerhayes - Open - 11th June 2017

Before I get on to this weeks match, we had some awful news in the week when Dave Lawrence passed away after a short battle with that horrible disease cancer that affects so many of our lives. I fished with Dave for a long time, on the Isle, in the Drennan league and in more recent times we used to travel up to Chris Haines's pond in Clivey together. Always up for laugh and I remember when him and Jack (also sadly no longer with us) were best mates and they certainly took no prisoners with the banter, tight lines mate, you will be greatly missed.

I phoned Pete to book in for this match and he said we were on Sellicks again which I was looking forward to as I really enjoyed the last match and Rob did 37lb of silvers from peg 17 on Friday but then he phoned me midweek to say the match would now be on Lily and Willow as there was another match booked on Sellicks. I was a bit gutted to be honest as the silvers weights on both lakes have been on the low side. So along with my usual expanders and micros approach, I took some 6mm Bait-Tech Strawberry Mighty Meat as I might actually have to fish for carp!

No Janders this week as he was down in sunny Cornwall on his holidays so I stopped at the Toby Carvery in Taunton for breakfast which was okay and reasonably priced at £4.99 although coffee was extra which bumped the price up. I got to the fishery in good time and said hello to fellow blogger, Lee Williams, who arrived just after me, it was also nice to catch up with the Wickhams who I hadn't seen for ages. I paid my pools and after a coffee, Pete announced the draw, I went into the bucket quite early and pulled out peg 7 on Willow, which looking at the map on the board put me opposite where I was last time. I was fairly pleased as Willow was where the silvers winner was expected to come from although the last time I was here, the top weight of silvers was just under 7lb, so a fairly low weight affair then!

As I took my kit to the peg I passed Geoff Young on peg 1 and although his peg looked nice I was a little confused by the sign, I couldn't see any coaches and Geoff certainly doesn't qualify as a junior! Geoff Francis was on 3 with Mark S on 5 and then on my right on peg 9 was another member of the Torquay mafia in the shape of Chris Whitham. Lee Williams was opposite me and agreed to a pound side bet on silvers and Nigel Wickham was on 13.
I'm not sure Geoff qualified for a coaching session!
Peg 7 on Willow
I set up a 14 x 11 MW F1 Slim for my longer lines but plumbing up, the bottom was all over the place with a deeper hole at 8.5 metres straight out in front of me so I settled on just one line there where I would feed micros. My other rig was a 0.3 gram NG Mini Gimp for two five metre lines straight out, again with micros, and to my right which would be my meat line. On the whistle I fed all three lines before starting at 8.5 metres with a 4mm expanders on the hook. The float settled before sliding away and a tiny roach was the result, next put in I had another little roach and they were ragging the soft pellet so I put on a 6mm cube of meat to see if it would sort out some better fish.

It worked to a certain extent although after five minutes a positive bite resulted in loads of blue hydro streaming from the pole tip and a 3lb carp wasn't my target species either! A rethink was in order so a quick rummage in my carryall revealed a tub of soft hooker pellets which would hopefully be a little more durable than the expanders. I shipped out, tapped in a few micros from the toss pot and after a short wait, the float tip sunk from view and this time it was no roach but crucially it wasn't a carp either and I gratefully slipped the net under a 6oz skimmer.

Next chuck, the float had barely settled before it went again and my second skimmer was in the net, I had another two to make it four in four put ins before I missed a bite. At this stage not a lot was happening on our lake, Lee had a few small roach, Chris had landed a couple of carp and I'd seen the odd fish netted to my left but nobody was bagging. My next fish was a decent skimmer of 12oz that came flying out of the water on the strike. A couple more hand sized skimbobs followed and my last fish of the first hour was another 'leaper', this one around the pound mark.

So after an hour, I was already half way to my target of 7lb and really enjoying myself, I had skimmer number nine but bites were starting to slow up, I'd been dripping in some micros on the five metre line but didn't want to try it too early. Roger Russell turned up for a walk round and while he was with me, I had my tenth skimmer and missed a few bites, I did try the shorter line briefly but only had a few small roach, Roger went to see how they were doing on Lily and just after he went, I foulhooked a carp which wasn't on long.

Back on the longer line, I was still getting bites but only from small roach although I wasn't too worried as I thought I'd get a few more better fish during the day. By the end of the second hour I was still on ten skimmers and had tried the five metre line a couple of times with only roach and a couple of carp to show for it. Roger came back from Lily and said it was a real struggle on there with virtually no silvers showing and three carp was probably top on there. I decided to feed a line at 8.5 metres to my left to give me somewhere else to go but despite trying it several times during the match I never had a bite there.

Lee had been feeding a top kit line with maggots and was starting to catch small fish regularly but I wasn't too worried yet. Glynn Wickham walked by from his peg on Lily and said he'd just been seen off by a big eel and was going to get some heavier rigs! With two hours left, I still hadn't added any more skimmers and was only getting the odd roach and carp whereas Lee's short line seemed to be getting stronger by the minute and he'd even netted a couple of better roach and rudd. Things got worse when news filtered across that Glynn had landed a big eel of 2lb plus and I began to think I was going to miss out after such a great start.

I was going through the motions a bit as we approached the last period of the match and a good carp that did me under the pallet when it was nearly ready for the net did nothing to improve my mood. With both lakes fishing so hard, I didn't think it would take much to get in the overall frame so if I missed out on the silvers, that lost carp could be costly. Nigel and Chris were now catching carp regularly and would probably fill the top two places but nobody else was doing much from what I could see, Lee even said that half the anglers behind me on Lily had packed up and gone for early baths!

Lee started getting the odd carp on his short line which were taking him a while to get in on light elastic which was fine by me because as long as he was playing carp he wasn't catching silvers! I did lose a slightly better roach near the end and finished with those ten skimmers for 3-4lb plus a few roach and about 8 or 9 carp. Adie arrived with the scales and started the weigh in with Geoff who had 28lb 8oz of carp and 1lb 12oz of silvers, Geoff Francis on peg 3 had 36lb 1oz, Mark S had gone early and then my carp went 27lb and my silvers weighed 5lb 2oz. Chris on peg 9 had 57lb 7oz to go into the lead before we walked round to weigh Lee in, he had 33lb 11oz of carp and was admitting to 2.5lb of silvers but when he pulled his net out, I knew it was going to be closer than that, Adie called it at 4lb 3oz - phew! Last on Willow was Nigel who had 61lb 14oz to edge into the lead.

As we headed over to Lily, Glynn said he hadn't added anymore eels but did lose a big one, it had been hard going and Glenn Bailey had the top weight with 21lb 12oz from peg 9, we got to Glynn and his big eel plus a few bits and bobs went 3lb 9oz but despite my best efforts he wouldn't hold the eel for a photo!
Glynn had a lovely eel about 2.5lb
Back at the results and Nigel was called out in first place followed by Chris and then Lee was third (as it was worth more than second in silvers) and Geoff Francis was fourth. I won the silvers and had a nice pick up of £48 (not forgetting a pound off Lee!) and Glynn was second.
Hard going for most
1 - Nigel Wickham (Summerhayes) - 61lb 14oz
2 - Chris Whitham (Torquay) - 57lb 7oz
3 - Lee Williams (Woolavy's Wanderings) - 37lb 14oz
4 - Geoff Francis (Summerhayes) - 36lb 1oz

1 - Jamie Rich (Against Men and Fish) - 5lb 2oz
2 - Glynn Wickham (Summerhayes) - 3lb 9oz
Next up - Perry St

Coming soon - My next interview

Check Out - My latest ramblings (below)

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Just Starting Out

I was recently contacted by a mate who I haven't seen for a long time, we used to fish together a lot, firstly as juniors and then we started fishing the club matches with Ilminster AA but as so often happens, other things come along and he drifted away from it. He's now got a family and his son wants to get into fishing so he asked if I could put together a list of stuff him and his boy would need to get started, easy peasy I thought, but is it really?

The more I thought about it, the more difficult and prohibitively expensive the list was getting, you have to try and strike a balance between gear that is usable and gives you a good chance of catching but at the same time not costing an arm and a leg so that if the youngster decides he doesn't want to do it anymore, it wasn't too costly an exercise.

So where do you start? Obviously you need licences with the EA licence costing £30 (one day and eight licences are also available and might be an option) although juniors are free up to 16 years old. Then do you join a club where typically a senior club book is around £25 for seniors and £10 for juniors (most clubs do issue day tickets) or go to a commercial where a day ticket will cost you anything from £6-£10?

Then onto tackle, do you opt for rod, pole or whip? Each has their pros and cons, when I first started putting this list together, my initial thought was that a 12ft float rod would be the ideal tool to get started and there are some fantastic rods on the market for around £40-£50 and similarly there are some lovely reels around for £30-£40 and there are some great deals to be had if you shop around. But then the more I thought about it, I realised I couldn't remember the last time I used rod and line! So if we go down the pole route, you're then probably looking at £300-£400 for a half decent one, so that's out the window then!

What about a whip then? Well a whip is the most wallet friendly option with a decent one setting you back about £20-£30 and they are good fun too but you are a bit limited to what you can do with a whip so we're back to my original thinking of a rod and reel that won't break the bank. We then move on to all the other kit you need, seatbox, well we won't even go there! When I started, fibreglass boxes were top of the range and would only cost around £30, these days you can pay anything between £150 and £1000 for a place to rest your bum! To be fair I've had a look and you can get a basic plastic seatbox for about £30 but for the purpose of this list, our new starters will have to use a couple of deck chairs.

Similarly a keepnet is nice but not a necessity at this early stage whereas a landing net is essential and you can get a net and handle for around £15 which won't break the bank but already, it's all starting to add up. Right, that's the main items but what about all the bits and bobs they'll need for that first session? I'll list what I think is needed below and we'll go from there, I would love to hear your thoughts so please get in touch.

  • EA licence - £30 (free for juniors)
  • Day ticket - £5
  • Rod - £40
  • Reel - £30
  • Landing net and pole - £15
  • Spool of 3lb line - £2.50
  • A few waggler floats - £5
  • Split shot dispenser - £3
  • Couple packets of hooks to nylon (16 and 18)  - £3
  • Disgorger x 2 - £1
  • Plummets x 2 - £2
  • Bait box - £1.50
  • Half a pint of maggots - £1.50
  • Total - £139.50 (£109.50 for a junior)
So there you have it, just shy of £140 to get started, I have to admit that, although quite a bit of money, it's not as much as I expected it to be, of course there are other things that you would want to sooner rather than later, things like a catapult, keepnet, seatbox and a couple of rod rests but the above list will get you on the bank and hopefully catching a few fish.

I would also recommend going to your local tackle shop because although you might save a few quid by shopping online, your tackle dealer can give you invaluable advice on venues and put you in touch with angling clubs etc plus you can actually see what your buying and they will usually show you how to set your gear up as well.

It also really helps if there is a friend or relative who can show you the ropes, a lot of angling clubs hold supervised coaching days and these are brilliant for new starters.

The trouble comes when you become 'hooked' (if you'll excuse the pun) and the above is just the thin end of the wedge as you start to accumulate more gear, upgrade your rods and buy a pole, it becomes nearly as addictive as the fishing itself.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Dillington Pond - Summer League 3 - 4th June 2017

This week I was at Dillington for one of Ilminster AA's Summer league matches (I miss quite a few this year) and the pond has been fishing really well with Bill Hopping smashing the match record with over 58lb of bream and chub from peg 1 in the first match and John Dursley winning the second match with 25lb of bream and skimmers on the short pole. Feeder weights have been framing and so far the roach haven't really been showing, last year's big weights of small fish with the odd bonus haven't really materialised yet and it could be an intriguing match.

Ilminster Bowling Club have very kindly agreed to accommodate us for breakfast in the mornings and I'd heard some good reports after the first two matches so was looking forward to trying it for myself. I haven't been to the club since before Tesco's was built and I have to say what a great little venue, the breakfast was really nice and great value too, the service was spot on and I can't fault anything about it, there's plenty of parking too and I'm looking forward to my next visit already.

With Rob away on his holidays, it was down to Hurf to take up the organisational duties and he did a brilliant job, well done mate. The league is proving to be really popular with 18 anglers fishing every match so far and it's not the same anglers either so if they all want to fish one week, we're going to be struggling. Jeff Sparkes was fishing this week and Exeter Mike was joining us for the first time and bought me breakfast for booking him in and giving him some info - top man!

Hurf announced the draw and I ended up at the back of the queue and had the last ball in the bucket which turned out to be number 18 and I was well pleased as it's probably my favourite peg on the pond. For company I had Big Frank on 17, Leighton on 19 and Mike was on 20 with Bill on 21, Hurf was on 13 and my other side bet, Steve Parker was opposite on peg 8 with Jeff on 7 and Fieldy on 9. The two bush pegs were taken by Jess (24) and Rich S (1).
My favourite peg
My peg looked lovely and there were loads of fish topping all over the pond and I was really looking forward to this. After getting my box set up, the first job as always was to mix my groundbait, I normally use Bait-Tech's Pro Natural Dark but decided to also add some of the new Special G Dark as skimmers tend to like a bit of fishmeal, a glug of The Juice went into the water to mix it and I left it to settle while I got the rest of my kit ready.
The 'Dark Side'
Rigs for today were a 0.5 gram Drennan Roach for 10 metres on the deck, a little Preston Chianti for fishing shallow and a Drennan 0.2 gram AS1 for fishing two sections to hand, all three rigs had size 18 barbless B611's to 0.10mm hooklengths. I was ready in good time so walked up to have a quick chat with Mike and Bill who was keen to show me his whopper bait dropper! I wished them luck before heading back to my peg with a couple of minutes to go.
Why Bill, what a big one you have!
Hurf got us underway and I cupped in two balls of groundbait at 10 metres before starting on the two sections to hand rig by the reeds to my left with red maggot on the hook, I started catching small roach and perch so switched to caster which improved things a bit and I had a 3oz perch and monster Dillington barbel (gudgeon) but I was missing quite a few bites. I was feeding hemp and caster on the longer line but would wait until the short line started to fade before trying it, Frank, Leighton and Mike were all on the feeder and I hadn't seen them catch yet although John D on peg 3 had landed a skimmer.

After 45 minutes I probably had a pound or so and bites were becoming less frequent so it was time to switch lines, I had a couple of small roach but there were loads of quality fish swirling for the loose feed and I couldn't resist it so went out with the shallow rig and had some more roach and a rudd before hooking a better fish which turned out to be a 4oz chublet but then the missed bite madness began and despite changing depths and moving the shot about, nothing really helped to convert those missed bites into fish. Every now and again I'd get a couple of fish but I wasn't putting much in the net, I tried the depth rig again but was having to wait ages for bites and then they were only small roach and I was going nowhere fast.

Then I noticed Fieldy had loads of elastic out before he netted a good fish and then Jeff had a bream and when they both had another quite quickly, I felt I needed a bonus fish if I was going to compete so I opened a tin of corn and added a handful to my groundbait before cupping in three big balls on the pole line and while I left it to settle, I fished the top two again. I had a nice perch around 4oz first chuck and then a couple of roach but it wasn't really happening so after 20 mins I was back on the longer line with corn on the hook, I gave it half an hour but never had a bite on it, single caster wasn't much better.

In the other section John D had landed a few more skimmers but Jeff and Fieldy had slowed up a bit, nobody on my side seemed to be bagging, Leighton had one skimmer and I could see both Frank and Mike trying the pole so I guessed they weren't catching on the feeder and I hadn't seen Jess on peg 24 net anything. There were still fish swirling for the loose feed and I started getting the odd roach shallow again but was missing so many bites, Scotty Jackson turned up for a chat and I hooked what felt like a big fish but turned out to be a foul hooked roach around 8oz, still very welcome though. Thanks to Scotty Jackson for the 'action' shots.

I did manage a couple more chublets but every time I thought I was doing alright I then wouldn't catch for ten minutes. Some better fish started showing, Alvin Jones on peg 4 landed a good bream, Jess had a decent chub and Bill hooked into a lump but I still thought that if Jess framed, there was a chance of the section money. It had started raining but wasn't too bad but with an hour to go the heavens opened and I was soaked within minutes, the fish stopped swirling for the feed and my bites tailed off. Alvin hooked another big fish and he did well to land a big chub after it had gone in the lilies but then after he unhooked it, it flipped and missed the keepnet, Alvin shouted something I can't repeat here but lets just say he wasn't best pleased.

I only added a couple more fish and on the whistle my clicker was reading 91 fish and at an average ounce apiece I probably had around 6lb which I thought might give me an outside chance of the section money if Jess framed. I had the scales as well so packed up and put my sodden kit in the car before going up to start the weigh in with peg 24, Jess had two good chub and a bream for 11lb 9oz and I was sure he'd frame with that, Bill had a chub, a bream and a skimmer for 6lb 6oz and I wasn't sure I had that, Mike had 3lb 5oz, Leighton didn't weigh and then my fish went 7lb 10oz which was a bit better than I thought.
A rather wet Jess won the section with 11lb 9oz from peg 24
I weighed 7lb 10oz and was rather moist!
Frank had 3lb 9oz, Karl on 15 had 3lb 3oz but his Dad, Gordon, on peg 14 beat him with 4lb 5oz and then Hurf had 2lb 10oz so I finished up second in the section and needed Jess to frame. As the others started arriving back, Fieldy had the top weight in the other section with 16lb 8oz, followed by Jeff with 13lb 14oz and John D with 13lb 10oz and Adie Bishop with 13lb 5oz so very close weights and I'd only seen Adie net one fish! So those four took the frame places with Alvin winning that section by quadruple default! and Jess winning our section. Alvin practising catch and release proved to be costly for him as he weighed 10lb 8oz and he said that chub was a good 4lb plus!

1 - Graham Field (Taunton) - 16lb 8oz
2 - Jeff Sparkes (Exeter) - 13lb 14oz
3 - John Dursley (Enterprise Angling) - 13lb 10oz
4 - Adie Bishop (Taunton) - 13lb 5oz

A - Alvin Jones (County Gardening) - 10lb 8oz
B - Jess Jordan (County Gardening) - 11lb 9oz
The weigh sheets were so wet, I stuck them to the side of Hurf's van to take the photos!

So a very close match with the top six all having double figures, they've all had bonus bream or chub with the exception of John who had all skimmers on the feeder. A disappointing match for me, I worked hard but ended up a bit like a headless chicken and should have just got my head down although even if I hadn't wasted half an hour looking for a bonus I don't think I could have caught the 4lb of roach I needed to beat Jess. Like I said earlier it's certainly an intriguing venue. I did win pounds off Hurf and Steve P although he did a runner without paying up.

Next up - Summerhayes

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