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Tales from the Duchy by Stewart Lister

I listened to an interesting discussion on Matchfishing TV recently concerning ‘Veterans’ festivals and what constitutes a veteran, leading the discussion was Roger Mortimer aided by Tom Scholey and Joe Carrass. Incidentally, the latter twos combined age would not allow qualification to the recent inaugural Spring Veterans festival held at White Acres, which is currently 55 years of age. The discussion centred around 55 not been considered old enough to be called a veteran. I must admit that when I reached the age of 50 I certainly didn’t consider it old, but I have to be honest and remember back when I was 25 thinking my parents aged over 50 were ancient. I guess my kids think the same, as long as they keep their thoughts to themselves that’s fine with me. Certainly one of the best thing about our sport is the simple fact that whatever our age we can still compete at a high level and there is no reason why it cannot continue to a ripe old age. We may have to use some discretion on the venues and methods that we fish as these days wielding 16 metres of carbon all day catching F1’s maybe fine for one match but two in a weekend would be pushing it. 

My view is that veteran festivals are great events and I hope that I can fish them for many more years to come. Personally I can see them becoming more popular, I have spoken to several anglers recently who will be attaining veteran status, and they simply cannot wait.   

The question posed by Roger and his team is subjective, I base my feelings on the definition of veteran which in my book is ‘A person who has had a lot of experience of a particular activity’ Like myself the majority of the competitors that fished the festival have been match fishing since their teens, which at the age of qualification means over 40 years of match fishing, in my book that fulfils the definition. Long may these festivals continue and it certainly gives the youngsters something to look forward to. Hopefully they will remain in the sport long enough to achieve the veteran status!

The festival itself was competed in great spirits, everyone seems to enjoy their week. The fishing was challenging due to the very cold start to the week but it certainly improved as the week progressed. It is a four day event with each day counting, a sell out field of 60 experienced anglers divided into four main sections. Each day 15 anglers were divided by the daily draw into sub sections of 7 or 8 the winner of each daily section receiving 8 points.

My draw put me in A section starting on the Match Lake, I was more than happy with my rotation around the lakes. A dip in the bag of dreams on the first day saw peg 19 in my hand, a flyer! I was more than happy with the draw but with only 15 anglers on the whole lake there were lot of good pegs available, I did however march to my peg with some added zest in my old legs! Before I got there I was given a word of warning from my mate Andy ‘End Peg’ Dare who has been on great form for the last couple of years. I had apparently parked in his lucky parking space and the old boy was not happy, it was a double whammy as I had also not asked his permission to fish on ‘Dare point’ I promised not to do it again and told him I would pick his mail up from the peg. 

I had Joe Roberts for company on peg 20 so I was certainly not going to get it all my own way. There is so much that you can do on this peg and the last thing I wanted was to attempt too much so keeping it simple was uppermost in my mind. I could not ignore the feeder to the point of the island so along with that were several pole rigs to cover the 5 and 13 metre lines directly in front of me. A 16 metre rig to fish towards the island to my left and an edge rig to fish down to the empty pallet on my left. I was going to set up a swing rig to fish to the island but the wind was getting stronger and decided that I would forget that idea.

I also made the decision not to introduce groundbait and fish hemp and meat, it was a bit of a gamble but felt it was right, the water looked clear to me and I wanted to follow my instinct. The match started and I fed the pole lines with hemp and 6mm cubed meat and went straight on the pellet feeder. Nothing happened, no bites or liners and after around 10 minutes I was getting twitchy so reached for the pole. I had a skimmer first drop at 16 metres and lost another the next put in, surprisingly I could not get any more bites. The 13 metre line produced a skimmer and a foul hooked fish that was lost and the 5 metre line the same! A theme was developing and it looked like it was going to be hard work! Joe was getting the odd small carp and F1 but it did not look promising.

With around three hours left it was obvious that the fish were definitely not feeding on the bottom so I decided to fish long ‘deep shallow’ feeding meat by catapult. I had a go down the edge whilst I primed my long line. I found a couple of big VIP’s (Very Important Perch) down the edge which were welcome as they were over 2ln each, bites were few and far between though.

I spent the last half of the match fishing shallow and the swim got stronger as the match progressed. In the end I had a nice net of skimmers, a couple of F1’s and some big dog roach which went 45lb 10oz which was good enough to win the lake. Dave Gibbs was second with 40lb from peg 26 The lake fished hard no doubt the hard frost we experienced had taken its toll.

Day two saw me draw peg 18 on Trelawney. I had real mixed feelings about this peg as I have drawn it several times in the past and struggled. It really is a feast or famine peg at this time of year. As we move more into spring and the water warms the peg can be unbeatable. However, my mate Mike O’Gorman fished it the day previously and told me that it was a struggle.

It was pole only for me and I set up a 4 x 8 rig to fish meat tight to the island on the long pole. One rig to fish the margins especially towards peg 19 to my left and a rig to fish corn at 6 joints of my pole. I wanted to be away from the slope in the deeper part of my peg. At the start I cupped some corn in on the shorter pole lines and dobbed a piece of meat at around 15 metres tight to the island. I guess I had a bit of luck here as I saw what looked like a F1 swirl a metre to the left of where I chose to fish so shipped towards the fish using an old saying of ‘cast on a rise, get a surprise’ I had a bite immediately and my surprise was a skimmer of 10 oz.! Knowing there were some fish there I put on a pole pot and fed 6mm meat, next put in and a bite fairly quickly saw a lot of J Range Green elastic shoot from the pole. It was a common of around 5lb that just did not want to spend the next five hours in my keepnet! Nice start and to be honest this was an easy match as I had around 30lb in the first hour. After that it slowed a little but I managed to keep the odd fish coming and had a nice little spell catching F1’s at 6 metres to finish the match with 63lb which I am pleased to say was top weight on the day. Paul Jones was second on Trelawney with around 55lb and there were several weights of just under 50lb so it was close. Thinking about the match I feel I should have fished the long line a little more positively when it slowed down, but fortunately it didn’t matter on the day.

Day three and we moved onto Jenny’s I was last to draw and was surprised to feel three pegs still in the bag. I plucked peg 14 only to discover that 15 and 17 were left. It gave me a load of room but it also made 16 which is a tremendous peg even better. I went to my peg wishing I had drawn any of the other two but snapped out of those thoughts when I realised that two anglers had to go home as they were ill. At least I was still fishing!

I had planned my main attack to be the waggler but there was only one peg where I thought this would not work and I was sitting on it. I was in the narrowest part of the lake so the rod stayed in my bag. I plumbed for a feeder, a long corn line and a 5 metre meat line. I didn’t bother with the edge mainly due to all the fantastic work that has recently been done on this lake, I think it is going to need a short time to mature around the margins.

Starting on the feeder and I lasted all of 10 minutes, no bites and I felt if I was going to do well on the pole I needed as much time as possible. I started to catch small Carrassio at 14 metres on corn which was great as it allowed me to feed by hand two 5 metre lines. I initially cupped meat to my right and casters by hand to the left. After an hour things were slowing so it was time to look short. Disappointingly I could not get a bite on the meat. It was a different story on the caster with some nice roach showing. Before long I was missing bites and that was the signal to shallow up which kept the fish coming. I decided to introduce some meat with the casters and 10 minutes later slipped a piece on the hook which resulted in a 12 oz skimmer, happy days! The rest of the match can only be described as fantastic fishing, I had one of the most enjoyable days fishing I have had in a long time, finishing with 52lb 10oz even been beaten by less than four pound for the section was not too disappointing. The section was won by Dave Phillips from peg 16 who had 56lb of feeder fish. Incidentally the lake was won by Paul Jones with 59lb who fished the waggler.

The last day and it was Python for me which was proving to be a tricky section I could do with a nice draw especially as it was tight at the top of the leader board myself and Malcolm Johnson were leading with 23 points each so it could go either way and with a couple of anglers on 22 points another good day was needed!

I ended up on peg 33 not exactly where I would have chosen as the end pegs on the Python narrows really dominate and I was three from the end. Unbelievably the two spare pegs that we had in our group were both in the other section so there was no help on that front.

I had made my mind up that I had to fish the match with a least one positive line, most I knew had fished negatively on this lake so it was a gamble but my thinking was that if I fished positively down the middle of the track as far to my right as I could, it still left me with a lot of options if it all went pear shaped! Feeding three 250ml cups of Spro Cresta Dark Roach ground bait containing a good helping of chopped worms and dead reds to my right I said a little prayer to Lord Pices as the last ball went in! I fed some loose particles of meat and a few grains of corn to my left and one ball of GB on my short line. Starting at 14 metres with corn against the island resulted in no bites, the same with meat! Changing to double red maggot produced a bite that was a very welcome brown fan tailed goldfish of around a pound, a couple of roach followed but it was hard. I couldn’t see much being caught around me. A look on the left particle line produced nothing. Time to try the groundbait line with worm on the hook. It was great to see the float disappear after a couple of minutes and a skimmer was soon in the net. A few more followed before it died. There was nothing much happening on any of my other lines so decided to feed another ball of groundbait and importantly a couple of balls where I had initially just fed particles. I caught a few more fish on all three lines that I had fed groundbait on and felt that I had around 10lb in the net at the end, which is what everyone around me was admitting to! The scales arrived and my net went 13lb which I could not believe was leading with two to weigh Les Moody next to me had 11lb which left Gary Bell on end peg 36 as soon as he lifted his net from the water I knew he had won the section the scales proved that recording 16lb 1 oz

As soon as I got to the car park I heard that Malcolm had also come second in his section on Jenny’s but with a great weight of 75lb which was going to be enough to secure him the title. I have to take my hat of and congratulate him as he fished really well all week and the last two days he came second on his lakes with big weights, he recorded an 80lb on Trelawney to go with his effort on Jenny’s my mate Andy Dare beating him on both of the last two days. As you may have guessed Andy managed to get his lucky parking space back!

Well done to the fishery team at White Acres for providing the old boys and gals with a fantastic festival which I am sure is going to become a big hit in the future.

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