The first festival of the year is always something to always look forward to, the long hard winter is behind us and with longer, warmer days and good fishing ahead it is the start of summer for me.
My rotation saw me on Pollawyn for the first day and I drew peg 22, not a favoured draw in my opinion, I have drawn it before and struggled to beat anyone in the section, whenever I have seen this peg produce it has usually been at top 5 with big carp late in the match, so I set a rig up for this line and kept my fingers crossed. There is a bar at 16m in front of this peg and usually produces a few fish, so the plan was to start here and see what happens.
With pellet banned for this festival, meat was going to be the bait to use and so I cupped in half a pot of meat on the bar in about 3ft of water as well as another half pot at top 5. I started at 16m and it wasn't long before I was getting bites from skimmers and the odd F1, by keeping the peg topped up with meat in a kinder pot I was able to keep bites coming for most of the match, I tried the top 5 line on a number of occasions throughout the match and never had a bite.
At the weigh in I had 82lb which was roughly half and half skimmers and F1s, this put me second on the lake and a nice section win, 83lb won the lake.
Tuesday draw was peg 13 on Twin Oaks, normally there is 9 anglers on this lake but with reduced numbers this year and 6 peg sections, I was fishing against pegs 12 to 17, peg 16 has won more matches than any other peg on this planet, so it was always going to be up against it.
This lake is always straight forward to fish, 99% of the fish get caught against the far bank at this time of the year, all you need to decide is bomb or feeder, so my plan was to ping meat to the far side, fish a bomb and then as the match progresses start to feed the 6m line with meat and hope to get a few fish in the last hour on this line.
Everything went as predicted, an 8mm punched piece of meat was the best hook bait and the tighter it was cast to the far bank the better, I got the odd bite all day and in the last hour I caught 4 large carp on the top 6 line that I had been feeding for over 2 hours. At the weigh in one of my nets went over the limit by about 3-4lb, I hoped this wan't going to cost me, and I had to settle for 134lb. This was enough to win the lake.
Wednesday, I drew peg 9 on Jennys, in this section pegs 4,6 and 7 had been dominating so I was a bit disappointed with this draw, the day before one of the better local anglers drew it and only caught 30lb. On the monday Cameron Hughes, who I was sharing with, won this section with 100lb of skimmers, tench and a few F1s, so I had the right info.
The plan was to fish chopped worm at top 5 in front, and then meat at top 6 off to the left, I could get a bite every drop in on the worm in front of me, but a lot of the fish were small skimmers, too small to catch a big weight, I kept feeding the meat at top six and kept trying it but it wasn't until the last hour when it started to produce better than the worm, the fish were a lot better stamp than on the worm. My other option was to fish long down the edge to peg 10 in the hope of a carp or two late in the day, the margins on this lake are very shallow and catching these carp can be very tricky with so little water, the plan was to feed the margin for a long time and build their confidence before trying to catch them. In the last half an hour, by now the late was fading, I caught 4 large carp on meat.
At the weigh in I had a total weight of 89lb, which was top weight on Jennys, the 4 late carp went about 28lb and the skimmers weighed 60lb, so now I had 3 section wins. The 18 points put me second overall to Des, who also had a better weight than me.
Thursday saw me draw peg 41 on Trewaters, I've seen this peg win the lake before, but so far this week the end peg 37 had dominated this section. Today the wind was blowing a gale, from left to right, this limited my choices. All I set up was a bomb rod for the meat against the island and a top five line with meat, I also set up a margin rig for my right hand side towards the free platform.
The match started slowly for most people on the lake, just the odd bite, but gradually I started to catch regular. This peg is a little wider than most on the lake, thats definitely an advantage under match conditions, also when you cast tight to the island you are fishing onto gravel, most of the other pegs you are fishing on top of clay.
I kept trying my top five line and could usually get a quick bite or two, but it was very hard to keep the bites coming on this line, while on the tip I could usually get a bite if I waited long enough. I never even tried my margin line, other anglers on the lake were trying theirs but not catching anything more than the odd fish, and they had more room than me.
I finished the match with 23 carp and 10 F1s for a weight of 69lb and another lake win. I now had 24 points and was leading the festival with just Bolingey to go, a section win here and I couldn't be beaten.
Bolingey had 24 pegs on it for this festival and not the usual 36, so obviously some pegs had to be left out, in general the fewer anglers gave the anglers more room and the weights were better, so nobody was complaining, but the extra room did change the habits of the fish.
I drew peg 16 and was reasonably happy with my draw, peg 13 is normally in this section of 9 but it was one of the ones removed, this now meant pegs 11 and 15 had a very long margin between them and these pegs had been dominating this section with big carp being caught late towards the empty pegs.
My plan for my peg was to ping meat towards the island and fish a bomb, I also fed a top 5 line, where the water is very deep as the bank I was fishing is a dam for the lake. I started of catching quite well on the tip and was regularly putting the odd carp in the net, this section is one of the few on Bolingey where you can see everyone in your section, so I had a good idea of how I was doing, with an hour to go I had about 15 carp in the net and was comfortably leading the section, things were looking good, then pegs 11 and 15 both started to catch carp down their margins and I had to sit and watch as I became increasingly frustrated as they both caught me up and went past me, I had an angler either side of me, so had no chance of catching on my margin line.
At the weigh in I had 101lb, peg 11 had 104lb and peg15 had 122lb and I had to settle for a frustrating third in the section. I now had 4 wins and a third, this dropped me to third overall as Paul Holland beat me by a point and I drew with Des on points, but he had a better weight than me by 5lb.
Overall it was a very good festival, most people caught plenty of fish and it was the first festival I have fished where Porth Reservoir hadn't been used. I love Porth and it has been very kind to me in the past, but by not using it you save on a lot of space in the van and cut down on your preparation an awful lot, but I would still like it to be included in all future festivals.