After a long break from matches due to the extreme weather I was really looking forward to this Hereford open held on the Belmont section of the Wye. The river had fished really well the previous Sunday with 27 competitors catching more than 10lb, but I hadn’t fished as I was on holiday. Tony Birt won with over 50lb of Dace and roach from peg 60 so the mood at the draw in the morning was buoyant with similar weights expected. The river looked in fine form and was dropping after a small flood (6ft above normal level) however we had a hard frost to contend with.
I drew peg 79 on the far bank below the old railway bridge. I’ve never drawn this peg before and as is not normally included in the Winter league matches, the peg for me was a bit of an uncertainty. Pete Pembridge the match organiser told me that it had fished well the previous Sunday for Perch and I know there are odd chub about in the area as well.
When I arrived at the peg I sat on my box and had a good look at the swim. The river was still about 5ft above normal and the water was fairly coloured. However it also had a very cold look about it and I summarised that much of the flood water was actually snow melt. Everyone around me seemed to be concentrating on float tactics and mixing mountains of groundbait and I had a feeling that the river was going to fish hard. Directly in front of me the swim was fairly boily (turbulent) and although it became steadier as it ran through the peg, I didn’t really fancy it for the float. As always on the Wye I like to keep tactics simple and decided to set up just a feeder and Stick float. I intended to start on feeder about 3 rod lengths (12m) out at the edge of the main flow and fish the Stick float close to the bank (about 5m). By starting on a feeder and feeding the float carefully I felt I could gauge the response from the fish without risking over feeding them, and hopefully build the peg up and maximise its potential.
The feeder I selected was a small 40grm cage feeder and I mixed 2 kilos of Dynamite roach groundbait with some crushed hemp. My plan was to start on this groundbait feeder with small amounts of chopped worm and casters.
I like starting on a groundbait feeder like this when the river is coloured as the response is often quick and very versatile. You can expect to catch Roach, Dace, Perch and Chub and the result will dictate whether to stick with groundbait , switch to maggot feeder or if the fish are feeding well attack with the float.
The all in was shouted and I had my first bite on a whole worm just 15 mins into the match and hooked and landed my first roach which was about 10oz. The cast was a simple underarm and I fished the feeder directly in front of me. The line was clipped up to ensure I was fishing in a tight area and I was casting regularly probably every 3-4 minutes. I like to fish like this and would rather cast more frequently with a small feeder than cast less often with a bigger capacity feeder. The old adage ‘fish feeder think float’ really is a good one and is always in the back of my mind when feeder fishing.
Rod = 13ft Superteam Feeder with the stiffest no 1 tip
Reel = MACH 3XT 40FD
Reel Line = 6lb Berkley Sensation
Hooklength = 2-5ft 0.18mm Berkley
Hook Size 8 or 12 Gamakatsu Blue
I got into a good rhythm of casting the feeder regularly, feeding the float line and catching roach fairly steadily on the feeder and after 2 hours had landed about 12 nice roach. To be honest I was surprised to be catching such good size roach (between 6oz and 1lb) and because I could see very little been caught around me kept going.
I varied the hook bait between a whole worm, just a tail of a worm or the head and was fishing very positively with a size 8 hook and 0.18mm hooklength. For roach this may seem excessive but I think its required when fishing such big baits. I did try a smaller size 12 hook with bits of worm and maggots but the fish defiantly preferred a bigger bait on the day, probably due to the colour and pace of the river.
Most of the bites where very positive and resulted in a drop back on the tip or a series of jagged pulls, in either case the fish where well hooked and I only pulled out of two fish all day. I was troubled with false bites from weed and sticks but that’s expected when fishing in flood conditions and you just have to keep casting!
As always when feeder fishing I also varied the length of the hooklength between 2-5ft. To be honest it didn’t really seem to make much difference to my bite to catch ratio but it’s always pays to keep experimenting.
After 4 hours I had landed over 30 roach and after a few calls from my mates and also the bankside telegraph, I was surprised to hear that I may be winning the match! So apart from 3 quick bite less casts on the float to see if any fish where feeding close in, I decided to keep fishing the feeder and aim for a target of 40 roach. I ended with 36 and a total weight of 26lb5oz. I was very pleased with this weight from the peg, especially as they had all been caught on the feeder. As always on the Wye expect the unexpected and it wasn’t until I returned to the rowing club for the results that it was confirmed I had won the match. In fact the match had been really hard and my negative (but positive) approach had worked. Steve Ashmore (WB Clarkes) was second with 7lb 6oz from peg 80 (below me) and team mate Leigh Gardner was 3rd with 6lb 8 from peg 60. In fact my other team mates who fished on the day also picked up money as Nigel Davies was 5th and Steve Williams won his section…..if only it had been a team match!