Thursday, 18 January 2018

Thursday 18/01/2018 - Silverfox Open - Boyd Valley Lakes

I haven't fished this lake for a number of years, not because of the fishing but due to the lack of anyone willing to organise anything. I have had some great days fishing here. I regularly walk from home to Boyd Valley Lake throughout the year and have been impressed with how it has fished during the summer. My Grandchildren fished there in October and had a nice net of Roach. So with nothing on locally I booked the venue for the Thursday Coffin Dodgers. I was surprised in the interest and ended up with 16 fishing. I now think the venue can take 18/19 with a bit of pruning.

I really didn’t know how it was going to fish especially with the overnight weather of gale force winds. My expectation was low for Carp but higher for Silvers. How wrong this was.

I wanted a peg with double digits. Unfortunately I let Harry Muir draw for me and handed me peg 1. I did have a good look in case he accidently tore off the second digit, alas not. This is the last and only last time Harry touches a swim card of mine. The wind has been gusting into the peg for many days so my expectation wasn’t high. So serve Harry’s right when he arrived on peg 2.

First things first happy birthday to peg 13.

I set a 4x14 to fish down the inside shelf in 6 foot of water at top-set plus three to fish maggot over GB laced with a few of the same, two 4x10 Speedy’s, one to fish to my right with Pinkie and the other to fish caster to my left. The upshot was after three hours I didn’t have a bite on the positive rigs, so went for the Banana walk. Glenn Bailey was doing the best with four Carp and Paul Barnfield best in the Silvers with three fry Roach. I went back and spent the rest of the match fishing on the Pinkie line inside the reed bed, managing 33 bites catching only seven tiny Roach.

I weighed 3oz for joint third in the Silvers with Birthday boy who thankfully finished second in the match, so I didn’t have to split the coin.

The match was won by Glenn “No Pots” Bailey (pictured upper right with some of his catch) with 54lb 6oz from peg 11. Glenn caught of various methods – Pole with soft pellet and DR’s. And the lead over to the sedges on DR’s and bread. Glenn also caught a decent Skimmer - Hybrid on the pole which landed him the double bubble. Glenn pictured right with the default Silvers winner.

I must say all the Carp caught toady were in excellent condition. 

A special well done to Mike Jones for his third overall catch of two decent Carp on his preferred Daiwa whip set-up (not for the faint hearted).

Overall it was a good day especially with the expected rain not putting in an appearance, plus it was back to the Holly Bush with the usual suspects.

Full Result:

  1. Glenn Bailey 54-06-0 peg 11
  2. Tony Rixon 17-11-0 peg 13
  3. Mike Jones 17-01-0 peg 5
  4. Ryan Jordon 16-06-0 peg 6

  1. Glenn Bailey 1-10-0 peg 11
  2. Paul Barnfield 1-01-0 peg 9
  3. Hughie Evans 0-12-0 peg 8
  4. Mike Nicholls and Tony Rixon 0-03-0 pegs 1 and 13
Weigh Sheet:

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Kennet and Avon Canal

The first time I fished the Kennet and Avon Canal (K&A) was in 1961 at the age of twelve. Dad took me and my school mate Christopher Williams to Limpley Stoke. Chris had borrowed his Granddads rod (vintage even then). We travelled by bus to Bristol Temple Meads GWR then train to Freshford. Dad couldn’t drive. I think Dad had originally planned to fish the river at Limpley Stoke but finding the river in flood took us on the Canal fifty yards down from the road bridge towards Bath (pictured upper right). Back then there were parts of the Canal around Bath that were un-navigational, with some parts completely dry, so no powered boat traffic,
rendering the Canal gin clear and very weedy. I remember catching at least one Roach on bread that day. Chris didn’t catch anything; in fact Dad had to get in the Canal to retrieve his Granddads rod top joint. Subsequently, Dad and I had a few visits to the Canal catching quality Roach on bread around the George at Bathampton. However, we needed to rove along the Canal as it was a case of one fish per swim. The best way to catch them was in between gaps in the weeds. On the way to the river at Claverton I would often stand on the Bridge over the Canal (pictured right) watching the shoals of Tench. Dad would always say “If you can see them, they can see you”. Of course Dad was right I tried a few times to catch one but always failed, with them disappearing within a few minutes.

During the late sixties/seventies the Kennet and Avon Trust started refurbishing the Canal around Bath starting with the various locks. Anglers weren’t sure about the impact this would have on catches but as we now know the increase boat traffic improved it immensely.

My first match on the Canal was circa 1975 when the Bathampton AA Christmas match was transferred from the highly flooded river. I remember drawing next to Chris Rolfe just above the George Public House back towards Bath and because of the numbers fishing around 350 we were pegged about eight foot apart! Neither Chris nor I took a prize home, both blanking.

In the early Seventies Mike Jones then Match Secretary of Bathampton AA started running evening matches at Darlington just up from the Wharf (pictured right). Mike won most of these three hour matches using punched bread with around 6lb of small Roach. He showed me how to feed white bread in brown crumb - take off the crust from the white bread, put water in the GB bowl and swish up the white bread into small particles, drain some of the water, and add brown crumb and mix together, very quick and easy. This worked well and was the forerunner to liquidised bread – or rather Liquidisers.

In the eighties the Canal became more popular for matches still normally as a reserve venue for a flooded Bristol River Avon and not a first choice. I fished a number of matches between Bath and Avoncliffe organised by the Commercial House League, Angling Times South West Winter League, Fry’s AA, The Silver Dace, King William, Golden Carp and Bathampton AA. These matches attracted between 60 and 140 anglers. During this period I was framing in a good number of theses matches.

During the late Eighties I started to fish Canal Opens where ever I could mostly Saturdays on the Beehive section (up and down from the Pub) at Trowbridge ran by Bradford AA, which were well attended by the likes of Mike Stone, Nicky Collins, Richard Chave (Rigsby) and Terry Bruton… to name but a few. At one of these matches I was chatting to Rich Coles who got me worked up talking about the Devizes AA Carnival Cup, especially the bit about the anglers who framed getting a kiss from the Carnival Queen. These matches were very popular and well attended with 250 + anglers and fished on the Devizes AA controlled K&A from Semington Bridge to Wilcot, some 15 miles of Canal. Rich also mentioned fishing some of the Devizes AA Honeystreet opens as it was fishing well for Skimmers and Bream. This I tried and loved the place learning squatt fishing for big Skimmers from great anglers like Jimmy Norris. During these matches I developed a fishing style that was to later win me some big Canal matches.

On the 2nd February 1990 the Angling Times South West Winter League was fished on the Canal from Bathampton to Limpley stoke accommodating 156 anglers. A match I won comfortably (result pictured right). This persuaded me to concentrate my open match fishing on the K&A Canal not just because of this result but finding I could do well from most pegs as opposed to what the river Avon was currently offering. I had found my niche.

One match that I remember well was the Devizes Open at Seend Park - Bowerhill, my peg being just above where a young lad was later to be badly electrocuted touching his pole on overhead power lines. I had done well enough to hope for either a frame placing or a section win catching Crucian Carp and Tench on a small home made Peacock waggler on running line over to the far bank with double red maggot. Because of the size of these matches and with limited number of scales it was customary to pass scales along sections. Your swim card clearly explained what your role would be. So after packing up knowing my section would be last to weigh I wasn’t initially worried that it was taking so long for the scales to arrive. It wasn’t long before anglers around me who I had beat were throwing back and going home. I walked along and found Rich Coles who also had also done well and agreed if I kept and eye on his kit he would walk back to HQ - The Three Magpies and get some scales. Two hours after all out we finally weighed ourselves in, plus the few others that remained. I weighed 10lb, with Rich beating me with 12lb. Glad we stayed both sneaking in the frame. Apparently we were told that a guy named Steve Jackson should have weighed us in but had packed in early leaving before the end of the match and not bothering to pass his weighing duties to the next angler! The organisers and anglers weren’t amused because all had to wait for our return. Because of the long wait I do believe the organiser may have had a couple of ciders too many.

On the 24th June 1990 I fished my first Devizes Carnival Open Match. The Devizes AA Match Secretary back then was Terry Fell who was later to become President of the NFA and is still active today with the Angling Trust. Terry fished many of the matches but never the big ones as it took a lot of effort working the results especially the team matches. In to the draw with 240 other anglers and out comes a peg which was three pounds down from the access stile at Bowerhill, a very good area for Tench and Skimmers. I had bought myself a 13 metre Trianna Grandslam Pole which was then the bees knees, very stiff – not seen anything stiffer since, strong but heavy enough to sit on when fishing long. I thought the waggler float gave the better presentation rather than the top and bottom floats on the pole so had bought some Billy Makin Canal Greys – Balsa wagglers taking 2, 3 and 4BB. The reason I found the waggler best was because of presentation during specific feeding patterns of the Tench and Skimmer/Bream. The fish feeding patterns were significantly influenced by the boat movement all along the Canal. Primarily the opening and closing of locks both up and down stream. The Canal therefore towed either from Bath or to Bath. When the Canal was still it probably would have been better to have adopted the top and bottom float, however, during these periods I only caught the odd Tench and small Skimmers. When the Canal towed from Bath which gave the most flow the fishing was the most prolific. It was best to fish over tight to the far side which was most effected by the tow, so with the waggler set well over depth and dragging through slowly (not laying on) I would catch well. When the Canal flowed towards Bath the flow wasn’t as great but could still pick off the odd Tench and Skimmer. I weighed 19lb for second overall picking up a month’s salary and that promised kiss from the carnival Queen. Nicky “The Stick” Iles got in the frame and queue expectant of a kiss from the Carnival Queen, however, she took one look at his, let’s say sugar affected teeth and offered her cheek instead!

However, I felt that Billy’s floats were a little too long, so looked initially to shorten them, not easy with balsa wood, they always ended hairy and subsequently hard to paint smooth. I then thought of using the small pieces of peacock quill we had been using with the curly line on the Bristol Avon to catch Dace off the top. So I started making my own Canal floats (pictured right), simple shotting of 2 no10’s down and the rest at the float. Main line 2lb maxima and 1 ½ lb maxima hook length to a no 20 B520 micro barbed hook. Hook baits were either single caster or more often double red maggot fished over loose fed squatts and casters – half a pint of each was always sufficient. This worked really well. Soon after I fished an open match on the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal and found myself next to Kevin Ashhurst who was using a similar float but top and bottom and no insert – just a piece of unpainted Peacock Quill.

On the 15th July 1990 I was eager to fish the Devizes Teams of Four and Steve Hutchinson and I got two teams together our team included Steve’s brother Dave Lewis. Eighty teams of four had entered 320 anglers. By now I was really confident of doing well as I had been framing on most of the Devizes mid week and Sunday matches so didn’t mind where I drew. I was drawn at Seend Park just round the bend from behind the farm, some ten pegs above the flyer everyone wanted on the outfall just above Seend Lock. I was happy because although it was narrow I was opposite a weed bed which the Tench liked to back into. Luckily there was plenty of water movement to and fro without seeing too many boats. I was soon catching Tench to 3 ½ lb and Skimmers to 2 lb. A day’s fishing never to be forgotten. Back to the Three Magpies for the result to find I had won the match with 30lb 9oz (my catch pictured right) and Team mate Dave Lewis coming second with 26lb 8oz which included a 6 lb Carp first dobbin (no change here). The Team sneaked in sixth and last in the team payout with 237 points. Two things I remember whilst waiting for the result, first I tripped over a metal tent peg and cut my shin, secondly an angler named Steve Jackson poured a bucket of water over his travelling partner Pepe Luxa (I think that’s how you spell his name) who subsequently chased Jacko around the fields with another bucket but didn’t catch him.

My Son Steve and I fished a Devizes AA midweek match which was well attended and found ourselves one peg apart behind the Farm at Semington with Lee Nutland in between us. As Steve didn’t have a long enough pole to reach the far side I suggested he use the waggler and straight lead. The match proved to be very much a Bream match with the species feeding really well for half the match – I had only the one Tench in my weight of 19lb 3oz beaten into third place by Steve who was runner up with 22lb 1oz. But more important to me Lee Nutland was battered both sides by the Nicholls’s. As Steve was a poor student I sponsored his pools. Steve won just over £100 which he spent on a nice leather jacket.

 Another placing at Semington

One match that lives in my memory is one fished at Honeystreet. It was another decent size match with well over 100 fishing. I travelled to the match with then travelling partner Andy Floyd. I drew between the Chicken Sheds and the Barge Inn (pictured right). The Chicken Sheds use to hold a large shoal of Bream, but had recently moved off to pastures new. The bank was such I could get the box down into the water, which at times was essential for a 13 metre pole, but found during the match the box gradually started to sink but by adjusting my weight could keep the box level. After the match I found it hard pulling the box up from the mud and with every action there is a reaction so I sank into the mud. Finally having retrieved my box and with my back to the bank I swivelled around and put the box on the bank. A sudden pain in my lower back ensued and with my feet now well and truly stuck I had to get help from some of the drinkers from the pub to get me out. I managed to get to the pub and purchase some Aspirins which I swilled down with four quick pints of ale. This did nothing for the pain. Luckily Andy Floyd arrived and got my kit and drove me home. I sat upright for most of the night and went to the doctors first thing Monday morning. The Doctor sent me to a specialist friend of his. I just managed to get there and within 10 minutes of treatment the sever pain had gone to be replaced by a satisfying dull ache. Apparently I had dislocated my Pelvis which was put back in place with a quick wrench. The best £35 I will ever spend.

Since 1993 the K&A has gradually declined with regards the big Bream and Tench, most probably due to the increase in boat traffic and building of Marinas. However, there is still plenty of small fish to be caught especially around Bath, BUT the boat mooring is becoming a big problem for match organisers pegging a match the day before only to find boats have moved. It’s on the cards that the K&A around Bath will soon be a no go for matches due to not being to able to find enough pegs between boats. I’ve not fished the Canal since 2000 due to Dog Shit, Speeding Bikers, Walkers and inconsiderate boat owners. If the Canal fished like it did in the late 80’s and 90’s I would be first to book in.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Sunday 14/01/2018 - Windmill Open - Match Lake

A friend of mine passed way last week. I will always remember our visits Trout fishing down Chew Valley. His double hauling classic fly casting always impressed me, as did his cooking. He loved his food, we always started the days fly fishing on a full breakfast cooked on a primus in the back of his van, the best I ever had, and a curry on the way home washed down with a few pints. RIP gentle giant will miss our stupid chats after a few and you driving home with one eye shut.

Less of the sentiment back to today’s fishing. A nice breakfast devoured in the company of Geoff Francis at Wetherspoons – Staple Hill. Disappointing that only seven fishing, but not surprising as the Viaduct Winter League started today – up the Silverfox’s. I went in last and pulled peg 23, happy with this as I was on the right side of the Lake. Geoff drew peg 27 AGAIN, this time he had the addition of the curse of the golden peg. Terry and his band of merry men have done a good job on refurbing some of the pegs - mine pictured right. 

With the wind near nonexistent (not a good omen here) I set up the waggler in the anticipation of catching an early Carp, a 4x16 to fish down the shelf at top-set plus three and a 4x12 to fish the margin. I fed the margin and just down the shelf both with GB laced with maggot but started on the waggler over loose fed LR’s which presented itself very well. The upshot of all these lines I didn’t have a bite. After 2 hours I walked the Lake and found three had caught with Geoff leading the charge with four Skimmers. I now regret telling geoff it would fish well today! Back in the saddle and after reflecting on a possible blank with a cup of tea, after which I dropped the cup in the maggots – end of my drinking today then. I decided to start the match again adding two more sections – two swims one at 10-o-clock to fish maggot over potted micro and maggot and one out in front at the same distance with GB laced with maggot. Another hour passed before I had my first bite a 6 oz Skimmer which shed the hook on the way back due to poor angling. Yet more poor angling ensued losing two more. After a period of calming I changed to very light elastic. This did the trick and by swapping between the two lines added the odd Skimmer and one 6oz Roach to the net.

I weighed 7lb 7oz for first overall and first in the Silver. Another double bubble and a decent pickup considering the attendance and pleasurably received from the queen of the weigh board (pictured upper right – eat your heart out Geoff, Martin and uncle Tom Cobbly…)


  1. Mike Nicholls 7-07-0 peg 23
  2. John Osborne 6-08-0 peg 25

  1. Mike Nicholls 7-07-0 peg 23
  2. John Osborne 6-08-0 peg 25
Weigh Sheet:

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Thursday 11/01/2018 - Bathampton AA Open - Bridge Pool

My first match was supposed to be Windmill Fishery last Sunday. I arrived at the fishery (driveway has been repaired - yippy) and walked up to the Lake and found that the NE wind was excruciating. Four more anglers arrive and I went home.

So today was my first match, the Bathampton AA Open Match at Hunstrete on Bridge Pool. I wasn’t surprised to see only 14 anglers booked in because the fishery is fishing so badly. Everyone knows why except the custodians. We can apparently now use micro barbed hooks, but with no limit on hook size I think is a retrograde step. It’s the big barbed hooks that does the damage. Having used barbless hooks for 20 years it was no change for me.

We all like to start the New Year with a good’un so in to the draw bag and out came counter 30. All I really wanted was a peg I could use the waggler on and this was one of them. For company I had Paul Barnfield who was on end peg 31 and Hughie Evans on 29.

Set up the waggler to fish over to the island where I anticipated I would catch some Carp and a 4x16 to fish at 11.5 metres with maggot over GB and maggot for Skimmers.

After feeding the pole line with maggots in GB and feeding DR’s over I started on the waggler with double LR’s, second cast I had a 1 ½ lb Perch, quickly followed by another. Some more feed and within seconds I had a small Carp, then a small Perch. More feed and another small scale perfect Common Carp. The swim seemed to die so tried the pole and had two decent Skimmers, before going back out on the wag. Another small Carp and a couple of big Skimmers before I went over the re-fed pole line and another big Skimmer before I lost one half way back. Even though I kept trying the pole that’s was it not another bite so stayed on the waggler and had another decent Perch, another small Carp and last cast a 10 lb beautiful Common Carp which tired me out some.

My six Carp weighed 27lb 8oz and my Silvers 11lb 14oz (5lb of this was three Perch) giving me a very welcome first match double bubble with a winning weight of 39lb 6oz. Me pictured right with my Carp net.

 Full Result:

  1. Mike Nicholls 39-06-0 peg 30
  2. Paul Barnfield 10-08-0 peg 31
  3. Chris Ollis 10-03-0 peg 10

  1. Mike Nicholls 11-14-0 peg 31
  2. Paul Barnfield 10-08-0 peg 31
  3. Chris Ollis 10-03-0 peg 10
Weigh Sheets:

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Review of 2017

With sixteen matches where I was OOO (One Out Of) picking up I thought it was going to be an indifferent year. However, it proved to be another typical year, had I managed to convert these OOO’s it would have been an exceptional year, missing out a few times by ounces. One I won’t forget is losing out to Dave Wride at Shiplate Farm by one ounce my 30lb 9oz of Roach to Dave’s 30lb 10oz of Skimmers on adjacent pegs. I did get revenge. No blanks or DNW’s this year.

I look to get about 100 matches in per year and managed that with 101. The number of anglers match fishing in my circuit has once again remained stable. It was comforting to read a report by the Environment Agency that the sell of Junior fishing licences has increased by 25% this year. Let’s hope they all haven’t had their competitive instincts taken from them at school by the “Do Gooders”

This year matches have been seriously affected by high winds. My best Silvers weight of 57lb 13oz would have been greater had the wind been less. It’s hard work presenting the Ronnie rig in gale force winds. Needless to say that my highest weight of 150lb at Windmill was also wind affected, this was on my first match on the Carp Lake, my cath made up of 1lb 8oz small Carp. This is currently the Lake record.

My average weight per match has reduced directly due to me fishing more for Silvers this year, which I will continue with next year

Started off the year fishing Ivy House the attraction being the refurbished and restocked “Old Canal” renamed Kingfisher, a venue that would suit both me and Bela. I could do my short pole thing with soft pellet/maggot catching the small stock Carp and Silvers and Bela could fish long with pellet catching the bigger Carp. One thing I soon realised was that you had to fish out the small Carp before the big Skimmers would put in an appearance, making the Silvers a late in the match affair unless your peg didn’t have too many of these tiny Carp. The van had a few double bubbles, and of course the one Sunday the van broke down resulted in a very uncomfortable ride back in the tow truck, both Bela and I had bad backs for days.

Chris Rolfe ran the Bathampton AA/Veals Thursday Silvers individual league at Hunstrete on Bridge pool, which was a very strong league of 24 which included two England Internationals proving to be a very tight league. I finished the league second overall with a little more luck on the last match I might have won it. That said I was very happy with all my draws. I drew peg 19 which I thought was going to be very hard but proved to produce the best weight of the league. Unfortunately due to the silvers fishing being so poor in the latter part of this year no one wants to fish the league next year. The fishery is a shadow of its formal self. Bathampton Committee needs to be much more commercially minded if the club is to survive.

Fished Tony Rixon’s Float only and Short pole leagues. Unfortunately due to Son Mark and Inger his German partner marrying twice (Bath Registry Office and in Nord Friesland) I couldn’t fish two of the matches but if both reserves results had counted WE would have framed. On the Short pole match in the first one I had a poor draw Carp wise, so with little chance of catching up in the overall league I fished for Silvers and picked up in all the matches. I can’t speak highly enough of Tony and he effort he puts in to these popular matches, where would match fishing be without anglers like him. Also I have to thank Steve Evans for being his scribe, amazing handwriting considering his health issues. Tony won his short pole match with Craig Edmonds aka Trig winning the float only. “Some say that he is half Russian and designed the Mosella bag-in-a-bag-in-a-bag- in-a……All I know that he catches a lot of fish.” Tony has some different venues for these leagues next year.

We had our yearly holiday at Viaduct in one of the Lodges during which I ran a Saturday 13 metre only and a Wednesday Short pole match. This year will be the same with the added addition of a float only open on the Tuesday at Avalon. I will give priority to those that fished the previous years. Dates will be published nearer the time. We all had a great time with the weather being kind. I suppose I will have to endure another of their cheese parties next year. However, Geoff Francis will I think be steering clear of “Stan” – It was funny seeing him dribble his curry down his front – matron would have been annoyed. No Tim Ford next year being replaced by Podge. Good to see Mark Tanner put in an appearance.
As per usual I fished the Viaduct Silvers league which is very popular with 52 booked in. The first couple of matches are impacted by the Carp but come the last few matches the fishing becomes harder with more traditional methods coming into play. I was satisfied with my result of 12th overall. The league was won again by “The Trig” -  “Some say that he can speak Braille and that he once stared at an orange juice box for an hour because on it was the word “concentrate”, all I know that he only drinks from cup holders”.

Todber Manor Hillview, Ash and Home Ground were new venues for me this year. I was very impressed with the whole venue, loads of Silvers and Carp. I just wish the venue was closer. Bela and I fished the pairs here this year and will be back next. I must say I had organiser Mark Poppleton in my section throughout and was impressed with his results. However, these matches need more than two sets of scales as its pitch black come the last person. The Bristol area desperately needs a decent Match venue.

Another new venue for me was Farleigh Woods a strange place and ideal setting for a Blair Witch film. The Lake holds plenty of tiny Skimmers 2-3oz with the odd 1 pounder. However, not many Carp in comparison to other fisheries. My Saturday PM drinking partner Geoff Francis has really got into commercial match fishing, and has improved significantly over this year. He certainly had Farleigh Woods carp sorted.

2018 will be Bela and my Tenth Anniversary of travelling together.

The Facts and Figures