Have you entered your club’s annual fishing contest trusting to luck to fill your keepnet on the day? You won’t find the champions who compete at national level leaving anything to chance.
In these well-informed days, with the angling press giving an abun-dance of information, nobody should go to a match water ‘cold’. Even if certain items have not been covered by the angling papers, a little effort pinkies, squatts or worms – to take. On odd occasions another bait may score, but if match and pleasure catches from a water have resulted from a certain bait over a season or two, why waste time preparing another that is not recommended?
Tackle and reels
The same applies to the amount of tackle to take along. Reports will give you the information. For example, if you have read that the match is at a place where you might need to walk a long distance to your peg, why cart all your poles along? Similar precautions should be taken with regard to reels, the serious angler will not want to be equipped with less than three, all in good working order. You most certainly need two reliable reels for the average match if not more.
Although it seems expensive, it is surprising how soon you will accumulate the necessary gear. Two float and two ledger rods ought to be in the kit because of the possibility of breakage. Even with the lightweight plastic carrying tubes there is a risk, particularly during transport. Glassfibre does not take kindly to sharp knocks, so handle with care and don’t lay rods where they might be trodden on.
The first thing to do when setting out your peg is to have a good look to see what features you can use. For example, a flat patch of ground will be just right for the basket. Then make sure you will be where nothing obstructs casting and striking. Any weeds or snags near the bank might impede landing a good fish. Be sure to manoeuvre the rod without snagging bushes or trees, so that a fish can be steered easily round them.
Success and failure
Most of this planning can be done without actually standing at the peg. In this way you avoid disturbance, which on some waters, par-ticularly shallow, clear spots, can make the difference between success and failure. Scaring off the fish before you even start fishing means wasting match time while you wait for them to return.
A little reconnaissance can show you the easiest, safest way down a difficult bank, the way you will get maximum cover from bankside vegetation, and whether you will be standing or sitting to fish. All this is certainly worth a minute or two for consideration before starting to fish.
At the swim, the first thing is to lay out your tackle on the bank. Assemble your rods and reels, putting together the rod from the top length down and making sure the rod-rings are in line. It is much easier this way; try it and see. Also carefully check that you do not miss passing the line through all of the rings. If you miss one out, you might not notice in good conditions, but when it is windy and wet and you are trying to get maximum casting distance, missing that ring can be a serious nuisance.
Once the tackle is set up, make sure you have everything you will need out of your basket and ready to hand. This is comparatively easy in these days of purpose-built tackle and float boxes. You want everything out of your basket because if you are sitting down to fish it is a nuisance having to stand up every time you want something. If you are standing up then your basket lid can act as a bait tray. Either way, rummaging round in the ‘skip’ instead of having everything to hand is time-wasting.
If you are using an umbrella, make sure it is firmly anchored before you start – guy ropes are cheap enough and it is very distracting to worry about whether that umbrella is going to stay in place once it starts flapping around.
Be sure all your bait pots are to hand so that at a glance you can see where your maggots, casters, or hempseed are without bending and stretching. Not only is this time-saving, but also less tiring with an adequate number of reasonably sized compartments.
Disgorger or forceps can be hung round the neck on a piece of nylon or string, and the latter can usually be clipped to the flap of a jacket pocket. The most important thing is that they are to hand and you are not having to search for them when they are needed. Apart from anything else, the quicker the hook is out and the fish in the keepnet, the kinder.
Positioning of nets Keepnet and landing net designs and sizes will be covered in a later article, so now let us just consider their positioning. The keepnet must be sunk so that the mouth is as close to you as possible. The shorter the distance a fish has to be moved after unhooking, the less chance of missing the net with it. To avoid this, some anglers use an apron and slide the fish down into it – you are not harming the fish by dropping it the short distance involved.
Netting a fish
Bigger fish should be transferred from landing net to keepnet without lifting them out. But first you have to get them in the landing net, and positioning is again important. Where possible, the business end should be kept in the water. It is easier to just slide out the net gently than to have to lift it and place it in the water before netting a fish. It is also less likely to scare the fish. The handle should be within easy reach, perhaps leaning against your basket. Above all it must be secure. It is no use to you once it is washed downstream!
You will soon get used to laying out your tackle effectively, and practice counts a lot. You will benefit in time from this planned approach.
Of course there are some arbitrary factors which will affect your chances – factors which you are powerless to control, such as the weather and, most important, which swim you are allotted. In close-pegged matches, a very definite ad-vantage attaches to the pegs at either end, for fish arrive from upstream or downstream and the angler who has drawn an end swim has first crack at them. Of course, without the right bait, approach and technique, even he won’t catch anything: so if you draw a mid-pack peg, temper your envy of the end men with the knowledge that you can outfish them through pure skill!