Conquering Heronbrook

Drennan North West ended the Heronbrook Spring League in style by winning the final round and being crowned champions. Here’s team member and England ace Stu Conroy’s account of a great series:

Champions, Drennan North West (L-R): Stu Conroy, Robbie Griffiths, Richard O'Connor, Steve Conroy.
Champions, Drennan North West (L-R): Stu Conroy, Robbie Griffiths, Richard O’Connor, Steve Conroy.

The Heronbrook Spring League is a really competitive and friendly series, with 24 teams of four competing over six rounds at the Staffordshire venue. We decided that it would be better to keep the same anglers on their respective lakes throughout the league so we would learn the water’s moods and be in-tune with the best way to fish our pegs. I was allocated to fish Canal Pool. This lake is about 14m wide with reeds and trees lining the near and far bank. It’s also stuffed with fish; mainly F1s and carp, plus a good head of barbel, roach and chub. However, with the water still so cold the fishing could be difficult and peggy. My brother, Steve, drew Bridge and Island lakes. This is a split section with 12 pegs on each. Richard O’Connor drew on Meadow Pool and Robbie Griffiths drew the Match Pool, which was a real feast or famine affair.

Drennan AS3s from 0.2g to 0.6g were chosen.
Drennan AS3s from 0.2g to 0.6g were chosen.

In preparation for the league I made rigs from 0.2g up to 0.6g as the track is about six to seven feet deep. The floats I used were my favourite AS3s. These floats are absolutely perfect for winter F1 fishing. They have a very good bristle that’s not too thick and, importantly, they are really durable.

Supplex Fluorocarbon and Silverfish Match and Silverfish Pellet hooks.
Supplex Fluorocarbon and Silverfish hooks.

Rigs were shotted very simply with a bulk of No9s, No10s or No11s and a couple of No11 droppers were all was needed. My hooks were my favourite Silverfish Pellet and Silverfish Match patterns and an 18 was my preferred size, which is ideal for pellet and maggot fishing alike. These were usually tied to a 0.10mm Supplex Fluorocarbon hooklength with doubled up no6 elastic typically completing the setup.

Round One
After the eagerly awaited draw I found myself on Peg 39 on a part of Canal some call ‘Cyanide Straight’. I knew from past experience that this was not a good area for F1s, which were the target species. With this in mind I decided that it would be a case of damage limitation so I fished for roach. Using a single No5 elastic and a size 20 Silverfish Match hook I caught all day. Loose feeding maggots and fishing on the drop I had a great days fishing for a weight of 18lb 6oz and not an F1 or carp in sight. Eighth in the section of 12 was not the best of starts, but with Richard coming 6th from Meadow 6, Steve 3rd from Bridge 28 and Robbie 2nd on Match 9 our points total was not a complete disaster.

Round Two

Richard O'Connor fished a great series.
Richard O’Connor fished a great series.

Peg 9 would be my host for the next five hours. Only 13lb had come from it the previous round so when I arrived to find my peg frozen I wasn’t expecting much. 24lb of F1s was my modest catch, all taken on pellet across the far side during some of the worst conditions I’ve ever fished in. A freezing cold wind, rain and sleet contributed to a day that I would rather forget! My hard-earned 5pts on the day backed up by Steve’s 2pts, Richard’s 2pts and Robbie’s 3pts gave us our first win. A 12pt total score also moved us to the top of the league.

Round Three
This time I was on Peg 21, again a peg that had performed poorly in the first two rounds. With another freezing wind blowing down the canal from right to left, pellet fishing was not an option, so I decided to fish maggots short. Baiting with two red maggots on an 18 Silverfish Match hook I caught 15 F1s (the biggest 5lb 2oz!) for a 33lb 14oz total and 5 points. With a 3rd, a 4th and a 6th from Steve, Robbie and Richard our 18pt total put us 3pts clear of Maver Gold Yew.

Round Four
This was to be our best match. We’d had a good draw with me on Canal 33, Robbie on Match 32, Richard on Meadow 2 and Steve on Island 4. I settled on a two-pronged attack; pellets across to the ‘stick-ups’ and maggots short for the last couple of hours.

My match went perfectly and I had my first section win with 62lb 3oz. With brilliant performances from Robbie’s 6th, Richard’s 1st and Steve’s 1st we ended the day with a 9pt total, 17pts clear of Dynamite Matrix Stapeley in 2nd.

Round Five

Stu has found a red 4mm Yum Yums hook bait to be ideal for long pole work.
Stu reckons the red 4mm Yum Yums are ideal for long pole work.

This round put me on a real Mr Crabtree peg; peg 1 with the wind blowing into it. With small stockies the main target I opted to fish the new Drennan Yum Yums (red 4mm Crab & Krills) on the hook as they have a great texture and they don’t come off.

I caught on pellets across most the day with a few larger F1s coming down the edge on corn late on to boost my weight to 57lb 3oz. That gave me a section and a lake win.

Steve came 3rd from Bridge 36, while Richard had 48lb on Meadow for 6pts. Robbie had a bad day at the office on a patchy Match Lake, with a 2lb hybrid to thank for most of his 3lb total, but unbelievably this still earned a decent 5pts. With a 15pt team total on the day and 73pts overall we were now 23pts clear of Maver Gold Yew.

Round Six
The final round put me on Peg 10 on the noted stick-ups, a good peg in the section. With a great lead we could have been forgiven for thinking it was all over, but we weren’t taking anything for granted. Although with the favourable draw we had it was highly unlikely that we would blow it now. Richard drew Meadow 10, Robbie Match 6 and Steve Island 12.

Stu Conroy with a tidy catch from Heronbrook.

After 15 minutes dobbing around the reeds with bread, an 8lb mirror carp was soon on the way to my landing net. A couple more carp along with numerous F1s taken on maggots across put me second in a very close section with 65lb. Richard recorded a 4th, Steve a 4th and Robbie a 2nd with an impressive 95lb 4oz for 2nd overall in the match. Our 12pts on the day gave us our 4th round win and 1st in the league.

All in all, a really enjoyable league with great fishing over what’s been a tricky few months. Well done to Matrix Dynamite Stapeley on their second place. They put in really consistent performances. Also thanks to Neil Dale at Heronbrook for organising the League and providing great fishing for everyone.