Lessons Learned From The PF Pairs

Alan Scotthorne reflects on the inaugural Preston Pole Fishing Silverfish Pairs competition, which reached an exciting climax last weekend:


Alan Scotthorne in action.

What a fantastic competition this has been through the winter months! Hats off to Tom Scholey and Matt Godfrey of Pole Fishing magazine. Staging this four-match series across the country over four very different commercial fisheries with no proper carp counting was pure genius. I am sure this well-attended 50 pairs competition will open the flood gates for more of this type of event. It exploits the untapped silverfish that are clearly in abundance in many carp lakes.

I fished this league with my son Oliver and knew from the onset that it would be a tall order to make the top five pairs with our limited experience of commercial silvers and the venues these matches were held on. It was a good learning curve for us both and here are just a few of the things that we picked up on the way that will hopefully expand our knowledge for next year.

Round One – Barston & Packington

Alan in action at Barston Lakes.
Alan Scotthorne came 3rd overall at Barston Lakes.

The first match was back in November at Barston and Packington Somers near Birmingham. I practiced on Monday and Wednesday at Barston after two quite severe frosts but caught well on both occasions. The first day was skimmer dominated while roach were the bulk of my catch the second time. As both were over 30lb weights I felt this was going to be a brilliant match.

As luck would have it I drew at Barston but I must admit I could not have forecast the result after drawing only three pegs away from one of the pegs I had practised on the road bank. I drew Peg 116 and have fished this peg in the past. I knew the bottom on this peg was particularly soft compared to surrounding swims and immediately thought I would struggle. The temperature had lifted a few degrees and with no frost on the morning this changed the lake completely.

I actually finished the match with 36kg (nearly 80lb!) but this was amazingly only good enough for 3rd in the section. Grant Albutt put a terrific 44kg on the scales of mainly F1s on sweetcorn (F1s are allowed in this event).

I caught on big bunches of bloodworm over a bed of Sensas Lake and damp leam at 13 metres. I knew that corn had been one of the best baits at Barston throughout the warmer months, so it was a major mistake not to include it in my initial feed. Perhaps pinging a few grains during the match would have caught me more F1s?

My catch was made up of 50% skimmers and the rest F1s but with the F1s all 2lb and bigger these were the target fish. In practice, I only caught one F1 in two days fishing but failed to react when they turned up in the actual match. Lesson one!

Oliver had also been caught out at Packington fishing a bloodworm match catching lots of small skimmers and the most fish in his five-peg section but, again, F1s were the dominant fish. Weighing up to 2lb they boosted the surrounding angler’s weights and he could only finish 4th in the section with 9kg, with 12kg winning.

He probably needed a maggot line at 16 metres and this would have won him the section. Like me, he was guilty of fishing for the wrong fish. On a brighter note I was 3rd overall, so we had a few quid to share, but we both felt we could have come away with a better score.

Round Two – Messingham Sands

Alan Scotthorne in action on Messingham Sands' Tripp Lake.
Alan Scotthorne in action on Messingham Sands’ Tripp Lake.

Match number two was at the prolific Messingham Sands near Scunthorpe. With six different lakes to be used we decided practice was pointless and hopped we could get a few pointers on the day from some of our lads in the Drennan Barnsley Blacks team who fish there regularly.

Tommy Pickering actually stood in for Oliver as he couldn’t make this match and we scored a little better, both finishing 2nd in our sections on the day. I drew on Tripp Pond but again felt it would be difficult to win, being between two anglers peg for peg and the rest of the pegs having lots of room. This was still to be a good match for me catching 35lb 13oz for 5th overall – but only 1lb off 2nd was a little frustrating!

I fed a short line where I could throw bait and a 13m line with Sensas Lake and leam with joker, dead maggots and a few casters for skimmers. On the short line I fed more groundbait via a pot of a mix of Sensas Canal, brown crumb and Terre de River with joker and casters and loose fed maggots over the top. This was to target roach and whatever else came along in this mixed fishery.

Again this was to be a mistake. I was told that maggots were the best bait on this lake but halfway through I changed to casters and this was miles better! Two things I should have considered were that casters make more noise than maggots, so attract more fish, and casters also seem to go better with joker. Again, I just failed to react quick enough as once I changed to caster I caught more roach, bonus crucians and F1s.

The long line was poor, so maybe a fishmeal and leam mix would have been better with so many other fish in this lake? My section was won by Drennan Barnsley teammate Lee Harrison from a corner peg with a match winning 49lb. I was never going to threaten this but felt I had fished a decent match. Tommy was in a difficult section, catching 10lb with 13lb winning, but he said he needed to fish a nice bloodworm match and a section win was definitely possible.

Round Three – Lindholme Lakes

Gale-force winds greeted the anglers on Round 3 at Lindholme!
Strong winds greeted the anglers on Round 3 at Lindholme.

Next up was Lindholme lakes in January for the 3rd round, which is a more local venue to me. Oliver was back and we were looking forward to this match. Unfortunately the weather was catastrophic, with gale-force winds and cold!

I drew Oliver on Laurels Lake and myself on Peg 81 on Bonsai Lake. I ideally needed to fish for F1s across to the island with maggots and corn (pellets are not allowed in this event) but this was impossible in the wind. I felt that I could possibly still catch enough to do well close in with loose fed casters, as I have caught 40lb of roach from this area in the past in carp counting matches.

For some reason, however, the roach just didn’t feed well and I couldn’t catch a bonus fish over my short 5m caster line while my 12m swim with fishmeal and maggots produced nothing. I finished with close to 7kg for 3rd in the section. Again I felt I had absolutely no chance to win the section with Grant Albutt putting 27kg of F1s on the scales from corner peg 84 for an easy lake win.

Oliver had done quite well over on Laurels but again finished 3rd in his section with 25kg of Fls. He was very frustrated after the match as he had not gone down the margins early enough and had been beaten by anglers fishing there much earlier than he did. F1s are not the same as normal carp and on some days they can be caught down the edge in the early part of a match. He had the tactics right, with small helpings of fishmeal in a small pole-mounted pot and dead maggots on the hook, but just fished in the wrong spot thinking the margins may be home to more carp than F1s.

Round Four – Makins Fishery

Makins Fishery proved an excellent silverfish venue.

The last match was at Makins near Coventry. I was not sure how good this was to be but it proved its worth with brilliant weights of all silvers. With no F1s at all in these lakes it was probably the best match!

Oliver Scotthorne on his way to a convincing match win.
Oliver Scotthorne on his way to a convincing match win.

I was really pleased with Oliver as he won the match with a brilliant 58lb of skimmers and roach on Lake 2. With 39lb finishing 2nd overall he had clearly fished a great match! Because these lakes are full of roach and skimmers we had three separate mixes of groundbait; a leam and fishmeal mix for skimmers, a roach mix of Sensas Canal, brown crumb and Terre de River for roach and a top-up mix of Sensas Terre de Somme and grey leam for topping up with joker.

Although Oliver fed a roach mix on a 12m line he caught all his skimmers at 14.5 metres over his fishmeal line with big bunches of bloodworm on the hook. Topping up regularly with small balls full of casters, dead maggots and joker was the key to keeping catching.

Drennan Team England's Sean Ashby on his way to 39lb.
Sensas and Drennan Team England’s Sean Ashby on his way to 39lb.

I was over on Lake 1 where it was all roach fishing, but drew on the shallow bank. After the first hour I had only caught three roach. The next two hours I flew, adding 25lb to my net. However, further down my section Sean Ashby had caught well from the start, so I had no option but to try feeding more aggressively in the hope that I could close the gap on Sean.

So, with less than two hours to go, I topped up with a lot of joker and casters in six balls. This was to be a massive mistake as I completely flattened the peg! I am sure if I would have topped up with a small single ball I would have kept catching, but maybe I would have still finished short of Sean’s 39lb. I still finished with 28lb catching just 16 more fish after my top up.

The Result

Overall winners, John Harvey and Andy Power.
Overall winners, John Harvey and Andy Power.

We still had a few quid to share with Oliver’s great performance and I cannot wait for next year’s series. This will apparently be five matches with an extra heat split between Woodland View and Larford lakes. This should hopefully also produce some good silver fishing.

Congratulations go to Andy Power and John Harvey on winning this very competitive competition. Oliver and I finished 16th out of 50 pairs with 21 points. We needed 16 points to make the top five. I really enjoyed this series and feel we can do a lot better next year.

If you want to take part, I think you will need to book early. Tight lines!

Pictures courtesy of Pole Fishing magazine.