White Acres Ups, Downs And Maybes

Jon Arthur reflects on an up and down week competing in the star-studded White Acres Preston Innovations Festival.

Part of Jon Arthur's 63lb mixed bag from Peg 24 on Pollawyn.
Part of Jon Arthur’s 63lb mixed bag from Peg 24 on Pollawyn.

I always look forward to any chance I get to fish a Cornish festival. The Preston Innovations Festival held every October is the biggest one that everyone wants to qualify for and win. This year there were 160 anglers competing and a top-24 finish would guarantee a place in the hallowed Parkdean Masters Final with a cool £25,000 up for grabs.

I had made the final the last two years and was really hoping it would be three on the trot. As soon as I saw my section rotation, however, I knew it would be an uphill battle. I had drawn in the ‘section of death’ with superstars such as Alan Scotthorne, Steve Ringer, Andy Power, Andy Bennett and Matt Godfrey for company, to name just five! I was still really up for it, though, especially after having to sadly miss all the Spring festivals this year. I was a bit rusty but well prepped and raring to go.

I was lodging with my good friends Rob Wootton and Neil McKinnon again, but sadly our ‘head chef’ Nick Speed couldn’t stop with us this time. We had to make do with humble pub grub this year, which was a big drop in standards, but we just about survived! On to the fishing…

Day 1

  • Lake: Pollawyn
  • Peg: 24
  • Weight: 63lb
  • Result: Section 2nd, Lake 5th
  • Best rig: 0.3g AS5, 0.14mm hooklength, 16 Carp Maggot
E Section was the usual ‘section of death’ for Jon!

This is easily one of my favourite lakes but word on the bank was that Pollawyn was fishing extremely hard. The carp had shoaled right up and the skimmer population is apparently not what it once was. As per usual I never drew anywhere near the fancied pegs on the High Bank. Instead I drew Peg 24 which is the right-hand peg on the first point. Bizarrely, pegs 25, 26, 27 etc are on the opposite bank, so I actually had peg 1 and 23 either side of me.

For company I had Andy Bennett on peg 1 and Kieron Rich on 23 so I would have a good idea if I was doing ok or not. I had an island to my right I could reach with the pole, an attractive overhanging tree down the edge to my right and open water to my left where there was a rope and an aerator around 18m away.

I set up a plethora rigs and a waggler rod and planned to swap swims quite quickly early on before establishing the most productive areas. I had one skimmer at 5m on meat and the only other two swims I caught on were against the island and down the edge to my right.

Fishing worm and casters on both spots I caught small perch and roach plus the odd better hybrid and very occasional skimmer early on. I was just loose feeding and potting bait down the edge and kinder-potting in black peat to the island to begin with. Introducing groundbait at the halfway stage brought a better response and I was suddenly into a few much bigger 1lb perch, a couple of F1s and chunky barbel. I also had a very welcome 12lb common down the edge that gave my a few hairy moments before I slid the net under it.

I also foul-hooked three carp towards the end that all sadly came off. This was always going to happen as it was a good 4ft deep and a really uneven bottom, so it was difficult to present a bait to them properly. In hindsight I could have fed some corn perhaps or tried to catch off the deck a bit more often?

There are some huge F1s in Pollawyn now.
There are some huge F1s in Pollawyn now.

Either way, I was very happy to plonk two huge F1s and a carp on the scales in my first net for 24lb and then a brilliant mixed bag of perch, barbel, roach, hybrids, skimmers and small F1s for 38lb in the other keepnet (pictured). That gave me 63lb for a 2nd in section and 5th on the lake.

Andy really struggled to my right while Kieron sacked up with 15 carp against his island to win the lake with 82lb. I had an excellent day’s fishing and a promising start to my week. Hopefully the next few days would be just as good…

Day 2

  • Lake: Trelawney
  • Peg: 18
  • Weight: 41lb
  • Result: Section 7th
  • Best rig: 0.1g AS5, 0.16mm hooklength, 16 Wide Gape Pellet
A very tight section sheet on a tough, wind-lashed day.

This was a disaster of a day! I have always wanted to draw peg 18 on Trelawney but really didn’t want it this week. It was a day of gales with the wind absolutely clattering the peg from all angles. Trelawney is a really shallow lake and in my experience the fish don’t want to be in the wind and turbulence. They will seek shelter wherever there is some. Quite often peg 18 is a mill pond and that’s when it so often wins the section. Today was not that day!

After an hour I had just one very small skimmer in the net and it was looking dire. A meat short line was useless. Chopped worm and casters down the edges brought a few silverfish but none of the hoped-for F1s. A longer margin swim with corn and meat also produced nothing. The only place I caught was tight across to the island when I could actually hold a pole over there long enough without snagging the brambles.

I started negatively on meat and micros but that was really slow going and it was only when I swapped to worms that I had a had a flurry of bites. Sadly most of the fish were tiny carassio and F1s, which was not a good sign that quality fish were in the area.

With nothing to lose and knowing full well I was last in section I decided to big pot against the island in the last hour. This eventually brought a few better carp into the peg. I also foul-hooked a few and one in particular proved very costly. It was a 5lb+ ghostie hooked in the side. I managed get it over the landing net three times before it disastrously came off! I swore my head off as I knew it would prove costly.

I ended up 7th in section with 41lb. That lost fish cost me 4th in section. Once again Trelawney was my nemesis. This lake definitely doesn’t like me!

Day 3

I knew this day would be rubbish as soon as I drew peg 22 as it was blowing a gale sideways on to me and had absolutely nothing going for it. The hot pegs were on the other side of the island where Kieron Rich and Sandra Scotthorne had drawn and there were also two sheltered pegs on the first bank with the wind off their backs. I also had bagging machine Andy Power to my right with acres of room and the wind blowing into his corner.

I will cut a long story short as the peg was lifting with tiny roach everywhere on the pole, even on a 7mm hard pellet, which suggested a lack of carp in front of me. I had one carp short on corn and everything else on a little homemade feeder chucked tight across. If I didn’t land the feeder within an inch of the far bank I only caught silvers. The problem was the far bank on Trewaters is extremely overgrown and quite often I had to cast into the rubbish and then pray a fish would take my hook bait to help pull it back out again!

I ended up with 41lb to just beat the peg to my left and come 6th in the section. Andy to my right fished brilliantly and caught on everything he did to comfortably win the lake with 92lb.

As a footnote, the next day Lee Kerry drew my peg and came last off it with around 25lb, then on the final day, with no wind, Dan White won the section off it! I think that shows you just how up and down and wind affected this place can be.

Day 4 

  • Lake: Porth Reservoir
  • Peg: 74
  • Weight: 16lb 15oz
  • Result: Section 1st, Lake 1st
  • Best rig: 0.8g AS7, 0.09mm hooklength, 16 3405
A lake win with a near-17lb of roach.

After two dreadful days my chances of getting in the Parkdean Masters Final were now over but I still had two nice venues to look forward to. I was quite optimistic as I prepped my gear in readiness for Porth Reservoir and was still happy when peg 74 stuck to my hand.

Despite lightening off all my tackle it still took four trips to the boat and back to get it all to my peg. Bream hadn’t fed all week so I had a very simple plan. Two identical 10ft Ultralight Feeders were set up for 30m and six top kits for the pole.

I started on the tip but after 45 minutes I’d got just five roach and a tiny skimmer and was getting lots of roachy plucks on the tip. I threw that up the bank and fished the pole from then on. Loose feeding maggots and casters plus the odd ball of groundbait I managed a fish a chuck til the final whistle. A good 95% of the fish were roach and I only netted six or seven fish all day to end up with a very pleasing 16lb 15oz.

Lee Riley was to my left and had a big bream and some skimmers on the method and long-distance cage for 14lb and there were two other 14lbs on the lake. That meant I had won the section and the lake for the second year running. Perhaps I had still got it?

Day 5

  • Lake: Bolingey
  • Peg: 24
  • Weight: 86lb 6oz
  • Result: Section 1st
  • Best rig: Acolyte 10ft Plus Feeder, homemade feeder, 0.20mm hooklength, 14 QM1

I was praying, “Peg 36, peg 36, peg 36,” all the way to the draw bag. Chris Downs was just before me in the queue and, yep, you guessed it, he pulled out flyer peg 36! I then proceeded to pull out peg 24, probably one of the worst pegs on the lake! Looking at the previous day’s weight sheets and Andy Nelson was last in section off it. Even lake owner Andy Dare who is normally overoptimistic said the only two pegs you didn’t want were 24 and 25. Oh dear…

I had Oliver Scotthorne to my left on 25 and neither of us fancied it as we tackled up. Matt Godfrey was in our section in the more fancied teens so we were up against it. Every day is different, however, and today was flat calm with no wind so the fish ‘might’ be happier our side of the island?

There were hardly any signs of fish moving as I started on the short pole hoping for an early carp for nothing. A move to 15m and 6mm pellets produced one small carp. Meanwhile, Oliver had also given up short and chucked tight to the island with a small method feeder and was immediately into a carp.

I had to follow but chose to start on a waggler instead. This seemed like a waste of time as I eventually crept closer and closer to the bank before the inevitable happened and I snagged up. Throwing this up the bank I was also onto the feeder and soon catching carp of my own.

For the next hour Oliver and I had a nice peg for peg battle and we must have had 10 carp apiece. However, Oliver had also managed one proper double-figure chunk while mine were averaging 3lb to 4lb. As my swim waned his got stronger and then, all of a sudden, we were both biteless.

We both dropped short, as the last 90 minutes can often be hectic, but things were just as slow. Oliver managed a great big horse down his edge on worms while my margins were unproductive. Eventually, however, a few fish turned up on my short-pole meat swim. I managed five carp here, including one small common carp on the whistle, while Oliver struggled.

I ended up with about 17 carp for 86lb 6oz, just pipping Oli by less than a 1lb. The teens had fished terribly wth 40lb being best, so I had somehow snuck a section win!

The Result

The final result proved a very close affair.

I ended up with 26 points and, just as I feared, that foul-hooked ghostie on Trelawney cost me dearly. Four anglers scored 27 points and they all made the top 24. I was one point adrift but had three really good days so I suppose I cannot complain too much. Some much better anglers than me had really suffered all week. The weather and drawbag had really played a part this year and it’s probably the most patchy I have ever seen some of the lakes fish. I also wasn’t as in tune as I would have liked to be. You’re always a step behind the guys fishing all the time and those who have already had a week’s practice on the venue.

The one thing that really stuck out, however, was just how unpredictable each day could be. Admittedly there were pegs like the High Bank, peg 17 on Twin Oaks and peg 19 on Canal that won almost every day. However, there were other pegs that would be last one day and then win the next. The conditions, particularly the wind, played a massive part and it shows that you should always go to your peg with a positive outlook.

I must end by thanking lodge mates Rob Wootton and Neil McKinnon for a good week, Preston Innovations for sponsoring the festival and Clint Elliott and his fisheries team for looking after us. Also, well done to Rob for finishing a very well deserved 2nd overall in the festival, James Dent for winning it and big John Whincup for smashing the Parkdean Masters Final with a huge weight off an unfancied peg. Again, that shows you how anything’s possible down at White Acres. I suppose that’s one of the reasons we all keep coming back!