Perhaps the better title for this post would be the Tony Rixon benevolent fund open match....
Fishing one of Tony's open matches meant a lie in for me as he does a 10am draw (I usually start fishing at this time at Cider Farm). This was very nice as I was still recovering from the effects of an operation to remove a lump from my tongue, and the general anaesthetic seems to take a while to leave the system.
The journey down to Avalon was made with Veals Maver ace Glenn Bailey. We stopped for breakfast at Shipham cafe, this was the first decent meal I'd ate since the op and it tasted great! There was lots of discussion about the forthcoming day, and we were concerned by the strength of wind and hoped it would not wreck the fishing. Pellet wag to the island has always been good at Avalon, but you can lose a lot of gear, we both hoped the pole would be as productive as it had been in previous weeks. On to the draw and Tony was puzzled by the amount of pegs used for the draw, he questioned Leigh Nutlands intelligence of the venue... I drew peg 9 on the start of the 2nd island, and Glen was on peg 12, we had one angler in between us. I have to admit the pegging was a tad strange, I had an empty peg either side of me yet Glenn had anglers on both pegs either side! Tony on peg 16 (big smile on his face) also had plenty of room and was destined to catch lots.
Vic Bush told me that he liked my peg for waggler fishing, and there were indeed carp visible on the corner of the island inside the reeds. However, it is best to keep the feed away from the island, so I decided to feed 6mm pellets across as it would be harder to feed these too far. If your feed lands right next to the island then there is no need for the fish to come out, then it's virtually impossible to get at them. It was only a short cast to the island and a 2 swan corby wag was more than enough. I used 5.5lb Preston Mono direct on the reel line with an 0.18 hooklength to hair rig an 8mm pellet with a size 14 Preston PR36 hook. I also fed a pole line at 14.5 metres to my left a bit, and had set up two rigs, one for paste and one for banded pellet. On the start whistle I fed a big pot of pellet on the pole line but started on the wag, I would look for signs of bubbles or other anglers catching on the pole before trying it I thought. I think it was on my 3rd cast that the wag disappeared and I connected with a lump, immediately the rod was bent to the handle and as I was clipped up all I could do was hold on. Eventually a 10lb mirror (hooked in the belly) was netted. I had a couple of funny dips on the float in the next few casts and thought I was fishing to deep so shallowed from 18" to 12". Even at this depth I still had what I think were liners and lost a few fish, but everything else netted was hooked properly. After an hour and a half I thought I had 25lb, but bites were now hard to come by although the carp were still in the island reeds but reluctant to venture out! Dean Malin next door on peg 7 was getting a lot of fish on the pole and I thought he was beating me, but he was losing most of his fish using a light elastic and a pulla bung. I managed 3 fish on the pole in 2 spells on it, one of the fish I estimated at 14lb, you could have put a saddle on it! During the match the wind became a bit of problem and would blow left or right, this made casting and feeding to the island difficult and feel in hindsight I have should have tried either the pole longer or the straight lead to the island.
With just under an hour to go I tried the margins but to no avail, and at this point Vic came past and asked how I was doing, I thought I had around 65lb. As if the fish were following Vic the corner of the island became alive with fish again and Vic was laughing at the amount of activity in the reeds. A switch back to the waggler was of course a must, and five carp in the last 45 mins including one landed after the whistle was a nice way to end.
The final result was :-
1st Tony Rixon 140lb (No picture of the winner as he's in the press enough!)
2nd Gary Wall 136lb
3rd Tim Ford 94lb
4th Glenn Bailey 92lb
Talking to Glenn after he had caught 9 of his 13 fish on paste on long pole, but he had a bad last 1.5 hours which cost him. Most people had lost a lot of fish, Tony reckoned to have lost a dozen, and Dean Malin even more! I asked Dean to let me have some of the elastic he had used as it looked perfect for river roach, I cannot repeat his reply!
In my opinion Avalon is a changed fishery, the carp are now coming on to the pole line which makes them easier to get out, where as in the past the pole was a virtual waste of time. In virtually every match I have fished here I have caught well to begin with and then again in the last hour, just have to work out the middle of the match! I never lost a wag on this match (a first at Avalon for me, but I did put one up a tree before the start but got it back!) but I think I got through 6 or 7 hooklengths due to catching reeds or hooking unstoppable fish. I'd like to fish a few more matches here, as both Glenn and myself agreed it's a venue where you have to keep working to make the most of your peg. Well done Vic, your hard work is paying off and I hope the venue keeps improving, there are some lovely fish in the lakes, the commons fight like demons!