By Jamie Simpson
I have just returned home from my first ever BCAC qualifying event at Cuttle Mill Fishery, near Tamworth. What a roller coaster of emotions I have gone through over the past 48 hours.
We arrived at the venue on Thursday evening for a bit of a social and a look around the lake. We managed to spot plenty of fish during this walk around, with carp bubbling and crashing in several areas. A large proportion of the fish seemed to be in an area between swims known as the Pads and Nevilles. Normally this would not be a popular choice as you are in a corner and penned in somewhat by other swims around this part of the lake.
Thursday evening was a relaxed affair with everyone discussing their views on many a topic whilst drinking a couple of beers before the serious stuff the following morning.First light and another quick look around the lake ready to decide which swim we would like, should the draw be favourable.
9am came and John ‘shoes’ Jones commenced with the draw. The first pair picked the obvious pontoon swim as this commanded the centre of the pond. The second pair then chose peg 13 (usually peg 16) another popular swim which controls a fair bit of water and gives a few options of how to fish it. At this point I was getting pretty anxious as two of my first choice (probably everyones) swims had gone, lady luck must have been shining on us though as we were next out, I couldn’t get the words peg 11 (usually 14) out of my mouth fast enough. Certainly not the most prolific peg historically but the Carp were there and in large numbers, sheer jubilation or what, surely we must be in with a chance.
Whilst setting up we could see Carp in front of our swim happily just clouding up the bottom and bubbling away. With the competition starting at 12pm we sat there at about ten minutes before the off, watching as all the activity which we had been witnessing just ceased and what appeared to be every Carp in the swim disappearing to the centre of the pond. Total deflation.
Our hearts sank further as peg9 (pontoon) immediately began to catch fish, had our choice of swim been a huge error and had we not taken into consideration what influence the sudden baiting up and casting would cause. We had deliberately not put any bait out or even cast a lead into the water as we hadn’t wanted to spook the fish away from the area.
We decided to give it an hour with single hookbaits before committing to any sort of baited approach. We didn’t see any signs of fish returning but thought our best bet lay in catapulting a few pouches of re hydrated Liver B8 barrels to around 25yards. We put 1 rod to this area with a back lead and fished a single wafter consisting of half a pineapple crush pop up and half bottom bait stuck together and trimmed into a barrel shape. just off this area in case a few curious fish came back into the swim. Our third rod was swung neatly down our left hand margin just off a sunken dead tree, where we had seen several fish just a few hours earlier. This rod was fished over a bed of maggots and Liver B8 pellets, which we sprinkled liberally over the area the size of a six yard box, repeating this every hour or so.
Around 1.30am on Saturday we had our first chance, resulting in a 27lb 12oz mirror on the Liver B8 Barrels. Saturday around 3pm we managed a16lb er down the side on a 10mm Pineapple Crush bottom bait fished Snowman style with a artificial 10mm boilie on top. Our hopes raised as we were informed we were only about 30lb off first place and sitting in fifth.
We sat and watched though as the other swims continued to catch through the afternoon and early evening with our dreams of qualification seemingly drifting away. I must admit at this point I was actually hoping other people would lose the fish they were playing or that they would be foul hooked and therefore not count. This really isn’t a nice way to be and is totally out of character for me, but this was a competition and we wanted to win.
9pm and we managed another fish off the re hydrates, a 22lb mirror, our spirits were raised again and discussions of a possible recovery ensued between Jason and myself. A six pounder and 21lb common at around 1.30am and we felt we were right back in it. The much fancied peg9 (pontoon) had dried up and suddenly around 7 or 8 teams were right back in it. Boy did we fancy our chances now. We had got our tactics right and we were extremely confident of landing more fish before the end of the match.
We sat listening through the night as occasional screams from delkim and fox alarms would ring out around our chosen arena. The pressure was building and we knew any lost fish could finish off any hopes we had. Then it happened a screaming run on the left hand margin rod and within a minute of hooking the fish it was off. I can’t put into text the words I used but needless to say there was a blue tinge to the air around peg 11 for a few moments before I gathered myself and put it down to just rotten luck.
Just before light and the same rod was off again, this time we made no mistake and another 20lb mirror lay in my net. A quick call to ‘Shoes’ and just as Jason put the phone down the middle rod roared away, another 20lber in the net and we were right in the thick of it, but where?
We had heard plenty of alarms ringing out during the night and couldn’t tell whether they were from a couple of teams or spread throughout everyone. By 9am we finally knew we were in 2nd place with 135lb + ounces, with peg2 out in front on 161lb and peg13 (peg16) third on 118lb (I think). 10am and the pontoon swim were connected to a fish that ran them all over the place, we talked ourselves into thinking this would be a very big fish and that it could quite easily leave us out of the places should either peg13 or peg7 then get another fish.
Luck was shining on us though as the fish wasn’t as big as we had thought and was foul hooked in the tail in any case. 10am onwards and I was doing anything I could to take my mind off what was going on around us, Luckily Big Lee and Adi had made the journey down from Nottingham to see how we were getting on, so the conversation flicked from one subject to another for a while before they left us to it for the last hour. 11.45 am and peg13 managed another fish which looked like an upper double which may put us in the vulnerability of third place and I had visions of someone pipping us at the death. I couldn’t take any more, my stomach was churning and my heart pounding. 12pm just wouldn’t come quick enough and I am sure Jason was getting quite peeved with me keep asking ‘how long’ like a young child on a long car journey.
Then it came 12pm and we were through, what a surreal moment, we had gone through every emotion imaginable, yet we had made it. I still can’t make up my mind whether I enjoyed it or hated it. A total of about four hours sleep in two days and frozen to the bone isn’t exactly how I had expected the weekend to be. I am sure that I will look back on the experience of the event with fond memories in the future, but for now I just know that I will have to put myself through the same roller coaster ride in the semifinal.
I don’t know if anyone reading this has competed in one of these events before, but I would love to hear anyone’s views on it. I would wholeheartedly recommend giving it a go to anyone. It is a wonderful experience and a chance to meet some really nice guys along the way that under normal fishing conditions you probably wouldn’t ever have chance to speak to.
Cheers, Jamie Simpson