With festival 1 finished, it was straight onto the second festival on Tuesday morning. With some new competitors joining the match, I was hoping that the past three days on the venue would have given me an advantage over the new boys.
Peter Nicholson from Irish Bait and Tackle was once again selling fresh bait from his van in the Old Coach Inn car park and I decided to stick with the same quantities of bait as I used on the previous festival. Two pints of caster along with two pints of maggots and one pint of pinkie per day would be more than enough to cover all eventualities that may occur in the days ahead. I also had some worms with me just in case some hybrids decided to show, I felt that this was unlikely to happen but you never know.
Once our nets were dipped, (this is a bio-security measure that all anglers fishing on Lough Muckno must adhere to before fishing) it was time get in line for the draw. The open draw on day 1 determines the competitor’s section rotation for the festival. I wasn’t very bothered about what section I’d be on first, I was more interested in seeing who was in my section.
Peg 122 on White Island was my draw and only two away from where I was the previous day. It was by no means an ideal draw, as once again I’d have to fish over the shelf at 14.5 metres while those at either end of the section would be able to fish closer.
Looking at along my section I had the who’s who of Irish angling to contend with. Michael O’ Buchwalder was there, sitting pretty on peg 116, along with Autumn Festival winner Ewan ‘Eubert’ Weed , Tony Kersley, Julian Kendrick, Andy Lightbrown amongst others. I was going to have my work cut out for me if I was to do the double.
Having fished the area the day before, I knew exactly how I was going to fish the peg. 1, 1.5 and 2 gram Gloucester Glass floats with olivette rigs were set up, along with .75 and 1 gram shot rigs. I chose doubled up number 3 elastic on all my rigs, rather than a single 5 or 6 as most other anglers used. The reason for this was simple; I wanted to get the fish out quickly, before a pike had chance of striking. The doubled up elastic was soft enough so I didn’t bump fish on the strike, but it gave me a little more power when lifting the fish out of the water which was exactly what I wanted.
On the all-in I cupped in 8 balls of groundbait which was a mix of Sensas Black Lake, Noire and Attractive Gros Gardons flavoured with some vanilla additive. I decided to eliminate the leam that I’d used in the previous festivals mix, because I felt that the cloud it was creating might attract an even smaller stamp of fish into the peg and I didn’t want this. Added to the initial balls was a good helping of casters, maggots and hemp.
I thought I’d get bites within five minutes but things started slower than expected. By regularly feeding small amounts of maggots, the peg slowly started to come to life. Swapping between the light olivette rigs and the shot rigs I kept bites coming and seemed to be doing slightly better than those around me. With Michael slightly around the corner from me, I couldn’t really see what he was up to, so all I could do was continue on with what I was doing and hope for the best.
When the scales arrived, I tipped 150 roach into the weigh net that totalled 6.760kgs. I was well happy with the weight but unfortunately it was 100grams behind Michael who won the section and the day. I finished 3rd overall on the day a full 20grams behind Irish team mate Paul Leese. I was pleased with the result and it was nice to see three Irish Feeder Team anglers taking the top three positions on the day, even if we were all fishing the pole!
On Day 2 I drew 162, which is on the Black Island section. I wasn’t very happy with this draw especially when arch rival Bud drew 160, the problem with my peg was, its deep, top 6 deep! This is far from ideal when you’re setting out to catch a net of small roach. The pegs to my right which are the lower numbers are shallower which makes them easier to fish. I suppose I had my slice of luck on the first festival when I drew 158, so this was payback!
I didn’t fancy competing with the lower numbers breaking down to a top 6, so I made the decision to fish at seven sections which was a top 5 deep. Plumbing up revealed a serious slope at this distance, so I fished with a very short line between the tip and float so I could stop the rig blowing back up onto the shelf. Rigs for this line were the same as the day before, but I also put up a 3 gram rig for fishing at 13m, just in case I couldn’t catch closer in. Elastics were again doubled up 3’s on all the rigs.
At the start I threw in 6 balls on the close line and cupped in 4 at 13 metres. I started on the far line while continuously feeding closer hoping that the fish would be there when I decided to give it a go. I had bites immediately at 13 metres but it was awkward swinging tiny fish in on a top 6. I persevered for twenty minutes before giving the closer line a go.
I was relieved to catch straight away, but the head on wind was making presentation very difficult. The rig was dragging on the slope, which was pulling the float under, even adding a section to hold it passed the slope wasn’t working , as doing this I was effectively fishing off the bottom. I was going nowhere fast.
As the minutes passed I was falling further and further behind my neighbours, so after 70 minutes, I gave in to my stubbornness and went back out on the far line. This was a good decision as I started getting bites immediately. However I was losing way too many fish shipping back in which I put down to the elastic being to light. I wasn’t setting the hook properly on the strike. A quick change to doubled 5 rectified the problem and it was now a case of getting into a rhythm and playing catch up.
Even though the swim was over 17’ deep, loose feeding maggots seemed to be the best method of feeding. The swim was getting stronger and stronger by the hour and I never felt the need to top up with groundbait again.
By the end of the match I’d put together 182 fish for 5.470kgs which was enough to finish 2nd in the section again behind Michael who had 5.950kgs. There was also more good news filtering down the lake. Pete ‘ High Tower’ Patton had just won his first Irish Festival match with 7.310kgs and house mate Ronan Ryan following his ‘secret plan’ finished 2nd overall on the day with 6.860kgs. With Yellow Island still to come Michael and I were hanging on to 1st and 2nd in the festival, which we were both satisfied with.
Yellow Island was still the ‘bag up’ section, so a good draw here was vital to keep the momentum going. The favoured draw was end peg 207 (remember drawing it cost me €50 in the first festival) so getting into the draw bag before it was gone was important. Somehow unnoticed Michael had wormed his way to the top of the queue and before anyone had a chance, 207 was gone and with it I thought my festival winning chances! I drew 201, which on paper wasn’t a mega draw, but looking at the previous day’s section results the fish seemed to be spread throughout the length, making it a fair enough section, which could be won from anywhere.
Sticking with the exact same rigs and set up as every other day I set about trying to stay within touching distance of O’ Buchwalder. Hopefully he wouldn’t open up a large weight advantage and the open draw on the final day would be kind to me.
I started by balling in 8 balls of groundbait at 12m. I hoped that the noise created by balling would attract some fish into the swim and result in some early action. Also feeding at 12m gave me the option to easily fish past my bait which had worked so well the last time I was on the section. Unfortunately my balling in plan failed and it took me a good 15 minutes to get my first indication. For some reason the section started extremely slow and from what I could see, Julian to my right on peg 200 was the only angler to be getting regular bites. I hoped that feeding a hard nugget every few minutes would hopefully pull some fish from him and get things going.
Slowly but surely the peg came to life and I finished the first hour with 24 small roach. At the start fishing over the groundbait was the best way of getting bites, but as the match went on flicking the rig past my feed was the quickest way of getting a bite. It was so important to keep feeding maggots and casters every chuck and keeping an eye on those pegged around me I could see that they weren’t feeding as regularly as me, which resulted in their catch rates falling.
I knew that Michael had a very slow first two hours, but an angler of his calibre is always dangerous. I felt that if I could capitalise on his misfortunate slow start and get ahead of him going into the final day, I’d stand a good chance of winning five Easter festivals on the bounce.
By the end of the five hours I’d caught 263 fish for a match winning 8.560kgs which was over a kilo ahead of Michael, who finished the day in 2nd place with 7.440kgs. Ronan sticking with his ‘secret plan’ had won White Island with 5.920 which put him into 3rd overall in the festival. It was pleasing to see three friends and house mates filling the top positions going into the last days open draw where anything could happen.
Waking up on the Friday morning the anglers were met with the most horrible day you could imagine. Strong gale force winds and driving rain would make pole fishing on both Black and White Islands almost impossible. To make matters worse, the ever consistent Yellow Island would be sheltered from the wind which made it ‘THE’ section to draw.
While travelling to the match I mentioned to Ronan that the middle of White Island would be a nightmare draw. Fishing the required 14.5m on these pegs would be impossible and with the fish not getting caught closer in, the feeder would be the only option. Guess where I drew? Peg 120! It was my second time on this peg this week, so I knew I was doomed. Michael hadn’t faired a whole lot better at the draw and my former Black Island peg 162 was his peg for final days shoot out. Out of the top three, the draw bag had been kindest to Ronan, who drew the end peg 158 on Black. Deep down I knew that Michael would probably over take my 540gram advantage, but if I could hold off Ronan who was just over 3kgs behind me and secure 2nd place in the festival I’d be happy enough.
Thankfully most of the anglers that were lucky enough to draw on Yellow Island were a little too far behind to catch up to us, apart from Ewan Weed who drew 201. For me he was the danger man likely to upset the ‘le Chateaux la Pierre Walshe’ stronghold on the festival.
Once at my peg I knew that it was going to be a feeder job. Even though I set up the pole, hoping that the wind would drop, I knew that it wouldn’t. It was going to be an out-in-out feeder job. Having recently loaded my reel with the new .10 Tournament Evo braid, I was looking forward to seeing how it preformed.
I decided to use a free running rig which I hoped would make bites easier to see in the wind and this was made up on an 8lb Hyper Sensor shock leader. To attach my leader, I tied a small figure of eight loop on the end of the braid and attached the shock leader mono with a five turn blood knot.
On the whistle I balled in 6 balls onto the pole line in the hope it might become fishable at some stage within the next five hours and started on the feeder at 20 turns of my TDR 4012 reel. Bites were hard to come by at the start, so I fed a few feeders full of bait to my left, just to give myself a second swim to try while resting my main line. Alternating between the two swims I kept catching the odd fish and finished the match with 43.
A quick phone call to Michael revealed that he had also struggled on Black Island. He had caught 41 fish but more importantly in his net he had 8 good hybrids, which I knew would make a massive difference. His final day’s weight of 3.900kgs was over 2kgs better than mine which was enough for him to overtake me and win the festival.
All I could do now was wait and hope that no one else would overtake me. Luckily Ewan’s match winning weigh of 7.520kgs fell short of overhauling me, but he charged up the leader board into a final 3rd place behind Michael and I. Ronan’s ‘secret plan’ let him down when it counted most and he slipped down into a very respectful 4th place. , Pete Patton’s final day’s weight of 5.650kgs from Yellow pushed him up into 5th, which was an awesome result for our house. We held 4 out of the top 5 places. Unluckily for our host Peter Walsh, he fell less than a kilo short of the main prizes.
I am pleased to say that the Evo braid preformed better than I expected. It’s just so unbelievably smooth through the rod eyes and on the cast and because it’s available in such a low diameter it doesn’t pick up the tow as much as other braids I‘ve used in the past. I’ve loaded all my reels with it now in preparation for next week’s Portumna festival on the mighty River Shannon. I’ll let you know how I get on.