Matt Godfrey reports on the Heronbrook Easter Festival!

“Having not been commercial fishing properly for quite some time, I was absolutely buzzing for the Heronbrook Easter Festival. Not only because the fishing is always good, but because it was a weekend away like the old times. Four anglers consisting of myself, Tom Scholey, Jordan Holloway and Frankie Gianoncelli all staying in a room for three days – showerless. Two were in sleeping bags on carp chairs, while the other two shared the luxury single bed. By the end of the second night the room smelled like the Stilton factory!

Day One

“The first day way me pluck out peg 40 on Meadow Lake, a snake style lake around 14.5 metres wide all the way around. I didn’t really know much about it, and although a few of the locals suggested it wasn’t great, I really fancied it! There was a nice wind blowing across me and thanks to the generous pegging at Heronbrook, I had plenty of room.

“With the tricky wind, I planned a simple match and aimed to spend most of my time fishing down the central track where it was around four and a half feet deep. I’d done a bit of research prior to the event, and heard that meat was working really well. However, in my experience meat is always a better bait later in a match, and I can never seem to make it work all day long. With this in mind, I decided to feed two lines down the middle. One was with pellets at six sections at an angle to the left, and another the same distance but angled to the right where I’d feed meat. I wanted to feed this meat swim regularly, but not fish there until later. Hopefully I’d get fish competing and be able to clatter them there in the final two hours! I also plumbed up an edge swim to the left of me where there was a nice flat area in around three and a half feet of water.

“Starting on pellets, things were slow. I gradually started getting bites though, and began catching the odd quality F1. One thing that was obvious, was that the fish seemed to be coming to the noise of pellets going in. If I quietly potted in the pellets, it took a while to get indications and catch a fish. However, if I sprinkled the 4mms in from around three feet off the water and then lowered my rig in, I caught straight away! A nice little lesson learned! This swim got better and better, and although I didn’t catch any big carp on it, I was putting fish in the net and building an early weight. Every 15 minutes or so, I’d ship-in and feed a handful of meat on the right hand swim too, priming it for later.

“At the halfway stage, the pellet swim stared to fade, urging me to have a quick look across to the far side. This was a struggle with the wind, and I only foul hooked a single fish there. It was time to try the meat, and thankfully my patience of feeding it and not going on the swim had paid off. Using a medium Pole Pot, I fed every time I shipped out, and using a light 4x12 Mick Wilkinson F1 Carbon Slim float with strung No11 shot, bites came as the rig settled. Getting your hookbait to settle with the feed was vital, as most bites came then. After potting the bait in and then laying the rig over the top, I felt that my piece of meat on the hook was catching up with the feed at just the right time. I settled into a brilliant rhythm catching big F1s and an odd carp mixed in for the rest of the match on this. It really proved the importance of leaving a swim alone while building it – I’m sure I wouldn’t have caught as much had I fished it earlier!

“I ended with 161lb to win the lake, and finish third on the whole match - a mega start! Tom also won his section with 120lb, so we were both in a strong starting position. We just needed Frankie and Jordan to pull their fingers out!”

Matt used a light float and small No11 shot to create a slow fall on his meat rigs.

Peg 26 on Bridge - a good draw where Matt managed 201lb to win the day three match.

Day Two

“This one didn’t quite go to plan, and to be honest I have a few regrets about the day. I drew peg 33 on Canal, a peg that was last in the section with 30lb the previous day. Still, I was fishing for points, and I decided that a ‘trap-setting’ match with pellets and meat like the previous day would be the best way to sneak out as many fish as possible. With two end pegs in the section, I was up against it.

“After starting the match exactly the same as the previous day, it soon became obvious things were going to be tricky. It took nearly an hour for me to catch, and after three quick F1s on pellets down the middle in a short spell I couldn’t get a bite. Jason Brown was on the next peg and seemed to be catching well by fishing across, which suggested that the fish may have wanted to be in the shallower water. Moving into three feet of water at 14.5m with pellets, I caught an F1 immediately – sorted! Or so I thought…

“Half an hour later I’d not caught another fish. There was a very odd one coming into the swim, and I got occasional indications which was very frustrating. Moving right across tight to the far bank mud, I had around two feet of water. By setting a trap and waiting here, I caught a very odd F1, but wasn’t really going anywhere. I felt that there wasn’t that many fish present at all, and my only hope was to try for a late arrival in the final 90 minutes on meat. If I caught like the previous day late-on, I could still amass a weight.

“When this time arrived however and I tried the meat swim, bites were few and far between – it wasn’t happening! To finish the day, I opted to give myself the chance of catching two or three big carp, and changed to feeding meat and groundbait tight over to the far bank. This didn’t work either, and I ended the match really disappointed! My 45lb was enough to beat just one angler in the five-peg section, and I felt that was the festival over for me. My section was won by Paul Gibson on the end peg with 156lb, and I needed 112lb for second place too.

“Speaking to a few people that night however, I discovered a lot had caught well on casters shallow – something I hadn’t done. I really regretted it, and I’ve never been one for thinking ‘there’s nothing I could have done.’ Looking back I think if I’d have fed casters all day towards the bushes to my right, I may have caught on it later in the match. Even earlier in the match, I may have amassed 15lb or so of silvers to sneak me a steady 75lb or so total that would have put me third in the section. It’s one I’ll remember for next time!”

Day Three

“After the bad result on day two, I was looking for a good peg and match win on the last day to boost the kitty! Tom Scholey was in a festival winning position, so I just needed to do my bit. Drawing peg 26 on Bridge Pool, I had a chance too!

“This peg is on a point and gives you loads of options. I decided to simplify things and picked three lines of attack. The first was straight down the middle with my favoured pellet attack, feeding 4mms and fishing an expander on the hook. I then planned on attacking the far bank by blasting casters over there, in and onto the roots that were overhanging to try and get the fish sucking bait off the far side. I could then target them shallow. I then had a nice, shallow margin to my left, which I planned to leave until the closing stages and feed for an odd late carp or two with meat and micro pellets.

“Starting on pellets, I fed just a medium Pole Pot full every drop-in, and accurately presented a fairly heavy rig over the top, lowering it in with the feed to try and ensure my hookbait was lowered down with the falling pellets. A 14 No11s Mick Wilkinson Wire Slim was the float choice, on 0.15mm N-Gauge mainline, to an 0.11mm hooklength of the same and a size 16 Super LWG hook, with a spread bulk of No9 shot starting just above my six-inch hooklength.

“These tactics worked well, and although action wasn’t hectic, I caught steadily while building up my shallow swim for a good hour and 15 minutes. At this point, I could see an odd fish swirling and sucking where the casters where landing across and felt I could stack up a few fish be having a go there already. Shipping out with a tiny 4x8 shallow float set 12-inches deep, I was into F1s immediately! It was obvious that I got bites much quicker by flicking my rig right next to the cover, and after loosing a couple of fish and having a short spell of missed bites, I was soon fishing just eight inches deep. This was a good little learning point for me, because at this point I couldn’t see any fish swirling at all, yet there was loads of them feeding just under the surface! It proved to me that you never know where they are!

“When things slowed slightly, I simply dropped back in on my shorter pellet swim down the middle and kept feeding casters across to build the confidence of the fish again. It worked a treat, and for most of the match I alternated between the two swims. A banded caster was by far the best bait for shallow, presented on an 0.11mm hooklength and size 18 Super LWG eyed hook. Sometimes, I caught three or four fish on the same one!

“Going into the last hour I knew I had a big weight already, and had seen an odd big carp mooching under the surface to my left. I decided to feed the margin to the right with a small handful of meat and micros, tight to the bank in two feet of water. After a few more fish shallow, I saw a bow wave down the edge and had to have a drop-in! Feeding with a large Pole Pot of meat and micros, and placing a heavy 0.4g Rich Wilson Muddy float over the top, I enjoyed a stunning final stint, catching a fish every drop in. It was simply a case of setting a trap every time, and using the heavy rig with a short four inch hooklength and bulk just above it to pin the hookbait right on the small pile of feed amongst the swirls of the feeding fish. Several carp made an appearance too, including an 8lb Morris The Mirror around ten minutes to go! I fished a little heavier down the edge too, with an 0.15mm N-Gauge hooklength and size 16 Kaizen hook.

“It was brilliant days fishing, and at the weigh in I was shocked to tip just over 201lb on the scales, enough to win the whole match overall! Better still, partner in crime, Tom Scholey, had another cracking day finishing second in his section, and ending up the festival champion added a bag of sand (that’s a northern £1000) to the kitty! Frankie also sneaked into the frame in 5th place too, with five points. What Jordan was playing at, I’ll never know! A big well done must go out to Matty Dawes on finishing second, and Ant King on third too. I ended just out of the money after the second day disaster on a total of six points, but enjoyed two cracking days, and learned an awful lot as we always do when we go fishing. Hopefully what I’ve shared with you here will help you out too…tight lines ‘til next time!

1st Tom Scholey (centre) 2nd Matty Dawes (left) 3rd Ant King (right).

Meat and pellets were the two main baits, with some casters for shallow too!