You will have gathered from the title that my planned session on the specimen lake didn't go according to plan. After a couple of weeks when temperatures hovered around zero, I suppose it was a vain hope that the 8 degrees forecast for Sunday daytime would make any impression whatsoever upon the ice that covered its surface. In fact, when I circled the lake at 7.30 on Monday morning, there wasn't a square inch of clear water from one side to the other. Hence, I needed a plan B, or return home disappointed. Fortunately, Clive came to my rescue by kindly allowing me to fish peg 3 of the match lake, whilst a match took place. Hopefully, it was enough out of the way to avoid disturbing the match anglers. Even though the aerators had been on overnight, two thirds of the lake were frozen and it took an hour of boat activity to clear enough water to make a match viable. Most of the pegs ended up with about 20 yards of clear water in front of them, including peg 3. In order to enter into the spirit of the match, I changed my tactics to be more in tune with what was happening around me. I opted to fish an 11 ft feeder rod, spooled-up with 8 lb mono, attached to a size 10 Mixa hook via a 1/2 oz sliding lead. The bait was a hair rigged barrel (5 mm punch) of luncheon meat, flavoured with Mystic Spice Goo accompanied by a tiny PVA bag of Skretting 4 mm pellets. It didn't take long to realise that bites were going to be hard to come by, even for individuals fishing single maggots on a size 20 hook and 1/2 lb bottom. As time slipped by, friendly banter gave way to frustrated chuntering and worse, exacerbated by the fact that one individual obviously had some kind of secret weapon that enabled him to steadily catch bream. By 4.00 pm when the match ended, not a single bite had been had by anyone fishing the west bank (including yours truly) and very few had been experienced by those on the east bank, other than the successful bream angler, who claimed to be fishing 4 mm expander pellets on a waggler float.
As you might expect, I switched to more traditional carp tactics for the night, utilising three rods armed with three different snowman bait combinations, by way of comparison. By this time a clear sky and welcome sunshine had melted most of the residual ice, so all were fished just beyond half way across the lake and fanned out about 20 yards either side of the central line. On the right went a 16 mm Techni-spice /10 mm Secret Agent combination, in the centre went a 16 mm Essential IB/10 mm Winter Wonder tandem, and to the left (where the bream had been caught from) went a 16 mm Coconut Cream/10 mm Milky Malt duo. Unfortunately, after an uneventful night, I awoke to find the lake totally frozen over. I was certainly relieved that the task of retrieving my lines was relatively easy, due to having used under the rod tip back leads. Richards generous gift of an egg butty took the sting out of another fruitless endeavour and restored a sense of well-being.
Well I suppose not many anglers have actually blanked on the match lake, so it must count for something?