I haven’t done any carp match fishing since I won a local match 2001, however when I was made aware of a pairs event at Upper Tamar Lake, I quite fancied having another go!
Southwest Lakes Trust (SWLT) have been holding some match fishing events in recent years at Upper Tamar. These events are professionally run mainly by Ben Smeeth who looks after all SWLT venues.
The matches run from Friday afternoon through to Sunday afternoon. A boat, 4×4 or quad journey will see anglers and kit delivered to swims. Other niceties include hot and cold food delivered to swims three times a day, on site cafe along with toilets and showers, and safe parking all in stunning quiet surroundings. Oh, and a free barbecue at the end, which is always nice!
Upper Tamar is an 85 acre reservoir located on the Cornwall/Devon border. It’s a lovely looking lake with lots of features. There is the obvious dam wall which always seems to produce fish. Moving up from the dam on the Devon bank there are several swims offering deeper water and all produce well on their day. Further along the Devon bank is the Bradworthy arm where big hits can be had at certain times of year. Past the Bradworthy arm the lake narrows to approximately 160 yards across and this continues with a couple of very small bays on the way to the very top end of the lake.
Starting from the dam on the Cornwall side the lake opens out into a lovely large bay and two smaller bays giving scope for long range fishing and shallower water. Don’t get me wrong, you can catch fish under the rod tips around the whole lake but if the bulk of the fish sit out at range in the bowl area long range angling will be needed, 120-180 yards for consistent regular action. Past the smaller bays the lake narrows all the way to the top end. At the top end on the Cornwall bank is a bird hide and this is as far as night fishing is permitted on this bank, however you can walk up to the shallows and stalk or floater fish. The bird hide is a prolific swim at various times of year.
Upper Tamar is well stocked with around 800-900 carp with an average size of around 10lb. The lake has recently been stocked with approximately 300 fish most of which are superb looking commons. There are plenty of nice scaly mirrors, one of which went to 46lb several years ago, this fish is thought to have now passed away. The mirrors go up to around the 30lb mark but there are lots of fish, commons and mirrors, over the 20lb barrier.
I teamed up with a friend called Greg Coleman for this match who is an old school Cornish angler just like me, we have fished many hours together in the past and seem to work well together when out on the bank. Greg is competitive and has caught big hits of fish many times, when he gets going he can keep the fish coming regularly, a perfect match partner I thought!
As you can imagine all sorts of tactics would be applied with 29 pairs of anglers fishing. Greg and I decided to stick with the boilie approach to start with because there are lots of big roach in Upper, and some Bream, which can destroy your chances if they move in.
There was a decent piece of bank opposite our chosen swim and I was reliably informed the fish like to swim along that far margin where the gravel margin ends and hits the silt. This area was around 120 yards across as the water level was down at the time, so we decided I’d fish this area and Greg would concentrate on other areas. The middle of the lake in front of us was fairly deep at 20 feet plus whereas the far and near margins were around 6-10 feet.
Gardner Pro main line through to a short Camflex lead-free leader.” alt=”Rig wise I went for helicopter set ups consisting of 15lb Gardner Pro main line through to a short Camflex lead-free leader.” width=”623″ height=”439″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-15555″ />
Rig wise I went for helicopter set ups consisting of 15lb Gardner Pro main line through to a short Camflex lead-free leader. On the leader I mounted a Q-ring to which I attached the lead, next a XL Covert Buffer bead followed by a size 12 Kwik-Lok Flexi-Ring swivel, which makes changing hook links quick and easy, then a Covert Safety Bead and a Target Line Stop on which to mount the bead, a nice efficient and safe set up. I went for a Chod Skin hook link in 25lb to avoid tangles and simply knotless knotted to a size 6 Covert Chod hook. I place a Pop Up Hook Aligner with Covert Rig Ring over the hook to mount the bait and give the hook better hooking mechanics using this type of hook with a softer coated braid material rather than the usual stiff fluorocarbon. I simply break the material where I want the pop up to sit up and add a shot to counterbalance. I first used this rig a couple of years ago when needing to tie up pop up rigs at speed, so I could get cast out before dark on a weedy lake. It worked a treat, so I have continued using it. Simple as it gets, see the photo to look at the set up in its entirety.
Mainline bait was the order of the day, with a pink Cell pop up on one rod and a yellow IB pop up on the other rod. Both nice, bright, eye catching, reliably buoyant hook baits. I fished these over a nice spread of 18mm Cell which I dispatched 120 yards to the far margin using a Gardner Skorpion throwing stick.
Greg said as I’m a jammy git I should do the draw! I can’t be that jammy as we came 11th out of the 29 pairs fishing. Our plan was to fish the Seed Drills area if we came out first or we got lucky and no one else picked it. Second choice was swim 22 where I did some practice fishing and managed to catch 10 in a night. Next was an area called The Quarry which can fish well, however I was concerned that the angling pressure surrounding this area may push the fish away.
The anglers who came first out of the draw chose Seed Drills, I wasn’t surprised. Somewhere between second and tenth went our other choice swims so we ended up going in swim 20, one swim around to the left of the Seed Drills. I found out that some anglers had fished Seed Drills for 3 days prior to the match and had caught 28 fish, mostly doubles, so I felt confident we were in the right neck of the woods!
The hooter sounded at 6pm and it was rods out. It was all very exciting because first prize was £1500, second £1000, a nice pair of Harrison rods for the smallest fish (to keep things interesting) and £200 voucher for the largest fish so plenty to aim for.
I caught us our first fish at around 9pm, at only 5lb but it was a start. However it soon became clear that the fish in front of the Seed Drills had moved off to the right and out into the main bowl area. I had a chat with Jamie and Scott who came first out of the draw and picked Seed Drills and they said they were seeing fish at mega long range, further than casting range. I think swim 22 and the swim opposite 22 had also seen these fish and both sets of anglers were fishing long range from these areas, and worse still, catching!
Greg and I plugged away. Greg put in a good performance on the Saturday night but news would come around about who was catching what from where and it appeared it was a two horse race between swim 22 and 25. 25 was occupied by a local father and son duo who know the lake inside out and obviously knew what they were doing! We had hoped the fish would move to the left of Seed Drills but the bulk had obviously moved to the right and straight out, probably the pressure around the lake causing this to happen. Virtually every swim had produced at least one fish so we just had to plug away and keep going.
The hooter sounded at 1pm on Sunday afternoon which signalled the end of the match. We didn’t really know where we had finished as the marshals were keeping very quiet and keeping everyone guessing.
Swim 25 won the match and swim 22 came in second. The smallest fish winning the rods weighed in at just under 5lb. The largest fish winning the voucher was a beautiful old scaly mirror of 17lb plus. Greg and I came in third, 17lb behind second place. We were happy with this because I had only fished the lake once previously and Greg had never fished it, just a shame we were out of the prize money! We had a great weekend, met some really good lads and will definitely be back to have another crack at it. If you fancy it give Ben Smeeth a call at SWLT for details.