I would think that every TDFC member has fished the St. Patricks Stream at some point and it is without doubt the Jewel in the Crown of Twyford's waters. I have heard some members say that it is 'peggy' and not a 'fair' match water. Whilst I would agree that there are some pegs you would want more than others in the last three years I have seen money won from at least 20 different pegs. When you consider that the average turnout is around 25 it becomes apparent that a match on the Pats gives most of the field a chance of covering costs and getting the customary stream of abuse from Vic as he hands you your winnings. The following is just a rough guide for someone thinking of joining the matches or maybe those who do fish and would like a different slant on the water.
Local Knowledge: Seems like an obvious one this but one worth mentioning, you need to know what the peg is 'worth'. Get the most up to date knowledge you can about your peg, in particular try to speak to somebody who's fished it recently. A comment like, "won a match last year with 20lb of Chub" is meaningless if the willow tree they lived under has washed away during the winter and it is now full of small Roach. The vast majority of anglers at Twyford will give you a straight answer if asked, and keeping an eye on match results will point you in the direction of who to ask. Another great way to gain knowledge is to join one of the pre-season work parties. Apart the 'crack' involved with meeting other members, the knowledge gained on depths, undercut banks and so on can be a real eye opener. Arron Mulvany and Colin Rumney are best contacts if you feel like giving up a morning to help out.
Tackle: As far as match fishing goes the Pats is first and foremost a float water and because of the amount of weed and the quality of fish likely to be encountered a good, fairly powerful float rod is needed. Whilst you can get away with a 'standard' match rod on many pegs, the flyers are a different matter. This was brought home to me on the Charity Pairs match last year when I drew peg 63. In a nightmare of a match using a hollow tipped Dave Harrell match (a 'medium' match rod) I lost 6 out of 7 Barbel I hooked, nearly all through the hook pulling as the rod bottomed out. It was the trigger that forced me to start hunting and I now use a Drennan Tench Float, tippy enough for the small fish but with a really powerful middle section. I have since landed Barbel to 8lbs and Chub over 5lbs and have complete confidence in it.
Reels are a matter of personal choice, generally I prefer to used the closed face type except for Barbel where they do not seem to offer the same amount of control (another lesson from the Charity match). I carry spare spools for all with lines ranging from 2-8lbs b.s.
Hooks need to be fairly beefy patterns, I stick to the Drennan Super Spades and Carbon Chubs in a range of sizes. Finally a selection of Stick floats, dumpy Peacock Wagglers and the Drennan Crystal Loafers.
Baits: I genuinely believe that many TDFC members do not bring enough bait along to matches to enable them to get the best out of many pegs. Even on an 'normal' Pats peg I would reckon to average feeding 15-20 maggots every (and I mean every!) cast. If you consider that the average trot on the Pats lasts no longer than 30 seconds then that equates to a feed rate of 2400 maggots an hour. Ivan Marks wrote years ago that a pint of maggots contains about 3000 maggots, thus a reasonable requirement for a 6 hour match is (6x2400)/3000 = nearly 5 pints. Now ok, I haven't allowed for fag/coffee/call of nature/tangle breaks, but the implication is there; to just steadily feed a swim for 6 hours you need at least 4 pints of either maggot or a hemp/caster combination.
Now this is just a very rough guide, when the Chub are feeding on the flyers it may be necessary to feed double this amount, on a very hard day you may only need a couple of pints but I'm a great believer in the motto,better to have and not need, than need and not have. Cheese, Meat and Lobworms are also worth carrying as they can provoke a take from Chub which have grown wary of maggots/caster after noticing that a few of their mates seem to have gone missing. (see Tactics)
Also bear in mind that there are a lot more Bream in the Pats then is generally acknowledged. Keeping a tin of sweetcorn and a bag of groundbait in the car is a good habit to get into. (It should go without saying that if you are taking the Sweetcorn to your peg put it in a bait box first).
Tactics: Having arrived at your peg the first thing to consider is, what am I fishing for? This is where the local knowledge comes in as setting up a power float rod with 6lb main line is not going to do you any favours in a Dace peg. A lot of the better pegs involve casting quite close to overhanging trees and bushes so if you are not confident in this, practice until you are. The actual choice of float depends on depth, flow, distance, wind direction. I would reckon that 80% of my float fishing on the Pats is done using the stick float, usually a shouldered alloy or lignum based type. If I am on a known small fish peg (4 and 71 spring to mind) then I will generally set up 2 rods, one with a 2-2.5lb main line/1.7lb hook length and the other the 'power' rod with a 4.4lb main/4lb HL just in case. The only time I would switch to the heavier rod would be if the bites from small fish became funny. This is a hard one to explain but if 1 or 2 Chub move into a shoal of small fish it makes them nervy. They tend to dive in and snatch at the bait to get out of the way of the two 'big blokes' as quickly as possible. This manifests itself as a speeding up of bites or the pull tending to go sideways away from the line of the feed. If you notice a change in pattern like this it is worth stepping up to the heavier (and shallower) rig and increasing the feed going in. Whilst on the subject off feeding, keep an eye on how much bait the fish you catch have in their throats, if they're coming in with mouths full it may be a sign that you are giving them too much, if they're completely empty then step it up a little. If you are feeding lightly and the fish are still full then it may mean there are only a few fish in your swim and you have a problem. This happened to me earlier this season on peg 24, a few small Chub early on all of whom were full of bait despite reducing feed to 5-7 maggots a cast. In this situation you can either pack up or try something different. As it was one of the deeper pegs I fished the feeder/sweetcorn for Bream for the rest of the match, caught one, lost one and finished up with a surprise section win.
The small fish pegs are worth persevering with, a look at Pats results will show that 6-10lbs will still give you a chance of the section on a good day and can win on bad days. It also emphasises the need for the lighter rod/rig, fishing with the power rod only you will almost certainly 'bump' a lot of these smaller fish off the hook. This never matters until you realise you missed the section prize by 2ozs!
The Chub/Barbel pegs look after themselves but there are a few tricks which can help put a bonus fish or two in the net. At the start of the match spread your feed around a bit, don't just feed straight in front of you, feed downstream as well and attempt to draw more fish into your 'killing ground'. Over time bring the downstream feed closer until you are feeding just one point. The Chub can be very cagey but at some point they will feed, it is a matter of varying the feeding from none-light-heavy and waiting for it to trigger a take of the bait. The simple act of changing to a smaller hook can make all the difference even if the hook length remains the same. The Cheese/Lobworm/Meat trick becomes a viable option particularly towards the end of a match. Fish that have been ignoring the baited hook will suddenly snatch at something different put in front of them and that’s another 4lbs in the keepnet.
Obviously it is only possible to cover a small part of fishing the Pats in an article like this, the "what if's" and "ah but's" are endless and even the 'cracks' get it horribly wrong sometimes. The best way to learn is get on the bank and have a go. All pools are optional, for a minimum £3 you get a days fishing with the chance of covering costs and the chance to improve as an angler, which lets face it, we should all aspire to.