Grafham Reservoir is a bit of a holy grail for lure fishermen in the UK. When I heard that the WPC England Qualifier was going to have a kayak division and it would be at Grafham. I handed over the entry fee immediately.
The event itself came around a bit quick for me in the end, I was on holiday with the family and had to shoot back from Cornwall, unload the car, reload with two Hobie kayaks, fishing gear, food and camping gear, then have a quick sleep before heading off to pick Lars Lundberg up from Heathrow Airport on the way to the event. Lars is part of the Hobie Fishing Team in Sweden and a top predator angler. He did rather well at another UK competition at Llangorse, Wales a couple of years ago.
We arrived early at the waterside, so headed to the pub for a lunchtime drink, they had stopped serving food, which was a bit of a disaster. Back at the reservoir we popped into the tackle shop to have a chat with the chap behind the till to see what information we could gleam from him, we got a chart with depths of water on it which was a good start and knew a little more than when we arrived. It was time for coffee and cake.
Finally other anglers and the organisers began to arrive and we could set up camp which was right next to the water, it was perfect, not a breath of wind. Time to head for the pub for a top up.
Saturday morning arrived and so did the wind, we all registered for the competition, had a briefing with Gary Palmer and then we headed out on the water, we could fish nearly half the lake, but no further than 300 metres from the shore as the wind was due to build. Everybody off the water by 2pm latest or suffer a time penalty on competition day.
I headed to the bottom end of the lake as all the other kayaks headed to the top, I knew that I would get to hear of what fish were caught up there so fishing the bottom was a bit of a plan in my mind.
I soon started getting a few bites on a drop shot rig, but no hook ups, I marked the location on the Dragonfly finder and moved along, changing tactics to spinnerbaits trying to locate a pike, a pike with its length could win the event. No luck by the time I had reached the damn at the bottom of the lake so I changed back to drop shot and started hunting for perch, there were a few boats down here at this time all looking for the same thing. I soon had a bit of interest followed by a nice little perch, job done, no blank.
With time getting short I cast out a diving plug and started to troll it back to the launch area. It was hit savagely and the fight began, initially I thought it was a good pike, sadly not it was a nice rainbow trout. Once it was returned it was time to get back and see what others had caught.
That evening a hog roast was provided which was right on the money and enough for two rounds each. This was followed by beer and chat.
I’d seen a few white lures being cast by the boat anglers so shared that amongst the kayak anglers, I like people to catch fish, although if I kept quiet I might get higher up the leader board. Most dug out a few white soft plastics and added them to their lure boxes for the morning along with heavier jig heads for the deeper water we hoped to fish.
Sunday Morning was windy. We were all nervous about being allowed to launch. Not only were we good to go we were also told we could have the use of the whole lake. At 8:00 am we headed off, most to the left again and three of us headed off for the two mile peddle to the water tower on the far side of the lake.
First drop with the white lure and I had a hit, in hindsight it was probably a trout grabbing at the lure as it past by its nose. I fished hard but with no luck.
I made the decision to move down the to the bottom of the lake, working along the shore till I got back in the corner where I had the perch on prefish.
The boats were shooting about all over the place, not sticking around for long anywhere, that meant nobody was catching much.
I met up with Shaun Milner on route and we fished a bit together, he had just caught a cracking Zander so was well chuffed. As we neared the bottom there were boats everywhere. I started a drift with my drift chute slowing me down.
Eventually I had a small perch. I was on the scoreboard.
Watching Zander and perch being caught around me it was becoming a little frustrating, then it went quiet and the boats moved off. The wind was howling down the lake by this time.
With two hours to go I headed towards the bottom tower, Shaun was heading towards me, he had just had a 45 cm perch but wanted some more perch and zander so was headed over to where I had just been. I got a little nearer to the two boats who were fishing near the tower, realised they were top perch fishermen so dropped in and started to fish the drop shot, this time on a secret bait, I hooked up almost immediately with a nice perch, measured, photo’d and released I sprinted up and started to drift again, this time a 39 cm perch followed by a 32 cm perch on the same drift. A few more drifts and a few more perch all around the same size. I had an hour to get back, heading against the wind and waves, so I had to leave which is hard when its fishing so well.
Back on shore Lars told me he had caught twelve perch and a zander, plus lost three more zander.
Others had not had so much luck.
Tents down, coffee and cake eaten it was time for the prize giving. £18,000 of prizes would be distributed amongst the kayaks and boats, amazing.
First five in the kayak division would win prizes we were all told, then my name was called, I’d got fifth place, I was very happy with that. I hoped for a top ten, this was so much better.
Lee Evans was fourth, Lars was third, Shaun Milner second and Mike Taylor first.
At the end of the prize giving it was announced that the competition would be repeated next year, best of all Anglian Water announced that Grafham Water would be opened up to Kayak Fishermen, I’ll be going back for a practice before next years event that’s for sure.