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My best-ever Evesham Festival… so far!

(Part Three – The Match Fishing Team Championship)

After two good draws Saturday and Sunday, could I draw five flyers for myself and the other four Shakespeare Superteam members in the Match Fishing Team Champs? Er, no was the unanimous answer! Rob Middleton had an average Peg 9, Richie Reynolds had a very poor Peg 23, I had a very average Peg 40, Tony Skinner had a dodgy 56 and Lee Gardner was perhaps our best angler on Peg 70. No stand-out swims so not the best of team draws that’s for sure!

All the talk before the match seemed to be that Dorking would be hard to beat. I wasn’t so sure as Barnsley Blacks had at least three really good pegs in 30, 46 and 79 – so that’s who I plonked an each-way bet on. I rarely have a bet but it seemed too good an opportunity this time. History tells you that Dorking did indeed win it and Barnsley were second so I still won a bit of coin afterwards!

I wasn’t overly confident with my peg but I still had a team job to do. Peg 40 has had no form this season and the river looked really clear as I surveyed the swim. I had fished the area a couple of times last year, however, and felt there was a chance of an odd quality roach if I persevered on the long pole. I was also buoyed by the fact that although Paul Glenfield really struggled on the peg on Saturday, Tim Kaye fished it Sunday caught a couple of eels and two big roach on hemp. Some fish were hopefully in the area then – I just needed to coax them to feed.

With team points top of the agenda I set up a lot of gear including a waggler, feeder, seven roach rigs, an eel rig and a close-in perch rig. The only rig I caught on all day, however, was a 1g Jean Francois shotted with an olivette, three No10 droppers and a size 20 PR311 to a 0.07mm hooklength and No5 Slip elastic. Unlike the day before where I constantly had to swap rigs and the speed that they went through the swim, this day was simply a case of putting the rig through at the pace of the current and eventually it would go under. I tried to do fancier things but it never seemed to matter!
I balled in 10 jaffas of my standard Sensas groundbait and soil mix at the start and cupped two joker-rich balls over the top. This time I also fed an 8m swim with three cupped-in balls for gudgeon and perch where it was the same depth. The first 10 minutes were poor as I couldn’t get a positive 1.5g rig going through properly and it kept picking up fine silkweed every run through. Swapping to the 1g rig made all the difference and I never looked back.

The fish were few and far between but at around four or five to the pound they were really worth catching. They quickly backed off after one or two were caught, though, and it was a real battle trying to guess when to risk topping up as I didn’t want to ruin the peg but I still felt like the fish needed coaxing back into the swim. I probably topped up nine or 10 times in all and, unlike the previous two days, the topups did seem to have an effect. The shorter swim wasn’t great but I did manage about 10 tiny gudegon and a few perch here – all valuable weight builders.
I worked my socks off constantly shipping in and out, running the rig down the peg as often as possible and changing my bait regularly to keep bites coming. I knew I was doing something right as the runners told me no one else in the section was really catching. I therefore only had a couple of looks down the inside for eels and perch as it was too much of a gamble coming off productive swims.

I dripped in hemp for a couple of hours but gave that up. I also stopped dripping in bait on the waggler line as I needed to concentrate on the pole. It was the right thing to do as after five busy hours I reckoned I had close to 5lb of dumpy roach. The scales actually recorded 6lb 2oz for a very satisfying £200 section win. The anglers either side on pegs 39 and 41 only managed 1lb and Sam Wildsmith was second in the section with 4lb from Peg 46. I was well happy with that!

It turned out that I was actually fourth in the match too, but alas they only paid the top three. Michael Buchwalder was on my peg from the day before and netted an 8oz roach on the whistle to weighed in 6lb 4oz – beating me to third by just two ounces! Rob Jones’ tench-assisted 7lb was second and Chris Jenkinson weighed in a fine 7lb 2oz of roach off Peg 7 to take the top individual spot.

Back on the team front, it sounded like we were out of it. Leigh Gardner had won E Section thanks to his finely tuned ‘kinky feeder method’ catching some valuable perch across the river but Tony Skinner had really struggled in D Section. Two late hemp roach did claw back valuable points however. Richie Reynolds also struggled on Peg 23 but clawed some vital small fish on the waggler tight across for reasonable points while Rob Middleton had put in a good effort in the low numbers for 3lb 10oz of small fish and a section fourth. We suspected a fourth or fifth place was on the cards, not great when they only pay the top three teams, so when we all got back to the results board we were elated to see we had in fact finished third with 51 points! That gave us all a massive smile – not to mention a £1,000 cheque for the team and a podium place for the presentation. It wasn’t a great draw but we had somehow put in a solid team performance and I reckon we really deserved that third spot!

It was a difficult festival for some, with the clear river affecting weights and a lack of bonus fish throughout, but there were still small fish in every peg to be caught and top names featuring in the frame each day. Personally, I’d had the best weekend’s river fishing of my career so far, learned loads and picked up a few trophies too. It’s great to get on that podium as a team too.

Once again, the festival was smoothly run and despite the weather being a bit chilly by the Monday the crowds were still there soaking in the atmosphere. Diana and all the staff at Evesham had done everyone proud and DHP and its staff and all the exhibitors had once again put on a brilliant festival.

Here’s to next year!

Team Result
1st Daiwa Dorking, 59 points
2nd Ultimate Barnsley Blacks, 54 points
3rd Shakespeare Superteam, 51 points

Individual Result
1st Chris Jenkinson, Maver Bait, Peg 7 - 7-2-8
2nd Rob Jones, Leicester Sensas, Peg 63 - 7-0-0
3rd Michael Buchwalder, Daiwa Dorking, Peg 29 - 6-4-8
4th Jon Arthur, Shakespeare Superteam, Peg 40 - 6-2-0

Jon Arthur

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