This year I haven't been fishing almost every Saturday and Sunday like I often try to do. That's actually given me more time to concentrate on the fishing I actually want to do rather than driving all over the place and trying to do too much.
It seems to be doing the trick as I feel like I'm fishing ok at the moment and, more importantly, catching a few fish too. I have only fished one team match with my Shakespeare Superteam outfit though (and won my section, I might add!) but I'm surprised I haven't really missed it as much as I thought I would - something I never thought I'd say.
Sadly, I think proper team fishing is in massive jeopardy at the moment and unless it gets a serious rethink and overhaul I can see teams folding in droves over the next year or two. It really saddens me to think like that but it's my honest opinion. It's a massive part of match fishing and the only thing that makes many people get out fishing in the winter. The last thing I want to do is jeopardise team fishing by writing this but the hard fact of the matter is that times are tough and people aren't travelling like they used to - something that's essential for any decent team to do.
We're still in a recession and team fishing is suffering more than most disciplines as a result. Big match organisers are getting fewer, many decent canal and river stretches are getting harder to park at, fuel prices are sky high and no one wants to be crawling home on the motorway on a Sunday night. Unless you have a tight team bond and a keen captain to motivate you, many anglers simply won't bother.
That's one reason why so many people are turning to their local circuits rather than bigger team fixtures. Many people are also turning completely to commercials. I don't think it's necessarily better quality sport but they're just more convenient. It can't be for the pools money, either, as your average commercial takes out a £6-plus peg fee before you even start - while some great canal and river stretches only take out £2 to £3!
There are some thriving pockets of anglers still having good natural-water sport, though. The obvious place near me in the Midlands is the Staffs-Worcs and Shropshire Union Canal circuits, but it's definitely in the minority. My old canal bloodworm circuit is definitely shrinking, for instance.
I've always had a soft spot for canals but I don't have anything to prove on them any more, so this season I feel like a bit of a change of scenery. Silverfish and F1 matches on commercials are what I'm trying to get the hang of and I've still got lots to learn in this area.
Having said all that, I recently had a wander down an old stretch of the Grand Union that I used to team fish a lot but once the West Mids Winter League folded many years ago it's been largely forgotten about. I can't remember the last big event we had on there but it looked brilliant and reminded me of some great fishing I used to have. Perhaps a session on there over Christmas is in order?