I’ve just fished my first ever Division One National with my own team. After a couple of times having to guest for other teams. Last year my team, Garbolino Blackmore Vale Match Group joined the Angling Trust and fished the Division Two match on the Basingstoke Canal and finished one place out of the medals in fourth place by an agonising two points! With this year’s match again on a ‘local’ water, the Bristol Avon, we felt we could have another go at getting a gong, well it is Olympic year!
If you’ve followed my previous blogs and my article in the July edition of Pole Fishing you would see that, with the match being fished over 30 miles of very varied river,a team would require lots of methods to get the best from each section. Because of this I felt that unlike on last year’s ‘method water’, the New Junction Canal, it would be hard for a team to dominate like Daiwa Dorking did last year. But again they have gone and shown what a phenomenal team they are by winning with a stunning 433 points, beating Maver Image’s highly respectful 401 into second place!
So how did Garbolino BVMG get on in our first year in the top tier of team match fishing? Again close but no cigar, this time 5th place and 14 points off getting our hands on the bronze medal, which headed back to Barnsley!
We did have 2 anglers with medals though, as Jonny Atkins and Mike Berntsen both won their sections and did their best to look like Jessica Ennis with their medals round their necks (Not that either of them came close!).
So how did my match go? After documenting my previous matches on the river with long pole and chopped worm, whips for bleak and the feeder for bream being used, it was the turn of another method to come into play for the big day. My peg for the event was B16, a long but relatively flat barrow push across two fields at Swinford. On arriving at my peg, which was about 10ft above the river, thankfully steps had been cut out of the bank to allow me to get closer to the swim and to get a few more rings of my keepnet below water!
The river was ripping through but I had a slack on the near side. My pole was left in the bag and a feeder, 17ft rod and bolo float, 15ft rod and stick float and a couple of whips (which I never used), were set up.
On the whistle I underarmed a biggish feeder with a size 14 B560 hook loaded with worms to the crease of the slack. No bites in the first 20 minutes had me reaching for the bolo rod. rigged with a 3g Sensas float, 0.14mm Colmic Fendreel main line line to initially 0.10mm hooklength and an 20 hook. Single caster resulted in the first fish of the day – a 6oz chub, followed by several roach and then a 10oz chub inside the first hour.
After my weekly discussions with my team mate Gary Etheridge, he has insisted that the big stick with strung shot has been a better option than the normal bulk-shotted bolo on the Avon this summer, so I gave it a try, and soon roach were coming more regularly.
Then my problems started!
A normal dip of the float, a swift strike, and line was being stripped from my reel at 100mph before I could even engage the bail arm. Dog chub number one found its way to a snag on my nearside which was unknown to me until this point in the day! All sorts of pulling, even letting the line slack and hoping it would swim out (do they ever do that?) resulted in a new hooklength being put on, again 0.10mm and a size 20 hook. Will I ever learn?
Twenty minutes and 5 or 6 roach later it’s take two! This time I’m exerting much more pressure to stop it finding the snag… but obviously not enough! New hooklength number two, this time 0.12mm and an 18. The roach are still coming, thankfully, but then a little dip and its tug of war time again! I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever pulled a fish so hard and a very stunned 3lb chub was very quickly lying in the bottom of my landing net.
And that’s how the match went. Several roach then a tug of war! which I think I won 6-4 –bloody things! The final few were caught a long way down the peg which required pulling them up past the snag. A big one found it and I pulled out of another. At one point I was using an 18 Super Spade to 0.14mm lime and I was still getting bites from roach!
The only layup in the chub action was about halfway through when the sun got up and I had to take my waders and bib and brace off, as I felt like I was in a chieftain tank, it was that hot! Whiledoing this I slung out the feeder with three red maggots on. I was half way out of my b&b when I noticed my rod almost being pulled in. I quickly slid back down the bank and a 3lb bream was found to be the culprit. The next 30 minutes were spent on the feeder trying to find some of its relations to join it in the net but none were forthcoming. And this despite several other attempts throughout the match!
I finished with 7.15kg to end up with 44 points out of 51, and although I had an enjoyable day, I was frustrated by losing the chub I did. Any one of them would have got me 4 or 5 more points, and if I had got them all out I too could have been doing a Jessica Ennis impression and getting my abbs out! (It was probably for the best that I didn’t!).
I did feel that I would have had more roach had I fished finer – but would have risked losing all of the chub that I hooked.
After the match it was the case of pushing my Barrow with every bit of fishing kit I own back across two fields on probably the hottest day this summer! Although thankfully my car was parked right outside the Swan public house. All I can say was that I was so hot that the pint of Bath Ales Gem almost evaporated as I brought it to my lips!