Regular readers will have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a while. I haven’t been away, but since my little run on the Upper Thames in early September, I haven’t had too much to report on! When I started blogging on here I made a little promise to myself that I’d report back on everything I caught, and not just be a ‘trumpet blower’ but frankly since my last piece I’ve had a torrid time!
Thankfully Matt Godfrey has kept on catching, and I read with interest his recent report on the World Club Champs qualifier on the Newark Dyke. Unfortunately my weekend was very different. As a club we decided that we should each fish individually and to give ourselves the best chance this meant fishing the flat float for the majority of the time. But, after weighing in on the first day and chatting to Richie Reynolds, I realised that I had come undergunned! Richie had an 8lb barbel a couple of pegs down from me and showed me his rig afterwards.
Although owning flat floats that resembled two frisbees glued together, my line was a little light, as my frisbees had been tied up on 'only' 0.18mm main line. If I had hooked a barbel like Richie’s I wouldn’t have stood a chance as his rigs were made up on 0.33mm main line to a 0.26mm bottom and a proper hook! I don’t think I’ve ever used line that thick! Not even when trying my hand beachcasting off Chesil Beach!
Thankfully Maver Image’s Barry Oliver, who was pegged between us and won the section with three big bream, felt sorry for me and gave me a spool of 0.19mm Powerline for the following day... which lasted about 30 seconds when barbel number one was hooked! Despite having a mare over the two days I’m glad we fished, unlike a couple of local teams who qualified on the Bristol Avon in August, and would like to do it all again next year if we get a result in the National.
Following our away day/weekend, it was back to more local affairs the following week. I managed 7lb of skimmers for 2nd in section on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Semmington in the Upper Thames practice match, but was frustratingly only 3oz from the brown envelope containing the section money, despite loosing a foul-hooked 1lb+ skimmer at the net!
Come the actual winter league round I was hoping my luck would take a turn for the better... but it took a nose dive, unlike Maver Lobby’s Charlie Vallender who took a proper dive a couple of pegs away! The first I noticed was when I saw a couple of Ginsters pasties floating past me as I pushed my barrow up the towpath to my peg. Charlie was standing in the margins scooping his seatbox bait and tackle out of the shallow water. I think I would have gone for the pasties first!
Back to my match, I was on the first peg, with all the others leading up to a proper end peg. I struggled all day for 1-13-0 of tiny fish from right across the canal to be beaten by each angler by progressively more weight as we moved down the section. I never had a hope!
The following Sunday I had to work, which was a bit of a relief after my previous results, but I feared for my place in the team on the next round so had a practice session in the week on the Avon at Chippenham to recharge the batteries. I had 6-7lb of roach and dace on the stick float, which was just what I needed really.
Come the day of the match I drew about 10 miles from where I had practiced as the round is pegged with 5 sections at Chippenham and 5 at Melksham. Thanks to great information from other team members who had been at that part on the previous Sunday (that's the great thing about team fishing, all the information is pooled) I had 85 roach and dace on the pole for 7-3-8 and a comfortable section win – but lost 15 fish and hooklengths to pike! Most of the fish were caught on pinkies on light 0.07mm bottoms and 24 hooks over sticky groundbait stuffed with pinkies under a 1.25g float just inched through the 7ft deep swim.
On the team front, my Garbolino Blackmore Vale had a consistent 2nd behind Maver Lobby’s to sneak into the lead in the league as league leaders after two rounds, as Devizes Match Group slumped to last on the day!
Now I’m right up to date, and the next match I fished was the Winter League practice match on the Kennet & Avon at Brimslade, Wolfhall and Farmers. It was fished by 58 anglers, swelled by a few anglers booking in late as the Oxford Winter League was cancelled on the saturday due to the Thames being flooded!
I drew C2 on the Farmers section. Next to me on C3 was Browning Andover’s Les Thirlaway. He had a pipe where water from the surrounding fields drained into the canal and as there had been torrential rain since the early hours proceeding this match the water was pi55ing in with such force that it was flowing right across to the far bank! Despite asking if he wanted to borrow some stickfloats when I wandered past, I felt sorry for him as I’m sure he would struggle from there. All this water also had the effect of colouring the canal below Les while all above him had clearer water. It also stopped any floating leaves getting past him, leaving them building up in my peg and the couple below me! If was going to be a frustrating day of shipping the hook bait above the canal and lowering it gently between the leaves!
I started slow with my first fish, a gudgeon, coming after 40 minutes. Its twin joined it in the net at the hour mark!
I had fed two chopped worm pegs; the first at 13 metres angled to my left and positioned at the bottom of the far shelf, normally the banker, as well as one right over at 14.5 metres in front of me. An hour and a half in I noticed a swirl, a bit like a predator chasing a small fish so I baited up with a redworm on a 18 B560 to 0.10mm bottom and hoped it wasn’t a pike. I lowered it into the swim. About a minute later a 1lb perch was sat in my landing net! Two others, albeit only 4ozers, followed it in the next 10 minutes.
But now there was a bit of action from the next peg; not from Les, but Tony Scott below me on C1. He had hooked a good fish on his light pinkie rig, and he finally netted a 2lb bream, which gave a good account for itself.
Half way through the match, the rain finally relented and as the match wore on it became roach o’clock as my barren 11m line finally gave up a few fish. As the roach switched on I had 20 fish in about 20 minutes. Going into the last hour, I had another drop on the 14m worm line. I had a couple of indications, which got me excited, but then I lifted a little too high and tangled the rig in the overhanging branches. I got the pole back to the No8 black Preston elastic when the line finally parted leaving my beautiful Mick Wilkinson float hanging in the foliage! I held off the urge to strip down to my pants and go in for it, and quickly replaced it with a lighter version instead, as I felt the earlier indications were perch dropping the worm as they felt the extra resistance. Anyway, next chuck I had a proper bite and a slightly bigger perch than the first in the net. Maybe the earlier float was too heavy?
At the same time, Tony was into bream number two, again on the pinkie, and again after quite a scrap he netted it to go further into the lead. Perhaps the bream where having a munch? So, with only 10 minutes to go I swapped to my squatt rig (a 4x12 Lattimer with 0.06mm hooklength and a 24 Image IM1) with red maggot on the hook. First drop and an ounce roach then, with about three minutes left, the float buried and I was into something a bit solid. After careful coaxing a 2lb bream was netted. There was only enough time for me to clear the slime from the line and rebait before the whistle so it was perfect timing… or was it? Maybe I should have looked for a bream 10 minutes earlier? I’ll never know.
Tony was first to weigh and dropped 6lb 9oz on the scales, enough for a section win as my lot went 5lb 13oz. I hoped Tony would frame, meaning I may win the section by default, so I was a little surprised to find out the rest of the canal had fished poorly. That meant Tony and myself were the top two weights on the day!
I’ve gone on a bit, but after a lean run it's nice to finally catch some fish. Any of you out there who are on a similar run, just remember that it only takes a draw and a bit of luck for you fortunes to change! Let's just hope the missus doesn’t wash my lucky pants that I was wearing this week and my run can continue!