The last couple of months of my angling life have been dominated by Loughborough’s River Soar, and practicing for this year’s Winter League. The fishing has been nothing short of brilliant – I have caught between three and six kilos almost every time I have been, and I have yet to come anywhere near catching a framing weight!
Weights in excess of 40lb have been recorded, and on the last round of our league the average weight was over 8lb per person.
The river is fishing the best that it has done for years, and it is little wonder that ours is the biggest Winter League in the country, with 90 anglers taking part this year.
My Matrix Dynamite Trentmen team have been taking the league extremely seriously. Last year was a complete disaster for us, (I can’t bare to put myself through recounting what happened, but if you must know, read my earlier blog here) so we knew we needed to regroup, and come back fighting!
Lee Wright and myself have taken over the running of the team, with guidance from long-time captain Rob Perkins, who is having something of a sabbatical from fishing at the moment. Our first move was to sign some new blood. I am a big believer in investing in youth, and since last year's disastrous campaign, we have brought Tom Potter, Greg Cooper, Cam Cross, Ricky Marshall, Matt Parkin, Dave Hiley and Kayleigh Smith into the ranks. Indeed, signing so many ‘young boys’ between the ages of 18 and 24 has led some of the older members of the team to question my intentions.
I believe these youngsters have brought a real sense of energy and enthusiasm to the ranks, though, which has in turned regenerated interest among the older members. The key thing, is all of them are team players, and genuinely nice people. I know this because I have talked to each of them at length, while bathing them on team trips away.
Let me tell you about them each individually. The first angler we signed before last year’s Winter League had even finished was Derby lad, Matt Parkin. Matt works five days a week in Nathan’s Of Derby making cups of tea for Cameron Hughes, but when they do let him out the shop he can definitely fish a bit! Matt is one of a very rare breed of natural angler, who is able to weigh a peg up very quickly, and always comes back with the goods. I now rank him as one of the very best anglers in the team – I can’t think of a single time that he has fished for us in the last 12 months and not come back with a good result.
Sadly, the same thing can’t be said for the next angler we signed – Tom Potter. Indeed, until a few weeks ago I didn’t think him capable of a double-figure weight, let alone getting a good result for the team. Tom is a real tryer though, and I can relate to that. It’s the same for the poor lad with the ladies, he works very hard and doesn’t seem to get very far. Again, I can relate to that.
I must admit, I felt especially sorry for him when we all went away to White Acres earlier in the year. He was having a bad week, and after a few beers one night, he came and got in bed with me, then asked me to ‘spoon’ him. Waking up at 4am, handcuffed to the ceiling with an apple in his mouth wasn’t quite what he was expecting though apparently? I am perhaps being a little harsh, Tom is a very good angler, and the hard work he has put in over the last few months has certainly paid dividends – and he has been one of the best performers in the Winter League so far.
Next came Mansfield duo, Greg Cooper and Cameron Cross. Greg lets his fishing do the talking and doesn’t really say a lot – mainly because young Cameron won’t let him get a word in edge ways. If he hasn’t already told you, Cam is the reigning Junior Fish ‘O’ Mania champion, and now individually backed by Matrix.
I am not on my own in thinking that he has let his win go to his head a bit though. He is refusing to fish the River Soar, apparently it’s far too muddy for him, and the maize that comes off loosefeeding maggots blows black and messes up his hair. He bought a new vehicle with his Fisho winnings, a souped up Reliant Robin, and refuses to get it muddy on some of the dirt tracks that lead up to the river. He certainly seems to be one who saves himself for the ‘big occasion.’
Ricky Marshall was next to be roped in to the fold. Like me, Ricky is a Sheffield lad, and grew up fishing the city’s ultra competitive club scene. Unlike me, though, Ricky has a lot of natural ability, and has already proved himself a real asset to the team. You may think it strange that I haven’t said anything bad about Ricky yet – the reason being I daren’t. Although you wouldn’t think so, given his calm, kind exterior, hidded inside is a bloodthirsty demon – growing up in the same town as him, I have heard the stories.
Fights with men twice his age don’t phase Ricky one bit, he is our new official ‘head of security.’ The big man has a weakness though. Be it of the highland, Fresian or Aberdeen Angus variety, he is petrified of cows. After trudging back towards his car with all his kit recently, he did a U turn and walked all the way back because a calf was stood by his car licking his wing mirror!
Dave Hiley is a ‘veteran’ signing compared to the others in the team. He is almost 35 now, and as such very nearly passed it. I am still not entirely sure why we signed Dave, for sure he is a very nice guy, and I am told he is a brilliant angler, but as yet, I am still waiting to see any results to back this up? Maybe he should have considered a career as an angling journalist? In truth, Dave has been unlucky on the team matches he has fished so far, but it is clear from our practice lineups, that he is an exceptionally gifted angler, another natural talent, and will play a key part in our future success.
And finally our most recent signing – Kayleigh Smith. There were looks of shock and surprise at the meeting when I suggested signing a GIRL. ‘We didn’t think you liked girls!’ Came the cries from around the table. Truth be told, I’m not too fussy – but Kayleigh is a very special kind of girl. She is remarkably well reared (and not so bad from the front either.) She is also a very gifted angler, and on the fringes of the England Ladies team. Again, I feel sure that she will play a key part in our success.
It was actually Kayleigh who inspired the title for this blog. She sent me a video a couple of weeks ago, simply titled ‘Our Song’, and it turned out to be David Guetta’s recent hit ‘Lovers On The Sun.’ As she rightly pointed out, it sounds more like ‘Lovers On The Soar’ when he sings it. I naturally went on to suggest that she and I should go on to become ‘Lovers On The Soar’ but apparently her boyfriend isn’t too keen on the idea.
So there you have it, the latest signings to our Motley Crew, and I’m pleased to report that the changes already seem to be paying dividends. We got off to a great start, winning the first round of the Winter League with 38 points. This week the result was a lot tighter, and we slipped down to 4th place, but all is still to play for, and we are second in the league with four rounds still to come.
For me personally, the river (and drawbag) has been very kind so far, and I have picked up money in all four of the matches that I have fished. I obviously can’t say too much about tactics or our ‘head of security’ will be on my case, but if I was to tell you that one of my section wins was down to a 7lb barbel that I hooked on my hemp rig, complete with 0.07mm hooklength it gives you some idea how lucky I have been!
I feel we are all fishing well, and have a good chance of getting the result that we so desperately want. One thing’s for sure, though, even if we don’t, it won’t be from the lack of trying!