I'll start with the stats (thanks Andy Britt) that will give you a flavour....
15 double figure weights, 43 weights over 7lb, an average weight per man (91 fished and bear in mind 4 DNW) of 6lb 11oz. That's from a 13 mtr wide canal in February!
I certainly was expecting some good weights after another pleasant week of mild weather and no frosts. As I arrived at the draw it was decidedly quiet (that will be the Little Chef doing more trade this weekend then) so I had a good look at the pegging maps. Darlington Wharf would do me I thought, pegs 1 to 8 had not been pegged last week and are normally good. When the rest of the team arrived Mark Harper stated "Your all fishing for your place in the semi-final it's that tight", no pressure then!
Peg 10 put me just past where I favoured but on what I consider to be a decent peg, it had produced 7lb last week but the pegs to the left were better then. However, my section was 1 to 10 and I knew I was up against it if I didn't get any skimmers. I was set up and ready to go and had been paid a visit by Mark Harper who was on peg 7 (well he left a deposit in the bushes behind me is all I will say!). Mark was moaning about his peg but I assured him it was OK and there was always a chance of a carp showing in his peg.
I started on the obligatory bread and within minutes the float was flying under every chuck with roach from 1oz to 6oz. This was great, and I managed to pick off the odd fish on the bread for 3 hours. I remember a couple of bikers went passed as I went to 13mtrs, "I don't know why they have to use such long rods!" one of them said, "that's because you know f all about fishing!" I said. I think I put 6lb in the net at this stage, I then took fish on bloodworm both near and farside and caster, but nothing on chopped worm which I kept trying in the hope of decent perch. To soon the match ended, I had enjoyed a bite every cast and ended with 9lb 8oz. That was enough to beat the Garbolino angler Mike Bernstein by 2lbs and the guy to my right was a DNW. However, it was only good enough for 5th in the section! There was 19lb (from the bay Steve Long Diawa Gordon League) 13lb, 12lb, 9lb 14oz.... Yep I needed some skimmers!
Mark Harper had 13lb and was 6th in the match, during the match he hooked and lost a carp about 14lb on 0.08, should have listened to me Mark!
Back at the results I was amazed to hear there were three 20lb weights, one of these came from Bathampton bend by Bristol Bagger Leon Hubbard. I think it was the first time for 8 years skimmers have come from this peg. I wonder if they are starting to move into the bays in preparation for spawning?
Mark announced the team for the semi, and finally read my name out last (not sure if it was picked in that order!) so I was in. There were obviously some upset anglers who had been dropped and I can honestly say I don't blame them, there was little to choose between a lot of us. Anyway the Thatchers Preston team is :-
There is an open match on the canal on Sunday at Limpley Stoke, it's being run by Kev Dicks if anyone is interested, I believe 40 are already booked in.
I'll leave you with this thought...
If you can keep catching fish when mountain bike handle bars pass within an inch of your £2,000 pole, if you can smile and say "lovely" when a dog deposits next to your net bag, if you can laugh when the same dog eats your slices of bread, if you can answer politely when the 92nd child asks "have you caught any fish mister?" and falls over your holdall, if you can put up with moored boats running their engine so that you feel as if you've smoked 100 roll ups at the end of five hours, if you can manage to keep your head when all those about you are losing theirs, then my son, you are a K&A Man!