This was a great time for me, I was going to many new venues and learning about new methods. After Shillamill I tried my luck on the Grand Western Canal at Tiverton. I walked the first match to get an idea of what to do and although people thought I was mad (you had to get about 3:30am for the early morning draw) it was well worth it I thought. Mind you the first match I fished was not so hot, I blanked, but to be fair only one person caught in the whole section! Next time and I drew an early peg in the town, I started down the middle while feeding across (I'd watched Geoff Salisbury do this) and was chuffed when a small tench arrived after about 15 mins. I then took 3 tench from across for a total weight of 12lb and a section win. I caught all the tench on caster over groundbait and caster. I also spent some time pleasure fishing at Upham Farm and Hogsbrook lake near Exeter, I had fished these lakes for a few years and had some great fun here.
The river season started and I managed 11 trips out during the first 13 days! Although none of these trips were bag ups it was good learning and practice, I always found the beginning of the season tricky, fish still spawning and bream tightly shoaled. However, one match that will always stay in my memory took place on the 1st July on the River Frome at Lullington, this was Bristol Amalgamation versus Frome in a DFDS regional round. We had walked the river and fished it once in practice with a local lads help, we had found out what an awful stretch it was. Minnows were all you could catch on some pegs, and the best pegs were not pegged as the locals thought this made it harder for a visiting team to win. When we drew our pegs most of us knew what we were fishing for, I was on a minnow peg (Dave Haines had caught them off this peg the week before) and was told to get my head down on them. You can't really get motivated to catch minnows, but never the less I was going to get bites and go for it. I wanted to fish as close and quick as possible, so I used the top section of a link ledger rod I had (real gnome stuff!) with a small pole float attached with a little bulk close to the 24 hook for pinkie. I set up a stick float, and a lead rod but I did not expect they'd be used.
When the match started it was simply a case of getting a minnow back every chuck as quick as possible, I soon had the depth right and was into the swing of it. I've never been able to count my fish and no way could I do it today so I never really knew what I had. Word came back that Andy (Bacon) Leonard had caught a small chub and was now on minnows, Woody had a few Dace and Paul Lumbard and Mark Holbrook a few roach. Apparently the opposition would not say anything, so unless one of our runners saw them catch we had no idea what they had. In the last 30 mins the minnows in my peg drifted out, and I tried the stick float where I'd fed some hemp but only more minnows, a worm down the edge for a perch or an eel was also a useful minnow trap!
When the match finished and I'd packed up I spoke to the guy below me and said are you coming to watch them weigh down to us, he said no and explained their Captain had told them not to leave their pegs in case we emptied their nets! These guys were so serious it was untrue. When the scales got to me the lads told me they thought we were losing (it was on total weight) and that the Frome angler on peg 1 was winning with 2lb 12oz, the guy above me weighed in 11oz so I hoped to claw some weight back. When I lifted my net from the water and brought it up the bank some of the team were laughing, they couldn't believe the "nest" of minnows I had. I weighed in 2lbs 7oz and this made things tight between the teams, although there were still more anglers to weigh in. Back at the pub for the results and due to the fact Frome had kept the results sheet close to their chest and some of our team couldn't be sure of the weight they had we weren't to sure if we'd won. Finally the result was announced and we'd won by exactly 1lb, and I'd came 2nd overall framing with minnows, wow! The Captain of Frome would not believe this and added up the weights at least another 3 times much to our amusement! (Apparently the angler who'd helped us was later banned from the club!)
Much drinking was already taking place in this pub, and carried on afterwards; we played skittles, first with proper pins but then with kids toys (!) and some of the lads tried to chat up a couple of local girls, the barman told me they were lesbians but we let the lads carry on trying! Finally we left, I think we may have decided it was a good idea to leave as we were annoying the locals, and got back into the battle bus which was being driven by no less than Paul Lumbard. On the way back Mark Holbrook stuffed a trout he had caught into Paul's mouth, instead of spitting it out Paul bit the trouts head off! We finally got back to the Butchers arms (after a stop at Nigel Saunders house for a bit of "decorating") to continue the celebrations.
1989 turned out to be a pretty good year for me, and I've got lots of good memories of this year. Although the next round of the DFDS was going to be interesting I was also hoping to be involved in the Sundridge Super League. Such was the interest in team fishing that there were enough teams for 3 leagues in the South West, Bristol Amalgamation was put into League 1 and Silstar Bathampton into the Super League, we were not amused! This meant that we had to finish our league in 1st or 2nd position to get into the Super League. The venues were River Axe, Bristol Avon (Newbridge), Bristol Avon (Avoncliffe & Limpley), Bristol Avon (Sutton Benger), Taunton & Bridgewater Canal. I'll let you know how the team and I got on....
Nicola Lunn has asked me to let people know that she is running a blind pairs match on Tockenham Reservoir on June 7th. Last years matches at Tockenham saw weights of bream and skimmers up to 90lb taken so it's worth fishing if you can make it!