After the high of winning the Poppy Match and an ATWL round in the space of a month I was on a real high, but I had to complete the rest of the ATWL rounds and was also looking forward to the XMAS matches. Still, you can usually be sure that it doesn't take long to be brought back down to earth and the next round of the ATWL was at Newbridge and I had drawn in the trees (we used to call it the Cricket Pitch back then) and was to told to try not to blank! To cut a long story short I had one bite on a maggot feeder for 1 roach of 3.5oz, this got me 9 points from 13, not bad but a boring days fishing. The team won on the day and were in 2nd place overall now.
The Xmas matches this year were a complete disaster for me, and although I caught something on every match 2lb was my best weight, a 1oz dab saved a blank at Frys although I nearly shook it off as I thought it was yet another leaf! Going into 1989 I needed to turn over a new leaf myself and the first match I took part in was the ATWL at Newbridge, this time I drew peg 52 just above the bream hole. I got hammered by the angler on peg 54 (Les Williams) but I managed 6 bream for 16lb and this gave me 3rd in section and 4th in the match overall. My diary does not tell me how the team did on this day, by the state of my writing I think I must have had too many beers that night! I do know that the following weekend I won the knockout cup in the Commercial House league beating Bob Warren with just 3oz, and I thought perhaps my luck was in again. Jan 22nd, and for the last round of the ATWL I was drawn 3 pegs below the New Fence (peg does not exist anymore) but the river was up and coloured. I fished like a fool, to small a hook and lost a bream that cost me a section win. 7 points meant that I ended up 3rd in the knockout and 2nd in the team, the bream would have won me the lot.... The team once again had to settle for 2nd against Silstar Bathampton. Looking back to these days my results on flooded rivers were poor, and I had not learnt to adapt my feeder tactics to the conditions.
Of course to soon the close season had arrived and boredom set in, although as I was in my last year of my apprenticeship I spent virtually every weekend catching up on the previous 6 months College work! In May though Bob Sheppard had organised a match with a friend of his who had moved to Cornwall, the Amalgamation team were to fish against a Cornish team at Shillamill Lakes. The match was on Sunday but of course we made a long weekend of it, Bob, Kev Boltz and myself went down on the Friday. That night we went for a curry in Saltash (I think) about 4 miles from our digs, we ended up having to walk home at midnight! This wasn't much fun as Bob and Kev were so drunk they kept on winding me up, can you imagine me a 10 stone weakling trying to give 16 stone Kev Boltz a piggy back... I took 3 steps collapsed and they then decided to stuff gravel & grass in my mouth, oh what fun!
During Saturday the rest of the team turned up for a bit practice on the lakes, then a large amount of beer drinking practice on the night. The match on the Sunday was one of the strangest I have ever fished. I caught a small carp and 6 roach in the first 20 mins and then the whole lake I was on went dead, nobody could get a bite! Once the on site bar was opened most of us went there, much to the disgust of the local team who wanted us disqualified. We thought our team had no chance of winning but we then saw that Dave Haines was catching on the bottom lake and as the match was on weight we literally ran back to our pegs for the last hour. The end result was we won by 1lb and Hanier was the hero (first and last time I believe) more beer just about finished me off and I woke up outside my house. Oh to be 20 years old again !!!!