Prior to the winter league matches on the canal Kev Dicks runs a canal weekend. I was only going to fish the Saturday as an open match, which meant Friday was spent preparing top sets and rigs etc, best part of 4 hours in the end! It was just after I had finished this that I had a text from Tucks to say all the bloodworm and joker had turned up dead!
The draw for this match was the White Lion in Batheaston, a great pub which does a big breakfast and always has a lively atmosphere afterwards. There were 26 people booked in for this match (40 in for Sunday) and a healthy number of these were my Thatchers team mates. The match was pegged above the George pub, from just below schoolhouse bay, to the narrows above the swing bridge. With the weather being mild and the canal coloured talk was of good weights of skimmers. 10 minutes before the draw and there was still no sign of Tucks or Gary O'Shea, it turned out both of them had overslept, although Tucks did have the excuse of a belly load of beer! Sean Townsend was also late as his lift (Rich Lacey) could not be roused from his bed!
I drew peg 13 and this put me past Bathampton bend and one before the wires, this peg has produced in previous years as it has a lot of space to your left. Guy Manton had drawn end peg 26 (same peg he drew on this match last year and won from) and Liam Braddell peg 1, these were the pre match favourites. I had Andy Ottaway for company on peg 12 and he was pegged where I thought I would be, his peg has a nice bush and thick reeds, but I was nearer to the wires than I would have liked. Being pegged either side of a boat you always hope the boat/residents will not become a problem, the owner popped his head out and I said "Good morning" to which I had no response, and neither it turned out did Andy. The owner had a left a bike stood up and tethered to his guy ropes, right where I needed to ship back, that would make things awkward so I hoped I could catch close in.
I set up a number of rigs, a 4x14 Drennan Roach for punch (this has a thickish bristle which doesn't get pulled under by the punch) and a 0.4 grm pencil float with thin bristle for smaller pieces of punch. a 0.4 grm Preston classic 6 for fishing pinkie over last weeks joker, a caster rig and chopped worm rig. For punch I use either 0.08 or 0.07 hook lengths, I have always used B511 for the hook, but today I was trying Preston PR332. At the start I fed a ball of crumb on my 4mtr line a bit of joker and caster across,and of course some chopped worm. 15 mins before the start and Tucks and Gary came walking past with their gear, the draw had been put back 15 mins to "assist" them.
Dropping in on the Roach rig I had a ounce roach first put in and a 6oz skimmer next. I was getting a bite a cast from roach (all swingers) and had a 10oz skimmer when about 40 mins in the boat owner started a generator on his boat next to me. I think we are more put off by these things (and I was) than the fish are, and 10 mins later I took 5 skimmers in 5 casts, all from 6oz to 12oz, but one was a 1lb. So I guess after an hour I had 4 1/2lb and was well happy with this.
I managed to keep small roach coming on the punch until the halfway mark when the peg didn't recover after a boat went through turning the back end in my peg. Unfortunately for me the other lines were not working out and I couldn't get bites across. I fed some joker up to my left and hoped that some of the bread fish in the area may find that, but it produced 2 or 3 fish and then you had to rest it for another 2 or 3. However, the 4mtr punch line came back to life, giving me the odd small roach and in the windy and wet conditions I was glad to be catching close. An hour or so to go a boat pulling "something" behind it came through with its engine was on full, meaning mine and everyone Else's pegs were stirred up big time! Andy had by now taking a few roach on caster across but try as I might I only had one bite on this. As we talked about this the boat owner came out and had a go at me for "shouting" and told me to shut up, he also said I was effing ignorant and should not be fishing within 15 feet of his boat! As I started to respond to him (what's your problem are you trying to sleep?) he simply shut the door in my face...what an ahole. Get used to it mate there will be a lot more anglers fishing next to your boat in the next couple of months!
As I was not catching fast enough now I took a gamble and fed some bread about a metre off the far bank, and luckily for me this started to produce odd roach and I reckon I put a 1lb in the net in the last hour. The PR332 hooks had worked well, as I had not lost one skimmer and only a couple of roach (normally due to the punch being to big for the roach). The weigh in was done in pouring rain and I was more than happy with 8lb 13oz. It turned out that last hour for me was crucial as there were 3 other 8lb weights which I beat, but I could not beat Liam on peg 1 who won the match with a lot of caster roach. Final results:-
1 Liam Braddell 9lb 9oz PI Thatchers
2 Tim Ford 8lb 13oz PI Thatchers
3 Mark Harper 8lb 8oz PI Thatchers
4 Mark Brennan 8lb 6oz PI Thatchers
5 Guy Manton 8lb 1oz PI Thatchers
6 Andy Ottoway 7lb 10oz Bathampton
Lots of roach had shown but for most people they were on the small side and 5lb was the average weight, the top weights had skimmers or better quality roach in them, and Mark Brennan did have a 1.5lb perch. Martin Rayett weighed 7lb 9oz but pulled out of 3 good perch, and so he could have easily won the match.
As I said, I wasn't fishing Sunday but I have found out that Diggers Yard and Claverton were pegged for day 2. Sean Townsend won the day with 11lb from the reed bed peg at diggers with some lumpy perch, and Graham Hunt and Vince Lunn both had 10lb at Claverton for the 2nd and 3rd place. It seems that diggers fished hard and this put some of the anglers who did well Saturday out of contention, Liam only managed 1lb while Guy Manton suffered with 8oz. The weekend overall winners were :-
1st Mark Harper
2nd Mark Brennan
3rd Sean Townsend
It seems my wish last week of having a decent draw on the canal came true, I hope it's the start of things to come and that the team can win the last two rounds of the ATWL.