I fished my very first Silstar Pole Qualifier on the Bristol Avon at Newbridge in 1990. As you may know these matches were pole only and attracted good turnouts, and you had to win your section to progress to a semi-final. On this match I drew peg 87 which is a few pegs above the stream, not normally a good area. The river was in typical summer conditions with not much flow, although back then we seemed to have more colour in the river all the time.
As I approached the area where my peg was I could not find it, it needed another more experienced angler to advise me where it was, and I had to walk through 6ft high weeds to find it! The bank was a sheer drop so I would have to fish off the high bank, but despite all this I was upbeat because I could see about 20 chublets just below the surface!!!
I set up one pole rig, most likely because I probably only had one sensible elastic set up back then. I used a 1.25 grm float, with a bulk 18" from the hook with just 1 no8 down. Hook length was a 1.5lb maxima to a 20 hook.
As I waited for the match to start the chublets gradually disappeared, the sun was moving over the peg and they just slipped away to avoid it. However, my first five casts gave me 5 chublets and then they went never to be seen again! After this I managed to pick off roach and small hybrids by feeding maggot with the same on the hook. I ended the match with 11lb 1 1/2oz which was enough to win my section. This meant I had to fish the semi on the River Lea next Saturday!
Andy Floyd, Kev Winstone and a couple of other team mates had qualified so we organised travel and tactics. We got help from Dave Coster, and he said that Bloodworm and Joker was the "in bait" but he felt you could still do well without it. There was no point us using B&J as we would not be able to compete with the likes of Bob Nudd etc, so we opted for a groundbait and squatt and pinkie approach, with caster and hemp for further across. When I drew my peg it was simply a case of finding out where it was as there was no information offered by the organisers of what to expect. As I set about putting my gear together John Amatto walked up on the way to his peg, he had a little map with him which had been drawn by a local angler, and it suggested my peg held chub. I set up two rigs for this match 0.35 grm float with a bulk 12" from a 22 hook which was attached to 14oz double strength. The other rig had strung out shot with a 20 to 1.5lb maxima, this was for the caster.
On the match I balled in 6 cricket balls of gbait, with pinkies on the hook and I took a few small roach and bumped a better fish. After an hour I was not catching but others around me with B&J were not doing that much better. Then I caught a chublet over the grounbait line and decided to go onto the caster line. It was not instant and I just got the odd bite for the rest of the match, picking up 8 chublets in total. My weight of 5lb 4oz won me the section and meant I had qualified for the final! Back at the results it was clear B&J had won all the money, and I was very fortunate to have drawn a peg with some chublets in, had I possessed a pole longer than 11mtrs I would have caught more as the far bank was at 14mtrs! I made the decision not to fish the final, as it was on a canal in Manchester and I was told don't take anything but B&J.
The following day I fished an open on the Thames at Kelmscott and won my section with 4lb 8oz of bits on a waggler. August ended on a low when I fished a match on a lake at or called Steeple Langford on bank holiday Monday. I managed 1 1/2oz and I wrote in my diary "How can i say what I caught on! 1lb was a good weight, don't go here ever again." I never did!
A match that stays very well in my memory was the NFA S/W Champs fished on the K&A around Devizes. I think I was fishing this part of the canal for the first time and was not sure of what to expect. I was drawn to fish Semington and had a very experienced Bathampton angler next to me (forget his name now!). I was using a Silstar Powerwind pole which was 12.5 mtrs long and this would not reach the far bank. I put some gbait straight down the middle and loosefed caster and squatt across fairly heavily. The angler next to me had fed gbait over and was soon into the odd tench, my middle line was desperate and I was way behind him! Roger Amos then walked up to me and told me all the better fish were coming from across, so changed rig to a dibber float and went across on the caster. For about half an hour I had no bites, so I changed to double red maggot on the hook and took a bream! I was fishing about 12 mtrs and obviously, loose feeding as I was, I had spread the bait about a bit. I took another 4 bream but was then forced to fish further over, I had to hold the butt of my pole on my knee and lean forward, it was very hard work! By the end of the match I had 11 bream for 24lb 3oz won the section and come 2nd in the match, which was nice! The Bathampton angler had 19lb and was distraught that I had beaten him off the next peg cos he was on his fav venue, as he was walking back he kept saying to his team mates "I can't believe he's beat me!" oh happy days!