Waking up at 6:30 I immediately recognised that the forecast of a hard frost had been correct. I had made an improvised ice breaker the day before after hearing that the canal had "lightly" frozen over, but would my claw hammer suffice? Breakfast today was in the Rest-a-While cafe in Keynsham, and there were some Frys anglers already in there. I sat on the same table as Dean Harvey and he told me of the estimated 20lb+ pike he had caught the week before on the Frome at Woolverton, it was true because a minute later I saw a photo of it!
At the draw there were once again a few ATWL semi final anglers turning out for teams; Welsh International Lee Edwards from Starlets as well as some Blackmore Vale and Diawa Gordon League anglers. I was nominated to draw for my team Thatchers A and pulled out peg 10 (one off the end peg) and then I drew for the Thatchers B and gave them peg 1! I was once again going to A section at Darlington Wharf, and peg 10 would have put me on one of the Pike pegs from last week, but this week it was pegged differently and I was round the bend just before the concrete turrets. Martin Barret had drawn the peg I had last week but this time it was the end peg. Jerry Pocock was in the bay on his own, and I arrived just as he chucked Dave Tippet's ice breaker into the canal....rope and all! Jerry forgot to tie the end of the rope to something, luckily for him most of the rope was on the ice and he got it back using his pole. Not for the first time in winter leagues this season I had Andy Floyd (you can already guess what's coming later) in my section, and Shaun Townsend on the next peg.
It was obvious my ice breaker was not going to do the job easily and so I never used it, instead borrowing Shaun's. I cleared a lovely section of canal and was well pleased with my efforts. However, all that was soon messed up when we realised a boat was coming up the canal. I was talking to Shaun as the boat passed when I realised it was mooring up in my peg! I soon assumed the role of Harbour Master and effectively I parked the boat to give me as much room as possible. Clearing the floating ice meant I was only just ready to start on time. I had only put together 4 rigs for this match; I set up two 0.4grm wire stem/bristle floats one would double up for bread and bloodworm at 5 mtrs the other was for the slightly shallower water at 11mtrs. (I didn't use the Drennan Roach float today as I thought the bristle might be to thick to see any bites I might get.) A caster and a worm rig were also set up.
I started the match by just feeding some liquidized bread at 5 mtrs to gauge the response. First chuck and the float didn't settle, bugger a shot must have come off, but no it was a 1oz roach! Next 3 casts gave me 3 small roach and then 10 mins without a sniff. I cast the rig out in front of me in a straight line and held tight, this brought 2 roach then no bites for 10 mins before another 2 in 2 casts but one came off. I then decided to feed an egg size ball of joker across the canal at 11mtrs and to my right at 5mtrs. With no more bites on the bread I tried sprinkling in a tiny bit of loose bread, this brought me 2 more roach and then it was goodnight Irene! Still 9 roach on the bread in the first hour was 6 more than Shaun and 9 more than the guy the other side of me!
The bloodworm lines took a while to get going for me, whilst Shaun was doing quite well on them, but I noted he had fed these lines earlier than me. Gradually the near line started to produce little ruffe, perch and the odd gudgeon to single bloodworm, it was never hetic, I seemed to get the odd flurry of bites and then nothing. I refrained from re feeding this line and often went back in and caught again, which gave me the impression there was still joker feed there. Only when I caught 2 pairs of eyes did I feed a small nugget of joker, and then I did get back to a few more "reasonable" fish. The 11 mtr line was never very good as I only caught the odd tiny perch from it, in the end I dumped a lot of joker in there in hope of a skimmer or better fish, but it didn't work. 45 mins from the end of the match the boat that had moored up cast off again, leaving a nice mess of peg for me, and I didn't get another bite until the last two casts.
In the end I taken around 45 to 50 fish (I can't keep count and never really try) and these weighed exactly 2lb 1oz (8 points from 11). The angler to my left weighed 1lb 9oz and Shaun was well and truly battered by me having scraped a level 1lb! (Shaun fed lots more joker than me and I think fed off what fish were feeding and ended the last 2 hours bite less).
Andy Floyd had phoned me on and off during the match and by the end "had 90 odd pathetic fish for about a pound".... he weighed 2lb 4oz to do me again, I reckon that boat cost me! Chris Gay won the B div section and the match with 2 pike for 6lb 13oz, Martin Barret won the A div section and was 3rd overall with 4lb 14oz, all roach on punch. Many anglers struggled for ounces.
For info Andy Ottoway came 2nd overall with 5lb, 2 skimmers and a slab at Claverton, meaning he has finished the last 3 C/H matches 1st, 1st, 2nd (won 5 sections and missed a match) RESPECT!
The match had fished very hard, with only 3lb 10oz needed to frame. Avon Aquatics won on the day (by a point from my team) meaning they had won the league at a canter. Thatchers B and A were 2nd and 3rd respectively. Veals and DW Builders were relegated, whilst Town & Country and Crown Road Electricals were promoted from B div.
League individual Champ = Martin Barrett
Knockout chump = Guy Manton (I did spell that right!), runner up Leon Hubbard.
I managed to come top performer in Thatchers A after missing the first match.
I must say Andy Britt made a right balls up of announcing the teams on the day result, and he was bombarded with empty bottles of Natch, cans and beer mats. Under this pressure he decided to announce the knockout winner instead, and some wag shouted "you have a 50/50 chance of getting this right!" But fair play to Andy he had a good laugh about it and did a good job over the six matches.
The league is looking for more teams to join, so if you are interested and can get a team of 6 people together let Andy know, the more the merrier!