I've had man flu most of this week and have decided to give fishing a miss this Sunday, especially as the weather forecast looks very wet!
Back in Nov 1991 Bathampton used to run matches that also included Kelston Straight, and whenever there was water on this was a good place to draw, but bream always dominated. Today the river was clear after two consecutive frosts, but had some pace after the recent floods. I drew peg 224 which was in the middle of the straight and back then not really where the bream were. Fishing my then favourite waggler tactics and feeding lots of bronze maggots I had 9lb of mainly hybrids, a nice day but no dosh as bream came from the point and just below. The following day was a Commercial House match on Frys (we'd get 80+ pegs on Frys 20 years ago!) and everyone expected a tough day. I drew a few pegs above the National Peg and could only see me catching lumps so it was a feeder day. I started on a maggot feeder casting tight across using a single maggot on a 20 to 1.5lb maxima. I had two chub on this after 2 hours but no more bites, and so I switched to the groundbait feeder down the middle of the river hoping for bream. I had two bites but only connected with one and it was another chub, this time on double caster hook bait. Four bites in five hours was my lot! The 3 chub weighed 5lb 8oz and that was enough for 2nd in the 14 peg section.
The following weekend saw me try my luck on a Conham open, but I never seemed to do well in these matches although I always bagged up when pleasure fishing Conham. I struggled for 4 hours for a few bits, then threw in handfuls of maggots over the stick float and caught 4 chub in the last hour, too little too late. Sunday and back at Newbridge this time for the ATWL, back then the river was pegged out with letters and numbers (A1 etc), so you were never quite sure of the exact peg you were on till you got to it. However, I knew I was in the trees and that meant a difficult day was likely on a cold clear river. I put a 22 hook and 0.09 hook length on every rig; pole, straight lead, feeder and crowquill. I started on the pole feeding a little hemp and caster, meanwhile the Thornbury angler below me proceeded to thrown in 5 or 6 balls of white groundbait! Just as I stopped laughing at what he did I nearly fell in as I saw him land a roach, and then another! He only had 2 more, but looking back that was the first time I saw someone ball it in, well sort of! Back to my swim and I managed to extract 6 roach from the pole line, and 1 gudgeon on the feeder. I snared a 1lb chub fishing the straight lead over the pole line late on, and other than 1 missed bite on the pole that was it. My lowly 2lb 14oz was enough to win the section by about 1oz from Robbie Greenham the Bathampton angler. My team came 2nd on the day and were now league leaders, the next ATWL match was in the new year.
I had a pleasure fishing session at Bitterwell lake on the road bank that yielded 20lb of roach and skimmers on waggler and caster, a 20 on 2lb Tectan hook length. The skimmers came to double caster, but you wouldn't always get a bite on this. I had roach to over a 1lb plus a few big rudd. I never used to get bitted out at Bitterwell back then. That brought Nov to a close
Into Dec and the weather took a turn for the worse, with hard frosts every night and temperatures as low as -8C in the first two weeks. I cannot say much about the first 3 matches in Dec as I blanked in all of them! First one at Frys, where 9 people caught out of 55 and my section completely blanked, but I got 2nd in section money pulled out of the hat, who said I was lucky! On the Bathampton Xmas match I drew the trees again, peg 107 and blanked (Rotork won it, oh how times have changed!). I then blanked on Chequers from basically the peg opposite where I had been on Frys the week before! Eventually on the 15th Dec I fished the Silverdace Xmas match and was not to blank. I drew a peg up past the top of the Long Ashtip after the S bend (the peg Shaun Townsend had in the Commercial House a few weeks ago). I caught 6 small chub on the crowquill, feeding caster and using red maggot on the hook with a 22 and 0.08 Smart. I had one 2lb chub on the maggot feeder across, and in total weighed 9lb 1oz coming 8th out of field of 79 anglers, of which 47 blanked!
The second half of Dec saw mild weather return, including heavy rain and gale force winds. I fished the Docks Xmas match and drew Avon Street, 15 dace was all I could manage, and I nearly shit myself climbing down to the pegs! After that it was Xmas and I pleasured fished at the Crane and Chequers for similar results, 6 to 7lb of bits on stick float or waggler. I did fish a match on the 29th, the Silstar 1000. I drew up at Rotork and had a bite a chuck on the wag from tiny roach, that was until I saw a perch by my feet picking up the maggots dropped there. I got my rig and hand lined the maggot up and down until the line went tight, bingo a 1.5lb perch! Alas 6lb was only good enough for 2nd in the section, and it was a day when the bream fed in 54, the 60's and Kelston point.
The last pleasure session to really talk about in 1991 was at Bath in the town, just upstream of Windsor Bridge. I used to love (well still do) this part of the river as being deep it was a real challenge. I had a really fab day catching chublets from 2oz to 8oz, plus the odd dace and roach for a total of 14lb. I fished a waggler 2/3 the way over, just 7ft deep (in 14ft of water) with 2 no6, 1 no8 and 1 no9 down the line, finishing with a 20 to 2lb Smart. I fed 3 pints of maggots over 5 hours and gradually had to fish tighter and tighter to the far bank to keep bites coming. I actually went back the next day on new Years Eve for a few hours and only had 6lb+ and could only catch at full depth!
Roll on 1992!