My wound is progressing better this last week, it seems the 3rd consecutive week of antibiotics is making a difference. Nice to watch fishing on the TV this weekend, two days of fishomania was very enjoyable and great to watch an international match.
Back to Feb 1993 and on Wednesday 17th the team fished the last ATWL semi final practice open match on the River Nene at Orton. I drew peg 383 and as soon as I saw the river I noticed the pace of the river had slowed greatly since my last visit, this was thanks to a week without rain! As there was a downstream wind, and with the reduced flow, I decided a waggler would be the best approach and left the stick floats in the box. The river is not wide here and so a 3AAA wag was sufficient to gain enough distance and control, with 4 no8 and 1 no10 down the line ending with a 22 hook to 0.08 line my choice of set up. I fed a dozen bronze maggots every run down at around two thirds across and was soon getting bites from small roach. The size was small with just the very odd better fish, but from what I could tell everyone around me was catching the same stamp and so I plodded on. I found a bait fished 18" off bottom was best and in fact I never actually fished right on the deck at all. I finished with 5lb 2.5oz and that was 3rd in my 20 peg section, no money but if I could do the same on the semi it would be job done for the team. One thing a few of us noted was that the whip and pole caught a lot of fish and so that would have to be in our plans for the semi.
Saturday quickly arrived and we were back at Orton for the semi itself hoping for a good draw with lots of end pegs, I wish! I was though really happy when the team draw put me on 386, just 3 pegs from my last practice and I knew what I would be aiming for, 5lb. As I walked to my peg I saw Robbie Kepner of Avon Bait on 383, I told him it was a good peg and of my 5lb on it, but not how I fished it of course. I felt I only needed a 2.5AAA wag today but I did end up putting 6 no8 an 1 no10 down the line to the now standard 22 and 0.08. I also set up 3 and 6mtr whips which I would start the match on, I cannot recall the rigs used. I fed small balls of gbait with pinkies in on the two whip lines whilst feeding bronze maggots over for the wag later. I caught tiny roach at 3mtr before this soon died, then similar sized roach on the 6mtr line. The wind was making the whip awkward and bites were fading as the hour approached so I left the whip lines and picked up the wag. Immeadiately the fish showed themselves, and the stamp was slightly better, but were still talking only 1oz to 2oz fish and certainly not every cast! I was once again fishing off bottom, and the main reason for this was because I had found in practice you could pick up the odd 3 or 4oz fish up in the water, now it might only be 5 or 6 of them, but that could be 12oz more weight which is a lot in a low weight match. I felt my match was going well, as all around me fished poles giving me the other side of the river to myself. There were quite a few people watching the match and I remember a lad shouted to his Dad "look, this man is using a rod", and I did attract a fair few watchers who said "we're fed up looking at poles!". The far bank opposite me had big vines trailing in the water and I had the occasional chuck tight across in the hope of a chub, this was a mistake. On one cast across I snagged up at half depth, and in pulling for a break lost everything. I had to set the wag up from scratch losing me valuable catching time. I sneaked an 8oz roach out before the end of the match to cheer me up a bit but I was cursing my stupidity. I finished with 4lb 13.5oz which gave me 19 points out of 23, good yes, but 5lb 1oz was 2nd in the section and I should have had that. As I walked back I saw Robbie, he had struggled for I think 1lb 8oz, and said to me the peg was a snag pit. When I told him I had not fished within a foot of the bottom he closed his eyes and grimaced, just shows the fine lines in getting an approach right with practice, cos Robbie is a brilliant angler. Getting back to the results we had given ourselves a chance we thought, but unfortunately we came 6th and only 4 went into the final, though we were just 13 points off qualifying. I thought we were unlucky as the top 4 teams all came from four pegs in a row in the low numbers and end peg 1 was fifth, in fact more than one team were impressed with our result compared to those pegged around us, but we only cared about qualifying.
No time to rest for a young angler, back on the bank the following day on a Silstar Open on Newbridge. I was really happy with peg 16 opposite the pub as I felt I would get a good days float fishing although I would never compete with the expected bream weights. I set up a stick float and a waggler, both with my usual 22 to 0.08 and fed maggots on a near line and down the middle. The first 40 minutes on the stick in close were very good for roach, but it switched off never to produce again. I spent the rest of the match sneaking roach out on the wag, fishing off bottom as I had done on the Nene. Going into the last hour I uppped the feed and started to catch better, so I fed more and caught more including a 1lb chub. I think the fish were doing the usual and coming on the feed as the light faded and so feeding more bait was not going to over feed the peg. I finished with a level 9lb which meant I won the section. However, at the results it soon became evident the bream had not fed every where and many anglers endured a very tough match, as such I sneaked 5th overall and an unexpected tidy payout.
I took the following weekend off to recharge the batteries before the last big match of the season came, the Ray Carter memorial on the Thames, with 480 anglers. My team of 6 had an OK draw, with Bob Sheppard having the dreaded Carrots n Ham section where just catching a fish would mean good points. I was on a flyer, the downstream end peg at Clifton Hampden which was full of chub I was told, but reports of 30lb catches of chub up to Friday did not inspire me, in my opinion chub go off the feed for days after a few hammerings. Still I had to be happy that it would still be a good peg in the 80 peg section. The river is very wide here and I needed a long cast on a maggot feeder to reach the far bank, other rigs were assembled but I only caught on the feeder. I started on a 18 to 1.5lb maxima but only had 1 small chub and no more bites, so after 40 minutes changed to a 20 to 0.1. On the first cast I had a small chub and soon put 3 more puppys in the net before it went stone dead. In desperation I went down to a 22 and 0.08 and I couldn't believe it when I caught again, I lost 1 but took 3 more small chub. An hour before the end an angler from the B team Paul Sawyer came down for a walk and told me he was blanking and asked how I had caught. When I told him I was on 0.08 he thought I was mad! Come the end of the match my 7 small chub weighed 5lb 5oz and that was worth 73 points out of 80. Walking back following the scales I got to Paul who looked very happy and told me he changed to 0.08 and caught two chub, one was over 5lb! Fine lines really paid off here. The team gradually arrived back one by one and we had some fantastic results, and Bob had managed to catch one chub for mega points. Bob had gone for a walk during the match leaving his feeder rod out, when he came back the rod was in water stuck in reeds and the chub was on the end! The team won on the day with 399 points, and for me this is one of my most memorable fishing achievements as some of the country's best river teams fished this match. Bristol Sensas had finally won something big and raised a few eyebrows.