Time seems to fly as we get older, it didn't seem that long ago I was fishing the first round of this league up the Crane in warm weather. Today on the canal it was gonna be chilly and the thermals and extra layers were readied. The canal had been fished the day before on a Xmas match up at the George and Vinny Lunn won that with 11lb and his Mum Nicola was 2nd with 10lb, but weights dropped a bit after this. Today the match was pegged from Darlington up to the white gate by the George pub. Polished off a couple of tasty breakfast rolls and I was ready for the draw, today I was pegged in F section which was between Meadow Farm and the George Pub. I decided to park at Meadow Farm (which meant a nice steep walk back) and walk down. On peg E2 just past the wires was Jerry Pocock, and his peg was the end peg as E1 was not drawn (someone missed a flyer there!).
When I got to my home for the day I found I was pegged just before the old lock, it's only 10m+ wide here and I wasn't sure it would be that good if a lot of boats came through. On the other wider side of the lock was my stalker Kevin Dicks, think that's the 4th or 5th time we've been in the same section. My peg was nice and comfortable and I got my box in down on the edge of the water, rigs were pretty standard for me; 4x14 with 0.07 to 18 PR311 for punch on top 4, 0.2g PB silvers 5 for caster over 0.08 to 18 PR311, a chopped worm rig that caught nothing, a 4x12 bloodworm rig for across with 0.07 to 20 PR311. All ready to go my peg looked like this. (The house, conservatory and gardens opposite were very nice indeed!)
The all in was called and fed a ball of liquidized bread on my top 4, and some casters in 2 spots across, and that was it for now. I dropped in with a piece of punch and I was rewarded with a very positive bite and a nice bit of elastic came out, I guessed a skimmer, but it was in fact a roach of nearly 6oz. Next chuck a 3oz roach, and the next a smaller one. I put a bigger bit of punch on and was still catching roach which were probably averaging 1 1/2oz to 2oz. This is a great stamp of roach to catch and certainly better than what I have seen down at Darlington! After 20 mins a boat came through and I was gutted as I had been catching well, thankfully I must have been on a shedful as the bites continued after the boat had gone! The wind was now really blowing strong up the canal, it looked like the canal was towing, but it wasn't, and I had to hang onto the float or pull it against the tow to get the right presentation. At one point I went to lift my float up (not had a bite) and the float never moved, I'd hit the bottom, but as I shipped back the elastic came out and then pulled back twice before everything went lose. I can't be sure but I think I fouled a decent bream, it was very heavy. I think another 2 boats went through and I still caught on the punch, but after 90 mins this line hid the skids. Despite my best efforts I could not revive it again. I now fed some joker at 10m straight in front. as well as next to a boat to my left.
Time to look across on the caster lines, bang the float settled and carried on going and I caught another 2oz roach. I think I took 4 from my two lines but then snagged on an underwater bramble that came out further than I thought. It snagged my main line and I lost the whole rig. Luckily I had a spare made up and went back out and caught a large bleak and a roach before it went quiet. It was damn hard work holding the pole in the wind and trying to avoid all the leaves that were on the surface, they were a pain all day. Out on my main joker fed line at 10m and my first drop in with a pinke the float did not go under straight away (when I thought it would). After a few minutes of waiting the spec of a bristle disappeared and a better fish was on, must be a skimmer this time... no it was a roach getting close to 8oz. Back out again and a long wait for a little roach, and then a long wait for nothing, so on with a bloodworm and only 1 tiny roach, I was amazed! However, speaking to Martin Barrett and Kev Dicks it transpired the canal was fishing hard and some were getting hardly any bites and I was well ahead in my section.
The joker fed down by the boat might as well have been fed on the boat as I never had a bite over it! To be fair the last 2 hours of my match was awful and I could not get a bite over any of the lines. I did get a bleak on a red maggot over my chopped worm feed, lol, and a few micro roach on joker at 10m. I'd fed a small amount of joker over one of my caster lines and this brought 3 or 4 small fish. With 30 mins to go I fed some bread right over the far side as a last resort, this worked and brought me 10 or 12 little roach, at least a few bites to end on.
I was happy to pack up as I was now feeling the cold,and I was desperate for a pee but there was no chance of going as the towpath was very busy. I ended up weighing 6lb 3oz and won the section by a fair margin as Kev came 2nd with 2lb 14oz, I think that makes us about even this winter league! Walking back I saw Jerry Pocock about to weigh in and he had a nice bag of skimmers for 10lb 10oz, some on bread some on bloodworm. I then took some deep breaths for the walk up the hill, which I'm chuffed to say I did without stopping, but boy was I puffing at the end!
Overall on the day :-
1st Jerry Pocock 10lb 10oz
2nd Andy Power 7lb 3 1/2oz
3rd Kev Boltz 6lb 13oz
4th Vinny Lunn 6lb 4oz
5th me 6lb 3oz
On the team front Bathampton won the match finally beating Thatchers, but the league was sewn up already by Thatchers and we won the league with 5 wins and a second, Bathampton were runners up.
The knockout was won by Mark Harper, who beat Lee Trevitt.
The top 3 individuals in the league
1st Liam Braddell 27 points
2nd Shaun Townsend 27 points (less weight)
3rd me 25 points.
A satisfying set of 6 matches for me, and it was nice to get two section wins on the canal when last year I was last! Better draws this year have helped! As ever the Avon has fished well, but the boats up at Newbridge are really becoming a problem. Well done to Mark Harper and Kev Dicks for running the league, a thankless task.