As I wrote last time I did not plan to fish this weekend, and so I find myself reading my diary and seeing what memories it can revive.
June 1996 was a special month for me, I became a Dad when my daughter Lucy was born. As you can imagine fishing was rather limited in the lead up to the birth, but the wife let me go a few times after, this was handy as Thatchers were in the Super League 2 day final and to stand a chance of getting in the team I would need to practise. First up was a practise at Heyford Fishery which was I think the first snake lake in the country, and this venue was all new to me. I fished on peg 68 and had 18lb 6oz fishing casters fed tight to the far bank, a dibber with 18 to 0.14 was my simple rig. Maggot / caster on the hook saw a few carp up to 5lb netted. What was clear was that the big weights came from the bridge pegs.
June 16th saw me fish the river on a Bristol and West open at Swineford, I didn't do any good and it was a poor start to the river season. Saturday 22nd June and I found myself on the banks of the river Trent at Long Higgin (the other venue for the final). It was a tough few hours fishing, I only had 3 small fish on a waggler, and had to resort to the groundbait feeder to get a few bites from hybrids. I finished the practice with 3lb 14oz which wasn't too bad compared to the rest of the lads. I'd been talked into fishing the river Parrot the following day for the team, not a venue I knew anything about. I recorded in my diary "absolute garbage", after I weighed 2lb 12oz of little skimmers and roach all caught in the first 90 mins on the pole, using maggot, then pinkie, then bloodworm! My minuscule catch was worth 16 points out of 20 and the team came 5th.
I was back up Heyford on Sat 29th June and this time fished peg 98 in another practise line up with the team. I did a bit better today and had 28lb of carp on the caster, I fed heavier getting through 3 pints and caught most of the carp up in the water, on the deck you fouled too many. We stayed the night and were going to fish the Trent the next day. Once again it was tough going on the river, I managed a flat 3lb fishing bloodworm on the pole, odd hybrids were caught on the maggot feeder and for those that fished on late the river came alive and it was a bite a chuck, proving the fish were in there! At the end of all the practising I had managed to make the team for both days, pressure on!
Day 1 of the Final was on the Trent and the day didn't start that well as Mark Harper was very late in arriving, and he had all the bait including pre mixed groundbait, I recall Ian Parsons being a tad angry, lol! I was on peg 33 which meant nowt, and followed the team plan of balling in gbait and joker on the pole and fishing a maggot feeder for hybrids. Well the plan didn't go to well for me, I just could not get a bite on the pole line and it seemed the angler above me was also struggling. The feeder was very slow and I couldn't build any weight or find a pattern. I hooked something large ont he pole line, no idea what it was but it disappeared with my 0.75 hook length pretty easily. I finished the match dis heartened knowing I had let the team down, and my 1lb 10oz was last in the section, the lad above me had 2 points and the lad above him 3, bad draw + bad angling I think on my part. The team had come 5th on the day and we needed a mega result the next day to stand a chance of getting a cheque. We did enjoy the night and had a curry, but Des Shipp was not happy as he didn't eat Indian food! He had chicken and chips (the only English dish on the menu) but when it arrived it had an Indian sauce poured on it and he wasn't happy, lol! My curry was much hotter than what I thought it would be, but Ian Parsons was complaining his Vindaloo was mild, the waiter then realised he'd swapped our dishes by mistake. We stayed in a hotel which also had the Irish team and another lot in there, Ireland played Italy in the world cup and I think it was Ray Houghtons goal that won them the game. We had a good craic that night! Steve Mayo was sick in his Sensas bucket but blamed it on food poisoning, PMSL!
Day 2 of the Final and back to Heyford Fishery. Team draw put me on peg 104, and I was told this was one of the worst sections but it was fair, no glory today then all about the team. We did feel we could still have a good day as we had a few good pegs. I started fishing up in the water across on the caster but after 30 mins I was biteless, a few pegs away the Dorking angler had taken early carp and was leading the section easily. I switched to my depth rig and snared 4 small carp before the bites stopped. It was then a case of feeding some chopped worm which should get bites from any fish that moved into the swim. It was hard graft as the hot summer sun shone down, but by working hard I took 2 more carp, 2 orfe a tench and a few roach on worm. I caught these at a time when many anglers in my section could not get a bite and I was hoping I'd get decent points. I weighed just short of 20lb, and this was 2nd in the section behind the Dorking angler, I felt a lot better. It was a similar story for the team as we had done well and we came 2nd on the day and tied on points with a few teams, but we managed to come 3rd over the two days and win a grand. The icing on the cake was Mark Harper winning the match, we grabbed hold of him and threw him in the lake, as we did so Des Shipp lost his balance and from somewhere a hand gave him a push. He swore as he disappeared under the surface. I laughed so much I nearly pissed myself, and the picture of us cracking up appeared in the Anglers Mail.
Well I am very excited about my next trip, as I am going to fish the river Tone in Taunton again. This time I am meeting up with angling journalist and in my opinion one of the best all round anglers there is (Sea, Specimen, match, trout) oh and he takes a few photos; Chris Ponsford. I haven't seen Pons for years, not since when I was a lad finding my way in match fishing, it will be a privilege for me to fish in his company, and let's hope the chub are obliging!