It has been many years since I last fished a National, and you have to be prepared for these events in many ways. Lots of travelling, lots of money for bait, beer, food, beer, pools and beer. Also you have to be prepared for not really knowing where you are going, and more often than not drawing crap pegs. You might say why bother, well there is always the chance that the luck might go your way and you end up with a medal. Thatchers had elected not to practise for the event (having had some experience of fishing the Trent before, I had not personally fished the tidal stretch before so was relying on lots of the lads advice.
I drove up to our hotel in Bingham on Friday, met up with the rest of the lads, Nathaniel Johnson had already had a mare after filling is car with diesel it promptly broke down, the pump was contaminated with water. Mark Harper, who was on the M5 had to get off and go to Trowbridge to pick Nat up. Good start! Once all together we had a great Chinese meal in the hotel and drank and told stories until the early hours. I was that full (and we ate very late) that I really didn't feel like breakfast at 7am, but I had a bit to keep me going. John Harvey fishing his last match for us went off early to do the draw, lucky we didn't ask Gary O'Shea to do it as he was missing and not answering his phone, eventually we established what room he was in and woke him from his deep sleep!
At Newark showground we met up and got our pegs, I was in B section which was a split section with 22 pegs at Holme Marsh and 23 pegs below Collingham weir. A few potential match winning pegs in this section, but sadly the team draw didn't put me on one of them and I was on B40.
I took a long hard look at my peg when I got there, I knew the river was going to rise at some stage as the tide came in but wasn't sure how high. Looking at bank I could see a tide line so set up behind that and kept my eye on things. If you look in the picture where my rod holdall is eventually the river came up to nearly touching it.
I had a chat with the anglers either side, they were not local so couldn't offer any advice, the section stewards were club members and said I was off the bream, odd barbel were around but risky fishing for them, try and catch roach was their advice.
11 o'clock and the match started, I was going to give the feeder an hour and hope for a bonus and at least get some bait out there. First chuck on the tip and I set the line clip in place, put the rod in the rest and fed some maggot and hemp on the wag line, before I could put the catapult down the tip dropped back. Picking the rod up I felt the heavy weight of the feeder but nothing else. Three red maggots were sucked out, small fish. Next cast out and an almost instant bite, it turned out to be a bloody great big bleak lol. Another missed bite next cast and I changed to 3 casters on the hook and this produced a dace. I was amazed how these fish gave such good drop backs, but the 60g feeder was just about holding in the flow and that was helping. An 8oz roach was nice fish to catch on the casters, but after a couple more missed bites and I tried a piece of worm and this slowed things up until a 4oz perch grabbed it. Thirty minutes in and my neighbours hadn't had a bite, so either I was on a few fish or my gbait approach was better.
Bites stopped for me on the tip and it wasn't due to a big fish sadly, so after 45 minutes I decided to give the waggler a go. My peg was deep at about 11 feet, and I had to cast quite a way down stream to try to get some control of the waggler. My first foray on this only gave me a minuscule perch and a 2oz roach, but it did give me hope that I could gain some reasonable presentation. Back on the feeder and just a dace and perch in 30 minutes. Looking upstream I saw my neighbour and Mat Hall above him both swing in roach, they were fishing with long rods and top and bottom floats, and they were only fishing 7 foot deep. (Talking to them after they had fished closer in than me but said they had a flat bottom, the lad below me had about 8 feet at most, and it seemed my peg was much deeper for some reason). I picked up the waggler and tried it again, but the river had risen a fair amount and I had to move my box back, I did that 3 times during the match. The wind getting worse but I was still able to fish the wag OK, I did catch a few roach and a dace and a 4oz a piece they were welcomed, but I went 20 minutes without a bite and tried the feeder again. The wind was now blowing hard enough on the line to dislodge the feeder, so I had to add extra lead to hold, it was getting tricky to cast a fully loaded feeder with 75g of lead on it to the middle of the river, and now bites were hard to spot.
The last 90 minutes the wind was simply absurd, waves on the water, at times I could barely get my loose feed far enough out, everything was difficult to do, even standing up! The feeder, I decided, was now a waste of time as I couldn't see a bite from these small fish, had I been confident of big fish I would have stuck it out. The waggler it was, and much as earlier I could run the float through 20 times without a bite then get one, trouble was even with the line sunk a bow would form making it hard to hit the bite. By changing depths and distance from the bank I took the odd fish including a beautiful roach that was close to a pound. When the match was over I was happy enough with what I had caught, and can also say that I was happy it was over as the wind had finished me off.
The scales had to come from peg 23 which was the flyer next to the weir, he had 11 kilos, 10 pegs further on a local angler had a brilliant 12 kilo of roach on a stick float whilst just below him anglers struggled including Any Britt who had just over a kilo. Matt Hall had 70 small roach for 4 kilos, then the lad above me had 1 kilo+, my turn and it was recorded as 2 kilo 750g. The lad below me had 1 kilo 500g and below him all had not much I think.
I went back to the results to grab something to eat, I bumped into a number of local anglers but couldn't find my team mates, then Andy Ottaway appeared to tell me he had a rough day with just a 1oz roach, but he had over 20 points as his section was terrible with about 16 blanks. Big Shaun Bryan was fishing for Diawa Gordon League and he drew in my section but up at Holme Marsh, he drew a good peg! Shaun had 20 bream for 30 kilos and came 2nd beaten by Rob Perkins a few pegs away who had 40 kilo, well done Shaun!
Other than Lee Trivett the rest of the team went straight home, which tells you we did no good. We came 25 out of 45 with a total of 226 points, a couple of places behind Bathampton who had 232 points. In the end my weight earned me 30 points so I was more than happy with that. I enjoyed the experience immensely, battled the elements, and caught a few pristine roach on a lovely river.
Barnsley Blacks won the on the day with a huge 380 points, so well done to them.
I got back home at 8:45pm was very tired and happy I wasn't fishing on Sunday. The Thatchers team we did get together for Sunday for the last round of the super league at Newbridge have managed to win the league, so some success this weekend. An early night again tonight as still knackered, lol!