I was once again trying my luck on the Riverfest qualifier, a 60 peg match where three zone winners of 20 pegs qualify for a final where the top prize is £13,000!
Friday, didn't get into work, had bad bowels and was up a lot in the night.. managed a bit of river prep later in the day. Saturday felt a bit better and went to watch Rovers play a friendly at home, good to be back at the mem.... errr we got smashed 4 nil by Exeter! Got home and checked the gear again and mixed up my groundbait, Sonubaits Lake, River and Black plus some brown crumb. This would be my pole line gbait, I also had some F1 and brown crumb for fishing the feeder for the bream.
Saturday night and up about five times in the night, bah, didn't wake up till 8am which was OK as the draw today was not until 10am! Loaded my gear in the rain and had a breakfast in the Wetherspoons Hanham with team mate Jack Jones. I really wasn't sure how the river would fish, but when I drove past the river at Keynsham I could see it hadn't changed a lot, not much flow, a bream peg was going to be needed to qualify I guessed. Got to the Crown in Saltford and sat with Warren Bates and Matt Challenger, and Ben Rendall. There were a few locals present but a lot of anglers had travelled a fair distance. Kev Dicks was the organiser and got us underway, I was probably about 8 anglers from the front, in front of me was the legend Dave Harrell. Dave drew 140 in the trees and asked what that was like, you might get bream said Kev Dicks. My turn and blimey peg 146, next peg below Dave and end peg! Kev Dicks said you won't get bream, and I knew he was right. The end peg in the trees is a flyer for roach, and over the many years I have fished that is what you catch. I was gutted that I was not on a bream peg, but had now to get my head on a roach match.
After the walk from the rugby club I was soon sat on the peg surveying the water in front of me. There was a definite tinge of colour which made me think the bream would feed, and if it carried on colouring up the roach would not. My thoughts were I would have a good day on the pole catching roach but would need the bream not to feed in my zone. Jack Jones was on peg 88 and he was the first peg in my zone, not the best for him. There were some superb anglers in my zone, Hadrian Whittle, Brian Rigby, Richard Chave, Dave Harrell and many more, this was not going to be easy.
I had a boat to my left, but nobody appeared to be on it.
The standard view of a peg in the trees. I elected to fish from the top of the bank as this would make shipping back easier.
The wind was a bit of a barsteward, and on the pole I went for just 11.5m in length. I set up a 1gm pencil rig with 20 to 0.10, a 2g rig with 18 to 010. I did set up a flat float but the wind was so bad that even with the pole roost I could not keep it still, so that went back on the winder and instead I put on a 3gm rig. A 3AAA wag for shallow fishing, and a 5m whip were set up, both aimed at chublets / bleak if I was struggling. Last out of the bag and literally I was not going to bother, was the feeder rod, I tied on an open ender but no hooklength.
About 5 mins before the whistle I had formed 14 balls of gbait full of hemp, caster and dead pinkie. Then a dog off the lead went into my top sets, broke a number 4 and trashed my two heavier rigs, WTF!!! The all in was called, what to do... I balled it in and picked up the pencil float. I had a couple of roach and then bleak started to hold the float up, I pushed the bulk down but this was only a little better. Twenty mins in and I was already looking at a bad start and not getting the caster roach I needed. Out of frustration I put a bit of worm on the hook, it was left alone by the bleak and I caught a roach! It was somewhat strange fishing a pencil float with a bit of worm, but it was working quite well, a few more roach and then a couple of little hybrids and a 6oz skimmer. I bumped a couple of fish and knew I had to get a heavier rig on. I took one of my trashed rigs off and replaced it with a 4g job, far to heavy for the flow, but with a worm might be OK, I set it up with a 16 to to 0.11 powerline.
The heavy rig was OK, bites were less frequent but the quality was better, roach were 4oz and I had some more small skimmers. I also managed a skimmer of 1lb. This was all quite strange though as I had seriously never considered catching skimmers on this peg. I was fishing the heavy rig overdepth with either double caster or a worm, and the pencil float was set for fishing off the bottom with a caster. The skimmers would come and go, and as soon as they went I would catch a few roach, even on the heavy rig was best. This may have been because of the downstream wind which meant I had to hang onto the float to get presentation
I had a visit from Craig Fletcher, he said I was doing well with my estimated 7lb after 2 hours. I had another visitor, Dean Harvey and I had a few fish when he sat behind me, a 1 1/2lb skimmer and roach. When he left to go for another walk I reckoned on having over 11lb. I carried on getting bites mainly from roach and I was happy to keep putting fish in the net. Then Dean rang me to say that Steve Vernon on 109 had 5 bream for 22lb, shit that was it I was nowhere near that. I decided even though I was catching roach that I had to catch more skimmers / bream. I cupped in three balls stuffed with worm and caster and fished the waggler whilst I let that settle. The waggler was a bleak nightmare, so I was soon picking up the pole again. I tried the worm and had two small perch so went back onto double caster and had a 12oz skimmer. Maybe I was going to bag, hmmm, back to roach. I tried three red maggots but that was no good, so back on the worm. After a few tries I finally saw the float disappear a fair way down the peg, and this time a lot of elastic came out and I knew I had hooked a bream. Ten seconds later and I knew I had lost a bream... a lump of slime was just above the hook and the bait was gone, damn!
I had to put that loss out of my mind, but it was nagging away at me that will cost me.... I tried the feeder over the pole line, but I had a roach and perch on it. Back on the pole and with double caster, less bites now, but then another decent fish hooked, managed to land an 8oz eel just as it snapped the hook length as twisted up. I chucked the feeder back out again whilst I put a new hooklength on. Richard Lacey came down and watched me and I had a small fish and then a decent bite. The rod bent over and Rich shouted bream, but I knew it was an eel. It was probably 12oz so a handy fish. Rich left me with 30 mins to go, and after this I really struggled and the peg had died and I had nothing else. I thought I had 15lb, and was just hoping I might win my section.
As I was nearly finished packing up Rich Lacey rang me, the good news was Rich Vernon's bream were small and he only had 15lb, but the bad news was there were two 16lb weights of skimmers. I really honestly thought I didn't have 17lb so was a bit gutted. I met up with the scales at Dave Harrell's peg after Rich Chave had weighed a good 14lb, Dave had 9lb+ of roach and chublets. Then it was me. When I pulled my net out Rich Chave and Lacey both set you've got more than 16lb, so when the needle settled on 18lb 4oz I was more than happy. I had won my ten peg section, but to get to the final I needed to be the best weight of the other ten peg section above the arch.
My net of fish.
I walked back to the rugby club with Rich Lacey who was really kind saying I hope you've done it. Back at my car and Jack Jones was just going to weigh so said he would call me back, but he said someone had 25lb and so did I guy in the car park so that was the dream over. However, a few mins later and Jack sent me a message on whatsapp that I had won the zone, the 25lb was a rumour and no more. I'll be honest I was elated, I have not felt a buzz like that for a long time!
Key today were, I did not loosefeed due to all the bleak, I fed balls of gbait as top ups. But most importantly I altered my rigs (not much choice lol) and hookbaits towards skimmers when I never expected to catch any.
The match was won by Derren Harper with a magnifcent 153lb 12oz!!! 42 bream from peg 59
2nd Warren Bates from next door on 61 with 49lb 10oz.
3rd Steve Sadler with 32lb 7oz of bream from peg 33.
The three qualifiers were Derren, Steve and myself. I now have to get my around around the fact I have to fish the river Severn in Shrewsbury for two days in November, a place I have never seen let alone fished. But with £13,000 up for grabs I will have to find some info out and give it my all, as these opportunities are few and far between. Thank you to everyone who has been kind enough already to congratulate me, I am on cloud nine, and even if I shit out in the final at least I get to be part of it.