If you have read my blog before then you will probably know that I had been lucky enough to qualify for this prestigious Riverfest final match. For the previous five years the final has been held on the river Wye, but this year saw a change to the Severn at Shrewsbury. I know there was some debate if this was a good decision by organiser Dave Harrell (both before and after the event), and although I cannot compare to the Wye I thought it was a great choice for a number of reasons, the fishing (mostly good) the access to your pegs, and the very close proximity of the town itself.
My preparation for this match started not long after I qualified and peaked a couple of weeks prior to the event. I firstly have to give a big thank you to Hadrian Whittle who despite qualifying for the final gave me a good run down on the main tactics, rigs and bait, that was really good of him. I had all eventualities covered, flat floats from 4g to 50g and plenty of Preston pole floats, a big thank you to Des Shipp who lent me these! I had winders full of stick floats, bolo floats, and whip rigs. Andy Ottoway and Martin Barrett lent me some long rods, whips and a reel to ensure I had spares and could have multiple set ups, again thank you guys. I took a days holiday and went to Saltford on the straight to make sure all of the rigs were shotted perfectly, practised my casting and caught a few fish too (some nice roach on the whip especially). Everything was going well. Then Just over a week before the final I had a little operation, after this I was struck down by a virus and also suffered some issues related to the op. I was still unwell Thursday but improving and come Friday was definitely going after some more hooks were tied. My wife Wendy was joining me for the weekend and I was really pleased she did as it made it even more special. The journey up took four bloody hours and I was glad when we got to our small hotel, Wendy unpacked the case whilst I mixed my groundbait lol. We had a meal out and a couple of drinks in the Wetherspoons. It was an early night as I was still a bit ill and I set the alarm for 6:25am.
Saturday morning... "Tim, Tim!! It's five past seven!" Err what? I'd only gone and set my alarm for a weekday, what a plonker! It was now a big rush, but we managed to get to the draw about ten minutes before the draw. Then it dawned on me the scale of the task as I surveyed the anglers in the room that we often see in the angling press. I will admit this had given me some sleepless nights a few weeks ago as I questioned my level of skill against top class lads, but in the end I just thought well let's find out. I was into the draw queue fairly late and pulled out peg 53. It was met with many grimaces, and after speaking to Dave Harrell and local ace Ian Hughes they said 5lb to 6lbs would be good and Ian said fish down the middle of the river.
I got to the peg and could park right behind it, that was a result for both Wendy and I. I then scanned my saved images of the recent open matches on the venue to see what the peg had caught, oh dear it had been left out in all bar one match and on that day it was DNW. I was just below a walkway bridge and was glad the peg next to it was left out, above the bridge was Shakespeare angler Brian Rigby, a lovely bloke and top river angler who I have bumped into a few times this year. Below me was a guy called Gary Fuller, and I also had Adam Richards, Kev Jones and Paul Glenfield in my section.
The peg had a lot of trees opposite, and it was rumoured to hold barbel / big perch over there, although nobody could say when anyone had seen them last caught. I had a general plan for the final ( unless I drew the county ground pegs 1 to about 30 where it was probably waggler and worm hoping to catch chub or perch) and it was gbait on the pole, and waggler / bolo as far over as I could fish, plus a chopped worm line which was a must. Plumbing up on the pole it was shallow at 13m, and the same at 14.5m, and there was not much flow, I decided it was not right and never set a pole rig up. The river is varied here, and below me Gary had 12 feet on his pole line! I set up a deep 5AAA waggler, a mid depth wag, a 6g bolo and a blockend feeder. It was deep, about 13 feet. On the all I threw 6 balls of gbait/soil with some caster, hemp and pinkie just short of the middle of the river. I ran the bolo rig over it 6 times and had no response, and so picked up the feeder and spent 20 minutes feeding the far side with maggots and chopped worm, nothing hung itself but I had got a bed down. Back on the bolo and still no bites, but Gary below me was catching dace on the pole. Finally about 40 minutes in and a dip on the float and a dace, phew I could relax now. I carried on feeding maggots and hemp on this line and just got the odd bite here and there it seemed. The wind was strong and mostly behind me which spread the bait a bit. As the match progressed I felt I was getting more fish in the peg, I might get 4 or 5 dace in as many casts but then would go another 10 casts without a bite. The dace were generally two ounce, I did catch a roach of 6oz and pulled out of another bigger at the net. I hat a visit from Chris Ponsford and he stayed with me a while which was great, he told me he thought I was doing OK. I had bites on the waggler but struggled to hit them, and the bolo caught me nearly everything, I had gone down to a 20 and 0.09 early on when bites were scarce but going into the last hour I felt the peg was improving and I went up to an 18 to 0.10 with double maggot, this picked out a few better dace including another 6oz roach. Meanwhile Gary below me struggled in the last hour. Match over, I thought I had about 7lb, Gary said he had 10lb and Brian 8lb.... As I packed up I reflected on the odd fish I had lost and wondered if I should have switched to double maggot earlier, these are the things that make a difference. The scales came down from the pegs above where it turned out there were a stack of not only dace and roach but also some big perch and odd chub. Brian weighed in 9lb 4 1/2 oz, then my turn and I had 9lb 10oz. Gary beat me with 12lb 1oz. Paul Glenfield had 9lb 14oz. The stand out weight was Adam Richards on peg 50 who had 24lb, and Lee Wright above him had 20lb, dace, roach, percjh to 3lb.
No catch shot as it was all a blur and I got carried away with the crowd following the scales, I was congratulated by a few for catching what I had which was nice. Later that night after a lovely meal it was back to the pub which was full of anglers, most who were slurring their words. Brian was in there and he felt he should have had 13lb, I had a good chat with Clive Branson and some other really nice welsh lads and they said with nearly 10lb I was still in with a chance of top 10. I also got to meet an England legend Sean Ashby who wanted his photo taken with me... yeh right! It was amazing to be there.
Alarm went off on time, yay! Today I would be pegged in the lower zone and so at the draw the lads in A zone were asked to draw first as they have to walk to some pegs. The top end of this zone was really poor, though it did produce the winner there were a lot of blanks and I was lucky to avoid it, but unlucky to draw one of the worst pegs in the best bit of the zone. Onto my zone and in theory I was now going to the best zone where there were many chances to get on a few fish. General consensus was that you would need 25lb to 30lb to get into the top 10, so I needed 20lb today which hadn't come out the day before in this zone. I had good chats with Ian Hughes and Hadrian Whittle on the morning both had chances of top 10 with a decent peg. Into the bag of destiny I go and out comes peg 68, oh dear more grimaces. I couldn't believe I had managed to pull another poor peg, and again it had been left out in the practice matches as had 67 and 66 above me. Looking at yesterday's result another well known local Pete Morris had my peg and had 8lbm but there were a few poor weights and the top of my section had much better weights, hope it would not be the same today.
At the river it was park behind the peg again, and first thing I did was put the sign up I was given the day before.
The peg had no features opposite, well none to attract fish I thought.
I could at least use my plan today as it was deep on the pole line, about 13 to 14 feet this peg. There was not much flow on the peg, and so a 2g rig with 18 to 0.10 was made up and my old faithful 1g pencil float with 20 to 0.09 was ample. A 4g flat float for chopped worm, another 6g bolo, and the wagglers again. Would you believe it but on the next peg 67 was Brian Rigby, he was not happy with his peg and I said we're a couple of shit magnets! Picture of Brian still smiling, we had some good banter.
Match underway and I balled it in with 8 balls heavily laced with loosefeed as I was fishing for a big weight, I started on my chopped worm line though as occasionally some anglers caught perch straight away. Not me though, and after 10 mins I went over the gbait with the 2g rig and double maggot, I missed three bites and then caught a tiny dace and then nothing. Out with the pencil float and I caught 4 tiny dace, probably would need 25 to weigh a pound, trouble was I could hardly catch them. Brian was getting them faster than me, and despite going to a 22 and 0.08 it made no difference and I wasn't going to bag a decent weight like this. Out on the bolo where I was loose feeding maggots and hemp and I had very few bites and it was just from the same tiny dace, it was very disappointing. I was though cheered up by the arrival of my eldest daughter Lucy who had popped down from Manchester to support me.
There were lots of anglers watching the match and they all said it was fishing much harder than yesterday, but the angler on the first peg in my section Lee Wright was catching well on the pole. It's hard to say a lot about the day, I suppose I knew it was not going to be great when a dog pissed on my rod hodall, I hit a lot of snags on both pole and bolo lines, only had one small perch on the worm. I did get 3 small perch on the pencil float and lost one probably 8oz. I managed to winkle out three small roach and two better roach one about 8oz on the bolo, think they were looking for their mates. These roach are the resident fish in the river, the dace actually migrate into the town for the winter. The roach are 6oz to 14oz and if you can get among them a good weight can be amassed, but on a low clear river they were shoaled fairly tight it seemed. I ended the day with a lowly 3lb 1oz, for last in my six peg section, the 5 pegs above me weighed, Brian 3lb 14oz, Lee Harries 7lb 14oz, Steve Maher 5lb 6oz, Matt Maginnis 7lb 12oz and Lee Wright 18lb 2oz. Definitely wrong end of the section. My second day catch...
I ended the competition in 43 place out of 72, but with Brian ending a few ounces more and in 41st place it proved we had drawn badly. Reflecting on this I have to think I was at least able to keep up with him and so I was not far off the pace. It wasn't a bagging match (it can be if stacks of dace are in 70lb has been caught in the past!) and whilst I don't do a lot of dace fishing the methods were not alien. It would of course have been a better test on better pegs, but I take comfort from my result being almost identical to Brian's.
I packed up in almost darkness, and forgot to take home the board with my name on it as a keepsake, never mind still got the memories of what was a special weekend. I did not go back to the results as I was really tired and didn't want to be home really late, so I said my goodbyes and drove back to Bristol. As you may now know Lee Wright won the event taking home £13,000. Jamie Robins came second and got £6000 which pleased Brian Rigby as they are best mates and he was on 10%, first day winner Lee Harries ended up in third place. Well done to all of those in the top ten.
Dave Harrell and Angling Trust have got a really good event in Riverfest, and I would love to get back into to final again one day. Getting into the final is not easy, ask Dave he entered about a dozen qualifiers himself and never got in. Everyone I met was really friendly, and the local lads were helpful and offered their advice on the pegs. I spent a lot of money preparing and staying up there, but despite not winning anything back I think every penny spent was well worth it. Thanks to everyone who wished me well, if I get back again I must draw better!
Poppy match this Sunday.