It’s safe to say the Soldier Palmers were on a sticky wicket in regard to our standing in division one of the AMFC. A lack of availability and some less than decent results saw us firmly planted at the bottom of the league. This was a great opportunity to try and claw a few points back and give us a chance to stay in the division next year. We had a bit of luck though with a group three match also being fished the same day. The Army managed to field twelve anglers for practice, even the new Chairman of the Federation canceled his plans to fish Farmoor and came to support the practice.
We had to dig deep for this one and it was great to see Wayne Jones make the long journey from Wales through some horrendous traffic. Andy Everitt and Del Spry who have to travel a huge distance to take part all made the effort. The team Capt gave out the instruction for the day and I was to spend my day with my very own fly fishing guide! Del and I are both big fans of Hank Patterson and a lot of our banter is linked with this. I am sick of being the fat guy that’s always getting bullied by Del, …..I mean Hank. Anyways we always have a laugh and we usually always catch a few fish.
The weather in the UK has been outstanding a proper Summer and long may it continue, not so good for the fishing mind! All the signs pointed to fast sinkers and ugly stuff fished deep, I left that to Del and went off on a midge tip with some nymphs and a fab on the point. We were given Chruch Bay as a starting point and were instructed to fish all the way up to the Willows. The water was pretty clear and the bottom could easily be seen as we tucked right into the bank. My first three casts were greeted with sharp pulls but no hook ups. As we drifted further out Del’s pulling tactics paid of taking a fish right at the end of his retrieve. A few snaps and a push down the bank, it was tough going and there were not many rods bending. Del continued to pick up fish and did comment that I must be fed up taking photos of him with fish. He was right I was still to get a fish to stay on the end of my line.
"Del continued to pick up fish and did comment that I must be fed up taking photos of him with fish."
We all met up for lunch and listened to how folks had faired and got a bit of direction on the afternoon's plans. The wind had been steadily building all day and I was beginning to regret not packing my waterproofs. Del had his the smug bar steward, we had been sent to the Dam to confirm drifts Andy and Wayne had found in the morning. One drift was all it took and I even managed to catch one! It was on the wind in and Del said it didn’t really count but he can go forth and multiply, it counted to me….lol. We carried on checking the drifts down into Gaynes Cove and the open water but it was getting uncomfortable and the football was on soon so we called it a day.
A quick back of a fag packet debrief at the lodge then it was off for a bite to eat then straight to the bar to watch the football. It was a good craik and the right result those Columbians were a bunch of cheating **kers and got what they deserved! By the time I had gotten back to my room, I was hanging out and went straight to bed. The next day the wind was due to drop off and it did not disappoint a light ripple kissed the water but the big heat lamp in the sky was already putting some heat into the day. I had drawn Paddy Mounter from the Fish Hawks, a great draw I have known Paddy for years but we have never fished together. The Fish Hawks had not practiced due to commitments and Paddy was happy to let me drive. He might not have been so happy if he knew how shit I was!
There was only one area to go for me anyway after listening to all the information and looking at our team map I fully expected twelve boats at the dam. It was refreshing to see that initially, only three boats started on the North side of Tower. I had told Paddy what I was doing and he had set up similar to me with nymphs on a midge tip. We had not gotten twenty yards before Paddy was playing his first fish, or should I say Paddy got played by his first fish! The fish at Grafham are in absolute tip top condition and I would be surprised if there are better fish anywhere at the minute. It was not long before he had another. I was just thinking here we go again another humping in the post when my rod buckled over, taking me completely by surprise. The fish had my rod nearly doubled over and the power it was putting on the rod was remarkable. I soon brought it under control though and had picked up my net when it came off.
I am getting used to this happening this season and couldn’t even muster any surprise that it had happened. A few casts later I was treated to another sharp pull but no fish. Paddy was the same we were getting plenty of sport but just finding it hard to convert the interest into fish in the bag. Sean Hanlon was fishing the nasty stuff on a DI7 and I shouted over for him to change up to the midge tip. As he did this I hooked and managed to land my first fish, not sure who was more surprised the fish or me! Paddy was soon into his third fish and the action was steady away, I was staggered that we had large areas of the Dam to ourselves and just assumed the fishing must have been good all over. Sean did not stay long frustrated with the sharp takes and no hook ups and pretty soon it was only us and Del’s boat he was sharing with my old pal Simon Newman always good for a bit of banter.
The fish started to come steadily with no boat pressure the opportunities were a plenty but the hookup rate was still low. I reckon between Paddy and I we were getting between five to ten chances before getting the lock ups. When you got one of these fish on there was none of that bullying carry on you had play the fish at least two of my fish took me straight to the reel. They were not huge fish 3lb or so but just in great shape. As the day progressed Paddy and I built up decent bags and although unsaid we both felt that limits were on the horizon. Some fish were lost and some chances were missed but eventually, I netted my last fish at 1435. Paddy had two to come and I was confident that it would not be long before we were heading back to the lodge for kippers and medals.
The wind had picked up a little and was now blowing straight onto the dam, this was perfect as the fish were hard onto the wall. Any closer and they would have needed sun cream and deck chairs. Paddy had gone through a wee bit of a dry spell and the fleet had moved up from the willows to the Dam. We managed to carve out a bit of space though and Paddy netted his seventh fish. Not far away I saw my fishing guide Del hook his eighth fish again! He had been broken and lost his last fish more than once and the time for banter was over, Paddy and I moved over as the Dam had cleared of boats as quickly as they had arrived. Time was running out when Paddy hooked a fish that leaped in the air and threw the hook. Another sharp take followed but no fish but as we reached the dam wall Paddy lifted into a spirited rainbow and after a nervous fight it was soon in the net 1720 what a grand days sport.
As we were packing up I could see Del was still fishing, I had my fingers crossed for him and made my way back to the lodge. I had seen Sean and Jamie on the water and both had finished, I assumed we had done quite well. When all the boats were in we found we had the full house Del’s perseverance had paid off and his last fish was secured a pin fry feeder that was around the 4lb mark fair play. Another exceptional performance was Wayne Jones, one fish at 1455 finished at 1535 outstanding work from a top quality angler. The B team boys had worked hard and a couple had limits with Richard Thorpe taking the honors as the top rod in Group 3. The team finished third which was not a bad result. The Group 1 team had won the day ahead of a very strong Invicta team who have really bossed the league this year.
"The result has given us a fighting chance of staying in group 1 next season we just need to carry on the momentum."
The result has given us a fighting chance of staying in group 1 next season we just need to carry on the momentum. Many thanks to my boat partners both days for the company and to the Invicta boys for organising a top heat in the heat! With a Rod average for group 1 of 5.8 and 3.5 for group 3 Grafham is certainly worth thinking about if you are looking to get out over the weekend. I can promise you this you won’t be disappointed with the quality of the fish.