Those that follow this blog will know all about the Kit Kat Cup, if this is your first visit I will give you a very quick history. Jock Kettles and I have fished for this almost every year for well over two decades. In recent years it has fallen on the first match day of the Army Spring meeting. We are great friends but the banter surrounding this mug is savage and part of the fun is the pre-match build up. It was on a different level this year but all in good fun.
I was practicing with Ian Pinder who was in significant pain over the few days that we fished with sciatica. He soldiered on through and managed to fish three of the four days. The conditions and reports from Rutland promised a great few days fishing and it certainly did not disappoint. The water levels were good, water clarity was excellent and if the talk was to be believed the fish were of the very highest quality! Ian and I always have a drift at 14 bouy it’s become a bit of a tradition so that’s where we started.
The weather was pretty reasonable to start with if a bit cold but with the wind coming off the Normanton bank it was reasonably comfortable. I could go on at length about the practice but suffice to say there was plenty of fish and a fair amount of craik throughout the day. We did venture up the North arm to have a look in Barnsdale Creek but had little joy there. The wind had gotten right up by this point and the trip back down the arm into the wind was rather emotional!
After we had spent 40 minutes fighting the wind and waves I had to go for a hot drink and a warm up. When we came back out we worked the Normanton bank and were fairly pleased with our efforts. It was an early finish and we headed back to the accommodation for a bite to eat and a meet up in the bar with the crew of the Whisky Bus. Jock and the boys were in fine fettle and we had a good evening ripping the pish out of each other…..lol.
The next day the wind was to be less and Ian and I wanted to check out Dickinsons, so first thing we headed up. We did find a few fish there but not enough to hold our interest. After and hour of so it was decided we should head back and firm up the best method to catch the fish quickly. Again, the wind was up and travelling back was about as much fun as being kicked repeatedly between the legs. Thankfully I had stuck every item of clothing that Wychwood have sent me and I just about survived the experience.
Once back to relative comfort Ian was doing plenty damage with the bung while I was pulling for very little reward. I didn’t want to go onto the same method as my practice partner so decided instead to try buzzers straight through on a floater. This method was devastating and regardless of location it brought fish after fish to the boat. I had made my mind up what to fish with on the match day it was just a matter of deciding where to start, I would sleep on it.
After an early night I woke up the day of the match and felt right up for it. I had a method and several areas that I would be happy to employ some buzzers. I had heard on the rumour mill that Jock had gotten some flies from the Army Captain Sean Hanlon. Not one to miss a trick I was straight over to Sean in the morning who kindly gave me three of the buzzers he had given Jock. They were Al Owen buzzers perfectly tied and I decided to start with them. After a chat with Jock it was clear we were of a similar mind. Both of us on floaters and a team of buzzers and both of us were going to start at 14 Bouy as we both surmised that East Creek would be busy.
After a bit of shenanigans with boat partners I finally was given a new member to the Federation John McAllister. A convert from the course match scene and keen as mustard, he was going to start with pulling tactics as he had plenty of fish in practice. Always best to start with what you are confident with! I got into position just on the inside of 14 and cast my line out and throwing the drogue out almost at the same time. The retrieve which was on the side of static did not get halfway back when a trout smashed into one of the buzzers. It fought furiously with lots of head shaking but was well hooked and carefully brought to the net. The first fish is always a tough one, once underway though it gets a bit easier.
For the first five drifts I took fish consistently and this could not be going any better for me. With one eye on Jock I was fairly sure he was struggling to get to grips, a quick chat confirmed this. I was not going to ease up though any let up would be letting an angler of Jock’s ability right back in. I kept going and the fish were coming steadily by mid-day I was sitting on nine fish, then I hit the wall! The fish started coming short or worse coming off. I decided to change to the bung for better bite detection and that put another couple of fish on the card Just three to come.
Jock had moved off to fresh hunting grounds and was out of my view. It was a long and barren spell for me and I was convinced that Jock would be gaining on me fast. I decided to change to pulling as the odd fish was being caught around me. This proved to be effective a DI7 with three cormorants taking my last three fish in quick order I had finished with an hour or so to spare. I past my rod to John who had only managed a couple and told him to give it a go. Meanwhile I had the binoculars out my box and was scanning the horizons for Jock. I spotted him by the church still fishing, ya dancer!!!! I thought I had done enough and the Kit Kat cup was coming home.
The fourth day on the bounce and I was a broken man despite another early night I felt knackered. Good news though I had drawn my old pal Steve Cranston, plenty banter was a certainty and we were hopeful of a few fish to boot. We started at 14 again and watched as Ian Barr who was guiding a client took three fish to our outside. So, they were still about we both had opportunities but my first fish slipped the hook, it was to become a theme. Steve and I agreed that if one of us lost a fish the other one had to shout WA***R!
I was to hear that word a lot throughout the day……lol. Time was getting away from us so it was time for a move. Just as we were getting ready I heard a huge splash that can only be made by a big fish and as I looked around Ian Barr’s rod was bent double with a huge Brown Trout tail walking angrily across the top of the water. He weighed it in the boat and it went 6lb 3oz. Luckily, I was near enough to get a quick photo. A testament to the quality fishing at Rutland.
After having a look around and losing more fish than I care to number we decided to come back to the harbour wall. When my rod doubled over I was resigned to the fact it was probably going to come off. Amazingly I managed to get it to the net a lovely plump Brown trout of about 2lb. It was a start, not five minutes later I caught another which was lost FFS! A minute after that my rod went again it was becoming ridiculous. As I played the fish I was recounting other days when it was all going wrong to Steve.
The fish was fighting hard and deep but then again, all the fish were giving good accounts scraping like mad. I didn’t think much of it and continued with my story. It was only when I glanced over and noticed my rod nearly bent double. I thought the fish must have come off and I was stuck on the bottom. Then the fish moved again and I got my first glimpse of it, it was big it was really big! I started to pay a bit more attention after all Tug Lawsons memorial trophy was at stake! As the fight continued I could see that it was a Brown trout and it was going to have to go back. A mixture of joy and remorse flooded through me. The joy that I would not have to knock this remarkable fish on the head and the remorse that my name would not be adorning Tugs new trophy. I did manage a couple of pictures though before slipping it back to the depths to fight another day.
I would like to tell you that was the turning point to my day but instead Steve continued to shout WA***R for the rest of the day. Strangely enough it didn’t seem to matter because for many moons to come the only thing I will remember about that session is that fish. I have a feeling Tug was on my shoulder for that one and with his wicked sense of humour I could imagine him chuckling away as I had to slip it back. I was glad to get back in for a hot meal and a coffee, the guys that organise these matches did a great job and they have my thanks. They had a lot to deal with this year. Many thanks to my boat partners’ over the last four days your company and good humour were very much appreciated. I won’t be taking part in any of the major matches this year so I wish the Soldier Palmers all the very best for this year’s campaign.
Just a bit of fun nae Oscars for me and Jock though......lol