I don’t know where to start with this one so much material! I was supposed to fish the Pro-Am at Grafham, but a nagging pain in my shoulder saw that off. Right up until the Saturday I was still not sure I was going to be fit enough to go. Thanks to the pharmacy at Boots, I stocked up on the highest non-prescription pain killers and decided to hack it out. I had paired up with my old pal, Jock Kettles, for practice and he had already found the fish the previous day. So, we were right onto a winner!
After a swift motor up to the dam, Jock was regaling me with tales of yesterday’s exploits with Andy Everett. I knew I would not be able to cast very far with the shoulder and all but Jock assured me I wouldn’t have to. It was a wee bit choppy with a good blow taking us straight towards the dam and a few other boats were in the area. Much to everyone’s surprise though, the fish were somewhat conspicuous by their absence! It was great to see Paul Kitchen back in the fold, easily spotted by the blur of motion which was his pulling arm and he looked to be doing quite well. Derek Sibson was also up at the dam but not doing so well. Jock had managed one fish but sport was scarce.
We continued to make big long drifts in the open water when Jock noticed a boat drifting dangerously close to the dam wall. They seemed to be in some distress and we could see their engine was in the air. We got everything in and headed over to lend a hand, it was none other than Derek Sibson. He was a bit miffed when the first thing I did was pull the camera out after securing his boat and pulling it off the rocks. Next, the high winds ensured that his hat took flight and was racing back towards the dam. Luckily Paul Kitchen had also come over to offer some assistance and rescued the cap for Derek. Now then, a man of Derek’s vast experience should have known better really so he got it large from all parties, I mean who would be so careless….lol read on!
Jock managed another fish from the basin but the going was tough, so we decided to have a look into the North Arm. We saw a shoal of fish in the surface but they ended up being a shoal of coarse fish. Across to Cardiac Hill, where Andy had enjoyed some success the previous day. Short drifting onto the drop off was the order of the day and it was not long before a feisty rainbow ripped the line from my hand. It had taken the point fly and it was with some considerable pain in my shoulder that I eventually managed to land it. I was off the mark at last, four hours in and I had caught one! Three fish in the boat - not what you would call a fish fest. Jock suggested going back to the dam to work out where the fish from yesterday had gone, a good shout as it turned out.
As we headed back down the Arm, the wind was perfect for a drift past Ernie’s Point. Jock got a take almost immediately and this was swiftly followed by a cracking rainbow to the boat. I was patient and stuck with my slow glass rather than switch to the midge tip that Jock was employing. I was rewarded with two fish on that drift and was grateful for the sport despite the pain. We moved back up to the dam area and tried to locate the fish. While we were there, we had a little chuckle as we watched Magic Maestri unwrapping his drogue from the engine just before the dam wall. Another victim of the wind, will folk never learn?
Jock and I started back to have another drift and as we motored up I offered up a mini pork pie to Jock. The sight of the pie however must have distracted him though and the next thing our boat came to a juddering halt. Yep, the drogue was around the engine. Jock had dropped the pie and it slipped overboard, last one as well! The shame of it, I was not quick enough to get the camera out to capture Jock giving the engine a wee cuddle but soon enough we were underway again. Unfortunately, Jock’s lovely blue jacket was stained up with grease, much to his disgust. The pair of us couldn’t speak for laughing until Jock managed to say “don’t put that in your blog”. That’s pork pie karma for you, but it kept us in good humour and we finished our day on four fish each. When we got in there were much worse stories of misfortune one of the lads managed to prop his rod! At least the tales of the escaping pork pie entertained the troops, the word Truffle was mentioned but Jayne censored the rest of that story!
"At least the tales of the escaping pork pie entertained the troops, the word Truffle was mentioned but Jayne censored the rest of that story!"
The first match day began with quite a blow already on the water and the promised cloud cover was nowhere to be seen. I surmised that it could be a long day despite the usual car park boasting. I was being kindly taxied around by Chris Liburd whom I had drawn the first day of the Spring match too. He, also like myself and many others, had not had the best of practices. The bulk of the boats headed to the dam. I had opted to start on my slow glass and Chis was going down a bit with a DI3; we hoped that between us we would be able to sort it out. After a couple of hours graft I had managed two fish in the boat and by the movement of boats I could tell the going was tough for everyone in the field.
Things had slowed right up, fishing wise that is - the wind was still howling! I had kept my eye on the other boats and one boat in particular seemed to be doing well, it was Jimmy Bond. I beckoned him over as he returned up his drift and after pointing me in the right direction he promptly stuck his drogue in the engine, all the best anglers do you know… lol. We exchanged a bit of banter and I changed to my DI5 Sweep it made sense the bright sun had obviously pushed the fish down a bit. After several drifts though and no further sport, Chris suggested a move to the Blue Pipes where he’d had some interest the previous day.
Chris had roll cast out and got a take almost at once. I had cast a short line and was rewarded with an arm wrenching take that by some miracle did not snap my line. The fish was safely secured in my bass bag. The wind had dropped off a fair bit and the cloud cover we were meant to have all day showed up. A change back upstairs to the slow glass resulted in another fish. Slowly but surely a bag of fish was coming together. We did the same drift again but for not so much as a tug. Speaking with other anglers it was apparent that the day was hard going. A move back to where we started saw the wind pick up and the cloud disappear. Back to the DI 5 and the pulling game, this was torture on my shoulder and I popped another couple of pills to get me through.
With only an hour to go the fish joined in. At last! The sport was outstanding in the last hour and from eight offers I managed to get another four to the boat. Eight, not too shabby on a tough day. After we had weighed in, it was off to the chippy and a quick shower and change to watch England’s opening game in the World Cup. A rather unremarkable game and after a couple of pints it was an early night for most.
"If Carlsberg done fishing days and all that, unfortunately the fish didn’t get the memo!"
The next day I thought to start where I had finished; conditions looked perfect a gentle ripple that was not due to last and overcast. If Carlsberg done fishing days and all that, unfortunately the fish didn’t get the memo! My partner for the day, Simon Culver, took a cracking fish early on but all around us everyone was making the donut sign and it looked like it was going to be another tough day at the office. A very occasional fish was being caught but it seemed rare. Simon was doing well and had added another fish to his bag. The fish were being taken right on the limit of fishing on the buoy line and some were being taken beyond that point, you know who you are! It was a grind all day and I have to say I was relieved to get one to avoid the blank and settle me down. Surprisingly my shoulder was feeling a little better thanks to my good pal Co-Codamol. Communication on the water was good despite it being a competitive match; most guys talked and shared successful methods but chopping and changing in hindsight seemed to be a waste of fishing time.
My last hope is that it would come good in the last hour as it had the previous day but it was not to be; I finished my day up with four fish and my partner with a very credible five, good angling. I passed Jock Kettles who had managed two and that’s about all I need to say about how hard the fishing had been. Some had wandered away from the main armada looking for less pressured fish and this had paid off big time. Steve Lawes took twelve in the area of the Blue Pipes and Paul Calvert managed an outstanding ten fish. Well done to all those that managed a few.
The newish secretary Jamie Thomas and his very capable team (Dean Rudd, Paul Wright and Paul Calvert) played a blinder and the whole event ran like clockwork. It was great to have a meal in the lodge straight after the match and there was a great buzz in the café despite the tough day experienced by most. My congratulations to the army champion, Paul Calvert, who has endured a similar season to myself i.e. SHIT! Also, well done to Eric Caisley, the new associate champion and the Royal Signal (Pumpers) on winning the inaugural Corp Shield Competition. It was of particular note that our oldest member, Tug Lawson, in his ninetieth year was out both days and caught fish in demanding conditions for the fittest of soldiers. More power to your arm Tug and may it long continue!
Instead of the usual shooting off straight home I decided in the interests of health and safety to spend another night in the accommodation and was joined by the whisky bus crew and Jamie and Dean. We enjoyed a couple of beers in the bar and exchanged tall tales of fishing exploits it’s been a long time since I cried laughing but some of the stories would have brought a tear to a glass eye. I am going to save those for a book though, great evening with top guys thanks for your good company gents. I feel a bit of river fishing coming on next!