Del and I got home to mine where we found Jayne with her newly acquired crutches from A&E after going over on her ankle and getting a nasty sprain. So, it was a chippy tea and a few more drams before bed. The next day I had to do a few chores so Del set off to meet up with Graham. I eventually got to the river early afternoon and spent some time taking photographs of the fishery and walking the beats. Included in the entry fee was a bang-up feed at the golf course where the draw was to take place. We were there bright and early and after forgetting to engage the handbrake and nearly hitting Toby’s van I thought it only prudent to give him a hand to get all his kit into the hall. He had brought a good selection from Funky Fly Tying with him and between him and Tom I think anything anyone could want would have been well covered.
The draw was simple enough one of the pair went up and selected blind a plastic wallet that had your three session beats, Del was nearest the table and went to collect our beats. Even though we had walked the beats that day we had very little clue as to where we were to fish the next day. After much discussion we thought we may well have one of the long canal sections but thankfully this was not the case. None of the beats filled me with joy and it was going to be a tough gig. But that’s pegged fishing, Ben said that with the data from this year they will be able to weight the beats in years to come. This will mean that the competition should be a more even handed event so that everyone gets a really good beat then maybe a decent beat followed by a not so good beat…..lol.
We were overnighting in the local Carp lake carpark and settled into the Breaking Bad van with a dram, well Del and I did while Graham had set of for the station to collect Andy. It was great to catch up with Andy but we were all soon to bed in anticipation for the next day. It had been a cold night and we awoke to a hard frost and busied ourselves sorting out transport and kit. I was to travel with Del and Graham was taking Andy in my car. For the first session Del and I were to control Shaun Watkins and David Massey both experienced Welsh capped rods. We had peg 16 which was actually a pretty decent peg one above the top car park and I was fairly happy how we were going to fish it. The welsh boys tackled it with Duo and double nymph but the freezing cold start had knocked the Grayling and they failed to join in. Del and I were both scratching our heads a little, but at least the day was warming up a bit.
Del elected to fish the good-looking gravel section near the start of our peg and I went around to the groins. I had thrown everything bar the kitchen sink but only had one fish to show for my efforts after 50 minutes the session was only an hour and a half so I headed round to see how Del was fairing, better than me was the answer. He pointed to a bit of water and told me to get on with it, I duly complied and managed another fish which gave us a total of nine. As the sands of time were running down Shaun gave us the two-minute warning. I changed flies to see if I could add another to the bag and was rewarded with another fish with only seconds left. We had finished with ten not great but not terrible. We both felt that the beat should have produced more but with the sharp change in temperature and the debris coming down the river blown on by the fierce northerly wind it was probably not bad.
After lunch which was a superb stew we made our way down to our next beat as we were to fish first. It was peg number 2 and it looked quite tough with lots of pacey water still full of weed it was going to be tough. The water was double nymph and you had to find channels through the weed to entice the Grayling. I was struggling badly and was gutted when I hooked a fish that got below me and slipped the hook. I continued to work the hole where the fish had come from and eventually managed another fish. Del was doing well on the other side and had managed six from some difficult water. We were being controlled by Mike Heritage and Baz Reece, Mike was controlling me and was not looking forward to going next. After a steady first session he thought this could be a challenge.
Mike stepped into my footprints and proceeded to bang fish out left right and centre he took one almost straight away and then lost his next three downstream in the current. I mean WTF, I asked if he would show me his flies. They were all bright really bright and light, I had been using drab natural patterns having failed to get the bright stuff working in practice I had ruled it out. Mike did an exceptional job and managed to take nine fish before sportingly letting his partner come in and have a go. He went around the corner to where Del had fished and managed another one top angling to get into double figures for the session. I felt I had let Del down badly but hey ho that’s fishing onwards and upwards as they say.
Despite my crap showing we were sitting in 13thplace but that was to be short lived as we had drawn peg 3 the next day. We would need semtex and some nets to get fish from this beat, to add to our misery Andy and Graham were fishing it first. There was not going to be much left after those two fish mongers had been through it. We went to the pub for dinner and spent the evening catching up about life fishing and Andy’s 50thbirthday trip destinations! It was back to the van for a dram and some banter and a bit of a late night. But we were getting an hour back so it did not seem so bad.
We made our way down to the peg and all walked down together, Graham and Andy made their plan and fished the beat hard for three fish. I must be honest I was surprised they managed that as it had not produced that many fish in any of the previous sessions. There was one obvious hole and that’s where all three of the fish came from. Del wanted to prospect the rest of the beat while I fished the hole for two hours. I don’t know who was more surprised Graham and Andy or the fish but I managed to get one, it was a mighty relief nobody likes a blank. Del had also found a little hole the size of an office desk that he conjured two fish from. We still had time for more and I got a little excited when I hooked another fish but it was a small brown trout another smaller one followed that. Then just as I thought we were done and after changing through my entire fly box I managed another fish. Four for the team and for the peg quite remarkable but it would see us down the table somewhat.
It was back to the lodge for a hog roast and a bit of banter, the stories of glory and tales of woe were regaled to the masses. The Grayling crowd are a friendly bunch and always up for a bit of fun the competition had not gone as well as expected in regards fish numbers with the big drop in temperature and a fierce northerly wind it was always going to be a bit tougher. There were some cracking fish caught though and Del Spry shared the biggest fish prize with a Grayling of 46cm. Mike Heritage and Baz Reece took the top honours on the day but the real winners were those anglers that attended the event. The river Test must be on a thousand anglers bucket list and it does not disappoint. The guys behind the scenes making it all tick over did an outstanding job so thanks to Ben Bangham, Adam Sinclair and Jon Hall. Sorry I can’t recall the name of the chef but that stew on Saturday was just perfect, obviously didn’t learn his trade in the Army!
This is fast becoming my favourite event in the calendar and easily rivals the Grayling Festival. This year saw anglers travelling from Spain, Belgium and the Czech to compete. There were also at least eight pairs waiting if anyone dropped out. It is at capacity now though unless more water can be found. It was a real pleasure to be in the company of some very talented anglers a great bunch of guys with a wicked sense of humour.