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This is an annual event that I very much look forward to, the river at Broadlands is an absolute peach of a place. The competition is laid on by Ben Bangham and Adam Sinclair with the help of Jon Hall the keeper of the stream and Dom who caters the event. If you wanted to dip your toes into competition fishing then this is the one for you. There are no complex or antiquated rules to contend with the format is simple. You turn up with your fishing buddy and try and catch some Grayling. You fish three sessions and control another team for three sessions. The first Grayling is measured and then every subsequent Grayling that is netted is shown to the controller then released. This way there is minimum stress on the Grayling population as only one fish from your catch has to endure the measuring trough.
I was joined again by Del Spry who made the long trip down from Carlisle to fish the event with me. The practice out the way we headed down on the Friday to walk the beats and have a general look around the river to check the conditions. We were staying over the Friday and Saturday nights as the Friday night can be a bit of a late one. On the Friday evening many of the competitors meet up at the local golf club where we are treated to a great buffet and the draw take place. It was really good to catch up with some old familiar faces and to meet some new ones. The evening was started with an auction of an original Charles Jardine painting of a Pike that he was auctioning for Fishing for Schools. The auction was very entertaining but, in the end, Toby Merigan won the prize.
Del and I had drawn beats 7, 3 and 12. Not the best but certainly not the worse draw, I would have preferred to fish the second session but we had drawn session one and had to get on with it. Beat seven ran up passed the fishing hut for about 30 meters and Del was to fish this section whilst I took the water below the bridge. I started by fishing the margins, the river was starting to colour up so I fished the margins as best I could. This is a great bit of water and I was convinced that the fish would come, but as the session wore on I was beginning to think the weather had gotten the better of me. With a howling wind and driving rain I couldn’t even manage a take. With only fifteen minutes left of the session I decided to jump above the bridge and fish the last few minutes out on the opposite bank to Del. I was heartened to hear that Del had landed an amazing total of thirteen Grayling. Talk about getting the pressure off. I did manage to hook a small fish but it shook itself free before reaching the net. A blank for me but, it’s a team game and Del had earned us a session win.
The Polish Nymphs who had controlled us adopted a similar tactic with one angler above the bridge and one below. The fish below just didn’t want to join in and it was not long before Chris moved up to join his team mate above the bridge. This was a great move as they both built a good bag around eleven between them. The session went quickly and it was soon time for a spot of lunch. The usual banter and stories of lost fish ensued with anglers exchanging tips for the next session Del and I were to control Hector and Dom on beat three. It was a tough looking beat and the word was the previous two sets of anglers had both recorded blanks. I controlled Dom while Del wandered off with Hector. Dom hooked and landed a small fish not long into the session which took the pressure of a little. Conditions were getting worse with the rain now torrential and coming at a horizontal slant.
Hector had a late flurry and managed three fish giving them a total of four. Del and I had formulated a plan, one of the shorter beats Del was going to start at the top of the beat and I at the bottom. I had done quite well in practice in the deeper runs using heavy bugs but the river was now akin to Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. I did manage an offer but once again it failed to reach the net! I moved around the trees that lined the bank and into the area where Dom had taken his fish. A change to a bung set up proved to be the changing point in my day and a fish although small was most welcome onto our card. I worked the area hard changing depths and patterns and managed a grand total of four fish. Not the result we were after but considering the beat we had it was a respectable result. After the fishing I had concluded that a new water proof jacket may well be required in the near future. The Loomis wading jacket has served me well but it may be time to retire the garment. I was soaked through three layers of clothing to the skin and the temperature was dropping. I was pleased to get back to the car and get some dry kit on.
The Saturday evening was spent with a lovely curry and Del and I got a fire going to help dry out some of our gear. Would the weather be any kinder on the Sunday? A slightly colder night was spent in the back of the car but the day looked glorious with a mist rising from the river it looked very atmospheric. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the river it was up and very coloured. It was going to be a big ask to get it to give up the Ladies today. Del and I were in no hurry we had the second session and were wandering around like we had all the time in the world. When we eventually got in the car and made our way up towards beat twelve the car park was packed. We got out and were informed that our anglers had already walked up. On the way up, we met Hugh who was also on beat twelve, he informed us he would be right back as he had forgotten his other rod. They were fishing second so it was no problem!
Del, immediately said eh no we were fishing second. Hugh sent us on our way and said he would be back soon. On arriving at the start Del and I both got our paper work out and with ten minutes to go looked at each other in stunned silence we were indeed fishing first. Del boy and Rodney come to mind what a pair of plonkers! Our plan to discuss the beat and formulate a plan went into a flat spin and before we knew it we were both in the river fishing. It was a lovely day but the previous days rain had made the river very coloured and it was difficult to make out features on the bottom. I managed a small fish early into the session more luck than judgement. Del decided to prospect up the beat and we agreed that I should stay in the area and work away. Another small fish came halfway through the two-hour session and I wondered if Del was fairing any better. It was a grueller and no mistake but, with only fifteen minutes to go I managed another Grayling the very next cast and another quickly followed there was still time to save the day if the fish had come on. A couple of casts later another small fish to the net. That was all she wrote really even after a quick change of flies it has all gone quiet and the session went out with a whimper.
"That was all she wrote really even after a quick change of flies it has all gone quiet and the session went out with a whimper."
We had managed a grand total of six Grayling which does not reflect the water we were fishing the conditions had simply gotten the better of us. Hugh and Nigel opted to stick together and both fished the same area as I had fished. They had a tough old session only managing two Grayling between them. As a consolation Nigel had the fight of his life with a bruiser of a Brown trout. We packed up the kit and headed back for a very welcome Hog Roast. It was great to catch up with many friends at this event the group of anglers that attend this event are top boys always up for a laugh or a bit of advice if needed. Del and I will definitely be back next year and I cannot recommend this event enough. Many congratulations to all the prize winners on the day top angling.