I had been looking forward to fishing Draycote for some time in my humble opinion it offers some of the best fishing in the country. The week before, unfortunately, I ripped my calf muscle playing squash (I know I am too old for that shit). I can only describe it as like being shot in the leg and I collapsed like a sack of spuds. Still, it was a week ago surely it would heal enough for me to go fishing. So after four days laid up and box sets of three seasons of Breaking Bad I got up for work on Monday still hobbling around but mobile only to find I could not work the clutch on the car! Back to the house another season of Breaking Bad and some hurried phone calls to see if someone would be able to pick me up. We were so thin on the ground that the Chairman himself offered to go significantly out of his way to collect me. It was very much appreciated. The only problem now after getting up at 0500 to get ready was gout, yes probably exasperated by the leg up for the previous four days I had taken an attack of gout. To cut a long story short I stuck as many pills down my throat as I thought I could get away with and as my good friend Graham Lumsdon would say I hardened the f**k up!
When I first arrived at the water the wind looked fairly manageable and Dean Rudd and I set out to catch a few fish. After the first drift, however, the wind had gotten to biblical proportions and not for the first time this year I found myself scurrying to the lea shore for a bit of shelter, like everyone else. As we arrived in Rainbow corner there was already an armada of boats there many with their anchors down. The fishing was difficult and occasionally a rod would go over and we would fish a little bit harder for ten minutes. Dean nor I had managed any breakfast so we decided to nip into the lodge for a portion of morale and in my case gammon, eggs and chips and very nice it was too. Reinvigorated with the break we headed back out to try and crack the code so to speak. Our first drift and Dean landed the first fish to the boat, we were off the mark! The next drift round and I managed a little nudge the next cast and a plump hard fighting rainbow eventually made it to my net. As the wind started to abate a little we decided to move across to the other bank and have a look round the tower and down the other side. We had just drifted past the inlet pipe when my phone went I thought it may have been one of the others keen to find out how we were doing but it was Ronnie enquiring about the weekend ahead. I had only been on the phone for a minute when my rod buckled over. I quickly put the phone down and started to play the fish. I knew it was decent as I was fishing 12lb tippet and had my rod almost bent in half and the fish would still not give up. After a prolonged fight, I eventually got the beast to the net. It was a cracker and Dean was kind enough to take a snap for me a good example of what Draycote can produce. The fish had cheered me up no end and the wind was dying back further. Perhaps the day was going to turn round and turn out not bad. We drifted into Biggin Bay fairly close to the bank and were rewarded with more fish all of the best quality. Near the end of Biggin Bay, I was rewarded with another stonking fish near the 5lb mark the day was really starting to pick up. As we rounded the corner Dean and I could see Richard and Steve both into fish and moved to cover the pod. One drift was all it took to confirm what I had suspected, it was rammed with fish. We had a little look right into Toft and Sean had reported good numbers of fish there too. So we had some areas to work on for the match and with the change in conditions, it would be interesting to see how it would all go. Sponsored by Ibuprofen and Paracetamol I had made it through the first day and worst conditions so the next day in what was expected to be a flat calm would be no problem!
After a hearty breakfast at Netty’s café followed by an assortment of painkillers, we all headed down to the lodge. I was to fish with Phil Thomas who I have competed against for years as a member of various Army and England teams. Phil is one of the nicest blokes you will meet on the competition circuit and I was really looking forward to my day out with him. The Fishhawks are a thoroughly professional outfit and had a couple of boats on the water the previous day. I knew Phil who had not fished would have been well briefed by his team but as I had first-hand knowledge Phil kindly let me take him to my start point. I had opted to start in Biggin bay along with a few other boats. It was clear from the outset that the wind was going to be a challenge. One minute the boat was just where you wanted it the next you were facing the boat behind. Twenty minutes in and Phil took first blood with a fish taking a small booby on the point we had seen several fish rising across the water on our trip over. So it made sense that they had moved a little higher in the water. After an hour with no further action other than poor Richard force feeding his Loomis NRX into the propeller of his boat, we decided to move on. We did not have far to go as I knew there was another pod just around the corner. Phil was still straight through with buzzers and I had changed to the bung. As we motored up to the small bush the telltale rings of a number of fish were showing. As we neared the bank Phil pulled into another fish which fought hard pulling the boat round to no avail though and Phil soon had it in the net. That’s when the Phil Thomas show started every other cast produced a fish and he was quickly up to six fish. I had only managed a half-hearted offer and another fish on and off. I have been doing this a long time and have never been done 8-0, in fact, I have on the odd occasion been on the other end of giving someone a good seeing too. Being on the other end is not pleasant, but I was confident my chance would come. Negotiating round an anchored boat Phil pulled another one and I had a feeling my goose was cooked. I had returned to the straight lining and hooked a fish only for my heart to sink as it did not grace me with its presence in the net. Time was running out it was only surely a matter of minutes before Phil secured his last fish. I have to admit to looking elsewhere when the line was yanked hard in my hand and I was playing another fish. It was the smallest fish I had seen in Draycote but still being on the verge of a granny it was most welcome. Sure enough a short time later and Phil was done by 1300hrs good angling.
So five hours and seven fish to get plenty time, surely. As the day wore on various areas would switch on for a short spell and as more boats arrived they would then switch off. I seemed to be always late to the party and after loosing another couple of fish I was almost resigned to the fact that today was not going to be my best day. Another fish came to the net and I was stuck on three for the longest time. Morale was slightly bolstered when Si Gaines an exceptional angler came around and reported only one fish to the boat, I was not alone in abject misery! We enjoyed a bit of banter before knuckling down to try and catch a few more fish. Having moved down to Toft and the day fast disappearing I decided to have a change of tactics. I got out the DI3 and tied on a single blob, this had worked well the previous day, I did not really think it would work but I had to try something. First cast I retrieved at a steady pace and hung at my twenty-foot marker only to see it shoot backwards but no lockup. That was promising fifteen precious minutes went by for nothing and I was thinking get back on the bung, just five more casts. Sure enough the very next cast on the hang the line shot forward and the rod buckled into a pleasing arc. The fish came quickly to the net and this fuelled the next ten minutes which went by fruitless. Back to the bung and the area where Phil had done so much damage earlier. I had noted that it had been well rested for at least an hour. Only an hour to go when disaster struck my foot slipped down the water pump hole and twisted my gout-ridden sore leg at an unlikely angle. I could tell you what I said but the censor would probably remove the words! In some considerable pain I carried on only to be snapped out of my trance by Phil shouting strike! Missed it, bugger but now refocused, almost the next cast as I began to retrieve the bung shot away and I was into another fish. That’s when the problem started when I stood to land the fish the pain was agony and I had to sit back down, luckily Phil stepped in and helped me out by netting the fish. Time was ticking away and we had had a pretty poor engine that had failed to start nine times out of ten so I factored in another five minutes to overcome any problems. I had cast my line out and turned to Phil to say last one when the line tightened up again and for the second time Phil squared me up by netting the fish. The engine fired first time, typical and we were off the day over back to the lodge. I was pretty pleased with my day it had been tough for me and easy for some, but as I was to find out many anglers had really toiled.
The food in the lodge complex was of a very good standard and most teams had stayed for the meal. Dean had handled the results and delivered the verdict an impressive win for Rutland Water Fly Fishers who had between them put 130lb of fish over the scales. The Fishhawks claimed the second spot and we were third not bad at all. I am not sure about the batting order for the remainder of the teams but this will come out in the AMFC Newsletter. A few lines of thanks to Richard for getting me there, Dean and Sean for the match organisation. Last but not least my boat partner Phil Thomas who taught me a lesson in humility and straight line buzzer fishing ;-) A three day trip to Grafham this weekend in the washing machine, can hardly wait.