I always look forward to the Spring or Autumn AMFC meetings because I get the chance to catch up with so many of the anglers that I have met over the years. For the un-initiated the Affiliation of Major Fly Fishing Clubs is an event consisting of six matches over the season. There are three divisions which fish at various venues across England. The Spring and Autumn meetings see all the divisions come together to compete.
This year I am fishing in and organising the Soldier Palmers ‘B’ team with the view to developing new anglers to the Army Angling Federation (Game). Its particularly difficult at the moment as the Army are very busy and getting folks released to fish can be a challenge. When Mike Guild was called into work on the Friday which at the time left us a spare seat in the boat for practice. Dave Murray very kindly offered his services as a boat partner a hugely experienced angler that would be sure to bring a lot to the party.
It had been to long since I last shared a boat with Dave and I was keen to catch up with him. We arranged to meet at 0800hrs but as the old saying goes ye cannae hurray a Murray. My kit set up and the rest of the boys departed Dave showed up about 0850hrs. I helped him decant his kit from the back of the Landrover, it looked like someone had thrown in some fishing tackle with a Tesco’s bag and a grenade. This belies the fact that Dave is one of the finest anglers I have ever fished with. He had fished the previous day with Al Owen so we had quite a lot to look at. We started with a trip up to Old Hall, not always my first choice as it’s a good distance away. Dave assured me it would be worth it…. he was not wrong. The drogue had barely hit the water and I had hooked my first fish. We had not travelled more than fifty yards and Dave and I had both had several fish. I commented to Dave that this was the best start to a drift that I had had this year. He gave me a quizzical look and said it was like this for him all the time….lol. Something on that drift that was worthy of a mention was Dave catching a fish and unhooking it. I grabbed a quick picture and Dave slipped the fish back for it to immediately take a buzzer in the middle of his cast. I have never seen this before it just shows how resilient and hungry the fish are. We bounced down the Old Hall bay and flats and every drift produced great sport. The further down towards the basin we fished the slower the sport became. By the time we reached Inmans Spinney it had all but dried up. One of our party decided that a visit to Sailing Club bay was a must while the other disagreed. It was the slowest part of the day fishing wise, not so much as regards abuse though!
The afternoon, we had moved round to the North Arm to confirm the drifts the boys had completed in the morning. We had slipped into the the start of the wooded area down from Barnsdale Road end. Dave decided to switch to the bung to fish up the drift. We had spotted Ray French from Bewl in the boat in front they were giving the fish a right good seeing to. I stuck with the pulling but it was evident that the fish were now hard on the buzzers. I managed a couple but poor Dave had not managed even an offer. Not happy he wanted to re-drift, no problem I offered to switch to the bung to show him how to do it. After much chortling the gauntlet was thrown and a bet of fifty pence was made. I had barely gotten my cast on when Dave shouted start. I got my first cast out and was explaining to Dave how he had been doing it wrong. “You have to put a long draw in the retrieve Dave” the rod duly buckled over and I got a torrent of abuse! We fished on into Dickinson’s for no joy so opted for a move into Barnsdale. Nothing there either so we bounced down to Belgrano Dave now back pulling was getting lots of follows and takes and occasionally a fish would lock up. Dave had the best fish of the day just down the bank from Belgrano. We decided to call it a day, my sincere thanks to Dave who brought much to the party and his unique humour.
The match day dawned cold and windy, many at the lodge were layering up expecting the worse from the weather. There was some delay getting a boat draw out as no one knew if Bristol were going to turn up. As it happened they did not show and by about 0915 a draw was up. There was veritable stampede to get on the boats, but all seem to fall into place. I met my boat partner for the day Steve Radclliffe who was fishing for the Queen Mother. Steve had not been able to practice and was happy enough to allow me on the engine. I had told Steve we would be fishing in Old Hall and he seemed happy enough with that. The hooter was sounded and we were off. There was a good spread of boats, but as I suspected a good number were on their way to Old Hall. I had expected it to be fairly busy but its was a large area and there should have been plenty room for all. When I arrived a bit behind the rest of the pack I was really pleased that there was a gap just where I wanted to start. That’s when it started the bloody wind, it was swirling round pulling the boat right then left. I could not get it to go where I wanted for all my effort. I noted several fish being caught much further down towards the flats. In particular Mark Haycock was off to a flyer. I managed to hook a fish in the first half hour but it immediately spat the hook. Shortly after that first fish to the net, always a relief. I was fishing deep with a booby but it did not feel right, I could see others around me on the bung catching well so I made the change. Initially it seemed like a good choice as I quickly took two more fish. But as time rolled by getting onto the drift I wanted became increasingly difficult. An hour went by with not so much as tweak to my bung. I changed back to the pulling rig. I was discussing with Steve our next move it was 1200 and things seemed to be drying up. I suggested bouncing down the Normanton bank until we found some fish. As the sentence was leaving my lips the rod buckled over as did Steve’s. One more drift then? They kept coming picking up a fish nearly every drift the trick was getting on the drift with an awkward wind and a congested field. I made it to seven by about 1345hrs only losing a couple on the way so I was fairly pleased. The last one would surely not be far away, wishful thinking on my part I’m afraid!
Steve had lost a few fish as well and this can be a bit frustrating. Over the years I have been called Harry Potter for the way I swing my rod around after losing a fish. In recent years though I have managed to get a grip of my temper, the anger management classes worked, who knew. Today though was to test me and I am sad to say I failed. After hooking one particular fish which felt decent, it doggedly fought deep shaking its head. It felt like I had a good hold of it, but after losing a couple of other No 8s I was going to play this a bit smarter. It came off before the thought had finished forming…..the rod went first, then the hat and then the air went blue. No need to repeat here what was uttered but I noted Steve turning away to concentrate on his fishing. After recomposing myself I got back to business, it had gone very, very quiet. Back to the bung as the odd fish was still being taken on this method, forty minutes a change of location within the bay no joy. I changed back contemplating not finishing here. Options for one more fish were speeding through my head, it was still difficult to get on drifts due to the wind and other boats. I opted to hack it out I knew there were fish here, they were just tough. After what seemed like an age the last fish locked up, it was well hooked and came easily to the boat. I always have a count up before putting my kit away and was much relieved when I confirmed I had eight. Steve had another take but it was not his day, he fancied finishing up with a drift into Church Bay. There were a few boats already in the last chance saloon and we had drogue free drift into the bay. No joy for Steve though and he finished up on three. When we returned to the dock the boys had mixed results. The Soldier palmers (A) had put a hard shift in, Andy Everitt had fished his socks of with a great bag of fish and time bonus. For the other boys it had been a struggle. The B team had faired a bit better three limits and a three. We would have to wait till after the meal to get the results. The meal was booked at the old fishing lodge Whitwell. Both our teams attended the meal it was of a really good standard and we managed to charm some extra steak pie, fat boys only! After pudding the results were read out the A team had come 4th not to shabby. The B team claimed the top spot in division three, well done boys what a fantastic effort.
The AMFC is great fun and a good way for any aspiring competition angler to develop. You have the chance to fish with some top quality rods that more often than not will be more than happy to help bring you on.