I feel like a little kid that has just come back from a trip to Harry Potter world, it was magic! I have always liked Draycote it’s a great fishery with some of the hardest fighting fish in the country. The only place I have been that rivals the fish quality this year is Grafham Water. The reports had been that the fishing had got a little tougher so I turned up expecting the worse and armed with some big nasty stuff. Off course before any fishing you need to get fuelled up for the day and what better than a stop at the Willoughby Café. I met up with a few of the lads for the big feed and the banter began. I was going to have a day in the boat with my old mucker Jock Kettles; he had traveled down with a large Scottish contingent. All paid up we ventured out on the water, Jock taking control of the engine (that will not happen again!). I have fished Draycote a fair bit and advised Jock that we should start down in Toft then work our way along the North shore. Jock slowly and expertly moved the boat into position taking care not to spook any fish in the crystal clear shallow water. I had opted to start on a midge tip with a Snake on the point. For those that don’t know the Snake is a piece of monstrous genius! It’s basically the eye and shank of a hook with a 3” strip of minkie connected with some soft braid. At the end of the srip and connected with the braid is a size #12 hook. Looking at it in your hand your first thought would be to find the nearest bin. In the water, though it pulses and moves with a life of its own.
The first cast I pulled my line to straighten the cast to find something pulling back on the other end. Jock had noticed the take and was already enquiring how many Snakes had I brought. Jocks second cast a glorious arc appeared in his rod and he was fighting a pretty decent 4.5lb fish with a huge tail. I did take a load of photographs but had some operator effort and the images are now only in my mind’s eye. The fish was definitely a sight to behold and what a Rainbow trout should look like, a bar of silver with a massive rudder on the end. In the space of a couple of drifts we had managed six fish to the boat none as grand as Jock's first fish but nice hard fighting fish none the less. We moved up to Biggin bay in the hope of getting in for a drift but between the bank anglers anchored and drifting boats, we abandoned all thoughts of it. There must have been a pie sale with a free pint thrown in there were that many anglers in there. We decided to try our hand up at the tower where we bumped into Jamie Thomas; I was hope full of getting a few photos of Jamie for an up and coming article. He was going to catch a fish and then I could snap away, instead, he broke his rod at the tip and the moment passed. Jock and I left Jamie with a roll of masking tape and made our way down to Rainbow Corner, a drift from A Buoy to the inlet. Morale was pretty low it was bloody cold; it was so cold in fact that the 12” sub I had brought for my lunch had shrunk to 6”! We had not had an offer for some considerable time and Jock had run out of chocolate. But as we got nearer the shore Jock got a double shooter that seemed to brighten his spirits. We thought to try another drift to the right but for no joy. Later we found out if we had gone to the left we would have found plenty of fish, oh well never mind.
As time wore on we moved to the dam wall near the boat dock where Jock used his exceptional skill to keep me of the fish again….lol I had given up on the big stuff as the fish would just not stick. A couple of old faithful comp blob went on with the DI3. It was like night and day it was not long before we were both fighting them off with the oars. As we discussed the practice we both kinds of came to the same conclusion. The match format was kill your first two fish then C & R a further eight. So we thought a couple of the big fish from Toft for the bag then round the corner for eight quick stockies, sounds like a plan. It was so cold that Royal Engineers were putting their hands in their own pockets! Jock was near hypothermic and in a moment of weakness, I let him take us in. Back at the hotel, oh yes this was a very posh affair no TA hall and a camp cot this year. We were all accommodated at the Draycote Hotel very nice it was too. I met up with a few of the lads in the bar for a couple of pints before a very early night; the early start had taken its toll.
The next day the wind felt even more cutting and as we arrived at the lodge we were getting the full brunt of the north wind. A lot of the old guard had turned up and I hoped that they had brought their winter warmers with them. I had drawn Bill Howell from Fishing For Forces (Please visit their website they do amazing work). Bill is often invited along to come and fish with us and we offer up bodies to help out with his charity. Bill was happy enough for me to take the engine but he needs to remember to untie us from the boat dock before we go fishing ;-). Kettles was out of the harbor like a rat up the drainpipe and I could see him laughing and waving as he sped towards Toft. We eventually got down to Toft and there was still a little space left to shoe horn the boat into. I watched as a couple of quick fish were caught and I was fortunate enough to get one myself in the first fifteen minutes. It was a cracking fish about 3lb great start. Another half hour went by however and not one of the three boats there took another fish. Jock had already left and I was getting the same urge, time to abandon plan A and go hit the stockies. So around the corner to the dam wall, I had changed to my pulling rig and worked all the way down for one half-hearted offer Bill did not even manage that. It was a bit lumpy and cold and I was acutely aware that 70-year-old bill would not enjoy staying here all day. So a move back round to Toft. All the boats had gone so we had it to ourselves, back on the floater and a nice gentle ripple. I got right into the buoys and was presenting my flies static high in the water. Bill was on a sinking line and swiftly took three fish. I was getting rod wrenching takes but no lock ups. A bit of a dilemma, change or stick. I decided to stick with the floater and just add in a slow figure of eight retrieve this was a revelation the take turned into solid lock ups. My next fish was a double shooter which turned into one fish as the fish on the point ripped my cast to pieces. The fish that was left was a cracker, left attached to the top dropper I was sure it was going to come off. Bill was of no help as he was playing a fish of his own. Eventually, the fish surrendered and slipped into the net weighing in at 4lb 11oz and my second fish of the day. Bill was on four or five now and we were starting to build a head of steam. Next drift round we were on them like Jim Wright on a bottle of Buckfast. I had reached my ten fish limit in just under an hour, Bill only had three to come and I passed my rod across to him to finish up. I did not have long to wait before both Bill and I were packing our kit away and looking forward to a warm up back at the lodge.
In the evening there was a formal dinner, well more a relaxed banter filled dinner. Great fun with several thankyous delivered to the two main sponsors from Techmodel and Deloitte’s. We left the table in time to see New Zealand give France a master class in the Rugby World Cup. Some of the younger lads stayed on at the bar for a bit and they could be spotted the next day nursing sore heeds, no names no pack drills!
The last day the format was to go out and catch pretty much what you liked but you could only kill two. I was not to be in the comp today as I was acting as a press photographer for our newly crowned European Champion Jamie Thomas. Photos’ were needed for the Soldier mag and I am afraid to say I cocked it right up…. Sorry Jamie. Anyway onwards and upwards, Jamie was not bothered where we started so I suggested a quick visit to the bottom of Toft. Yes, they were still there but not of the same quality as the previous day so we left in search of better fish. Jamie suggested fishing the area that he had taken his fish the previous day. The sunken island was holding a lot of fish and they could be seen milling around in the surface. It was also very busy with boats, thankfully all were drifting. We picked up a few fish and I came across one that was OK not huge but a good 2.5lb which was better than what I had been catching so it got a bump on the heed and was sent to the bass bag. Jamie had a bit of a purple patch and several fish fell to his charms in quick succession. There was a good degree of cloud cover and although I could not see many fish rising I thought to give the dries a runout. Jamie did likewise taking a fish with only his second cast. The offers were a plenty and in one instance a fish stole all my flies and the tippet as well, no break in the line just bad angling by a numpty! I re-tied the rig and was soon enjoying missing several other offers! After increasing my pause to a full four seconds I started to hook a couple which was very pleasing. The wind rose a little and we moved off towards Charlie Buoy to allow the growing queue of boats behind us a go at the fish. I had switched to a floater at this point and was pulling it back at speed getting more interest than fish but it was good fun. Jamie went back to his 12’ midge that had been doing the business earlier and was picking a few fish up. I spotted a rising fish just the right distance from the boat and covered it a couple of strips and the fish bow waved towards my offering. It was coming and coming but I was running out of line to strip and just as I thought it was going to turn away it smashed into the fly. Again not a huge fish but 2.5lb I decided to take it. Jamie yet to take one to the bag was confident that something big would be along. Alas, it never came so we moved to the pontoon for a few last chucks. Jamie raised some pretty awesome looking fish but they failed to play ball, eventually, a sprightly trout made it into the bag. We decided to call it a day even though there was still an hour to go. We had had a great three days but were both worn out with the effort. The format was excellent allowing anglers to fish all day if they wished.
These events don’t just happen and there is a lot of hard work and effort goes into pulling them all together. I dare say many are involved but the bulk of the administration is done by Si Elson and I am sure I am not alone in being grateful for his sterling efforts. I would like to thank my boat partners for putting up with me over the three days it was great fun hope to see you all again next season. Broadlands tomorrow I will endeavor to sort out my camera skills and get some better images for the next blog entry.