I have had to change my usual plan for qualifiers both on the river and now on the loch style. My usual routes had and have conflicting dates for family events so I opted for the Southern Fed that I have been a member for the last five years. I could not do their River qualifier but was in a position to compete in their loch style qualifier. Well, it was a long time coming this year the Army Spring meeting is usually my first trip of the season but the dates had moved to the right. Various other domestic chores have conspired to keep me of the water of late. At last, I was going to get a day out at Bewl water my second favorite venue behind Rutland. As most of you will already have experienced the weather I won’t dwell on the subject but suffice to say it was bitter cold. Never mind Graham and I would warm up catching all those fresh fish. This was a little pre-recce before the weekend's serious work, there were only another two boats out so we had the pick of the spots. Lots of fish had reportedly been taken at Rosemary Lane and Graham had never been so we headed off down Bewl Straight with ten layers each on. After an hour of not catching any fish, we decided to go looking, after four hours we found one in canoe club corner. He went straight back in the water and must have told all his mates, we moved on. We arrived at bramble lane and at last, we started to pick a few fish up. By about 1700hrs we were a little dejected and very cold so called it a day.
Graham picked me up in the camper van at around half six wearing sunglasses, the weather had picked up and it was only cold. We arrived at Bewl in good order and decided to treat this as if it was our first visit. Today though all the boats were booked and many of these were any method anglers. I caught up with a few familiar faces, Paul Lee from the Army team was in the same boat as me so to speak in that he is unable to attend the Championships this year. All the old Bewl anglers that I have come to know over the years and have learned a great deal from, I discovered that many of them were competing as well. A trip to Ireland the reason for them varying from their usual path to the National.
Our first drift was along Chingley Wood for nothing and although no words were exchanged I think we both thought it was going to be tough, again! We went back down to Rosemary Lane, it was like we had turned up at a different venue! Nearly everywhere we looked boats and bankies alike were playing fish. It was difficult to get in through and Graham and I left empty-handed. The thought process is that it would be similar the next day. We tootled back up the reservoir to hook straight, on our visit on the Tuesday Graham had seen a couple of fish at Browns Inlet. We positioned the boat deep into the inlet and I cast out my fast sinker only to find a big knot in the line, as I started knitting trying to untangle it Graham piped up you have a fish on your fly. As I looked up I could indeed see a boil in the area of my fly. A frantic few strips on the line and I was playing a good fish. Landed and safely returned I cast my line out and was beginning to resume my knitting when Graham pipes up again, four or five strips later I have another fish. Things were picking up Graham bagged one then another. By the time we had drifted out the bay we had put ten fish in the net between us. We continued to pick fish up on the opposite bank of Hook Straight and all was well with the world again. We arrived at Bramble Point where we had managed a couple of fish on Tuesday to find it stuffed to the gunnels with fine examples of Bewls’ Blue Trout. Not wanting to attract attention after one drift we left the area. By this time the wind was getting up and the driving rain was almost horizontal. We had a quick drift into Canoe Club corner both taking fish and decided to call it a day. A very good day it was too, Graham's camper was providing us with food and shelter so we parked nearby and dried our kit out and rustled up a few killers over a wee dram. After a thoroughly decent night sleep, we used the showers at the sailing club and got a bit of breakfast. The draw was kind to me and I got Steve Collins a local angler that I know well, he had drawn the engine. I enquired where he wanted
to go and he told me that he wanted to start at Rosemary Lane. I was not keen on this as I thought it may be very busy with pleasure anglers and bank anglers. In the end, after some discussion, Steve was content to fish at Bramble point, what a great decision. As I set the drogue for our first drift I watched Graham net his first fish. The wind was kind and the boat was not drifting very fast, I made the most of this taking four fish in my first drift. My tail was up and as I turned to get the drogue and go back round I could see that the success had not gone unnoticed a large queue had formed behind us, bugger! Steve and I moved back around and slightly out from the cluster of boats. Again, almost instantly I was into fish, Steve changed tactics to mimic my own and started to get into a few fish of his own. I checked the time only forty minutes into the match and six fish for the good. Getting back around onto the fish proved problematic due to a large number of boats in the area. We could not really get the drift we wanted so minced about on the fringes for one more fish. Steve had spotted a number of fish being taken further out so we moved around and out. Steve immediately got a fish but unfortunately, it came off next cast he grabs another and while he is playing it I hit and land number eight. 11.27 a good time bonus but with the fish varying in size and only a 1lb an hour time bonus would it be enough? I spotted Graham packing up his kit he had landed his last fish just two minutes after me, surely, we would be in with a shout? Steve waited for his last fish for just over an hour and it seemed as though the fish had gone off a little. We went back to the dock and enjoyed a spot of lunch with the other finishers. Hugh Frew had finished at 11.05 but was concerned with the weight of his fish. At the weigh-in, it was evident that a good days fishing was had by nearly all, with 18 limits in a field of 19.
As the weights of fish were announced it was evident that the time bonus would make little difference to the results of this match. Hugh who had fished extremely well-finished 10th after finishing in just over an hour. Another victim of this was Graham finishing 3rd in the field but managing only 7th and being beaten by his boat partner on the weight of fish. I was fortunate to have picked up a couple of reasonable fish and had done enough to attain a qualifying slot. Paul Lee who had partnered Hugh also gained a qualifying slot. I don’t want to get into the time bonus debarkle every angler knows the rules and the parameters of the match they have chosen to fish. It does seem to me that you need to be really lucky, I don’t believe it is possible to select better fish at this time of year. Although I finished second-time wise I still feel lucky that I picked up decent enough fish to carry me through. If I had been in Hugh’s shoes I would be feeling a tad disappointed.