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England Qualifier @ Wherewell 08 Feb 2014

I was looking forward to the qualifier at Wherewell I missed it the previous year when I knew I had a session winning area in the bag with options as well. Last year the water was high but this year was exceptional. On our last practice day, the river was as high as I had seen it at any time. I really struggled for just four measurable fish while Graham who is on fire at the moment managed a very respectable twenty odd. I don’t really have much more to say about that day, cold, wet and not many fish. We decided to give the other practice day a miss, we had looked to go on the 4th for a day but the forecast was bleak and as we have both qualified for the final already we decided keeping the £45 in our pockets was a better option.

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Steve Cullen was coming down to practice on Friday then popping over to mine for a curry and a beer Graham was also staying. We had a pleasant evening with a dram, (Steve stuck to his designer bottled lager, the big Jessie) putting the world to rights as you do. Steve had a good day although he had tweaked his back which was giving him a bit of jip. We arrived at the river in what I thought was plenty of time but already the car park which was mostly underwater was crowded. All three of us drew a morning session which was fine. Graham and I had planned to go and fish out of the way from everyone and as we walked down the river it became very obvious that a number of anglers were heading in the same direction. Graham carried on I decided to stop at the first bridge and just fish up. My controller Mick had traveled down from the North and while we stood chewing the fat and waiting for the off we had four seasons in one day.  I fished very carefully through the water I had in front of me but the wind was ferocious at times which made line management very difficult, should have brought the five weight! After 45 minutes I was rewarded with a good fish which came to the net in good order. I hooked another shortly afterward but unfortunately fish and hook parted company. To add to my dismay the flies pinged back at speed and went straight into a tree, bugger! After I had sorted myself out I took another good fish. Mick shouted over to me that an hour had passed and I was fairly pleased two an hour in these conditions would be good going. The grayling did not read the script though. I messed about a bit with other bits of water close by but the competitive edge was not with me today and instead of making a large bound to where I knew there would be a few fish I frittered away my time and to be honest was glad when it was over.
Graham and Steve had done really well Graham had 12 in the first hour and failed to catch after that. Steve had worked hard and managed nine a very credible effort.  Lee Bartlett had fished exceptionally well and was untouchable on 18, good angling.

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The Afternoon was fished in much the same conditions (changed every 10 minutes) but the wind was pretty constant. I was to control Andy McMahon, I have known Andy for some time as we both started doing the river qualifiers on Wherewell five years or so ago. I believe he has also qualified for the Broadlands heat so was very laid back about the whole affair. He did not bother to set up a spare rod but instead just brought it along in its tube. In fact, he had not bothered setting up his primary rod until we had reached his start point. Andy had not practiced a busy job and living in Bradford had not helped. So flying by the seat of his pants he fished up the left-hand carrier with a duo rig for nothing. A move over to the other carrier saw the rest of the field fishing for not very much, this was around the halfway mark. As we passed Howard Croston (absolute fishing ninja on any river but especially on Wherewell) his controller told me he had only managed one. For me, that was a big tell on how the afternoon session was panning out. Andy was keen to get a clean bit of water but as we worked our way up the bank it was apparent that most of the competitors were here. After a big hike, we eventually got in front of Brian Beaney who reported a blank thus far. Andy flicked his flies into the water and a cracking fish just shy of the 40cm mark tore off across the river.  The fish was safely landed and measured, a great start was there more to come? Andy’s rod buckled over again and again but Brown trout were not on the card today. A flash of silver and another cracking Grayling only just short of the previous one gave Andy a fine brace.  With ten minutes to go the clouds unleashed a torrential downpour just to top off a cold, windy and wet day. 

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Howard had worked very hard and managed seven fish a great result after a slow start, but the winner of the session was Tony Baldwin with a fantastic total of nine.  Simon quickly calculated the results and got people away in good time. Many anglers had traveled a great distance to fish and credit to them. I am gutted that they have not seen the best of this great venue and would urge anyone to give it another go. The weather has been shocking and rivers everywhere are suffering let’s hope they come down soon!