The Blog has fallen a little behind of late so I thought I would take this opportunity to catch up. It serves a couple of purposes, it acts as my fishing diary and I enjoy reading the entries back. I hope to try and keep it up a bit more regularly. The following covers several trips and maybe a little tough going.
I have spent the last two months where I can preparing for the England Rivers Final on the Welsh Dee. The first trip up to the Dee was well in advance of the final and I expected it to fish OK. Graham Lumsdon my partner in crime for much of my fishing had already arrived on the river a few days in advance of me and knocked the stuffing out off the recently stocked fish. I started on the first day by looking over and fishing the Doli beat. There where still plenty of stockies around and we both had good sport. The next day was spent on beat A which was the biggest beat by far and took a bit of covering. This proved to be a tough day and we were convinced the water had already been well pressed. As well as that a pack of hunting dogs and the local community were having a Mink hunt! The pack was made up of retired fox hunting hounds and they bounded up the river with great gusto! Obviously with the water in front of us trashed we called it a day and headed down to Horseshoe Falls we got a little fishing in before the pack reached us, and we presumed successfully caught a Mink judging by the tooting of horns and excited dogs. Next day was the Golf course which was fantastic fishing plenty of sport in all areas of the beat, this had obviously not had the same shoeing as some of the other beats. And the last day we spent on the top and bottom parts of the country park. These both fished quite well and that was my first weekend's prep done. I had a good idea of the patterns that needed tying and hoped that the river would fish in a similar way on the match days.
The second weekend was spent confirming areas and change patterns for the Grayling, Beat A fishing its socks off and I kept everything crossed that I got it in my draw. We had assumed that there would be a hat full of other competitors on the river on Saturday so decided to pop smoke and head to some fresh water. We had both bought season tickets
and the club have ticket exchange for the water at Balla. A great looking river which was much easier to wade than the comp stretches and the fish, the fish were extraordinary. I caught the first fish which was well into the 40+ bracket and was chuffed with that. We caught lots of Grayling that were in great nick. I fished a long run with the double nymph while Graham had stayed around the corner on the flats. I could hear him shouting and had thought he had fallen in or some other misadventure befallen him. I was making my way to the bank to investigate the cafuffle when Graham tore around the corner with the biggest Grayling I have seen in this country. It was an amazing long firm deep fish with a huge dorsal fin, what a beauty. Graham had tempted the leviathan up on a dry fly and he told me it had leaped into the air several times. I was really chuffed to have been there and this was the highlight of the trip. We measured the fish against my rod measure and it went 51cm, unfortunately, the photographs don’t do the fish justice. After that, we retired to Llangollen for a bite to eat at the Bridge End Hotel, very reasonable and good quality food. I was off home with thoughts of that huge Grayling on my mind.
Meanwhile Graham was heading back North when disaster struck the Breaking Bad van broke down on the road home. Safely recovered Graham waited several days on the diagnosis. The news was not good and a new gearbox would be required, a bit of last minute organising and I had booked a campsite a couple of miles from Llangollen. So accommodation sorted!
Two weeks to the final, I had to get back out before then. June and July are the busiest times in my day job and with all the time off to prep for the final, I had been working pretty hard to make sure I was keeping my end up. Fitting in a session on the river was difficult but I managed two hours on the Avon after a meeting in Andover. What a cracking couple of hours, around thirty fish landed nothing very big but the vast majority being between 25cm-35cm. It was nice to get some consistent sport and just remind myself what its like to fish an un-pressed river.
The weekend of the final came round in no time and I had arranged to get away around midday to beat the traffic………you don’t beat the M40, M42, and M54. I crawled all the way to Warwick services which I could barely get parked in, three hours to get halfway gutted. Back in the car things did not improve the M42 was a shocker as my turning eventually showed up I was grateful to get a free flowing M54. That was until about ten miles down the road traffic had come to a complete standstill. There had been a serious accident about a quarter of a mile up and I was stuck once more for a little over an hour and a half, the joys of traveling. So I arrived in Llangollen to meet Graham around 1800hrs. We decided to go straight to the campsite and get the tent pitched, the site had a bistro but it was overpriced so we opted for a short walk down to the Abby Grange Hotel. We had a pint and steak pie and chips for 20 quid sorted (more on that establishment later). We were going fishing with Andy Croucher up to the Balla water that Graham and I had fished previously. We had to stop at a tackle shop first though as Graham had no wading boots, John Norris had let him down pretty badly.
We walked a good ways down the river and fished up again the river produced some amazing fish. I was on hand for this one that Andy Croucher took a stunning fish but Graham smashed his personal best once again taking another even bigger. As the runt of the litter, I was content catching 30-35 cm fish. As we walked up the river to get a very late lunch Graham and I bumped into Lee Bartlet who told us a 56cm fish had come out the day before amazing.
We attended the draw on a Saturday night and I was over the moon with my beats I had come up with a plan for my afternoon on Beat A. Beat C would be a tougher choice but Graham had found good numbers of fish in the woods so that seemed a reasonable option. We wanted to have some time to sort out our kit so it was a very early start on Sunday to walk the beats. We were done and dusted by about 1100hrs Graham having walked three of the four beats was grateful for a seat and we spent some time waiting for Paul, sorry Andy Croucher finishing his stroll. (sorry private joke). We got back to the campsite and I rustled up some bacon and egg rolls for lunch very tasty. Sorting the kit out took a bit longer than I would have thought but job done we decided to head back to the Abby Grange Hotel, we ordered a couple of pints of Welsh Black and some food. We ordered another couple of pints of the same still no food. The rest of the customers were getting a little restless. An old gentleman that was staying at the hotel went out to complain, he was gone some time and when he came back he told the remaining customers that he had been told to pack his bags and leave. Our food arrived which was not of the same standard as the previous evenings. Graham speculated that the Chef had not turned up and that the landlady was manning the kitchen. Nothing was said to this effect and the waitress who was new simply brought the food out after an hour and a quarter. There were only six customers so it was a bit off. On our way out Graham wanted a word with the manager who dually appeared and began to sprout what we were soon to find out was a complete pack of lies. Graham gave him both barrels about his treatment of the pensioner and I chipped in about the waiting time for the food. Believe it or not, I was not rude or aggressive but put my point across in a polite manner. Of course, I would have liked nothing more than to wrap a chair over his increasingly reddening face. I resisted the temptation and wandered back to the campsite for a wee nightcap.
The first morning came and I had the very great pleasure of controlling JT, he was in one of the toughest groups and had chosen the same water as Simon Robinson. Simon had drawn a higher preference so took the sweetest water where the fish were rising freely even this early in the morning. JT opted for a stretch 50 meters downstream. The second cast John lifts into a good fish, its gonna be a cricket score! The fish jumps and sheds the hook bugger. After several missed opportunities and fish just not sticking we finally get one to measure. Another soon follows but Simon has not budged an inch and I could see other anglers pushing up towards him. John kept his nerve and made some exquisite casts covering fish with drag free drifts. Despite this display, the fish were not impressed and either point blank refused the offer or only attempted to drown the fly. The first session over and two fish to the good, this seemed reasonable as other anglers had blanked or had one, except Simon who had smashed out nine, good angling. The second session was going to be tough with lots of anglers in the same area. Less than ten minutes into the second session John tells me Simon was netting his fourth fish, machine! With no fresh water to go at John fished all the available water but could not avoid the blank, dropped fish, refusals and a congested river all conspired to undo him. I was surprised how remarkably well he took it. Possibly a Bronze Medal in the World Championships and a Silver in the Commonwealth helped to soften the blow.
My afternoon on beat A beckoned and with a very generous two-hour turn around John and I were not rushed to get there. We stopped at the Cooperative on the way so John could pick up a wee carry out. I had opted to fish the pocket water thinking that it would not have been touched in the morning. As we sat around waiting I could not see another angler anywhere. But as the time approached and I approached the river just on the other bank Mike was waiting to kick
off. Fortunately, Mike intended to fish downstream, a good choice in hindsight. I fished up through my pockets and was pleased to get my first fish half an hour in, a nice grayling coming in at 35cm. The pool I was fishing was good for 5 fish in practice and I was a little disappointed not to have taken more. I moved up to my next pool and was gutted to have not even got a bump. More than a little put out and not wanting to hit the water I had earmarked for my second session I decided to go back to my start point and go through it again. Time was running out and John shouted you still have a bit of time keep going, three minutes to go the colored nylon dipped and I hooked another grayling, bonza!
I would like to finish the story there for what follows makes me cringe. Session two I was a bit disappointed with only two from the first session I had hoped for four and four but I was confident that this session would provide at least another couple. I had purposely conserved the water that was only a short walk upstream. A little lower than when I practiced the water had been good for five fish in practice. To save a bit of time much fishing was done with not a sausage to show for it, I don’t think I had fished that badly??? So the first for me, gutted, so back to the Hand hotel with the score sheets. The stories of dropped fish and what could have been abounding I was happy to slip away with Graham to the Riverside café for some tea. The Riverside is another great eatery and very reasonable. Back to the campsite for an early night, we had new neighbors’ a woman with her son and two dogs. A rather loud woman with her son and two dogs! I think the little boy first stirred around four in the morning and I was awake.
We were up at six to strip the tent down and get set for the last day's competition. I had drawn Beat C in the morning, Doli not my favorite bit of water but again I had a reasonable plan that with a bit of luck might work out. I had Billy Rankin as my controller who I have known for years and had the pleasure of fishing with in a boat several times. He was relieved to hear we were not going far. I wandered up towards the woods and intended to fish an area that Graham had discovered in practice. What happened next has never happened to me before; I completely folded a blank in my first session, I could say I dropped a load of fish and was robbed but the truth is I only hooked one fish that spat the hook before it reached my waiting net. I had not fished well and I knew it. One session left and the water I had intended to fish just above me was now occupied by another competitor, oh well never mind. I decided to get my sinker on and fish a taddy under the trees towards the farm. This produced several fish but unfortunately, none of them made the 20cm measure. What a miserable three hours, what worried me more though as I was obviously a little disappointed but not gutted like I usually am when I have blown it. Must be getting old!
Billy had drawn the Country Park beat D in the afternoon, I did not envy him. He opted for the bottom end and concentrated his efforts on two main runs. A start at the wall was his preferred option, we both agreed that this would probably have been hit in the morning. An hour later we were proved right Billy opted for a short move to a run by the picnic tables. A bit of time setting up a bung and with ten minutes of the first session left, success! Billy brought a lively measurable fish to the bank. One happy Billy later, he was back in trying for a second. Nothing more in the first session. In the second session though Billy managed another fish but fortune was not with him and it shed the hook. One and a blank, my mucker Graham had managed a two and a one crucially avoiding the blank. The competition was over and it was back to the Hand to see who the heroes were and who were the zeros, I suspected which camp I was in!
The Hand had put on a very welcome buffet and with a potential four-hour drive home I was keen to get going. The results were done fairly quickly and the team for the 2015 International was announced. Rivers Champion for 2014 Mike Heritage fantastic result for Mike and I was really chuffed for him. The remainder of the team will be made up of a top flight with Howard Croston, Andrew Scott, Mike Dixon, Simon Robinson and Lewis Hendrie in reserve. Graham Lumsdon finished 7th which considering the field was a fantastic result well-done pal. I finished dead last, a little disappointing but hey ho it’s only fishing. This was my fourth final on the rivers and I have been fortunate to control some fantastic anglers over the years but this was by far the strongest field I have seen. I whole heartedly congratulate those that qualified good angling!
The competition will fade from my memory before the end of the week, thankfully. What will stay with me is the practice
days fishing with a friend and that huge Grayling that made me smile for a long time.
I know a lot of people don't like competition fishing and thats fine each to their own. What I would say though is there is no better way to learn and improve. I have only fished rivers for a little over seven years and have learned loads from lots of different people. Not only will you learn lots about fishing you get to meet some really nice people.
P.S. Graham that lucky penguin is getting melted down at my next available opportunitty ;-)