I arrived at the annex of St Georges Bks just up the road from Rutland and was quickly allocated my room key. A 0500 start and fishing the Lexus had left me on my chin strap and all I wanted to do was hit the hay. I was to share with the Federation Chairman Richard Thorpe but he could not make it until the following morning. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow only to be rudely awakened by loud music and even louder shouting and laughter. I tried to ignore it but it was too loud to ignore so I wrapped a towel around my fat arse and stomped off to find the cause of the commotion. It was not difficult the room above my room was blaring music for all to hear it was gone 0030 and I was threaders! I knocked the door and entered to find several bodies sitting around the room a bit worse for wear in some cases. I politely asked for them to turn the radio down and try and keep the noise down. To which I was politely told to go forth and multiply, at which point I turned into angry, grumpy jock and gave them a burst. It occurs to me now I might have got my head kicked in but the noise level did go down but not enough I ended up with my mattress in the kitchen. I managed a few broken hours sleep and after a hearty breakfast, I was no worse off for my late night.
I was to share a boat with Richard Thorpe who I had not shared with in the past despite us both being around the Fed for so long. We had been allocated the Basin as an area to look at along with two other boats. I can’t say I was disappointed as the basin has fished all year and the weather though a little bright was most agreeable. The first drift out from the Sailing Club produced fish in fact before we even got there Toby had already stuck a couple in the boat. Richard had ably spotted some fish in the surface on my side and I duly caught them. The fish were not of the same stamp as Grafham but for their size, they scrapped well. Several times Richard would pull the flies right out the trout’s mouth not wishing to soil his landing net too early. The banter was thick and fast with Ronnie’s boat not far away we were having a hoot. Nice weather plenty of fish and a good laugh what could be better. We spent our day mostly in warm sunshine with occasional cloud cover working up the Normanton bank drifting out to around halfway. Every drift would produce a take or a follow and on most occasions a fish to the boat. Richard had dropped down to a sinker which changed his luck and he also began to pick up some fish. At five o’clock we knocked it on the head and headed in. A good day was had by all, well at least the three boats in our group.
At the briefing that evening it was apparent that the group that went up the North Arm had drawn the short straw. The
water was very dirty with green algae in the water unlike the crystal clear water in the basin. The guys were complaining that the flies would often come back covered in green slime. A few fish were found lower down but not many seemed enthused by the thought of going there on match day. The boys in the South Arm had faired really well and spoke of large pods of fish in Hideaway Bay and all through the buoy line at New Zealand point. So the Captain Paul Calvert and his Vice Captain formulated a plan for the next day's practice. The groups were to stay the same with just a change of boat partners. I was paired with Paul Wright, no relation to the other Wright by the way. We were to be sent up the South initially, there were not many flies to tie so for me it was off for an early night in the hope that 6 Regt RLC was not in the partying mood!
I woke up in the night for a call of nature and noted poor Richard was in his bed with a pillow wrapped around his noggin and secured with a Bungie! I can assure you good folks that I never snore so he must have had ear ache or some other ear-related ailment…..PMSL. When it was time to get up Richard informed me that he not come across such a sustained and loud attack of snoring in his entire career. To his credit, he did not go on about it…..for long anyway.
Paul and I saddled up and prepared for our day afloat. The weather was much bleaker and there were thunder storms forecast for later in the day. We arrived up at New Zealand point and due to some pretty poor boat skills on my part, we ended up a little too near the shore. Still, time for a couple of casts third cast of the day and I was into a lively fish which shot all the way around the boat and the drogue thankfully to meet my waiting net on the other side. After safely releasing the fish back to the water I shunted the boat away from the bank to drift right past the point. It was now Paul’s turn and he hooked into another strong fish that gave a good account of itself. We drifted in close to the bank for not so much as a pull. After a quick call to Ronnie, we decided to re-drift right on the buoy line. Paul coaxed another couple of fish out with the DI5 but I failed to connect with anything. We were meeting up for lunch with the others at 1300 so headed over to try Yellowstone as we arrived I saw Ronnie drifting outside of P Buoy and decided to move to his inside. An inspired choice as there seemed to be a number of fish moving in the area. This was confirmed by Paul taking four fish including a double shooter in as many minutes. I even managed some sport with the slow glass but the DI5 seemed to be the line of the moment. It was time to go round for the lunchtime rendezvous with the others. Where although a lot of serious tactics and other such important stuff was going on there was enough time for a bit of banter. Including my boat drifting of the bank much too all assembled amusement! The boat did not go far and was easily recovered; reports of a fish a chuck in the basin had gotten us all eager to get going.
Our group of three boats got to the productive area but I fear we had missed the party and the imminent storm and the sudden drop in barometric pressure seemed to have scuppered the rest of the day. At this point, I would have been content to go in as the fork lightning could be seen striking out at something in the distance and the rain came down. However as often happens when you sit out these storms as it passed the fish came on with a vengeance. Paul and I almost at the lodge decided another few drifts could not hurt and Paul was rewarded with a perfectly formed Brown Trout. A short while late I had a cracking Rainbow not huge but really silver and perfectly formed. We called it a day and went in around five. The briefing that evening was a buoyant one as most of our anglers had enjoyed some consistent sport throughout the day. The boat draw had been sorted out so we all knew who we would be sharing our day with for the match I had drawn one of the Navy Lags, Dave Minall. Another early night with the thoughts of quick limits on my mind then back to the dock for kippers and medals.
The match day dawned and the wind seemed much lower than I thought it was going to be. Dave approached me and declared he was a left hooker; I was content to let him drive the boat as we had very similar areas in mind. We went over to ‘P’ Buoy and I was surprised that only two other boats had opted for this area. Dave started on a fast glass and regaled me with tails of loads of fish. I opted for the DI5 as Paul had used to great effect the day before. First look through and we both had sharp takes they were still there but would they play nice? Next drift nothing but I noted one of the RAF boats taking a fish to my right. The next drift we moved to the outside of the buoy and I was rewarded with a fish on the hang. The next drift produced another for me but after that it started to dry up. We decided to take a drift through the basin as we arrived Andy Everett caught my attention and passed on some information. I was already doing what he said and was hopeful of more fish. As we started the drift Dave struck a fish almost immediately and I received a sharp knock that did not stick. We had drifted about 200m when I had to stop for a comfort break while relieving my burden a fish snatched my flies from beneath the boat and was off. I did not expect it to still be there when I had finished as barbless hooks just fall away when no pressure is on them. Luck was with me though and I was pleased to get the fish to the boat. After not much else we decided to return to ‘P’ Buoy and this proved fruitful for Dave taking two fish on the first drift. The next two drifts offered up a number of takes but no fish. It was time for another move; I had noted several boats around the 15 Buoy area which had produced well in practice for me so off we went. Dave initially set the boat up in the area of the Sailing Club and as we settled Al Mundy shouted across that we were out of bounds as I looked around to check I was not sure that we were but thought better of arguing as we were a bit near their boat anyway. As Dave turned to start the engine my line shot away and I soon had a very small rainbow in my net. Mindful that I may be out of bounds I returned the fish back to the water, bugger they were not coming easily. It was 1500hrs and I was pondering how many more I could get most were struggling around me. That’s when I clocked done of the RAF Guys packing up a couple of 100 meters down wind. I caught Sean Hanlon’s attention he was on 7, I asked him what he was doing. I was on it like a shit house rat up a drainpipe and the first drift brought my total to 7 the fish came rapid and I was glad of it. As we motored back Ben Worley had finished and came over to offer some advice but at this point, none was needed. We did not even go all the way back turning at 15 buoys I cast my line only to see a fish swirl not twenty feet from the boat. I ripped my line back at best speed and hung my flies in the area. Nothing for several seconds, but then the reassuring feeling you get when the rod buckles over and you know the fish is well hooked. I bullied the fish to the net for a 1620 finish. I was well pleased and tried to drag as many of the Army boats into the area as possible. It was pleasing to see many of the guys on their hands I was thinking that we might be competing this year. Dave worked hard was very unfortunate not to take more fish and he finished on two. Ronnie had also finished and I was sure we had done enough to win the Old Lags match. As the scores on the doors came in we found that the Army had a total of seven limits to the RAF's five. Hopes were high for an Army win.
At the meal the word soon spread that the RAF had done enough to pip us once more by around 4lb. Both teams had 78 fish each we had more limits but they had better fish and their lower end bags were better than ours. A disappointing result for us the boys had worked their socks off so close yet so far. Well done to our RAF colleagues who have enjoyed a remarkable season this year topped off with winning the Interservice Competition once again. The meal was absolutely fantastic and the organisation by Simon Elson, Paul Calvert, and Andy Everett was of the highest standard. A really great even and fished in the spirit of the sport well done to all those who took part. As an aside, Dave Newing was attacked by a patrol dog recently and I wish him a speedy recovery. Apparently, the dog thought Dave was already in the baiting suit! ;-)