Welcome to 2017, this is the first entry of the New Year. Many will have already been out a few times already this year alas for me there has only been one very short visit to the river Avon. I saw this match pop up on my FB feed and thought it would be a great way to kick the season off properly. I am not very experienced when it comes to bank fishing, much preferring large reservoirs or running water. I have fished the River Avon at Manningford though and it is a very picturesque fishery which is kept in top nick by the keeper Malcolm Hunt. They have a very comfortable lodge which is a decent size with facilities to have a seat and hot drink, essential on those cold winter days.
I was sure I would know a few of the boys attending as it was there were not many faces that were unfamiliar to me. As well as this there were another four Soldier Palmers to keep me company. It was really good to catch up with many of the lads from Chew, I was surprised that it was only one hour fifteen to the fishery about the same for me. The boys were in fine fettle and there were lots of catching up with old friends and chatter about what we had been up to. Hot drinks and bacon butties were on the go courtesy of Adam Sinclair who was along to help out Ben and Malcolm for the day.
I asked about the rules which were pretty straight forward one fly barbless or de-barbed. You drew a peg at the start and every forty-five minutes a car horn would toot and you would move clockwise five pegs, simple. I had drawn peg eighteen which was at the top corner of the fishery. There were thirty-six anglers in total which made the pegs a little on the tight side. I had Dave Drake to my right and he was still setting up when the car horn beeped to start the match. I had opted for a floater and a Daphnia blob to start an un tested fly but what better place to give it a go. As I made my first cast one of the anglers to my left was already playing a fish. As I watched my own line tightened up and I was into the first fish of the day. After an initial flurry of a few fish being caught it went eerily quiet. With the water being thrashed to a foam by six of us in a rather tight corner it was not surprising that the trout had donned their hard hats and had hunkered down. Forty-five minutes goes fast when your fishing and in no time at all it was time to move. A few anglers had already made an early move and were keen to get cracking. The next peg (23) was pretty tight but very sociable. The crack was grand but the fishing was hard going and myself and both anglers either side moved to our third peg with only a couple of tugs to show for our efforts.
The next peg was much of the same I had switched to a fast sinker and a trusted Candy booby. We all looked on with envious eyes watching anglers on the other side of the lake having a field day. Ben was popping around asking how folks were doing and we spent five minutes chatting away. I managed a spritely trout right at the end of a retrieve but that was my only one from this peg. Another move down saw us getting a bit nearer the lodge and a few anglers up on my left-hand side started to get into some action. This was the last session before lunch and I feared it may have been another blank one. Fortunately, the booby done the job and spared my blushes. As the horn honked I think we were all ready for a bite to eat. There was a large pot of chilli on the go and it was most welcome and very good to boot. It was very obvious from the lunch time chatter that the other side of the fishery had fished its head off. The best fish thus far was into double figures with many others in the seven to nine-pound bracket, a real credit to the fishery. Ben Worley had chapped an 8lb fish on the head as one of the other guys had wanted it for the table. This was to come back and haunt him a bit later.
The afternoons three sessions kicked of 1330 and my neighbour to the left was into action almost immediately. Dave to my right was also soon off the mark and eventually I managed one too. This was more like it, not as productive as the morning session but none the less a lot more sport than the previous sessions. The penultimate peg was my best of the day, I had watched the boy on the right of me take several fish on the bung so thought best to change. I fished a yellow blob about two and a half feet under the bung and was getting the fish by launching it as far as I could out into the lake. Fish came steady after that but they were difficult to keep hold of at that distance. Great fun though and the guys to my right and left were all getting plenty sport. My last peg of the day looked OK but I knew it would be tough to get anything from it as it had now been fished all day. Half way through the session and still on the bung I cast out into the lake. I was toying with the idea of going back to the sinker and had put the rod down to get my line out. Having retrieved another Candy and a new piece of tippet from my waist coat I was in the middle of connecting the fly to the tippet when my reel screeched for my attention. Then ensued a comical scene with me not wanting to lose my last candy and new tippet and a feisty Rainbow running me ragged all over the lake. I eventually managed to net the fish and the angler to my left came and helped me sort my life out.
As the session was coming to an end Malcolm the fishery manager came over for a chat and gave me a little insight into the fishery. He was disappointed that the water clarity was not its usual crystal clear due to some heavy rain. To be fair it had still fished its socks off though. He took me over to the river to point out some pretty impressive Grayling and I made a mental note to come back soon and have a crack at them. The last toot came across the lake to signify the end of the match. I was much relieved as my back was killing me, I tootled back to the lodge with Dave Drake and we both agreed it had been a really good day. Back at the lodge I learned that Ben Worley had returned a 12lb Brown trout as he had already knocked one on the head it had to go back. No good deed goes unpunished as they say, still he got a nice picture of it and I am sure the thought of it will last long in his memory. Ben featured in the final results with Chew regular Mark Miles winning the match and Ben by the narrowest of margins in second place, Les Cooke was third. Well done to all those who attended and made it such a great day.
A really enjoyable day at a great venue, good food, great company and a few fish what more could you ask for.