I was so looking forward to the Army Federation Spring Match and it certainly did not disappoint. The weather was due to be very favorable with light winds and a bit of sun. I drove up the night before to avoid the usual five am start. I met Jock Kettles and we spent half an hour catching up and had a bit of banter over the KitKat Cup. Jock had got his wife to hunt around Edinburgh looking for the aforementioned trophy.
I was to practice with Steve Lawes one of the team sponsors, but Steve is a very competent angler and more like one of the boys than a sponsor. Steve wanted to start on his new Snowbee Buzzer Tip and coupled with some new flies he tied he went to work. We both got into fish on the very first drift, Steves came safely to the net and mine took my cast at the braided loop. An eye test is in order me thinks, we worked the Normanton shoreline. A couple of hours went by and I found myself 10 - 0 down, the worrying thing was I had tried nearly all my usual tricks but refused to go to the same tactics as my boat partner. So down to the last trick in the bag, a single blob on a DI 3, first cast and my first fish of the campaign came to the boat. Before the drift had ended I took another three fish, happy that I had something working we moved off the Normanton bank and headed up the North arm to Barnsdale Road End. The fish was even more obliging here and they just kept coming. Steve decided to give the method a go and took to it like a duck to water, quickly banging out a couple of fish. We moved down past the High Bank and round to Whitwell where the fishing was really fantastic, with takes follows and hookups every other cast.
As the boat drifted towards a newly arrived angler I hooked a fish and passed my rod to Steve. I explained to him that I wanted to give the bank angler plenty of room even though I was already a good eighty meters away. Steve passed the rod back to me and told me he thought it was a good fish. As I struggled to rip slack line back the line eventually tightened up on the fish. I caught sight of it in the water and knew it was worth landing Steve had seen it jump and said it was of a similar stamp to a slab he had boated earlier. The fight was going well and I had the fish under control, but at the last it slipped the hook, oh well never mind. As we were now past the bank angler I thought it would be better to reverse into the shore a bit. The banky was starting to shout something I assumed he was about to thank me for moving out the way (how wrong can you be), what followed was a torrent of abuse from him and a fairly harsh retort from me. I am not proud of my reaction but I suppose at least I did not donut the boat in front of him and throw a half-eaten sausage roll at his heed. A small blotch on what was otherwise a fantastic day with great company and supersport.
The KitKat Cup has eluded me the last couple of years and I was very keen to get it back. It has probably been half and half over the last sixteen years but Jock has had the upper hand of late. It's not a serious comp but it gives us a lot of laughs and we get great banter each year from it. Jock had told me what he was doing in practice and it old him nothing.....lol. He planned to go out on the floater with nymphs and buzzers, the only problem was the wind was much worse than was forecast. I went out with a single blob to start. The fish came quick for me and my boat partner Davey and we were doing alright, then Jock came over with his partner and proceeded to rip fish from the water at a disgusting rate. Before long he was done and I was stuck on six, Jock moved off with his partner and the wind got even worse. After several fruitless drifts, I thought a move to Fantast was in order, very first cast 4lb 2oz I was back in the frame I just needed the last fish to come quick. I knew I had another good fish in the bag and if I could just limit the damage of Jock's time bonus my luck could be in. The next drift number eight locked up it was rather small and skipped across the top of the waves almost effortlessly into the waiting net. I was disappointed that this was the smallest fish in my bag, it was going to cost me! After initially thinking he had won easily I had given Jock something to think about. It was to close to call but as we retired for a Chinese Jock had worked out that he had probably just nicked it. Fair play jock had won the KitKat cup once again by 4oz, a superb performance by a top angler well done Jock.
The next day started with conditions looking a bit better, well that's what it looked like! I took my partner Mark over to Whitwell and we were both into fish fairly quickly. I had opted for nymphs and buzzers on a midge tip an had taken and dropped a few fish. My partner was nailing them on a single booby and I was really impressed with the way he fished. The wind got up something wicked and we moved off as the sport had started to slow. Up to Dickinson where we bumbled into Jock who had only managed two most other anglers we had passed had none so we were doing alright. But I could not get any action so we moved back to Whitwell within twenty minutes I had bagged three more fish and been smashed by another. I thought here we go but a combination of boat pressure and bank anglers put paid to that. A hard last couple of hours working all the usual areas bore no fruit. A little disappointing but it could not detract from the absolutely fantastic three days of fishing and banter. It was great to catch up with old friends and also make new ones. Many thanks to my boat partners over the three days Steve, Dave, and Mark, top angling boys.