The first real event of the season for me the KitKat Cup! The Army Spring Match was also on so it would be good to catch up with faces old and new. I was beginning to think that the only way of beating Jock Kettles in a boat was with a big stick. I have come away empty-handed for the last three years. The weather forecast promised this and that in the days leading up to the Friday with light winds on the practice and steadily increasing with it being a bit tasty on Sunday. The Friday was one of those days you hope for when traveling a long way for a day out. The winds were light and the sun was shinning, if the fish would join in we were in for a grand day. I was to share a boat with my oldest fishing buddy and mentor Ronnie Christie, it has been some years since we shared a boat and I was really looking forward to catching up. Ronnie went with a straight lining approach and I resorted to down and dirty, we could see who was doing the best and test and adjust to suit. The day started well with fish almost instantly coming to my tactics. Ronnie held his nerve however and before long the more subtle approach started to pay dividends and Ronnie quickly amassed a very healthy number of fish. We have both started to use barbless hooks for all our fishing and the speed in which the fish can be returned is impressive. Ronnie and I also found that we lost no more fish than if fishing with barbed flies. It was a lot of effort to convert my boxes to go completely barbless but it seems to have paid off.
We decided to move to pastures new and try other methods and flies. After an hour with not so much as a sniff we resorted to our previous more successful methods. Our luck did not change we did not even see fish being caught! The time was wearing on and at one o’clock we had agreed to meet up for a bit of lunch with Del, Graham, Jock, and Derek back in the harbor. As we sat round the picnic bench the general consensus was that the fish were not throwing themselves into the boat but when you got on a pod of them they came easily enough. After a bite to eat and some friendly banter, we made our way up the South Arm with the very best of intentions of looking up the North Arm later in the day. Without giving too much away we all found plenty of fish and were content that the North Arm could wait to another visit, we were all back to the dock by around five thirty ideal times to visit the chippy for the evening meal. We sat on the bench munching through an assortment of greasy food (which I am paying for now by the way) and chatted through the day. Del who was unable to stay said his goodbyes and made the long trek back to Carlisle, I don’t envy you that journey pal. The rest of us made our way back to the accommodation and a well-deserved dram, a nice wee Aberlour 10-year-old. After a few of these a longer drink was required so it was off to the bowling club and a very reasonable bar. Now joined by Kev Wood our merry band caught up with the rest of the anglers. It was great to see some of our RAF colleagues also getting a few refreshments at the bar. They had come to fish a league match over the weekend. The banter was harsh and fast and I don’t recall laughing as much for some time. During all this a new challenge trophy was born, The Balvenie Cup a pairs competition over the two days with Jock and I against Derek and Ronnie. The losing pair would provide a bottle of Balvenie the following year. After a while, we were kindly asked to vacate the premises so we all made our way back to the block having had a great night.
The next day dawned and there were a few sore heeds on the go. The wind was already picking up and it was only eight in the morning storm clouds were brewing way down at the bottom of the South Arm. The Army Spring Match is all about bringing new members into the fold so new to boat fishing members are usually paired with more experienced anglers. The remit is simple enough go out and give them a great day so that we can encourage them to come back in the Summer and of course to help man the other matches we compete in. I had drawn a chap named Lloyd he had travelled up from London on the train and was a little lacking in kit. By kit I mean the waterproof variety and although it was no raining yet the wind was high enough to ensure that the ice bucket challenge would seem like someone chasing you down with a naff water pistol. Lloyd assured me he would be OK, as the starting gun fired and I gunned the engine to full throttle the hailstones started their quite painful decent! Within the first thirty seconds Lloyd was soaked through to the skin ten minutes into the drive he was a gibbering wreck. After fifteen minutes I made the call to take him back to the boat dock, the very real danger of hypothermia setting in was much more important than catching a few fish. As I motored back into the harbour a few of the RAF lads had though we had finished, if only…..lol. After dropping Lloyd off I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that by the time I had gotten back to my start point I would have to join a queue of boats and that Jock would already be well on his way to collecting the KitKat Cup once more. So I decided to fish into Church Bay, after a couple of drifts and no fish I thought it best to seek shelter and carefully negotiated the big waves to find a bit of water I could fish effectively. As I arrived on the more sheltered bank I could see Andy Everett playing a fish, great stuff so at least there were a few fish around. I glanced at my watch 1030hrs (we started at 0900) and not a bean to show for my efforts thus far, another humiliating defeat on the cards again. No one to talk to all day and as these thoughts sped through my head I noticed the telltale shadow of a following fish. The next cast was made with a bit more belief which was rewarded by a thunderous take and an angry rainbow shot away to the depths. A brief fight and the first fish was in the boat. It was not what you would call fast and furious fishing sometimes you would get two quick fish go back round and get nothing.
There would be long fishless drifts where you would have thought there was not a fish in the water. I persevered and after a couple of hours, I spied my old mucker Ronnie behind me. I assumed that he had bagged up and had come to give me some tips……read abuse. I was pleasantly surprised when he reported that our start point had not fished and that everyone was struggling. Perhaps there was still hope of the KitKat cup being within my grasp, I redoubled my efforts fishing every cast expecting a fish. After losing two in play one after the other I was beginning to fear the worse, we have all had those days! I was heartened to see Ronnie take two fish relatively quickly perhaps they were coming on. I kept going over the drifts and picked away, thankfully fish seven and eight came within a short space of time and by 1350hrs I was all done. Before a return to the lodge I was keen to find out how Jock was getting on but a quick look at the wind ruled touring round out. I packed my gear up and made the slow steady drive back to the lodge trying to keep the nose of the boat into the wave. I spotted Jock as I was about to leave and motored over he was still fishing, ya dancer! As I got near I misheard him and thought he was only waiting on three, but as it was he only had three.
I got back to the lodge where Lloyd had happily got dried out and was back to normal so a good call there. I bimbled around for a bit taking the odd photo and trying to resist the urge to buy even more fly tying stuff from the shop. Lots of boats started to trickle in early many with broken anglers who had taken a battering from the elements. At the end of time the remainder of the field returned. As far as I am aware at the time of writing their was only one other bag of eight from our team sponsor Steve Lawes great angling. Jock finished with four in the end and graciously conceded defeat. I am sure he will be back next year to reclaim the trophy ;-)
That evening most of us were wiped out from a tough old day so one pint in the bar and an early night for all. Talk the next morning was of even stronger winds and restrictions on fishing areas. The secretary briefed the field and we were given the option to either go out with the restrictions or to carry the money over to the Army Championships. Looking at the still very manageable water I was tempted but common sense prevailed and I chose not to go out. The RAF was of the same mind and none of them ventured back on the water. Many of the Army guys who had travelled a great distance and were mad for it decided to brave the elements and give it a go. I hung around for a little while to grab some pictures and watch the guys’ fish for a bit. As I walked up to the Church I saw only one rod bend from the dozen or so boats that were there. I only managed a couple of photographs as I left the camera switched on overnight, dumbass strikes again. Sorry if the blog has been rather vague this time around but the AW heat is but a couple of weeks away and I am sure the boys would not thank me for too much detail.