Going to Rutland is always a pleasure but going up for three days and meeting up with some old friends is just awesome! The Kit Kat Cup was being fished in its usual slot the first match day of Army Spring match. It has been fished at different times of the year depending on when Jock and I can get together for the best part of twenty years now. The banter leading up to this year’s match was unprecedented with the advent of social media it has become easy to pock fun at each other. Just to be clear though I have the utmost respect for Jock Kettles and he is one of the very best anglers I know, but I also enjoy a good laugh. I was fortunate to share a boat with Graeme Ferguson on the practice day.
He opted to start on nymphs straight from the off, I was going down and dirty. The wind was blowing straight of the Dam so it made sense to start up at Fantasy and drift right down the Normanton bank. We started out about 100 yards from the bank and started our drift. Two or three casts in and my rod buckled over with a spritely stockie on the other end. As the other practice boats started to turn up I was playing my fourth fish. They were all being slipped back into the water and with the barbless hooks this was an easy task. Graeme to his credit stuck with the nymphs for at least twenty minutes before uttering the immortal words F**K this for a game of soldiers and quickly began to change to the dark side. A quick look behind saw all the boats now lined up behind. Jim Wright was so close he could have had a cup of tea out my flask…..lol. After Graeme had changed he was quickly all over them as well. By the time we had gotten to the blue pipes it had begun to dry up a bit. What a great start, it was a lot colder than we had expected and we were both feeling it. By this point we had abandoned the Normanton bank before we had reached the Church and moved over to the Sykes bank. Within the space of a few minutes I had lost two and been snapped off and Graeme had boated a cracking Rainbow. The phone buzzed in my pocket it was Jock, “Do you want to go in for a hot drink, my partners cold?” aye nae doot ya big Jessie! I have never been so glad to go in for a brew in years me and Graeme were both frozen to the core and hot drink was just what was needed.
Over a brew in the little café we discussed the mornings sport Jock had fished buzzers most of the morning and claimed to only have taken five or six fish. When the feeling had returned to our fingers we decided to head back out. It was a much needed break and we all felt the better for it. Both our boats went back over to Sykes and we were rewarded with some great sport. Jock drifted off out of sight while Graeme and I continued to push along the bank. There was only one bank angler mad enough to be out in the bitter cold so we could pretty much nip in and out to the bank. As we got tight into Stockie bay we both hooked fish together. Mine was a run of the mill skerritt but Graeme had picked up a really nice Brown. We toyed with the idea of going up to Dickinson’s but after a short chin wag we both came to the conclusion that neither of us would venture up there in the match. So we finished doing the Monument bank. Time was ticking by and the cold was creeping back into the bones so we said we would do a big drift down the Normanton bank and then go in. The sport was as consistent as it had been in the morning and we missed out large chunks keen to get down to the Church. Jock had reported earlier that there had been a few fish there. As we turned into the bay there was already a couple of boats hard up to the Church in the slack water. We motored past them and started half way up, it was carnage. Takes, fish on and off as well as several to the net all in one drift. Graeme and I had been treated to an extraordinary day’s sport and were both scratching our heads with the number of options open to us for match day. A bunch of us headed down to Wetherspoons for a bite to eat and a general gossip about the day, the banter and anticipation for the match the next day thick in the air. All back to the camp for a couple of drams and an early night.
The next day dawned and when I went to the car to pack my kit I was quick to realise that it was bloody Baltic! It was only 0630 in the morning and the wind was already going at it cutting through my thin fleece. As I was heading back to the block I could have swore I saw penguin clutching a continental quilt round its shoulders, but it could have been wee Andy Everitt cuddling a wee ginger doll ;-) The match was starting at 0900 so a good feed in the cookie and we were all down at the lodge keen to get going. I am not a slim man but once I had stuck on every bit of clothing I had brought on I was still cold. There was nothing more for it into the shop and I bought one of those Artic Buffs. Money well spent it was brilliant, keen to get going most guys had gotten all their kit on and their rods rigged up. The Spring match is about bringing on new serving members and my partner today was to be a young Ghurkha called Vissan. The first day is a boats pairs competition with your partner so I was keen that he caught a bag of fish. I asked him what his fastest sinking line was and was dismayed when he said a floater. No problem I handed over my spare reel and DI7 there you go get that on. Will I be able to cast this with 8’ 6” for a six, eh no! I duly passed over the spare rod and told him to go set it up. When he arrived in the boat he handed me the rod and line all set up just needed tippet and flies….lol. How would this cold wind and low temperatures affect the fish? We were going to find out, a rolling start I was pretty much first out the gate. I had thought I might go to Fantasy but as I motored up I decided to drop into Church bay. I was not alone as Martin and Brad dropped in at either side of me. The first drift was fruitless but I was sure the fish would still be there. Next drift I caught one on the hang but as I pushed the net towards the spinning thrashing fish a little to enthusiastically I knocked it and it was gone. Bugger bad angling, the next drift I hooked another that spat the hook before I even saw it. The next drift Vissan hooked and landed a fish well in. The next drift saw me loose another at the net, get a grip for goodness sake. It might sound like it was easy and there were lots of fish around, but I can assure you it did not feel like that. I eventually got my first fish from the water and into my bass bag.
A quick look at my watch told a tale 50 mins in and only one fish in the bag. But as it began to warm up a little they started to come. I noticed Martin getting a few as well, Vissan was going great guns and was quickly up to five. I too had reached five when the Sailing Clubs Safety boat came across to warn me of the imminent arrival of the Spanish armada. Oh well not to worry I will just go to Fantasy. The wind had changed though and was now blowing at a fair rate directly onto the Normanton bank. A couple of drifts with nothing then Brad arrived we bounced around each other but only two more fish came both to our boat. Visson and I left on six each. When I arrived over at Sykes I was a little surprised it was deserted, moments later Vissan and I were both on seven fish. Only minutes after that I got my last fish for a 1245 finish not to shabby but how had Mr Kettles done? Having sealed the bag I fished on but after getting another fish quickly I thought it best to got to something different to allow Visson the best chance to get done. I stuck the bung on little expecting it to be so devastating. The first fish to the boat from the bung rig was a 4.5lb brown trout an absolute peach. I had no camera with me not even a phone but the fish will live on in my memory. About five chucks later a 3lb Rainbow came both fish would have been most welcome in my bag had there been room but hey ho. Vissan only had to wait 30 minutes and he was also finished. We had both had our fill for the day so decided to go back and pick up my camera. I went round getting a few snaps of our guys here and there with a eager eye on the look out for Jock! I was confident he would have finished but at what time and would there be any big fish to skew the result? He later told me that word had reached him that I was done and that he hid away in a wee bay for the rest of the day….PMSL. So the Kit Kat cup was on its way South once again. I was over the moon, but what put a bigger smile on my face was watching Vissan catching his last fish he could not have been more pleased.
We decided to go for a Chinese in Oakham and very nice it was too after returning to the block we broke out the dram for a few drinks. There was much banter and mirth much at Jock’s expense. He took it all in good humour and I am sure he will give it all back in spades next year, that’s if he can pull his finger oot and do better;-) It had been a long day and the next day the boys were driving home straight after the match so early night were had by most.
The next morning the wind was no where near as fierce as the day before but there was still a hard frost on the cars. That said one of the Geordies commented that this was a summer frost up the road! Living in the South has obviously softened me up, when we arrived at the water the wind was the same way but without the sting it had borne the previous day. I was paired up with a lad called Mick from the Royal Signals, he had fly fished in the distant past but was a little rusty. A very accomplished sea angler he knew much of what I was explaining to him. I set him up as I had Vissan the day before and was confident we would do OK in the better conditions. On this occasion I was just about last off the blocks when I got to the entrance of the harbour I was intent on heading straight to Fantasy but as I drove past the Church no one else had stopped…it would have been rude not to. I dropped into the Church bay and noted Andy Everitt out to my left. Again the first drift was for nothing similar to the day before. I was torn between giving it another go or getting up to Fantasy. Next drift Mick took a fish I had a good knock and then hooked and lost one. Round again then. Andy had shouted over that he had one, so they were still there just not quite out off bed yet. The next drift Mick get another and I lost one a pattern was forming that I was not enjoying. A few cast later though the rod arced over and the first fish was quickly in the bag. Subsequent drifts produced great sport we would either get a fish or a bump or lose one. Fantastic, Mick had really got to grips and steadily built a good bag of six fish I had nudged ahead to seven. One more drift might even do us both, I took the boat out a little further than I had been as I was baking and kit had to come off. As I reset the drift I launched my flyline into the distance and proceeded to rip layers of waterproof and fleece from my body as fast as I could. I sat down and ripped the flyline back to recast and bang No8 admin fish get in! 1155. Mick only needed two more what a result I was already planning my afternoon of photography on the bank. I stuck the bung on while I was waiting and watched Andy rip out three fish in succession on the buzzers. Now it had warmed up a bit the fish had changed tact. Mick was still getting the offers but they wee coming shy. The ones he did bend into fell off, it was a frustrating afternoon. We watched as Andy finished and then his partner Peter followed suit. We tried the Bung for a while but it just would not come for Mick. He fished extremely hard and I could not off have asked more from him and was gutted for him especially right at the end when we thought all hope was lost. With only a few casts left he got a thunderous take that failed to hang on to the hook just to add insult to injury. Still an impressive bag for what was a pretty tricky day for some of the most experienced anglers.
The match was very ably organised once again by Si Elson who has it just down pat, results were calculated quickly and prizes dished out to the lucky ones. I had been presented with the Kit Kat cup the day before which of course being the most prestigious trophy in fly fishing was what it was all about……lol. Roll on next week when I hope Rutland is just as kind for the AMFC Spring meeting.