As I have never won this league, finishing second on a couple of occasions, I was desperate to get off to a good start. When I pulled out peg 128 from the bucket I was gutted, I have never had more than 5lb off it and didn’t expect to catch that today. Robin Cox drew peg 126 which is the most consistent peg at Isle Brewers and I was expecting a battering. My nemesis Janders had drawn another good peg, 85 at Ashford so I was preparing myself to say goodbye to yet another nugget.
I reached the swim and it looked lovely, a big sweeping bend with the flow coming in on my right and across on the far bank there is the stump of a willow tree. There was mist rising off the river and a kingfisher darted by in a flash of blue. I set up a gram and a half Drennan Carbo with 0.12 mm bottom and size 18 B611. I also set up a two and a half AA Kamazan insert waggler, again with 0.12 mm bottom and the same hook pattern and shotted with the bulk around the float and several Preston Stotz down the line.
I was ready five minutes before the start and as the mist cleared fish started topping all over the swim and I couldn’t wait. The whistle went and I cast the waggler out with two bronze maggots on the hook to the slacker water in the middle of the peg, the float settled and went straight under! A fin perfect roach of around 6oz was the result, next cast and a slightly smaller specimen joined its brother (or sister) in the net. I was feeding hemp and caster where the flow came in and also into the slacker water. I was also feeding under my feet where there was a good depth of water. Fish were seemingly everywhere so I picked the top four sections of my pole up and tried under my feet. I caught straight away and after an hour I had 47 fish, mainly smaller roach but with the odd netter along with chublets and a single gudgeon.
It started to slow after that frenetic first hour so I picked the waggler up and cast out just off the main flow, I was soon catching roach here too and I really was in fishy heaven. I wasn’t catching as well on the waggler so I tried the pole under my feet but the fish had definately backed off and I only added a couple more decent roach on caster. The pole at 11.5 metres saw me catching lots of small roach and a try to my right saw me net a couple of lively chublets around the half pound mark. With half the match gone I was still getting a bite a chuck and was now back on the waggler catching some stonking roach on caster, they were probably 6-8oz apiece and just about swingable.
I kept waiting for the action to stop or a pike to have a go but neither happened, Justin Charles walked down from peg 125 where he was really struggling and reported Robin was getting one a bung too. After watching me catch half a dozen roach he walked away quite depressed. With two hours to go I had over a hundred fish and not a clue what weight I had. I was still catching but the bites were getting more finicky and I was having to cast further and further across to stay in touch with the fish. I set my sights on 150 fish and with an hour to go I was on 130, among the roach I also had a couple of very small dace and a hybrid around 6oz.
I fell just short of my target ending with 144 fish and I was guessing I must have between 15-20lb but I really didn’t know what I had. Justin walked down with the scales and he reckoned on having around a pound. After two weighs my tally was 23lb 6oz and I was well chuffed, Robin also got amongst the fish and weighed 13lb 3oz. Back at the pub and the river had fished quite hard in places, Neil Dring was top scorer from the top end with 10lb 9oz from peg 29. So I was announced the winner on the day and along with the £63 winnings I had got the start I had hoped for. Now I just need another six good results! And the icing on the cake was taking a pound off Janders who weighed 10oz.