For the first match of the year and with the top end of the Isle not fishing very well at all (to this day, I don’t really know what happened to cause the decline, people will say pollution or predation, I’m not so sure but whatever happened it signalled the end of Chard fishing their stretch of river in matches), we fished on the SLAC (Somerset Levels Association of Clubs) stretch at Midelney. I got to the draw late (nothing new there then!) and Les said I was on peg 12 which was the far end peg.
The whole stretch looked really nice with lots of trees and bushes on the far bank, I decided to try something I’d never really done on the Isle and cupped in a ball of groundbait at the start. I had a decent roach first chuck but then the next one was taken by a pike which caused a right commotion and it took a while to get bites again. Eventually I started getting the odd fish and although I was never bagging, the fish I did catch were a decent stamp, I ended up with a nice perch, four chublets, and six roach for 3lb which was enough for third place behind Les who won from the other end with 3lb 15oz and Bushy who had 3lb odd. I’d lost and bumped a few as well so it was a chance missed really.
The next Ilminster match I drew peg 33 and I’m struggling to recall exactly where that peg was, somewhere just below the copse but as I only caught a single 2oz dace, I won’t be rushing back to pleasure fish it! Barney Crockett had the top weight on the day with only 6lb 4oz, what was wrong with the river!
For the next few Chard matches we were either at Sadborow or Perry St and my results weren’t anything to write home about so I won’t bore you with the details! A pleasure session at Upper Coxes was also a struggle, I started in the normally prolific Tank Traps swim (peg 14) and only had a small dace and a chublet before moving to peg 25 which was a little better and I caught a few roach, dace and chublets but something was worryingly amiss with the Isle!
On the 24th February we were on Chard resi and I drew peg 16 on the dam wall, it was a pretty wet, cold and miserable day. Fishing the feeder I only had a small roach and a 1lb hybrid in the first hour but then started catching well to end up with 19 skimmers, a hybrid, 3 roach and a perch for 38lb 14oz and my first win of the year.
The following week it was the final Hotpoint (now V.E.S. Precision) League match and I drew 74 at South Bradon, Janders had won a match there fairly recently and said he’d caught late in a back eddy above the bush. I got off to a great start fishing by the bush with two decent chub in the first hour but then all I could catch was the odd minnow. Bearing in mind what Janders had told me, I kept flicking a few casters into the back eddy and as final hour arrived, I tried it for the first time.
I had a good chub first put in and then had a tentative bite which I thought was a small fish but when I struck, the hooklength had gone! Things got worse when I missed a good bite and then bumped a decent fish and it was all going wrong! I managed to hit the next bite and get chub number four in the net and then with five minutes to go I landed another. My fish weighed 10lb 11oz and when I got back to the pub for the results, it was enough to win, just ahead of Roger Russell who had 10lb 6oz and was on the golden peg!
The final match of the river season was a little draw and choose knock up, I had choice 8 (out of 9) and went for peg 27 in the copse, it was blowing a gale and a real job to control the pole. I had a minnow before catching a decent chub and then lost another, that was basically it apart from a pike taking a minnow. Roger won with 8lb 14oz but as only 3lb 13oz was second, that lost chub cost me as I weighed 2lb 7oz for nowhere.
It was teams of three for the next Chard match, I was at the resi on peg 18 and it was another cold, wet and windy day. I had 9 skimmers and 3 roach for 18lb 10oz which won the section and was second on the lake, Robbie Doak was second in his section and Steve Chant did well in his and we jointly won on the day.
For the next match at Perry St, it was decided to pay out the top overall weight and the best silvers, it was draw and choose and of course I had second from last choice so went for peg 16. I had few small fish short before going out on my chopped worm line, I had a big 2lb plus eel followed by a tench and then lost a sizeable carp. Les had the top overall weight with over 24lb which also included the best net of silvers, my fish went 5lb 8oz to take the silvers pot by default.
A rare Saturday match in April saw me fish with the lads from work at Lyons Gate near Dorchester, lovely looking lakes and from what I’d been told, you’d need carp and tench to win. I feed corn and meat and had six little tench and two carp but it soon became apparent that it was rammed full of rudd. Fishing a top two to hand I had 232 rudd (I had 130 in an hour) but kept trying to catch bigger fish, I weighed 15lb 15oz which was enough to win on the day.
In another match at Perry St, I drew peg 13 again and had two eels and a tench on the chopped worm line before coming inside where I lost a carp before catching one of 12lb 14oz (a new pb), I had another of 9lb 12oz but lost a further three! I weighed 26lb 8oz which was second on the day. Going into the final Chard Spring League match a few weeks later, I was lying in third place and there was a slim chance I could still take the title but I would basically need to win on the day and beat league leader Tommy Lee by a couple of places, a big ask considering I’d never won a match at Perry St!
I drew peg 6 and the weather was awful, it chucked it down all day and the pond has fished really hard, I couldn’t catch small fish so sat it out on the chopped worm line and had three bites from three eels for 2lb 3oz which incredibly was the top weight on the day but even better Bish finished second and with Tommy third, it meant I’d actually won the league by half a point! I picked up £60 for winning on the day and £150 for the league which is still my biggest pick up in a single match.
Another match at Stoford saw me draw a proper bunghole and it was solid, after thirty minutes I had six carp and lost one and got to sixteen carp with only losing two before it all went a bit Pete Tong! I had eight more but lost the same number along with a rig and loads of hooks, I weighed 35lb 12oz which was second on the day but the elusive Stoford win still evaded me (in fact I don’t think it ever happened and I’m pretty sure the fishery doesn’t exist anymore!).
On the 1st September we fished a match at Howley (the first one for ages) and I drew peg 2 and there were carp everywhere, I mugged one first put in and had eleven after a couple of hours but then couldn’t buy a bite. I weighed 26lb 6oz which was enough to win on the day and I’m pretty sure that was the last time we ever fished Howley!
A few weeks later Les took us to new pond somewhere on the way to Lyme Regis, after several U turns we finally arrived and if you ever asked me to take you there, I couldn’t! I don’t remember where it was, how to get there or what it was called! It was a fairly small pond and we’d been told it held a decent head of silvers plus some lumpy carp. Going into this match I was actually top of the leader board in Chard’s Summer League and a decent result would see me clinch my second title of the year.
Despite looking nice it was pretty crap (hence why we never went back), I fished chopped worm and had a small perch and a little tench for 4oz. I did lose a big carp that took off never to be seen again and several were hooked during the day but none landed. If I remember correctly Butch Baker had the top weight on the day with 2-3lb of roach and rudd fishing by some lilies.
I’ll always remember one thing about the day though, with nobody really catching, Andy was sat with me having a chat when we noticed Tommy Lee at the far end get off his box to fetch something. Now I’m sure Tommy won’t mind me saying this but he was a big lad and when he tried getting back on his box, he lost his footing and sort of fell over trying to avoid his top kits before sliding, not very gracefully and in slow motion into the pond. Now that was pretty funny although judging by all the swearing and threats coming from Tommy’s direction, we might regret laughing later, the funniest thing was Andy who was laughing so much (and he has a very addictive laugh) that I actually thought he was going to burst a blood vessel or something!
Thankfully Tommy had calmed down by the end of the match and although I didn’t do any good on the day, nor did any of my main rivals in the league and I took home another title and a very handy £70.
The Ilminster and Chard winter leagues kicked off in October with Chard’s mainly on the resi, I had a torrid time of it for two months before finally getting a minor result on 1st December. I drew peg 26 on the Isle (The Foxhole) and had a nice day catching 47 fish (roach, dace, chublets and gudgeon) for 8lb 11oz which won the section but I missed and bumped loads which was annoying as 8lb 14oz framed.
In the Xmas Fayre, the river was up and pushing through, I drew peg 15 at Coxes, a big pool with some slacker water and had a nice match catching seven chublets, three roach, two dace and a few minnows for 5lb 9oz which was enough to win my first senior Xmas Fayre and take home some pools money, wine, chocolate and biscuits.
I wasn’t so successful in Chard’s Xmas Match on the resi, I drew peg 6 on the dam wall and had four roach and a perch for 10oz. My mate Andy fared considerably better, winning it with 29lb of bream and skimmers. I still won a nice bottle of rum for my dad and a box of chocolates.
The final match of the year was the teams of four and I was with Martin Heard, Malcolm Levy and somebody else who I can’t remember, Martin pulled us four brilliant pegs, 15, 38, 85 and 129. I was on 85 (The Big Bend at Ashford) and when I got there the river was chocolate coloured and hammering through, I was blanking with quarter of an hour to go and then had two tiny gudgeon on the tip for 1oz. On my way back to the results, I was praying I hadn’t let the team down but as our combined weight was only 5oz, I needn’t have worried!
Next up – 2003