The day started in the worst possible way when I received a phone call from Robin Cox to say that Barney Crockett had passed away this morning. Robin was going to cancel the match but after speaking to the family they said he would have wanted us to fish. Before I tell you about the match I must just say a few words about Barney. He was a real Ilminster AA stalwart and I had known him for over 28 years, as a junior, Barney along with Adrian Green both mentored me as an angler and took me under their wings. We fished all over the place and when they both opened their fishing shop in Ilminster, A + R Tackle, I helped out by working in the shop. He was a brilliant angler and I always enjoyed fishing with him. You will be sorely missed mate and wherever you are now I hope you're on a flier.
I drew peg 126 at Isle Brewers which ironically was the last peg Barney fished so hopefully I could do it justice. The peg looked really inviting and I couldn't wait to start, I had it in my mind I would set up a four metres to hand rig to hopefully avoid any pike trouble but as it turned out I only had time to set up my usual 1.5 gram Drennan Carbo. On the whistle I shipped out and started feeding maggot, hemp and casters with double bronze maggot on the hook. I had three small roach quite quickly before the fourth one was snaffled by a pike. I lost the hook and the fish so I added some more line to the rig so I could fish four metres to hand.
This worked to a certain degree and after the first hour I had 22 fish, mainly small roach, the trouble was that the stamp of fish I was getting and I didn't think I could acheive a good weight with them. Several better fish had topped in the straight just above my peg and I kept thinking about trying up there. Martin Heard walked down, he hadn't had a fish on 124A and reported that Digger on 124 had a few fish and Neil Dring on golden peg 125 had caught a couple of pound. Robin Cox also turned up and he wasn't catching on peg 128. After two hours I had caught 50 odd fish but the stamp hadn't improved so I shortened the rig up and tried up the straight, I had a couple of slightly better roach but it was very awkward with several overhanging branches.
Robin said when he'd done 13lb odd a few weeks back he'd caught most of his fish up the straight so I stuck with it and started feeding up there as well. I started catching really well with better roach around the 4-6oz mark coming to the net. I did hook a fish on hemp but it came off and I was catching most of my fish on caster. I did have a couple more decent roach drop off when I tried swinging them instead of using the net but carried on catching fairly well until the end of the five hours to end with 115 fish. I had mainly roach with a chublet, two gudgeon and some tiny dace thrown in for good measure.
Robin had blanked on 128 so was ready with the scales fairly quickly and my fish weighed 14lb 4oz which should have been nearer twenty really but I had enjoyed a good day considering what a sad occasion it was. Above the bridge Neil weighed 7lb 10oz, so the golden ball was safe for another week and Phil 'Digger' Denslow had caught a chub plus some quality roach for 8lb 13oz. Back at the results and the top section hadn't fished at all well with the top weight being Janders with 1lb 10oz so another pound was soon nestling in my pocket.
I was announced as the winner and picked up £60 to take my winnings to £1145 this year which is still a little way behind last years with only one match to go. Still the day wasn't really about the fishing.