The final Crown (now Royal Oak) league match arrived and again there were only six of us at the draw. Neil had put in three pegs at Coxes and three at Ashford, I fancied 14 or 85 and possibly 82 but my drawing hand let me down and I pulled out the choice of 17 or 18 and I didn't fancy either! It had been cold all week with several frosts and no rain and on arriving at the river, I was shocked at just how low it was. I walked down and had a look at 18 and you could see every inch of the bottom and no fish! 17 wasn't much better but there was one slightly deeper hole by some overhanging branches so I decided to give it a go. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be getting my hat trick of wins today.
I made myself comfy and got Old Faithful out and plumbed up the deeper hole before having a quick coffee and then it was time to start. I just needed to avoid the blank to win the league so my opening gambit was double maggot to try and get a minnow. I shipped out and started feeding maggots and casters upstream and also down in the flow but couldn't get a bite! I wasn't too worried though as the river is full of minnows, after an hour I was still biteless and starting to worry somewhat! I finally started getting indications on single maggot and after an hour I had two tiny minnows, job done, league won!
I tried caster and lobbie but nothing and I just couldn't see me catching a proper fish. A fish did top down in the flow, so I spent half an hour trying to catch it but no such luck. Time for a coffee and a walk, I went up to see Steve Parker in 14 and he said he'd only had 7 minnows and while I was there Fieldy turned up from peg 24 and he'd only caught one minnow, this was going to be mega hard. Graham said he couldn't see him lasting out the full five and a half hours and I knew how he felt.
I went back and in between numerous cups of coffee, I went through the motions and stuck another two minnows in the net. It did cross my mind to try and catch more minnows than Steve in case it came down to a minnow count again but even they weren't really having it. With an hour to go I shallowed up to around 12 inches and decided to run the rig down through the flow where I had been feeding from the start. First put in with a single caster, the float dragged under and I struck more out of hope than anything else and my elastic shot out! After a spirited fight I netted a trout (which count) of about 10oz and I couldn't help wondering if that was the fish that had topped earlier.
I tried it for a bit longer before spending the last part of the much in the hole but I never had another bite. I quickly packed up and went to weigh Steve in (Fieldy had packed up and driven by a couple of hours earlier) and Steve had 15 minnows for 2oz, my trout and four minnows went 11oz and in the back of my mind I started to think that if Ashford had fished as bad I might sneak into the money (Neil was paying the top two today). I was loading the car up when Neil and Bob turned up and they were joint top at Ashford with 1oz!!!!! So I'd done it, a hat trick of wins and the league title to boot! I picked up £45 for the day's win and should have some more to come from Robin next week.
Once again a really poor days fishing and I can't understand what's up with the river, it fished well up until Xmas and then we had all the bad weather and it's been awful since. Well we have one weekend left and unless we have some rain I reckon we should go on the canal as we haven't fished it for ages and it's normally a decent days fishing, just need to persuade Robin now!
1 - Jamie Rich (Against Men and Fish) - 11oz
2 - Steve Parker (Ilminster) - 2oz
3 - Bob Hammond (Ilminster) - 1oz
3 - Neil Dring (Ilminster) - 1oz
Final League Positions
1 - Jamie Rich - 14 pts
2 - Neil Dring - 18 pts
3 - Graham Field - 21 pts
I'd like to thank Robin and Neil for arranging the matches and Steve and Cindy at the Royal Oak for supplying us with coffee in the mornings.