I was really looking forward to getting back on the river but with rain all day on Friday and the river threatening to top the banks I was convinced we'd be back on the poxy pond for the first match of the Royal Oak Winter League. But with no rain on Saturday and none forecast for today I was hoping the river would be fishable and my prayers were answered when I got to the pub and saw that Rob had pegged the top end of the river. All the usual suspects were there apart from Neil Dring who's had surgery on his shoulder and will be out of action for a while (get well soon mate). Today Rob had put in a couple of new pegs along with the old favourites although I still fancied pegs 14 or 15 as they're normally there or thereabouts. I dipped into the draw bag and for the second time today my prayers were answered when I opened my fingers to reveal peg 15! This year Rob is running a joker system similar to Chard's so I decided to play mine which would double up my points today.
I got to the river and it looked spot on, plenty of colour and dropping steadily, my peg looked a dream with plenty of slacker water and a small branch providing some cover on my inside at about 8.5 metres to my left and there were also some overhanging branches from a tree - very fishy! I only set up one rig (just for a change!), a Drennan 1.5 gram Trio with 0.12mm bottom and size 18 B611. I had a nice depth on the inside and it was very similar across to the far bank at 11.5 metres where there was a nice, steady flow. I decided the inside would be my main line but I would also feed across to give me another option. The start time arrived and I baited up with a single caster before feeding both lines with maggots, casters and hemp and shipping out and inching the float through, which was set a couple of inches overdepth.
First put in, the float buried but I bumped it - bugger! Next chuck I had a chunky roach and I was off the mark, it was obvious there were loads of fish there and I started catching dace and chublets from 1-4oz regularly although I was missing quite a few bites on single caster. After an hour I was on 20 fish (including a small trout, which count) for about 2.5lb and I was really enjoying myself. At the start of the second hour I thought I'd try two sections to hand as there were quite a few fish about and carried on catching chublets and dace including some better ones and I was now really flying. I had 40 fish in the second hour and was already probably up to 7.5lb with three and a half overs left.
I kept expecting sport to slow and during hour three it did and I only added another 14 fish to put me on 9.5lb. Not wanting the inside swim to die a death I went across to 11.5 metres where I had been feeding from the start and I was getting odd chublets and dace from this line as well although it was slower than my main line. After 15 minutes or so I was back on the inside but this time with double red maggot as I was missing too many bites on caster, if minnows became a problem I could always switch back to caster. More dace followed before I hooked something more substantial which turned out to be a 1.5lb chub and I was on for a really good weight. A few minutes later I've hooked another decent fish, this time a roach which had to be pushing a pound. Given the colour the river was carrying I was a little surprised I'd only had the two roach but I wasn't complaining when they are this size!
This set the scene for the rest of the match and everytime my inside line went quiet I would go to 11.5 metres for a couple of fish then to 8.5 metres before coming back on the inside. I tried upping my feed after that chub but it didn't seem to make much difference. I did manage another spottie, this one about 12oz along with the dace and chublets. Minnows weren't too much of a problem and I only had four on maggot. My inside slowed right up so for the last three quarters of an hour I went back down towards the branch at 8.5 metres and continued adding odd dace and chublets, even landing a 12oz chublet on the whistle. I ended with 131 fish (plus those four minnows) and had enjoyed a cracking days fishing. I had bumped/missed quite a few and wished I'd switched to maggot earlier but other than that I felt I'd fished a pretty good match.
I had no clue what weight I had, I just knew I had over double figures but would it be enough? Nobody had been walking around during the day apart from Tony Newman right near the end who walked down from peg 14 to check what time we were finishing, he said he'd struggled but had lost a couple of big fish. No bank walkers usually means people are catching so it would be interesting to see how the other pegs had gotten on, especially the new ones. I packed up and took my holdall back to the car before going down to weigh Fieldy in on peg 18 (did I mention I had the scales again!). He had lots of small dace, chublets and roach for 5lb 2oz and it is fantastic to see all these small fish in the river although as soon as we get the first couple of frosts, they all seem to disappear!
Next up was Tony and he had 2lb 5oz although there wasn't much slack in 14 and he'd lost a big trout which would have seen him push Fieldy. As I walked back round to my peg I met Rob who'd had 5lb from peg 23 but had lost several big chub, he came up to weigh me in and I was well chuffed when he called out 17lb 5oz. Back at the results and the two new pegs had caught but not bagged up, Steve Parker had 2lb 15oz from peg 21 and Heardy had 2lb 9oz from peg 20. Bob Hammond had caught a good chub first put in on 24 but only added a few small fish to weigh 3lb 7oz meaning I'd won the match and picked up £45 plus I doubled my points by playing my joker, a great start to the league.
1 - Jamie Rich (Against Men and Fish) - 17lb 5oz
2 - Graham Field (Taunton) - 5lb 2oz
3 - Robin Cox (Ilminster) - 5lb
Given how perfect the river was I was a little surprised with the backing weights but several big fish were lost and on the plus side it was great to see all the smaller dace and chublets featuring in peoples catches. Next week is the start of the V.E.S. Precision league and I say it every year but it's a league I'd love to win but a good start is needed so peg 14 or 15 again would be nice!