Its that time of year again, when we go home feeling chuffed to bits with a 3 quid bottle of wine, a box of biscuits and a case of beer, that actually cost 25 or 30 quid in match ticket and pools, another tenners worth of bait, the fuel to get there and several quid on raffle tickets......
Not that I'm moaning, I quite like the Christmas matches, the banter, the meeting up with old friends and its a reminder of the old days when a sizeable section of the competitors would socialise in the bar after nearly every match.
The last couple of years has seen the Kenn in very patchy form for the Xmas match and sadly this year was no exception, the frost that had been forecast earlier in the week failed to show and the day started off overcast. With the water fairly clear, the grey sky was a blessing, although the fish didn't realise that the conditions were good!!
The draw took place at Warrens caravan park, plenty of familiar faces, including a fair smattering of my team mates from Sensas Thyers. As usual, an end peg was the fervent wish as hands dipped into the draw bucket, as usual, I drew one smack bang in the middle of the section, peg 43. Kev Perry put his hand in and said "this is an end peg", which of course, when he opened it, it was, downstream end peg in my section.....
The river was a fair way down, so I set up on the bank, before clambering down into the clay quagmire. A 6 No6 stick float on 2.5lb line, with a 1.5lb hooklength, to which was attached a size 20 gamma black. A straight lead, with a size 16 B611, to 2.5lb ultima silk and two pole rigs, a 2g flat float, .11 hooklength with an 18 B611 and a 0.6g Jean Francios Desque wire stem, to a 1lb hooklength and a 22 B511. As luck would have it, there was a large slab of concrete in the peg, I managed to slide this into position in the 12" of sludgy clay, so that the front platform legs would sit on it.
Nice simple bait tray, bread (for punch)caster, maggot, pinkie and a few squatts. The clarity of the river (I has taken the dog for a walk along the match length on Friday, so was prepared!!) had made my decision to start on the punch, but I also fed a few casters across. It looked ideal to start on the stick float, a method I love fishing, but sadly get far too little opportunity, so some liquidised bread was fed just short of halfway across and the stick float with a small piece of punch was soon following it through the swim.
The wind was gently pushing across river from behind, even at times across and a degree or two upstream, not hindering and even assisting with the presentation and third trot down saw the float dip, bugger missed bite. Next run through and about 15 yards down the peg, the float eased under and a 2 oz roach was in the net, another bite a few trots later, a couple more trots through and another fish. It wasn't going to be a bad day after all, was it? 25 minutes in with 3 roach and the odd bite, I lifted the rod into a bite and thought I had snagged, the snag then started to move, this was a good fish, determind to get away, it took 10 more yards of line before I could turn it, it then ran upstream and past me. It had to be a tench, I've had them over 5lb from the Kenn and they do put up a hell of a scrap on light gear.
I managed to turn the fish and it was coming towards me after 5 or 6 minutes of gentle pressure, the stick float and shot were rising from the water, like something of Arthurian legend, I was thinking about reaching for the landing net, when the hook pulled......
Not to worry, I'll carry on now and catch a few more roach, was the thought, the reality was that for over four hours I tried, the stick and punch / pinkie / caster and maggot, even a single squatt, both pole rigs and the straight lead, as well as a tiny feeder with liccy and punch - all to no avail. Several bank walkers who were blanking appeared at intervals throughout the match, it was fishing hard. Then someone told me that Kev had a Bream - no surprise there, he must have some hypnotic influence on them.
With the match finishing at 3.15pm, I decided that a straight lead approach for the final ¾ hour was the best chance of getting the elusive bonus fish and so it proved, at 3.08pm the tip curled round and soon after a bream around the 5lb mark was into the keepnet. One red and one white maggot doing the trick. A last cast failed to give me another one, but at least I would be in with a shout of a better prize.
The section was weighed in, Kev's bream and one roach went, 5lb 9oz, mine was 5lb 2oz, I'm sure Kev's arsley bomb box was empty...... The section was won with 7lb 2oz, had it been a serious match there might have been a complaint, as this consisted of one bream and one hybrid, the bream hung its self whilst the rod owner bank walked. So with the payout being top four I missed out by three, the section paid by default so I missed out by one and as not everyone entered the superpool, I missed that by one as well - a bloody expensive tench.
The Clevedon comittee put in some hard work to make it an enjoyable match and Darren Vowles raffle extended over two tables, although I'm sure my tickets weren't in the bucket. Craig Tucker (Son of Lance) wore a threadbare trail in the carpet, as his number seemed to come out every other time. Fair play to him, he's back to Afghanistan in March, hope you have a safe tour. By now the beers were flowing (or Thatchers in Kev's case), I was devastated to have to leave, when it was Pauls (Faiers) round..... but as I was driving and had to be in work early Monday (and we have a drink policy with a limit a third of the drink drive limit) I couldn't take the chance, I'm sure they had a few for me.
1) Simon Carvello 17-11 peg 84
2) P Johnson 13-11 peg 57
3) S Smallwood 7-02 peg 41
4) S Stone 6-05 peg 83
5) Mark Bromsgrove*6-02 peg 9
6) Kev Perry 5-09 peg 39
7) Chris Fox 5-02 peg 43
* Mark fished punch, he was the peg upstream of Paul Faiers, who reports that Mark's liquidised bread hit the water in a ball and stayed in a ball as it floated down river and out of his peg - nice one Mark, you're supposed to defrost it - although it's obviously a decent tactic, as you had nearly 6 times Pauls weight!!