For me it involved two opens, with just short of 10lbs for second in section in the first at Rolleston followed by a third in the second one, the individual national, at Radcliffe with just over 30lbs of bream and perch on the feeder – so I was happy! Others had a similar approach to the practice. The basis of the approach we agreed was be positive as there were lots of fish to catch, so we would ball in ground bait on the pole line and then start on open ended feeder. If fish were on the feeder line you would get bites early and then you could make decisions based on what was happening around you. If no bites were forthcoming in twenty minutes then it was onto the pole line. This was a loose structure of course and we basically had to take everything as it came.
It’s always difficult to pick teams, for us it’s really difficult because we compete in a lot of team matches over the season so we have a good size squad, many of them are young and keen too. No one likes being left out, but it is a nice problem to have. However I named the team – Mark Brush, Jake Fowles, Rich Hoskins, Phil Bendall, Troy Weaver, George Avery, Shaun Bryan, Nigel Evans, Charlie Vallender and Mark Treasure. This was a strong 10 and you can often look at a team and sense they will do well… and I sensed that with this team.
We stayed over on the evening before the National as it’s always good to get a good night’s sleep prior to the big match… but with a bar next door it never quite works like that! Anyway the big day was here, I was up early and in the queue to make the draw. Luckily I knew Mark Morris the organiser of this National from Angling Trust work we do, so I asked him what our draw was like… ”No real flyers but lots of potential for good float weights” so that sounded good. We were targeting 5lb plus per man and that sounded feasible from the draw. Weights had been higher in practices but our view was that the fishing always seems to flatten on National day.
Getting to pegs was easy – post codes and cars parking behind pegs for most, what a venue the Trent is these days. Parking behind pegs for most – but not me! Upstream towards the weir at Shelford, what a walk – a long way with a barrow loaded with everything I own – it hurt! The thing about 5 hours in a national is that it fly’s by and no sooner had we started the match was over. I weighed 3 kilos 400g, with Starlet’s Mark Downes next door weighing a low 2 kilos I felt that was job done. Back at the racecourse – the weights and points looked good plenty of two kilos, a few threes, a four and an eight kilo plus from Nigel Evans, all bar two of the team having more than 30 points. With the new system you can also watch the points come in as they happen… we couldn’t find our team name though, had we been forgotten. Actually its good news because the top five teams are blanked out… so that’s where we were in the top five, in the money!! Agonisingly at the last minute we appeared in sixth place, edged out by just one point, ten points from another medal! The teams above us Barnsley, Dorking, Starlets…plus a couple of local teams. That’s a good result for anyone, just look who we beat, look at those well below us including Drennan North West and our local rivals Preston innovations Thatcher’s. It was now half past seven in the evening and we had the final round of the Super League the next day, who says fishing is not strenuous and tiring. Five hours on the pole in the Trent wind is hard enough, we now needed to drive home, freshen up the kit, get a few hours sleep and then drive to Keynsham for the final round of the South West Super League – for some like Nigel Evans who lives in Wales that’s a four hour drive home and a three hour drive to the venue the next day, he is a true super hero.
The background to the South West Super League is that it consists of six 6 teams of eight and it was born as part of the old nationally sponsored Drennan competition of a number of years ago. It’s a good league with everyone capable of a result or winning the league. In recent years its been Thatcher’s, Sensas 88 and ourselves who have fought for first place, although for the last two years its Daiwa Gordon league who have taken the spoils – and by the way the money is nice but is all about Bragging Rights! After five rounds Daiwa Gordon League led the league by just half a point following a tremendous Thatcher’s performance on the Bristol Avon at Bathampton in the penultimate round – pegging back our seven and a half point lead. This was a pressure cooker situation! Even with the national the day before, I had a strong team – again one of those I could look at and say “they will do the business” – Nigel Evans, Ian “hemp god” Sheppard, Mark Brush, Andy Pollard, Charlie Vallender, Mark Treasure, Dave Micklewright, Shaun Bryan (who stepped in to replace Neil Richards as we were driving home from the National) and Adam Palmer who would run the bank. We were well practiced on the venue and we shared a lot of information during the week and our record on the venue, Newbridge, has been very good so we must be favourites mustn’t we? Well no… Thatcher’s had problems getting their anglers turned around from the national and available for this match (remember the Daiwa squad is second to none, one to be proud of) so they would have to use Andy Power and Des Shipp in their team… oh how unfortunate for them! Never mind we would overcome that…but there was more. We field an extras team in the league and on this final round they were four short leading to four empty pegs…and Thatcher’s drew next to the empty pegs. I confided to Nigel Evans that this might be a bridge to far for us, especially as I struggled to recognise any noted pegs in our draw. However, it’s fishing and anything can happen. Just like the National the five hours flew by – I had caught roach on the pole, perch on the chopped worm and chublets on the waggler for a hard earned 8lbs 12oz and second in section. As our results came back we had five section seconds, but Thatcher’s had three section firsts, we had a last, but Thatcher’s had two. It really was too close to call! In fact it was as tight as it could be; we tied with each other on the day with 32 points, Garbolino Blackmore Vale taking honours on the day with 36 points, which meant we won the league and the all-important BRAGGING RIGHTS!!! – for the third year on the trot. Looking back, every point, in every match, gained by every angler was vital, and that really is our mantra in these events – the good pegs and good points will look after themselves, but avoid the blow outs, so don’t worry about winning your section but do make sure you are never less than halfway.
So there you are, the end of a very hard fought weekend but its weekends like that which make it all worth it – sixth in the Division One National is a great result – and no surprise to me our river side is very very good. Winning the Super League for the third time in succession shows how committed the squad is and our mastery of a range of venues. There is more to come though….the age of the Daiwa Gordon League squad means that’s a certainty!