Saturday, 27 January 2018

Saturday 24/08/1991 - The John Smith Individual Match - Warwickshire Avon -Evesham

Some say Angling is a sport participated by idiots and spectated by the lunatics.

The only match that I have spectated has been the John Smiths Individual event fished on the August Bank Holiday Saturday at Evesham - Hampton Ferry. This match was one of the true classic angling events. The match was conceived and expertly organised for many years by Husband and Wife Dick and Carol Derrington (both pictured upper right), really nice couple and well respected by all the top UK anglers. Dick was the first to get a big sponsorship deal outside angling from the mighty Courage Brewery.

I usually travelled there with Andy Floyd and/or Ian Spriggs. We also liked a stroll around the fishing stalls looking for a bargain. I always fancied fishing one of these finals, and although I had fished the Warwickshire Avon six times mainly in team matches all of which were fished under difficult conditions with the river being either gin clear or in flood. I really hadn’t really done that well, not coming to terms with the river. So I never fancied fishing any of the Warwickshire Avon - John Smiths Qualifiers. So in 1991 when a qualifier was announced for the Bristol Avon at Newbridge/Saltford I decided to enter under my Local pub The Crown and Horseshoe, they even sold John Smiths (bloody awful drink).

The draw was on a Saturday at the Bird in Hand – Kelston. My then friendly tackle dealer Tony Rixon had run out of casters but promised to bring some to the draw and handed them over in the pub’s back gardens. They were definitely the scrapings from the bottom of the sieve. Tony thought they were spot on. The garden had a small Goldfish pond with a good few fish. To prove a point I took out a perfect looking caster and Tony a black smelly skin (the one’s that leave your hand smelling for hours after). I fed mine first and it just fell to the bottom and sat there with no prospects of being eaten. Tony was up next and fed his skin and blimey it didn’t get to the bottom before it was being fought over by the fish. No option now but to pay for them. Nowadays, we all have come to realise how effective dead smelly maggots can be especially for Carp.

The way to qualification was to win one of the three sections of 40 anglers. However, all the talk was about drawing peg 54 at Newbridge - the Bream Hole. Early into the draw box and out came peg 124 Saltford Trees. Dick Derrington seen my disappointment and tried consoling me saying the Bream might not feed. Ian Spriggs drew the Bream Hole so was that match over? – will they feed indeed! I knew I could forget Bream and Chub on my peg which left fishing for small fish.

I had been fishing this part of the river quite a lot (I live just minutes from the venue) and had come to realise that at the start of the match I would catch well, then it would slow down becoming very hard. That was until the flow changed which was primarily due to the Bath flood prevention weir at Weston lock. The weir was controlled by level probes so it was impossible to time or predict when they operated. The change of flow was easy enough to spot with some water on (debris/leaves moving with the flow) but with normal summer levels it was more difficult so it was a question of keep running the float through until the fish came back on the feed. So my plan was to fish as quickly as possible through theses productive times. So I started to experiment with 7 to 9 metre pole to “Hand Rigs”. I liked the look of the Drennan Pole Sticks (pictured right) so set up a 1.5 gram with a Olivette bulk and the other a 1 gram with strung out number 10’s for the hard periods all on 2lb Maxima line. I fished 1lb Maxima bottoms to 22 B520 micro barbed hooks. I fished a couple of matches with these and found that I was doing much better than anglers around me and great for those important team points. So I prepared a few of these rigs for this match.

I parked up at the Stothert and Pitt Rugby club then under the Arch and turn left. The river looked in good trim so I set up two 9 metre “To Hand” rigs and a ground bait Drennan feeder in case. My feed was brown crumb/Sensas Roach/Sensas River laced with a few casters (plus skins), bronze maggots and squatts. I choose Squatts because I found that some very small fish could still be caught during the harder periods. I started the match by putting in a decent ball which I would top up regularly with golf ball size – all hand fed. The target was Roach, Perch and Dace - well anything. With the small hook I could switch from Caster, Maggot and a bunch of Squatts.

My match was going much as expected when with an hour to go Dick came along and had a chat. He reported that the Bream were indeed not feeding and it was fishing very hard. This news encouraged me to fish that much harder to the end of the match. My net of small fish weighed 8lb 1oz which was enough for that important section win and qualification, but only just, beating Kevin Dicks by just 1oz! I enjoyed hearing that one. The slightly down side I was forced to drink a can of John Smith’s!

My job and family commitments meant I couldn’t get any practice on the venue at all, not that I fancied it much. All I could do was read match results which weren’t that good with bloodworm being used widely to get bites. Then one week before the final I was told I would have to go and work in CaliforniaSan Diego and would miss the match. The project was a joint supply with a company called SAIC for a large Scanner for the English Channel crossing that HGV’s could be driven into enabling SAIC’s advance technology to detect drugs, people, weapons and explosives, etc… whist the HGV was moved on large pallets.  We were to provide the mechanical handling equipment. However, I spoke to my opposite number at SAIC agreeing that if we did some preparatory work over the phone we could delay my visit until the Bank Holiday Sunday and a 10 o clock flight from Heathrow. – The day after the match.

With two teenage boys both keen anglers and not seeing them or the “Special One” for a while I decided to take them with me plus the Mother-In-Law! Ian Spriggs was also there to do a bit of bank running – don’t think I have see Ian run or in fact move at any speed.

It was early into the draw queue, until Mark Downs decided he would push in the front, exclaiming that “who ever are first into draw is sure to get the choice of the winning peg”. Not sure what Mark drew. My turn in to the draw bag and out comes peg 23 which was right in front of the draw and all the angling stalls. The peg had a high bank well above the river with access down some steps so the family could sit at the top without a problem. I found myself pegged between Dave Harrell peg 24 and Kevin Ashhurst peg 22. A quick chat with both and the predictions weren’t good. There might be a Chub or two over to the opposite trees. So with the family settled, I realised I had a loud speaker set-up above my swim on a pole which was extremely loud and irritating, but later to cause me much amusement.

Because of my lack of knowledge, plus I had plenty of time I set everything up. Ian suggested I start on a small maggot feeder over, which I did. Kevin started on the pole at 13 metres and stayed on it all match whilst Dave was fishing the waggler over and feeding maggot very heavily down his peg. After 30 minutes and one Gudgeon Ian went for a walk so I switched to the waggler and maggot casting as far towards Dave as permitted with bronze maggot hook bait. For this match I had switched form a 1 ½ lb hook length which I normally used on the running line to 1lb due to the belief that it would make a difference and it did! After ten or so casts I hooked a decent fish which I thought at the time was a big Chub, which unfortunately broke the hook length. Some time later I was wondering whether in fact it might have been a Barbel – and still do! I couldn’t get a bite on any of the running line rods I had set-up. Hardly anything had been caught around me.

Dave Harrell who was the pre-match favourite and England International Kevin Ashhurst were some of the bigger names fishing so both attracting large galleries. With the family behind me this acted as gallery “ground bait” and on a couple of occasions I had a bigger gallery than both of them, all thinking I was catching. The Mother-in-law didn’t help telling them I was catching (referring to the one Gudgeon). On one occasion it came over the speaker that peg 23 was catching. This made me laugh – a lot. My fifteen minutes of fame.

Halfway through and I decided to fish my “to hand” light rig exactly the same as I did in the qualifier. It wasn’t long before I was catching fry and Gudgeon on double Squatt. At least it was bites and started to enjoy myself. The Mother-in –law taking delight in telling everyone that passed I was catching fish – bless her. It was clear from the speaker announcements that Jeff Perrin on peg 11 (next to the town bridge – pictured right) was catching Skimmers and was ahead in the match.

An hour to go and the speaker started to announce the following. “Jeff Perrin has left his peg, where’s he going, looks like he’s heading for the car park. We have sent a runner over to find out. Jeff’s gone to fetch some more ground bait from his car, now seen running back to his peg”

I had no idea how Dave had done but I knew Kevin had two decent Eels. When the scales arrived I was told Dave had weighed 1lb 1oz. On to the scales went my white bait and a weight of 1lb 1oz 8drms was recorded. Kevin‘s Eels weighed just over 2lb. No coin for any of us. The match was indeed won by Jeff Perrin with just over 11lb of Skimmers. Jeff fished maggot over ground bait.

It was a great family day out even though the fishing was poor.

I decided to take the family for a meal in Evesham Town and was surprised to find that we were sitting on a table next to Kevin Ashhurst a little bit of commiseration followed.

Up very early the next morning to travel to Heathrow. Got to the book in desk and found our company’s travel secretary had managed to get me upgraded to first class (a big thank you followed). So on to the Virgin Atlantic 747 Jumbo and turn left. In many ways I had a very rewarding trip. We got a proposal together which the UK government liked and wanted to pursue. Margaret Thatcher the then PM was insistent that it was to be built on the French side of the Channel Port in Calais. Unfortunately the French were persistent with NON, but OUI for it to be built in the UK side. Needless to say the project was scrapped. But how forward thinking the British Government were back then inconsideration of the issues we have nowadays with immigrants etc…in Calais. We did build a prototype for the Chinese that was intended to police white goods coming into China from Taiwan.

Since this match I have only fished the Warwickshire Avon once which was in an Angling Times Winter League final. I drew in Stratford Town Park a section below the theatre. This was the most rewarding match I fished on this river struggling for three hours then I switched to 10 metres to hand light rig fishing caster over hemp/caster loose feed and started to catch quality Roach which boosted me up the section.

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