I was busy on Wednesday and couldn’t make the White Acres mid week match, by Sunday I was chomping at
Last weekend was a blur one minute I was visiting family in Essex and the next I am planning a trip to Enniskillen leaving on Monday. I guess I hadn’t considered the enormity of the task, getting ready for a team match on a river system was one thing but I was the best part of 300 miles from home and my fishing tackle, and then had the prospect of a further 500 mile journey to the venue. I wasn’t the only one doubting my sanity, the long suffering Vivien was asking if I really should be going, but I had given my word and that damn fishing bug was biting hard, we set off home a day early, so I could get ready.
Viv soon came round to the idea of me disappearing for ‘another holiday’ and mentioned that perhaps it was destiny, and that it was meant that I should someday win this particular match! She knows that I have fished the Police National Championships on and off for over 30 years, finishing individually 2nd and 3rd with a few other top ten places (As well as some blowouts) but actually winning the event, well that has always eluded me. I stopped team fishing around 2006 so that long held dream was over. The match is primarily a team match but there is a strong individual element, and that is the icing on the cake.
It’s never easy
I arrived at 8pm on Monday evening and met up with my team mates, we were staying at the fabulous Killyhevlin Hotel, which is situated on the banks of Lough Erne. I was soon brought up to speed by Team Captain Calvin Lawson, the rest of the lads had arrived on Sunday evening, so had a full day’s practice on Monday, it was going to be hard was their considered verdict. They had fished the Sligo Road section and not much had been caught, however the weather was horrendous with the remnants of Hurricane Katia battering Northern Island.
For those that have never seen the Erne it is enormous! A vast Lough that meanders through County Fermanagh, It is something like 26 miles long and around 5 miles wide at widest, the river section that we were fishing had depths approaching 30’ It is daunting but also very picturesque, it’s just a shame the weather wasn’t better to do it justice.
The actual match was to be held on Thursday, it left us with two days to practice. As there are six sections three of them would remain unfished, but we hoped to compile a plan that would give us a chance on lifting the trophy. Tuesday saw us practice as a group at Cornagrade, we had three teams of six, we practically had the whole of the section to ourselves. It was very hard, the weather didn’t make things easy but we gave it a good go. A few of us really struggled, myself included. I actually caught one eel, lost an eel and managed to snap off on the strike! I shouldn’t have snapped off but my excuse was I hadn’t had a bite in a couple of hours and was making a rig when the tip went round. I forgot I was using braid mainline and got carried away! The swim I fished was very deep I had a count of 25 using a 38 gram feeder and it was flowing, I have not fished anything like this for a long time so it was important to practice, even if we were not catching.
A few of our lads caught some nice fish but not in great numbers, Capt Calvin had a nice Bream and a few Hybrids, Steve Scott and Tim Bryars had a few smaller fish but it was hard work. The meeting afterwards was important and my view was simply; on the day some anglers would be lucky enough to land on fish and catch immediately. Those not so fortunate would have to be prepared to wait, maintain accuracy with casting, build up a bed of feed and hopefully the fish would find us, it was more than likely that this was going to be the case on some of the other sections, discipline was going to be the most important factor, no chasing nonexistent fish all over the river.
The next day found us at Dolans Ring and the plan was to fish the feeder, we had heard that this section was fishing better than some of the others. I arrived at my peg which was the upstream end peg. Not that I was placed on this, it was more like a race by some of the team for the short walk, I lost and had the furthest away from the car park, no respect for their elders these young guns! It wasn’t that far really, and there was just the one stile to climb over. When I sat on my platform the peg screamed pole at me, I could see some weed at around 7m and I guessed that was where the shelf was.
I set up a 1.25 gram Tamas Walter Pencil float and found the depth to be around 10’ at 8m the flow was steady, the float worked fine running through the swim. I did set up a couple of feeders but only had two kilos of groundbait made up, so couldn’t really try both methods properly. I put in 6 balls containing casters on the pole line and had 8 casts at 45 turns to put some feed around the middle of the channel. On the second run through on the pole, I had a nice dumpy 4 oz roach which was great to see. I had a few more and it was turning into a nice practice session. Experimenting with the feed showed me that a ball of ground bait thrown at the float every 10 minutes was fine, but when I upped the feed they backed off, in the end I overfed them and struggled on the pole, but it had been worth it. I had a go on the feeder and realised I had to work on my knots as I ‘loose fed’ a couple of feeders! It puts a lot of pressure on the knot casting around 38 grams plus feed to 40 yards. We all caught to varying degrees, only Calvin and I had set up the pole and he had over 10lb similar to my weight. Steve Scott worked out a method on the feeder, finding white maggots the key, he had less fish but much better quality.
Last minute preparation
So that was it, practice over it left a few hours back at the Killyhevlin to fine tune the plan and to make up some rigs. It was great to have an afternoon to sort out the tackle. I checked the gear that I wanted to take to the River for the match. It comprised of a 13’ SPRO feeder rod and an 11’ Normark feeder rod fitted with SPRO Nova Reels containing 0.08 diameter Dynafil Braid, each had a 0.20 mono shock leader. A selection of Nisa feeders some J Range Sticky Feeder weights. My pole had J Range Pink and Yellow Lastix as I found they were perfect for fishing in that depth of water, they also allowed me swing fish to hand and importantly keep any better samples out of the weed. Hooks were Milo Series AS, from size 22 – 18 they are an oversized hook with a micro barb. I had three styles of floats made up for the day. A 2 gram Tamas Walter Bodied float for holding back over the feed and getting it down to where it mattered, A 1.25grm Tamas Walter Pencil Float which I found ideal for running through and holding back slightly and a 4 x 14 Spro Midwater float set at half depth with a strung out shotting pattern to search the top layers. Ground bait was Gros Gardons Noire mixed with World Champion and some Black crumb for the pole line and Mosella Select and black crumb for the feeder. 3 pints of casters, worms, hemp, corn and maggots completed the bait list.
The weather had changed dramatically, the sun was trying to break through but it was still on the grey side, the wind thankfully had calmed down and I guess somewhere around the 10 mph which was probably around 50 mph slower! It was an early draw and Calvin was with all the other team Captains waiting to have a dip in the bag of dreams. Before long he surfaced with the news that I was on peg 15 on Dolans Ring which was completely the other end of the section from which I had practised. Both Kevin Lock (who had been helping our team) and David Burleigh told me that I was in an area where the Bream lived. That obviously cheered me up but I didn’t want to change my plan and fish for Bream, after all this is primarily a team match. Kevin also mentioned that he didn’t think we had a very good team draw, but the one thing we were not short of was confidence, so off we went in good spirit.
The two hundred metre hurdles!
I nearly fell at the first hurdle, well the first three hurdles actually! As you arrive in the car park at the Ring my peg is to the right directly in front of you is peg 6. I only had to walk nine pegs but had to climb over 3 stiles! Oh Man I had forgotten all about stiles and boggy fields, perhaps they should be compulsory on commercials just so we never forget? It was made all the worse as I left my box strap behind, thanks must go to Craig Hutchinson who helped me cart my gear to my peg!
The swim looked great, I had the advantage of an end peg but to be fair there were several in the match. I could see that the weed seemed to stop at around 7m, when I plumbed the nearest I could get a weed free run was at 12.5m so that was my line, it was around 11’ all my rigs were made up on the top four. I was ready with minutes to go and on the all in I balled in 10 big ones, man that does feel good! There was plenty of bait in the balls as I had added a pint of caster and some hemp and chopped worm, when the fish turned up I wanted them to stop! Following the bombardment I fed the feeder line with 8 big feederfulls. As I was doing this I noticed Dave Brown to my left have two roach on the feeder. That actually made me change my plan slightly as on the 8th cast I slipped three maggots on the hook, just to see. After a minute or so I had a small indication but didn’t connect with anything, as I reeled in I noticed some slime on the line just above the spade. I had another cast but with no indications I was back on the plan and out on the pole.
Small, but nice
On the second run through I had a bite which resulted in a small perch, not what I really wanted to see, but it is always nice to get the first one in the net. After that some small roach came along that took a fancy to double red. As the match progressed the fish got slightly bigger with some good dumpy roach that were going four or five to the pound. My swim was getting stronger and about halfway through in the middle of a good run I hooked a fish that pulled a lot of pink lastix out. I had to really stretch the arms out and hold the fish away from the weed, fortunately it worked and I saw a nice Hybrid surface some way out. I was really pleased to net that bonus as it was over 1 ½ lb. The swim went quiet so I cupped in another ball of GB and that really brought the swim to life, for 20 minutes or so I just could not get in quick enough as roach were taking single caster. I also had another Hybrid of around 10oz but it was mainly roach.
Going into the last hour I could feel the swim fading, I fed some more but it didn’t work. Just like the previous day when they went it seemed impossible to get them back in numbers. I felt that I had a good team weight and with 45 minutes to go made the decision to fish the match out on the feeder looking for a bream. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but I did manage 5 or 6 Roach. The whistle went to signal the end of a great match, I really enjoyed myself back on a river, and also realised that I do actually miss this style of fishing.
The scales came along with the news that 6 kilo was winning the section, I doubted what I had caught until I lifted them from the river, my 7 kilo 460 gram catch which was good enough to win the section. Back at the Killyhevlin my team mates slowly got back with news of their catches and it soon became clear that my weight could be there or there abouts individually. I refused to believe that I had won the match until I actually heard it much later at the official presentation.
The evening presentation was a fantastic affair, the Killyhevlin had really done us proud with a fantastic meal, and the craic was brilliant. Eventually we came to the formal part of the evening and I will never, ever forget when my name was called out. I collected some fantastic trophies to a standing ovation from my peers. I have experienced that on numerous occasions over the years but always when others have received the trophy, I have to say that night was very special for me.
On the team front it was the West Midland lads who were victorious, they had a tremendous score considering they were carrying a blank, there was no shame in that, some sections fished very hard. Well done guys, that was a brilliant performance.
West Midlands 27 points
A Section. Bellalanlek Mark Blackburn 1 point
B Section. Broadmeadow Dave Fenton 17 points
C Section. Cornagrade Dick Partridge 2 points
D Section. Dolans Ring Dick Tranter 3 points
E Section. Sligo Road Dave Powles 2 points
F Section Derrychara Larry Byrne 2 points
We managed second place tying with the hosts PSNI with 35 points but taking the verdict on weight.
Metropolitan A 35 points
A Section. Bellalanlek Russell Shipton 9 points
B Section. Broadmeadow Dave Ellis 4 points
C Section. Cornagrade Tim Bryars 13 points
D Section. Dolans Ring Stewart Lister 1 point
E Section. Sligo Road Calvin Lawson 7 points
F Section Derrychara Steve Scott 1 point
1st Stewart LISTER 7kgs 460
2nd Mark LACKBURN 7kgs 220
3rd Eric PASSEY 6kgs 300
4th Simon CLARK 6kgs 160
5th David RINGWOOD 5kgs 500
6th Steve SCOTT 5kgs 120
Congratulations to the organisers PSNI who did a brilliant job of organising the 51st Annual Championships which was held in Northern Island for the first time. Hopefully it will not take another half century before the next one is held over the water!
Way back in 1985 I fished the championship on the River Thames at Eton, on that day the river fished particularly hard, Ron Beard a very old friend of mine drew in the same section as me, only he was pegged in the weir, I was further down the river. I had a great match that I remember to this day, I caught 7lb 12oz on the long range waggler, the catch comprised of small dace and chub. I vividly remember a chub of around 10 oz slipping the net as I tried to put the net under it. Ron had two bites and caught two Barbel that weighed 7lb 14oz he won the national and I was second. Ron over the years often told people in jest how I ‘helped him’ win the national; obviously I was disappointed to be so close but was pleased for Ron as he was a true gent who would do anything for anybody. Tragically and very unexpectedly Ron died earlier this year. On Thursday night I had a vision of Ron looking down and saying, there you go champ, I helped you today, now we’re even!