After weeks of freezing weather which resulted in the River Wye completely freezing over, I was desperate to get out on the river. Come the big thaw and what happened, Man Flu, so I had to give the match a miss, however the boys did well with James Robbins winning with 26lbs on an out of sorts river carrying a lot of colour and extra water.
The next week was hit by heavy rain and by Thursday evening the river was over the banks and the match was called off.
I was now getting despondent but the next week saw temperatures plummet and the river level dropping quickly. Come Friday and everything was looking good for the weekend. They’d even forecast a rise in temperature for Saturday night so things were looking promising for a good match.
On Saturday morning I bought three pints of casters and four pints of maggots from my local tackle shop. In the afternoon I mixed 5kgs of ground bait in preparation for the match the next day. My usual mix for the Wye is Sensas River and Gross Gardons or Roach Noire mixed 50/50 and I always mix it up the night before so any water is fully absorbed which in turn ensures that the ground bait gets to the bottom quickly.
Come Sunday morning I was up at 05-00 getting everything sorted out before setting off at 06-00.
Arriving at the Rowing Club the with the river 2.5 ft up it looked perfect however the colour which had been present all week had all but dropped out and a lack of topping fish left me with mixed feelings as to how the river might fish.
Standing in the queue with Lee Gardener and Nigel Davies, we were hoping for a good match. We knew from experience that if we drew anywhere in the 40’s or early 50’s we’d struggle for bites so with that in mind we were all hoping to be below the Rugby Club where sport is usually quite consistent.
When I drew peg 61 I was quite happy as it’s a good dace peg and peg 60 above me had framed in the last few matches. Lee was also happy when he drew peg 92 but Nigel although positive had mixed thoughts when he drew peg 78 on the railings as it was one of those pegs that is brilliant with water on but unpredictable without.
Walking to my peg I passed Colin Harvey on 65, Hadrian Whittle on 64, Shaun Gould on 62, a young up and coming angler on 62 and then Dave Roberts pegged above me on peg 60. Any thoughts of an easy match rapidly disappeared because in a section with anglers like this you’d have to work hard for every fish and all I could think was that I was glad it wasn’t the festival.
I set up two Superteam whips at 6m and at 7m both rigged with 4gm Jean Desque, St Bernards. My 16ft Superteam LXL was set up with a 14 No 4 stick and my Mach 3 13ft with a 10 No 4 stick with a spread out shotting pattern. Both the pole rigs and my heavy stick rig comprised of an ollivette followed by 2 No 8’s eight inches below, another 2 No 8’s eight inches below and then a single No 8 eight inches below. My hook length was 0.14 dia Superteam AML to a size 14 B611 on all my rigs.
Reels were my ever faithful Mach 3 XT’s with 0.166 dia Berkley XWR main line.
Once I had my gear set up I mixed up another 5 kgs of ground bait but swapped a bag of Roach and River for brown crumb. I then mixed the two batches of ground bait together so I had a uniform mix.
Because of the lack of fish topping earlier I decided to go for a softly, softly approach and only put four balls of ground bait laced with casters in at the start of the match. This was the opposite of most of the anglers around me who put ten to twelve balls in.
Feeding a ball a chuck straight out in front of me, twenty maggots or so slightly upstream in addition to feeding the same quantity of maggots as far down the peg as I could, I spent the next hour biteless. This was very worrying as Dave Roberts also hadn’t caught. While contemplating setting a feeder rod up, I decided I’d go for a short walk t see what was happening.
When I stopped to talk to the young lad below me, he informed me that he’s just had his first fish which was a dace. Knowing that the fish often move up river during the course of a match I went back to my peg and started feeding twice a chuck both at the top of my swim and halfway down. Within minutes I had my first fish which was a good dace. Once I started to put a few fish together I tried my 7m whip over my ground bait and was rewarded with a few dace followed by a couple of small chub however it wasn’t quite right.
Switching back to the stick and I quickly started to put a steady run of dace together. Feeding my ground bait and caster on the inside and maggots a little further out saw me put a good run of dace and chub together. It seemed that I’d get two or three chub in as many casts before they backed off and then I’d catch a few dace before the chub came back.
Although I tried off bottom and dragging on, I found it was best to just trip bottom and to hold the float back a rod length down stream before letting it go again. Almost every time I did this it would result in the float burying and going down the hole. If I didn’t get a bite at that point I’d let the float run another rod length and often pick up a dace or roach.
The last hour saw a better stamp of chub as I stepped up the feed. I also picked up more roach as the light started to go.
At the end of the match I knew I had a good weight however bank side rumour had it that Hadrian Whittle had bagged up from the start and when it comes to catching big weights there aren’t many better. In addition I also knew that Dave would have a good weight as he’s very consistent on the Wye and one of the best anglers on the river.
When Hadrian arrived with the scales Dave was first in the section to weigh. When he struggled to get his net out of the water I knew he had a very good weight and when the scales declared 70lbs 13 oz I didn’t think I had enough to beat him.
When I also struggled to get my net out I knew it would be very close. When the scales went 73lbs 9 oz I was both very relieved and quite happy but the question was would I have enough to beat Hadrian?
Next to weigh was the young lad below me who weighed 32lbs and on the next peg Shawn Gould weighed 44lbs.
When we got down to Hadrian it was obvious that he had a very big weight. When the scales went 94lbs we congratulated him on what was a fantastic win. By all accounts he’s fished a very good match fishing the Bolo and groundbait down the middle of the river, alternating between maggot and bread on the hook.
News quickly filtered in that on the other bank on peg 88 Danny Ashington also had a good day weighing 67lbs of roach, dace and chub, while Lee Gardener on peg 92 had weighed 60lbs to just miss out on the main frame by 3lbs which was incredible. At least he did manage to get the section by default, unlike the unlucky guy in his section who weighed 59lbs and didn’t win a penny.
Overall it was a fantastic match and although the pegs in the 40’s and late 70’s struggled there were plenty of 20, 30 and 40lb weights below the Rugby Club.
The sad news is that there are now only two winter league matches left before the end of the season so here’s hoping for two good rivers and couple of good draws.