Sunday’s Team Qualifier at Evesham was definitely my last (and only!!!) match outing in March. So that may well be it for 2019/20. There may be a Post Script if my current plan to raid Newbridge on Wednesday goes ahead. However I suspect the river will react badly again to yet more heavy rain, in which case it will be game over.
So, how was it??? Disappointing has to be the immediate response. Certainly in terms of outcomes a very poor return following three decent years which had got me to the point where I genuinely thought I was fishing as well as I probably ever would. Looking back over the whole experience, and starting with the Close Season, I had made what I still consider to be the right choice and had removed myself from any involvement in either of the spring leagues. So my first match outing was at the Voorne Festival, which was, choosing my words carefully, utter crap. The next event then was the Tamar Spring Festival which was thoroughly enjoyable but not particularly productive on the back of two mediocre draws.
And it was the mediocrity of my draws which then came back to haunt me again and again, especially through the early part of the season. I actually kicked off proceedings quite well, a lost Chub cost me a frame place at Evesham so I had to settle for a section instead, another section followed up quite quickly and I was overall happy with what I’d achieved off where I’d drawn. But then I entered into a darker phase where my normally favourite venue in the form of Chippenham was fishing totally different to the previous two years and, to compound this, I drew essentially the same crap peg three times in a row. Having to scratch around for bites was not the start to the river season that I had envisaged. The Superleague practice and match on the venue were no better. And, incredibly, the malaise seemed to follow me onto the Severn, where in the course of a league where a dearth of silvers meant that it had become a Barbel or Bust event, I managed five rounds without so much as hooking a Barbel. Round 6 had me in a place where an exceptional round might have seen me snatch last place in the overall listings, but I decided to save myself the potential heartache and travelling. The Thames Festival saw the river standing on its head, which made it mainly a pole affair and even on Appleford Reach I found myself on a peg which was difficult to access so I had to sacrifice the carbon scaffolding and make do without. As it happens I did not too badly that day, but on Abingdon and Culham I suffered without it. The only ray of sunshine through the whole of the summer months was an outing on the KSD. This is a venue that I have knocked on a few occasions because it is a bit ‘hook a duck’, but on the day it was actually nice to have a few fish in front of me and to be able to walk away with a section win. So, to recap, by September I’d blown out on Chippenham and done nothing on Staverton, I’d had some early results on Evesham but had stayed clear after the first few weeks, the Thames Festival had been a disaster, Llandegfedd had been interesting but I’d not caught well in the Festival. And to be honest I was, at that point, not enjoying the experience and seriously contemplating jacking it all in again. In the background of course were the two underlying health issues. The shortage of breath, which was not getting any worse but wasn’t improving either, which is perhaps not a surprise when I wasn’t receiving any treatment for it!! And the RA, which was under control but still a constant irritant. The other factor was that I was no longer really prepping well for events, which is unforgivable given my level of free time, but I’d lost what we call my hwyl, my passion, my focus.
I decided I’d hold off on my decision until after I’d fished my Autumn/Winter campaign on the Wye. First time out I had 23Lbs of Bleak, my best Bleak weight ever. And, to be honest, even allowing for the disruption caused by having to shift my gear up 9′ during the match, I should have done nearer 30Lbs and nailed my section at least. This was the one and only time during the year where I can point to elements of poor preparation and define how they impacted on my catch (the other issue on the day was ring-rustiness, but that was unavoidable). But that served as the spark to kick-start my season and I had a decent run through those matches and Festivals that survived the ridiculously bad weather conditions through the whole of the Autumn and Winter period. Finally I was catching fish and that encouraged me to prepare properly and get out and practice, where I caught a load of fish. Learnt a lot, could have caught even more fish based on what I learnt, but did OK off the pegs I drew and already looking forward to next year. The big question really is what else I do, because I’m not going to kick my heels until September, so I need a plan for the early part of the year. Regaining confidence in my Barbel fishing may well be part of that plan, as that was definitely a weakness last year. Watch this space. But the immediate plan is to complete a few DIY projects around the house, have a roots and branches review of my tackle, and aim to get myself back on the bank by May or perhaps a bit earlier if the weather is good and the mood takes me. So, signing off for now……..