Well for me that really was the season that wasn't. I can't remember the last time I caught a fish that I was really chuffed with, but at least I finished the season having a fun time down at the Bisterne charity match on the Hampshire Avon. In fact, I only just made the match after recovering from yet another bout of illness, and straight afterwards I had to jump on a school bus to North Wales where me and my classmates were studying the flora and fauna for our A-level biology (what fun!). Because of this, I missed the last 4 days of the season and a roach fest on the River Windrush (more on this later...)
This size of fish is just typical of the season I've had!
Anyway, back to the Bisteme do... The match is organised by Tina Baker, wife of Avon wizard Peter Baker, and raises funds for the Stable Family Homes Trust who provide residential care and training to 60 young adults with learning difficulties such as Down's Syndrome and Autism. The twice yearly matches attract a great crowd of anglers (well a lot of us call ourselves anglers although that still has to be proved!) and have become the trust's biggest source of income.
The trust was founded by Major Mills, who donated a house, stables and five acres of land for the trust's use. He also happens to own the famous Bisterne stretch of the Hampshire Avon, which is otherwise only open 6 weeks of the year. So twice a year we get to fish an excellent stretch of river to help raise funds! It's a win-win situation!
The October match is barbel only, and the March do is all species; "Except herrings Dad, don't even try and weigh in those deadbaits, you cheat! " We fish 10am to 4pm and are trusted to weigh and record our own catches. The stretch holds huge barbel and chub, but not exactly in huge numbers, so it is often only the select few who actually have anything to weigh in!
This year it was one of Peter Stones biggest fans, Steve Collier who topped the rabble with 10lb 12oz, consisting of Dace and a 6lb Pike. Steve can be seen in the photo accepting his award from antique tackle expert and all-round good chap Chris Sandford, who, as well as presenting the prizes, also runs the auction and raffle in the evening. Thanks Chris! This is a really fun affair, one of the main activities being taking the mickey out of my dad! He's managed five matches in a row without catching a fish, although this year before the match he was sure he wasn't going to blank:
"You'll be laughing from the other side of your face when I pull out a few pike! A jack or two and it'll be in the bag, you see. GAME, SET AND MATCH, FRANKIE BOY!"
My Dad and his 'special' chair!
Well, his plan didn't seem to be going too badly when his deadbait float sailed away, but 30 seconds later Pete Rogers and I were in hysterics when the fish "inexplicably fell off the hook." Game, set and match, Mr. Pike, I think! Dad can be seen in his "special " fishing chair in the photo, which he thinks is really quite flash. The real reason he uses it is because he's too stubborn to use a wheelchair, so I push him about in the barrow. When anyone comes along he gets out and pretends he's using it to transport his gear! Dementia really is a terrible thing!
Before any of you guess what I caught, that's right; I blanked! I went for Dace and Chub on the stick and caster but found bites hard to come by in the intense sun. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the match and the meal and presentation in the evening and will be back for the next one. This one raised £3700 profit for the trust, and so on behalf of Tina and all at the trust, I'd like to thank everyone who took part in the match, donated items for the raffle and auction and, of course, all who bidded for the excellent lots. I think it's great that 35 anglers can get together and have a thoroughly good day's fishing and then an excellent evening meal and presentation in order to raise money for charity. It's this kind of fellowship and good naturedness that angling is all about. And while I'm talking about generosity, I'd ask all of you who could donate any tackle, books, antiques etc. to the raffle to contact Tina Baker at email@example.com All contributions will be gratefully received, no matter how big or small.
Chris Sandford presnts Steve Collier with the now famous Bisterne jug!
While I'm talking about the Bisterne match, I've just come across some photographs from November's match. I didn't write about it at the time because the winner, Mr. Barry Horwood, imposed a press ban on the event which he won using the infamous " IT " as bait! He thought he could keep a lid on his " IT " usage, but there you go, I've written it now. The photo shows him collecting his award from the super Peter Stone. Pete couldn't make this March's match as he hasn't been all too well, but we're all sure he'll be back in November. From everyone who knows you, has read your books or been inspired by you, like so many have, "Get well soon, Pete!" We're all expecting a 4lb Perch from the Thames by the end of June.
So, as predicted I ended my worst ever season on a downer, but I'm sure I'll put it out of my memory this summer and autumn when I'll be fishing really hard. My Dad managed to sneak out a few two pound roach from the Windrush in the last week (while I was stuck in Wales!), which took him to his double century.
During his angling career he's caught 201 roach over the magical 2lbs barrier, but has never had a three! If I ever get really bored, then I might just go for a three pounder just to rub it in! Another interesting thing is the fact that he has managed to remember where and when he caught them all. Most of the time he doesn't even know what he was doing last week!
Barry Horwood collects his award from Peter Stone
I did find the time to pop up to Birmingham at the beginning of April for the Go Fishing exhibition at the NEC event. I went up with my good mate Barry (the IT man) and was the first time I'd ever been to one of these fishing shows. There were an amazing number of people there, far more than I'd imagined, and there were some great stands. The best stand by far was the Ultima stand with their very own page three stunner. Good stuff!!! (I think we'll see lots more stands with their own page three models next year! The queues at the Ultima one almost went round the entire hall!). There were also some great talks from t
he likes of John Wilson, Des Taylor, The Rod Hutchinson Dream Team and Danny Fairbrass, to name but a few, so there was lots for lesser mortals like ourselves to learn!
I'll be back on these pages in July when my exams will be finished and I'll be hitting the banks large stylie! So until then, good fishing. Oh and fishies.... Watch out! I'm comin' to gettcha!
Fred - 2000