The Winter Has Begun – Andy Neal

The Winter has begun!

Last weekend saw the start of my winter…proper! 2 days, 2 very different venues, 2 team events.

Saturday saw the first round of the teams of 4 WL at TBF. A new team for this year and with a decent line up of Callum Dicks, John Harvey, Desmond Shipp and Myself we were all keen. Chris Jones filled in for Des on this first match.

We sent John in to the bag as he’s usually good for a draw or 3. Average would best describe the overall draw but we had a couple of decent pegs in the way of Top 15 for me and New 1 for Callum. I fancied him for a win from there as its normally a good area at this time of year. Club 8 and Extension 13 were very hit and miss and a few quick phone calls, this was only confirmed with a bleak outlook. Still, early doors so anything can happen.

My match started poorly like most people’s on Top lake. 20 minutes in and I hadn’t seen an F1 caught. This spelt trouble and a quick switch to maggots from pellets started bringing me small silvers in the way of perch and skimmers. Slowly I started to catch ide and being the weight builders they are I was more than happy to plod along with these. The odd F1 crept in for good measure and I could see I was ahead of the pack with only Matty Dawes on 29 (standard bunghole!) catching in line with me. I tried to keep this going all match and just kept putting fish in the net, its often the way on that lake but deep down you knew House pool who we shared the section with would be fishing much better. I didn’t deviate from this all day and by the end Id had a lovely day with plenty of bites to weigh 62lb. at least 25lb of this was silver fish so you can see how big a part they played. That managed to win Top lake but as expected House pool fished a bit better and I got relegated to 5th in the points section. Callum fished a blinder and won his lake and section with 102lb also getting him 4th overall, John pulled a rabbit out of a hat to weigh 88lb from a peg everyone except John turned their noses up at (lesson to learned there!!). Chris has a tough day as expected but still managed decent points. This left us with a bit of a result and 66 points fell just 1 point short of Guru who won the day. Still, I’ll take that from those draws for sure. See what happens next week when we get to play again!

Sunday saw me join the Bait-Tech Woodys team for the River Wye Winter league at Belmont, Hereford. We all knew there were some fish in the river and with a mild weekend we were more than a little excited at the prospect of a few bites. Tom Lane with the hand of god this time, handing me peg 94 one above the bridge, I nearly kissed him. A flyer for sure. It’s fair to say I ran to this as its always good for a few fish. my only worry were the two pegs below, under the bridge as 95 and 96 both had great form and great anglers sat on them. I went with my bold Wye approach and mixed up a big bucket of GB in the way of Pro Natural Dark and Extra, 3 bags of Extra to 1 bag of Dark. To this I added Crushed Hemp and topped it up with about 30-40% soil to bulk it out and give it weight in the flow. A few people looked at me strangely as it was low and clear but this mix was essential if I was to get the volume of feed and particles I wanted into the swim. I rammed the mix full of casters, Superseed Hemp and dead maggots to the point where I could barely make a ball. I’ve never been shy of chucking a bit in on the Wye as its one of those rivers you can really attack.

In went 15 cannons just shy of the middle. I started on bread ¾ of the way across and straight away it seemed wrong as the small fish in the peg were on it. I persevered and caught 2 chub but ten minutes in I was already 10 fish behind. I binned the bread and picked up the bolo, fist run through I was into dace, one a chuck, incredible fishing. Odd small chub appeared before the peg went funny and the smaller fish appeared. Up until then they had all been stamp fish 4-10oz but it now seemed like the small fish were invading the swim making life very frustrating and hard work. the better fish were still there as you’d have small runs of them but they wouldn’t stay for me consistently no matter how and what I fed and how I fished for them. I altered between bolo and 7m whip all day trying desperately to line the better fish up. a late run on pole to hand helped but I knew I was way behind the 2 pegs below me who had caught better fish for most of the day.

At the scales I weighed 32lb which was probably 250 fish or more, this led the section until Scotty Geens below me tumbled a brilliant 45lb of stampers onto the scales followed by 38lb on peg 96. I had to settle for 3rd in section.

Incredibly, fishing like this was seen the entire match length. Pegs that were devoid normally all threw up bags of fish and the river fished its proverbials off. Everyone I spoke said they’d had a bite a chuck all day and every time I looked up you could see fish being swung in and dace busting on the surface as far as the eye could see it even shocked the regulars as to how many fish are in the system currently. Looks like the future is bright for sure!

Speedy won with a brilliant 50lb of pups but I think all the section were won with over 30lb! Amazing! The waiting list for events has just got a lot longer! Ha!

Can’t sleep now as I’m so excited for the next round! Epic!

Andy Neal 

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