The RiverFest Campaign – Spud Murphy

In this new blog series former RiverFest Champion Andrew ‘Spud’ Murphy will be bringing us a ‘warts and all’ account of his journey of a place in another RiverFest Final. Here’s his account of his first attempt on the River Calder…

Qualification Attempt: 1
Venue: River Calder
Mileage Covered to and from venue:  430 mile round trip

I was really looking forward to this one having decided two years ago to stop the commercial side of my fishing thus freeing up my time to concentrate solely on rivers. My thoughts being that as I am not getting any younger and that in the past it has been rivers which have been most rewarding to me. Therefore, this is what I plan to concentrate on in the future, and as I have not been on the banks since March I am now fully prepared and ready to go. Because of the mileage Paul, Martin and Myself decided to travel up the previous day to study the sections and discuss pegs which we had drawn previously and also taking in some sections which we had not seen.

The river supported many features with very fast water, slow canalised sections, winding bends, forestry, weirs and bridges with canals entering in at a few locations. We agreed that this river was fantastic and had everything to offer especially with an extra foot of water bringing potential for bigger fish to feed. Later that day we met up with some other anglers who had the same idea for a night in Midfield for some food and a couple of beers. Martin treated us to the first round! Which went down a treat after the walks and mileage we had just clocked up. The conversation that night was that somehow we were all going to qualify for the final in Shrewsbury the very next day and in the process claiming our pre-booked ticket refunds (on Lottery scale proportions) along with the pools money. How this would come about with only three anglers eligible for qualification in this round of 60! I think the Peroni was having an effect, it was obviously time for bed…

The Draw

We were up bright and early the next morning as there was some concerns about the amount of rainfall we had throughout the night but these were soon forgotten after a quick stroll confirmed the level was ok and the river had also nicely coloured up. Peg No B22 came out of the hat and a quick chat with the locals followed by a brief look at last year’s notes suggested that there could be some roach to target, but would there be enough?

The Peg

Arriving at my peg one hour later after pushing my gear over cobbled stone then through a mud bath (forgot how wonderful these river walks are) In all honesty the peg did look encouraging. It had a lot of pace on the inside and every angler had plenty of room with all anglers having two very spacious pegs to go at, I was informed that if any roach were to be found they would be close to where the flow was at its strongest. (This made sense so early in the season). Beyond this a third out the river slowed as it came around a sweeping bend. The swim itself was about six feet deep, a rod length out and pretty flat shallowing up slightly as you went further across the river into steadier water.

My Approach

I set up a 4 x 4 alloy stem stick float and two pole rigs, all to be fished on the same line about eight or nine metres out. The pole would be fished at the top half of my swim over ground bait with 1 and 2gr floats to run through or hold back and if required the stick float would be used to search further down the peg (pretty simple) All rigs had 0.10 hook lengths and size 20 hooks that could be changed as the day went on. I still needed some backup plans just in case things didn’t go as planned. I also set up a 4grm flatty for chopped worm targeting perch/trout in an area with about 5ft of water a metre from the bank that still had plenty of flow. A cage feeder was also assembled to be fished two thirds across targeting any bream that could be in the area although I was assured that if any bream were caught they would be a few pegs further down, but it was June 16th and anything could happen.

Groundbait Mixes

For the roach I mixed 50/50 Pro Natural Fine Lake Dark and Pro Natural Extra, adding some soil to the finished mix and for the feeder I mixed some Super Method Mix Max Feeder on its own for any possible bream.

The Match

On the off I cupped in three large balls containing some casters pinkies and hemp from height to create some noise that would hopefully trigger an instant response with a plan to steadily loose feed hemp and maggot throughout the day introducing a few casters every few runs down my theory being that usually when most rivers have a bit of colour in then casters can become a good hook bait especially later in the match to hopefully select a better stamp of fish (if there were any) so at least they could get a taste for them (you have to think positively in these qualifiers) even if certain tactics don’t materialise. I then twice bait dropped worm and red maggot down the inside followed by a few quick casts with the cage feeder just to put some bait down to start with in case it required a visit later on.
I started on the stick float but after six runs down it never produced a bite! I then picked up my 1 gram pole rig and had ten bites in as many runs down (the pole obviously offering better presentation) I was just starting to get excited when all of a sudden the bites stopped as quickly as they had come. Now I know that we have all had this happen to us and it is never a good sign.

I tried changing rigs, re-feeding and pushing further out, whilst all changes did attracted the odd bite I still wasn’t getting anywhere. I tried my chop worm line throughout the match topping it up all day but never had a single bite on it, every time I rested my roach line and went back onto it I would get a bite instantly but only one or two before it would dry up. I was now halfway through the match so I decided to lift my net out to see what I had in there (it had been 3 months since my last match therefore I needed to be sure that I was at least thinking correctly). Unfortunately there was no surprise approximately 4lb of roach looked up at me exactly what I thought I was worth at this stage. Knowing I needed at least double figures I tried for bream on the feeder and this produced a single 6oz chub (not what I was after) the remainder of the match was spent rotating lines thus managing a few more roach. The five hours seemed to have flown by indicating that I must have enjoyed the day. The less interesting days being the ones where you keep check of time thinking is there really that long left.

The Weigh In

In the end I weighed in a disappointing 4lb with the pegs either side of me producing 1lb and 5lb respectively. Just as the locals had predicted there were some bream weights further down the zone along with some large trout that actually count on this match. I could probably have managed another 2lb of small fish but with 19lb winning the zone I never stood a chance. Paul and Martin were very much in the same boat so we decided to skip the presentation and head for home.

On Reflection

When you initially get such a positive response quite early that ends suddenly it’s never a good sign (especially on opening day) sometimes pike trouble can cause a similar effect with fish coming and going however this can be explained but wasn’t the case on this occasion, It’s much better to have bites drop off gradually then come back again in response to adjustments made to your feeding or terminal tackle, something that you can make sense of. Looking back having been faced with this situation it usually indicates that there simply wasn’t enough fish in the area to generate a weight worthy of competing, an assessment that eventually rang true on the day. I did give myself a second chance by looking for a few bream that I probably wouldn’t have caught if I was still there now.

In hindsight I did miss a trick by not searching the peg with a straight lead and lobworm looking for a lone chub or trout that can run to 5lb and well worth catching ‘certainly a tactic worth considering next year’ but to be fair on this occasion I needed four of these! If the roach had shown in numbers then maybe it could have been a different outcome but realistically it was never going to be my day. I did enjoy it though as it so nice and refreshing to be back fishing rivers, so next up the River Weaver where last year I managed to qualify.

Congratulations to the three qualifiers, Darren, Tim and Ian. I already sense a few favourites amongst these anglers.

Onto the next one! 


One Response to The RiverFest Campaign – Spud Murphy

  1. Jon Whitehead June 27, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Spud

    Really enjoyed reading your account of Riverfest 1.0; looking forward to the next installment……and hey 4ib roach from a river beats 400 ib from a puddle any day !!

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