The RiverFest Campaign – Spud Murphy

It was back on the road once again for Spud Murphy for another RiverFest Qualifier this time on the River Don which proved to be a successful trip booking his place in yet another Final! 

Qualification Attempt – Four
Venue – River Don
Mileage Covered –  380 miles round trip

The Journey

For this weekend’s double qualification attempt Martin, Paul and Myself travelled up to Doncaster on the Friday afternoon straight after work to help break up the mileage that would eventually catch up with us at some stage. Saturday’s qualifier being held on the River Don in Doncaster then onto Newcastle for Sundays qualifier on the River Tyne, by the time we return home we will have clocked up 630 miles.

My Draw

After two recent near misses, beaten by good anglers both drawing end pegs this time it turned out to be my turn to draw an end peg because out came peg C60 end peg in the match and by all accounts a very good peg too. I had not fished the River Don before so a brief chat with Steve the match organiser and Steve Whitfield to generate some information, this being GB feeder for bream/skimmers and a pole line for bits and bobs (Northern slang for anything that swims – I think) basically similar methods used for all three zones with the venue being too deep for the waggler to be considered.

It was now all down to me to fathom out how I was to approach my match, it’s always good to have some information however I always follow my instincts and approach my peg as I think best, it’s easy to seek advice only to blame your result on the person who supplied you with the information! Personally I would much rather blame myself for making the wrong decisions then at least you can learn from your own mistakes (and we all make them) from time to time.

The Peg

My peg looked beautiful much wider than all the others in my zone, as the river reached me it got much wider then about 150 metres downstream to my left it separated into two with the back half of the river running away over a weir and the main half of the river on my side of the split that we were fishing resembling a large canal. (see pics)

My Approach

If things go to plan I would have a simple day on the feeder catching bream and skimmers, later topping up with roach on the long pole and perch close in on a chop worm line. The feeder would be cast three quarters over angled slightly to my left downstream to where there was plenty of room, before the start I had a cast around with a straight lead making sure I would be fishing in a clear area, there were a few small tree branches that I reeled in but not really a problem as I could see Paul Keeley on the next peg also having the same issue. Something wasn’t quite right though because when the straight lead settled in my now clear area when I reeled in after about ten turns everything would become tight, I could eventually pull the lead over this without ever losing one, I quickly worked out that inline where the river divided into two there had to be a raised bar submerged underwater (nobody mentioned this) thinking that this could turn out to be a problem before the match started I changed my rod to a 12 foot version my theory being that if I hooked a bream I would stand up with the longer rod helping to bring the fish up in the water before it bumped into the shallow bar and quite possibly freeing itself in the process.

For my long pole I settled on a 13 metre line in about 11 foot of water, 1grm and 1.5grm floats were assembled both with 0.10 hook lengths and size 20 hooks with the 1grm version having a much longer drop from olivette to hook, I had a platform setup out in the water so my 13 metres was in reality much further than this when compared with other pegs and I was on an end peg so didn’t need to over complicate things. My chop worm line would be fished at 9 metres to my left downstream towards a broken tree where there were already signs of fry being chased by hopefully perch, a 0.14 hook length and 16 hook was attached to a 4×14 float fished in 6 foot of water where it started to slope away very slightly.

Groundbait Mixes

For the feeder I mixed up Max Feeder & Special ‘G’ Dark 50/50%. For the pole I separated some of the above mix and simply added 50% Pro Natural Fine Dark Lake remixing the whole mix then adding some soil to it at the end.

The Match

Two balls of GB laced with caster pinkie and some chop worm were cupped in at 13 metres then one cup of chop worm and red maggot was dropped onto my perch line, a bait dropper was not required because the river was not moving on this line.

First cast on the cage feeder when wound in it was solid on that bar, the feeder came back but the hook length had gone, a new hook length was quickly attached followed by the cage feeder being replaced with a plastic Nisa version, my thinking being that this would come to the surface quicker than the cage did.

Four quick casts with the plastic version went without any problems with the fifth cast and onwards being fished out, half an hour in I had a 5oz hybrid then a perch after 45 minutes, and that was all I had, I dropped in on my chop worm line and had 8 perch in as many drops all about 5oz so well worth catching then as usual with perch the bites stopped and the interest had ended.

Back onto the feeder and after half an hour I had one more perch so picked up the long pole expecting the float to bury instantly with a roach or skimmers but it just sat there eventually going under only to be from another perch of very small proportion. Back onto the feeder for another half an hour for another perch (my god, this peg was supposed to get me to the final without me having to try too hard). At the half way stage bankside rumour (which was very accurate by the way-Thanks Freddie) was that our zone was very poor and that my net of perch was very close to leading the zone along with two other anglers who both had a bream each, with no roach to target I decided that I needed to catch a bream so filled in my pole line with more GB and lots of casters with only bream now being my sole intention, I just had to catch one.

The rest of my match would be rotated between the feeder and long pole both being rested in between each method, then at 2pm suddenly out of the blue the tip finally went around and a bream was on, I instantly stood up with my rod held high without any contact with the bar the bream was soon netted and at about 3lb my weight was now doubled. On the very next cast the tip went around again with me being rewarded with exactly the same result another 3lb bream (Wow here we go) both fish unable to resist my small red-worm hook-bait ‘that I bread myself’ but to cut a long story short apart from a few more perch from my long pole line that was it, I kept changing hook-baits but nothing.

I was though apparently easily leading the zone, but what if someone else had caught like I just had without anyone knowing about it (2 x bream in less than ten minutes) had happened to me so could happen to anyone. The strange thing was that the 5oz hybrid was the only silver fish that I caught all day bizarre.

The Weigh In

It was a nervous wait but when the scales finally arrived 6lb was best so with me being last to weigh and knowing that I had 8lb+ it was a great feeling, when I did pull my net out they actually weighed 10lb exactly for a Zone and section win.

On Reflection

If I had fished the feeder for most of the match (I would definitely have been bored) I may have caught more bream but by not resting the feeder I may not have caught any bream, sometimes a rest is good for the peg as the fish feel safe to roam and this is exactly how I read the situation. No frame place just some section money but the all-important zone win was had, after only four rounds fished my (return ticket refund money will be very welcomed). Of the four qualifiers fished, the first one being a nice day out on the River Calder on opening day then the previous two near misses on the Weaver and Trent, this one was probably my least enjoyable fishing match of the four but I am through to the final and that’s all that matters, I will still purchase a ticket for the Don next year as you have to be in them to win/qualify them, it’s strange how things sometimes work out when least expected, on this occasion the impression I have as things panned out is that it just seemed this was meant to happen!

Out of all the riverfest qualifiers I have fished in the last seven years, I believe this peg that I drew on the River Don was the best ‘known peg’ I had drawn during the entire period, but as good as the peg was the result was still never a done deal and on the day turning out to be a nail biter right till the end. Because there were three of us travelling and our Hotel for the night had already been booked, the next day’s qualifier on the Tyne was still a journey that needed to be completed however I could now enjoy the night and run the bank for Paul and Martin the next day.

The Qualifiers

Congratulations to both John and Steve for also qualifying, now you have to take my word for this but the photo taken of me and both qualifiers seems to make me look very small! That’s because John and Steve are in fact men of giant proportions that should both be sponsored by a well-known brand of sweetcorn, seriously though well done both. 


I hope you have enjoyed my input reliving these qualifiers with me, the articles are time consuming (and I’m no natural at this game) just telling each story as truthfully as possible, all four qualifiers turned out to be very different sessions indeed but all very enjoyable in different ways, I look forward to picking up where I now leave off in 2020 bringing you more of the same.

I will report back on how my Riverfest final goes, wish me luck!


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