Winter League Round-Up – Did Jamie Rich win the title again?

I always look forward to Ilminster AA’s winter league which has been sponsored by local firm V.E.S. Precision for a long time. It’s always been held on the River Isle and if it’s flooded we use reserve dates until that’s no longer an option at which point we have to use one of our ponds. It takes place over seven rounds with your best six results counting, the league is decided on points, going to weight in the event of a tie. I’ve only ever won it once back in the 2013-14 season and it’s a title I’d dearly like to hold again. Over the next five seasons I finished second three times, third and fourth but another title was proving elusive.

Round 1 (October) – The campaign didn’t get off to the best of starts when the first round was cancelled due to a flooded river! We finally got underway two weeks later but it was touch and go and in the end we fished a rather out of sorts river. I didn’t draw one of the fancied pegs but with odd fish topping, I still fancied it for a few fish. After two and a half hours I had one tiny roach and things definitely weren’t going to plan! I went for a walk and nobody was bagging so on my return and with quite a few small fish still topping I set up a shallow rig and had a fish first bung! I’ve caught small roach, dace, chublets and minnows for the remainder of the match to finish up with 42 fish for 2lb 15oz which was enough for second in the section and far from the disaster I’d imagined at the halfway point. The section money by default was a nice bonus too!

Round 2 (November) – For the second match I drew a new peg on the lower end of the river and struggled for six roach and a chublet for 4oz (mainly small fish!). I was stone cold last in the section so that was my dropper sorted and no more room for error.

Round 3 (December) – The river was in good condition, I’ve drawn a decent peg and had a nice days fishing feeding casters and Bait-Tech Super Seed Hemp to catch 118 fish including a lovely 1.5lb perch for 8lb 7oz and another second in the section. So with three matches down I was lying in fifth place with four points.

Round 4 (January) – For the next round I drew the same peg as the last match and had a very similar days fishing catching 122 fish (no perch this time) for 8lb 10oz but it was only good enough for third in the section. I actually moved up to fourth in the league but I was still three points off the leader and it felt like my challenge for the title was fizzling out before it even started!

Round 5 (February) – With the river once again in flood and the fact we were running out of available dates, we headed to Ilminster Canal where we’d had an enjoyable match a few weeks back. To say it was hard was a slight understatement, after an hour and a half I was still blanking and I wasn’t the only one! When my neighbour had a small perch on worm, I nipped the head of a dendra and went across to the far bank cover, the rig settled and the float went straight under! It was only a 3oz perch but I could have kissed it! I would like to say I went on to bag up but I didn’t, I managed two more little perch and incredibly my 5oz was not only enough to win the section, it was the top weight on the day!

With several blanks, the league tightened right up and there were now three of us jointly leading with eight points.

Round 6 (March) – No let up in the wet weather meant we were at Dillington pond for the penultimate league match and it’s fished really well. Fishing caster over Pro Natural Dark and Bream, I’ve had a bite a chuck all day to finish with 161 roach for 9lb 6oz and another section win to edge ahead in the league. I also finished second overall on the day behind Baz Morgan who recorded 12lb 14oz of roach for a comfortable victory.

Round 7 (March) – Two weeks later we were back on the pond for the final match as we’d run out of river season! Going into this match I had a slender one point lead over Ian Burton and we drew next to each other in the same section so I would need to beat him as if we tied on points, Ian had a superior weight advantage. On the whistle I cupped in a ball of Pro Nat Dark and Bream that I’d mixed 50:50 before shipping out with single red maggot on the hook. I was fully expecting a repeat of the last match with loads of bites but after an hour and a quarter I still had an empty net while Ian had the early advantage with a couple of roach on the feeder.

A frost overnight hadn’t done us any favours but as it started to warm up, a few roach were getting caught on the whip, finally my float sunk from view and I had a small roach to get off the mark. I then caught quite well on maggot and at the all out, my clicker was reading 100 fish (all roach apart from one tiny perch). As the scales worked their way round the pond it became apparent how tough the fishing had been with several anglers not troubling the scales and others only weighing ounces.

Top weight in the other section was Baz Morgan with 5lb, as the scales started weighing our section there was a 5oz and a DNW before Big Frank had 2lb 12oz, Ian then weighed 3lb 11oz and I thought it was going to be close between me and him but when I stuck my fish in the weigh sling, the needle crept past five and my weight was called at 5lb 1oz. I knew then I’d won the league but things got even better when the last angler in our section didn’t weigh so I’d won on the day as well!

1 – Jamie Rich (Against Men and Fish) – 5lb 1oz
2 – Baz Morgan (Somerset Angling) – 5lb
3 – Ian Burton (Taunton) – 3lb 11oz

A – Frank Woodard (Ilminster) – 2lb 12oz
B – Rob Cox (Ilminster) – 10oz

After seven matches and dropping the worst result, the final V.E.S. Precision League table looked like this,

Jamie Rich – 10 pts (dropping 5) – V.E.S. Precision League Champion
Ian Burton – 12 pts (dropping 20)
Steve Parker – 15 pts (dropping 10)

I was over the moon to win the title for the second time and I would like to say a massive thanks to V.E.S. Precision for their continued and very much valued sponsorship, the bowling club for looking after us so well in the mornings and hopefully we’ll be back again soon and lastly to all the anglers that make it a great league especially with all the challenges we’ve faced (and continue to face).

It looks like this will be the last time I get out for a while, so please everybody stay safe and listen to the official advice. If you’re self-isolating and bored don’t forget there’s lots of content on my blog and if nothing else, it’ll help you to sleep!

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