Finally we come down to the Army Benevolent Fund [ABF] challenge for the third year. Each year Gerry Gleeson has set different parameters for those taking place and this year is no different. With two teams, one for the north and one for the south, each would be made up of five regular members and a guest and going on to the different rivers. This year the number of rivers has been reduced to five for each region, four in the north, four in the south and then both teams meet up on the Wye. With 24hrs allocated as the maximum for each river it obviously means that less time than this would actually be spent fishing since the groups would need to travel between rivers within the 24 hrs. This year the target is to get three doubles off each river, then it is hoped to back up the doubles with singles as well, difficult but that’s what targets should be.
I’ll be writing this blog about my contribution with just a few comments about other members of the northern team, but I would say that the total doubles count was 12 for the north and 11 for the south, a worthy total even if it failed the targets of three off each river.
Arriving at the River Nene for the first element of the north challenge I was set up in my swim well before dawn and within 30 mins my challenge had begun with a 10lb-1oz barbel that took the Elips pellets. Making the fish safe I made a phone call to Mark Smith, the PDAA bailiff, he was walking back down the stretch and was quickly next to me in order to verify the weight and take the photos. A pleasing start, although I then went through the daylight hours without any further signs of fish. I had moved slightly along the section I was fishing with the intent to move back to the successful swim in the evening.
Jerry fishing quite a way up the stretch had more luck in daylight and took another double of 10lb-6oz to keep us on track, better still he added a couple of smaller fish to his tally.
First of the challenge Nene 10lb-1oz
Meanwhile dusk approached and yet again I cast my pellet offering to the raft that had formed on a trailing branch on the tree opposite. No instant response this time, but it was not too long a wait before the tip shot round in the expected fashion and the strike confirmed that it was a barbel. The swim was full on streamer weed from my bank to about half way across; the first double had come upstream along the clear channel on the opposite side. This time the fish shot straight into the middle of the streamer giving me one hell of a fight where I thought I would lose him several times having to wait as he pulled himself out of the weed. Trying to net him was the next problem since there was a lot of weed collected on the main line, twice I netted the fish only to have him pulled out of the net by the weight of the weed, in the end I netted both fish and weed though then I could hardly lift the net.
I thought it was going to be a good barbel, but when I finally put him on the scales I was amazed to see a weight of 14lb-6oz. Before completed the weighing I had called Matt Marlow down from the next swim and I got him to get his scales since this would be a new best weight for the largest known fish on this section of the Nene. Matt’s scales actually showed a weight a couple of ounces higher so I took my scales reading being quite happy they are accurate. By now four of the team had arrived in the swim and several cameras, both still and video went into overdrive in order to keep the fish out water for the minimum time.
River pb for me at 14lb-6oz
Two fish and two doubles, it was a happy lad that made his way across to the Trent for the next leg of the challenge.
We had had some rain in the period running up to the start of the challenge and although it had not affected the Nene to any degree it appeared the Trent had risen and it was now on its way down again. I tried a few casts and found that my normal half way out was not really feasible; too much weed was coming down so I came closer in to the side. With the time of year there were plenty of boats going back and forth hopefully when these slow down on dusk it might help reduce the weed problem and so it proved the case. The Trent is one of the in form rivers at the moment but today it seems to be a little slow. Fishing my usual big feeders with a mix of pellets and hemp along with Elips on the hook I had to wait until near dawn for my first and only bite. Fortunately it weighed in at 12lb-2oz and Paul Floyd came along to do the honours with the camera, another successful river for me and now we moved onto the Derwent.
Trent contribution at 12lb-3oz.
A stop off at a local café gave us a welcome chance of a full English breakfast before the onward trip. We would be fishing at Borrowash where two different clubs meet at the bridge over the river. Earl of Harrington upstream and Derbyshire County AC downstream. I would be fishing downstream along with Julian Barnes while the other lads fish upstream. A big thank you here to both clubs for the 24hr permissions for those without tickets. The river looked spot on with just a little colour, but no drifting weed and Julian took full advantage taking barbel of 11lb-9oz, 12lb-8oz and 13lb-1oz. I caught a near double of 9lb-14oz with a change of bait to one of the MAD bait offerings that Justin suggested I try. Meanwhile Matt was in heaven having taking a monster of 13lb-10oz for a new river pb. A very successful river and now onward to the Dove with a stop at the café yet again for breakfast.
My Derwent fish of 9lb-14oz.
The Dove has not been kind to me over the previous two trips and I’m yet to catch a barbel off the section we fish, not to be demoralised I made my way to my chosen swim and settled in for the night. Following the usual routine of baitdrop hemp and pellet then sit back and wait. Come dusk I cast out and caught chub but no barbel, in fact it was 3.00am when I finally struck into one of the target fish and yet again my luck held when paul could take photos of a 10lb-13oz specimen. My third river double out of four – well pleased since I knew the chance of a double off the Wye was very low. Matt again was well pleased with yet another river pb at 12lb-6oz.
10lb-13oz beauty off the Dove.
The next river was least interesting to me but off we went to the Wye only to find that the other team had arrived early had occupied the going swims. I think this was reflected in the result of the south with 37 barbel and the north 4. Fortunately I caught one of those four so I ended the challenge with barbel caught on all five rivers, very pleased with that. Jerry did fish the following day having got a better swim and made the best of it in the form of a barbel of 10lb-0oz exactly, the same fish he caught at the start of the season obviously a friend J
By this stage I had had enough and so come dusk after that first day on the river I came home job done.