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09/09/23 - Senior/Junior Pairs Match - Ash Lake - Todber Manor.


Lead Coach has ego irreparably dented: Hooded Junior reveals ears: DDAS Juniors do 'Swan Lake': Whiskery angler catches whiskery fish:

Todber Manor… Some like it. Others don’t.

Whatever your viewpoint of it is, it has carved a place in fishing legend as a prolific venue. Because of Todber’s formidable reputation, the shrimps are always excited to go there. So are the coaches to be honest, and expectations were high as the sun rose over a mist shrouded lake.

These coach’s blogs are an indulgence of mine and a chance to put into words the events of the day, some of them actually happen too! Not only that I get to air my thoughts at the time, good or bad…

I really like this event because it is my chance to fish with my juniors. I probably get a little too invested in trying to work out the best methods and blowing off a few of my own personal cobwebs too. Sgt Bracey, Kit, and I had been to Ash Lake to practice a couple of times, as well as the Tuesday club dedicated to those that were participating in the pairs match. So, we gained lots of knowledge about the lake when it fishes with little or no pressure. I’ve been around fishing for long enough to know that practice in a non-competitive situation can be a false flag to reality. But it does give you a chance to iron out some wrinkles, and so it was…

The one thing that we all knew was that the weather was going to be cruel. The heat was going to play a big roll in how the match was going to play out. It was already very warm when I arrived at the shop which was cloaked in a pretty thick summer mist. I remember thinking that I should make good use of the cooler conditions and get the flags and banners up quickly.

The new banners looked great, and I am very happy with how they look. With this all done, it was time to put the peg numbers out. Fourteen pegs, fourteen numbers. So why was it then that I had walked all the way to the end and had one spare? Was one of the pegs removed without me knowing? How was I going to tell the spare person that they or I wouldn’t be fishing? You have probably already guessed that I had missed the first peg and started in the second peg instead. That was two laps of the lake that I didn’t really need…

With the troops steadily arriving, we were still under the safety net of the mist. But it was still pretty warm already. I had already purchased the vouchers for the juniors earlier and, with the open match anglers doing a fair impression of the Whacky Races around Hillview, I thought this would be a good time to go and see Uncle John Candy about what we owed him for the lake. I have to say a big thanks to John because he was already cutting us a good deal for the juniors. But he trimmed a little more fat from the joint for us, for which I am extremely grateful.

Paying what we owe early lifts some of the stress from my shoulders and allows me to start to enjoy the day a bit more. This is even more fun when I can play highwayman and hold the parents to ransom for their match fees. There’s nothing like shaking our security jam jar at people first thing in the morning.

One of the anglers on Hillview was a gentleman by the name of Perry Stone. Perry is an outstanding angler and a really nice bloke as it turns out. I wandered over to him as he was setting up to see how he set up his keep net bar. (An old gazebo frame that would hold 11 keep nets!!!). Later as we were waiting for our stragglers, Perry came over and started to talk to me about how he would fish on Ash Lake. I called the juniors around to let them hear for themselves these pearls of wisdom from an angler wearing Fish’o’mania over trousers… Perry returned a short while later with a Maver cap that he’d been given only the week before when he fished the £50,000 ‘Match This’ final. I duly got him to sign it and promised to give it to the winning junior.

With all and sundry present and paid up except for Gentle John Bass, we did the draw because the sun had now dispensed with the mist, and we were feeling the full force of the weather.

The draw went as follows.

Pegs 1 & 2: Graham Howard & Kit Freeman Pegs 3 & 4: Jack Cryer & Richard Butler Pegs 5 & 6: Jerry Bracey & Oliver Smith Pegs 7 & 8: Austin Scott-Kennedy & Chris Ward Pegs 9 & 10: Si Wagner & Josiah Wells-Parkes Pegs 11 & 12: Harry Cryer & John Bass Pegs 13 & 14: Dave Copp & Jack Copp

Obviously because I was competing, I was not able get a big picture on what was going in the other pegs, But I will do my best to sum up the day…

There two moments from the day that are well worth mentioning. The first of these is the return of everyone’s favourite map reader, the one and only, Amy Scott. A car had dropped into her lap and so she was once again free to roam the countryside looking for fisheries for her son to fish at. This isn’t my second point, but we were all stunned that Amy had not only found Todber and, indeed Dorset, but that she was an hour early! Yes! An hour! No one was more stunned than I. The second point was that we found out that Harry Cryer has ears! Normally clad in a hoodie whatever the conditions, today was even too much for carnage to endure. Not only had he ears, but the whole package was supported by two of the thinnest legs in human history. I swear if he had held both his hands straight up, his body would spell the letter ‘H’. Fitting as it is obviously his first initial. I’m glad it wasn’t a breezy day because the wind through legs like that would make that low ghostly sound that wind chimes sometimes make, or maybe a blade of grass betwixt two thumbs…

We were joined by Richie Butler this year, mainly because Des Shipp had a prior engagement when Jack Cryer asked him to be his partner for the pairs match. I wish I was making that bit up!!! Most people in the local area know Rich and know how good he is when it comes to fishing. I knew how good he is before the match too. It was underlined 3 seconds into the match when he hooked his first of many fish and this was reinforced with venom throughout the match. He was gracious enough tell anyone who asked (including me) what he was doing and how he was doing it. But there was no catching him today. By the end, I felt ridiculous to have thought that I could.

This is where the innermost thoughts come into it. It was obvious that I had lost my edge, but I was shocked at by how much. My thought process was non-existent, my match plan was all wrong, and I was floundering around not really knowing what to do. The fish just vanished when the nets went it and it all felt wrong as soon as I had blown the whistle. I remembered last year that ‘The Copps’ had done well on the feeder from these pegs. But even that didn’t seem to produce anything. I was beating myself up because I felt that I had lead Kit down the wrong strategy. Kit was feeling bad because he thought that he’d drawn us rotten pegs. It was a miserable situation to find ourselves in and I did nothing to lift either of us. We were at Todber Manor with visions of me at least coming second in the senior section, and Kit just needing to do his best against the other juniors, neither of us were doing anything. I weighed us in first to get the embarrassment over early for both of us. I felt like I owed Kit an apology because he looked to me to get it right, and I had filled him with thoughts of glory. I didn’t and there wasn’t. I told him (and myself) that ’that was fishing and if it was easy, it would be called catching’. But I know that I’d got it wrong, and I’m sorry.

We finished with 13 points (GH 67:10, KF 25:08) and we were last in the match on weight. I think we both felt like we wanted to throw up, but it would get better as the weigh in went on.

Jack and Richard were next, and Mr B had trained his padawan well. Being a novice with a pole, Jack did exceptionally well on what was becoming evident as a tough day. The heat had made the fish reluctant to feed as well as they had in the previous weeks, plus the fact that he had a machine emptying the lake next to him. From here on the report gets a bit hazy because I couldn’t see any further than those two. Richard and Jack finished with 6 team points (RB 274:15, JC 65:05) which good enough for third on the day.

Jerry and the Aquaboy were next to trouble the scales, and I think Jerry was going through a similar mental torture as me. He was struggling for bites and was getting vapourised to his left, and his partner was struggling to his right.

Ollie had caught a few on the pellet waggler throughout the match, and Jerry just suck it out on the pole. They finished the day in the muddy end of the list with Kit and I finishing equal to us on points (13) but beating us on team weight. (JB 48:10, OS 58:05).

Camo and Captain Chris were up next. Austin became my most favourite junior because he’d brough me cake! I got a cry for help in the shape of a WhatsApp message saying that he’d spent 3 hours trying to tie his own hooks and only ended up with one good one before he ran out of line!!!

I feel that there may be some hook tying lessons around the corner, but kudos to him for trying... Chris seemed happy with his day because it marked the best match weight he’d ever had, something that I wanted to achieve today. Sadly for Austin, not having a clicker would be his undoing. As Dave lifted Austin’s second net out, his eyes crossed, his little legs buckled, and I’m positive a little bit of wee came out because this was a heavy net! Austin feared that he may have exceeded the net limit of 66lbs, and he was right. 67lbs 2ozs flashed up along with the ‘Err’ sign signalling that, for the first time ever, I would have to bring the rules into play against a competitor by knocking his net back to 50lbs. I really felt bad doing it, but rules is rules… Austin and Chris finished with 7 points and were fourth. (CW 82:14, ASK 111:01).

Si Wag (Master of Corrections) and his lordship were next up, and I’d heard from Jerry that they were catching well. When I saw all the keep nets lined up, I thought that either Jo had been careful with his fish counting or he had sacked up big time. It would be the second one! Josiah would end up as top Junior. With a match winning three points, Si and Jo would leave as the new Senior/Junior Pairs Match Champions. Well done both, and well-done Jo for a very special performance. (SW 112:12, JWP 179:07).

Whiskery Jon and Carnage were thrashing the water to a foam in the next two pegs, and there was talk of a Catfish temporarily residing in Jon’s keep net. We were all excited to see it because most of us had never seen one before. It almost became the star of the day as the shrimps all wanted their picture taken with it. Jon was chuffed because he’d never caught one before. I tried to think of some witty quips about ‘catching a Kitty’ but, for the life of me, I couldn’t think of any…

It wouldn’t count to his total, but that didn’t seem to matter. He was more concentrated on repeatedly informing me that he had beaten me! Something he had done in the past, but today seemed important to him… Talk about kicking someone when they’re down!!! He must have been thinking about that as he popped the Kitty back because he nearly fell in! The thought of losing a nation treasure like Jon was unbearable, regardless the spiteful banter… Harry had a decent day too and seem happy. If fishing didn’t work out for Harry, he would make a fine croquet hoop. It was nice to see his ears and the rest of his face too, and he’d had a good day’s fishing by the look of it. They finished with 9 team points. (JB 71:09, HC 82:06).

Last in the motley line up of ner’do wells was the father and son team of Dave and Jack Copp. Like me, they found themselves in pegs they drawn in the past. Unlike me they’d found a few fish! Dave was flagging more than me by this point and everyone else seemed to have lost interest in seeing loads of Carps flapping in a weigh sling. Jack was one of only five anglers (three junior, two senior) that would break into the hundreds, with Dave running to keep up with the ‘Wunderkind’… Between them they would catch enough to gain second place over all with 5 team points. (DC 87:14, JC 145:08).

As the weigh in progressed down the bank, my mood lifted because of the excellent performance of our juniors. Not only that, but the camaraderie that was evident between them. The quieter ones have found a voice amongst their peers, and true friendships have formed, and others have sustained the test of time. I was nice to hear Amy and Anna chatting together throughout the day too. I still felt bitterly disappointed and guilty for Kit but, on my way home, I realised just what it is that I do, and what I and my coaches have managed to create. I couldn’t help but feel extremely proud of all our juniors, and of the journey that they have been on so far. Our core group has swelled from three or four, to these seven. Seven kids that love fishing, and each other’s company.

I don’t really think it was that necessary to offer up Austin as a sacrifice to the fish Gods, but he threw himself in at the end with gusto. I would only give him a 2 marks for style, and a 1.5 for technical merit though.

I don’t know how the guys at Todber manage to weigh in the weights that they do, day after day. I was wasted from doing just fourteen! As usual, I was the first to arrive and the last to leave. As I got into the car with mixed emotions, I knew that I have the best job I have ever had, with some of the best people I have ever known, with the worst pay I have ever had. But I still wish that I’d started it all ten years earlier…

Thank you to John Candy and all the staff at Todber Manor for looking after us again today. What a fishery this is!

Thank you Perry Stone for taking the time to talk the Shrimps before his own match started, and for donating and signing his cap.

Thank you to Alan Winsper for the kind loan of his keep nets.

Our event is next weekend, Saturday the 16th of September, at Whitemoor for the next round of the junior championship (It feels like ages since we had a points match!).

Thank you to all participants today and, once again, my apologies to Kit Freeman… Take care and tight lines… Juniors Sec…

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