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Oh the endless mud! The Alan Hilton Memorial Match - Luckfield Lake - 02/02/24



Wednesday…sun, oh wait, more rain.


Friday…Ra…Ooo Hailstones! Then more rain…

Saturday…The hedgehog drinking bowl in the garden isn’t moving?

The sky is a strange colour. It’s not…grey? Is that? Is that blue sky?


That must mean…Good grief that’s the sun…

Yeah but wait…Look at the roof of the shed…It’s wet..

But the sun!

With semi-apocalyptic rain over night, I had already guessed that Luckfield was going to be a strange colour when I arrived. It was. I hadn’t seen that kind of colour since fishing the Thames during a monsoon back in the nineties, or a particularly nasty case of the ‘the quickly poops’ after a trip to a dodgy curry house in Luton. On both occasions, like today, it didn’t look right.

The first match of the season was supposed to be a river match, squeezed in before the end of the season. The rain had turned the rivers into bloated field fillers, and even Moses would find Silverlake a challenge at the moment.

Walking round the lake I soon realised that the pathways would be a mud bath in places, and some of the swims would be too dangerous to use because of the conditions. Consultation with the coaches would confirm this, and offending areas were omitted...

Our newest coach, Nigel, was the first to go down. Fortunately, only to his knees which is something that usually only happens at the end of a junior event as the realisation that you have made it through washes over you!

Today was the first match of the season and one that I decided would honour the memory of my angling hero, Alan Hilton.

Alan was my uncle, and it was he that gave me the passion for fishing that I have. A passion without which the junior section would probably not exist. So, the very fact that we were here to fish a match in his honour, was down to him. Alan told me stories of early misty mornings fishing for Bream on Tring reservoirs and catching chunky Roach from the river Great Ouse. He taught me names like Richard Walker, Fred J. Taylor, Billy Lane, and Peter Stone. All legends of our sport that are slowly being forgotten by the newer generation of anglers. I remember fondly the hours spent talking about fishing and endlessly looking at Alan’s handmade floats and split cane rods. Strangely, Alan’s trophy arrived shortly after I got home after the match had finished, and it’s a beauty!

Before the event got underway, I commandeered the first five juniors on site to help me with a promotional picture with our new poles and rollers. The funds were given to us from a grant from the Angling Trust/Environment Agency that uses some of the money from rod licence fees to plough back into grass roots projects like ours. We have been very lucky and would have struggled more without this kind of help. My gratitude goes out to all those involved and to everyone that bought a licence to make it happen.

We had a slightly diminished field of seven juniors fishing today, which was just as well because of the conditions. One or two have had to drop out because of us withdrawing the ‘Drop Off’ option initially offered to parents that threw up more safeguarding red flags than we were comfortable with.

Its a sign of the times that things we used to take for granted when I was a junior, are no longer viable today. As I have said before, safety for everyone is paramount.

Your seven Shrimps for today were:

Ollie Smith (Aquaboy/The Haemorrhoid).

Jack Copp (Twiglet)

Harry Cryer (Carnage)

Jack Cryer (T’other Jack)

Alec Campbell (The quiet one)

Austin Scott-Kennedy (Rambo)

Kenzie Toulson (Slow Hand)

Your rampage of coaches (The correct collective noun for a group of eight or more angling coaches) today were:

Graham Howard – Foghorn Leghorn

Jerry Bracey – Tasmanian Devil

Si Wagner – Daffy Duck

Tim Broughton – Yogi Bear

Chris Ward – Boo Boo

Jon Bass – Elmer Fudd

Nigel Kemp - Wiley Coyote

Peg One:

Alec Campbell:

Alec arrived at peg one relieved by the fact that he did not have to wade through swamps of mud to get to his swim! A luxury that was not afforded to some. Ever attentive dad Ian was present to give Alec some support on a bright but still quite cold day. The waggler was going to be the main attack for Alec today and it almost paid off for him too.Alec has developed a unique casting style that, on observation, may need to be dialled back just a touch. There definitely some frustrations being taken out on that poor little float today as it was repeatedly thrashed out into the lake with some venom it has to be said. Woe betides anyone unlucky enough to be walking behind when another hardcore cast was being executed. I’m surprised and quite thankful that I was given consideration when I plonked myself down directly behind him thinking I was out of the way. How wrong was I? Had Alec not asked me to move, I feel sure I would have cleared the treeline behind peg nine, landing only when I had reached West Knighton…I exaggerate, of course, and Alec did give fair warning to those passing by, or at least Ian gave them a shout to take cover just in time.A good day for Alec who succumbed to the cold a few minutes from the end. Did that slightly early finish cost him a podium though? Alec weighed 4lbs 11ozs, just three ounces from third place!

One more fish… Alec is still a little shy of the camera at the moment. But I do have a book running on many more pictures of his dad that he can stand before Alec himself gets in front of the lens. Well done Alec, good job…

Peg Two:

Oliver Smith:

Ollie was doing his best to festoon me with excuses as to why his peg resembled an explosion in a scaffolding factory before the start. I wasn’t that bothered because you only really get organised just before you sit down to start plumbing up. But I enjoyed watching him panic none-the-less.Peg two was a good draw for Ollie today and he fished it well. His feeding was sometimes a little hit and miss, but so is mine with the weaker hand sometimes, and practice will make it better. I think Ollie had the correct feeding regime today too, little and often would have been my preferred way to go, and so it proved at the end. Anna was sporting the latest in highly flammable heated Gillets from China. Available with its own fire extinguisher, the Gillet was liable to go up at any moment but, bless her she was toastie for now.Incidentally, and unlike some of the rubbish in these blogs this is completely true, Anna has expressed the desire to get some of the mum’s together to do a fund-raising calendar for the juniors. It’s an inspired idea and one that I am fully committed to. I don’t know what category the calendar will fall into, I’m just glad it wasn’t one of the coaches that suggested it! Anna has already ‘Bagsied’ December, but all other months are open for reservation. If anyone would like to volunteer their time to help Anna in bringing this superbly generous project to fruition, let me know and I’ll pass on your details to her. Ollie had bagged a 2lb Tench which helped him a lot, but he still would have won even without it. He finished the day with 9lbs 2ozs, the Alan Hilton Cup, a £15 voucher for Alan’s Angling, and 25 sweet points for a match win.

Congratulations El Capitano…

Peg Three:

Austin Scott-Kennedy:

Now I’m going to type this very slowly because I know some of you won’t believe this…Amy was early…Yes, you did read that correctly, and no, you are not have a seizure. She arrived way ahead of time.I don’t know when she started out, may be the day before? She even confessed to getting lost on the way but, here she was. Looking resplendent in the morning sunshine. Austin was the first of the ‘Mud-bound Anglers’ because, from here onwards, it got proper nasty…At one point I swear I saw a regiment of the Lancashire Fusiliers on their way to ‘the front line’, such were the conditions… But it wasn’t too bad where Austin was to be fair.Austin’s pole had suffered a second boo boo after being stood perfectly motionless over the winter. They either had a destructive poltergeist, or someone in the family had Uri Gellar like abilities over carbon fibre. Either way, another one of the sections of his pole had been cleft in twain rendering it unusable.He had asked to borrow a pole for the day, and one was selected at random. It shuffled forward like a naughty schoolboy taking one for the team when it wasn’t even they who put the drawing pin on teachers chair. Austin was informed that he would incur the wrath of a slightly sleep deprived Jerry if anything were to happen to it.He wasn’t under threat from Jerry, but he did get growled at by me for swinging in a Roach way too big to be swung anywhere. I promised I would rub his nose in it if he did that again. Then went away to reflect on my choice of reprimanding threats. Amy’s slight silhouette and her bright red hat caused me to use extreme resistance to a basic urge to rub her head against something rough. I desperately wanted to see if her hat would light up like a Swan Vesta match, but I didn’t and I’m proud of myself for that…Austin fell slightly short of where I thought he might finish after weighing in 3lbs 4ozs. I believed the peg to be worth more than that. It might have been because, as usual, the bait was going in like it was summertime, and I think the fish had just had enough. It won’t be long now when this kind of feeding will start to work again, just not yet…

Peg Four:

Jack Copp:

Looking every bit the pro in his new shades, Jack was fishing well catching some decent Roach. Although not what would be regarded as a specimen, we did weigh one of them at 14ozs. A nice fish in anyone’s book.With the extra hour of fishing that this year’s junior matches have, Jack seemed a little more relaxed than I observed from him last year. I think he fishes more efficiently when he takes his foot oof the gas a little more and does not try to force things too much. Since the beginning of last year, there seems to be much more method going into Jack’s sessions. By that I mean that he is doing things with purpose rather than optimistic exploration. You can have all the flashy gear you want, but if you don’t know why you’re using it the way you are, you’re just a guy with flashy gear. (Sounds familiar!)Jack was switching lines, trying to find some more bites, and resting lines that he had exploited already. All of which helped him to grab a third-place finish from the hands of Alec on peg one.

Weighing in 4lb 14ozs made his ‘non-specimen Roach’ a pretty important fish in the end!

Peg five:

Harry Cryer:

We were now deep into the mud-zone now and Harry’s peg was almost fully submerged in places. It was safe enough though and would be getting some much-needed attention in the coming days.Harry is quite a laid-back angler to watch. It could be that he likes fishing the margins for the larger specimens that can be found there, or there may be a resistance to any kind of casting effort. It might be the latter because when the rod was swung in anger, the fish were far safer than the squirrels in the trees!Like most kids, Harry puts holding one of the four hundred sandwiches that I swear I saw him consume over the duration of the event over holding his rod and waiting for bites. Harry had, without doubt, the warmest peg on the day. Something that had not escaped Anna’s notice from quite early on. The heated Gillet took the edge off her wrath and saved the boy from some pretty hard stares throughout the day. I thought that this warmth would mean that Harry’s left- hand margin would, quite literally, be a hot spot today, but I was wrong.Harry scraped only 2lbs of fish today, which still earns him 12 points for the championship.

Peg Seven:

Jack Cryer:

Peg seven was tricky to say the least. The mud was all around him, Jack managed to stay quite clean despite this. The other advantage that he had was the fact that he was the only angler on that bank of the lake, even though he was restricted by the aerator rope. Jack fished well with a pole today, a method that he working to improve on. Nice Bloke Tim spent most of the day with Jack and I think he benefitted from that. I took over for a brief stint at one point but, by then, Jack was in his groove and getting bites regularly. He struck at one bite and that familiar sight of resistance on his elastic signalled the arrival of a better fish. Instead of the elastic pulling the smaller sized fish up through the water as had been happening, the elastic stretched away into the water. Jack carefully shipped back his pole to the top kit and removed it. Some of the fish are very big in Luckfield and very wise old warriors they are too. I think the fish knew where they were and made straight for the tree to Jack’s left. Lack of experience lead Jack to react a little late with the side pressure and despite a large arm full of side-pulled elastic, the fish made it to the brambles. Gentle manoeuvring with the landing net proved that the fish had indeed spat the hook and was lost.I have no idea how big the fish was because didn’t see it. But I am willing to bet that Jack could happily have packed his gear away and relaxed for the rest of the match and still won.

Even without the ‘lost monster’, Jack had accumulated enough Tim coached fish to give him 5lbs 12ozs at the end, and his reward was a £10 voucher for second place overall.

Nice work Jack!

Peg Ten:

Kenzie Toulson:

Kenz had been given peg ten today and would be ok if he didn’t ‘Torville and Dean’ his way into the deep right at the start on the slippery wooden platform. Ten is a great peg on its day and can throw up some decent fish too.Bream can be found in numbers as can Tench and, of course, Carp.Kenzie only has a telescopic whip, which is great at full length. But try to use it like a regular pole and they can be a nightmare. Ten has long margins too that can be good for long pole tactics, but there is no room behind the peg for long pole tactics. Indeed, until recently, you literally sat on the path to fish.I watched Kenzie for a while and there were fish there. But bites were hard enough to hit with having a ‘Slow hand’ with which to hit them. Kenzie is still a novice angler despite the steps he has made since joining us. This lack of experience when it comes to a crisp reaction time to a bite might be an area for him to work on. The float was dipping and diving a lot of the time, but whether it was down to reflexes or concentration, a vast amount of these bites went un-hit. The whip is angling’s version of a sharpshooter. Speed fishing at it’s finest. You need to be very much ‘on it’ to get the best out of it. Kenzie can do it I’m sure, but he just needs to work on it.If you ever stop learning stuff about fishing, then I suggest you contact your doctor because I fear it may be too late!2lbs 11ozs kept Kenzie off the bottom of the pile. Bring him back in a year’s time, same peg, same conditions? I’ll wager that Kenzie will double. Triple, or even quadruple that score…Keep it up Kenz…

Congrats to Ollie on his win today, thoroughly deserved. For the rest it was quite tight, proving that a small improvement in skills and concentration, and you can make the effort work in your favour.

Tricky conditions made the day messy and, on occasions, a bit dicey.

Your lead coach nearly came a cropper at the end himself. All in front of some very ‘concerned’ faces. Maybe I mistook the concern for disappointment that I hadn’t taken the early bath…

Because I am an airhead/doughnut, when I got home, I realised that I had left a banner outside the store at the lake. It was a nice day, so I returned to find that I was right. I gathered the bits and was suddenly aware of a splash from the lake. I looked to see a large black Cormoran ‘necking’ a Carp of about 1.5lbs as its dinner. It was as unbelievable as it was shocking. Less than 40 minutes after leaving the lake, the ‘Black death’ had turned the place into an all you can eat buffet. My initial reaction was to scream a string of hideous words that I’d learned from years on building sites. Words that make nuns weep and certain not becoming of a junior coach. But there were no juniors or anyone else here, and I had to do something because the feathery Carp killer was unphased by my unsavoury verbal tirade. I picked up a couple of stones…

At this point I would love to be able to inform you that I skilfully dispatched the intruder with a single, painless blow made possible by pinpoint accuracy.

But, I didn’t…

The missile did land about three feet from the assassin, enough to make him vomit up the fish (Who, it has to be said, was making it very difficult to allow the bird to swallow it, and who can blame it?), and the Cormorant took to the wing beat a hasty retreat lest I find some actual accuracy with the second stone…

Oh, you naughty, naughty bird I thought as I left the lake, wondering if I had done enough to dissuade the unwelcome dining guest in the future…

Experience tells me not…


Thank you very much to all our amazing coaches today.

Jerry, Jon, Tim, Si, Chris, and Nigel…

Our next event is on the 16th of March for a coaching session at Chester’s Lake at Whitemoor.

Fees for this event will be £10.

Start 10:00, Finish 15:00.

The subjects for coaching will be set up and organisation of equipment. We might take a look at how to look after your rods and poles including bits and pieces that will stop breakages.

Please reserve Saturday The 6th of April for the annual AGM meeting and prize giving evening held at the Weymouth Angling Club headquarters. It would be lovely if juniors could come and help celebrate the success of those collecting prizes even if they are not receiving any themselves.

On to the next!

Juniors Sec...

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