The alarm didn't even get a chance to scare the be-jeysus out of me this morning. Because I was up and at 'em at an ungodly 4.55am. Such was the heightened anticipation of participating in our first Senior/ Junior pairs match. Even the cat was blinking at me through sleep filled eyes, wondering what the hell I was doing up at this time of the morning...
But, before I get the meat and gravy of the whole thing, there was a regular face missing from the usual line up of lunatics that normally frequent our junior events.
Earlier on in the week, I was made aware of the distressing news that our lake bottom inspector, Ollie 'Aquaboy' Smith, had tested positive for the dreaded Covid lurgy. A sickening blow to what should have been a great day for him. No Ollie, of course, meant no Cheerleader either. Who was Dave going to rip the mickey out of now? Although they were both sorely missed, I am please to report that Ollie is alive and well, and driving Anna to drink at the mere thought of having her chosen one cooped up for ten whole days without fishing... I have since heard rumours that Aquaboy Ollie was going to dress up in his normal fishing clothing, run a cold bath, and repeatedly throw himself into it, just so he did not feel too left out of the days proceedings. Anna was going to play her usual roll of throwing herself completely behind what it is that Ollie has set his mind to do. I've heard also that she was going to look in to a mirror and pretend to look insulted by something that I, or Dave Copp has just said. I'm not sure if I even dare repeat Dave's comment about wrinkles and my five year plan for the juniors. All of us fishing today wish Ollie a speedy recovery and a swift return to his fishing family.
So, ablutions done, Car loaded, toast pushed down my throat washed down with a black coffee, and we were ready to go. Taking spare nets for the Shrimps, just in case a bonanza day turned up, meant that my car was bulging with gear. Never before has so much gear been loaded into the car, without someone else travelling with me. I could sense some of the keep nets were excited to be going out for a session again after so long in temporary retirement. It was about time too because some of them smelled like the back of your grandmas 'bits and pieces' drawer, musty and wizened. The newly revised teams looked something like this, Team Quietly Confident (Faith Stone and some fat bloke called Graham) Team Call the Copps (Jack & Dave Copp)
The Puddletown Massive (Jerry Bracey & Sofia Altuzarra) Team Mud Monster (Jake Taylor & Si Wagner) The Colombian Hit Squad (Joseph & Carlos Altuzarra) Team Cow Shed Delivery (Max Faulkner & Chris Ward)
Team Lightning strike (Tim Broughton & Thomas Millard....or was it?)
A full ash lake looked mouth wateringly inviting. Fish were everywhere! Leaping and throwing themselves around. The senior Mud Monster and I held up score boards to mark the fish for both technical difficulty and artistic interpretation. Although I don't think they noticed, or cared much...
I'm going to award myself the much coveted 'Donut of the day' award for the following reason.
Waiting for everyone to arrive, I had positioned myself with a commanding view of the car park. Having paid the pegging fees up front, I was determined to recoup the deficit as swiftly as possible. So, as each participant arrived, I leapt on them like a kitten on a catnip binge. Shaking each one down before they got the chance to fritter their money away in John Candy's excellently stocked shop. One of those participants was, for me at least, unexpected. Carter had arrived with mum Becky. My initial though was, 'What the hell are they doing here?'. After all, Tim was with Thomas... Right?
Nope.... Ever smiling, Becky reminded me of the conversation that had taken place only a fortnight earlier with Teresa, about Thomas not being able to make it for Todber. Obviously, my brain had stored this information on one of the heavily dust laden shelves in a cobweb strewn areas in my memory, just next to 'What's my name' and 'it's recycling this Tuesday, not rubbish'. There really is no way out of situations like this, and no amount of 'Ah yes, I remember now' can save you from eating a big old slice of humble pie...
Nothing makes you feel as welcome as someone walking up to you and saying 'Hi, what are you doing here?'... I took her money and we said no more about it...
Si had been doing some homework with regards to the 'Mud Monster Legacy', and turned up with a sign to denote their presence on the lake. Jake had been down to fish alongside his father for this event. A lovely gesture from a loving son to his dear old dad. Glenn repaid this honour by bailing out at the earliest opportunity choosing, instead, to defer to Si Wag. Mind you, I've seen Glenn fish and Jake my have dodged a bullet!
Max and James Faulkner arrived in the car park like a getaway driver being chased down by the fuzz. James is a laid back kinda guy, but he was looking slightly flustered. Apparently, he and Max had had to unload all the fishing gear to get at the spare tyre. James some how found a way to blame me for having an event at a venue where there is a distinct puncture risk...
The pre-match talky bit is a time limited affair. It usually governed by how long it takes for the eyes of the assembled crowd to completely glaze over, or I receive threatening growls from Jerry, who usually wants to get home to watch the rugby.
Pegs drawn everyone headed off to their peg for the day. Myself and, She who wishes to be known only as 'Fred Dumbass' from here on in, for reasons that are lost on me, were on peg 1.
Now, Faith has only fished with a long pole twice in her life, today being the second. I watched her closely and, with minimal input from Mum or Step-dad, she fished it with aplomb. I loved watching the smile on her face when the elastic streamed out of the tip of the pole. She finished with a whopping 61lbs. A new personal best for her and a new 4 hour Junior match record, which previously stood at 56lbs.
I must confess to being slightly under whelmed by my own weight of 94lb 8ozs, purely because of the fish we had caught in practice. But it is what it is and we finished with a combined weight of 155lbs 8ozs and a perfect pairs score of 2 points.
On pairs peg 2 was the Colombian Hit Squad consisting of Carlos, the only Colombian in history to find his home country 'a bit too warm', and the boy wonder, Joseph. I could see them from a short distance away and they seemed to be fishing in a sort organised chaos that, for Joseph, I have become familiar with. For reasons that are only known to them both, they decided to mix and match their fish in to which ever keep net was closest at the time of landing the fish. This threw my idea of a default points system out of the window. Every session is a learning curve for these guys, and every time they come to fish with us, they seem to learn a little more. They both have an abundance of the one thing that money can not buy, enthusiasm. They had a smattering of silvers and a few Carp for just over 15lb and enjoyed their days fishing.
Carlos has a wicked sense of humour that I, in particular, enjoy.
During the weigh in, I trust the clipboard, weigh sheet and pen at Becky and asked her if she could write and add up ok? She replied that she could write just fine, but adding up a 16 times table under pressure might be a trifle problematic. Step in Sofia, with her numerical brain which has saved my bacon before. During the weighing in process, I overheard Becky and Carlos talking about how fast Sofia could add up for her age. Becky asked why Carlos wasn't recording the results instead? Carlos explained that, because he was Colombian, there was a distinct chance of some of the numbers being changed to gain himself, or his kids, an advantage. If they didn't win, there was a very good chance of someone getting seriously hurt when they were least expecting it.....Hit Squad style.... I love it when people take their given nicknames with sense of humour in which they were intended...
Next in line of happy campers, was a pair formerly known as Team Lightning Strike. But whom I am going to officially rename, Team Camouflage.
I could see Tim catching quite well at times, and I heard rumbles about Carter netting a belter about halfway through. Tim is very patient with the Shrimps and Carter was on form, enjoying his fishing.
Now I didn't get a chance to go and see the others once the match had started, so I missed out on the funnier events that usually occur with our Juniors. Fortunately Becky decided to relive one such amusing mishap to me personally. So here it is.... Carter is a newer member of the group and, it's fair to say, has a bigger challenge than others. He picks new skills up at his own pace, something we have recognised and are getting used to. The story goes that a couple of his casts had not quite been up to the standard required to make the distance to the far side. Becky displayed what I can only imagine as a case of ambition superseding ability. Before she knew what was going on, the words 'Let mum try' had tumbled from her lips and the rod was handed over. Hopefully, remembering most of what she had heard me saying to Carter in past sessions, Becky lined everything up for 'the big one'.
I did have a look in my notes when I got home, just in case I had got it wrong. But, I'm relieved to say that, trying to remove your own hat with a needle sharp, chemically etched hook at 65mph, wasn't one of them.
I don't know if the hat ended up in the water, or even if she got it back? What I do know is that the woolly hat in the photographs, doesn't look the same the one she was wearing when she was telling me about it. Extra kudos points for bring a spare winter hat in case of casting errors.
So why Team Camouflage? Well at the end of each session, I like to get catch or trophy pictures for the blog, and the galleries on the website. Tim thought that I was joking when I asked him for a photo, and promptly threw the fish back into the lake! He did manage just shy of 50lb of fish, so it wasn't exactly an embarrassing net. No fishy piccy for Tim.... Carter decided he simply wasn't looking his best and that today was not a camera day.
We all feel like that from time to time.... I'm very proud of Carter, he too created a new personal best for himself. Here is a couple of reprobates holding the only evidence of the fact that Team Camouflage caught anything at all!
As it turns out, they were a bit unlucky too. Just one more 9oz fish would have given them forth place overall. A great effort from both however, Well done.
Our meander down the bank brings us to the dirtiest area of any lake, Team Mud Monster. I can only imagine the disappointment that must have washed over Jake when he woke to a rain free day. There was enough mud about to keep him happy if he looked hard enough through. Si Wag is an accomplished angler and, things may have been different if I had not have caught a lumpy bonus Carp at the end. They make a great team with Si's experience and Jakes willingness to learn new skills. Jake had a distinct advantage today, because he had remembered his glasses this time. They fished hard and had some much bigger fish than I did. Weighing in with an impressive 132lbs 14ozs and a points score of just 5, they secured themselves second place with a new PB match weight for Jake of 37lbs 4ozs. Good job, well executed...
The Puddletown Massive was next, with the aforementioned change to the starting line up. I know Sofia isn't keen or confident in match situations and that's fair enough. It isn't everyone's cup of tea, but at least she had 'Jezza' as a team mate. A man with a bigger variety of tackle that the Todber shop itself.
It was great to see Sofia back. Her no nonsense attitude is quite cute, and she certainly keeps Carlos in check! They could have been called 'Team Chalk and Cheese' really, because Sofia had been away for a little while, whilst Jerry had been thrashing the water to a foam, getting practice information for this, and other events. I did get slightly concerned about our little lady at one point however. Lydia drew my attention to the fact that Sofia was sitting in the car on her own.
I called down to Carlos to see if she was ok?
Carlos said that she was fine, and just having some lunch. It must have been some lunch! she was gone for over half an hour! If she reads this, this is an order for one of Lucy Altuzarras finest quality lunch boxes, please? If it kept someone away for fishing, in a match, with a partner, it must be one heck of a banquet... Probably a hog roast with all the trimmings, 14 different courses, silver platter service and a butler... No wonder she disappeared for so long! I know Jerry was pretty miffed that the lake did not seem to perform as well as we expected, or at least hoped that it would. I was sure that we may have seen our first Junior ton. But it was not to be. At least Sofia's pretty smile made the day worth while...
Pairs peg 6 was home to Team Cow Shed Delivery. Which a far funnier name in my head, than it was when I told everyone... (Cue tumbleweeds) Max had not been around for a while because his dad, James, selfishly has to work for a living... It was good to see them back however, despite the professional moaning about a puncture.
Max has come on a lot since we first met him and todays result was right up there with his best performance. Last time he was at Todber, on Whitepost lake, Max had a nightmare. Getting battered off the next by Jack Copp, and struggling to get any bites.
Today he made up for it by weighing in an impressive 50lbs 4ozs, and the only Junior on the day to beat his partner! (Sorry Chris!), Max and the Captain managed a good weight together and I guess this where I need to admit my biggest mistake for the day...
Organising and running these events is bad enough. But when you are fishing in them as well, with everyone looking to you for help, advice and directions, it can get a bit overwhelming. I outsource jobs to make sure that I don't have a nervous breakdown (again). Yesterday, I did not check the weighing sheets at all and, as much as I genuinely appreciate any help I get, two of the weights had not been added together. A mistake that I only discovered whilst writing this blog. Max and Chris had accumulated 86lbs 14ozs between them, beating Dave and Jack to third place. But the Copps got the medals on the day. My apologies to everyone involved. I know no one died or anything serious like that but, I hate making mistakes and I'm never to proud to admit my errors.
So, on to our pseudo third place pair, Team Call the Copps... Pegged at the far end of the lake. With a different wind, I would have been really worried with these two on a warm wind in those pegs. But the day dealt us a cold wind. Advantage Team Quietly Confident... Cold wind or not, these two were on it from the start, on a day that was difficult for non-regular anglers to the venue. The jungle drums were beating on the bank that they had both started well. But like everyone else, when the wind got up, it became a cold struggle and they were disappointed to catch what they did. But 82lb is a decent weight.
So, there we have it. Our first Senior/Junior Pairs Match. What would I do different? Well I'd make sure that I get all the boxes ticked and we will probably look to come back a little earlier next year Then the fireworks will really happen and we will see some truly impressive weights. Maybe even that long awaited magical 100lbs for one or some of our Juniors.
The revised, updated and official results are as follows;
1st place with 155lbs 8ozs and 2 pairs points, Team Quietly Confident, Faith Stone and Graham Howard. 2nd place with 132lbs 14ozs and 5 pairs points, Team Mud Monster, Jake Taylor and Si Wagner. 3rd place with 86lbs 14ozs and 8 pairs points, Team Cow Shed Delivery, Max Faulkner and Chris Ward. Honorary mention must go to Team Call the Copps, Jack & Dave Copp, with 82lbs 12ozs and 8 pairs points.
Todber Manor is one of Britain's most premier fisheries. If you have not been there yet, then GO. Superb fishing, fantastic facilities, amazing shop and, above all else, friendly and helpful staff. Thank you so much to John Candy and his staff for making us feel so very welcome and for the kind and very generous donation of vouchers for our Juniors. Thank you to our coaches and parents who continue to help DDAS Juniors grow year on year. As usual, last thanks go to our Juniors, who make our coaches job so challenging and satisfying.
I am so proud of my partner Faith (Fred Dumbass), she has had virtually no experience of pole fishing and fished it like a pro today.
For myself, I thoroughly enjoyed fishing with my Shrimps for the first time and in the future, I will try to better. But, in the end, the day belongs to Team Quietly Confident.