So here it is, Merry Christmas (Match) 4/12/21 Todber Manor Hillview lake.


I can't remember being quite this stressed about a Junior match since we began 3 years ago. But with 16 shrimps booked in to fish, the stakes were high to get things right. Jerry Christmas (new seasonal nickname for Sgt. Bracey) and I puzzled long and hard about who should have what and who needed this or that. Ultimately we drilled ourselves into a deep and confusing hole trying to work it out. So we decided to just keep it simple and allocate prizes to finishing positions. We eventually sorted it out and I have to say a huge thank you Jerry for his continuing support to make the Juniors a success on this and many other subjects.

As I left Jerry did say that he would be popping round to Château Howard in the morning (Friday) I nodded, slightly confused, and just went along with it... I labelled the bits and pieces accordingly the following morning with labels and numbers as Jerry arrived with a box under his arm. I greeted him in the usual manner (Baring a left buttock, pulling my right lower eye lid down, and exposing no more than an inch of tongue from betwixt tightened lips) and looked questioningly at the box. Jerry went on to say that he was going to talk to the parents, had not got round to it and decided to by me a Crimble present anyway... The box contained a Preston Innovations Deluxe Pole Roost. Something that I'd mentioned to him in conversation only a few weeks earlier... Stunned, I adopted the look of a Guppy fish at feeding time. Wide eyed, opened mouthed, and speechless... Jerry said that I had done so much for the shrimps this year that I deserved something in return. Obviously I thanked him until my eyes bled and made a mental note to talk about a new Daiwa Air Z pole more often... Much appreciated in all seriousness, Thank you mate... Car fuelled, packed, and with the thought of cleaning it firmly pushed to the back of my mind (It's the thought that counts). I received the distressing news that our very own Mud Monster was unable to attend the match. This was gutting news because Jake and Glenn definitely deserved to be at this last match of the season...

I excitedly slipped into a deep sleep that night, dreaming of prizes, happy anglers, rainbow coloured ponies.


I was up to kick the Cockerel in the morning (early) having been woken/scared into consciousness by my mind buzzing with the excitement of the coming day. The journey to Todber was a delightful trip with the watery sunshine of an early winters morn. Upon my arrival at Todber, I found the car park full of anglers milling around with coffee and bacon rolls hanging from their faces. It turns out that there was not only the regular open match clientele, but also some tent anglers that were going to spend the night out in these cold conditions... I'll just leave that there for you to digest for a moment...

The bliss of the journey was soon sobered by simply opening the car door to the icy breeze that was forecast for the day. All thoughts of doing anything without copious layers of clothes evaporated instantly and I got fully waterproofed up...


With the equipment set up and now sweating like a Dog in a Cats only night club, I awaited the arrival of the troops.

The night before, Trudie had inserted the idea into my mind that it might be nice to bring some festive mince pies for everyone to munch on when they arrived. She is usually right so, in my divine wisdom, I had toddled off to the local shop and bought SEVEN BOXES! Yep, 42 mince pies.... What was I thinking??? It's a good job the Red Fox was there to save the day. You just stand on his foot and his mouth opens like a pedal bin. Many pies disappeared down there and yet he still has the body of a Greek statue. It makes me sick....

I'm sure I'll shift the rest somehow. How was I to know that most people don't seem to like mince pies?

Weirdos.

With everyone now present, (Max and mum arrived panting as if they pushed the car there physically because James had told them it was a 10 o'clock draw, and Becky and Carter came into the car park on fire being slightly late) The Fox and I proceeded with the draw.

Just one quick word on the lovely Becks... I had dubbed her 'Black Country Becky'. But it seems that calling her that coming from where she does, is a bit like calling a Scotsman Welsh or a Lancastrian a Yorkshireman. She told me in her usual polite and calm way, but there was a threatening glint in her eye that has persuaded me to now have her known as 'Birminggam Becky'. Not a spelling error (Simon!), say it in your head a few times and you'll get it....


The draw went as follows: (Using the permanent pegs at Todber)

Peg 54: His Lordship, Jo Wells-Parkes

Peg 55: The Meat, Joseph Altuzarra

Peg 56: Mr Messy, Josh Roe

Peg 57: Lewis Softley

Peg 58: Lightning, Thomas Millard

Peg 59: Former Champ, Theo Cox

Peg 60: Numb Knees, Noah Holding

Peg 61: Twiglet, Jack Copp

Peg 34: Aquaboy (Champion Elect), Ollie Smith

Peg 35: Tommy Rees (No show)

Peg 36: Jack Grassby

Peg 37: Carter Lynock

Peg 38: Don't call me Fred anymore, Faith Stone

Peg 39: Farmer Falkner, Max Faulkner

Peg 40: Little Princess, Sofia Altuzarra


It was already breezy when I arrived at 8.30, and I knew the wind was only going to get stronger through the day with a chance of rain towards the end. Already from pegs 34 to 40 the WNW wind was making it's presence felt, making Master Grassby shake with cold and Sofia on the end peg was in the teeth of it. I felt cold just looking at her...

By contrast, and with the exception of Jo on 54, the sunblock and shorts brigade on the Ash bank had the wind to their backs and it felt 5 degrees warmer round there. Surely the fish would be on the back of a wind this cold, right?

I only got to spend a few minutes with his Lordship on 54 and it was cold there. But end peg Charlie had lots of water to shoot at and he made the most of it too. I witnessed some very competent casting during the time I spent with him. Under the watchful eye of his Dad, Josiah managed a brilliantly executed 2nd place on the day with 19lbs 9ozs. Well done young man and congratulations...


The Meat (Joseph) was being looked after by Nice Bloke Tim who underlined his nickname by surrendering his jacket to the lad despite the biting wind. My suggestion to Joseph to avoid feeling cold when fishing in December is to NOT WEAR RUDDY SHORTS and let poor Tim keep his coat on! In all seriousness Joseph fished a tidy match and Tim told me his was doing a lot for himself too. Good job for a well earned 15lbs 12ozs 12drms.


Mr Messy was next up and Josh seemed to be paying tribute to the absent Mud Monster by turning his swim in to a complete swamp! His has a lot to learn from Jake though because Josh didn't want to get his knees dirty for the photograph until threaten with personal violence (Joke). Had Jake had been in there he would have been up to his eye balls in it like a true pro... Josh sat with his Dad, who Josh blamed for losing a Carp mid match, and I quote, 'Not being fast enough with the net' was committed to the day. He managed just one Carp for 3lbs 10ozs 12drms on a cold and difficult day. Well done Kiddo...


Now, Lewis is definitely one to watch. I put him with match supremo, Steve Crowford, for the day to bring on his still emerging pole skills. Steve, who must have in real physical pain at not being able to fish bread all day (We call him Mr Warburtons!), gave Lewis a master class in pole techniques and, at one point, was sat behind Lewis brandishing a spare top kit in case Lewis waivered from the instructional path. Bringing him back with a swift elastic whip to a cold ear lobe. At least that's how it looked to me anyway and we know how my mind functions... Lewis ended the day with a respectable 14lbs 3ozs 4drms. I've no doubt he learned a lot from Steve today. My personal thanks to Mr Warburtons for generously spending some time with Lewis today.


The sparks were flying in the lightning peg as Thomas and Jon Bass fished together in an epic clash of personalities. Softly spoken Jon who gets things done in a quiet and calm manner, and Thomas, who is an explosion of lit up energy from the moment he wakes, until his batteries run out. I am finding Thomas increasingly amusing as I get to know him. Comments like 'That was your fault I lost that fish because your presence put me off' or 'That fish was lost because your Santa hat was too bright!' and my personal favourite, 'That fish came off because of your face!'... Obviously it had nothing do with the fact that he was pumping the fish like his life depended on it, with a Carp rod that could cast to the horizon...

At one point Jon's eyes had glazed over completely because I'm sure that he has never tied that many hooks in such a short period of time before. It's frustrating because he was clearly on some fish on a day when bites were difficult to find. But, do you know what? He was enthusiastically enjoying himself and you can't buy that anywhere. Thomas finished with14lbs 4ozs 8drms... Good job Lightning.


Our tallest Junior dusted off his fishing tackle to make an appearance today and it's always good to see Theo at our Junior events. Unfortunately for him the numbers were not kind and, on a day that the fish seemed to be shoaled up very tightly, he found himself between the islands in open water. This may have made a difference because, try as he might, the former Champ just could not get the fish to feed anywhere. I did see him hook into something towards the end, but it took his hook link and left him a little crest fallen. But he wasn't the only one with a dry net at the end...


Newly Christened 'Numb Knees', Noah Holding, had The Captain for company today and it seemed to pay off too. Noah did complain of cold hands and feet towards the end, but he'll get no sympathy from me. Noah, like Joseph, is another lunatic who likes wearing shorts in three degrees of temperature. So complaints of being cold fall on my tinnitus ridden deaf ears I'm afraid... Just to explain the fist in the photographs? Noah normally sticks his tongue out for photos, so I'd threatened to wrap it round his neck as a scarf if I saw it pop out. Pure japery, of course, it would snap off before any kind of scarf could be made... Having said all that he did manage to cobble together a good weight, Good enough, in fact, for a medal position at the end. Weighing in a fine 17lbs, Noah popped himself into 3rd place on the day. Well done you loon!


Old Twiggers was next up and Jack was lucky to scrape just one fish from an area of the lake that had started to feel the effects of the wind more. He did spend most of the day wandering around the lake however, and no one was fooled by Dave's poor impression of his son fishing on his seat box. One solitary Bream was all Jack had to show for his solid one hour and 15 minutes of fishing... But worse news was rumbling from the next peg...


Newly crowned Champion, Ollie, was brimming with confidence at the start and Anna had the Pom poms ready to celebrate another victory for team Aquaboy. After an hour, however, the stress was getting to him and I knew he was in trouble when Anna started searching desperately for help. I knew that the Red Fox had hit on the winning tactics and I promised not to say anything to anyone.

So I immediately headed down to Ollie to fill him on exactly what to do. This was immediately put into action by Anna as the main attraction sat glued to his motionless quiver tip. My advice wasn't enough and Tom was summoned to an audience with the lad. But nothing could help Ollie today and he was destined to have a dry net, despite not moving once from his peg.

I will say this for Ollie and Theo.

It happens.

We don't like it, but it just happens. On the other lakes there was an open match going on, and there were some regular and probably pretty good anglers walking around and even packing up early. So to see the match through without giving up is commendable. You tried and tried hard. No one can ask for more...


Tommy Rees would have been next. But he was a no show....


Jack Grassby and world renowned everyman, Grand dad David, was next up and under my own stewardship. Now I don't know Todber that well, but I do know my stuff. I tried hard to get young Jake a bite using what we had available, but it just wouldn't happen for him. Jack was struggling from the start and I did wonder if he was going to make to the end. He didn't look great. Just over halfway through, David called me over to say that he was going to take Jack home because he was feeling sick and a bit teary. I couldn't blame him really, his swim was the first of the truly cold pegs. So I promised I would keep something back for Jack from the prizes and helped them pack away. I have no doubt they will be back next year and I look forward to seeing them then...


Carter and Birminggam Becky was next up and I swear Carter was on a strong piece of elastic between his seat box and the car! It was definitely warmer in the car, so fair play to him... Carter still needs some development in his casting skills so we all had a bash at casting in to his swim. Determined to keep her hat on her head this time (Although I understand that spares were plentiful) even Becks had a bash, launching one cast almost inch perfect to the island. This drew many 'ooo's' and 'Ahh's' from onlookers. It wasn't there long before the tip rattled round and Carter had his one and only fish of the day weighing in at 4lbs. Carter, who was pretty cold by the weigh in, refused to leave the car for the picture. So Becky had the honour instead...


Team Stone was next up and in the biting wind. The good thing with being close to them is that there is ample opportunity for a hot drink from Lydia's mobile café. Although, I was so busy I missed out on this occasion.

Faith was one of the fast starters, netting a fish very soon after the whistle. But her peg ebbed and flowed quite unpredictably through out the day leaving her with 11lbs 13ozs 12drms to show for for her efforts. This little lady has impressed me greatly this year and I look forward to seeing her next season and take her coaching further.


***Special thanks to Mrs Guru, Lydia, who has helped me out through the year by taking loads of pictures both respectful and otherwise... Thank you my love, very much appreciated***


Farmer Faulkner could be found ploughing away in the penultimate peg. Max had the luxury of a floating Tom (creams are available on prescription) who guided young Max to a resounding win on the day. Having said that, Max has always caught my eye with his angling skills and put them all to good use today. Max caught steadily throughout the day, despite the conditions, to put together a dominating weight of 37lbs 13ozs 8drms to win our first ever Christmas match. Well done Max, very impressive...Mum was substituted for Dad at lunch time. James is still the only person I know who goes fishing in a Jag. I hope he gets another so his nickname will be etched in stone forever.

Lastly, and by no means least, was the Princess Sofia and her footman, Carlos (I think he's actually her dad), Poor Sofia had the worst of it on the end peg and conditions were truly horrific. I think, with the wind chill, it had to be no more than 2 degrees at that end of the lake. But she caught two Carp for 8lbs 6ozs 12drms, so a reasonable weight compared to some. Sofia got to the point where she realised that enough was enough and charge her staff with fishing the rest of the day for her. But I don't think Carlos added to the catch, which means that he may be whipped before a large crowd at dawn for a week as his penance. I may have made that last bit up...


The rain held off almost to the end and decided to give us something special as we were handing out the prizes/presents. Snow and hail made me look as though I had a serious dandruff problem when I went into thank John and the staff in the shop...


When we are at venues that are not our own, we are visitors and we represent the club as a whole well as the Juniors. We must act and behave responsibly at all times, especially when there are other anglers trying to fish matches and otherwise.

On three separate occasions today I had to ask some Junior members to act more sensibly and responsibly after the match had finished, during the weigh in.

This needs to stop from now onwards.

I am not interested in who it was, just that, if we get reported for unruly behaviour and/or noise, shouting and running (and you should all know by now how I feel about running!) we will get ourselves a bad name and will not be allowed back to some top rate venues in the future.

This is not an issue yet and I am determined to not let it become one.

We have a good reputation so far.

We will be keeping it at all costs.


So that's it! We made it to the end of 2021. What a year it's been too. I look back at all the records we've broken, the new faces we have seen, and the new friends we have made. There are more new friends waiting to join us next year too...

New events like the Christmas match, Martin Vine Memorial match and the Senior/Junior Pairs match.

New venues like Todber and Mangerton.

New equipment and increased donations to our Re-gen scheme. To date, we have been able to help over 25 Juniors get started with fishing. Not all have stayed, but they were given the chance to experience the sport.

We were able to have clothing made (Thank you Qwikfast), a Website, WhatsApp and Instagram.

We got to action my coaching program. It is not prefect and it will be tweaked during the winter to make it work better, but on the whole, I feel it has been successful.

All of this has gone along way to our success and raised our profile locally.

I must confess to getting quite choked up as I weighed the last competitor in. Although I was probably alone. Everyone else was so fed up and cold, they just wanted to go home...(Maybe).

I live for this. I wish I had started all this so much sooner, I love it.

But I do feel tired and I need some time away.

I will start work on the new season after Christmas and will post the 2022 fixtures as soon as they are all confirmed.


There has been/will be changes to our coaching team, But I would like to thank the following people for their help and support this year and in no particular order;

Jerry Bracey, Tom Foyle, Jon Bass, Chris Ward, Si Wagner, Tim Broughton & Dave Copp. Steve Crowford, Terry Green, Paul Wyatt, Nick White, Andy Hawkins, Dale Beadnell-Smith & The DDAS Committee, Revels fishery, Whitemoor fishery, Todber Manor fishery & Mangerton. Plus anyone I have forgotten!


Thanks to John Candy at Todber for hosting us at his exceptional venue today.


The Senior Christmas Match is on the 19th December at Revels. If any Juniors would like to fish, please book in with Match Secretary Glenn Richards on: 07762 582661.

Revels is also holding a Tuesday Christmas match on 21st December if Juniors would like to fish then Jason Fricker will hold a separate Junior section of prizes. Call Revels on 01300 345301.


Bless you all and I wish you a safe, happy and wonderful new year, and a very Merry Christmas...


Graham Howard, signing off...(Mic drop)


Juniors Sec....

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