Once a year, all those who lend a voluntary hand towards the smooth running of Leamington Angling Association are invited to take part in its Committee Match.
As you might expect from a fishing match organised by a fishing committee there is much to-ing and fro-ing beforehand on the date, venue, rules, allowed species, baits, methods, allowed colour of hat, correct parting of hair etc. etc.
This year was a rod, line and float only affair held on the Horseshoe lake at Jubilee Pools. The only outstanding matter arising from previous debates was what to do about carp. Our three options departed from the extreme station of 'carp (spit) don't count at all', called at 'all carp count as 5lb irregardless of weight and hence avoid the need for weighing' and terminated at 'weigh the carp as we went and count them at face value'. Good sense and weighing them in as we went won out. Imagine playing a carp for ten minutes on match gear only for it not to count!
My suggestion that a spod could be counted as a float fell in well with the pre-match banter in the car park.
Pegs drawn, we took up our positions and prepared tackle with that serious air that only a match can afford. When Anthony Simmons came round and said it was fivers in, well, the hair on his head stood up.
All anglers expected fish and a few expected quite a few carp or bream. When the whistle blew we cast in with great expectations.
I'd rigged up two rods and ran line through the rings on a third in case I needed an option later on. I balled in some groundbait and fished a heavy waggler with lassoed pellet at distance over the top to start. I was fishing into 14ft of water and was after bream.
My second rod was a pellet waggler and although I didn't turn to it until exactly two hours into the match I started to feed carp pellets in ones and twos every twenty seconds or so at the same range as the grounbait. The groundbait was an active mix and so I knew floating bits would be coming up off it from the bottom.
After an hour I'd seen only one small roach swung in and I'd not had a touch. After two hours the knuckles on my hand were battered from constantly catapulting out pellets and so still biteless I gave the pellet waggler an hour. Nothing. Hmmm.
In the early afternoon I fed a margin line and tried that. Then in desperation tried to buy some bits fishing light with maggots but remained dry netted.
By two thirty and with an hour and a half remaining I was beginning to think I would never catch a fish again, never mind during the match. Scratching around had got me nowhere so I resolved to stick with my original plan and go back out over the groundbait at distance which had gone in steadily over the day.
At just before three o'clock I had a bite and landed a 3lb 12oz bream. At a quarter to four and with fifteen minutes of the match left I hooked a carp and played it like it was life or death. It took ten minutes to get in and weighed 4lbs 4ozs.
To my amazement those two fish were enough to win the match for me. The majority had blanked and the minority had a few roach.
Regulars of Jubilee will know just how many fish there are in the Horseshoe pool and how spectacular the fishing can be, but if we were newcomers to the water you'd have thought it was empty after the day we'd endured. There was well over five hundred years of fishing experience on the banks and most bases were covered. It was as if someone had flicked a switch turned the fish off. I saw very few carp moving.
The photo below is from the inaugural Association meeting on 11th June 1890, over one hundred and twenty years ago. I think Ernie Archer was in attendance that day......