It’s a river that has been out of favour with match anglers for the past decade, the legends of stick float kings John Dean, John Allerton and Frank Barlow overshadowed by bivvies, boilies and big barbel. But now, finally, there are signs that big matches on the Trent are well and truly back. Burton-on-Trent outfit Coors AC is undertaking a major push to revive the once-great match scene of the river via a schedule of big competitions that could see 100-plus match anglers once again lining its historic banks.
Match organiser Tony Vandome told Angling Times that the club has witnessed an upturn in match attendances over the past few years, using the annual charity match it runs in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support as a prime example.
“The entry has grown from 80 three years ago to 116 last year. A 100-peg match on a river is very rare these days but we hope it could soon become a regularity once again.”
The new Trent match calendar includes:
- A summer and winter series of open matches
- A three-day festival on September 2, 3 and 4
- Two huge charity matches on September 14 and December 21
- Coors Trent Final on July 5, 2009 - a sponsored, big-money match for qualifiers from open matches
So what exactly is putting anglers back on the river?
“Last season, the average winning weight was around 18lb or 19lb and the quality roach are slowly but surely making a comeback. Our matches also benefit from double pegging, which improves the fishing no end, and on two of our stretches at Burton-on-Trent you can park behind your peg,” said Tony.
The Trent hit its peak in the 1970s and early 1980s when it became a magnet for floatfishing fans from all over the country and contests regularly numbered 300-400. Originally caster was THE bait to use and no anglers were more successful than John Dean, John Allerton and Frank Barlow, with Dave Thomas also coming to the fore when the Trent turned into a maggot river.
Stick float king John Allerton smiles when he recalls the ‘good old days’.
“They weren’t good, they were great,” he said. “At its peak, I reckon you could win from at least 50 per cent of the pegs on the river and this simply isn’t the case on commercials nowadays, where 90 per cent of the time it’s down to the draw. If 15lb won a Trent match, there would be loads of 14lb, 13lb and 12lb back-ups – it was that fair. You really had to work for your fish and have an intimate knowledge of the river, for example, fishing caster rather than maggot on sunny days,” said John.
But, like many others, he started to notice significant changes in the Trent between 1994 and 1996:
“The river became clear and the cormorants moved in, coinciding with the disappearance of all the quality silverfish. We were left catching the odd bream, barbel or bottle top-sized skimmer. The river turned very peggy and you could only win from flyers,” said John.
After a couple of dire National Championships, the final straw was the Division 2 event in 1998 in which 70 per cent of the 984 competitors failed to scrape together a kilo (2.2lb) and more than 120 never actually caught a single fish. NFA president at the time, the late Ken Ball, admitted that ‘there was something drastically wrong with the Trent’ and the following year the venue was dropped from the organisation’s Nationals schedule for the first time ever.
So will this latest move persuade John to return to the river if attendances continue to rise?
“It’s unlikely, as I think my Trent days are over. The commercial fisheries around here (Yorkshire) are excellent, and the River Aire and River Calder are also booming.”