It’s not often a team leaves the Nene clutching the trophy feeling that their win was unexpected, but that was definitely the feeling Shakespeare had as they departed for Birmingham and beyond, having lifted the title in comfortable style with a 31-point tally.
Maver Barnsley were second on 47 with Starlets third on 58, one of the pre-match favourites Daiwa Dorking showing just what the patchy form of the river can do with sixth place some 34 points off winning. ‘Shakey’ also did their talking on the individual front with Jon Arthur winning and Rob Middleton taking third, ably assisted by section wins from Mike Buchwalder and Alistair Chisholm, the former thanks to a surprise 2lb trout on the North Bank!
Game fish aside, Shakespeare pinned their hopes in an attacking policy, noticing that in practice a regular top up always pulled in some better stamp dumpy roach before the tiny fish took over again. After an initial balling in, the winners then dropped a ball of joker-rich groundbait and leam into the holes in the weed that they had raked pre-match, the drop off in bites and size of fish acting as the nod to introduce more bait.
“This wasn’t really expected,” said vice-captain Paul Bick. “We’ve been here before in finals and know how to fish it and we are a good bloodworm and joker team. We’ve also had a good draw, but we’ve fished to our strengths fishing and feeding positively to get everything we can out of the pegs.”
Shakespeare raked their pegs out to 13m, aiming to stir up the bottom and introduce colour to the tap-water clear river, kicking off with a barrage of Sensas Lake, Gros Gardons, Roach Noire full of joker, the key being to produce no cloud that would otherwise attract little nuisance fish.
“Even on the pegs with not too much weed we still felt raking would be an advantage to colour it up and get the fish feeding, even if it was only for the first half hour,” Paul explained. “We also topped up regularly, probably more regularly than most teams. One of our lads even re-balled it with an hour to go and went from near last to winning his section!”
That positivity was mirrored in rigs with the winners fishing off bottom to avoid the weed with single and double bloodworm on 1.5g rigs armed with 0.10mm to 0.08mm lines and size 20 hooks, hemp and chopped worm only acting as somewhere to go to rest the main swim. If you could catch on it, keep going, if not get back on the roach.
“The river has fished better than it did in practice and to us it’s like fishing our local Warks Avon in summer when it’s low and clear,” Paul revealed. “There’s not actually that amount of bloodworm fishing on summer rivers though, so it’s a hard thing to practice. This team isn’t full of part-time anglers and we have to get time off work and pay out of our own pockets to put the time in practising. Winning makes it finally all worthwhile.”
Small fish were also Maver Barnsley’s targets on the big day but rather than avoiding those tiny little roach, skimmers and bleak, the Yorkshiremen actively encouraged them into the peg with a sloppy groundbait and joker approach. Ultimately though, the plan came up just short but skipper Andy Oldham was quick to point out that in their opinion, the draw did let Barnsley down a little.
“We had the small fish approach tied up a treat but we’ve been in some areas that it’s been hard to get anything positive out of,” he summarised. “Of course we’ve had that chopped worm line for eels and tench and while it’s worked for one of our lads, it hasn’t for others. The match is often won and lost on the North Bank and while we’ve averaged three or four points on most sections, on there we’ve had a twelfth and a few scores that have really hurt us.”
After raking, Barnsley settled down to fish up to 13m out, sometimes as short as 5m into the marginal weed, presenting bloodworm and joker well off bottom into that cloudy mix packed with joker.
“What I must point out is that this has been an out and out team performance where everyone has put the time and effort in. I couldn’t have asked any more from the boys today but to come up short in second is the worst position to finish in,” Andy added.
1 Shakespeare, 31pts;
2 Maver Barnsley, 47
3 Kamasan Starlets, 58
4 Leicester Sensas, 61
5 Drennan Oxford, 63
6 Daiwa Dorking, 65
7 Daiwa Gordon League, 83
8 Maver Midlands, 91
9 Fox Match Trentmen, 93
10 Garbolino Blackmore Vale MG, 97
11 Preston Innovations Delcac, 98
12 Preston Innovations Thatcher’s, 103
13 Milo Bordon Angling Centre, 104
14 Ted Carter Southport, 108
15 Sensas Wibsey, 122
16 Browning Quaker, 131
Weed caused mnajor problems throughout
So while Shakespeare and Barnsley head home with satisfaction from a good job on the river, for a lot of teams, the inquest will only just have begun, and not necessarily about how they fished.
Weed has been a major issue on the river throughout practice and, despite extensive cutting by the Environment Agency and Peterborough DAA, anglers still had to remove masses of the stuff themselves before setting up. Even then, most could only clear a small hole to fish well off bottom. That has raised questions about a change of venue or even moving the match back in the year to late August or early September.
It could well be a case of watch this space!
A brave switch to hemp proved a brilliant tactic
The Nene is a famous roach river that responds to hemp in the summer, but there weren’t that many anglers brave enough to try it in this final but fortune favours the brave and it certainly rained down on Jon Arthur with the day’s top weight of 15-7-0.
The Shakespeare star, pegged in F section on the Middleholme steps, weighed in a terrific net of roach, his better quality fish falling to hemp to really ramp up his weight, and all this after having to open up a new line after one and half hours as he couldn’t fish his long pole swim due to the weed.
That decision paid rich dividends and a golden spell in the third and fourth hours saw the Coventry man slip the net under 25 decent hemp roach, backing up masses of smaller fish taken on single and double bloodworm on the same line and a shorter 5m swim just over the weed.
“I’d won one practice match and framed in the other but on both occasions and this, the river hasn’t fished the same,” Jon said. “The key here was to keep something going in the net no matter how small. I didn’t feed hemp at the start but started trickling it in after an hour to see if they’d go on it. Going into the final hour the colour dropped out of that line or the wind shifted and I could see the bottom. That was the end of my bites there!”
Jon kicked off balling 10 balls of Sensas Lake, Roach Noire, brown crumb, Gros Gardons and Epicene laced with joker for a stiff, claggy mix that would attract better fish without giving off a cloud that would draw in those tiny ‘pairs of eyes’.
“The top-up was key as I felt there were always fish in the peg but a lot were tiny and there was no point catching them if you knew the better roach were having a go,” Jon continued. “As soon as I cupped in a ball packed with joker those better roach came back for 10 minutes or so fishing up to six inches off the deck to avoid that weed.”
There wasn’t much intricacy about Jon’s rigs though. A 1.5g rig with big droppers being used for both bloodworm and hemp with 0.12mm mainline to an
0.08 hooklength and a size 20 Drennan Fine Match hook, finished off with a slackly-set doubled up No 3 elastic.
1 J Arthur, Shakespeare, 15-7-0
2 A Wildsmith, Leicester Sensas, 13-13-0
3 R Middleton, Shakespeare, 13-7-0
4 H Whittle, Kamasan Starlets, 13-3-0
5 L Kerry, Maver Barnsley, 12-7-0
6 S Johnson, Drennan Oxford, 11-0-0
A section: L Kerry, Maver Barnsley, 12-7-0
B section: S Ashby, Kamasan Starlets, 10-13-0
C section: A Wildsmith, Leicester Sensas, 13-13-0
D section: R Middleton, Shakespeare, 13-7-0
E section: H Whittle, Kamasan Starlets, 13-3-0
F section: J Arthur, Shakespeare, 15-7-0
G section: A Chisholm, Shakespeare, 6-10-4
H section: D Brooks, Maver Barnsley, 4-3-0
J section: R Lawson, Maver Midlands, 6-6-0
K section: M Buchwalder, Shakespeare, 2-13-0