Few events are voted a resounding success in their first year when it comes to matchfishing, but no one had any complaints about the inaugural RiverFest contest.
The event got the thumbs up from all competing in this big money final – none more so than from Welsh angler Andrew Murphy. He held his nerve to take the £10,000 top prize in a match that saw the result in doubt right up to the final hooter.
Big barbel and chub were expected to throw a spanner in the works on the sections of river above Hereford, but they didn’t really figure. That left silverfish to pave the way for Andrew, known on the match scene as ‘Spud’, as he tallied up 44-9-0 to get ahead of a dramatic three-way tie for second.
That saw Paul Bick, Michael Dalziel and Chris Parr all finish with 41-1-0. After checking and rechecking the weights, they couldn’t be separated and so had the money for the next three places shared out. John Urruty on 40-14-0 took fifth and £1,000, with Scott Geens earning himself £700 for sixth with 39-6-0.
The weekend was all about Spud though, the Welsh international digging deep into his vast reservoir of experience on the Wye. The Ebbw Vale man has won the Wye Champs and the big charity match held on the river annually, and he needed that nous on a river that proved a very different mistress on Day 2.
“On the first day I drew peg 24 at Belmont, a decent chub peg and took nine fish on the maggot feeder casting right across to the tree line with triple maggot on the hook,” Spud revealed. “This was the big fish end of my draw so I was delighted with 26-8-0 and joint third overall as a lot of pegs can be hard in that area. It can ruin your chances before they’ve got going and I guess it was a bit of a gamble playing the sit and wait game and seeing if they’d feed or not because the chub hadn’t gone mad in the run-up to the match.”
But a good weight on Day 1 would count for nothing if the draw bag dealt poorly on Day 2 in the town centre where roach and dace would dominate. Spud couldn’t have drawn any better with the same peg that Paul Bick had won the match off the day before, next to the town bridge. With the peg below empty as one angler had to go home the day before, Spud may even have allowed himself a few seconds to think his name was on the trophy. But he would have been wrong.
“I was expecting 30lb without much trouble and fancied it big time and so attacked the swim with lots of feed on the stick float a few rods out just as Paul had done the day before,” he said. “The first hour was good and I was on target but the wheels came off from then on and I was really scratching about for a few fish. I had a few words with myself and set a revised target of 15lb to 20lb to do well. I also cut the feeding back.”
Slowly Spud began to put a few fish together using a 8x4 stick float and double bronze maggot but with rumours flying around of Richie Reynolds having 30lb of chub on the end peg at Belmont and four big barbel on the Ferry Meadow section, Spud couldn’t be sure where he stood and needed a good final hour or so – and thankfully he got it.
Event creator Dave Harrell was delighted with the event. “It couldn’t have gone any better and what a terrific tribute to river fishing the weekend has been,” said Dave. “The river was just perfect and we couldn’t call the winner right up until the end. To have such close weights in the final reckoning is unreal and I’m sure those boys will be cursing a lost fish or a decision to spend too long on the feeder!”
“Credit to Spud though. He’s been one of the best anglers on the Wye, won all there is to win and can add RiverFest to that. We’ll be back next year with more qualifiers, new venues and with luck, more money for the final. Watch this event go!” Dave added.
Result: 1 A Murphy, Tredegar Angling, 44-9-0; jt2 P Bick, Shakespeare, M Dalziel, RAF and C Parr, Sensas Thyers, all 41-1-0; 5 J Urruty, Alfreton Angling, 40-14-0; 6 S Geens, Preston Innovations, 39-6-0.