That Was The Year That Was – 1995 Matches Article

1995 was a generally successful year for me in match fishing, and I wrote an article for the S.F.C.A. magazine that I’ve reproduced here for nostalgia purposes!

‘THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS’
by George Glen

I have never experienced so many match fishing highs and lows in one season as I did in 1995. I don’t think I, or many of my friends, have caught so many fish in matches for a very long time either. The waters we fish have promised much for the last few years but have never really delivered up till now.

We used to describe the quality of our match fishing as at best ‘interesting’, and at worst ‘rubbish’ (to be polite). Now I can look back on some ‘real’ matches that I’m sure were also a lot of fun for all of us. To talk through each match of the year would – a) take 10 pages to do justice, and – b) be very, very boring! Maybe if I tell you about some of the more ‘interesting’ and ‘remarkable’ things that happened, some lessons could be learned by all, not just by die-hard matchmen.

EARLY SEASON

With that in mind then I’d like to therefore gloss over most of the Spring and early Summer spent on the banks of the lovely Forth & Clyde Canal. I must have fished 9 or 10 matches there from April to July and it tells a story that only 2 or 3 occasions stick in my mind, the rest is a blur, best forgotten!

I walked the bank during the first big open match of the season, the Federation Open at Glasgow Bridge. I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of the anglers around Huntly Carlisle when they watched the fluorescent green tip of his ledger rod bend into another tench or perch in between showering pinkies in all over the place. Waggler on a ledger rod! I’ll also long remember the faces of Huntly and the other South Queensferry guys as he walked off with that trophy and then did the same in the Monklands Festival. Just goes to show, these early season matches can be won by anyone, so give them a go, you never know your luck.

Daiwa JB Angling anglers dominated much of the early fishing at Glasgow Bridge, they seem to have the place sussed, but our Browning team got their own back in the second league match at Banknock to Kelvinhead. During a practice session we established that perch were the only real target and that the best place to catch them was close to the bank, just past the marginal weed, to your right or left.

Rab Crossan worked out the killer tactic of using whips, rather than poles, to avoid scaring the fish in the crystal clear water. This should have been obvious to everyone really, but all the rest still had Glasgow Bridge in their minds, used 6-8m poles, scared off their fish, and we cleaned up. Don’t assume methods that work on one venue are automatically right for another venue!

Back at Glasgow Bridge for the 3rd league match we though we could just edge the match going into the last half-hour. Jim Brown put a stop to that with a great last gasp burst of skimmers. He caught them right on the inside when he filled it in after a boat had destroyed most people’s swims, including mine. Goes to show, keep calm, think right up to the end and matches can be turned in the last 15 minutes.

AWAY FROM THE CANAL

It was a great relief to me that Strathclyde Park started to fish again in July after the worrying fish deaths in the Spring. The South Queensferry organised Heartclic charity match there saw me draw a no chance peg so I was privileged to walk along and watch an amazing match. When was the last time Bream dominated a match at the Park? Big Bream too, some over 6lb.

Most of the guys to the right of the tree had one or two but Stephen McCaveny showed just why he is the most talented angler to come along in years by taking 5 for about 25lb. He went for them from the start, fished very positively with balls of groundbait and an open-end feeder, but didn’t make the mistake of going out too far. Many of the competitors had never caught a decent Bream before let alone a 6lb one – happy faced all round.

I enjoyed winning the Scottish National on the Park. I drew on the wrong bank, which obviously turned out to be the right bank. Early in the summer the roach shoals are always on the move so I had to take all of my fish, as fast as I could on a 4m whip, in two one hour bursts.

DOWNS AND UPS

A huge ‘down’ came next followed by a huge ‘up’. The World Championships venue, the Saimaa Canal in Finland, was hard but fair. It was also very ‘interesting’, mainly Ruffe in very deep water. What wasn’t ‘interesting’ was our poor performance and diabolical result. We didn’t know how to work the place out, and still don’t know to this day!

The John Smiths Team Championships was a total contrast. Fished at Evesham, the Wembley of match fishing, the event had a good feel about it. It felt even better when we came 4th against the best teams in England. We had some great performances from Ian Donaldson, Steve McCaveny and Rab Crossan but Ronnie MacLeod and I missed out on the Gudgeon potential in the lower sections, otherwise we could have come at least second.

The Home International at Strathclyde Park was another tough lesson as again we overlooked the Gudgeon potential on the boating pond. We had big bags of Roach and Perch in practice and thought our only chance to beat England was to attack and take better fish. We did well on the Tower but were left behind on the boating pond. Second may seem OK but we were gutted.

‘INTERESTING’

A week later at the All Scotland Open I was still licking my wounds. It turned out to be my most ‘interesting’ match of the season. In practice the Roach did not seem to want groundbait. Tam Campbell and John McGarrell had caught well on long pole and loose-fed pinkie. Come the day there was a maggot shortage so we all had no more than 2 pints each!

I drew to the right of the tree and started on Gudgeon having learned a hard lesson, and took about 4lb in the first hour and a half. All the time I was looking around for signs of Roach or Perch. They started to catch Roach on the waggler along to my right so I kept feeding out and watching their catch rate.

After 90 minutes I could stand it no more and went out on the waggler. I got bites but was missing too many and was catching much slower than the guys to my right. Jim Brown was bagging, fishing about 6ft deep. I needed to pull fish through to me and calm them down to get better bites.

I didn’t have enough maggot to last 5 hours but I had to put it in anyway, shit or bust. I also blasted in groundbait over the back to pull in fish from all round. Eventually, with 2 hours to go, I started connecting regularly with bites. The fish had enough feed to calm them down, they all could get a mouthful so they stopped rushing about and I hit most bites. I bagged up for an hour and a half and won comfortably with 20lb.

This shows that though Roach may be wary of groundbait on a pole or short waggler line, they are happier with it the further you go from the bank, don’t just ignore it. Also – sometimes you have to go OTT and feed all over the place – just to pull fish through to you. Our waters are now starting to respond to attacking anglers – Great!

LEAGUE FINAL

In the final Summer League match we were 3 points and 5 kilos behind Daiwa and looking beaten. I thought I had drawn the wrong end of my section, Ronnie MacLeod, who was at the other end of that section, agreed and was laughing at me stuck in the corner. I had a big wind in my face and was being pounded by rain and waves. Nigel Foulds at the next peg was getting washed over and I was not happy since I didn’t catch for 45 minutes. I expected only Gudgeon but then caught small perch. With nothing to lose I started lashing in maggot on a 9.5m pole line and piling in joker in leam.

Bigger perch soon came and I ended up on 1.5gm float to hold against the wind. With big worm on the hook I bagged up on perch and weighed in over 25lb. Nigel chipped in to help with a handy double figures to take second in the section, once he stopped shivering and started fishing. Thanks Nige! We won the match by 3 points, tied the league, won the league on overall weight by 48kg to 47kg, with Rab Crossan taking the individual title. Which was nice! A great day was followed by a great night. Though I was driving, the rest of us got very, very drunk!

WINTER TIME

We usually expect a downturn in sport with the onset of Winter but not so in 1995. Three of the Winter matches were also very ‘interesting’! A MacLeods Tackle Sweep on the Clyde at Swanston Street in Glasgow was well attended because the river was fishing well. I drew a fairly shallow peg that was spot on that day and won the day with 21lb of Roach and Dace. I was trying all the time to sort out the better Roach by slowing the float down and running the pole float steadily over my groundbait. This may not have been the best tactic looking back.

Jimmy Fullerton put in a great performance just two pegs above me by fishing closer in and catching many more small fish for just under 20lb. Before the weather turns very cold this may well be a better tactic during the late Summer and Autumn. The week after, the weather did turn colder. My ‘slowed down’ Roach based tactics were right and I won with 6lb odds. Running the float down the peg outside your groundbait may pick up some Dace but does not seem so effective. That match made it 4 wins in a row for me – which was nice!

The SFCA Winter league was the best ever. Two of the league matches were thought provoking. The second leg was held on Strathclyde Park which was very coloured after heavy rain. Chris Paton and I practised and he discovered that he could catch best by feeding chopped worm with worm on the hook. Catching Roach, by the way! Not what you’d expect. That is the way the match turned out. A fascinating affair with fair catches all around, worm being particularly successful.

You have to give the fish something to home in on in very coloured water. Normal groundbait smells and additives did not seem to work as well in this case as the smell of chopped worms. Also, bites were very slow. The fish were cold and were hardly moving the float. In this situation you have to keep the float moving very gently yourself. A bite is often indicated when you drag the float under as if in a snag – the fish just lies still with the bait. That was ‘interesting’ enough to keep up talking about it for weeks.

The last leg of the league saw a lot of practising taking place. It became clear that, though there seemed to be fish all around, you would get a few quick bites, then nothing. MacLeod came up with the answer – using damp leam with only a little groundbait and a few pinkies in an open ended feeder. The fish seemed to run away from a lot of feed. Pressing the leam in hard also helped hit the tricky bites, acting as a kind of bolt rig. There’s still a lot to learn abut the way these fish behave in different conditions.

A NEW YEAR

The 1995 season was a lot of fun and prospects for 1996 look very good. The changes in the Summer League set-up should ensure bigger attendances and an even better atmosphere. The ‘crack’ is great at the big matches and the friendly aspects of the competition are really coming to the fore. If you have thought about match fishing but have been unsure before, come along and try it, talk to me or most of the guys around and they will give you all the help and advice you need.

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