I fancied a bash at FLE's 24 hour carp match. The deal is that 10 anglers pitch up on the prolific Canal 1 and battle it out for the heaviest carp. Without a combined weight win, it could go right to the wire, the leaderboard could chop and change throughout, and it was also a good excuse to visit Graham and check out the great work he does down there at his fishery near Romsey.
But it's so much more than a fishery, yes there is great angling to be had with match orientated canals and a specimen carp pool, but it is also an outdoor activity centre, aimed at most but concentrating on disabled adults, youths and anyone else who wants to learn to catch fish, the right way.
I finished work on the Friday at midday and although the match started at 6pm, I wanted to get there, have a nosey around and catch up with Graham. Turns out I was in for a nice surprise, Southampton FC had one of their sponsored Catch Club afternoons, and as an FLE Ambassador, he asked me if I wouldn't mind helping out some. I jumped at the chance , this sport has been wonderful to me over the years, here was a chance to give a little back.
After introductions and high fives Graham explained how we'd be fishing, which comprised of whip type elasticated poles. The fishing was done in the edge and the anglers and their carers were split into groups and given a swim station, seat box and some chairs. The weather was kind, warm with a light breeze, and although showers threatened, spirits were in no danger of being dampened.
Throughout the session which spanned a couple of hours I visited various groups, giving whatever advice I could, generally following Graham's lead. It started slow but soon enough carp started coming to the bank. It was such an awe inspiring time, everyone, negligible of their respective disabilities, concentrated, listened and enjoyed so much the whole process, from waiting for a bite, through to striking and hooking, playing the fish under constant instruction and ultimately posing for the camera with their hard earned prize. The smiles were priceless.
I didn't want the session to end, and felt saddened when it was all over. But I kept the memories, and have some photos to remember the day by. Graham said I could help out again too, something I'll definitely be taking him up on.
So at around 5pm the match contestants began to arrive. I never knew any of them, but they all made me very welcome. We drew for swims, I drew 3 and pitched up between Tom and Darren. As expected, the commotion of setting up meant things were quiet for most. A couple of early high singles were caught and between showers the sun shone on a superb afternoon spent among some great blokes.
There was much swapping with regards the leaderboard, with championship points being awarded to the 4 heaviest carp. It took me until 4:30am to get off the mark, but a 10lb 8oz ghosty saw me slip into 3rd place. The fish was weighed, witnessed and swiftly returned.
I lost another fish fairly soon after to a hook pull, but it felt like a small one. Throughout Saturday I tried getting the carp opposite me to get stuck into the dog biscuits, but they half-heartedly took the odd one or two then cleared off. I also tried float fishing with meat close in, had a few bites too but seemed he'll bent on missing them.
I guess it was mid afternoon when I connected finally with a dip of the float. A great scrap was had and eventually a lovely chunky common was netted. It weighed 12lb 4oz and got me back to 2nd spot after recently being knocked off the board all together.
But alas, in the final hour or so a final flurry of carp saw me slip to 5th. It never mattered, it was a fantastic weekend spent and a marvellous place among some awesome people. It is a great honour to be a part of FLE, and I can't wait to get back for some more!