Features

If you have an angling story, past memories or a match that sticks in your mind, send it to us and we will publish it on the site.

Last Updated: March 22, 2017

 

Target the Thames - Big Roach Are Back    

Angling Times came down to Sandford in September 2012, to unveil the super roach sport currently on offer on the River Thames

Alan Campbell and Neil Jackson put together stunning bags of roach using the waggler with hemp and tares, with lovely, casting, trotting and catching fish footage. 

This is UK river fishing at its very best!

 

 

Starting Match Fishing

Taking the step up from pleasure angler to match angler is regarded by many as a daunting move. After all, you are going from a pastime when the result is almost secondary to the day out, to a pastime where the result counts for everything.

From a tactical point of view, the gulf  between the two occupations are not as great as you may think however. The chances are, that if you are considering stepping up to fishing matches then you are quite a pro active angler anyway, who is concerned about the effectiveness of what he does, and it is this quality that makes a good match angler.

Realistically, you should expect a teething period before you win any money, and a golden rule, difficult as it is to stick to, is try not to get frustrated by poor results. Instead, be objective, think what you could or should have done better and build from there. It may be that you have just been unlucky at the draw bag, it is not uncommon for world champions to go months without winning a bean, sometimes there is nothing you can do as an angler to turn a bad peg into one which will win money. At the end of the day, all you can do as a match angler is catch the fish in your area of the lake.

Many top anglers believe that you should go to a peg at the beginning of the match with this in mind, and make an assessment of a target weight before you begin to even tackle up.

It is pointless, for example catching 100 roach for 10lb of you are on a carp lake where 100lb is needed to win. There is often more to winning a match than simply catching more fish than everyone else.

A good starting point when deciding what to fish for is looking at recent match results for a venue. From here, you should be able to decide on what weight you will need to compete, and then you can go about deciding the best ways to catch that weight.

When pleasure fishing, this decision is of course made relatively simple, you see an island you chuck to it, if the tip goes around all the better. There is no time constraint put on you, and if you’re plan doesn’t work it doesn’t matter.

In matches of course, the emphasis has to be on giving yourself options. Obviously, to a large extent the peg will dictate what you are going to do, in terms of the features it has got in it, but as long as you always try to give yourself somewhere to go, you shouldn’t go far wrong.

Try to have two or three lines all at different parts of your swim. For point of example, say you have a feeder line, waggler line ,long/short margin pole line. This way there is plenty of room between all your lines, and you are not in danger of splitting your fish. An added bonus, is that any short line can be fed by hand, saving you valuable time throughout the match.

It is of course important to consider the practicality of what you are doing when feeding these lines, and not get too carried away. Feeding too many lines can be as damaging as not feeding enough, as fish can fill up on a line your not fishing, and then move on without you having chance to catch them!

A much cited fable in match fishing with regards to feeding is “you can put it in but you can’t take it out” (no euphemism intended) and it pays to bear this in mind when feeding lines. To summarize, always give yourself options by plumbing up several lines, but don’t undo those options by feeding too much early in the match and ruining your peg.

Perhaps the most important part of match fishing cannot be summarized in an article, it is the watercraft and ability to read what is going on in your peg on the day. Never be afraid to start a new line or try something different if your not catching, and try to always be thinking of what you could do to improve your catch rate if you are.

A final piece of advice to a new match angler would be to keep an eye on the clock at all times, and bear in mind the amount of time you have left in relation to what you have in the net. Say for example, you think 50lb will be needed to win the match on the day, and with an hour to go you have 20lb in the net, it is fair to assume you will need a big weight in the last hour to compete.

This would be the time therefore to exclude all other options and fish for big fish on. After all, working the lines you have been fishing on the day and catching another 10lb probably isn’t going to do you much good. Instead, make a tactical decision, rule everything else out and sit for a lump. If the float goes under three times, you could win the match, even if the early part of the day has been a real struggle for you. Try to think about things logically, and always give yourself the best possible chance of achieving the weight you are aiming for.

 

 

Safety-Weils Disease

 

 

Not too long ago, angling writer Ken Townley, following one of his regular jaunts to France to fish for carp, fell ill and eventually the illness was diagnosed as Weils Disease.

Weils Disease is an infection caused by a bacterium that is carried in the urine of rodents, rats in particular. It gets into the human body through open wounds, abrasions and ingestion of contaminated food and water. All of which makes it particularly dangerous to anglers who often fish in rat infested places and eat and drink whilst they’re there. The majority without washing their hands.

Thankfully, Ken is well on the road to recovery, but he’s one of the lucky ones as Weils Disease is deadly and hard to diagnose by a GP who has no experience of it. With symptoms not unlike common flu, only more severe, this is not surprising.

So the question is, what can we do about it? The answer is to steer clear of any rat infested fisheries or, make absolutely sure you do not do anything that brings anything that could be contaminated in contact with your mouth or anywhere on your body where the skin is broken. Do not, for example, put line into your mouth to lubricate knots, nor eat or drink with soiled hands.

There are few waters that do not have either a large or small population of rats and other rodents, so short of packing in fishing altogether, the realistic answer is to make sure your hands stay as clean and bacteria-free as possible and to cover all cuts and abrasions with a waterproof plaster or other dressing.

It is not always feasible to take soap and water and a clean towel, and besides, ordinary soap will not kill all germs, and washing your hands with soap in the lake or river isn’t a good thing to do for the good of the fishery. What we need is a hand cleaner that will kill practically all germs, one that doesn’t require soap, water or even a towel.

One such product seems to be ideal for anglers. It’s called Magic Hand Sanitizer and it costs a mere £1.59 for a small bottle (about the size of a bottle of Kryston’s Klin-ik) that provides 100 applications. It claims it can kill 99.99% of germs within 15 seconds of being applied. It comes in two types, a mint flavoured one for adults and a strawberry flavoured one for kids. Neither flavour should affect your bait. Indeed, they may even enhance it.

All you do is squeeze a small drop onto the palm of one hand and then rub it into both hands, covering all areas. Within seconds it dries as you’re rubbing, leaving your hands completely dry and germ free.

This type of product isn’t new; you can buy larger bottles of hand sanitizers in most chemist’s shops. But that’s the trouble, the containers are too big to be handy for anglers. It was our own Jeff ‘Woody’ Woodhouse who discovered Magic in his local Asda and was kind enough to send me a sample of each flavour.

Like Jeff, I have now bought more bottles of Magic so that I have one in every tackle bag I use. At £1.59 a bottle it isn’t worth being without. And apparently there are small bottles of hand sanitizers from other manufacturers in drug stores and other outlets.

 

 

Oh Dear!! The frustrations of the new angler.

 

 

Sunday May the 16th Came. Great I thought, first match of the new season time to break my PBs. I had awaked half an hour before the alarm was due, and was up out of bed like a young child on Christmas morning….

The kit was ready, into the car and off to meet the lads at Sturdy’s Castle to travel to Nells Bridge at Aynho.  Feeling fairly confident as I had fished here twice last season, I was determined that today was the day for my personal bests of a 4ib carp would be smashed, and my personal best match weight of 4lb 12oz would go to. Not very big by most anglers standards, but all the more reason that I should break this.

Having fished every weekend throughout the close season with friends, I had gained confidence in my style and have readily decided that waggler fishing will be my preferred option. Having given the pole a shot during the closed season, I found the pole difficult, uninteresting and after only an hour causing me pains, with the added potential of being even more expensive than the good old-fashioned rod and reel, I decided to draw the line here.

 It has now occurred to me that through the good will of the anglers here at Littlemore, and more to the point good timing that I seem to have acquired a good second hand kit. All that was missing now was experience and knowledge of what we should do at the match with this kit and how it should be used.

On arriving it was a clear sky, Bright sunshine and a very warm day.  We had gone to what I was informed was the oldest lake on Nells bridge, unbeknown to yours truly the complex had 3 lakes, one at the farm entrance, the old lake under the railway bridge and the “other lake” which was the one I had fished before where you can enter Nells Bridge opposite across the fields to the farm entrance. The lads and I looked at the lake, plenty of large carp swimming on top of the lake, big very big carp, my confidence had now probably become just a little to over confident, my mind had already pictured the weighing scales with a carp of 8lb, yes!! I thought. Luckily my wariness and conscious had not completely desert red me, and I started to probe some of the more experienced anglers with some fishy questions or comments to see what there responses were. After all I had come with a mixed box of baits, after consulting with some angling mates at work, and had not really thought things through that the lake may not be the one I had fished before. All I did know was plan (a) fish light tackle first gets your fish in the net and then go for the carp.

After setting up my three rods, one light tackle, one 6lb line and one grip mesh cage feeder 12lb line I walked around the lake to look at the set ups, potential baits and feed the others were using. The contrasts were massive, from red sweet corn to chopped worm, straight meat, to a variety of pellets. Maggots were with a few, and the original but deadly crusty loaf – of which I had none-doh!!

 Most of the lads used their faithful (but breakable) poles, or as in this match, used someone else’s breakable pole, no names mentioned Dave?

The match only 5 mins away, I briskly walked back to my peg, put my pinkie on the hook, cocked the rod and sat for what seemed an eternity for Gerald Perks to shout the start of the match. Away we went. I was sat on peg two, on viewing the lake earlier a nice corner peg, weed in the corners, carp sat bunched in the corner – this had to be my day.

 Plop the inverted weighted waggler dropped into the edge of the reeds, the single no 4 shot put 2ft below the float with a 6 inch drop to a size 18 hook, slowly sank and gradually the waggler tip dipped in the water until about half an inch remained above the water, a small spray of maggots, and we could leave that.

SPLOSH. I had read my books and decided that I would enter a rather large groundbait ball into another section to fish over the top of in about 30 mins, definitely not for now, as probably any fish in the near vicinity was probably doing around 30 knots the other way. Oh well we can but try.

10 mins into the match the float dipped, I gently struck and pulled in a small perch of maybe an ounce or two. Yippee, right here we go then dump the light rig, get the larger gear 6lb line size 16 hook double red maggot and a depth to the hook of about 12 inches, Carp seemed to be everywhere, never had I seen so many sunbathing carp, whoosh plop, right now be patient and weight….

The clock now slowly ticked by and to say impatience creped in to my day was an understatement, but after about two hours of trying hard to get no where and hearing the delighted and gleeful shouts of some of the more experienced anglers taking there pick of the carp, I finally got a carp bite, I had changed my waggler to a small canal waggler so not to disturb the carp, as most were within reach of me scooping them out with my landing net…. There were several large carp about 5 meters out, I put the float smack in the middle of the all with no disturbance, within 5 seconds the float had gone, I struck and the rod for the first time in my life, bent in half aiming for the water, brain went off the scale, nerves kicked in the heart was pumping harder than I had felt in a long time, I stood off my chair (10 seconds) the carp was taking line, wow how big is this, yes, now all the text books all the advice was running through my head like a steam train, do this, play the fish take your time, then disaster the reel jammed, the rod bent like a palm tree in a hurricane, and then ping, it was gone……..DISBELIEF……anger, unhappiness all at the same time, with the added comments of the lads, you know you can play the fish, making me feel like a pratt of the century……from this moment on I never recovered what little composure I had, and the match went from bad to worse, with an hour and half to go, I switched back to the light gear, another small perch, then nothing… lost the plot…so disappointed with myself, half an hour before the end decided enough was enough packed up and went home……

The wife cheered me up with a few tinny’s and one of the lads not at the match had heard I left early and rang to se what happened, some good old faithful chat, and the don’t worry pal, it will come, and next weeks match, started creeping in…. Oakfield, Internet, preparation, and chat…

One lousy carp 4lb +, Oakfield will it happen?

What's the Outlook for Pike?

In many places populations of pike are in constant decline. There are several reasons for this : spawning difficulties, survival of fry, deterioration of rivers. Due to the difficulties in maintaining stocks anglers have become discouraged and are turning to other gamefish. There are, however, ways of furthering the rehabilitation of pike in calm waters.

The causes for the decline in pike populations are well known : reproduction difficulties (rivers are more and more canalized and flooded zones are becoming scarce), difficult survival conditions for the young fish (shock from the wake of larger and larger vessels), difficulties in moving around (navigational dams and other obstacles). Rivers are increasingly becoming successions of stretches of water isolated from one another and the annexed wet zones are necessary for their reproduction. River installations, canalization of habitat, use of catchments basins for intensive farming and urbanization all give rise to sudden flooding and falls in water levels, which either cause the spawn to dry up or make it impossible for the fish to get to the spawning zones. The disappearance of good spawning grounds where the water must remain present and accessible for a sufficiently long period is the main cause of the scarcity of pike.

A study carried out by J.C. Philippart and his team in Belgium throws a worrying light on the future of the pike. With the help of tracking devices (transmitters attached to pike) this study has revealed that at certain times in the year pike migrate. Some go upriver and others downriver over a distance of several dozen kilometers. Migration sometimes seems erratic as when the level of the water is high they penetrate lakes which are temporarily connected to the river. Pike continue their migration although they pass through zones favourable for reproduction. Why? Are they searching for the place where they were born? If this is the right hypothesis what happens to pike when their spawning grounds disappear? And what happens to pike released in different places over the years? There is also the problem of clearing dams and other obstacles. Obviously they do benefit from higher water levels at the end of the winter but difficulties remain.

And the other reasons? They are simply contributory factors in the deterioration and not fundamental but all the same they do not make things any easier. They include pollution which does not only cause deaths on a massive scale but also in a less visible way which affects pike which are at the top of the food chain. Together with predation by piscivorous birds (heron, cormorant, etc.) the increasing pressure of fishing affects predatory fish more than other species. Poaching and the purchase of this expensive species by unscrupulous restaurants should also be taken into account. We could also go on about fishing methods and behavior of anglers. There are also introductions of other predatory fish (zander and wels in particular) which compete with pike and which by their size and behavior cause harm to pike which are already under threat from all sides.

The outlook for pike is in the hands of management : the first aim is to re-establish accessible spawning grounds, this would already bring about improvements and responsible behavior on the part of anglers would contribute to maintaining stocks. 70 years ago pike was considered a fearsome predatory fish in Europe. In Ireland no more than 20 years ago it was used as compost, today it is protected. The fight is not over yet, human genius is capable of repairing the damage done and anglers are increasingly responsible in their attitudes.

J.C. Philippart, J. Piels, M. Ovidio et G. Rimbaud Laboratoire des poissons et de l'aquaculture, Université de Liège.

 

 

Modern Angling Clubs-Success or Faliure by Mark Wintle

My article back in February that discussed the close season on rivers (‘The Closed Season on Rivers’) set me thinking about some of the problems facing angling clubs in modern times. After all, it was the problems facing our largest club, the BAA, that triggered the debate. Let’s see if I can draw out some other issues.

Funding

For the majority of clubs the greatest challenge is to balance the money coming with that going out. Ideally there should be enough left over each year to build a nest egg that might one day enable the acquisition of new waters and the development of existing waters etc. In a given year, provided two factors are reasonably constant, that membership reaches the usual level, and there are no unforeseen financial demands, like massive increases in rent, then the books ought to balance. Oh, that life should be so simple.

Developing new waters

A small club with an annual surplus of say £1000 or £2000 is simply never going to be able to buy or develop a new fishery. Just the fees for planning permission cost that much, never mind the land, digging, landscaping and stocking. Start at a hundred grand and work upwards. Sure, some very lucky and very hardworking small clubs have created small fisheries from derelict bogs in the past, but for most a lease is as much as can be hoped for.

In my letter to AT I suggested that if John Williams of the BAA could persuade his membership to give him the money he needs the BAA would be able to develop its own equivalent of Moorlands Farm and Makins. Although 11,000 times £24 plus day ticket income might sound a lot by the time the rents are paid it becomes clear that far more money is probably required. As the £24 is, in my opinion, ridiculously cheap, I reckon that he is going to have a major fight on his hands to get that up to the level required. Just what the level should be is hard to predict but think what he could do with a million or two coming in every year.

One idea I’m going to sow on this topic is having a two-tiered membership. It would work something like this – the club develops a new water that is available to members paying an increased fee, say not less than £100, where the usual fee is, say, £40. Those paying the £40 can fish the new water but pay a day ticket at slightly reduced rate – say £5, whereas the £120 members can fish for free. Day tickets might also be available at, say, £6. Just an idea.

Another idea I’m going to sow is that a club, by its non-profit making nature, can provide a type of fishing that a commercial fishery cannot afford to offer. The fishing may not be so good in that hundred pound bags are not commonplace but what a good club water can provide is good fish in good surroundings with much more interesting fishing to boot. By getting away from the seven yard pegs, uniform depths, and heavy overstocking a strong element of watercraft brings a satisfaction of its own.

Club fishing is too cheap

As any club secretary will tell you the average club angler will spend considerably more on a day’s fishing than a year’s membership but complain like hell if you so much as dare suggest a £1 increase at the Annual General Meeting. There is a very strong case for empowering the committee to set the membership rates. One Dorset club famously let a small band of members propose a new rate at the AGM of half the previous one to boost membership. It didn’t, and the result was a slow decline to near oblivion.

The fact is that a typical club membership of £30 covers the equivalent of four to six day tickets, far less for those commercial waters charging by the rod, and separate tickets for day and night. For this insignificant sum the member expects to fish for 12 months, on a variety of waters, with both fantastic fishing and facilities such as good car parking and loos. Quite frankly, he’s having a laugh.

One of my local clubs has no less than forty waters, with excellent fishing and facilities. The fees are several times the £30 though and there’s no shortage of potential members.

If club members want seriously good fishing then the days of £30 per annum are gone.

Decline in river usage

I don’t propose to rerun the river close season debate here. With the declining angling pressures on most rivers I can accept that lifting the river close season might not make a lot of difference to the quality of sport. But I stick to my guns in that lifting the river close season will not bring back the anglers who have already stopped fishing the rivers. Where, however, does this leave clubs faced with paying rent for under-used stretches of river? It’s a case of diversify or die. One successful tactic for clubs has been paying to obtain a concession at day ticket still waters. By doing this, the club retains members sufficiently to retain at least some of its river holdings. In addition it is vital to maintain the river fisheries so that they do not become completely overgrown jungles and remain usable. Never have so many owed so much to so few

With the greatest respect to the heroes of the Battle of Britain, the problem that has probably faced the vast majority of clubs for centuries, and this applies just as much outside angling, is that clubs are often run by a very small number of people. In many cases just one or two; the secretary and treasurer. There may be twelve or fourteen officers and committee but the important decisions and most of the hard work rests on only one or two. I know, I’ve been there. You just have to hope that the indispensable individual has an understanding wife, doesn’t move away, change jobs, get completely fed up or quit. For a small club of up to about two hundred members this may suffice but bigger clubs are going to need professional help at least some of the time. This can include legal, fishery management and accounting skills.

Work parties are traditionally held in the spring

This certainly applies more than ever when it comes to working parties, traditionally held in the spring. Now armed with the excuse of somewhere to fish it is even harder to find volunteers. I doubt if much more than 1% or 2% of members of most clubs do any significant hard work every year on their club waters. My experience of getting work done is that it is less effort to do it myself than the effort of trying to round up ‘volunteers’. I would go so far as to say that two skilled, fit blokes, with the right tools can do a much better job than any large disorganised work party, and that’s based on ten years of doing just that.

Another danger is that members of the committee may become armchair anglers and lose touch with what’s happening on their angling scene. So there is a strong case for recruiting fresh blood (and youth) to a committee on a regular basis. Often the opposite occurs with the long-standing incumbents virtually impossible to shift. This should not be carried out to extremes as a few wise old heads can help steer a steady course.

Supply and demand is not always what it seems

One of the more subtle arguments about the close season was about the feeling of expectation that arises for the glorious 16th. What came out was that year-round fishing can lead to a jaded appetite. Thinking about this further, I realised that this also seems to apply to clubs, which surprised me. What I found was that clubs that impose the old close season on stillwaters as well as that imposed on rivers are stronger than those that open all of their waters as far as possible. It really does seem as if absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the enforced layoff works in the clubs’ favour. The collective waiting for the 16th enhances the expectation and gives a definite starting point for the season’s fishing. Hard to explain, but the waiting lists for the clubs operating this way back it up. I will temper this by saying that the clubs with waiting lists have got waters worth waiting for.

The NFA

At one time the NFA represented over half a million anglers, though how many were counted more than once is impossible to fathom. As match fishing declined the big associations began to question why they should continue to support what was in their eyes an organisation that only ran Nationals. Unfair of course, but what seemed to be subsidising a day out for a dozen of their members became hard to justify. Instead they preferred to spend the money saved on providing fishing for all of their members. The loser is the NFA, and coarse anglers generally in losing what ought to be their strongest voice. Whether the NFA can reverse the trend remains to be seen but my view is that there is a steep mountain to climb. I should like to see the NFA shouting from the rooftops what a fantastic advantage membership offers.

Supporting the ACA

The ACA will provide assistance to clubs that are members therefore all clubs really must belong. So not only should you the individual be a member but also your club should be a paid up member. See www.a-c-a.org for details.

Conclusion

Money is only part of the problem, competing with and complementing commercial fisheries, and meeting the changing demands as angling evolves are others. Members of angling clubs are going to be faced with a stark choice – if you want cheap you will get cheap that might eventually mean very little at all. But if you want more be prepared to dig into your pockets, and if able find time to support your club in creating the waters you want.

 

 

 

Angling Memories of the Fifties by R.Arnatt

It was a mild and sunny morning in September when I cycled to the Littlemore Angling Society waters behind the Clapperton Paper Mill at Sandford. On arrival at the mill and before I started off to the riverbank I collected red worms from underneath the damp bales of waste paper which were waiting to be processed. In the first meadow under the oak tree and in the field, mushrooms could be collected. At the boundary hedge between the mill and the field many a rabbit have been snared whilst fishing.

Walking along the riverbank with its bushes and tall overhanging the river there were lily pads in abundance where many a good bag of roach was to be caught. The river had a good steady flow which was consistent throughout the year before extensive alterations were made from the main weir to the bridge adjoining Sandford Lock in later years, which has altered the flow especially noticeable in the summer.

Fishing tackle in the early fifties were mainly split cane rods, Green Heart or Bamboo, and all had brass ferrules fitted to the joints. My pride and joy was a 16-foot Spanish Reed Salmon rod that needed two hands to hold and cast out. My reels were two centre pin wooden Nottingham Reels size 3 and a half and a four inch, which were very good for trotting down. Fishing lines were either silk or cotton braided which had been greased with Vaseline every time before you went fishing, so that the line would float on top of the water. Hooks were mainly to gut (made usually from entrails of animals). Floats were Porcupine Quills, Swan Quills or made from Balsa Wood. Lead weights were used for ledgering; swimfeeders were not invented yet for fishing. In spite of the fishing tackle of yesteryear many good bags of fish were caught.

Fishing Competitions on Littlemore Water had at that time between 26-28 pegs, although anglers attending the matches varied "Between" 6 to 28 on rare occasions. All fish had a size limit, Barbel 16 inch, Chub, Bream and Carp 12inch, Tench 10 inch, Perch 9inch, Roach 8 inch, Dace 7inch, Gudgeon 5inch. Bleak did not count in the weighing and only size fish were allowed to be brought to the scales. The sweepstake was two shillings and sixpence (12 and half pence in new money), with prize money varying from ten shillings to thirty shillings for the heaviest bag weighed in. A lot of money in those days.

During the close season we had work parties of about six to eight anglers to tidy up the riverbank and cut branches off over hanging trees. On one occasion I was helping to remove a large branch off a tree near the point, and I had climbed along the tree to remove some eight feet of the tail end of the branch, but another angler had decided to remove the branch from the trunk of the tree, needless to say the branch gave way and I got a soaking.

Various things can happen when you are fishing. On one occasion I put down a cheese sandwich I was eating to land a fish, after landing the fish I recommenced to eat my sandwich including a fat brown slug. I did not eat another sandwich that morning. Another time about 3.30am I intended to fish the first hole adjacent to the Sandford Paper Mill hedgerow, there was a young couple doing what comes naturally in a punt, they made a hasty retreat. A little later I moved up to the point and who should be there - the same couple still enjoying themselves. I tried to back away quietly but stood on a stick that cracked, the couple made off completely naked down stream towards Radley.

In the summers of the early fifties I have been down on the riverbank at the break of dawn and have seen wild life such as Badgers drinking from the shallows on Whites Farm adjoining the point, Foxes, Stoats, Weasels, Grass Snakes swimming the river and one Polecat. But in recent years I have not seen very much movement of wildlife about.

I hope you have enjoyed my reminiscences of the fifties, and perhaps at a later date write about the sixties when Littlemore won the Upper Thames Championship, the only Oxfordshire club to do so. I was proud to be a member of that team.

 

Gold for Campbell in Division 4 National

September 2000

The proud Individual winner, Alan Campbell, only had around 0.500 kg in his net with two hours to go when he noticed the angler on the next peg land a couple of bream.

Alan recalls; I had some roach and a small bream in the net and as I was chatting with Dave Chandler and Dave Rudman and we noticed the chap on the next peg net a couple of bream, I joked to the two Dave's "I'll give him a head start and see how it goes”. They carried on up to C-section and I switched over from the pole to the groundbait feeder with worm and maggot on a size 14 hook.

As soon as the feeder settled, I had a bite and the action never stopped. I was getting a lot of false bites because there were so many fish in the swim and I also lost a couple of eels after they bit through the line. The bream just went mad and I landed 13 to 1.5 kg in the last 2hrs of the match. The stewards eventually weighed me in at 17.910kg, which was top weight so far in the section. I knew it was a good weight, but I was lead to believe the big weights would come from the Ouse. I made my way back to the coach and was chatting with one of the anglers from Delcac who also had 10kg of bream. He thought I’ve defiantly framed with the weight. I started to get a bit nervous then and just couldn’t wait to get back to HQ.

Getting of the bus I met one of our anglers Richard Merry, he asked what I had, I said I ended up with 17kg. He said there was an angler in his section with 20kg. I felt a bit down but thought "Hey I'm still up there". We managed to get the kit packed away and headed for the bar. After a few beers I phoned my wife to remind her to tape the speedway that was on that evening. I told her that I've done well and could be in the top 3. Whilst talking to my wife I was listening to a conversation in front of me from 3 anglers. I heard one say that a guy in his section had 13kg; another said he had an angler in his section with 16kg. I said to my wife to hold on a minute. I said to the 3 anglers that I had 17kg. One said " youv'e won it mate" But I told them that someone had had 20kg somewhere. No replied one of them " That was 20lb, he asked the steward to work it out into pounds because he didn't understand kilos"

I got back to the wife and told her that I think I've won it. We were both ecstatic. I couldn't wait to get back to the lads and tell them. We all waited outside for the result and when my name was read out to walk up the steps to collect the trophy I was shaking like a leaf. What a feeling turning around and looking at all those people clapping will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.

It didn’t sink in at first that I was the Embassy champion and I had to leave the celebrations until the following weekend because I had to go to work Sunday night. I have won club matches before but to capture such an important event, as a National is just unbelievable - it's the ultimate win and the biggest victory of my life.

As well as the £1,064 from the pools payout, Campbell won £130 from the bookmaker various prizes from sponsors and wait for it, £22 from his teammates! "We bet £2 a man on who got the biggest weight - I think I will frame the £22 and keep is as a souvenir."

The money did come in very handy though. We had been trying for a baby through I.V.F. and spent several thousand pounds on trying without success. In July 2001, baby Ellie was born and this was the icing on the cake for Debbie and myself ,for what can only be described as a fantastic 12 months!