People heading off for a quiet Sunday jaunt around the dog poop infested canal at Hawksbury junction, or those popping into the grey hound pub for a quiet pint, would be forgiven for thinking that the Midlands arm of the Rebel alliance were massing for re-enactment of the rebel assault on the empires shield generator on the forest moon of Endor, as the growing throng outside the pub were dressed head to toe in green and spoke a strange language where every sentence was punctuated with a type of fish.
It was in actual fact the meeting place for the local blog bunch, who were gathering in honour of Jeff Hatt's half century and for a the first ever canal roving Zander fishing match that I have ever heard of.
These fish socials as always are a great opportunity to meet up with old friends and new. And I for one always look forward to the banter and as per normal it started well before a single line is cast. Everyone was tooled up with a full array of tackle and raring to go. But my vision of ten plus anglers all racked up in starting blocks loaded with tackle as Jeff stood atop the eighteenth century iron bridge that spans the canal firing of a shot gun to signal go, was only a fantasy of mine. Instead we trickled out in dribs and drabs around 3.30pm. Some had intent in mind and shot off to favoured haunts whilst others wandered off a little glossy eyed in unfamiliar territory.
I hadn't made any plans of where to fish and sat back a little with Andy to wait and see where everyone went. Surprisingly just about everyone went away from the area that we all know for sure has produced Zander in the past. Knowing full well it was available myself and Mr Lewis trundled the short distance round the corner to start where we knew they had once been and shot four float rigs out over the water.
The first area we fished was a wash out. Covered in the collective debris of most of Cov cut it was number one, barely fishable and number two, sans feeding fish. So we opted to start leapfrogging our way up the tow path.
This was a great move as in the very next swim the first action of the night came promptly. A sail away run form a small Zander, which Andy lost early in the fight signalled a hectic hour just as day rolled into night.
The next run was missed then the third got Andy off the mark with nice 2lb ish schoolie.
Working as a team I sorted the fish as he recast his rod so as to maximise any chances of more Zeds being around. The tactic worked a treat for us both as within minutes of casting out Andy was away again with a slightly bigger Zed of 3lb plus.
I was beginning to feel left out until one of my floats zipped off attached to a tiny pound fish. And although I the blank was avoided I was disappointed that my only fish so far could have actually been smaller than a few of the deads I was carrying in my bag.
The best for me was still to come when my other float which was a bit away from the hotspot buried instantly not to return. This one had to be a better fish as my rod was actually bending for this one unlike my first fish. I cannot deny the whole competitiveness of the match got to me a little as the Zed did it's open mouth thrashing bit in the middle of the cut and I demanded Andy net it as quick as possible. Which he did and a four pound fish brought me within ounces of Andy's weight.
Phil came walking through the dark just as we did the photo and was shortly followed by Merv and his grandson Curtis. As we stood in the murk anticipating more runs we all had a good old chin wag on the only subject on the cards when such a large group of fishing fanatics are out on the water for the night.
Even with more moves made the only other things to come our way a were other anglers as the time ticked away and in the end even the blunder bust approach of four anglers including myself, Jeff, Andy and Lee covering just about every inch of one section canal failed. As we met up with everyone at the pub it became apparent that all the action came in the first two hours just the light faded. Which can truly prove that the fish only fed in that tiny window known as the witching hour.
Back in the pub, pints in hand, the presents and prizes were handed out as the libations flowed and the discussions reached their zenith. Andy took first place winning the prize of a ABU multiplier reel piping me to the post by only ounces and what can be described as an already well oiled Jeff was over the moon with the home made present and the worlds only example of Just for Jeff hair dye. That I must say does not have what could be termed as a reputable lineage ( think hard before you use it Jeff)
All in all I think it was quite a successful first go at this format of fishing match and it could have some serious mileage if we were to again maybe in more favourable time of the year.