Christmas Fantasy Match ont' Trent
It's back to 1973 for a match on't Trent between FM regulars and a team of celebrity match anglers from yesteryear.
The Kettle of Fish Men's Darts Team
Deanos' Auntie Kathleen (Captain)
The Celebrity Team
John Ledger (Captain)
'I suppose we're going to a bloody commercial are we?' Muttered Monk, anticipating a blank on his first FM fish-in, after all, the only rod he'd had in his hand in years had a permanent bend in it.
'Nay, Lad' exclaimed Graham, 'I've got that second wallet of white fivers changed by the bank, and I'm chartering a plane to fly us all to Niagara Falls for this year's event where we'll be joined by an all celebrity team.' Graham beamed; he hadn't felt this happy for years, spending money like water was such fun. Steve DB and Kevin fainted with the shock of it all.
'Viagra Falls? Sounds dodgy to me?' asked Monk, somewhat suspiciously, 'Never heard of it. Is it far in the van?'
'Niagara, Niagara! It's in Canada, that's why we're flying, and we're fishing the Niagara River - full of carp and stuff. It was Chris Tarrant's idea, he's got contacts. We're flying from Heathrow next week so dig out your passports, the gear's all supplied when we get there. We're all meeting up at Heathrow except for the celebrities who are meeting us there'.
One week later.
After a slight altercation as Auntie Kathleen drew up with the coal wagon at Heathrow, and Kevin had his bags of hemp confiscated when the sniffer dogs got over-excited all were aboard the chartered jet.
They'd only been flying twenty minutes and were still over the Midlands when the lights went out on the plane. A terrific roaring sound came from the engines then the plane tilted ominously downwards and gathered speed at an alarming rate. After twenty seconds with the oxygen masks ejecting above the seats there was a blinding flash of light. Shortly afterwards the lights came back on and the noise from the engines sounded normal. The captain came on the intercom, 'Due to unexplained engine problems I am bringing the plane down for an emergency landing on some flat meadows alongside a river. Please adopt the brace position.'
After an extremely bumpy landing the plane ground to a halt on the meadow.
The shaken passengers clambered down the emergency chutes. The cargo door had opened and they hurriedly unloaded their gear and carried it fifty yards from the plane.
Ashen-faced and barely able to speak, Lee Swords was first to break the silence, 'That were close. I recognize this. It's t'Trent at Stoke Ferry, recognise that smell anywhere. There's some lads over there by them old cars, see if they can 'elp.'
The bewildered group staggered across to the group of cars where a bunch of what were obviously anglers stood around smoking and chatting. As our heroes got closer they could see great wicker baskets and canvas holdalls and buckets. The cars were like a blast from the past; a couple of Cortinas, an old Humber, an old Bedford van and a Viva, all in reasonable condition. Old biscuit tins were filled with casters and maggots. One of the anglers chomped on a huge cigar and was holding a copy of Angling Times that he was reading out to another angler with a red bandana tied around his neck, 'is Dick Walker trying to wind you up again Ivan?' he asked.
A little rotund fellow stepped forward from the group of anglers to greet our crowd. 'Billy Lane, glad you could make it on a Tuesday but it's the only day we could get 20-odd free pegs on the Trent.'
The realisation of what had just been said sent a shiver down the spines of several the FM gang. Great dollops of recognition raced around the heads of Graham, Mark, Monk and some of the others. Not only were they talking to Billy Lane, but here were Ivan Marks, Percy Anderson, Benny Ashurst, Clive Smith, Johnny Rolfe and John Ledger making up the remainder of the group.
Lee stared at the front of the Angling Times - the cover had an orange oval on it. 'I couldn't tek a quick look at Times?' he asked. Percy passed it over. There it was staring him in the face - 11th August 1973. It was pristine. 'When did you buy this?'
Percy replied 'Just now at the newsagent by the level crossing. It's this week's.'
1973! They'd taken off in 2008 and now it was 1973 - no wonder it had been a strange and eventful flight.
Billy spoke again. 'We must have blinked, never saw your coach come and go, just suddenly noticed you all with your gear. Fetch it all over and we'll sort out the pegs and sweep. 50p all right? How many have you got? Fellow who rang me about this - all very mysterious - said there were two teams joining us, and to bring your bait which we've done - two pints of casters and two pints of bronze maggots apiece - should be plenty.'
Lee looked back as did the rest of the FM crowd. There in the field was their pile of gear but no plane. Graham had a sudden thought (it did happen now and again); if they all dug out new £ 1 and £ 2 coins there would be a lot of explaining to do. So he pulled out his third wallet of white fivers and declared, 'I'm paying our pools today and I'll put the remainder behind the bar in the Ferry Boat afterwards.' (Well, this is fiction....).
Clive Smith organized the draw, and the two FM captains took the envelopes with the peg numbers. Mark and Auntie Kathleen called their respective teams together.
Mark tried to explain, 'Seems we're now on the Trent in 1973 which means stick floats and little hooks for roach and gudgeon though we're up against some of the finest anglers in the country. Still, if we beat The Kettle of Fish Ladies it'll be some consolation.'
Jeff yawned. He'd been looking forward to staying in Niagara Falls, honeymoon capital of the world, especially as he had an assignment with Amanda and her delectable twin. Who needs custard with three on a waterbed? And now what did he have? 1973 in Nottingham. But weren't the men heavily outnumbered by the women hereabouts? Roll on opening time! If he could persuade Deanos to come on the pull he'd have a chance as that was the only way he would be the better looking one....
Steve DB felt hungry. All the excitement had faded away and he was starving. Perhaps the Ferry Boat did 32oz steaks?
Lee on the other hand had more ambitious plans. 'Listen you bunch of amateurs! Am I not the handsomest angler ever to grace banks of Trent? And brilliant at catching barbel to boot? Let's show these seventies throwbacks how to do it properly and go carbelling. We've got rods fer job, and pellets and stuff.'
Wendy could hardly stand never mind talk (for a change) but finally stifled her fit of the giggles; 'You handsome?! I've heard some rubbish but that's the best, but this carbelling could work. Keef says I should be positive in matches and it sometimes works as I had no problem choosing between the purple and the red nail varnish this morning.'
Auntie Kathleen drew herself up to her full height, casting a shadow on the whole of Burton Joyce, 'Listen yer scrawny ferret, we, Deanos and Whoppit and me, fishes our way. We've got our pies and lugworm and that's that - anyone want to argue?'
Pete Jacobs started, 'But this is the Trent in 1973 for Chrissakes, the barbel haven't b....', and stopped himself quickly realising that shutting up under the glare of Auntie Kathleen might prove a better survival strategy. He'd cheated death once already this morning, was glad to be alive and preferred to stay that way.
The anglers made their way to their pegs. As wicker lids creaked, one or two of the cracks looked at the FM anglers with puzzled expressions. Clive Smith couldn't help noticing the huge lead-loaded feeder that Lee was attaching to his line. 'You trying to knock 'em out, mate?'
Lee smiled as he glanced at the ABU Mark 6 rods and ABU 506's. Those barbel wouldn't know what hit them. Hang on a minute! How many barbel were there in the Trent in 1973? Any? Only one way to find out.
Billy Lane stared at Pete Jacobs huge tackle box with its platform and add-ons. 'You a mate of Ray Mumford's by any chance, I seem to remember he likes fancy boxes like that though nothing on that scale.'
Pete replied, 'Slightly more advanced than the one he's got,' as he continued assembling a 14 metre pole, adding to the four rods and seven metre whip already assembled.
All too soon the whistle to start sounded. It wasn't long before the delicate and finely honed float skills of the seventies cracks began to pay dividends as they swung two ounce roach to hand mixed in with plentiful gudgeon. Clive Smith winced each time Lee cast in as the huge feeder crashed into the middle of the Trent, the wash making his keepnet ride up the bank. It would be a while before Peter Jacobs would be ready; he wasn't used to the one-rod tactics of the old Trent aces.
Deanos, Claudia and Gordon Whoppit had settled for a two ounce coffin lead just a rod length out having found the pacy Trent too much like hard work and the odd suicidal gudgeon rattled their rod tips.
Neil, Graham, Mark, Jeff and Peter tried their best to match the float skills of the maestros, tempting the odd roach along with a few gudgeon but the Trent was a tough proposition in those days, and it was clear that the maestros were unstoppable. Steve DB was inconsolable. 'Why are they catching all the roach, it's not fair...', not that anyone was listening. Monk wandered the banks keeping clear of Auntie Kathleen, hoping the Ferry Boat would open soon.
Auntie Kathleen had other plans though. Was she not 1954 Aire Ladies (Ahem!) champion? But how to catch from a tough Trent? GOT IT!!! A great cob of bread on a size 4/0 sea hook anchored with three ounces of lead. If you're not going to catch you may as well not catch summat big. Hurling the rig far out into the middle of the Trent with an almighty cast she drew an admiring remark from John Ledger.
'If that fekkin lead goes near my swim agin I'll chuck yer in, yer fat git!'
'Ooooooooo, Big Boy, you know how to sweet talk the ladies,' replied Auntie Kathleen, always up for a rumble.
The match continued in much the same vein. Pete Jacobs was still threading the line up a rod, suspecting that his fish had long been drawn out of his peg by the legendary Billy Lane. 'Like having an empty peg in the next swim,' he'd remarked to Ivan who'd gone on a mid match wander in search of more fags.
With four hours gone, it was all over bar the shouting. Jeff slumbered on, bored with scratching out gudgeon, and dreamt of Nottingham Ruffe Slappers.
Lee's carbelling was not going to plan; true he'd been getting a few twitches as fish nosed the feeder but apart from one scrawny half pound chub was otherwise fishless. But out in the middle of the Trent a great battle-scarred mirror carp was stirring. The bed of bait laid down by Lee was sending a scent trail far down the Trent. The carp had never smelt anything like it being used to mopping up the discarded bait thrown in the edge after the match anglers had departed. It started munching the boilies and pellets, finally taking the one attached to Lee's hook. Lee's rod plunged forward as the carp turned downriver. Lee struck but could only hang on tight as the massive carp stripped line from his reel. The carp was by now fifty yards downstream in mid river but Lee's tackle was sound.
'Am I brilliant or what?' he asked no-one in particular as he felt the pressure start to ease the carp back up river. The carp, stopping for a breather, spotted a soggy cob of bread, and never one to pass up an easy meal, sucked it in.
Auntie Kathleen, fishing three pegs below, noticed her beachcaster bell signal a bite and struck. The carp was now hooked by both Auntie Kathleen and Lee.
'You've fouled my line and fish!' bellowed Lee.
'It's not yours yet, lad! Fight yer for it.' responded Auntie Kathleen, 'Fetch us some pies Deanos, this is hungry work.'
As the two strong lines and one carp converged on their swims, Clive Smith and Neil had to get out of the way sharpish. After five minutes of heaving they ended up next to each other in Lee's peg where he put the net under the 25lb carp.
'It's mine!' he exclaimed. 'Arm wrestle you for it.' responded Auntie Kathleen. By now Gordon Whoppit had arrived, drawn by the shouting. 'Best let her have it, Lee, if she sits on yer face you'll be dead in no time.'
'Why don't we share it?' asked Lee, 'it's easily big enough to win the match, even the best roach weight can only be about seven pound, go halves on t'pools.'
'OK, jes this once, but I'm 'aving yer after the match.' She replied, with a wicked grin that left no doubt about what she meant.
Forty minutes later it was all over. The weigh-in quickly proved the class of the Trent maestros as they all weighed in five to seven pounds of mainly roach. The rest of the anglers scarcely broke a pound, and it was all down to the carp to save the day for the Kettle of Fish. Peter Jacobs was heard to say, 'is it over, I've still got one rod to tackle up yet!'
'Bit of a problem here, scales only go ter 14lb.' said Benny Ashurst, 'Could always cut it in two? Always thought there were a carp or two in 'ere but barbel, no chance.' With that Benny produced a huge carving knife and......
'Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo....!!!!!!!' Screamed Lee, as he lunged forward to stop Benny. He felt like he was being shaken.
'Wake up, Lee, Wake up handsome!'
Lee sat bolt upright in bed.
'Where am I? Is it 1973?'
'No, yer wassock, just a bad dream, go back ter sleep, yer've got a match in't mornin', remember, on't Trent with that FishingMagic lot.' Replied Auntie Kathleen, snuggling up to the mostest handsomest angler ever to grace the banks of the Trent.
Lee sighed contentedly and wriggled his bum into a fold of Auntie Kathleen's substantial belly.
It doesn't get better'n this, he thought.