Mason warms to the task as results pick up again

The sun was shining brightly, beating through thin cirrus cloud. Yellow-billed cock blackbirds were singing merrily, claiming territory for the coming breeding season. Snowdrops were belatedly pushing though the softened turf seeking daylight.

Nature was celebrating the big thaw and anglers were out and about at the weekend as sport began to return to normal on most waters, but not on all.

Some of the carp were not keen to feed in cold, sheltered fisheries such as Melton Ponds, while in contrast, wide-open waters, such as Barford, were producing catches in more clement conditions, though understandably not of the high summer standard.

At Barford, Norwich Oddfellows' winner Dean Mason ended with a creditable 44lb 6oz followed by Mick Cleere with 33lb.

The Wymondham club at Barford was a silverfish affair with Tony Gibbons the winner with 28lb 4oz of skimmer bream followed by Albert Farrow just 4oz off with 28lb.

The Attleborough match group at Besthorpe produced 39lb 8oz for winner A Scarfe while at the Beccles Quay Colin Davey won the veterans with 27lb 9oz followed by David Roe with 24lb 8oz, all bream to 2.5lb.

On the open match circuit Steve Miller (Huntsmen) headed the midweek open at Burgh Castle with a mixed bag of 54lbs 4oz and at Hill Farm Banham C Chadwick (Wymondham) won with 34lbs 13oz.

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The Railway open was a close-fought contest with only ounces separating Vince Cross (Ixworth) with 28lb 14oz and Tony Feltham (Anglers World) with 28lb 8oz. It was a similar story for Marsh Trail where Alec Watson (Stalham) headed the card with 22lb 10oz then John Collison (Dodds) 22lbs 4oz.

For once the River Wensum failed to come up to scratch, a raging flood washing small branches, twigs and other detritus through the popular match stretch.

Earlham Silvers members took one look at the conditions and departed without tackling up, but the Dukes members fished, their winner C Urry with a handful of bream totalling 14lb 1oz.

By contrast the River Thurne was on splendid form for bream specialist brothers Kevin and David Paynter who fished the Martham bank to net dozens of skimmer bream and a number of slabs to over 4lb, the Yarmouth duo finishing with estimated catches of up to 40lb taken on a feeder rig with worm and maggot baiting the hooks.

Kevin Paynter commented: 'The Thurne seemed barren of fish during the freeze-up but the warmer conditions stimulated the fish in to a feeding frenzy and every angler on the bank was catching.'

Carp specialists found the going hard but Waveney Valley produced a number of mirrors and commons over 20lb with more of the same expected once water temperatures rise further.

On the pike fishing front, the pleas went out 'stop killing our fish'. That was the latest angry entreaty, indeed demand, from officials of the Norwich and District Pike Anglers Club following yet another case of a top predator being mishandled, even manhandled, carelessly.

The incident happened on the River Wensum in Norwich, where a pike angler heaved out a fish and, according to witnesses, hurled his capture on to the hard concrete path, where it thrashed around, losing scales while suffering superficial cuts and grazes. Concerned chairman Steve Roberts said: 'We are increasingly concerned by the way our local pike are being handled that could result in unnecessary mortalities.'

It is reported that other pike anglers remonstrated fiercely with the culprit and the incident was reported on the Environment Agency Hotline.

'We accept that pike angling beginners can panic when they hook a fish. Our advice is to seek advice on the Pike Anglers Club website or contact us,' said Roberts. At the end of every coarse fishing season numbers of dead pike are to be found in the margins of rivers and Broads, casualties of carelessness and deep hooking.