Newcomers still in pole position for league crown

Roy WebsterNew boys on the block Latham's Fishing are poised to lift the Barford Winter league title for teams of five. Despite finishing narrow runners up in arctic conditions on Sunday they remain top of the table with 24 penalty points, 11 better than their nearest challengers Lewis Anglers World A whose B team are another point adrift.Roy Webster

A housewife who took up sea fishing only two years ago has won the ladies' section of the European Beach Angling Championship staged along the Yorkshire coast at Bridlington.

Jean Balls braved biting windy conditions during the two day event to weigh in two flounders totalling 0.325kg on day one and on day two caught just one flounder scaling 0.385kg. Those three fish earned the 57-year-old rodwoman, who was "thrilled to bits,"top tackle prizes consisting of two beach rods and Penn reel, a head light for night fishing and a crystal vase trophy which she keeps.

"Rather than sit at home alone while my husband Ian went off beach fishing I decided that if I could not beat him I would join him. I became a member of the Fakenham Angling Club and I love it," she smiled.

And how did hubby Ian fare at the championship? "He caught eight whiting and every one of them was undersized so he finished with nothing," chortled Fakenham fisher Jean, who added: "I believe I was very lucky to catch anything at all. Many failed and actually I had four fish but one of them was undersized. Even so it was one of the best days of my life."

� Floodwaters on all rivers, broads and lakes began to recede at the weekend, allowing angling to go ahead but participants suffered from yet another spell of severe overnight frosts that put a thin skin of ice on shallow stillwaters.

On the match scene, eyes were focused on the national Super Cup early rounds involving local teams, with Mulbarton and Norwich Union emerging victorious from three-way contests in the first stage of this competition arranged for grass-roots competitors.

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The Union turned in a brilliant performance on Martham Pits, where they scored 13 penalty points, narrowly beating their hosts Martham by two points with North Norfolk Misfits trailing by eight points. Although Richard Boyce bagged a maximum for Martham with 42lb 15oz of mainly bream plus a bonus carp of 11lb, the Union men who did the damage were Simon Clay, with 41lb 13oz and Scott Harmer with 41lb 4oz, respectively filling second and third spots.

Martham team man Paul Sparks, who helped arrange the challenge, said the Martham Pits venue had produced superb returns considering the water was crystal clear with ice formed around the margins.

"Local anglers do not realise what a gem of a fishery we have here and hardly any day permits are sold during the winter," he said.

"I bagged a 2lb roach while pleasure fishing last week and I know there are more of the same in there as well as huge bream and quality carp." Mulbarton was the host club on their own lake and just made the cut with 15 penalty points after a fierce confrontation against North Walsham Kingfishers and Brundall Huntsmen, who both finished on 17 points.

Top rod on the day was Kingfishers' Colin Beales with 9lb 6oz, then Steve Mille (Huntsmen), with 9lb 2oz and Mulbarton's Trevor Day, 9lb 1oz.

Mulbarton's Chris Angel commented: "There were only ounces between the teams right down the card and we came through by the skin of our teeth. Although it was a day of low weights, it was still a gripping contest."

The River Wensum along Riverside lost several inches of water by Saturday morning but was still racing to the sea at a fairly fierce pace. Fortunately, the suspended debris had dropped out leaving David Gooch (Earlham Silvers) in a hot spot that produced him a winning 29lb 11oz of mainly bream.

Cross Drove kicked off their �1,000 qualifiers with some excellent double figure catches and Melton Ponds' first open event since the freeze-up began produced a 38lb 13oz winner for Long Stratton's Alan Hilton.

On the big fish scene, Waveney Valley Lakes hit their best winter form - the top mirror carp of 30lb for Southwold's Dean Bridges, who had another two over 20lb. Winterton's Brian Thrower bagged a brace of 28 pounders and another Southwold rod, Darren Martin, bagged fish to 26lb.