Swan’s Wensum success is extremely satisfying
Extreme fishing? Eat your heart out Robson Green. For you have been upstaged by intrepid local match anglers competing on the River Wensum at the weekend when ice was forming on their lines, in their rod rings and a maggot was deep frozen before it hit the water.
On a weekend when almost every water was in the grip of Jack Frost's vice, this was extreme fishing by any standards and it was a shame the cameras were not there to capture the catches of winter roach from Riverside – another of nature's miracles that defied all rhyme or reason.
On Saturday, Tony Gibbons' pairs event went ahead after much deliberation on the pavements. To fish or not to fish? That was the question. Whether to be seen as sensible and give in to this winter's most severe mood in the coldest December in living memory or to be seen as completely mad by passers-by and fish on.
There was only one answer. To hell with the weather and risk a visit from the men in white coats. The general consensus was: Let's give it a go.
As day temperatures plunged to -8C, the ice began to form, prompting Gibbons to declare: 'I have never fished in such wintry conditions, although I remember the winter of 1963. It was amazing any fish were caught at all.'
But nature is truly wonderful and unpredictable. Pete Swan (Earlham Silvers) tempted 8lb 7oz of roach for top spot, David Roe (Daiwa AD) 4lb 12oz and Shaun James (Dukes) 3lb 14oz. Swan and Wayne Anderson headed the pairs list with 11lb 8oz.
The following day, the Norwich Dukes Club members were greeted by ice floes lifting off from the wides of the turning basin and drifting down their match length.
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'We came close to calling it off, but a majority wanted to go ahead so we fished,' said Shaun James.
So, was it worth suffering from the chilled backbone and aching fingers during these five-hour endurance tests? Let the results speak for these brave boys. The Dukes' result was almost identical to the Saturday open with J Lowe wining with 8lb 8oz, the S James 5lb 13oz and N Smith with 5lb 10oz. Lowe and James were top pair with 14lb 5oz, them Smith and Urry with 9lb 2oz.
Whether the Wensum will be ice-free for Boxing Day's Jim Boulton Memorial depends on night temperatures. However, while the weather men are not forecasting a heatwave, the thermometer is not expected to fall below -2. And, if assisted by a considerable rise and fall of the tides, Riverside may well be fishable on Boxing Day. Check this page on Friday for the latest bulletin.
On the match lakes, kept free by mechanical means, there were catches for the lucky few at Barford. Steve Kindleysides (East Harling) won the Saturday event with 22lb 7oz and Shaun Greatbatch (Hinderclay) was the Sunday winner with 22lb 6oz.
Stalham Club members visited their lagoon, where swims were hacked out of the ice. Denny Hammond won this grueller with 2lb 2oz and the only woman club member, brave Amanda Greenaugh was runner-up with 1lb 13oz, with the remainder gazing at empty nets.
Along the beaches, a number of intrepid travellers from as far afield as Ely and Peterborough, competed in the Tackle Xchange Christmas Fair event at Kelling.
In the face of freezing breezes, Martin Waters (Carlton Colville) won with 4lb 2oz of mainly flatfish, Mark Gooch (Lowestoft) had 3lb 12oz and Paul Tovell (Gorleston) 3lb 9oz.
Organiser Tony Thomas said: 'Considering the biting weather these were reasonable returns. The anglers were brave to face such dreadful conditions but fortunately the main roads were clear so travelling was not such a problem.'
Hardy veterans competed in the Beccles Cut during the week and were rewarded with fair catches. R Brand won the first outing with 13lb 1oz of perch and Joe Beckham headed the second match with 21lb 10oz of quality roach.
Meanwhile, commercial fishery bosses should note that installing aerators in such Siberian weather can threaten fish stocks. Water is the only liquid on the planet that actually expands at freezing point and, therefore, is the surface insulator against the worst winter conditions for fish life gathering in the lower depths. Constant agitation of the water in such harsh weather can result in ice crystals forming on the bed of a lake, this threatening all life beneath the surface. However, breaking holes in the ice is recommended to replenish dissolved oxygen levels.