2021. What a year.
Willie Nelson’s popular country and western song, “Funny How Time Slips Away,” springs to mind when trying to remember the last 12 months.
There are many things that one hopes we will never see again, but unfortunately the way things are working out it looks as though we may well just be beginning an action replay. Thank goodness for vaccines, without which many of us might not have had the chance to wet a line.
The year began with frozen ponds and awful weather and anglers struggling.
Ulley Reservoir’s two-day event was reduced to just one as atrocious conditions with snow resulted in the second match being cancelled.
Dave Walker’s winning 13lbs 5ozs at Bank End was an indication of how hard it was and Kiveton Hall Farm was frozen over.
Despite this, 57 anglers fished the Walkley Winter League at Woodhouse Grange, a match won by Steve Robinson with 33lbs 8ozs, signally what was to become an excellent year for him.
But the weather was the least of angler’s problems.
Lockdown was announced, barring angling from taking place. Then no sooner had it been than pleasure fishing received a reprieve, courtesy of a campaign headed by the Angling Trust.
It resulted in a huge boost for the sport in terms of numbers as those looking for any excuse to get outside looked to angling as a way of doing so.
As far as match fishing was concerned though, everything stopped. Well almost everything, because some fisheries did hold competitions, contrary to advice, but were not covered by the Advertiser.
February’s only column discussed how a melting gin and tonic (guess what I was doing instead of fishing?) demonstrated how ice-covered waters are better for catching fish than those where the ice was melting.
March was spent melting ice, in gin of course, before sport recommenced in April, the frostiest, driest and coldest April since 1980.
A leak on the Aire and Calder canal caused the Canal and River Trust to drop the water level in Southfield Reservoir, a problem which affected results throughout the summer. The early signs were good, however, with Steve Dugan winning the Walkley Winter League at Lodge Farm with 97lbs 8ozs, Rob Shirt landed a winning 149lbs 1oz at Barnburgh Lakes, and Ray Harris, 87lbs 14ozs, at Kiveton.
By mid-month, Rotherham’s Aged, Blind and Disabled AC’s season had begun with Steve Roe beating a field of 35 with 39lbs at Hayfield, and Roy Waites won Spurley Hey’s match at Woodhouse Grange with 52lbs.
Jamie Lovitt had the first of many winning days at Lowfield Lakes with an 80lbs 1oz net and Ron Ayrton won the Reel Legends match at the same venue with 39lbs 9ozs.
Carl Roberts began as he meant to carry on, winning two Walkley matches at Woodhouse Grange and Candy Corner both with 130lbs.
May began with rain, thunder and lightening but that didn’t stop Will Rutter winning the Horse and Jockey’s Ken Allgood Memorial Match with 53lbs 2ozs of F1’s at Woodhouse, or Carl Roberts winning a third Walkley event while father Chris weighed 82lbs 15ozs to win at Lowfield Lakes.
Kilnhurst and District began their summer series on Baker’s Pond much to the delight of Barry Heappey, who won with 13lbs 8ozs and Stuart Senior, who won the following week in addition to victories at Ravenfield and Wentworth.
Later in the month Andrew Morley won the Killamarsh West End match with 137lbs 14ozs and Mike Rhodes the Aged, Blind, and Disabled match on the Bonsai at Lindholme with 76lbs.
June arrived with some welcome sunshine which in turn resulted in fish starting spawning, but on the whole sport was pretty good.
Paul Lancaster landed three bream for a victory at Elsecar, a feat he has repeated many times since. Derek Jackson’s 54lbs 8ozs brought him success at the Ferry Boat while Andrew Warriner took his first win with the Red Lion, Catcliffe, in a match at Lodge Farm, weighing 65lbs 2ozs.
Elsewhere, Barnburgh Lakes raised £640 for Bluebell Wood and Jamie Lovitt won both the Wednesday and Sunday matches at Lowfield Lakes — something he has done many times since.
Bernard Austin’s 65lbs 14ozs gave him the top spot in the Aged, Blind and Disabled match at Tyram, similarly Roy Waites’ 112lbs 6ozs in the Horse and Jockey’s match at Lodge Farm.
By the end of the month things were really looking up.
There were 11 100lbs-plus weights at Bank End led by a 254lbs catch taken by Luke Sears. Pete Morley caught a 218lbs net at Lakeside and Paul Nash landed 333lbs 13ozs at Barnburgh.
Ravenfield sprung to life in July with Stuart Senior winning the Wednesday match with 31lbs 12ozs and Trevor Parkin Saturday’s event with 23lbs 6ozs.
Alan Mitchell topped the Aged, Blind and Disabled match at Lindholme with 112lbs 5ozs and Charlie Hurst won the Geoff Saunders Memorial match at Torne Bank with 53lbs 14ozs.
Darren Denton set a new record at Spring Vale’s First Spring Lake, weighing 244lbs and went on to land 307lbs 13ozs from Woodhouse’s Dog Kennel Lake.
At club level the Leesing family were making a name for themselves with brothers Philip and Neil taking first and second places with 134lbs 12ozs and 89lbs 8ozs in the Drawbridge’s match at Hayfield and Neil following that with further wins with 103lbs 12ozs at Springvale and 170lbs at Lodge Farm.
Meanwhile, Kyle Hartley proved the pole can win, landing 25lbs 10ozs of roach in a NuFish FeederKing match at Southfield Reservoir.
August saw Elsecar spring to life with catches from Les Billups and Paul Lancaster, and Dave Griffiths won the last three matches he fished at Ravenfield. Paul Hunt was winning on the South Yorkshire Navigation at Croda and Chris Nardoni the Wednesday and Saturday matches at Lowfield Lakes, but perhaps the best catch of the month came with Mick Hospodynuik’s 20lbs 5ozs of roach caught with hemp seed at Ravenfield.
The traditional Lowfield charity event saw £2,595.56 raised for research into Prostrate Cancer.
Doncaster’s St Leger week brought the usual warm weather and with it the first Ulley Reservoir open, which Paul Hardy won with five bream weighing 16lbs 9ozs.
Trevor Parkin won at Elsecar and followed that up by winning the Mick Etches Memorial with 28lbs 8ozs.
Disappointingly — and once again — the World Coarse Angling Championships received little, if any, press, something I lay squarely at the door of our governing body, the Angling Trust.
The event was fished in Italy and the England team finished third overall.
Jamie Lovitt was still at it at Lowfields, breaking records with a 143lbs 1ozs catch and Ron Ayrton won the Reel Legends match at Lodge Farm with 68lbs 2ozs. And as the rain took over weatherwise, Steve Parker caught Aston’s 45lbs sturgeon.
The talking point of October was to be the £17,000 pay-out at the NuFish FeederKing Championship at Southfield, but although the CRT had the previously low water levels back up to normal, the result was a disaster.
Neil Mallinson was the winner, landing just one 2lbs 6ozs bream for a cool £10,000 first prize, with the total catch for all 60 anglers being just 4lbs.
Barry Heappey was pleased with his performance, however, after winning the last three Stag AC matches in addition to one at Baker’s Pond and another at Ravenfield.
Winter leagues commenced too, with John Edwards taking the first one at the Ferry Boat Farm with 31lbs 7ozs and the Walkley starting with a field of 60 anglers.
November saw the clocks go back and the weather deteriorate with both rain and overnight frosts.
Lee Abakanowicz began a successful run, which continues today, with a win at Kiveton Hall Farm and Robin Goforth came out of retirement to win two Rotherham 65’ers matches on his estate at Hayfield.
A mild spell mid-month belied what was to come and by month end, as December got underway, winter had arrived, bringing with it frosts and snow and cancelled matches, low weights at many venues, and low attendances.
Fortunately, as you read this, the days will be getting longer and we can all look forward to the New Year.
Keep safe and have a good one.