Up For The Cup by Mike Winney (Parts 1 & 2)

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Simon R

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May 19, 2002
With thanks to Rick (breadflake) who emailed me the originals[:D]

Up For T'Cup The Repeat

On Friday the 14th October 1988 my good friend Mike Winney passed away at the age of 41. I could never understand how anybody could write as well as Mike and not take it seriously, but such was the nature of one of life's genuine free spirits.
For the March 1977 issue of Coarse Fisherman magazine Mike sent me a draft of an article, then entitled "The Bogthorpes". I played around with it and sent it back, Mike finished it off. Thus "Up For T'Cup" was born and the pattern was set.
I have often been asked why we didn't do more, the simple answer was that Mike only wrote when he was in the mood. In his defence, when he was in the mood, he had a tremendous gift for humour. As a tribute to Mike, we will, over the coming months, re-run the entire series. Remembering that this series was written some twelve years ago, I apologise in advance if, as a result of circumstances, we give offence to anybody mentioned, it is after all a work of humorous fiction,

Up For T'Cup- In which Mike Winney takes a look at the newly announced East Anglia Cup.

The hardcore of the Bogthorpe Herons match group, crowded round the radio, as the draw for the last 64 names in the cup were drawn out. Leicester. . .versus. . .St. Austell All Stars Boston. . .versus. . .Rugby Birmingham. . .versus. . .Bogthorpe Herons.
No one could deny it, there were definitely sounds of muffled laughter at H.Q., as Fred Jennings and others fought hard to restrain their amusement.
'Bloody Brummies, we've drawn Brum!' groaned Albert, the captain and 67 year old mastermind of the Bogthorpe Herons
.'Can they fish?' asked young Robin, 7th reserve and a comparative newcomer to the fishing game.
'Can they fish?' mimicked Stan, 'Course they can fish, you welly head, they're only the National Champions aren't they? They could spit in a bucket and catch fish that lot, you cloth eared burk
.'They've only got two arms and two legs like us,' stated Blakey, philosophically.
'Yea, that's right, and unless by some freak of nature, they all go and break them, we've no chance,' said Albert.
'Maybe we could send Taffy the mad Welshman and the heavy brigade from the motorway to go and do them over?' suggested Nosepicker Nobby.'
No, no, that's not on, we've got to beat them by cunning, you can't go round maiming people how much do you think he'd want just to break a few arms?' asked Albert.'
Nay lad, we'll take them if it's on the Severn, ten nests per man and we'll have enough grub to sink them without trace,' announced vice captain Bert, and they believed him.

Arrangements were made in due course for the big day, August 6th, the battleground the Severn.
'What do you think Clive?' asked Ken, over the fence of his neighbour, fellow match angler and Birmingham stalwart. Clive took another sip of Red Eye before replying,
'Never heard of them, they've got no form, but we can't take any chances. They probably take a drink, we will all go out the night before with them, and see what they know.'
'No way!' said Ken, 'I've got my image to think of, in bed by 10.00 the night before a big match, cup of Horlicks and then sleepies; it wouldn't do for me to be seen out on the town the night before a match like this.'
'Ooh, you're no fun anymore, I knew that would happen once you found out about girls. Relax a few drinks won't harm your image,' said Clive.

The coach carrying the twelve hopeful team members, 120 wasp nests and 24 crates of Brown Ale, set off on its way.
'Good luck, give 'em one for us,' said those not fortunate enough to get on the coach.
By the time they hit the M18, they were three parts pickled, and talk of victory filled the air.
Only Albert, the team captain held back on his reckoning on what the glorious Bogthorpe Herons were able to do to the highly rated Brummies.

By the time the coach hit Birmingham, only the driver was sober, and by some miracle he found his way to the guest house, where Smithy, the home team's captain, had arranged for them to stay.
'Never mind the bedrooms, old luv,' said Albert to the hotel manageress, 'Where's the karsi?' 'It's over there, but you won't all get in,' she said as the 12th member of the party closed the door behind him.
'Aah, that's better!' came the sigh of relief in unison, as the gallant 12 returned. 'Don't go in there for awhile love and don't strike a match,' said Albert to the Guest House's Receptionist. 'Right lads, we'll check the gear, have a quick wash, a team meeting, a bag of "*****s lips", and then we'll go out and have a drink with these here Brummies to cement relations between North and Midlands and see if they know 'owt.'
'Aye, why don't we get 'em so bottled up, they'll see three floats in t'morning?'
'Wouldn't work old lad.'
'Why not?'
"Cos when they struck at them all going under, they'd be bound to hit one and knowing these buggers they'd probably catch all three.'

'What'll you lads have to drink?' asked Maxie, one of the Brum hot-shots.
'Any Newcastle Brown Ale?' asked Albert, 'We train on it.'
'We'll have twelve pints then old cock,' said Albert, brightening visibly.
Can I have a tomato juice please?' said Gilesy.
'Not when you come out with the Bogthorpe Herons you can't!' said Stan, putting a bottle of lunatic broth in front of Ken.
The evening wore on and the Brummies tried hard to steer the conversation round to fishing. Apart from the obvious language barrier, the Herons were more intent on chatting up the local dollies and drinking Birmingham dry of Brown Ale.
'They're a rum crew this lot!' said Maxie, They'll be too plastered in the morning to fish.'
At 1.00 a.m. the last of the home team had departed, none the wiser about their opponents, except that at a drinking contest they would get well hammered. There had been no mention of the GRUB. The dreaded GRUB.

The Bogthorpe heavy mob had been picked on the strength of this strategy and they were all seasoned chub shoal maulers, but not much else. In fact, half of them had never seen a stick float.
The Draw took place and the respective teams moved off to their pegs, suddenly and quite by chance Maxie spotted it, THE GRUB.
They've got the grub Clive, mountains of it!' hissed Maxie to Clive the captain.
Clive grabbed Albert, 'Excuse me pal, I couldn't help noticing that one or two of your lads had the Grub.'
'One or two!' retorted Albert with a smirk,
'We've got bleedin' tons of it, there's chub 'ere isn't there?'
'Aye, there's chub here alright, tons of 'em, but the Grubs banned,' replied Clive. By now the entire Bogthorpe team had gathered round the two captains. 'Banned said a somewhat stunned Arthur, 'Banned!! what do you mean banned, it's not banned on the Tees?'
'Well it's banned here old lad,' said Clive, 'You will have to use your change bait.'
'Change bait change bait, we haven't got any change bait, our change bait as you call it, is more Grub.' Albert was rapidly loosing his cool. 'You've bleeding cheated us Smithy, lulled us into a false sense of security.' Albert could see the 'Giant Killing', headlines slipping away from him.
Clive took a bottle of Red Eye from his creel and took a swig, then handed the bottle to Albert. 'Listen pal, we don't need to cheat, we're the champions; we'll split our bait with you.' Albert took a swig of the Red Eye, and as his eyes started to water, he squared up to the big Brummie.
'Okay blue eyes, let battle commence.'
Each member of the Birmingham squad handed over 2 pints of casters to a Bogthorpe member and off they went to their pegs.

Nosepicker Nobby arrived at his peg and inspected his casters.
'Okay Nobby?' said Bert, as he passed by.
'Bert, how do I get one of these on to a No. 10's hook?' asked Nobby.
'Put 8 on lad,' said Bert.
The Bogthorpe mob tackled up with rough nasty swimfeeders, 5lb line direct to No. 10's and rods which Fred Bailey would have nodded his assent to. Casters were mulched up and mixed with groundbait and each man had half a pillowcase full of feed. The crowd guessed what was going to happen and sat back to watch the fun. The whistle went and the disgraceful and premeditated bombardment got under way. The chub were not slow to react. Swimfeeders in the battleship class hit the water at every alternate peg.
But the Brummies were on their home water and soon their single casters on 20 hooks incited the roach to feed. Both sides were in action and the contrast in styles was a tonic for the large crowd that had turned out. Where else could you see anglers lift out pound plus fish, whilst at the next peg, stick floats were being used with comparatively light tackle to tempt a string of smaller fish.
'Beauty and the beast!' commented one spectator.

It was all good stuff, and if it hadn't been for the fact that the chub only showed for an hour, it would have been a nasty Severn massacre. As it was the chub went right off over-feeding, spooked, no-one ever knew but the chub dried up and the Bogthorpe Herons sat out the last four hours with only the odd fish to show.
The Brummies overhauled them of course, 216lbs to 189lbs. It was close and had been a great match. They breathed a sigh of relief at the end, their honour intact, likewise the visitors could hold their heads up.

'Well,' said Clive to Albert, 'You nearly took us there, but why didn't you bring a change bait, a few maggots would have caught you enough barbel to beat us?'
'Well Clive, I'll tell thee, we reasoned that we'd never beat you at home, fishing the bobbin, so we took the gamble on wasp grub, and the feeder, anyway, you beat us fair and square, so let's go and have a reel good drink, including t'funny fella with t'moustache.'
'Not me,' said Gilesy, 'I'm off home to listen to the next round of the draw and I'm praying for an away draw on some quiet canal against a team of teetotallers.'
'Ooh, you're no fun anymore,' chipped in Smithy. Clive turned to Albert, 'He's just found out about girls you know.'

'Well Clive, I'll tell thee, tha's beat us fair and square,' said Albert the captain, and 67 year old mastermind of the now defeated Bogthorpe Herons. 'Mind you, it would 'a bin a different story if we'd 'ad thee up on't Tees.'
The two men settled down for a drink, Albert armed with a pint of Newcastle Brown in each hand, leaned back in his chair, whilst the big Brummy bit the top of another bottle of Red Eye. 'You don't use the feeder down 'ere then?' said Albert slowly. 'Not a lot,' said the big fellow, 'Gilesy tried it once and ruptured 'imself. Max 'as left 'em alone since he fell into one of Fred Bailey's and was missing for three days.'
During the previous 24 hours, the two men had developed a mutual respect for each other: Albert had been astounded by the big man's efficient manner, his super cool squad, his finesse and professionalism. Smithy on the other hand couldn't help but respect a man that had the misfortune to have to motivate the likes of Nosepicker Nobby and Big Bert. Due to a freak of nature, Big Bert had been born blind in his left eye and deaf in his right ear, this meant that unless you stood straight in front of him to speak, he could either hear but not see you, or see but not hear you. To make matters worse, his equilibrium was so affected by this strange affliction, that when he spoke he generally fell over.

Albert looked at the rest of the dejected Bogthorpe Squad who had now gathered at the bar. Gone were the headlines he had seen so clearly in his mind; was this really the team that only 24 hours earlier had downed 36 crates of Newcastle Brown in four hours, were these men really the cream of the North-East?

Albert was at a loss to know how to pick them up off of the floor, when suddenly, a miracle occurred. 'I'll bring my lads up to the North-East and we'll fish against you on the Tees,' said Smith. Max, Ken Smith and Barry Brookes couldn't believe what the skipper had said. Albert and the rest of the lads couldn't believe it either. 'W'em going to the North-East?' said Barry Brookes Albert leaped from his chair and took Smithy by the hand, 'You sir, are a sportsman! A fool but nevertheless a sportsman.' The rest of the Herons were shouting and cheering, Nobby stopped picking his nose and danced on the table, Bert shook hands with Max Winter, 'By we'll give thee some welly,' he managed to say before falling over.
Albert called for some quiet. 'Lads, it's going to cost these lads some brass to come up to Bogthorpe, what d'yer say to us having a side bet of 25 per man, winner take all?' 'Aye,' came the cry from all except Bert, who could neither see nor hear from where he was lying. What d'yer say Clive?' asked Albert. Smithy knew he was on a hiding to nothing, but what could he do but agree? The Herons had got their wish to fish against Brum on the Tees with no bait bans. The rest of the evening was spent in a haze of alcoholic anticipation.

'He'll go berserk when he finds out, he's never drawn that much out of the bank before 25 plus expenses? That could come to 50. How will you break it to him?' asked Max. 'I daren't think about it; said Clive as he drove the car off the road into his drive. 'Maybe we won't have to tell him if we win, he'll never have to know.' 'Win?' said Max somewhat hysterical, 'How do you propose to beat that crowd of loonies on the Tees? Half of the swims are only two foot deep and they'll have more bloody wasps nests than there are in the whole of Warwickshire he'll have to know.'
'Morning Clive,' said Gilesy across the fence, 'You were late last night did you stay for a drink with those lads?' The big man knew his 'high noon' had arrived, he braced himself, lit a cigar and looked Gilesy straight in the eye. 'Sit down on your garden seat Ken, I've something to say which could give you acute indigestion of the wallet and maybe a dose of that well known skin disease derma tightarse.' Gilesy felt a tingle move up his back, and his hands felt clammy.
Only that very day he'd written to Trebor deploring their decision to increase the price of Blackjacks from 4 to 2 a penny.
'I've arranged a return match with them on the Tees, with a 25 per man sidestake,' said Smith. Gilesy didn't move, he was visibly shaken, but he didn't move. After what seemed to be an eternity, he spoke 'When?" A week on Saturday,' said Smith. 'Oh!' said Gilesy smiling, 'That's a pity, I'm going to a wedding.' 'Bloody liar!' snapped Smithy. 'Who's wedding? You don't know anyone that's getting married. Who in their right mind would get married in the middle of the season?' 'A girl who works with Margaret,' said Gilesy. 'Well, I've put you down to fish, we leave here at 6.00 p.m. Friday next.'

For more than a week, the two men hardly exchanged more than a couple of words. Then as the big match drew nearer, Smith called a team meeting 'Well lads,' said skipper, 'Ken Smith has come up with 10 nests, Barry has 5 and I've got 9, so that's approximately 2 apiece, they will probably have above 10 apiece, so we've got to think of something different. Max has been up there practising for two days, he should be here about 9 o'clock, so until he comes how about some suggestions?'

For the next half hour, various suggestions found their way into Clive's waste paper basket, obviously they hadn't enough grub and those rub a dubs loves the grubs. At precisely 9 o'clock, the door bell rang, 'Here's Max, let him in somebody.' The door was opened and in strode Max, looking tired and dirty after his long drive. The skipper offered him a shot of Red Eye, but the little countryman refused. 'What's the strength Max, is it chub?' Max composed himself. There's chub there like big steaming pigs, but they're not in every swim. 25lb will win the match, but if they all fish the feeder, there will be dry nets. Twelve men fishing the feeder will catch 120lb of fish.' That's 10lb per man,' said Clive. 'Not quite,' continued Max. 'At least three of them will have dry nets, if they all stick it out, but somehow I think they 'aint as dumb as they crack on, that Nobby, the one who does the open cast mining on his nose, was hemping it, with tares on the hook. 'Was he catching,' asked Gilesy. 'Was he buggary,' retorted Max. They're up to something.'

The Brummies eventually left their options open, with no hard and fast team plan. At the other end of the country, the Bogthorpes' 'Dirty Tricks Dept' were fast running out of ideas.
'It'll have to be Kidology then,' said Albert at last.
Eleven blank stares met this last statement.
'I passed Biology at school, but I've never heard of this Kidology,' offered Jacko.
'It means mental warfare.. .oh, forget it,' said Albert throwing up his arms.
To put it simply, we have to confuse them to such an extent, that they won't know if they want a poo, shampoo or a haircut. . .get it?'
Eleven faces brightened in unison.

The day dawned and Smithy and the rest of the Brum hotshots, turned out on the selected venue, the lower reaches of the Tees, where it was just tidal enough to create problems for the unsuspecting visitors, but, and this is what the Bogthorpes knew and the Brummies didn't, this match coincided with the biggest spring tide of the year, about an eight foot lift, it was going to create near panic and hysteria.

'Is it tidal here?' Smithy asked Maxie.
'Couple of foot our kid, that's all, it'll slow down and lift a bit then run off.'
'Couple of foot?'
'Positive,' said Maxie.
Albert gathered the team round.
'Right, everyone know what they're doing, Nobby, Jacko, Bert. . .BERT, d'ya know what to do?'
'Er, yea it'll work a treat. . .' THUD.
'Pick him up someone and get him to his peg,' urged Stan.
A shrill whistle started the proceedings and every man stared hard downstream at the next man to see what was going to happen. For a minute, no one made a move. Eventually the Bogthorpes picked up their float tackle and commenced operations close in, loose feeding with hemp and fishing tares. A tactic without precedent. The Brummies were clearly puzzled, but held off on the Grub and followed suit hardly believing their luck. For an hour everyone fished the hemp and tares, with the sluggish flow hardly helping the fish to respond.
At 12.45, the river slowed up to a standstill and crept over the bank, all in the space of a few minutes.
The tide', reasoned Smithy correctly. The tide is slowing the river down, couple of foot,' Maxie said.
Just then, the Bogthorpes opened up at every peg, with a cannonade of groundbait, laced with feed, right in the middle of the river. It went in like nothing ever witnessed before. The Brummies stood in the rising water, watching with fascination as their north country cousins piled in a baby's bath-full each.
'It's not the tide lifting the river, it's all the groundbait,' muttered Gilesy.

As soon as this operation was finished, the Bogthorpes grabbed all their tackle and scrambled up the muddy banks to the top.
The river was now lifting at an alarming rate and the Brummies were soon awash.
Keepnets, baskets and landing nets were being engulfed by the rising water as Smithy's mob fought hard to salvage their tackle from the clinging mud and scramble to safety. The river, under the influence of the big spring tide, started to run the other way, giving it a totally different look.

The Bogthorpes switched to heavy feeders and big lumps of bread and took command of the situation, leaving the Brummy challenge in rags, as they sorted out their tackle, emptied waders and scratched their heads as they looked down on the rising river now running upstream.
'Bread, they're fishing bread not the grub, what's going on.. .the river's going back upstream,' groaned Smithy. . . 'WINTERS.. .' he yelled '. . .you ****er, you said it was a two foot lift, the bleedin' thing's lifted 8 feet.'
Whilst the Brummies were reassembling ranks, Big Bert hit into a chub mid river, Albert hit one, so did Fred. It was too late for the Brummies to feed the middle line as the depth and current made it too inaccurate. Maxi cracked the alternative method first and took a 10oz dace off his rod end on the tip. The others soon cottoned on, but the Bogthorpes were still getting it on with their feeders.
Smithy's team concentrated on their inside line, where the flow gave them a chance to get some bait down. Barry B started to get chub off his rod end and switched to a bunch of casters on the float and started to cane them. The tide was starting to turn in more sense than one.

At the end of five hours, the river was running back downstream and had dropped off six foot. Since the start it had lifted eight foot, surged upstream, stopped dead, lifted a further foot, run back and dropped off three foot an hour. Even Albert was confused by the biggest tide of the year.
Barry B had 27-11, Albert 24-8, Big Bert 21-9 and then the Bogthorpe challenge had run out. The Brummies consistency had shown yet again, Maxie had 19-0 Smithy 17-8 and Gilesy 16-5. The visitors had danced it.

They all trooped into the Bluebell, the Brummies easily recognised by their mud caked gear, after what Albert described as the penalty for being caught in their 'off tide trap'...
'Just look at my tackle,' said Gilesy, covered in mud.
Tha's lucky lad, a few more minutes and you would have been a gonner, we thought that Maxie Winters would have told you about it,' laughed Big Bert, throwing another wobble and keeling over.
Fortified with 'El Boozo' the wonder drink, the two sides forgot their differences.
'Why didn't you use the Grub?' asked Smithy at length.
The Grub,' said Albert, a sly grin cracking his face. 'Nay lad, bread's the thing up here at the moment, the grubs alright on the Ure, Ouse and Swale, but no good on the Tees till later on. . .didst tha bring some?'
'We brought five nests each.. .you old git!' spluttered Smithy.
'Only five, we hoped you'd bring twenty five, because they won't last the journey back without refrigeration and we'd be pleased to take them off your hands. We reasoned it would be quicker than digging them ourselves...' said Albert.

Smithy laughed, as Albert handed over the 300, the total of the side bet.
'What's this outing, you lot are organising up here?' asked Maxie, looking at a big poster on the wall.
'We're trying to raise funds to send ten of our handicapped youngsters for a week's fishing in Ireland, they're keen as mustard, so we organise charity matches and the like to get them well kitted out,' explained Nobby.
'Well,' said Clive, stuffing the 300 back into Albert's top pocket, 'see they get the best tackle, bait and transport that money can buy.'
Albert gave the big fellow a huge grin and shook his hand.
'Well,' he said at length, 'ya bugga, if that don't beat all.'

Part 2 in the never ending saga by Mike Winney

An away draw in the sixth round of the cup against Rochdale based Wigstock WMC, didn't strike BAA skipper and hired assassin, Clive Smith, as anything to get on his bike about. Of course the venue was bound to be a canal, but that he could come to terms with. Rivers that lifted six foot and ran the other way, were another matter and Clive was now certain that the memory of that never to be repeated match against the Bogthorpes, was fading. The delectable Jackie Smith, was just removing the pig's trotters from the cauldron, when the telephone rang.

'I'll get it,' shouted the big fellow, separating the bottle of red-eye from its permanent position, not a million miles from his lips. He leaned over and grabbed the phone.
'Clive Smith here,'
'Hallo.. .hallo, is that Clive Smith.. .this is Arnold Sidebottom of Wigstock Working Men's Club. . .I'm phoning about the match.'
'When's it to be then,' asked Clive.
The committee want to hold the match on the Rochdale Canal, a week Saturday, that's if you are in agreeance,' offered Arnold.
That's all right my old son, what's in this canal,' asked Clive.
'Well, there's roach, gudgeon, a few skimmers and carp, but they'll take some catching,' said Arnold.
'What, the carp?' queried Clive.
'Any bloody thing,' came back the depressing answer.
'Is it a bloodworm water, Arnold?' asked Clive.
Arnold's tone changed in an instant.
'I'm under orders to say nowt Mr Smith, the committee were most explicit, they said that you would try and get some advanced information by asking leading questions, all I can tell you is the time, place and date.'

As Clive replaced the receiver, there was a knock on the door. It was Gilesy. 'I'm sure that you've got your phone wired into mine,' murmured Clive. 'You seem to sense when I've got some news.'
'It's what they call ESP,' said Ken, stepping round the bottle of red-eye, as though it was something that the dog had brought in.
'ESP,' continued Ken, adopting the air of a lecturer, 'stands for Extra Sensory Perception.'
'Not in my book, as far as I'm concerned, it stands for "Evesham's a Suckers Paradise", now that the bloody swimfeeders taken over,' said Clive, with just a trace of bad feeling.

Kenny wore the look of a man who wasn't getting enough, conversely, it could well have been the look of a man who was getting more than his share.
'I've just had Arnold Sidebottom on the phone,' continued Clive. 'Arnold is the secretary of Wigstock WMC and we've arranged the next round of the cup on the Rochdale Canal.'
A smile cracked Gilesy's face.
'I've fished the Rochdale Canal.. .it's a pig of a venue, if my memory serves me right, the killing method there, is the guts of a squatt on a No. 24 and that's the method for the bigger fish...'
'Sounds fun,' said Clive, nursing his jaw.
Tell you what though, I have a sneaking suspicion that there's a match on it this weekend, it might just be policy to get a few tickets to go and give it a whirl,' said Kenny.
'We could do worse,' said Clive. 'Pass the Angling Times from underneath that pile of washing... not that one, there's a sheep's heart in there, festering away nicely, with a few hookers for Sunday, that's the one, now let's see.'
There it is, Boltwick and District, 50 pegs, Saturday, Rochdale Canal, pegged from the sewage outfall to the Dog-in-a-Mangle, phone the man up now and get six ' tickets,' said Clive. '
'It's no good me phoning up, they would recognise my accent a mile off,' reasoned Ken.
'Good point,' replied Smithy, draining the last drops of red-eye to oblivion. This is where our man in the north comes into his own, our undercover agent, this is a job for the big fellow.'

In the space of time that it takes a man to dial an eight digit number, Clive was speaking to his man in the north, beer swilling champion, walking pocket battleship, maggot breeder, avid reader of the Beano, none other than big Kev.
'Now then,' said Kevin, 'what can I do for thee Clive.'
'Can you get us some tickets for a match this Saturday on the Rochdale Canal. We've got a qualifier in the cup a week Saturday against Wigstock and we reasoned a few hours' practice under match conditions wouldn't go amiss.'
'I can do that Clive, I'll phone back,' confirmed Kev.

Within the space of half an hour, Kev had secured the tickets and at 5.30 a.m. that Saturday, armed with a full artillery of bait, the Brummies advance party, gobbled up the miles on the motorway in their hijacked laundry van. Young Mark took the wheel, Clive and Ken sat up front. Slumped on the back seat and covered by a couple of sacks, the notorious Kenny Smith slept the sleep of the unjust. Kenny Smith, a man barely alive. . .we can rebuild him. . .make him better than he was. .
'We'll have to,' grunted Barry, 'he won't be fit to fish in this state.'

Upon arriving at the draw, it became apparent to the lads, that the Rochdale mob were under no illusions as to where Kev's tickets had ended up. Nobody spoke. Little groups of cloth capped anglers stood at the far corners of the car park, surveying their Midland cousins.
They aren't as tall as I thought,' observed the Rochdale skipper, known as Sammy the squatt.
After the draw, the Brummies found themselves well spread out over the match length, nobody drew next to another team member and so they had the full benefit of what the opposition were up to.
Clive started off on a twenty and caster, Gilesy, bronze pinkies and Mark gave the bloodworm a whirl. What was intriguing, was the locals' approach. Instead of the normal canal tactics, they opted for large cobs of bread, lobworms and bunches of maggots. The match was a grueller. Clive caught a 3oz roach in the first few minutes and then sat biteless, despite ringing the changes, Kenny Giles had a couple of skimmers, about 2oz each and the others struggled for the odd gudgeon and tiny roach. Young Mark came off best and weighed in 11oz.
At the whistle, only the BAA squad had anything to weigh. They waited in the deserted car park for the results and when they had cleared the board, taking the first six places, they collected their winnings and retired to the nearest pub. . .the Black Dog.

Clive scratched his head. 'All is not well in the state of Denmark.'
'Stuff Denmark,' said Barry, 'Thing's ain't so hot in Rochdale.'
Max, who had said little throughout the whole day, suddenly spoke. 'I thinks we is on the wrong track,' he said, in a broad Gloucester accent. 'I think it might be a good idea if we give that Arnold Sidebottom a ring, I just have a feeling about this canal, I think we should phone him now and ask him what the winning weight will be.'
'What for?' said Clive.
'I got a feeling, I think we're on the wrong track,' insisted Max.
If it will make you any happier, I'll ring him,' said Clive.
Inserting his 2p in the pay phone Clive was soon in contact with Arnold Sidebottom.
'Hello Arnold, tell me, what would a team of 12 need to win on the canal?'
'I've told thee Clive, I can't answer leading questions.'
'It's not a leading question old cock, I'm just asking you what we would need to win, after all, I'm only trying to formulate some plans about the venue.'
'Well, to be honest Clive, you'll need 20lb for a team weight to be certain.'
Clive replaced the receiver and looked puzzled. Between them, they had found little evidence that the entire match length held twenty pounds of fish and in fact their team weight for the day had been 1lb 4oz.
Twenty pounds he reckons', stated Clive.
There was a gasp, not because of what Clive had said, but because Kenny Giles had just ordered a round of drinks, a move without precedent.

I thought so,' said Maxie, 'I knew something was not right, I had a feeling.'
'So did I, but I did something about it,' leered Kenny Smith.
'No, no, listen, I had this carp roll in front of me, did any of you see any carp?' asked Maxie.
'I had a fish come up in front of me,' said Mark.
'I saw a bream roll, I suppose it could have been a carp,' said Gilesy.
'Carp, we don't know much about them, apart from Lloyd choking one in the parks festival,' said Barry.
'What we need is someone to teach us about carp fishing, an expert,' said Clive.
'Well,' said Maxie, 'I heard about some fella in Norfolk, he knows about things like that, always writing in fishing magazines. Neville Ficknic. . .or something like that.'
'Pickling,' chorused Clive and Kenny.
'You too,' said Kenny Smith.
'No, no, Neville Pickling, that's him,' said Clive.

That night under the veil of darkness, Clive phoned his man in Norfolk.
'You don't know me, my name is Clive Smith. . .no, no, don't hang up, yes I admit it, I do go match fishing from time to time, but I really want to learn about carp fishing and I've only got a week.'
Meanwhile in Coventry, a certain Mr Andy Barker's ears were burning. . .'a week, Neville could teach him all he knows about carp in two minutes.'
'Exactly what do you wish to know, Mr Smith?' enquired Neville coldly.
'Everything,' said an anxious Clive, 'and we are prepared to pay.'
Suddenly Neville's attitude changed. Clive had struck the right key and it was music to the young lad's ears.
'Why Mr Smith, I'd be only too pleased to assist you and your charming friends, why don't I drive over to Birmingham in the morning and we can put in a few rod hours at a private water I know. Oh, about the fee, what sort of figure do you have in mind?'
'Shall we say 25,' offered Clive, with no real idea what the going rate for carp fishing lessons were.
'Guineas, I like the sound of guineas Mr Smith,' replied Neville.
'Yes, as you wish,' replied Clive.
After giving Neville instructions on how to reach Alvechurch Towers, the ancestral home of the Smiths, Clive hurriedly phoned round the BAA squad and acquainted them of the deal that he had just clinched, then, retired to bed, to dream dreams of fishing matches before the invention of the swimfeeder.

6.30 a.m. the following day found a sickly looking youth knocking on the big man's door. Crawling from his pit, Clive pushed his head through the half-opened window.
'What do you want,' he asked, somewhat abruptly.
'It is I, Neville.'
'Gordon Bennett, what have I let myself in for,' groaned Clive, as he fought to encase his fine legs in a pair of jeans.
Within the hour, the BAA squad were gathered round the four-acre pool, in the grounds of Kenilton Hall, a stately home, just outside Birmingham.
'Who lives here?' asked Max.
'Oh, it's a friend of my father's actually,' answered Neville, 'Lord Rothstone.'
'Can you get day tickets,' asked Barry Brookes.
'Hardly,' said Neville, barely disguising his disdain.
The session went well. Neville demonstrated the effect of sweetcorn on carp, which was adequately summed up by Kenny Smith, who stated after the lad had beached his eighth double, 'It's like feeding strawberries to a donkey.' The initial shock of fishing on 8lb line direct to a six hook, had soon vanished and apart from Kenny Smith continually referring to Neville as 'yer lordship', the morning proved a major success. Neville collected his fee and thanked Clive.

8.30 a.m. the following Saturday, saw the two teams gathered in the Black Dog car park. Sammy the squatt introduced himself to Clive.
Tha'll be Clive will tha?" said Sammy Hogthwaite, captain of Wigstock.
'Pleased to meet you Sammy,' replied Clive. 'What are we going to need to beat you today,' he asked offhandedly.
'A lot of bloody luck, lad,' replied Sammy.
The draw took place at nine o'clock and within half an hour everyone was at their peg.
TIME,' yelled the steward.
Nobody moved, except of course Kenny Smith, who out of habit said out aloud, 'Any chance of another pint guv?'

Everybody stared hard at the men either side, to see what they were going to do. After a few moment's hesitation, the Wigstock team opened up with jokers and bloodworm and immediately got into fish. Things were not going as the Brummies had expected, but they stuck to their team plan, which was for six of them to go for bits and the other six to sit it out for carp on the sweetcorn.

Maxie had been elected as one of the carp brigade and he catapulted out his free samples of sweetcorn, it hit the water like a shower of pebbles. He grinned at the Wigstock team man next to him and gave him a look as if to say, 'I don't always fish this stupid you know.' It was interpreted as 'I always fish this stupid and I am a grinning idiot.'
Four hours' later, Wigstock were in front. Their bloodworm tactics were paying off, if the Brummies had tried to match them, they might have overhauled their score on a man for man basis, but with six men sat fishless after big game, they desperately needed a leveller. That they had been partially led astray was now dawning on Clive, they had banked on the Wigstock team all fishing for carp with bread buns and bunches of lobs and if that hadn't come off, then they would have had half a dozen men with at least a few ounces of fish, to take the honours. But the wader was on the other foot and it was now down to them to catch a carp and time was running out.

The spectators walked up and down the match length, watching the action. One fellow stopped behind Clive.
'Hast anyone collared it yet?' asked the spectator.
'It,' said Clive. 'What is it.'
The carp of course, there's only one, you know,' came the reply.
'Only one, how big is it?' asked Clive. 'It varies, sometimes she'll go 20lb in summer, but in winter, she thins down to around 17'/2lb.'
The picture at last emerged a bit clearer for the big fellow. He bit the top off another bottle of red-eye and drank deep. The 20lb that Arnold Sidebottom was referring to was one fish, not half a dozen small ones. It also explained why they were told they would need a lot of luck to beat them, they must have known about our practice at the lake and guessed our tactics. They had been outflanked.

Meanwhile, at the Dog-in-a-Mangle peg, Maxie was getting agitated. In the past five minutes, his quivertip had been nudged a couple of times. He was fishing a size six to ten pound line, with two large grains of sweetcorn. He had felt a bit of a berk, but he had stuck at it. Now he was feeling slightly less of a berk, as his quivertip was trembling again. When it finally moved away and circumscribed a big arc, he didn't feel a berk at all, in fact he felt quite elated. The strike met with solid resistance and Maxie sat down to do battle with, unbeknown to him, the only carp in the entire canal.
The word soon got around. 'He's got it,' came the whisper down the towpath and spectators broke into a steady jogtrot, leaping over rods and bait containers, in the rush to get a good view. Soon a large crowd was assembled behind Maxie at the Dog-in-a-Mangle swim.
Odds were being laid on whether or not the fish would be landed, local tradesmen, knowing the score, were not slow to cotton on to the action and within five minutes, two mobile ice cream vans were installed behind the intrepid Gloucester bricklayer and master builder.

The word spread to the competitors. 'Maxie Winters is into one!'
Kenny Giles ran his hands over his lucky teddy bear, which he always carried in his basket, the wrinkles on Clive's forehead slowly smoothed out, as he relaxed and Kenny Smith opened another can of beer to celebrate. With 45 minutes to go, Maxie had all the time in the world and on tackle normally employed in towing out oil rigs to the North Sea, the rogue of the Rochdale Canal wasn't going anywhere but the weighing in pan. With five minutes to go, the Wigstock men actually started packing up. Their contribution wouldn't have made any difference to the result as they were ahead on small fish, but the carp was the great steamroller blow that they were dreading.
It was all down to Maxie.
With 10 minutes allowed after the whistle, to land fish, Maxie was now five minutes into extra time, but the carp was tiring and now he applied pressure and inch by inch, was drawn nearer the net. Eventually the bomb appeared above the surface and below the short link, a huge fish turned over just under the surface. Gently, Maxie lowered his net into the water and coaxed the now spent fish over the rim and lifted it clear of the surface. Dropping his rod, he placed both hands on the handle and pulled his prize ashore. The crowd broke out into spontaneous applause, especially the two ice cream salesmen, who yelled 'Ole Ole!'
She weighed 19lb 4oz.

The final result was Birmingham 27lb 11oz, Wigstock 11lb 21/4oz. The competitors and large crowd of local anglers retired to the Black Dog.
'Well Clive, tha' gi' us a good thrashing and your fella caught on sweetcorn, didn't he, we haven't tried that for Mirabelle yet, that being the name of the carp,' offered Arnold, when the teams were sat down demolishing food and tea.
'I guess we were lucky, that's all,' said Clive and meaning it.
'No, it was a calculated gamble, but I bet you wouldn't have taken it if you'd known there was only ONE carp in the canal,' added Arnold.
Too right, Arthur, but we got the impression there were a few, at the last week's practice, most of us saw something big in our pegs,' said Clive, draining another scotch to oblivion.
'Aye, you probably did, but that's what Mirabelle does, she likes to cruise up and down on match days and see if there are any new faces,' said Arthur with a grin.
Just then, pandemonium broke out at the bar.
'No, no, you've got it wrong,' said Kenny Giles, doing his best to placate the 17 stone landlord, Jack Ironfist, 'I only ordered the drinks, I'll settle for my half shandy of course, but as for all the others. . .'
'12.72 now, or else you'll have the option of being the first suitable case for a head transplant,' thundered the Rochdale one man army.
'I lika to paya for da drinks,' offered the little Italian ice cream salesman, 'it is the least I can do after such a fabuloso performance and because I sella so mucha ica creama to the crowd who watched Maxie Winta
I lika very mucha to give my profit back.'
'Who on earth is that,' asked Clive, open mouthed.
That,' declared Sammy the squatt, 'is the Mayor of Rochdale.'

Two more parts to follow

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