After a few days of heavy rain and fluctuating river levels, 60 anglers arrived at Hereford on the River Wye to fish the first day of the RiverFest 2014 final on Saturday 15th November to find the river slightly over 7ft but falling.
With conditions set to improve as the match went on, anglers were optimistic about their chances and gathered for the all-important draw. Those drawing above the bridge on Saturday would draw below it on Sunday and vice versa. Following the draw the bookmaker immediately made Dave Harrell, Sean Ashby and 2013 Champion Andrew Murphy favourites as their odds tumbled.
With the river carrying a lot of colour, many anglers opted to target barbel and utilise substantial feeders up to as much as 8oz just to hold the bottom. The barbel obliged with good numbers showing from most sections early on in the match.
Steve Sadler on peg 53 found four good fish that gave him a lead he wouldn’t relinquish and a weight after Day One of 30-11-0. Preston Innovations Feeder Team England member, Mick Vials drew peg 38 and amassed a net of 23-9-0 to put him in second place. Former World Champion Sean Ashby, on peg 39 also found the fish as he put together a net weighing 21-9-0, but his approach was very different. After landing a decent barbel, Sean then set about catching 700 bleak with short whip tactics. Down below the old railway bridge Shaun Rampling found himself on peg 93 and bagged 22-5-0 of barbel to the day in fourth place.
Anglers arrived on Day Two to find that the river had dropped 1ft overnight and was carrying slightly less colour. All the talk focused around Steve Sadler’s 7-2-0 lead and who if anyone could catch him. Steve would be fishing below the old road bridge on Sunday and drew peg 61. Renowned Wye angler Hadrian Whittle and ever consistent Paul Bick drew pegs 62 and 63 respectively to find themselves in the same section as the leader, while three pegs up from Steve, Sean Ashby drew peg 58. It proved it be a close battle all the way to the finish!
As the river dropped many anglers opted for float tactics picking away at roach, dace, perch and odd chub. Barbel did not feature as strongly as the previous day but onlookers were treated to a masterclass in how to land big fish on light gear when Roger Wakenshaw on peg 86 hooked into a large fish and after playing it for 20 minutes landed a 20-11-0 carp, much to the delight of the crowd who gathered around him. That fish would see Roger win his section with a weight of 30-8-0 and take the prize for biggest fish of the final.
As the hooter signalled the end of the two days, most of the onlookers had the feeling that the winner was to come from pegs 54 to 65. A big crowd gathered to first watch Sean Ashby weigh in an excellent net of 23-13-0 and the tension grew as stewards worked their way down to peg 61 and Steve Sadler. When he produced a weight of 18-8-0 expectation of a new champion grew but Paul Bick was yet to weigh in and after catching roach at a steady pace for most of the match, he was also in contention.
Paul’s 23-8-0 was a fantastic catch in its own right and duly won him the section but it was not enough to overtake Steve and all that was left was for match referee Tony Birt to ratify the result back at headquarters. With a combined weight over the two days of 49-3-0, Steve Sadler was crowned a worthy RiverFest Champion 2014.
Angling Trust Ambassador Dave Harrell said “When I set about creating the RiverFest competition last year, I was pretty confident that river anglers from all over the country would want it. The time was right to create a high profile, big money event like this and I’m absolutely delighted and proud with the way it has developed.
“The Competitions Team at the Angling Trust has done a fantastic job on the administration side of things and the organisers of the qualifiers have also been hugely instrumental in making RiverFest the success that it has become. Without these people, the competition couldn’t have happened so on behalf of the 1,200 anglers who entered the qualifiers, a big thank you goes to them. I will continue to work with the Angling Trust when required in the future and between us, I am certain we will make RiverFest even bigger in the years to come!”
The Angling Trust would like to thank everyone who has been involved in RiverFest 2014 and making it a big success.
Our thanks go to the anglers for taking part and supporting the competition and the Angling Trust and the local organisers for their time effort and commitment during the qualifiers.
We would also like to say a big thank you to match referee Tony Birt and his team of stewards, Hereford Rowing Club for hosting the final. To our sponsors, Thames Water and Severn Trent Water for their continued commitment to river angling and to leading bait manufacturer Bait-Tech for it’s continued support with this competition
1st Steve Sadler 49-3-0
2nd Sean Ashby 45-7-0
3rd Paul Bick 42-12-0
4th Simon Willsmore 40-7-0
5th Sam Merry 38-12-0