Whatever anglers’ opinion of commercial fisheries – good, bad or indifferent – there remains one undeniable fact. When it comes to still water match fishing the Barford Lakes may best be described as Norfolk’s winter wonderland.

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This was never more evident than at last Sunday’s first round of the league for teams of five, where a series of large numbers decorated the weight cards at the conclusion of a highly competitive, all-action five hours.

The majority were hoping to deny Browning Hotrods the privilege of successfully defending their title. None more than Jimmy Brooks, of the Matrix outfit, who winched out some heavyweight carp up to 15lbs to score 105lb 4oz from peg 7 on the Pleasure Lake.

Tim Dabrowa, of the host squad Barford, made runner-up with 87lb 8oz from Railway peg 18, then followed Tim Bollingbroke, of newcomers VPH Roofing, with a Willow Lake best of 71lb 9oz.

At the final reckoning, it was Matrix with an all-round performance, who came through with 17 penalty points, two ahead of the reigning champions Hotrods on 19, then VPH 21 and Sax Angling 22.

“This was one of our best first rounds,” said league organiser Daniel Brydon. “The weather was mild and, apart from the winner’s superb bag, there were excellent double figures on every lake.”

At the New Year’s Day Linda Thompson Memorial, on the River Wensum in Norwich, hopes were high of huge catches.

However, this time it was not the stately bream bulging keepnets but sparkling, red-finned roach caught from the Foundry to Bishop bridges stretch.

David Roe (Daiwa AD) clinched top spot with 24lb 4oz, followed by two more DAD men – Wayne Anderson (23lb 4oz) and Robert Hubbard (21lb 9oz).

Pete Swan, the organiser of the two events on the venue, said: “We had the best of the bream in the Jim Boulton event and roach in the Linda Thompson. Thanks to Cotswold, NCFC and Holborn who allowed us their car parks and the Red Lion for headquarters, we raised £228 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.”

Swan’s eighth round of the Angling Direct Sunday Series produced small roach and the odd perch in a close-fought time and motion exercise between the turning basin and Carrow Bridge.

David Gooch (Norwich) refused to be distracted by pretty passers-by and concentrated on his float to produce a 12lb 9oz winner. Pete Swan was runner-up with 12lb 2oz, then Daiwa duo Wayner Anderson (11lb 13oz) and David Roe (11lb 12oz).

On the big fish venues, the pike potential at Swangey Lakes was emphasised by Charlie Wilson, of Thorpe St Andrew, who hauled out a splendid specimen of 25lb. The fish, witnessed and weighed, fell to a smelt bait.

At Catch 22, New Year carp enthusiasts reported a splendid start with local Aaron Spencer netting a 29lb 11oz common. Rob Plane banked a trio of commons in the mid-20s, Lee Nobbs a mirror of 24lb and Jeff Greenaway a common of 23lb 5oz. On the River Wensum, Cromer’s top freshwater angler Gareth Goldson ended his year with a splendid 6lb 7oz chub.

n Keen anglers often on the road around dawn are undoubtedly lamenting the absence on the airwaves of Keith Arthur – the most amusing radio commentator of rod and line sport.

Comical Keith has left Talksport’s Fishermen’s Blues because the station management decided his Saturday and Sunday 7-8am slot would be better filled by Georgie Bingham and Micky Quinn, who chat about more mundane matters related to Man U’s “days in the doldrums”, the Gunners’ chances of hitting their target and, not least, the Canaries’ prospects of avoiding the drop.

None of which is a patch on some of Arthur’s amusing assertions such as the entomological miracle of how live larvae of the terrestrial bluebottle are able to defy nature, bury themselves in the bottom mud of lakes and rivers until they eventually hatch out as adult flies, rising to the surface and whizzing away.

His scientific revelation that acid rain originates from Scotland’s dense forest was also a hoot. So the message to Talksport is clear.

Please bring back Keith Arthur, for angling life is not the same without this comedian.

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