Festival joy for Stalham angler

Spring is Sprung, wrote EE Cummings, when the last vestiges of winter were smothered beneath Wordsworth's 'host of golden daffodils beside the lakes, beneath the trees' etc.

And not before time this year, cry local anglers, who at long last, were able to gaze on bulging match nets of carp at the weekend, not to mention giant tench and bream from the big fish pleasure venues.

On the local match scene, attention was focused on the Barford Two-Day Festival with high hopes that the brand of high-octane spirit would flow and fuel the competitors' razor-sharp minds along the banks of the Barford Match and Willow lakes.

Those desires were fulfilled and then some as carp catches cruised into three figures during this weekend extravaganza.

The secret of success lay in overcoming the penalty points system that rewarded anglers who gained high section positions rather than depending on one hefty catch to see them through.

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And come 5pm on Sunday, the man who was beckoned to the rostrum to receive the £200 top prize was Stalham's Ben Smith with a score of five penalty points achieved by one second and a third place, even though his two-day aggregate weight of 142lb 15oz was fourth best.

On day one, the 30-year-old marine paint sprayer bagged second spot on the Willow with 52lb 1oz behind David Cooper (PWA) with 65lb 15oz.

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On day two, he chalked up a third on the Match Lake with 90lb 14oz, sufficient to beat Daniel Warhurst (Beaver), who won his section with 98lb 1oz on the first day but finished fifth on the second day with 64lb 14oz. Although his two-day aggregate was 162lb 15oz, he netted six penalty points as did Paul Ashford, who won on the Willow with 92lb 1oz but came fifth on the Match Lake with 64lb 8oz for a total of 156lb 9oz.

Commenting on his triumph over some of the most experienced match men in the east, the Stalham club man said: 'I am really chuffed with this result and so is my father Nigel, who finished fifth to earn £40.

'Neither of us enjoyed the best of the draw among the carp, but we did okay.'

Organiser Kevin Ford, who was fifth with nine points, with an aggregate catch of 129lb 7oz that included the best of the weekend at 114lb 12oz from the Match Lake, said the weather had turned for the good just in time.

'The lakes had warmed up, the fish responded and turned the event into a huge success,' he said.

Another phenomenal day was staged at Holly Farm, South Walsham, where the match average was 67lb per man at the Wednesday open.

North Walsham's former England international Jim Randell headed the card with a carp net of 126lb and, at this venue, sport continued into the weekend when Alex Watson topped the Stalham club with 100lb.

At the Litcham Fishery, Dave Bates won the Wymondham outing with 84lb 12oz, Paul Manthorpe led the Veterans at Burgh Apton, while at Mill Farm, a series of double-figure returns were headed by Norwich rod Simon Denmark with 95lb 4oz. John Rigby won at Hinderclay with 94lb 7oz.

On the big fish waters, Taswood maintained form, the fish of week a 31lb 12oz mirror carp for Julian Miller of Norwich.

Chris Saunders reported a common of 31lb and there were numerous fish in the 20s for Norwich regulars Justin Kilby, James Wilkin and Alan Topley, as well as for Kevin Smith, of Lingwood, and Robin Ancell, of Beccles.

The Taswood mixed fish lakes were also producing top tench, chub and barbel.

Broads pike record-holder John Goble, of Caister, changes tack and went bream fishing at Swangey Lakes, ending his session with 65lb of quality slabs.

However, best bream of the week there was a giant 14-pounder for John Read, of Banham.

The carp enthusiasts also benefited with 20s for Matthew Rudling, of Watton, Mike Smyth, of Norwich, Nick Fulbrook, of Diss, and John Flowers, of Thetford.

At Waveney Valley, catfish are feeding voraciously with a very impressive 30 coming out last week to 38lb.

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