Our annual pilgrimage to Somerset this weekend, for Tony Corbett’s four match mini-festival – and a welcome break from Brexit, Back-stop, Boris and several other inglorious B’s. For a few days, at least.
This would be my first visit to cider country since an ill-fated trip in June, where I suffered an extreme case of reverse-Midas, as everything I touched turned miraculously into faeces. Aside from parting company with hundreds of pounds worth of fishing apparatus – an impressive list including two top kits, a number 4 section, an accessory bar and my entire collection of pole-mounted pots – I suffered the inconvenience of having a tooth whipped out in a freak accident at Viaduct Fisheries.
For those of you who have been holed-up on a remote island or placed in an induced coma, in other words anybody I haven’t reached out to with news of my mishap, let me recap: after a rain-ruined contest on Cary pool, where I was last angler to weigh-in, I loaded my gear on to my barrow and began the long trudge back to the car park. As I made my way along the causeway that separates Campbell and Cary, my precariously-laden trolley hit uneven ground and began to overturn. I managed to get the right side of this toppling tackle, pushing it back onto my trolley until it was what you might call almost-balanced. In an attempt to properly secure my expensive fishing apparatus, I wound a bungee strap around a fixing point. As I pulled hard on this slippery cord, it snatched from my grip and the fastening hook whipped me sharply about the face. Ouch! – or “Bastarding fucking Ouch!” to be more precise.
I’m not usually one to indulge in sessions of sickly self-pity, so forgive me when I tell you that after this feisty bungee did away with my left-central incisor, and as I stood, blood pouring down my chin, whimpering “help” at nobody in particular beside a lake, hundreds of miles from home – at this very specific moment in my life, Daniel did feel very sorry for Daniel and wanted so much to give himself a big, warm hug.
But, rather than the comfort of a few kind words or a little squeeze of the shoulder that says you’ll be okay kid!, I made my way back to the car park where Dave Richards told me he was disappointed that I had lost one of my teeth – as he’d always wanted to knock them out for me. After this he helpfully offered me some “replacement teeth”, which included grains of corn and pellets in various sizes. Thanks Uncle Dave.
Enough about teeth now, as we have the exciting matter of The Cider Cup to discuss. A most sought-after trophy, and the reason we all put in hours of preparation, spend a small fortune on bait and travel hundreds of miles on the second weekend of September, year-after-year.
When Jim Smith won this trophy in 2016, with four section wins and a perfect score, I predicted that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime feat, virtually impossible to repeat due to the calibre of angler in attendance.
Well, I admit, I couldn’t have been much more wronger (Foxy wrote that sentence for me) as Ollie Corbett went one – or four – better in last year’s event. Not only did he win his section comfortably every day, but the little bagger somehow managed a clean sweep of match victories over the weekend, with a lowest weight of 170lb. Remarkable.
Ollie is rightfully proud of this achievement, so proud in fact that he can be quite often found on Kings Heath high street telling complete strangers outside Poundland about how much groundbait he fed on West Pool – or popping into Greggs to order a steak bake and discuss the mugging tactics that helped him to victory on peg 15, Main Lake.
Young Ollie is soon to become a father, so on behalf of the Wythall RBL anglers and the Somerset regulars, I would like to offer him our warmest congratulations. It has been claimed that Ollie only impregnated Amber so that there is another person in the world to talk to about the virtues of the Kaizen hook over a non Teflon-coated pattern. Personally I think that this is an unfair, but ultimately true, suggestion.
Last year’s festival ran on a four division arrangement, with the top anglers promoted, and bottom anglers relegated, from each group daily. To make things simpler for himself, event organiser Tony made the decision to split us into just two groups for the 2019 Cider Cup, with the top/bottom two anglers promoted/relegated after each contest.
With the format simplified, Tony decided to have some fun with the finer details, adding some quirky rules which may have a bearing on events. Here are a selection of this year’s more unconventional directives.
– Any fish caught at a distance of four meters or less; weight to count as double.
– Any angler born on a Wednesday; triple silver fish total.
– Anglers who smoke more than twenty cigarettes during a contest; add thirty per cent to total weight.
– Any angler weighing over thirty stone; option to fish on for an hour.
A bit of fun and an interesting addition to the year’s event, I’m sure you agree. I for one fancy Big Trevor Faulkner to do well following the introduction of these interesting new rules.
My preparation was virtually non-existent for this event, as my gear had been stowed away at my Mum’s house since the last club contest at Boddington. A quick look through my hook-length box revealed that I had everything in order, with plenty of KKM-B’s tied up for banded baits, loads of QM1’s for bomb work and an abundance of the ever-reliable Kaizens for down the edge.
My rigs, on the other hand, were looking a little sparse on their trays – and a quick tally-up revealed a measly total of seven rigs for fishing shallow. Also, my elastic selection would be far too light to subdue hard-fighting, Somerset lumps.
When Joe arrived to pick me up in his van, he told me that he had just that minute collected his bait and that due to work commitments, he too hadn’t had a chance to tie rigs or hook-lengths. We both felt ill-prepared and under-gunned, but at least we were in the same boat – even if that boat was a van.
After a trouble-free jaunt along the M5, we arrived at Shiplate Farm to catch the weigh in for the Thursday open, which was contested by several of our more-prepared anglers. Fished over Shiplate’s two canals, Hawthorn and West, weights were surprisingly low – it was clear that the venue had switched off for some reason.
Still, it was good to see some of our anglers occupying the framing places, including match winner Eddie Swann.
After an evening of steady drinking in Brean, we woke early on Friday morning, bright-eyed and raring to go. Personally, there were just two questions I required an answer for over the four day festival:
Firstly, after finishing runner up in last year’s event, could I go one better and get my hands on The Cider Cup?
Secondly, how many times would I be called ‘Scottish Villa Twat’ over the course of the weekend – or ‘SVT’ for short?
Since moving to Scotland, I have been affectionately referred to as the SVT by my Brummie friends – sometimes even by nice people like Steve Siddell and Brian. But, the true irony here is that since moving to Scotland I have gained another loving nickname, as I now answer to ‘Wee English Prick’; a name bestowed upon me by my new colleagues. Of course, this means that I am now subjected to slightly racist, derogatory banter whichever side of the border I find myself on – lucky me!
For those of you who are interested, my pre-weekend prediction was that due to the shoddy nature of my preparation (and shortcomings in angling ability), The Cider Cup wouldn’t leave Somerset in my suitcase. Also, I estimated that I would be called ‘SVT’ on somewhere between 50 and 60 occasions.
Well I wouldn’t have to wait long to find out, as we queued up to draw outside the lodge at our home-from-home: the beautiful Shiplate Farm. As I shuffled towards the front of the queue, my world went suddenly dark, as I was engulfed by giant shapes. It was like an episode of Walking with Dinosaurs, and I was a Velociraptor amongst towering Brontosaurus and Diplodocus, casually brushed aside as Phil, Trevor and Jim made their way to the draw bag.
One grinning gargantuan who filtered back through the queue was Ant Mansell, who had pulled out the infamous Main Lake peg 1 – for the second successive year!
When it was my turn to have a dip, a number of pegs I hoped to avoid had already gone. Ollie and Tony Corbett had taken pegs 6 and 8 on Main respectively, and Lee Westwood had drawn peg 10 on the same pool. When I prized open my little ticket, 9 West was staring back at me. I felt happy with this, a draw on any of the canals is usually a steady way to start your festival.
Plan of attack was to catch as much as I could from all over my peg for four hours, before plundering the margins in the latter stages of the contest, where I would fish meat or maggots over groundbait. The fish tend to rock-up late in the edges on West Pool, and it is not uncommon to catch 60lb in the final hour of the contest.
At 11.30 the all-in was called and, as I tend to do on the canals, I began by fishing pellets across. Despite trying a deep rig and a shallow rig, presenting a bait just off the bank and tight over, I couldn’t hook a fish on a banded 6mm pellet; a gambit I expected to be a banker.
When I finally managed to moan one into the net after forty minutes, Joe down on peg 12 was already owning up to six. And to exacerbate the situation, when I followed up with fish number two some twenty minutes later, Joe informed me that he had fed a little nugget of groundbait by hand and his margins were now rigid with fish.
I followed suit, feeding some groundbait down both edges, but for whatever reason the fish seemed reluctant to come in. I could catch a stray one here and there, but couldn’t work out how I might put a run together. So it was back to searching the peg for odd carp – which I did clumsily, catching my line in overhanging foliage, tangling shallow rigs while shipping-out and foul-hooking more fish than I hooked in the mouth. I was fishing a horrible match and got the returns I deserved, as I approached the half way stage of the contest with just 25lb on the clicker.
Running out of patience and ideas, I finally did the right thing: all rigs went back on the roost and I opened up a can of Somerset’s finest, as I contemplated my next move.
During this much-needed refreshment break, I made the decision to concentrate my efforts shallow down the track and in the edge. I had wasted most of my contest worrying about the splashing coming from Joe’s peg, or watching Graham Green catching on the bomb on Main 13.
While I primed a shallow line with 6mm pellets at eight meters, I threw a little feeder off at an angle, tight to the far bank. Within three minutes, the rod tip flew around and I was bent into a carp.
Because this bite had come so quickly, I decided I had nothing to lose by throwing the shovel over again, so I lined-up with my far bank marker and punched the feeder across. Unfortunately, it just kept going and going, right over the far bank, until eventually it snared-up in a tree beside the Main Lake. To further pursue the afternoon’s theme of slipshod angling, I had forgotten that I removed my mainline from the clip whilst playing the last fish.
Once I had thrown my feeder rod up the bank – muttering cuntycuntfuck under my breath – I picked up the shallow rig. Fishing up-in-the water was slow, but at least I felt that there was some kind of order; how I presented my rig and introduced my feed seemed to determine how many fish I caught.
Whilst snaring the odd one shallow, I fed the margins with groundbait by hand, and for the first time in the contest there were signs of feeding fish. Not wanting to waste more valuable time, I went straight into the deeper, left hand margin and was rewarded with a ghost carp first drop-in. Two further fish followed but bites became iffy, so I put in a generous amount of groundbait and moved across to the shallower, right hand edge. The fish seemed less willing to settle in this depth, but if I sat patiently, I could pick the odd one off while I rested the stronger swim.
Into the final hour of the contest and I finally put a run together, as both margins came alive with fish. I had no chance of catching up with Joe on peg 12, who was already owning up to 150lb – but I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn’t competing with Joe, as he had started the day in group B. I was fishing against group A anglers, wherever they were placed on the complex, so it was important to extract what I could from my peg.
Although the final stages of my contest produced a number of carp, I still followed the same blundering, inept pattern. At one point, I dropped a roach onto the ground while unhooking it, and rather than get up off my seat box and place it into a keepnet, adding valuable ounces to my overall weight, I attempted to flick it back into the pool with my top kit. As I did this, my rig spun around the end of the pole in a huge, bird’s nest tangle and, as I launched my top kit up the bank, I thought to myself “you don’t see that on Steve Ringer’s Skills School!”
When Pete Hotham called “all-out/fish-on” I felt quite relieved that my contest was over. I had fished a woeful match – the highlight of which was a simple can of cider – and when the scales came around I felt fortunate to have bumbled my way to 129lb. A decent return, but I was narrowly beaten by fellow A-leaguer Pete, who had fished a steady match from peg six West for his 131lb.
The day’s real drama though came when we arrived to weigh in Joe Wood, who had plundered the edges of peg 12 all afternoon. As he pulled his first keepnet out there was a collective sharp intake of breath, as we all realised he was close to the eighty pound limit. We were right to be concerned, as his first weigh went 81lb, meaning that this keepnet was lost in its entirety.
When Joe dragged out his second bag of fish, the collective sigh became a unified groan, as it was clear this net was also close to the Shiplate Farm limit. Rules is rules, this much is true, but I think we were all relieved to see the dial stop at 79lb. With a third net added to this tally, Joe finished the day on 127lb. Okay, not the 217lb he actually landed, but still good enough for 4th place in the contest and comfortably top weight in B league.
To recap, day one:
After a pathetic performance, I somehow managed to finish third in my group;
Eddie Swann won the match from Hawthorn pool, catching the majority of his 137lb slapping (but he doesn’t like to talk about it);
Peg 1 Main Lake produced “just” 84lb for Ant Mansell;
Graham Green fished a great match, weighing in 99lb from unfancied Main peg 13;
I was called Scottish Villa Twat (or SVT) seventeen times throughout the day – nine of these can be attributed to Dave Richards;
After a civilised evening of quaffing in The Boathouse Club, Richard Caswell carried on the drinking back at the caravan, where he suavely supped wine from a mug.
Back to Bleadon and the beautiful Shiplate Farm today for this, the second day of the festival. After yesterday’s draw on West it was my turn to fish Main Lake, home to huge fish – and plenty of them.
Following on from my most recent debacle, where a maladroit ape took control of my fishing tackle, I vowed that enough was enough, it was time to fish a decent contest.
Well, if this was to be the case, then I was certainly helped along by the draw, as I picked the best peg in Somerset from the furry bucket (not a euphemism), in the shape of Main Lake 1.
As should be the case on any flier, I kept my plan of attack simple: I would catch as much as I could on pellets out in open water, before venturing down the edge late on. Although the right hand margin of peg one is a certainty for some lumps, they have arrived incredibly late in recent contests. Ant Mansell only caught there in the final forty minutes of Friday’s match, and on the Wednesday evening open, Titch Williams caught all of his carp down the edge in a frantic final hour.
If both the long pole and the right hand margin failed to produce, I had an island at twenty-five meters as a back-up, but I hoped I wouldn’t have to pick the rod up at any point.
Although drawing such a noted peg comes with no small amount of pressure, I felt incredibly relaxed as I tackled up. My rigs and bait were spot-on and I had a plan I felt confident in – all was good in the world. Added to this the fact that the weather was unseasonably pleasant, with azure skies interspersed with remarkable cumulus clouds. Just looking at these fluffy formations made me wonder, how could Dave Richards take exception to the nickname “Cloud-head”?
At 11.30, Pete Holtham called “all in/fish on” and I shipped out to fourteen meters with a banded 6mm pellet. I cad-potted in around twenty pellets and waited patiently for a bite. It was encouraging to see the float dip sharply under after just two minutes, even if my first fish of the day was a small skimmer. Still, I didn’t have to wait long to catch my first carp of the contest, as I shipped back out and was soon attached to a big, wobbly one of around twelve pounds, snared on the deck rig.
The following two hours of the match followed a similar pattern, I could hook a fish on the deck at fourteen meters most put-ins: it was lovely fishing. Sport never became hectic, but it doesn’t need to be when the fish average eight to ten pounds. Just five bites an hour is enough to put forty pounds on the clicker, so it is important to remain patient.
I encountered my first sticky patch as we passed the two hour point of the contest; I already had a satisfying seventy-five pounds on the clicker, so wasn’t about to panic, but I suffered a spell when I just couldn’t hook one in the mouth. Pinging pellets had clearly brought too many fish in to the swim and I couldn’t figure out how to rectify the situation. I tried fishing shallow; I placed my deck rig half a section past my feed; I stopped feeding with the catapult, introducing pellets with a pole-mounted pot instead; I slapped an 8mm pellet with no feed at all; but in a frustrating forty-five minute spell, I hooked six fish, parting company with every one as I shipped back.
For the sake of my sanity, and to give the long pole line a rest, I took the decision to throw a feeder out to the island, where I had catapulted 8mm pellets sporadically all contest.
I wasn’t surprised when the tip remained motionless, experience tells me that if you are to catch fish around features at Shiplate, they will give themselves away. The water is very shallow beside both islands, so if there are fish present you will see some tailing-up and muddying of the water.
After ten minutes of sitting on my hands, I wound back in and had my first recce down the right hand edge. I waited patiently here for a full ten minutes, without so much as a tremble on the float tip, so I took the decision to look back out long, leaving the edge to settle until as late as possible.
Word on the bank was that Joe was having another red letter day, hauling in lumps along his left hand edge – great angling from unfancied peg eight. In my field of vision all day, Pete Holtham on peg fifteen had now started to catch too, both on the short pole and long up to his left.
Resting the fourteen meter line seemed to do it some good, as I caught three decent fish on the deck here in a thirty minute spell, before I could no longer resist a recce down the edge.
I had a hectic spell fishing the right hand margin, landing five fish in the final forty minutes of the contest; two of which took me around a blind corner and into the bay, but fortunately for me they found their way back. One lively lump cracked my number four section as it powered out of sight, but after a hair-raising battle it was eventually subdued, then I walked it back around the bend as if it were a disobedient dog.
When Pete Holtham called “fish on” (he’d given up altogether on “all out” at this point) at 5pm, I felt a bit sad that my contest had to end. There were so many fish queued up down the edge that I’m sure I could have done a 100lb hour if we had fished on. As it stood, I hadn’t exactly “emptied” this flier, but I felt that I’d at least done it some kind of justice, and most importantly, I had fished a steady match after yesterday’s shambles.
Once we were packed away, the greatest scales team in the history of match angling met by Hawthorn Pool and the weigh in commenced.
Hawthorn had fished brilliantly, with good weights coming out from all over the pool. Brian Cartridge snared 80lb shallow from peg 1; Jim Smith caught 141lb of big ‘uns fishing meat on the short pole; Ollie Corbett managed a fantastic 149lb from peg 13, the majority of which were tempted across – or so he says.
I was incredibly pleased though for Richard Caswell on peg 10 who, after a poor first day on Main Lake, where he recorded a weight of just 8lb, fought his way back to form, with a hard-earned 114lb.
After this we moved along to Main Lake, where Joe Wood was first to weigh in. He was clearly determined to avoid a similar blunder to the one made on day one, and had opted for a safety first approach, placing an astonishing twenty-seven keepnets in to the water – alright, it was six.
Joe had fished an excellent contest, presenting meat over meat along his left hand edge, and after several weighs – including a net that contained 5 fish for over 60lb – his tally was given as 211lb 1oz. A fantastic total, and the first time one of our anglers has achieved the double-ton during the Cider Cup festival. Well done that man!
We then weighed in Eddie Swann, who had suffered a severe case of whiplash all day watching Joe sack up. To Eddie’s credit, he had maintained his composure, putting together a respectable 71lb bag: a weight you would take from peg seven any day of the week.
I don’t know if it was the trauma of witnessing all the action coming from the neighbouring swim, but as we approached his peg, poor Eddie was wandering around like a shell-shocked soldier, left behind following a mortar attack, turning in ever-decreasing circles, muttering “I’ve had a lovely day’s skimmer fishing”, over and over, to nobody in particular.
We then weighed in Dave Richards who caught sixty-eight pounds of eels or some shit, before making our way to bung-hole peg one. I thought I might have around 130lb, so was pleased to see my three weighs total 145lb; not a massive weight, but enough for 3rd place on the day.
To re-cap, day two:
Joe Wood did the business again, with another double-ton, leaving him on a handy two points going into day three;
After relegation on day one, Tony Corbett put in a sterling performance, weighing in 160lb and gaining promotion back to group A;
Pete Holtham insisted that his net was weighed and re-weighed several times over, presumably until there was an outcome he felt satisfied with. This will be forever known as “The Brexit Weigh-in”;
After promotion on day one, Paul Timms was relegated back to group B, weighing in 23lb from peg 14 Main;
I sat in second place on a steady six points, going into day three;
Between 9am And 1pm, Brian sang “Boop-be-doop” for four hours continuously;
I was called Scottish Villa Twat (or SVT) on no less than twenty-two occasions – a dozen of these came at the draw, when I pulled peg one from the bag.
That’s it for this instalment then folks. On to The Sedges fishery tomorrow, for the third round of the Cider Cup, where we will be split over Brick and Tile pools. A match that I believe could end, and resurrect, a number of anglers’ festivals.
Until next time…