A jolly outing to Bridgwater today, for the third of four contests in our annual Somerset September festival. If you missed my blog covering the first two days’ fishing, please click on the following link
Before we arrived in cider country, I predicted that this competition would be won or lost at The Sedges, but considering this now, I think it highly unlikely that the winner of The Cider Cup could be confirmed as early as day three.
What I will stand by though, is my belief that the trophy could be lost at The Sedges, such is the peggy, unforgiving nature of the venue.
If I were to use a horse racing analogy, then this fishery, at this stage of the festival, would be Becher’s Brook, with its inevitable fallers, its elegant leapers, its jostling and manoeuvring.
Following a late night in The Somerset and Dorset, there were a few fragile folks in the cafe on Sunday morning. One person in particular was seen pushing a solitary baked bean slowly around his plate; pale-faced, mute and forlorn.
I’m not one to name names – especially when a simple photograph will suffice – so let’s just say that this mystery man is the ahem portly Dennis Taylor.
Somebody else on top form – if “form” is the apt word – was Dave Richards, who, after drinking a bottle and a half of vodka, decided it would be perfectly normal behaviour to use my nose as a pool cue.
I have a very big hooter, so found it difficult to find solid ground on which to stand and then object.
Not content with chalking my schnozzle for his evening’s entertainment, our silver-haired scallywag continued the horseplay back at the digs.
When half of Lakeside Caravan Park woke to find wheel trims missing from their cars and vans, the name of one cloud-headed imp sprang straight to mind…
On to more pressing matters now: not the hotly contested Cider Cup you understand; not the pivotal matter of the draw; not the rigs and floats and shots and hooks; not the pellets in many sizes and colours; not the pole-pots, catapults and cupping kits; not the one that got away; not the all in or the all out; not the fish in, the fucked off early or the fish on.
Because when the dust has settled on another brilliant weekend in Somerset, and our deserving winner heads home along the M5 with The Cider Cup for company, what would it mean without each other, without friendship and laughter?
Before I drown in floods of Bromantic tears, please see the image below, it means a great deal more to me than trophies and prize money. It is a picture containing twenty of the most handsome, kind men you could wish to meet. And Ant Mansell.
At 9.30 we gathered in the car park to draw, and one by one the ‘A’ Group anglers filtered back with great pegs: Eddie Swann had bagged corner 21, Tony Corbett found himself on 39 and Graham Green drew flier 40 – three fishermen that realistically I would struggle to beat. Other ‘A’ Group anglers drawn on corner pegs were Ollie Corbett on not-so-good Tile 30 and Ant Mansell on a-little-bit-better Brick 10.
When it was my own turn for a dip I picked nothing-to-write-home-about 35; a peg on Tile lake but in the middle of the bank, so not ideal.
Well if the fishing wasn’t up to much, at least I was in great company, as I had caravan mate Richard Caswell to my left on peg 36.
Two pegs to my right, on 33, I had an angler who kept us in fits of laughter all weekend: the absolute legend that is Steve ‘Foxy’ Foxhall.
At 11.30 the all in was called, and I started my contest fishing on the deck at 14 meters. At 7ft deep this was unlikely to be a line I could plunder all contest, but I wanted to kick-off without making a bad decision that could ruin my peg. By watching what the other anglers were doing, I hoped to gauge if the fish were feeding short or shallow; against the islands, out in open water or down the edges.
First fish of the day fell to Ollie Corbett, who caught a double-figure specimen on the long pole shallow, within five minutes of the all-in being called. Festival leader Joe Wood soon joined in, situated a couple of pegs along from Ollie, and in my eye-line all afternoon, he snared a decent carp ‘slapping.’
Just as I was about to follow suit and swap my deck rig over to a shallow pattern, my float dipped sharply under and I was attached to a large fish. It wasn’t easy work landing this lump on a 7ft length of line, but after a bit of pulling and cajoling he eventually gave in, and I was rewarded with thirteen clicks on the fish counter.
As expected, bites soon became iffy fishing on the bottom in this depth, and I took a run of foul-hooked fish as my cue to pick up a shallow rig.
Despite giving it my all, I failed in my attempts at hooking a fish on both the deep-shallow and conventional shallow rigs; I tried laying a 6mm pellet in naturally through my loose-feed and cutting feed out altogether, blindly slapping an 8mm pellet, but bites were simply unforthcoming.
It was frustrating fishing – there were clearly carp sat somewhere in the water column, but I couldn’t locate them. In fact, my swim was fizzing so much it was jacuzzi-like at times, so it seemed logical to plop a bomb over the long pole line. When I did this, the pulls and plucks on my rod-tip told me there were fish present, but I couldn’t make one snaffle my pellet.
Almost two hours into the contest, and with just two carp for a measly 17lb to show for my efforts, I had a number of exploratory casts to the island with a waggler. Despite landing my little Drennan Crystal tantalisingly tight to the feature on several occasions – the sort of casts that make you think that just has to go under! – I was left gawping at a motionless float-tip. So along with the bastard bomb rod and the shitty shallow rig, the wanky waggler was wanged up the bank.
I wasn’t panicking at this point, as the middle and far ends of Tile Pool were fishing poorly – so there were plenty of points still to play for. But, I would need to make something happen sooner-or-later, as Ant Mansell was now starting to catch a few on 10 Brick and Big Phil Southgate followed suit on opposite end peg 1.
Also, word on the bank was that Tony Corbett already had over 60lb on his clicker – with this absolute unit adding a further 20lb to this total.
The above picture of Tony with his magnificent fish was taken mid-contest, as Sedges’ rules state that any carp over 15lb should be weighed immediately, and that this weight is added to the angler’s tally at the end of play.
A sensible rule you would think, as specimen-sized carp might struggle for space if kept in a net. Although I would be inclined to agree in principal, the reason I object to this rule is because at The Sedges, there is just a single set of scales placed mid-way along each bank, so in order to weigh their lumps, anglers are forced to walk past several pegs, avoiding fellow competitors’ tackle, whilst carrying huge fish precariously in a landing net.
How this can be conducive to good fish welfare is bewildering to me and, to bolster my argument, the net limit at The Sedges is set at 100lb. A ridiculous – inhumane it could be said – amount of fish to place in just one keepnet.
As I can now safely log a new entry: The Sedges: #47 in “The List Of Fisheries I’m No Longer Welcome At”, it probably won’t hurt to mention the toilets. Not only are these the worst I have experienced at a fishery, but they are probably the most squalid I have set foot in anywhere in the world, ever.
Back to fishing now, and the period of the contest where I actually found a few, as out of desperation I threw a hybrid feeder over to the island and guess what, it went round a few times – as simple as that!
If you wonder why I hadn’t chucked a feeder across earlier in the contest, it’s because I was told that I hadn’t drawn in a good area for this tactic; either duff advice or a day when a few carp chose to patrol the island.
While waiting impatiently for the tip to wrap ‘round, I started spraying casters onto my fourteen meter line. I had struggled to make pellets work on the long pole, so decided I had nothing left to lose in firing out a few shells.
After a while the feeder line showed signs of slowing up, and a full twenty minutes without an indication was enough to have me reaching for the shallow rig. After five minutes of laying in a banded caster amongst my loose-feed, the float flew under and a docile, double-figure mirror carp wallowed its way to my net.
Although I was convinced I had finally sussed it fishing shells shallow, the day soon drifted back into its challenging, orderless manner. No more bites were to be had up-in-the-water, so I spent the next hour scratching around for signs, swapping methods and generally trying my level best for very little reward.
In fact, the only other fish I added to my total were three carp snared down the edge, all in the final throes of the contest. Although these fish were very welcome – especially as one was a “weigher” at 15lb 4oz – everybody seemed to be enjoying a late run, so I was merely keeping up with the pace, rather than setting it.
At 5 o’clock the all-out was called, and although I hadn’t fished a good match in the typical sense, I felt that I had put in a lot of effort, and hoped that this might help me to avoid a disaster points-wise.
I didn’t have to wait long to find out, as the scales made their way around and my total was confirmed as 91lb 2oz; this bettered just four anglers in A Group. Not ideal, but it might have been worse, especially if you consider that two excellent anglers were relegated from the top division: next door neighbour Steve Foxhall, who weighed in just 20lb and last year’s Cider Cup champion Ollie Corbett, who winkled out 24lb.
As expected, the near end of Tile Pool was the place to draw, as several 100lb plus weights were extracted from this area. Match winner Eddie Swann fished an excellent contest from corner peg 21, hauling in 157lb, fishing meat on the short pole. Followed closely by Tony Corbett, who fished a similarly brilliant match, catching 148lb on the tip.
Other performances of note were Big Phil Southgate’s promotion-gaining 125lb from Tile Peg 1 and Mark Seaborn’s method feeder-snared 117lb from Tile 37. I felt particularly pleased for Mark, as this was his first 100lb plus weight in a contest. A great achievement for a top bloke – and the first ton of many I’m sure.
That’s almost it for this week, but before I summarise, I will return to the horse-racing analogy, where we join race commentator, the ghost of Peter O’Sullevan, as all twenty-one of our runners and riders approach Becher’s Brook…
”… and 20/1 shot Steady Southgate has navigated the fence beautifully, leaping into first place… Hot on his hooves though are Woody Joe – who almost unseats his rider – and Ride A White Swann, who takes this tricky fence gracefully, but he doesn’t like to neigh about it…
… They’re all a bit bunched up after this, with 8/1 second favourite Toe Knee Core Bit joined by Pete The Meat and Shady Adey – who very nearly takes a tumble… Following closely behind we have Our Mister Punch, Lord Brainy Dave and our top-weight, Strawberry Fields For Trevor…
… In a small group towards the rear, there are a number of horses tightly grouped, and for the most travelling badly – Simply The West and Tall Pimm’s, moving alongside It’s Only Onslow, In A Frenzee and pre-race gamble Bup-Be-Dup-Brian… oh, if you’ve backed the favourite, look away now, as 4/1 shot Wally Schnorbitz has taken a tumble…
… struggling towards the rear we have MightCaswellGoHome and Sparky Sea Born… and another fancied horse, Where The Fox Hat is about to be pulled up… then treading water somewhat, it’s Sid Aye It – and there’s a loose horse causing trouble, it’s Let’s Wet Some Warburton’s…
… And oh no, this isn’t good at all, a sad scene, as the black tent is erected by the side of Becher’s Brook, and Cloud-Head Crawford is put out of his suffering, shot by the course vet…”
To recap, day three of The Cider Cup:
The Sedges fishery was predictably peggy, with four of the top five weights coming from corner pegs;
Pairs Partner Lee Westwood beat me by 10oz, dropping me down a place to 7th in Group A – thanks team-mate;
Jim Smith drank four litres of Cherry Coke in an attempt to sober up;
Paul Timms got caught by 96lb of fish while windmilling a pellet around at eight meters;
Eddie Swann won his second contest of the weekend – third if you include his victory in the Thursday open (which I don’t);
Val Timms borrowed my brand new landing net pole, Christening it just two minutes before the all out;
I was called Scottish Villa Twat (or SVT) on 17 occasions;
Ollie Corbett watched three episodes of Peaky Blinders while waiting for a bite;
The mystery of the missing groceries from caravan 148 was finally solved – a furry little fellow snuck in at 3am, filling his boots.
Until next time…