Back to Bleadon today, and the beautiful Shiplate Farm, for the final round of Tony’s four day festival. After three hard-fought contests, Phil Southgate was out on his own with an excellent score of nine points, followed closely behind by Joe Wood and Eddie Swann, both on eleven points.
I sat in a group of three anglers on a score of thirteen, so being rational, it would be highly improbable that I could win the event from this position. Still, if I fished a decent contest, a framing place was a sound possibility.
As is customary for The Cider Cup, the draw was made on the evening prior to the final match, using a ‘rover’ format. For the uninitiated, a rover works as such: as twenty-one anglers would be fishing, tickets numbered one through to twenty-one are placed in a hat – or whatever receptacle is to hand. Everybody takes a ticket, and the angler with number 1 has first pick of all the pegs on the venue. Correspondingly, the angler with the highest number, 21 in this instance, will be last to make his choice.
It is commonly accepted that either a low or very high number is desirable on a rover. A low number will give the angler the option to fish a peg with some form, or one that suits their style of angling. A high number is favourable because it affords the angler some room, as they get to see where their fellow competitors are placed.
When it was my turn to have a dip, I was faced with pick ten – not ideal. I fancied a day on Main Lake, but only if I could secure either flyer peg 1, personal favourite peg 11 or end peg 15.
As expected, pegs 1 and 15 were two of the first three chosen, but as we reached pick nine, peg 11 Main was still up-for-grabs. What I did next could be seen as bad sportsmanship, or at very least self-serving manipulation, and if I told you I felt ashamed of my behaviour – then I would be lying. Because when Ollie Corbett sat down to quietly deliberate, I shuffled up beside him like a true friend, reminding him of his pole fishing prowess, assuring him that he is a skilled snake-lake angler, so a pick on anywhere other than Hawthorn would be foolish. Anyway, Ollie took my kind advice and I took peg eleven. I love it when a plan comes together.
After the excitement of the rover, we made our way into Burnham-on-Sea for a curry at the Chandni. Although we had a table booked for twenty-one, we were left with an empty seat, as poor Trevor Faulkener was unable to squeeze through the door. Naturally, we did all we could to help our big friend.
Some great banter was enjoyed over dinner, the beer flowed and everybody was in great spirits. Without meaning to sound overly-sentimental, it is easy to see how friendships are forged as a few drinks are shared after a day on the bank.
Once all of the mockery has subsided though, the talk turns, inevitably, to fishing, and over a Chicken Shashlik, it was warming to see festival first-timer Mark Seaborn taking encouragement from Somerset regular, Val Timms. Alongside sound advice such as “keep trying mate – persevere”, Val offered up other gems like “put a hook on” and “fuck the rules.”
This generous sharing of information started me thinking, we’ve all bought those instructional Match Fishing videos, the ones where Jamie Hughes rocks up to a puddle and catches 400lb of fish on eleven pellets, we’ve all attempted to copy the rigs and changed our elastics over to the product he swears-by. But how many of us have put Jamie’s performances into practice, are we really better anglers for having watched the videos, or are we merely voyeurs, viewing a kind of fishing porn.
Is it not equally as beneficial to learn from another angler’s blunders as it is their successes? Personally, I believe that there is a truth to be found in each small error, so to shift the balance back towards that of the mere fishing mortal, I am proud to announce this exciting release. A match fishing DVD with a difference: made by the average angler, for the average angler.
As we had drawn our pegs the evening before the contest, the morning was ours to enjoy. We would simply arrive at Shiplate whenever suited us and start fishing at 10.30, very civilised.
While we had no trouble getting our clothes packed away and caravan tidied up before departing Lakeside, some of our more senior residents seemed to be taking an age. Apparently Brian Cartridge spent over an hour scrubbing the shower before he hit the road; conscientious caravanner or is there a more seedy explanation, as I saw Brian sheepishly packing this into his car.
Onto serious matters now, as I’m already up to almost a thousand words and we’ve yet to wet a line. Before I start on the boring details of an uncomplicated contest, I’ll explain why I chose eleven on Main Lake, a peg that produced 84lb and 58lb on the first two days of the festival.
Although these are steady weights, I felt convinced that a lot more would be required to propel me up the leaderboard, as all of the other anglers in Cider Cup contention were pegged on the canals. Peg 11 though felt like a good gamble, it was my pick on the final day of last year’s festival when I weighed in 188lb, all caught fishing the straight lead across to the island.
The long and short of it is this: I chose eleven on Main because I think I know how best to fish it. I say this with no arrogance, there are far more pegs that confound me than pegs I approach full of confidence. My belief though, is that the fish have to be drawn to the island in this swim; I have seen several anglers fish a method feeder to the island without loose-feed and they have struggled. Pick up a catapult though, ping pellets into the swim regularly, and the fish will soon give themselves away, tailing-up and muddying the shallow water around the island. Get the carp to behave in this manner and it should be like shelling peas.
At 10.30 the all-in was called, so I picked up a catapult and fed three big pouches of 8mm pellets across to the island, throwing a straight lead and banded 11mm pellet over the top. For the first hour of the contest, the plan was to feed very heavily – around four pints of pellets – ringing the changes with hook baits until I had a bite.
I believe that during the early stages of a day’s bomb fishing, when there are only odd fish in the swim, a standout bait is very important as something to pick out amongst hundreds of 8mm pellets. As the contest progresses though, and more fish enter the peg, the pellets are slowly picked-off, so fishing the same bait as is fed will often be the best ploy.
An active opening hour of the contest soon flew by, I was blanking but not over-worried; when I fished peg eleven last September, I only had one fish at this point, but when the carp arrived the island was “rigid”.
To break this bite-less monotony, I had a little spell throwing a crystal waggler, but apart from almost hooking several ducks, very little was happening. I then cast a method feeder/wafter combo tight to the island, but all this offered-up was a motionless tip for me to gawp at.
As we approached the ninety minute point of the contest, I began to feel a little concerned, even questioning if peg eleven had been a poor pick. After a night of heavy rainfall, the fish might feel less inclined to venture into the shallow water around the island, and if this were the case, there would be few other options available.
I wondered, should I get off my box and set up a short pole rig, just in case?
Or perhaps I ought to feed the left hand margin, albeit a little earlier in the day than I had planned?
As I pondered these options, my rod was almost dragged into the lake as I was rewarded with my first fish of the contest: a mirror carp. At around 4lb, a small specimen by Main Lake standards, but welcome nonetheless.
Over the following forty-five minutes, I managed three more carp, two of which fell to a yellow wafter, the other succumbing to a 14mm krill pellet: a huge bait that is often referred to as a “donkey choker.”
Personally, I’ve never felt the compulsion to commit such an act, but if I ever feel inclined to choke a donkey, this will be my weapon of choice.
As the high numbers of Main Lake run adjacent to West, I could keep an ear open for how the A Group anglers on that pool were getting on. It seemed that Tony Corbett had enjoyed a reasonable first half to the contest, but either side of him, Pete Holtham and Joe Wood were struggling to put a run together.
On Main Lake, Steve Foxhall was landing the odd lump on the short pole, Dave Richards was doing well on end peg 15 and Brian Cartridge was absolutely emptying peg 1, catching on dead maggot down his right hand margin. Three anglers that I would find difficult to beat, but fortunately for me they were all in B Group.
I spent the third and fourth hours of the contest putting runs of fish together on the bomb, catching carp in short bursts of two or three. The stamp was small compared to that of the famous Main Lake lumps, but I felt content to be steadily adding pounds to my tally.
In fact, as much as I despise this mind-numbing method, I did nothing but fish a straight lead until there was just over an hour of the contest remaining, when I fed eight big balls of groundbait down my left hand edge.
As we entered the final hour of the contest, I lost my way a little. I had a fair return of ninety-seven pounds on my clicker at this point, and there were fish tailing up around the island, but I became bored and impatient, looking for a way to catch a better stamp of fish.
I wasted valuable time fishing down the left hand margin; but whenever I decided it was time to give it up as a bad job, a dip on the float tip or some stirring-up of the water kept me interested.
In fact, I extracted just one fish from the edge, my only silver of the day, a twelve ounce skimmer; this despite the fact that I spent almost half of the final hour of my match fishing down there.
When I finally got my act together, throwing the bomb back across to the island with twenty minutes to go, my decision to have looked down the edge was confirmed as ill-considered. The rod tip kept on pulling around and I frantically added four fish to my tally – it was suddenly solid around the island. In fact, there were so many fish present I’m convinced that if the contest had continued for a further hour, another 50lb would have been on the cards.
As it was, the all out was called at four o’clock, to call time on the final chapter of this year’s Cider Cup festival. Whilst sipping a can of Thatcher’s Haze, I slowly packed my kit away and waited for Dave Richards to arrive so that we could commence the weigh in.
We started the weigh-in over on West Pool, where Trevor Faulkner’s guesstimate of 40lb from end peg 15 somehow materialised as 72lb – a bit off the mark there, Big Man!
Continuing the theme of artful underestimation, we made our way along to Joe Wood on peg 12, starting the day placed second in the festival, Joe’s 60lb miraculously became 95lb. A great weight on a difficult day, maintaining his excellent run of form over the festival weekend. Well done!
We then moved along West Pool to weigh two anglers in who began the day in fourth and fifth place respectively: Pete Holtham and Tony Corbett. They had chosen pegs next door to one another, presumably so each angler could keep an eye on his competitor. A logical plan but ultimately one which backfired, particularly for Peter, as he placed 65lb on the scales to Tony’s 81lb.
As we made our way around to Main Lake, I was owning up to a high ninety pound weight. To prove that I too am profoundly allergic to telling the truth, my total was given as 147lb – some way off the mark you might say, but I simply wasn’t aware that they wanted to know what I had in all of my nets.
After I was chastised for the erroneous evaluation of my keepnets’ contents, we moved along the bank to Steve Siddell, who had endured a bit of a tough weekend: drawing badly, cracking a pole section and coping with a broken finger. I was pleased to see Steve weigh in 132lb, all caught on the old “slap-slap-slap”.
We then bumbled along to end peg 15, to visit an angler who cannot be accused of disinformation when it comes to judging what he has caught, Dave Richards. Dear Old Cloud-Head was just 3oz out, clicking 170lb and weighing 170lb 3oz.
A ridiculously good estimation and an excellent weight, but a full 100lb behind this week’s Man of the Match, Brian Cartridge. Situated on first pick peg one, Brian fished down his right hand margin for a full five-and-a-half hours, catching 270lb of lumps. Not only was this the best weight of the weekend and the biggest any of us have achieved in Somerset, it is also in the top three recorded at Shiplate Farm Fishery.
Brian works in a fishing tackle shop (it was nice of him to bring it along to Somerset with him), so if you want to fire any questions at this lovely man about the time he bagged up on peg 1 Main Lake, pop into Kings Heath Angling for a cup of tea and a chat.
Once we were all weighed in, we made our way back to the club house and waited for the results to be announced. As we discussed the festival, everybody agreed that it had been an excellent weekend and Tony’s organisation was, once again, faultless.
Also, scrapping the old four group system in favour of a two division event worked a treat: there were more points to play for, meaning six anglers were in with a shout going into the final day.
After a great deal of scalp scratching, abacuses, calculators and the removal of socks, Tony made his way out, announcing the overall running in ascending order. All of the lower-placed anglers received an item of fishing equipment, most of which was donated by Frenzee-sponsored Ant Mansell. Aside from packets of pole floats and general items of terminal tackle, there were a number of other prizes…
Tony then moved along to the framing places, announcing himself at number five, with eighteen points and an accumulative weight of 451lb. An excellent achievement considering he was relegated on day one.
With fifteen points and a weight of 454lb, Eddie Swann occupied fourth position. Our Ed fished well all weekend, winning two contests outright – you can only imagine what might have been if he hadn’t fished for skimmers on day two.
I was pleased to end the festival in third place – especially after starting the day in sixth position. I ended on a score of fourteen points, managed an overall weight of 513lb and, most importantly, thoroughly enjoyed my weekend.
In second spot, on thirteen points, was Joe Wood, who fished brilliantly every day. Despite being knocked-back 90lb on day one, Joe still managed 486lb over the four contests, and can consider himself unlucky to have drawn so badly at The Sedges on day three.
But in first place, and a thoroughly deserving winner of The Cider Cup, starting the event in Group B and peaking when it mattered, with a score of twelve points and a total weight of 407lb, is big Phil Southgate.
Congratulations from all of us mate…
That’s it for this year’s Somerset September Festival folks – thanks for taking the time to read this blog. And an extra special mention must be made to those of you who read all three blogs, covering the entire event in fine detail. That’s over ten thousand words and three hours of your life that you can’t claim back, even if you’ve got a receipt.
Before I go, a recap, day four of The Cider Cup:
Ollie Corbett broke the British bank walking record, leaving his peg and going for a wander just eleven minutes into the contest;
Graham Green’s day fishing for skimmers was ruined by several hungry carp;
On Hawthorn Pool, Dave Brain whistled Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for four hours solid;
Eddie Swann went on;
Phil Southgate’s gamble paid off, as his final day pick of 15 Hawthorn ultimately won him the festival;
Dave Richards finally remembered to put a hook on;
I was called Scottish Villa Twat (or SVT for short) sixteen times, taking my weekend tally up to an impressive seventy-two occasions – yet I’ve absolutely no idea how I got the nickname.
Until next time…