Jon Arthur looks back on the recent two-day Drennan Rive Silverfish Festival.
Last weekend I made the long trip to White Acres for the first-ever Drennan Rive Silverfish Festival. I absolutely love commercial silverfish matches so I was really looking forward to this one. I also know just how hard Gary Barclay at Drennan has worked behind the scenes to get this event off the ground from its inception earlier this year. Everything had been sorted, from accommodation to breakfasts and evening meals for all 78 competitors and not forgetting thousands of pounds worth of prizes for everyone at the evening ceremony.
Gary, Dan Varney and myself all travelled down to ‘sunny’ White Acres straight after an important new product launch at Drennan HQ to get acclimatised before the two important days began. The weather was typical of what I’ve come to expect in Cornwall; one minute it’s hammering down with rain and the next minute you’re complaining because it’s too sunny to see a float tip!
I was actually staying in a lodge with Dan Varney, Darren Davies and Tony Hobbs. We were all indebted to Darren for sorting out our top quality bait while Dan dished out most of the abuse, banter and entertainment every night in his own inimitable way. Saying that, the absolute highlight was us all helping to push Martin Kirk’s van out of the mud one evening. With the wheels spinning violently and some serious manpower (and my feeble effort) we all helped heave it backwards to get it unstuck. It took some persuasion but we eventually shifted it, only to see poor old Martin caked head to toe in mud afterwards!
The second highlight was Paul Glenfield, a self-confessed river and silverfish fan who loves float fishing and isn’t really into carp fishing, so this festival was right up his street. That’s why I still cannot understand why he was feeder fishing for carp on Jennys Lake on the official practice day when I walked around with my camera! After sitting there carpless, he eventually switched to the pole and promptly hooked a great big carp. It bottomed his elastic out, stripped it clean from his pull bung and took his PTFE bush along with it! That night I kindly gave him a couple of new PTFEs and in return I somehow persuaded him to buy me a drink in the bar. Now Paul has a reputation for being careful with his cash, so as soon as I saw that rare sight of him at a bar with a wallet open, a wad of crisp £50s sparkling and moths gasping for air I shouted out that it was Paul’s round. He nearly fainted!
Anyways, onto the fishing and I was really looking forward to Day One. It was a who’s who of angling with a host of internationals in attendance, plus 20 anglers from France including former world champion Didier Delannoy from Rive.
I pulled out Peg 36 on Pollawyn. It was an end peg (no surprises there) and on paper it looked quite good. My six-peg section included Ed Warren, Lee Edwards and Kian Wardle, so I knew I’d have my work cut out. I couldn’t actually see any of these anglers from my peg but I did have Stu Conroy for company in the section to my left, so I could use him as a pace setter and knew we’d have a good laugh.
I went down the usual Jonny Arthur route and plumbed up and fed everywhere; a caster swim at four sections in front, a few caster swims down the edges, a 12m caster swim in front and a 13m groundbait swim for skimmers to my left, towards the wider pegs where I felt they’d prefer to be.
The match started pretty badly with just one missed bite and then a tiny perch at four sections. I know the edges can be home to some massive perch and they tend to feed early so I had a quick look for one. I managed two small roach and a 14oz perch and then nothing. Back to four sections and one or two tiny roach then nothing. Out to the 12m caster swim and I could catch the odd roach on the drop but it wasn’t fantastic. Meanwhile, the 13m groundbait swim was equally unproductive.
Not knowing what else was going on in my section I plodded on and kept rotating swims. With no amount of silvers to speak of I felt there could be some big perch sulking and spent far too long on double caster, towards the adjacent pallet. All the while I was loose feeding the 12m and 6m spots very regularly in the hope of making something happen.
A good 90 minutes had elapsed with just a few pounds in the net and I knew I needed to make something happen. I hooked and lost a really big perch at 13 metres and then had one small skimmer to keep me interested. Trying a shallow rig at 12 metres then gave me a decent run of small roach. They were just about big enough to hold my attention. I found that I could catch five or six fish around 2ft deep before they got spooky. A lightly shotted rig with a 0.09mm Supplex hooklength and size 16 Green Gama to No5 elastic through a Double 2 Kit seemed ideal.
In between I was also beginning to nick the odd small 6-10oz skimmer off the 13m swim. Here I fished a 0.6g Drennan G-Tip 3 with a 0.10mm bottom, size 18 Silverfish Pellet and No6 elastic. However, I definitely think a lighter 0.4g rig would have been better as it was only 5ft and flat calm.
I couldn’t weigh up what was best on the 13m line but caster, double pinkie and worm heads all brought a few fish. Strangely, a single or double maggot was next to useless on this occasion and I’m still unsure why. I deliberately kept this swim potted so it wouldn’t interfere with the loose fed caster zone and this seemed to work well. When a few roach started intercepting my hook bait on the way down I decided to cut out potting any casters and just introduced pots of neat chopped worm and groundbait instead. I am not sure if it coincided with the best time of day or not but this swim really turned on from this point. I could now catch three or four skimmers before each refeed.
I also had one rogue F1 about 3lb which was good fun on No6 elastic. Shame it didn’t count, but neither did any type of carp, which poor old Stu Conroy was probably cussing after netting three for at least 40lb on his silverfish gear!
In the final hour I switched my attentions back to the short line and alternated this with the 13m swim, using the same rig, to keep putting fish in the net. With nothing to lose I also decided to really attack the short-pole line with casters and groundbait. Two big skimmers and two small barbel were a very welcome boost.
By the end of the match I wasn’t quite sure what I had caught and estimated around 18lb. As per usual, I was well out as the needle settled on 28lb 7oz. That was just enough to sneak the section above Kian Wardle’s 25lb of mostly perch. Phew!
Elsewhere, all of the lakes had fished pretty well, but it was Cameron Hughes that stole the show with a really impressive 55lb catch from Peg 25 on the High Bank, all shallow on casters.
With Will Raison, Alan Scotthorne, Sandra Scotthorne, Didier Dellanoy, Lee Kerry, Darren Davies and Matt Godfrey amongst the 13 section winners it was already shaping into a great battle for top spot the next day!
I felt that I needed a good 40lb-plus and a section win to stand a chance of making the top three so I was really hoping to be on the more prolific Jennys or Pollawyn for Day Two. Sadly, I had to make do with Peg 10 on Twin Oaks. Peg 12 was the end peg in the section, as you daren’t go too near arguably the best carp peg in Cornwall (Peg 16) for fear of getting smashed to smithereens!
The day before I had heard the carp were still very active and being regularly hooked and lost, so I was praying they had eaten their fill. Er, no they hadn’t! I cannot understand how you can hook so many carp and F1s in a non-carp event than you would ever do if you were actually trying to target them. At times my peg was F1 soup and it’s really opened my eyes as to what these fish will eat and just how easy it can be to get them in on a 0.10mm hooklength and No6 elastic.
I had Pete and Roger Marlow on pegs 2 and 4, with Callum Dicks on 6, Neil Mallinson on 8 and Kian Wardle on end Peg 12, where Sandra Scotthorne had won the section from the day before with 38lb of skimmers, so I knew some target fish were also in the vicinity. However, I also knew the carp and F1s could be problematic so I fed two swims to see if this would keep the fish segregated. This failed miserably as I hooked carp all over the place on every swim, even up in the water! Kian had it worse as he had them boiling down the edge and swirling shallow! Mind you, he also managed a 2lb perch and a 2lb tench amongst them, so it paid to persevere.
My plan was two swims on the short pole, left for roach with casters and a bit of Sensas Canal Black in the hope that the carp wouldn’t like this but the roach would (those carp are still laughing at this feeble notion!). To the right I fed my ‘bit of everything’ mix (Sonubaits F1, Ringers Dark, Thatchers, Lake and Canal Black) with some maggots and casters. I also fed a couple of potfuls of this plus some chopped worm at 13 metres. I was warned that these carp home in on worms but after five hours I am trying to think of a bait that they wouldn’t have homed in on! Anyway, the long pole was a write off as it was erupting with bubbles and all I hooked there was proper carp after carp. It was the same story for everyone else.
I ended up having to come off bottom on the short-pole caster swim to avoid the invaders and eventually got into a run of roach shallow. However, they weren’t the stamp I was hoping for and I was falling badly behind everyone around me. Kian was catching the odd better skimmer amongst his roach while Neil seemed to be playing a big bream every time I looked his way and definitely wasn’t getting carped out to the extent that Kian and I were.
I deduced far too late that the roach swim wasn’t going to yield the 30lb-plus weight I was clearly going to need. Feeding small amounts was also a waste of time as the F1s really liked that. Feeding medium amounts was great for the carp. I then stupidly thought I’d try dumping in a potful of corn to see if the bream would respond. The carp loved that too! I was desperately trying my best to catch skimmers and think I went a good 45 minutes without a fish that would count. Admittedly, I probably had 40lb of non-counting fish in the meantime!
Scratching my head, I decided to start afresh with a completely new swim at eight metres. Here I thought I’d feed some large, rock-hard balls of groundbait packed with pinkies to see what happened. It worked to an effect and I finally snared a few chunky skimmers along with the obligatory F1s. I was still losing the odd hooklength when the bigger beasties muscled in but in between I was finally catching some weight-building fish. Sadly, so were Neil and Kian and after five hours I knew I had made too many mistakes early on and was not going to beat either of them.
I ended up with a creditable 29lb but was comprehensively beaten by my next-peg opponents into 3rd in section. Kian had 37lb while Neil fished a great match to win the section with 42lb. That helped him to 3rd overall with two hard-earned section wins. Matt Godfrey showed his class to come 2nd overall, again with two sections wins but a greater weight, while Cam Hughes put on yet another great display to take 57lb of skimmers and big roach on Pollawyn. That gave him two outright match wins and the overall title – not to mention £1,000 and a brand-new Drennan Rive seatbox! I must add that both Matt and Cam are quickly establishing themselves as two of the best silverfish anglers in the country and clearly warrant a call up to the England senior squad in the not too distant future.
Me, I ended up 11th and was happy with that. I had learnt loads, caught plenty and thrown back plenty! It’s also really made me think twice about my feeding and general approach for silverfish, carp and F1s in equal measure!
I think the French contingent enjoyed their weekend, too, and, just like me, they’ll come armed with plenty more hooklengths tied if it becomes an annual fixture!
Drennan and Rive supported the competition admirably and I must end by thanking Clint Elliott, Lorna Riley and all the other staff at White Acres for their help and hospitality. Without their efforts this excellent event would not have been possible.