Thames Festival 2021 (AKA Pikefest!)

Just spent three busy days on the river competing on the Thames Festival. 72 anglers split into three 24-man zones at Abingdon, Sandford and Culham. 

Day 1 I was on peg 7 at Abingdon and had 14lb 15oz of roach on casters and pinkies over groundbait at 13m. Had over 20 pike strikes, with a double-figure crocodile leaping clean out of the water and a gang of his smaller mates! That totally ruined it as it must have cost me well over 4lb of fish. I beat the anglers either side but weights got better and better towards peg 1, with Kelvin Tallett having a fabulous 23lb to win the match. 

So I was a very disappointing 5th in my 8 pegs, despite being 6th in the entire 24. Definitely the wrong end of the mini section and knew it would cost me any chance of a festival top 10…

Day 2 I was on peg 22 at Sandford and was warned the pike situation would be the same… or worse! Steve Harwood was on my peg the day before and he’d had two wagglers bit in half and a bonus 3lb chub taken by a 5lb pike! 

With cabbages (pike ambush zones!) all the way out to the middle the only place I could fish was a 14.5m pole swim and a waggler/bolo swim just past it. I fully expected it to be rod-and-line fishing all day, but a strong downstream wind made that very difficult. I had a few on tares on the waggler but the pole was much better and I surprisingly managed to keep roach going there, feeding hemp and casters with a light 0.3g rig. 

Only lost fish six times to a tail-walking pike, which was good compared to most. Poor old Matt Herbert on the next peg below me must have had 40+ fish taken and the end peg below him got through two packets of hooks and had most of his feeders eaten! Don’t EVER go swimming in Sandford! 

Anyways, I’ve ended up 2nd in my 8 pegs and 4th in my 24-man zone. Kelvin was the last angler to weigh in my section and once again pipped me, catching great big roach with three casters on a size 12, as you do!

Day 3 and peg 1 at Culham was my destination. A decent points peg, but peg 7 had dominated the previous two days and this was no different with Matt Herbert winning the section and entire zone off it with 9lb. I was 2nd in the points section and once again 4th in the 24-man zone with 5lb 10oz of little roach. After three days and strong sunshine the river had switched off, so I caught best on pinkies and bread at 15m. Only one fish taken by a pike today. They must have been full up!

So, two section 2nds and a 5th got me 9 points and 17th out of 72 anglers, with 7 points getting in the top 10. I knew my lack of luck on Day 1 would be costly. Well done Kelvin on a convincing festival win, plus Rich Chave and Tom Hobbs coming 2nd and 3rd. Apparently Rich never saw a pike all week!? Must have been on a different river to the rest of us! 

I’ve had two zone 4ths and a zone 6th and 29lb of fish, so I’m fairly happy with how I fished each day.

Groundbait each day was Sonubaits Black Roach, Black River, crushed hemp, soil and a bag of damp leam. Surprising how casters were not as effective this year, but pinkies were a must-have and bread helped me get out of jail on the last day. 

I have to say a very well done to Tim, Colin and the weighing in team for a very well run festival. Only change I’d make is two 12-peg sections instead of three 8s, as I’ve never been a fan of little sections for points. I’d rather compete against more anglers, not less. 

Anyways, it’s been lovely being sat in the river each day and fishing venues that are less than 30 minutes away. Time to dust the carp tackle and feeder rods off now though… or a pike rod perhaps? 

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