The Sensas Challenge Super Final 2011 River Somme, Abbeville, France
This years Sensas Final has been an unusual event in that it has involved 230 teams of four from all around Europe, approximately 200 teams from France and about 30 foreign teams ended up competing on the challenging and interesting River Somme in Northern France over the 8th and 9th October 2011. At Sensas Mark One we were fortunate enough to be invited by Sensas to take part in the final and as a result decided to spend a few days in France getting to know the venue.
The first thing that we realised is that the venue isn't actually that far from home, being no more than an hour and a half from Calais just straight down the coast on the A16 it was a simple drive for me and my team mate Bob Bates who had to put up with my driving all week!
We knew a bit about the venue, and Joe Roberts had organised some big floats to overcome what we expected was to be extreme depth (up to 8m) and some flow, what we hadn't appreciated was that even 6m of water was flowing faster than the Trent in flood and was also very clear into the bargain.
The first session involved John Bates, Dan Hall, Ryan Harris and Caroline, John Bates girlfriend, fishing in B section below Abbeville, with Bob and I arriving Mid afternoon to watch them for the last couple of hours. Whilst sport was slow, Caroline caught a good bream on the feeder (which we are not allowed to use) and the lads ended up with up to 20 roach perch and an odd skimmer.
It had also become apparent that the flow was varying considerably during the session, controlled we reasoned by some sea gates a few kilometres downstream, at one point the venue all but stopped and filled up very rapidly.
However, a few things had been learned regarding presentation, and there were a few roach and perch to catch, but a quick chat to the passing Irish lads suggested that it would be bream that were critical throughout the length.
It was starting to rain, so we bid a hasty retreat back to our digs in Gueschart, about 20 mins away stopping off for a Pizza on the way.
Our first session as a group was to be way up in D section some 25 miles from Abbeville, all we knew was that it was a sensible depth a probably moved a bit!!
The river here at Ailly sur Somme was a sensible 2.5m to 3.5m deep and flows like the fastest parts of the Trent back home, we used an array of rigs from 2.5 to 5gram round bodied floats, but it needed a 20g gram flat float to hold completely still as overshotting is not allowed.
We had a good session here catching between 2 and 4kg and learning a lot about presentation and feeding. My mix was 6kg of Terre de Rivierre to 3kg of groundbait, the groundbait was a bag of black river, a bag of Noire (Black Roach and Silver fish) and a bag of Bremes, the bremes is inert and has a good sweet "breamy" smell, so much so that we call it "laughing gas" as it is so distinctive.
This mix was dark and very heavy and was really aimed at roach due to the quantity of Terre de Rivierre. I put about 300mls of joker into 15 balls for the long pole and about 100ml into 6 balls for the 5m line over the weed as the flow here was greatly reduced. With a lot of leaves being blown off the trees it was quite easy to see the main flow, and this was at 13m, but looking closely and after having a plumb around there was a distinct crease at 11.5m and it was here that I decided to ball it because the difference it made to tackle control by being just out of the main flow was significant, so much so that later I was able to run a 1g rig through that I had set up for the inside. Funnily enough the depth was very uniform once you got beyond 5m and I reasoned that the position of the flow would change dependent upon the river levels and general flow.
As such I also reasoned that the fish would probably be just as likely to be caught out at 13m but why make it so difficult in the heavier flow. By the end of the day we had got a fair amount sorted, John had set up round a corner and caught some bream so we also learned where the bream will be caught, all told we were all feeling a lot more comfortable with the venue.
We fed bloodworm, but once a few fish turned up you could catch on a maggot, with a worm on the flat float for bream.
On Thursday I met Daniel for the bait and we decided to meet at Eaucourt for a session to try and catch some barbel as this is an area where they can show.
We ended up fishing a new section below the bridge and picked an area with a tight bend and a natural narrowing of the river, putting Ryan and Dan on what we felt were the most likely pegs with flow near side and moving to the middle.
Caroline chucked her feeder into the bay as we tackled up, and had three bream before we'd even got properly set up!! I fed 16 balls at 13m and 6 at 4m, and really struggled for bites on a big flat float and worms, Ryan got off to a flier, catching bream straight away on an 8g round bodied float and bunches of bloodworms, I tried to make the flat float work, but eventually set up 8g and ran the float at them, catching a dace a perch and two bream almost straight away, losing two bream in the strong flow.
Meanwhile Ryan had switched to a 36g flat float and was bagging eventually taking 14 bream for about 30lb, what a great day!!!
Ryan had a great day, he needed 36gr to hold still in the fast flow, CIPS rules don't allow overshotting so you end up using huge floats. The method involved a large bulk of drilled bullets, set just off bottom with a 2 foot hooklength and spread small shots laying on the bottom. Ryan lowered his rig in and had a couple of fish hook themselves as he put his pole into his bump bar. Black hydroelastic and a size 13 hook to 020 mainline, and an 017 hooklength completed the brutal set up!!
Friday afternoon and all the teams began assembling in a huge marquee in Abbeville Town Centre for the draw and the gala evening, this picture only shows half of the marquee, it was massive and it really began to bring home how many people were about to fish this event.
John had decided to run on Saturday, and our section draws put us as follows A: Dan Hall, B: Ryan Harris, C: Bob Bates, D: Rob Hewison.
We then found out our peg numbers a bit later and I found myself on 222 just 8 pegs from my practice peg, but because of the gaps it was about half a mile further up the towpath. I dropped Bob off at Eaucourt and then drove the twenty odd miles to my section at Ailly sur Somme.
My peg was even shallower than our practice section at about 2m and the flow was really motoring, I had made a decision to increase the percentage of groundbait in my mix, thinking that the influx of water may improve the fishing. Unfortunately following this match and the lack of fish at my end of the section I believe I probably had it about right in practice.
I drew next to a Swiss angler Salvatore Biancamano and shared a few jokes before the start and a ham baguette, he only caught a few fish but one of them was a 1kg bream!! The only one caught in the whole section and this led to him beating me by a couple of hundred grams. My too positive mix cost me and I ended up a disappointed 10th out of 16, with only 1.28kg, at completely the wrong end of the section.
I should have fished a bit lighter, and fed a little less groundbait, this was a tough lesson, and I needed to do better the following day.
At least I had caught, poor old Bob sat in the middle of an awful bend in the river and blanked along with 5 others in his section.
The blank was costly, both Dan and Ryan had bream, and we ended the day just below halfway on 34 points.
International style bait checks were order of the day 2 litres of live bait of which a max of 1kg of joker and 17l of groundbait, here is my bait all laid out ready for the stewards on day one. Your bag of hemp or corn can go in the groundbait bowl. Once checked your are not allowed to re wet your groundbait so you have to keep adding water right up until they check ypu after this you are only allowed a spray mist to keep it damp.
On the second day I drew the same peg as I had practiced on Wednesday!! With 256 pegs to choose from in D section what are the odds on that? Anyway all the basic rules applied as on Wednesday, but the flow had increased and the crease was farther across, meaning that the 13m line was the best this time. Rigs were the same as on Wednesday, with 2.5g, 5g, and a 20g flat float being set up at the start, along with a 5g Cralusso Bubble for running at 1/3rd pace.
I balled 17 balls on 12.5m of the same mix as Wednesday back to the majority being terre de rivierre, into these balls I put 350mls of joker, and a few casters. having added 1/8 litre of casters to my bait at the expense of a few jokers.
Six balls went in at 5m but I only had two bites there all day.on 12.5m I caught a few roach, and lost a foulhooked bream on 2.5g, immediately I dropped in my 20g flat float and a dendrobena hookbait, within 5 mins I had a bream of about 500g and a good roach, the Spanish guy below me was catching small roach regularly but my 2.5g rig was not working well enough, so I got a 1.5g Sensas Hubert rig on a top 5 out and just let it run at full pace, bingo I began to catch roach regularly on a 20 hook to an 0.10 hooklength. When the bites dries up I dropped in my flat float, to see if there were any big fish, and then cupped two balls from a height to induce some bites, taking several roach on the light rig, another bream on the worm rig, and losing a 400g roach at the net on the big flat float.
Eventually it became apparent that the bottom four pegs were too difficult to beat, but I was able to come fifth as I managed to beat the Spanish lad, who lost three bream in the process. My weight of 3.58kg was ok considering my French mate on the next peg managed only 400g!!
Team-wise we finished 104th out of 230 and our drawing arm failed us again, but John managed 2nd in section with 6 perch, Ryan had one small bream for 10th and Bob had a single perch for 10th.
This wa a tremendous experience and we are really hoping to qualify or get invited to next years event.