DAY OF DESTINY
A visit to the Scarborough Angling Festival comes with a hair-raising descent of a 300ft cliff face
A hair-raising cod session for Andy Webb.
Having seen some Angling Adventures footage of me abseiling down a cliff to target rays, I was set a challenge by top Yorkshire angler Paul Medd. He wanted to introduce me to a magical venue known as the ‘Bempton Bird Dash’, which I’m told is one of the best cod fishing venues in Yorkshire.
Not for the faint-hearted, it involved me turning into a mountaineer and using a harness and attaching myself to ropes to descend the 300ft cliff face.
It was something, I was told, that had never been covered by any magazine writer. Many have reached the point of the entrance to the mark and returned to their car.
My date with destiny was during September’s 108th Scarborough Angling Festival. In the history of UK sea angling, the week-long event is one of the oldest of its kind, hosting a wide range of shore and boat events.
Believe it or not, this was something I was really looking forward to taking on while covering the event for Sea Angler and Sea Angling Adventures. Along with Nick Panther, I’d driven from Devon to Scarborough, where we’d arranged to meet Paul at Coso’s tackle shop. Tagging along would be Liam Costins and Peter Atkinson to film part of the festival.
We spent a few hours in the store, where it was great to witness the banter and humour between the shop owners and the angling customers. It was a good vibe ahead of the final weekend’s fishing of the festival.
HOPING FOR COD
At that stage Paul was leading the scoreboard, but things were close, and he would have to be on his game to remain at the top against some of the best northern anglers. Biggest fish of the week so far had been a cod of 16lb to Penn Sea League final winner Steve Williams.
The Friday night match was the Scarborians’ Trophy, which was a roving competition for the single heaviest fish. With the match starting at 6.30pm, Nick and I had a few hours to spare, so we booked into our B&B at Hilford House, at Crossgates, Scarborough, before heading out to look around the town. The castle was amazing, with breathtaking views of the coastline.
At 5pm we made our way to a mark known as ‘The Landing’, where we met Paul and his father David Medd. Both were keen to get the Friday night event under way, and made their way up the steps on to the harbour wall from where they would fish off large rocks into deep water over a kelpy seabed. They hoped to see plenty of cod.
After spending an hour filming, it was time to get the rods out as the rest of the anglers spread out along the coastline, stepped forward and blasted their baits seawards. It was not long until we saw the first bite, when Paul’s rod tip arced forward. Rigs were very simple with basic rotten-bottom tactics and crab baits.
Paul reeled hard to keep the fish off the broken ground and upwards towards the surface, and moments later a nice codling appeared. The fishing seemed to be very quick here as the anglers started to pull in fish after fish, which also included a small coalfish. There used to be a few coalies in my area down in the South West many years ago, but they seem to have disappeared over the years.
At around 8pm, Paul and David packed up so they could get an hour on another local venue. Nick and I headed back to meet the anglers returning to the Anglers Social Club
in Scarborough. Soon the club was a hive of activity as lots of anglers joined the queue to the weigh-in, but there were no huge fish to trouble the scales. Instead, first place went to a visiting angler with a fish of 4lb 8oz.
With a very early start for Saturday’s junior event, the Robin Jackson Cup, we headed to Cayton Sands where we were greeted by an onshore breeze and a very choppy sea. It did not look like an ideal day for the juniors to have their competition. However, these youngsters meant business.
It is likely that most anglers heading down to fish this beach in these conditions would have had one or two casts and packed up and headed back up the hill. However, the juniors, who were all partnered with an adult for safety reasons, were loving it. They had been fishing an hour, and the only junior to catch a fish was young Isaac Cone, aged five, who had caught a small codling and could not wait to claim some winnings.
It was great to see the adult anglers getting involved with bringing the future generation forward into this fantastic sport. Education is a major part in this sport, and starting them young will help build their angling skills from the start. I really wish I’d had experiences like this to remember when I was a child.
Young Isaac and his grandad Peter decided to call it a day with half an hour to go, but with minutes left, 12-year-old William Butterfield pulled out a codling live on the Sea Angling Adventures Facebook group page.
His fish was the same size as Isaac’s, so first place was shared.
Afterwards, I managed to get Nick to agree to go on a high-speed boat ride around the bay. Knowing his fear of boats, it was a hilarious 15 minutes that had 17,000 Facebook viewers in tears of laughter. After the boat ride we headed off to get ready for the evening’s Scarborough Open Angling Championship, which is a roving competition for greatest weight of fish.
The evening saw us back at the harbour, where anglers were starting to turn up and bag their spots. As Nick and I made our way up the line chatting and interviewing anglers, everyone seemed to be full of hope.
About halfway into the match we got together with David Medd, who had caught a small codling, and was fishing alongside one of the junior winners, his grandson William Butterfield. At the evening’s weigh-in, local angler Ian Thompson secured first place with 15lb 13oz 8dr. After the awards, we headed back to the B&B to get a good night’s sleep ready for a very early start on the Sunday morning and the last day of the event.
THE BIG EVENT
The All England Codling Championship is a popular competition within the festival, and the final shore event, so it attracts a decent turnout. This year 111 anglers took part.
Nick was due to meet up with a few local anglers at the harbour, but I, on the other hand, was about to visit the fabled Bempton Bird Dash, where a ladder has been bolted to the side of the cliff to make the shore below accessible.
It was very impressive to see how the anglers had put so much dedication into the safety of fishing the venue with rope points and safety attachment areas. I felt like I was about to go on a roller-coaster for the first time. It was that strange feeling of the unknown. After a 20-minute walk, David, Paul and I approached the side of a cliff face, which was around 300ft high. The first part of the climb looked nerve-racking because it involved descending around 20ft and then edging ourselves around the corner of the cliff before climbing down a triple extension ladder.
As I approached the top of the ladder, I looked down to see about a yard of space from the foot of the ladder to another 200ft drop. I walked to the side and set up the cameras. Anglers were already queueing to head down and take advantage of the superb cod fishing at this venue. After the local anglers reached the bottom, I started to go down the cliffs using the ropes. The venue reminded me of the Bristol Channel. The anglers would be fishing over kelp and rough ground targeting cod, but, due to the weather, the venue was very weeded out. Again, big crab baits seemed to be the key. After reeling in a lot of weed on several occasions, David decided to move further down the rocks to the other side of the anglers to our left, where it looked like they were not having so many problems with the weed.
After an hour or so into the session, David’s rod tip showed signs of a bite. A cod was attacking his bait. Moments later David had
reached down to pick up his catch. The lads to the right were also into a few codling and it seemed that in no time at all I had to head back up the cliff and meet Nick for the weigh-in.
Back at the angler’s club, the contestants started to turn up with some impressive bag weights of fish.
First place went to local angler Mark Thomas with 34lb 8oz 12dr, including the heaviest fish of 5lb 9oz.
At the awards that evening, the atmosphere was amazing. To see how they all fished against one another all week, but then came together for a few beers at the end was superb.
It’s a really great part of the country to fish, and has some superb anglers.
As the awards were read out, it seemed fitting for us that top spot for the most points during the shore angling events in the festival went to our guide Paul.
All I can say is roll on next year’s event. ■
Paul Medd fishing at Scarborough
... with basic rotten-bottom tactics and crab baits
Rigs were kept very simple...
Work underway at the weigh in
Filming for the Sea Angling Adventures camera
Dave Medd keeps out the cold and catches the cod
Below: Miles I’Anson with the trophy for the biggest fish for a junior angler
A codling for William Butterfield