Sunday, 4 June 2023

Chucks and chances

Four years without a sniffle, all the way through covid I was fine but now of all times I get a bloody cold.  A cold in May FFS.  It was just a cold, twenty four hours of snot and discomfort then a week of shifting the debris but never so bad that I wouldn’t have gone fishing so I went to work.  What pissed me off most was that some kind of germ had got past my defences and sneaked in, cheeky, sneaky little fucker.  I have the same reaction to an insect bite, I take it as a personal insult almost an assault.  When that kind of shit is finding root in my head it’s time to go fishing.

Friday, my normal day of rest at the moment but on this occasion I had to get up at 0600 to take Isaac to the station, (rail not police).  As I was getting up early I figured I might as well throw some gear in the car and take myself on to the waterside.  I looked at the tides but couldn’t find inspiration so thought why not fish in freshwater for a change?

So the Valley, I arrived around 0730 and had a wander around without seeing anything, which is normal at this place.  The morning was bright but a fresh northerly kept things cool, I settled on a spot where the wind had blown together a raft of floating debris, I figured this would be as good as anywhere.  A couple of casts with the lead told me it was clear enough for a chod rig so I dropped a bright yellow pop up in and chucked three good handfuls of mixed accumulated boilies on top.  On the other rod I put on another pop up with a long hooklength so it would sit above the weed, or a zig rig if you like.  I had intended to float fish with some corn but the wind meant this would be more hassle than I could be arsed with and would probably lead to more disturbance than I’d like.

How did I rate my chances?  Slim at best.  I’ve spent many hours here trying to catch the elusive Tench and failed miserably but I know they are here!  Nowadays there’s more fish present but its still a difficult fishery.  Today I felt like I was fishing in such a way that if a Tench or Carp was mooching about in the area then I’d have a chance.  As time passed the wind carried in more debris which made the raft even bigger, covering my baited area and hopefully making it more appealing?

I spent the morning sitting in the sun, sorting out my rucksack and tackle box for the next time I fish in freshwater, in a couple of weeks’ time, on a river.  What stuff will I need and what can I leave behind?  While I did so I was surrounded by Dragonflies of some type, loads of them zipping around which may be why a Sparrowhawk regularly buzzed past.  Back to the here and now, the truth is I think to catch fish, Tench or Carp, here regularly is certainly possible but requires more effort than I am arsed to put in at the moment.  What I occasionally do is chuck and chance fishing but every second blue moon it actually works, just not today.

Carp have been spawning in the east which means the pointless closure of many waters so the beloved scaley beasts can get it on in peace.  Even anglers fishing for other ‘lesser’ species are turfed off waters when the carp start to spawn but do carp anglers have to stop fishing when Tench or Bream are spawning?  Of course not.  What a load of bollocks, why is it this invasive alien species is given this star treatment?  The reason once more is cold hard cash.

The angling trade and therefore media is driven by carp fishing because carp anglers buy more stuff most of which has little or nothing to do with the act of actually catching a fish so obviously spend more money.  Carp are perfect cash cows, they grow big quickly so soon become a suitably impressive thing for a macho man to be photographed holding.  Also they live a long time and are very hard to kill, unless ironically, they become infected by something nasty carried by another carp (a bit like humans?)  Find a patch of water, tip a load of carp in and watch them grow (dump the ‘nuisance fish’ into landfill and they’ll grow quicker – allegedly) then reap your regular cash crop, piece of piss.  Newcomers to the sport are steered quickly to the local carp puddle, the start line of the race for more, better bigger tackle and fish.  Social media and the cynical brand marketing make sure the pot never runs dry.

Carp fishing is ruining angling, a bold statement maybe but not an original one, it is one I happen to believe.  Here in the east we mourn the loss of what we once called the mixed fishery, there are still a few around but they are disappearing rapidly, Carp is not just king, carp is everything.  Which is why I find myself heading for the beach at this time of year.

Talking of which...  Saturday afternoon, the weather is unchanged since yesterday, in fact unchanged for the last three weeks.  It was warm in the garden while I got my gear together but it’s always much cooler by the sea, especially with a northerly blowing.  High tide was due around 1730 so we’d be mostly fishing the ebb and our growing experience suggested the Steep beach again.  This was the logical choice but I wasn’t really feeling it to be honest.  Sure we’d have a good chance of catching something interesting but it was bound to be busy.

We were on the beach by 1515, plenty of anglers about but the wind was keeping the day trippers at bay.  We walked to the north again, the shingle seeming to suck our feet down and we were blowing by the time we got to the top of the slope.   I was fishing within a few minutes, the usual pulley rig on the heavy rod but I’d switched the light one back to a long trace running leger.  The multi hook rig hadn’t been as productive as I’d hoped, certainly not more so than the leger which we think is a better rig for Bass.  With the rods out I put up the shelter to shield me from the cool wind and stop all the bikini clad day trippers from staring at me like I was a piece of meat, or was that bit a dream?

As has become custom Giles had a fish on his first chuck but it was a small Weaver which had to be handled with care.  After that we sat staring at static rod tips, right through the high tide and well into the ebb, nothing happened until just after 1900 when I had a good bite on the heavy rod baited with hermit, this I missed of course.  Immediately after this Giles had rattles on both rods managing to land a Pouting from one, we thought this was the fish switching on but then it went quiet again.  As the minutes flew by we knew our best chance would be went the sun switched off which still gets later every week.

By 2100 it was growing dim but not headtorch time yet, which was just as well as I realised I’d left mine at home.  Twenty minutes later there was a definite pull on the heavy rod, for once I didn’t rush just lifted the rod from the tripod and held it.  When it pulled down again, I pulled back and finally hooked something, simple really…  The fish didn’t feel big but there was a bit of pull back and it was no surprise to see a good sized Dogfish wriggle up the beach and save me from blanking.  We gave it another half hour then began packing up, a job I managed to complete without the light.

Another evening which hadn’t gone to plan which has been a theme this spring…

Sunday, 28 May 2023

Every tide is different...


Saturday had been forecast sunny but most of the day was warm with cloud, this suited me as I don’t like fishing when it’s clear for some reason.  Giles picked me up and we left around 1500, our time slot meant we’d be fishing two hours up then most of the evening we’d be fishing the ebbing tide.  After a couple of years of this sea fishing lark we’re starting to get a handle of which beaches fish better at different stages of the tide and after a bit of discussion we agreed to try the Steep beach.  With deep water close in we feel confident here at almost any time but it gets busy so we don’t fish it so much these days.

As we travelled ever eastward the clouds thinned and broke revealing the bright blue sky we been promised.  At the car park we turned left instead of right for a change and settled on part of the beach which for some reason we rarely fish.  Unless my eyes deceived me it actually looked even steeper here but then again these places look different after every tide.  We both fished our normal methods; each of us use a ‘big fish’ rod on which we hope for a Ray or Hound along with a lighter set up with multiple hooks on which we could catch pretty much anything, at least in theory…  By 1600 we were both fishing, rods nodding on tripods and shelters erected to keep the cool north wind at bay.  There were a few other anglers about but not as many as we expected, everyone had plenty of room.  Around 1700 I noticed taps on both rod tips but was still surprised to find a fish attached to the light rod, my first Pouting of the year took a strip of mackerel on the top hook.

For some reason I decided this was a good time for a slight change of tactics.  I clipped on a trace with a size 2 hook and small bait on the light rod, this I dropped in really close hoping for a flatfish of some kind.  I persevered like this for a while but Giles began to pick up Whiting a bit further out while for me nothing happened.  Then a tentative bite on the heavy rod which I probably struck too soon and paid the price…  After an hour I cracked and scrapped the flatty rig, back to the original trace, my first cast further out produced a slight rattle then a couple of minutes later a proper pull.  I wound in a bit of weight which turned out to be a small Whiting on the top hook and a better Pouting on the bottom.  The sea had been fairly flat when we’d arrived but with the tide rising so the waves were building.

1830, with the tide at the top I went all out for a big fish, big baits on both rods.  Giles continued to massacre the Whiting, the family would be eating well tomorrow but having caught a couple of fish I was content to try for quality over quantity.  I was getting indications on both rods fairly regularly but few proper bites.  I had a couple of Whiting on the light rod, both taken on the top hook then at last the heavy rod bent over.  Resistance was minimal but there was definitely something attached, this turned up to be a decent sized Whiting which was noticeably a darker colour than most we’d caught tonight.

By 2000 the action had slowed up noticeably, Giles stopped catching Whiting but by this time he was well into double figures.  The tide ebbed away and the sky dimmed, as it always does I suppose.  We expect this to bring another flurry of bites but tonight this didn’t happen, still there was the occasional rattle, enough to keep us content and interested.  2110, it was almost dark and I had a gentle but steady bite on the heavy rod, I bent into something solid and the heart started to flutter.  But it all stayed solid, a snag?  Eventually after winding down a bit more it went slack, it turned out the hooklength had parted.

We had agreed to give it an hour but around 2200 things were starting to happen again.  Giles hooked something heavy which was the first Dogfish of the night then I had a solid thump on the light rod.  I pulled into a bit of resistance and suspected a Dog and a similar shape appeared in the surf but instead of a doggy it was a small Smoothound, our first of the year and my best fish of the night.  There’s not much to choose size wise between this fish and the average Dogfish and at a distance they look pretty similar but the Hounds are rarer, more shark-like and beautiful little creatures.  One last cast…  Giles added a Pouting and at 2230 it seemed we still had chance of more fish but we were knackered, time to get off the beach.


Another Saturday, a day bright and clear with a moderate north easterly, not ideal weather conditions but the tide was after midnight so would be rising all evening.  Two weeks previously we’d had plenty of fish on an almost identical tide so the “where?” discussion was brief, we headed back to Radar, full of confidence for a busy night ahead.  In the car park we chatted to a departing angler who passed on his leftover bait which we gratefully received.  He’d struggled during the day but this didn’t affect our confidence one bit, we didn’t consider that we might struggle.

The beach looked lovely in the sun and even better it was deserted.  Big waves rolled into the bay, whipped by the wind they were breaking well off shore.  By 1730 we had rods in the water, still using the same rigs I hurled both as far as possible into relatively shallow water then commenced setting up the beach shelter and getting things organised.  I’d just got this done when I looked up to see Giles walking up the beach with something shaped like a Frisbee.  But it was a fish, in fact another Turbot and a little bit bigger than the one I’d caught a couple of weeks back.  It was a total surprise to catch something interesting so early, instead of chilling out soaking baits until the tide came up we both switched on a little.  By the time the tide started to advance Giles had been rewarded with two more small Turbot all caught on trips of rank yellowing mackerel, meanwhile I hadn’t had a bite.

By 2000 Giles’ rods had long gone quiet but I still hadn’t had as much as a rattle, baits had been coming back looking pretty much untouched.  But the sun had just about gone, the light fading and the tide creeping ever closer, I was still sure it was just a matter of time.  Right on time at 2035 I had my first bite of the night, a good pull round on the heavy rod baited with squid which as usual I managed to miss.  I thought this would be the first of many but things remained slow.  Forty five minutes later I thought I saw something different to the usual wave rhythm on the tip of the heavy rod.  I wound into something heavy which didn’t do much as I slowly and steadily pumped it back towards me.  Whatever was on the end wasn’t really pulling back but there was a solid resistance.  I brought it closer, no hurry – still steady, the crucial bit would be timing the waves, then it all went slack…  I’ll never know what it was but I suspect a good sized Ray.  There’s no point throwing rods or sulking, that’s fishing and if we landed them all it wouldn’t be as interesting.

The sky got darker and the sea got higher.  With more water in the bay they were no longer breaking offshore but booming and smashing onto the beach.  Still bites were few and far between but at least I was getting them, all on the heavy rod at long range but I couldn’t hit them.  I’d been mixing things up on the lighter rod, varying baits and distances but so far hadn’t had a bite.  It occurred to me that the two hook rig certainly has its uses but I haven’t done any better than previous year when I’d used the long hooklength running leger rig, food for thought.  Since his early Turbot hat-trick Giles hadn’t seen another bite let alone caught another fish, it occurred to me that a blank could be on the cards.

At 2240 at last I landed a fish, a good sized Whiting which attached itself to a whole squid which probably explains the missed bites.  The smaller species should know better and eat the baits on the light rod.  After that things slowed up even more, just the odd nudge or knock to keep spirits up, staring into the dark, lights flashing out to sea, lights flashing in the sky and headlights sweeping along a distant road.  Still we waited for the sea monsters.  Just before midnight I finally had a bite on the lighter rod and connected with another nice edible Whiting but not motivation enough to keep going.  We trudged off the beach bemused and defeated, just when we think we’re working things out the fish prove us wrong.  But then again twice now in recent weeks I’ve lost a good fish close in, fish that had I landed would have been game changers.  Most importantly we must remember that every tide is different.

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Be careful what you wish for

Be careful what you wish for…  A dry, bright Saturday with an evening tide is just what I hope for at this time of year, things couldn’t be much better, or could they?  Giles and I left mid afternoon and for once we both had a feeling for the same beach.  An hour later we left the car and hiked through the marshes, by 1545 we were settled and fishing at the boiling beach, all manner of fishy filth impaled on hooks and slung into the North Sea.  I fished how I always do but due to the nature of this spot you have to vary the distances.  A long cast at the wrong time in the tide will see a lead that barely seems to touch bottom.  This is a nice quiet spot in a harsh environment, on a strip of hard ground between a salt marsh and fast running salt water.  East of us stands a castle on a hill but not the one in the song by a son of the county that gets played too much.

The day was comfortable and the sea flat but nothing happened for an hour which was OK because on previous visits here early bites have seemed promising but led to a disappointing end.  A little after 1700 I had my first proper pull and wound in a bit of resistance, there was a weird something in the surf which turned out to be a small Dogfish giving a crab a piggy back, which was a first.  The most notable occurrence of the late afternoon was the Town confirming promotion which put a smile on my chops even though I only follow football from a distance these days.

Time passed, the tide crept up the stones and the sun began to dip.  We tried big baits and small baits, short medium and long range but whatever we chucked out, nothing happened although we both wound in baits with Starfish attached, another first for me.  High tide came and went with no change but with light fading the ebbing tide started to run and at last we began to get a few tremors on the rod tips.  Not proper bites but prolonged spells of fishy vibrations that didn’t amount to anything.

Around 2030 it was almost dark when I had a decent bite on a whacked out whole squid.  I managed to hook something with a bit of weight which allowed me to winch it in until it got fairly close where it decided to pull back.  Whatever it was it didn’t feel particularly heavy but didn’t want to visit the beach, then the hook pulled which for some reason didn’t come as a surprise.  I’m fairly sure it was a decent Bass but I’ll never know for sure.

We gave it another hour hoping this would be the beginning of a spell but it didn’t happen and we packed up without adding to the score.  Last week I’d wished for a quieter beach even if it meant fewer fish and that is exactly what we got!

A week later…  While the Princess was enjoying all that royal nonsense I made myself scarce, out in the garden sorting out fishing gear, getting ready to escape later in the day.  The morning was dry but the forecasters had promised a horrible afternoon of almost constant rain.  The south east wind would be blowing straight into our chops making things doubly uncomfortable but fuck it Giles and I were heading to the coast anyway.  The alternative was more of that unavoidable royal bollocks.

Today high tide was due for tomorrow, or to put it another way we would be fishing a rising tide through the evening which was due to peak around 0100, whether we would still be there at that time was doubtful.  As expected the afternoon was damp but seemed to be getting better as we travelled east.  We arrived at the coast around 1700 and tramped through the Gorse and onto a beach we’ve learnt fishes well on a rising tide, the weather ensured the place was deserted as we like it.  Today the beach shelters went up before the rods went out, comfort would be essential if we were going to spend any time on this exposed stretch of sand and shingle.

The first hour saw the tide still retreating which revealed parts of this beach that we rarely see.  The next time we see it this low it may well look completely different, wild waters are always changing which is one of the reasons I find them much more interesting than manicured ponds with hand reared stock.  So here I was on a rugged shore but it seemed hours since I’d had a bite let alone caught a fish. It was cosy sitting in the comfort of the shelter listening to the roll and hiss of the waves, the doorway framed the rod tips but they weren’t moving much…  By 1900 the sea was creeping back towards us and the heavy rod definitely jagged down then back up again.  It looked fishy but nothing developed, it seemed sensible to check the bait but I was surprised to feel a slight resistance as I wound in.  I could see something skipping the waves and this looked crab shaped but no it was a small flatfish!  I expected a Flounder but this was a slightly different shape, sandy coloured with dark spots.  I think probably a tiny Turbot but I’m still not sure, it was another first whatever it was so a PB by default.

Sometimes one fish brings many but not tonight, another ninety minutes passed without a fish but the cloud had broken up and the drizzle mostly stopped.  By 2030 the tide was halfway up the beach and the sky was darkening, despite recent form we were both confident, surely things would start to happen soon?  And so it did, Giles started things with a couple of Whiting then I had a bite on whole squid at range.  Whatever was attached felt heavy and I got a bit excited thinking maybe it was a Ray but no, an angry Dogfish appeared.  Giles quickly followed this with two more dogs before my next bite came on the light rod, this too felt heavy but wasn’t doing much.  As I dragged it through the surf I saw a Whiting attached to the top hook and a Doggy on the bottom one.  Most proper sea anglers have these double shots regularly but this is the first I’ve had since catching Mackerel on shark trips in the nineties.

The action continued on all four of our rods, Giles caught mostly Whiting with the occasional Dog, I had three more dogfish and another Whiting.  After 2300 the action slowed up considerably but we still got the occasional wobbly rod tip, Giles beached a couple more fish but I didn’t manage to hook anything else.  We gave it a last half hour and then another but by midnight we were knackered and happy to go.  After the previous slow trip to have such a productive one was just what we needed, between us we managed almost twenty fish.  But after that, next time out I’d be happy with fewer fish but bigger ones.  I should learn my lesson and be careful what I wish for.

Friday, 28 April 2023

Busy beach...

A last minute change of plans, Giles couldn’t make it so as I was on my own I decided to fish the daytime tide which would peak at 1338.  This meant a bit of quick preparation on Friday evening but all should be well…  My sleep was broken by weird dreams, one of those regular pre-fishing frustration exercises, seriously can your blood pressure increase while you sleep?  Someone had built loads of fancy beach huts along the wild coastline and the place was rammo, people everywhere.  I woke up before I committed sleep murder.  While I filled the flasks and got bits and pieces together my mind was still foggy, as I stepped out of the back door the sky was hazy mist but the air refreshingly cool.

Onto the roads with a mind made paranoid, I couldn’t help pulling over to double check I had stashed my bait…  The traffic was light and I made good time on the cross country route, despite wankers in shiny 4WD’s who can’t drive them round bends.  The last few miles through a misty forest, Deer grazed casually by the side of the road, at around 0830 I pulled up in the car park at the Steep beach.  This is one of the most renowned marks in the area, a decent car park and a short walk to the shore where there is deep water close in and all manner of species could turn up.  So why don’t I fish it more often?  All of the above make it very, very popular.  As I tramped across pebbles there were already three anglers spaced along the beach, many more were sure to arrive.

I was fishing by 0850, as usual the heavy rod heaved out in the direction of Holland and baited with whole squid.  On the light rod I continued with the up/down rig baited with squid and fishy bits, I varied the distance throughout the day.  Things started quietly as I expected, the morning was gloomy with a barely noticeable southerly breeze and the sea was virtually flat.  After half an hour the first plucks and wobbles started then at 0945 I had my first proper bite on the light rod and winched in a small Whiting.  The slight indications continued but nothing to strike at until 1050 when I had a decent Dogfish which tried to fight and banged the light rod about before it succumbed.

Just after 1100 I had a good thump on the heavy rod but didn’t connect.  Twenty minutes later it was going again and this time I set the hook into something with a bit of weight.  The fish pulled hard in the surf before I dragged it in on a wave and was soon holding my first Bass of the year.  It might have been a keeper but it went back into the drink anyway.  By this time there were sixteen anglers on the beach, none too close but too many for my liking, not to mention all the dog walkers, day trippers and nutters who can’t resist a cold swim even though there are signs warning against it.

The sun burnt away the haze by noon but this didn’t put the fish off, for the rest of the trip I had bites fairly regularly on both rods.  I’m always more interested in the big bait and this rod produced my biggest Whiting of the year which was despatched for a future dinner as well as a good sized Doggy.  I had more bites on the lighter rod but nothing of any size; a small Flounder made me smile as did my first Rockling for over forty years, I remember them being blank savers on Felixstowe pier in the dim and distant past.  Weird looking creatures, if you scaled them up they’d resemble a Catfish but this one was the same kind of size, shape and colour as an average turd.  The action peaked with the high tide and slowed up as the sea gradually retreated.  High tide also brought a change in the wind which picked up from the east, eye wateringly cool and the big jacket was required.

I gave it till 1600 by which time I’d caught nine fish of five different species as well as missing plenty more.  A nice catch with interesting variety but honestly I know I’d have enjoyed myself more catching fewer fish on a quieter beach.  This may not make sense to many but that’s just how I’m wired.

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

New gear

Today Giles picked me and we head east, a steady cruise in high spirits, chatting all the way…  Until we were almost at our destination when I realised I’d left my fucking bait at home!!!  Giles didn’t have enough bait for two so there was no option but to go back for it.  I was fuming, frustrated and annoyed.  It was like being in one of my own mad dreams…  Happily Giles enjoys driving and was far more chilled about things than I was.  So it was 1630 when we finally chucked some rods out at Radar beach, an hour later than planned.  I used the same methods i.e. the ever present Pulley rig baited with squid and the up/down rig on which all sorts of disgusting fishy things were impaled.

Once I had two baits out in the soup I had a new piece of tackle to grapple with, one of those fancy beach shelters which the proper sea anglers use.  I don’t like buying tackle unless I have to and already this spring I’ve had to purchase a new rucksack.  This thing is from Sonik has a solid base and seems pretty tough, crucially it’s comfortable when walking which was the main consideration when replacing the forty year old Karrimor that was finally giving at a couple of seams.  So far this piece of kit hasn’t been cursed and I hoped the new shelter wouldn’t be a jinx, or maybe that was the journey?  The shelter is from Imax and went up easily although I should practice in the garden sometime as I’m sure it wasn’t quite right.  The oval brolly had done the job but these things are perfect for the beach, there’s shelter from three sides so you can be comfortable in any weather and of equal importance, they are much lighter than a 60” brolly.  Today it wouldn’t be tested too much, the sky was clear and bright, the wind was light from the north east, comfortable conditions if not good fishing weather?

The new tackle wasn’t cursed, I’d seen a couple of plucks on the light rod but when I eventually wound it in I was still surprised to find a small Whiting attached.  After that most casts brought a bite on the light rod and two hours in I’d managed three more Whiting of various sizes, mostly taken on the upper hook baited with strips of squid.  By this stage Giles was still fishless but this changed with a slow bite on whole squid, his rod took on the full curve, was it a snag?  No it was moving!  With the heavy gear we have to use the fight is more a case of pumping in a dead weight but as the fish neared the beach it was definitely moving down tide.  Giles kept the pressure on and the leader emerged, followed seconds later by a large diamond shaped thing.  I grabbed the leader and with the next wave dragged a nice big Ray onto the beach.  Not just any Ray but Giles’ first and he was delighted, it had to be a scales and camera moment.  Thornbacks are awesome creatures, definitely the thing we prize most at this time of year and they don’t even look like real fish.

Soon after Giles’ second sea fish of the spring was a nice sized Dogfish but after that it all went quiet, for two hours nothing much moved but as high tide approached and darkness fell, (a nice coincidence?) things started to happen again.  Giles dropped a bait in close and was rewarded with a double hit of Whiting including a bloody big one, by far the biggest either of us have seen so far.  I tried a short cast but it didn’t work for me.  Right on high tide the light rod bent over and I found myself into something with a bit of weight, I hoped for a small Ray but it was a Dogfish which although cool creatures are a bit of an anti-climax in comparison. 

After half an hour of nothing a proper pull on the heavy rod had me scrambling out of the chair.  I stood by the tripod, the tip rattled again but then so did the other one, the light rod was banging too!  I winched in the heavy rod first to find a decent sized Whiting had engulfed a squid but whatever had attacked my other bait had got away with it.  While this was going on, Giles managed another couple of Whiting but then things slowed to a stop. Half an hour passed, the sea was retreating quickly so we decided to call it a night.  The new shelter had stood up to its first test and packed away easily, first impressions are positive.  I tidied the light rod first which is usually the case because it’s always more exciting when the big bait goes.  That job was almost completed when I glanced up to see the tip on the heavy rod had straightened, I wound in but felt no weight but something wriggled up the beach, a small but beautifully marked Dogfish, my last fish of the night.

The hike back to the motor was more awkward than it should have been taking away any spring that might have been in my legs.  Still it had been another interesting evening, over a dozen fish between us and it was great to see another big Ray.  So far this spring I've just caught Whiting and Dogfish but I don't think I'm doing a lot wrong...

Sunday, 9 April 2023

One good, one not so...

My first attempt at sea fishing this spring took place on a gloomy, drizzly Saturday.  I fished with my old pal Mr T and the day was as much about catching up as catching fish.  The wind was from the north and as the trip was to be a social one I figured Radar beach would give us the most shelter.  After an awkward walk through gorse we dumped our kit and immediately set about erecting shelter, for once this took place before any thought was put into getting a bait in the water.  The drizzle was miserable but we were well wrapped up and from our camp could barely feel the wind.

Rigging up was slow because I hadn’t done this for months but just before 1700 I launched a whole squid on a pulley rig.  On the second rod I tried something different; what I believe is called a ‘one up – one down rig’.  Above the lead I fixed a plastic boom with a size 1 Aberdeen on a twelve inch hooklength, this was baited with strips of squid.  Below the lead was a hooklength of about two feet with a 2/0 hook to which I bound a chunk of bluey.  The idea being the smaller hook and bait will pick up pretty much anything while the bigger bait might get me something special like a Ray.  Mr T stuck to one rod to which he attached his version of a ‘two up-one down’ rig with a selection of baits.  So finally fishing we sat down and cracked open a beer, toasting a dear departed friend on what would have been his birthday.

For a couple of hours we sat staring out at a grey expanse, chatting and chuckling, eating piles of chilli.  The day had been miserable but by evening the cloud was breaking up and the drizzle mostly stayed away, we were warm, fed and comfortable but there was no sign of fish and in theses saltwater settings, catching always seems unlikely until you actually get a bite, which I did around 1900.  It was the light rod with the ‘new’ rig and a proper bite too which of course I managed to miss.  Minutes later I was still rebaiting when Mr T’s rod hooped over, he done a much better job and was into a decent fish.  I concentrated on whipping on fresh bait until Mr T’s shout got me moving.  I jogged down the beach just in time to see a bloody great Ray appear in the surf!  I hauled it up the beach away from the waves and we stood staring at this awesome creature! Then we loudly cheered our success.  Mr T had caught it but I was just as happy as he was.  After a couple of photos we recorded a PB for Mr T and returned it to the sea.  The trip was an overwhelming success and it wasn’t even dark!

From then onwards we had bites regularly although it was never all go, the bites came steadily.  The fish came on all three rods and were happy to take any bait, mostly Whiting with a couple of Dogfish each but Mr T also had a second, much smaller Ray.  With high tide just before 2200 we fished into darkness which on this occasion didn’t bring any change in the action.  In many ways the evening was perfect, regular bites but not the non stop, can’t sit down action we sometimes experience, in between we were able to chill out and chat.  When the tide turned the bites stopped which often seems to be the case at this location and by this time we were both thoroughly knackered, why is beach fishing so tiring?  Back at the car it was good to unload and then relax into a comfortable seat, home through dark country lanes, Marley on the stereo hit the spot.  It was great to be beach fishing once more, now I can’t wait to get back.

For the next couple of months I will be doing more of the same and judging by the last two springs I should see plenty of Whiting, Dogfish and if I’m really, really lucky a Cod.  What I really want to catch are the bigger creatures, Rays to begin with and Smoothounds later on, hence the multi hook rig.  As a coarse angler presenting two baits on the same rig feels almost wrong but I want to hedge my bets more with different types of bait.  The alternative is to fish a third rod but I like the simplicity of fishing just two.  To call beach fishing ‘simple’ would be an insult to proper sea anglers who are every bit as skilled and inventive as any other branch of our sport.  But I don’t want to be a proper sea angler, what I do is simple and that makes it all the more enjoyable.

Bank holiday weekend, the coast would be busy with bored, irritating people so my best chance of peace was to go early on a gloomy Saturday morning.  High tide would be 1339 so I’d be fishing the tide up which would do nicely for the place I had in mind.  I was on the road by 0730, the country lanes were quiet but what traffic there was definitely wasn’t in a hurry and the journey became frustrated.  Eventually I pulled the car over and had a long walk on solid ground before arriving at the beach that boils.

The morning was gloomy with a light northerly wind which I barely felt.  I’m a creature of habit so out went a whole squid on a pulley/Pennell and this was swiftly followed by the one up/one down rig baited with squid and bluey.  I wasn’t expecting much to begin with so was surprised to have rattles on both rods from the off.  By 0915 the first proper waves were breaking but the bites seemed to be slowing up.  Twenty minutes later a proper bite slack lined the heavy rod and saw me winching in the first fish of the day, an average sized Dogfish saw land for a minute.  Catching something is always a massive confidence boost when you’re sat staring at miles and miles of sea but that was the last time the rod moved in anger for a long while.

During the next few hours the most interesting things were two massive Crabs at almost the same time, one on each rod.  These were removed very carefully using forceps at arms length.  One of the brutes scuttled back down the beach and into the drink quickly and without fuss but the other was the world’s most inept crab.  I mean it wasn’t very good at being a crab, it seemed to prefer being on land and actually seemed scared of the sea, twice it allowed a wave to flip it onto its back where it wiggled its legs in a hapless show of frustration until I flipped it back the right way up.  Eventually the useless creature made it safely back to sea but even then it was doing backstroke.

Just into the afternoon the tips started to show promising signs, tentative plucks and little rattles.  At 1315 the heavy rod finally hooped over but of course I managed to miss the bite.  For the next hour I had sporadic nibbles which would get me out of the chair but by the time I reached the rod all would be still again.  By now the wind had swung to the east blowing right into my chops and I had to don the heavy jacket, which until this point had been hanging on the back of the chair. 

By 1500 the sea was retreating again but the cheerful ramblers were advancing.  I know they mean well but my patience is stretched after having the same conversation thousands of times.  With a break in the foot traffic I gave it a little while longer but that wind was a cold one and I’d had enough.  I tidied up the kit then packed away the light rod but glancing up I saw the over tip was bouncing, another unmissable bite and this time I didn’t.  My second Dogfish was a little bigger than the first but didn’t inspire me to have another cast.

Just a few yards inland it was a much warmer day and the tramp back to the car raised a sweat.  I’d expected more if I’m honest so a couple of doggies was a bit disappointing but it’s a bit more learned and filed away.  Next week will be an evening tide and there’s no doubt the dark hours bring better fishing and the atmosphere is magic.

Friday, 24 March 2023

The end of all that for now

Time running out...  The penultimate weekend’s plans had to change but that’s life…  Saturday afternoon would do nicely, perhaps my last chance to try for an unknown Chub?  The afternoon was grey and gloomy with a cool breeze from the north.  Today I found myself at the far end of the stretch, startling a Rabbit in the process and found myself a spot as close to the old mill as I could get without feeling like I was in someone’s garden.  I began with smelly groundbait in an open end feeder and bread flake on a 12, swinging the lot a little way downstream towards the trailing fronds of a weeping willow.  It was an idyllic looking spot but nobody had told the fish, still it was a nice place to sit and the squirrel in the willow kept me amused.  I gave it an hour and a bit then went for a wander.

Peering from a spot a little way downstream I could see I was fishing in shallower water than I’d thought and I immediately lost confidence.  Further downstream it looked better but almost certainly out of bounds.  I collected my gear then slowly made my way upstream, emerging from scrub I spooked three Deer who cantered off then stopped at a safe distance to give me the glare.  I walked past a shallow run narrowed by reed stalks then settled on a deeper area, swinging my feeder along the near bank and close to an overhanging branch.  For this cast I’d switched to a redworm tipped with a fake red maggot and bloody hell, would you believe it I actually had a bite!  The tip twitched, plucked and then pulled round, it was unmissable but I managed it anyway…  Still this gave me hope and I fished on with renewed concentration broken only by an Egret swooping low, A Wren landing within touching distance and pretty much anything else that caught my eye.  Worm didn’t produce any more bites nor did flake but this at least kept going missing. As the light faded a couple of fish topped, probably Roach so maybe I should come back with maggots?  If I get the time…

A week later I was back with maggots…  It was a daft afternoon to be fishing because the wind was ridiculous, so ridiculous I’d cancelled a trip to Norfolk because it definitely wasn’t boat fishing weather.  The day was mild and bright, in fact it would have been a glorious March day if not for the frequent gusts of gale force wind.  The creaking tree beside me had me looking skywards with trepidation from time to time.  I managed to set up so the quiver tip wasn’t too badly affected by the blow and yes maggots did bring me frequent bites, more plucks and rattles but fish for sure but I couldn’t hit any of them.  I fished for a couple of hours but the wind wouldn’t allow me to feel settled.  Another blank on my local river brought my season here to and end but despite catching the best part of bugger all I’ve enjoyed myself, especially on these rarely trodden banks.  I need to do a bit more recon next summer if I’m going to winkle something out of here in future.


I had planned to spend a bit of time in Norfolk before the season ended but life and weather intervened and I ended up just getting out on the fourteenth.  A long day was spent being bounced around by the waves but the place is gorgeous and perseverance saw a couple of fish in the boat.  These Pike certainly didn’t look like they’d spawned yet, March is always a funny old time to fish up here, usually it’s a bloody struggle but you never know.  I know the traditionalists say I should pack in the Piking now but I had a good excuse for one last go.

Half five is a stupid time to get out of your bed especially on your birthday but fuck it, I was awake and was going fishing.  One last go for the Pike this season, I’m done now, time to do something else for a few months…  I slowly breakfasted, filled the flask and got the bits and pieces ready then it was wacky races on the A14 for a while, heading in the direction of a very private stillwater.  Off the A road I’m soon in the countryside, a Buzzard flapped lazily from its perch on a fence post, they really are big creatures up close.

By 0700 I was comfortably fishing with three static deadbaits, mackerel and herring spread about the swim, the rods were out in no time.  The morning was grey and gloomy with light rain on a southerly wind.  The weather always seems to be damp when I fish here, I don’t think I’ve been able to leave the brolly at home this season and it took me a while to get it just right.  The first take came on legered herring after half an hour, a small fish headshaking sending tremors along the line but it dropped off.  I don’t like losing any regardless of size.  A Barn owl swooped close by and Skylarks were singing up high, a Wren used my rod for a perch and Swans looked like they were pairing up,  Spring is almost here.

Another hour passed before another Pike made an appearance, a fish of around six pounds on Herring then I had a long wait, sat under the brolly sipping tea and phone chat with a mate out west.  Just before 1000 something picked up a mackerel and I had another fish of similar size to the first.  I gave it a while longer here but when the rain eased I took the opportunity to move along a couple of swims.  With the gear shifted I flicked a mackerel out close to a tree on my right and this was on the move within seconds.  The bend stayed in the rod a little longer and the fish had a good go but was soon in the net, the biggest of the day but not quite double figures.  I’d just got settled when a herring to the left was picked up and I had to be on it quickly to keep it away from another overhang but no problems and the fourth but smallest Pike of the day was soon in the net. 

Then it went quiet again and I let the last couple of hours of my Pike season drift by without further action.  I tried the lure rod for a while between the showers but didn’t get so much as a pluck.  By 1330 I’d had enough and slowly packed up, before I left I chucked in all my left over bait, give the Pike a free feed.  So that’s that, a memorable Pike season came to an end and this very happy angler will soon be looking to catch something from saltwater once again.