Friday 31 December 2021

Seasonal bollocks

At this time of year people tend to spend a lot of time at home, eating too much and drinking too much.  Boredom and inebriation inevitably sets in which may partly account for some of the grumblings on PAC’s facebook pages, season of goodwill my arse.  Anyway here are a few thoughts from a long time member.

The previous and latest club committees have been coming in for criticism and I find it difficult to understand the reasons behind all the angst.  From what I’ve gleaned the previous secretary Saint John Currie, has been accused of being only concerned about Norfolk. That this is nonsense is easy to demonstrate to anyone with the ability to read and half a brain to understand.  When JC stepped up to do the secretary’s role he continued to do all of the things he’d been doing for years as a Norfolk RO.  People are quick to criticise but when offered the benefit of JC’s experience to help them fight their own battles in their own patch they go quiet, then later complain PAC isn’t doing anything. 

The selection of committees has also been criticised with allegations of it being the “same old faces” or “jobs for the boys”.  This is just bollocks.  The reason people end up doing two or even three stints is because there aren’t enough people putting themselves forward to do the jobs.  It’s easy to moan on social media but it all goes quiet when there’s work that needs doing.  Also the club which has been run in the same way for over forty years, now apparently needs to embrace democracy, that noble philosophy that never actually works in practice.  Polling the membership achieves little, in reality less than a third of members will ever respond, that’s just how it is.  People are apathetic with the crooks that run countries so won’t get off their backsides to vote for a badge.  Talking of which…  I’ve never liked the new design, mostly because I love the logo that was originally designed by Barrie Rickards in 1977 and was tweaked a bit over the years.  This is the second time the club has gone away from the original logo, last time it didn’t last long either.  But it is just a badge, the club is its members.

I’m told some of the most enthusiastic critics of the club are in the North West and I don’t really know any of the characters as such but there is one who glories in self promotion, strutting around in his sponsored clothing he just comes across as a bit of a tired joke, big fish in a small pond mate.  Any of the alleged ‘problems’ with PAC over the years have almost always stemmed from egos out of control.

Some people may have forgotten and others might not realise but PAC was formed almost as a protest group, in days when Pike were routinely chucked up the bank to die, PAC changed opinions.  Also the club campaigned for better treatment for Pike anglers who were very often seen as pariahs.  This included opposing bait bans, changing silly fishing club rules and gaining better access to Pike fishing.  The trout water ‘scene’ would never have come to pass without PAC getting the ball rolling.  These are the reasons I joined the club, the social aspect has always been secondary.

Going off in a slightly different direction, I’m being told that Pike fishing is dying because we are all a bunch of old men, we’re not attracting the youngsters etc.  I remember discussing this with one of Piking’s gentlemen, the late Peter Green who reckoned there was no point in trying to appeal to young lads because by the time they are eighteen the trouser brain has taken over, Pete was absolutely right.  Nowadays anglers whose ages range from twenty to forty are attracted to Carp fishing for many reasons but one of the biggest is it’s all so laddish.  Groups of men can get an easy weekend pass from the wife or girlfriend if they are spending this time camped by a lake trying to catch fish.  She doesn’t need to know about the amounts of beer, weed and other consumables they go through on what amounts to a camping trip with rods.  Also these people are mercilessly targeted by brilliant marketing campaigns so end up spending a fortune on kit, much of which has nothing to do with the act of catching a fish.  Carp fishing is comfortable and has been made idiot proof by the advent of commercial fisheries.  However you look at it, Pike fishing is tough and appeals to a different type of person but very many anglers discover our sport when they are a bit older, wiser and more discerning.  A summer happy camper is not likely to drag himself out of bed before dawn on a frosty morning, it’s a totally different mind-set.  Pike fishing won’t die, there will always be enough old farts around to keep the sport going.

My last casts of 2021 were made on the morning of Xmas eve; I wandered around with a light lure rod but my heart wasn’t in it and after hanging my spinner in a potential PB tree I returned home fishless.  This time was spent in the same little area of mid Suffolk where lockdown had forced me to fish at the beginning of the year.  I’ve come to enjoy poking my rod in unexpected places (!) and although the fish aren’t likely to grow big it does have that important air of mystery. 

This year I’ve realised that I enjoy the act of fishing every bit as much as winding them in, which might not make any sense?  I enjoy fishing most when it’s relatively simple, I really can’t be arsed with the complicated self-flagellation that carp anglers go through and any item of kit that requires a car battery or power pack isn’t for me.  Nowadays I mostly use a small Karrimor rucksack that I’ve had since I was a teenager, (unless I’m boat fishing,) if I can’t carry it then I don’t need it.  I travel light to make the hike easier and when I get to my destination (which will fit the criteria I’ve mentioned many times before) I love casting, trotting and spinning.  I enjoy sitting back and watching the wildlife, I don’t take my surroundings for granted.  Whatever fish I may catch really is a bonus (or insert your cliché of choice).  It’s the fishing I enjoy, not necessarily the catching.

But having said all that…  I got bored of carp fishing when my tally reached one so 2021 was a year of either beach casting or Pike fishing.  All things considered I caught more than enough fish to be satisfied my effort had been rewarded (but I wouldn’t lose any sleep either way).  I caught many firsts, a few PB’s and a couple of landmarks, if you keep a count of things, which I do.

Next year, twenty fucking twenty fucking two, more of the same please.  I still find Broadland Pike fishing exhilarating and I’m looking forward to learning more on the beach.  I will find time to try for a river Gudgeon and I’ll never give up on the big Suffolk Tench but for the first half of the year, while I sit behind rods I’ll be hoping for a proper Smoothound or dreaming of the unknown monster Pike.

Friday 24 December 2021


Suffolk has good sized, flowing rivers forming the county boundaries to the north and south but the rest of the county isn’t blessed with rivers.  We have some dramatic estuaries which I’m just beginning to explore but we don’t really have much in the way of proper lowland rivers.  There are a handful of watercourses given a name beginning with ‘river’ but in reality these are shrinking year by year and are now little more than streams.  There are many of these, some run so low at times that I doubt there are any fish left but a few have a population of fish of sorts.  The largest stream runs through my home town and has held good fish of many species but sadly gets less interesting with every passing season. 

There’s another fairly substantial stream to the east which had been noted as a fishery in the past but for some reason I’d never actually got round to fishing it.  I know that in the past it held Pike to a reasonable size but at that time I had much better fishing closer to home.  However it had been niggling me for a while, a local river that I’d never caught a Pike from half an hour away, putting that right has been something I’ve been meaning to do.  The problem with these streams is access; firstly getting to the water itself can be almost impossible and then there’s the issue of finding areas that aren’t weed choked and unfishable.  I’d deliberately waited until winter had taken hold and the rivers had received a bit of rain water to flush them through.  After scanning google earth I’d found a promising area, a layby for the car and a footpath along the river.  That would be a starting point, time to go and have a look.

The Suffolk countryside looked dull and subdued on another sunless December day, after half an hour driving I found the river and pulled over.  I wandered up to the bridge without much clue what I’d find but a brief look downstream gave me hope and I was soon back with a lure rod, landing net and a few bits in a small rucksack.  The river was running clear and low but looking at the scoured banks it was apparent that it could rip through with force when in flood.  The pool beneath the bridge was wide and relatively deep so was an ideal place to start.  I was using my lightest lure set up with small lures, the best way to search new ground and probably the best method of all when these little rivers are running low and clear.  I clipped on a small shad and began casting, within five chucks I’d pretty much covered the pool and it didn’t seem like anything was home but on the sixth cast something grabbed the lure and I was soon pulling back.  After the briefest fight I pulled a very welcome Jack into the net.  Mission accomplished, a Pike from a new river so by default a PB!

After a few more casts around the pool I went downstream to explore and found that this little river split into two, then three separate streams which then reconnected a way downstream.  I walked every stretch that I could, having a cast here and there.  Many parts were very shallow with water running quickly over gravel, other bits were slow and choked but I found the occasional pool which looked like it could hold a fish or two so had a few casts where I could.  With a mile in my legs I had a second, smaller Pike which took an Ondex spinner but I didn’t see any other fish of any kind.  Back at the car I made a brew and leant against the bridge watching water running away towards the sea.  Two jacks was a right result, I hadn’t wished for anything more.  But there are other stretches of this little river to have a look at; I’ll be back before the end of the season. 


The next day was completely different.  For a start the sky was clear leading to the type of sharp frost that makes internet Pikers orgasmic.  And it meant for only the second time in weeks I’d actually see the sun.  On the road in the dark, away to the east things are starting to light up.  I’ve never seen the northern lights but it must be some experience if it’s better than pre-dawn on a crisp winter day.  Today I was fishing running water once again but on the other side of the county and on a different scale to yesterday’s stream.  This time I wouldn’t be wandering for miles, today I’d be staying put, sitting it out in one swim.  What’s more I would be sitting on a comfortable chair, fishing from the bank, something that has become a novelty in recent years.  Not only that, the nature of the spot meant I’d be using a bloody rod pod and I think that might be a first for me when Pike fishing?

I set up by torch light and soon had three rods assembled; float legers near and far baited with bluey and herring, and a legered smelt cast upstream, in the middle.  The sky grew slowly brighter, gradually revealing the frosted marsh around me.  I know this is what is supposed to happen but I haven’t witnessed it in a while, this morning was beautiful and I appreciated it.  As the sun rose higher I even had to find my shades, sitting comfortably behind rods with a brew in the middle of nowhere, anticipation growing, what could be better?

Two hours later the anticipation had vanished and I had reminded myself of all the advantages of fishing from a boat; there’s a reason why I don’t fish from the bank very often.  Normally by this time I would definitely have moved at least once, as it was I’d recast and repositioned all three rods but I’d run out of options now.  Mobility, that advantage alone makes boat fishing preferable in almost all situations.  But at least I was comfortable and enjoying a bright day that was becoming warmer, there’s more to it than catching blah blah.  But then a float moved, slightly but very definitely, a herring cast to the far side and as I rose to my feet it went off downstream, gathering pace. By the time I reached the rod the alarm had just started to sound and the baitrunner tick.  I wound down quickly and pulled the rod into a healthy bend, which stayed as the fish kited in to the left.  I turned it before it managed to tangle the leger rod and began to pull it back upstream, it dawned on me that this fish actually felt far heavier than I expected it should on this water.  Up close in crystal water it did look a good un and I breathed a big sigh when it went into the net at the second attempt.  Peering down at a big framed fish I couldn’t believe it, that’s got to be over twenty!

I left the fish in the net while I got all the essentials ready, then lifted a heavy fish onto the mat.  One double hook was nicked in nicely and came out with a twist.  The scales confirmed what I already knew, with a bit to spare.  The fish was dark and a long one, an old warrior that could weigh more at times in its life.  Unfortunately I’d drained the camera battery taking sunrise photos so could only snap a couple of photos on the mat with my phone.  Back into the clear water, she slid away defiantly while I grinned like an idiot.

An hour later the same rod went again, this time I netted a skinny Jack, a fish I’d have been happy to catch not long ago and more like what I’d expected when I set up this morning.  Big Pike aren’t common in this part of the world these days which is one of the reasons I’m usually driving for an hour or more for my fishing.  I fish places where I can reasonably expect to catch the odd biggun but this isn’t one of them, a real surprise early gift if you’re into that kind of thing.  It’s nice to be proven wrong with a fish I didn’t believe could be present in this water.  I was back in the car just after noon, stuff to do this afternoon, that time of year…  But from the car stereo Led Zeppelin never sounded better.  Happy bloody Christmas.


Saturday 11 December 2021

Winter Sun

No work today but I woke at the usual time and knew I wouldn’t be getting any more kip, I was able to indulge myself with a lie in of sorts while the princess rattled through the kitchen.  Bloody cricket.  We’d been thrashed for the previous two days so God knows what I’d wake up to this morning.  Only one tour in the last thirty five years has cheered me up at breakfast.  But I couldn’t resist tapping the cricinfo icon on the bloody phone.  As the screen started to go blue over white I squinted my eyes, figures slowly came into focus, England 220.  Had we been bowled out FFS?  Squint again, 220-2.  For two!  Now I was awake.  We’re back in it, another couple of good sessions and this is an even game.  But that’s the trouble, it’s the hope that does for ya, a couple of quick wickets and it’s another fucking story.

I can’t lie in for long as I must drive into Town, the roads are soaked after heavy rain overnight but it’s after rush hour so the traffic is flowing.  Unfortunately it’s one of them days when all the wankers go for a drive.  First of all a bloody hire van on the dual carriageway, switching lanes into gaps that aren’t really there.  After that it’s fucking Range Rover’s, fine in the sticks but who the hell needs one driving in town?  None of them have even a splash around the wheels but of course they are impregnable, just witness the one cruising serenely through a red light or the other stopping everyone whilst doing a three point turn on a busy street.  Half an hour later I’m driving home, now triple jabbed and just in the nick of time by the look of things as we look like we're heading to the same situation we were in a year ago.

In the late morning Isaac and I headed out on a more relaxing drive.  He’s 19 now so can rarely crawl out of bed much before noon, consequently it’s a while since he’s been fishing so today we’ll fish the afternoon into dusk.  Soon we leave concrete and head down a crackling track fringed with hedges.  We follow a couple of partridges which are determined to outrun us but eventually have to flap their wings and admit defeat.  At the bottom of the slope a Buzzard lifted out of the hedge then flapped slowly and grumpily away, maybe we’d spoiled its plans for lunch.

By now the rain was long gone and the clouds were thinning but the wind was fierce and unexpected, rowing out would be easy but getting back might be a challenge.  With the boat loaded we were quickly away but where should we fish?  I couldn’t decide so anchored up in lee of shelter and soon we were fishing with two static deadbaits each plus a fifth shared rod, fishing a smelt under a float which would be allowed to drift.  After half an hour something off to the left caught my attention, I turned to see a familiar shape disappear into a large swirl.  A minute or so later the armchair animal lovers’ favourite furry killing machine was just a few yards away and swimming towards the boat before it dived and disappeared for good.  It’s uncanny how often something fishy happens after one of the beasts has moved through.  Minutes later and shortly after paying out a bit more line the drifting float disappeared.  Isaac wound into it and our first Pike of the day was hooked.  After a couple of splashes it was soon in the net where it helpfully unhooked itself.  We peered over the side for a few seconds then lowered the net and allowed it to swim away.

We gave it half an hour more then moved back against the wind into another spot that gave a bit of shelter, for the first time in weeks the sun actually came out while I was fishing!  The gusting wind made judging the casts tricky but we were soon settled and fishing again. On these trips the first priority is seeing the boy wonder enjoy himself so I was glad Isaac had caught the first fish. I now had custody of the drifting rod but Isaac was content and subtly reminded me that he was “in the lead”.  But this wasn’t the reason I wanted to catch, my recent form was two tough blanks on the concrete broad, I wanted to feel a bend in my rod.  After half an hour in the new swim nothing had happened so I moved a rod to the far right, a spot Isaac had left clear that often does a fish.  It was only a couple of minutes later that I saw the float wobble then slowly but definitely start to move away.  I wound down quickly and set the hooks but the bend in the rod soon started to straighten and Isaac had it scooped up in the net in no time.  Once again we peered into the clear water and it was at this point that a debate began, as to whose fish was larger/smaller.  This debate is still ongoing.

The sky began to dim, a creaking Heron flapped past which made me realise the wind had dropped a bit.  With a fish each we decided to call it a day, the row back to base wasn’t as bad as I’d feared and soon we were back in the car, heading home along the track.  Movement to the left, there was a Deer bounding along in the meadow beside us, I slowed and allowed it to overtake then it crossed the track and away through the fields.  A few minutes later we were back on tarmac and heading back to what they call civilisation.  It was proper dark by the time we got home, the sky now fully clear, it’ll be a cold one in Suffolk tonight and probably too bloody hot in Brisbane.

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

I look forward to autumn all year, so much so when it approaches I almost fear it.  Years ago this would have been fear of failure, it is the best time of year, I have to make it count. Now I think it’s fear of it all being over far too quickly, my favourite time of year gives way to the dim, sunless months I like the least, culminating in the annual festival of greed and gluttony.  But while autumn is here I am manage to love every minute spent out in the wild places whatever mood I find the fish in, nowadays it’s the fishing itself that gives me pleasure.  I love what I do.

I do pretty much the same thing every year and the surroundings are familiar but never the same, every year things are different to some degree.  In this fragile part of the world there are pressures of all kinds that grip and twist and shape the waterways.  This autumn has been a proper mind bender but all the more fascinating because of it.

The wildlife is almost as interesting as the fish and this year I managed to see and hear all the usual suspects but also had a proper treat when a very big bird of prey came into view.  I was pretty certain I knew what it was but when it hovered over the water there was no doubt.  Only the second time I’ve seen an osprey in East Anglia.

But for once it wasn't all just Pike fishing!

I had plans to fish but circumstances changed and the weather was shit, or more accurately piss on Saturday.  Sunday I was charged with cooking dinner and after I’d managed to roast a Donald, hack its flesh off and transfer it to plates I felt quite pleased with myself.  Early October and there’s still a couple of hours’ worth of daylight left after dinner so I quickly rummaged in the shed and transferred a few bits to the car.  I assembled a light spinning rod, landing net and a few necessities in a small backpack.  I also loaded an Isaac who fancied a couple of hours wandering in the countryside.  Destination was the river which hopefully would be fresh from recent heavy rain. Fishing with small lures, I wasn’t really expecting to catch much but wanted to check it out for possible future Chub swims?  The day had been bright but typically we headed off into storm clouds and a double rainbow halo.  Thankfully the shower mostly missed us and by the time we left the car, shades were necessary.

We crossed a couple of meadows and then walked downstream along the quietest bit of river path I know.  We got as far as an old lock/bridge which is being restored in some honourable project which is made ironic by the choking river that barely flows through it, even with all of yesterday’s rain.  Here the path veers from the river, Isaac wandered on and I started trying to run lures through what fishable water I was able to reach, working my way back upstream.  I started with a small crankbait but I was drawn to a spinner, a size 6 Ondex and it was with this that I mostly fished.  I did have smaller lures with me but with many tight swims and underarm casts I needed a little weight.

I wandered upstream casting here and there but mostly just walking, there were a couple of pools that looked promising but nothing fishy interrupted my lures.  I did startle something hefty in the undergrowth, it could have been a Yeti but was most likely a Deer.  I approached another old lock cutting expecting more of the same but in a slightly deeper, pacier swim something grabbed my spinner.  A nice Perch soon surfaced and thrashed, I should have extended the net handle and my attempt to swing it in was unwise and ultimately costly.  Oh bugger.  A Rabbit on the other side looked at me nervously but I carried on with renewed confidence, the sun was dipping so the shades rested on my cap, a good time for a predator to feed?  Maybe, if I could actually get near water that was worth a cast.

Eventually I approached a swim where I’d lost a nice Perch on maggots last summer, here a drooping branch bridges the river providing lots of shade.  First cast something actually bumped my lure and the same thing happened on the next.  There was definitely something interested down there but had I spooked it?  The next couple of casts seemed to suggest so but on the next I hooked a fish, another Perch which looked bigger than the one I’d lost so I made no mistake with the net this time.  Isaac had wandered off again so I took a quick picture in the net before plopping it back.  I’d left home hoping to catch ‘something’ while I cased the river and I’d hoped that something would be a Chub or Perch so that was a result.

I fished on until I caught up with Isaac at a small bridge where streams connect, a few casts here and I was done, we turned and headed for home.  A couple of hours well spent, I should do this more often.

Saturday 2 October 2021

It's time...

It’s that time of year when the dreaded Facebook has been up in arms because people are Pike fishing in early autumn!  Everyone knows that all Pike caught before October 1st are 100% stone dead within a couple of days!  But to be honest it was a little too warm on the weekend in question and I wouldn’t have dabbled myself.  But a few days later when both the furore and the temperature had cooled a little I did spend a couple of hours chucking lures from a drifting boat.  The water was a windswept drain and the boat wasn’t mine.  When I arrived in the evening the sky had greyed and the wind made rowing difficult, it certainly felt like good autumn Pikey weather.  When I got to the top of the stretch I dropped a weight and made a cuppa, while this was brewing I flicked a few lures about.  A spinnerbait received the right response but the small Pike shook free.

Now I had the wind on my side I let the boat drift, steering every now and then to correct the drift and occasionally dropping a weight and fishing static.  Forty five minutes had passed since I made my first cast, I’d gone through a few lures and eventually settled on a pale coloured shad.  It did look good in the water and I remembered catching a few fish on this lure before in similar gloomy conditions.  But I was at that stage when I was considering another change and wondering what I’d have to do to actually catch something when the lure finally went solid with a thump.  The Pike had taken close to the boat on a short line and I pulled it to the surface quickly where a long fish surfaced then pulled back down.  It circled in front of me then popped up again and I was able to scoop it up with the net before it really knew what had happened.  Then came the inevitable net thrash where it unhooked itself, result!  The fish was a lean mid double, a quick photo then I lowered the net and allowed it to swim away.  It didn’t even come out of the water.  I fished on until darkness, disturbed a Bittern which croaked at me as it flapped slowly away and also saw two Sparrowhawks playing chase.  And I had two more takes, one jack unhooked in the water and another better fish that came adrift, all on the same pale shad.

Earlier today I had another go at organising the shed and sorting my winter (i.e. Pike) tackle.  The rods are set up now, the freezer stocked and I’ve a couple of bins full of new traces.  It’s been an enjoyable fishing summer; fighting on the beaches brought me six ‘new’ species and about eight PB’s were nudged up.  I didn’t catch a PB Bass but I did get a few small Smoothounds.  I was so side tracked by the beach fishing I forgot to even try for a Gipping Barbel but that is still on my ‘to do’ list for next year.  But now it’s Pike time.

Monday 13 September 2021

End of summer

Bank holiday Monday, hopefully all the weekenders will be heading home by now and leave the coast fairly quiet?  I fished the steep beach and found a few anglers in residence though not as many as I feared.  Due to a mixed forecast I’d packed my oval brolly which gave me welcome respite from the Northerly breeze.  This thing is pretty stable on the beach, at least when I remember not to try and set it up on a slope.  I got set up and was fishing a couple of hours before high tide, expecting a busy afternoon but the brightest moment was siting a Porpoise breaching the waves.  The wind was a cool one and it was noticeable how much the sound of wind and waves was muffled by the oval and a small ridge of shingle.  When I stood up it was a much louder day.

High tide came and went, my baits – mostly squid, remained untouched and I feared a blank might be on the cards.  But my fortunes changed when the sky grew dark, the close range rod started to signal the odd rattle and at last I managed to hit a bite, the result a Whiting.  A few minutes later I doubled my tally with another before the brief spell of activity finished.  A while later the close rod rapped round again and this time it wasn’t a Whiting, instead a lovely Smoothound but probably the smallest I’ve caught all year.

By 2130 I’d had enough, the bites had dried up and if I’m honest there’s something a bit spooky about being alone on the beach after dark, even when there are other anglers about.  The white tops of waves rolling southward catch my eye and deceive me into thinking it’s some ghostly animal bounding away from me.  There’s a weird foreboding vibe that keeps me on my guard.  It’s certainly an environment to be respected and not one you’d want to get in trouble in.

A few days later I was back at the same beach brimming with confidence, high tide was due at 2245 which meant I’d be fishing the flood in darkness, this had to be good, surely?  There were Swallows lined up on a wire in the car park, maybe getting ready to fly south?  A trudge across the pebbles saw me facing a sea that looked angrier than I’d expected and today I’d left the brolly at home.  I got myself settled and found my rhythm fairly quickly, against all expectations I had a fish first chuck on the close rod.  I say fish, it was a tiny Pouting and probably the smallest sea creature I’ve caught this year.  So small I briefly considered using it for bait but ended up sending it seaward without out any attachments.  The evening was clear with hazy light and a moderate north easterly causing sizeable waves.  The forecast promised the wind should ease at dusk.

I fished my usual methods, one close and one hurled, with various sized pieces of squid for bait.  Before next spring I need to research some other rigs and ways of doing things but at the moment I’m comfortable with the way I fish.  And today it seemed to be working, a decent rattle produced a small Bass which was followed on the next chuck by another tiny Pout.  Three fish already and it wasn’t even dark yet!

But it was all downhill from there… To start with I managed a spectacular crack off with the long range rod.  I tackled up again in fading light only to have another crack off on the next cast.  For some reason the bail arm was closing itself on the cast, by now I had the head torch on so I decided it needed further investigation during daylight and resolved to fish both rods close in.  Also the wind hadn’t eased at all, if anything it was increasing as were the waves crashing into the beach.  I tried fishing with a two hook flapper rig, kind of a paternoster with short hooklengths, but I didn’t like it so after half an hour switched this to a running leger as well.  Two sizable chunks of squid were fished about thirty yards from the beach in a boiling sea, I told myself I was fishing to my strengths or sticking to what I know?  I convinced myself I was after a big Bass…

Time passes quickly when you’re on the beach, high tide came with the waves coming close to the top of the shingle ridge but the expected fishy feeding spell didn’t materialise.  I fished on for another hour but in truth I was well beaten today and it was no wrench to pack up and crunch across the pebbles towards the car.

This sums up sea fishing for me at the moment, two trips to the same bit of beach; on the first I caught after dark on an ebbing tide then a few days later I catch on a flooding tide in daylight.  I haven’t got a Scooby do what’s going on most of the time but this only adds to the enjoyment.  However now the days are noticeably shorter, summer is coming to an end and my fishy thoughts are going in another direction…

Sunday 29 August 2021


The Princess reminded me that we hadn’t spent a night at the Valley for two whole years and with a dry, warm forecast coupled with us having coinciding time off for a change it was too good an opportunity to miss.  Though to be honest I was considering suggesting an evening on the beach instead…  But for the first time since April the car trundled down the dusty track

I had a couple of rods out by 1800; double fake corn on the left and a pop up on a chod to the right.  Both were fished close in, just short of thick weed and the area had been baited with a load of hemp, a kilo or so of pellets and a few boilies.  Despite having a look around I’d found no clues so I was basically fishing blind, bait a spot and hope something finds the food.  This approach has never ever worked here before (well to be fair it almost did once…) but with a dramatically increased stock of fish I felt I was in with a chance.  I had several liners through the evening but these could well have been from the masses of Rudd that would have swarmed the hemp.  I couldn’t help but wish I was sitting on a beach, staring up at tips and listening to the sound of waves on shingle.

The conditions were pleasant for sitting staring at water, the light fell out of the sky and the stars began to pierce through.  Unfortunately the mosquitos were a permanent fixture and in the end they did for us and we sought sanctuary in a zipped up bivvy.  There we stayed through the dark hours, a liner woke me with light in the sky but I didn’t hurry out of bed.

I was up by about 0830 and started ringing the changes, which is just another way of saying ‘trying to catch something’.  I float fished corn for a while, in the hope of a Tench though quite why I’d expect to catch anything other than Rudd is beyond me.  The fish I caught were golden and beautiful, perfect livebait size too, now I’m thinking ahead.  I soon became bored of the Rudd so sat behind buzzers while I cooked breakfast, the smell of sausages lured the Princess out of bed and we sat in the sun for a while, breathing mozzie free air for a change.  Nothing fishy happened so we departed when the test match called.

Early (ish) on a Saturday morning, the car is slipping through quiet country roads…  Which sounds like a hideous C&W song but rest assured ‘Idles’ were blasting out of my stereo.  I arrived at yet another ‘new’ coastal car park and by 0830 I was fishing on another stretch of Suffolk shingle, staring out at the open expanse of the North Sea in front of me.  The morning was cool and mostly cloudy with light winds from the south east.  High tide was due around 1130, I would have preferred to fish this evening into darkness but the forecast was shit and I didn’t fancy sitting so exposed through rain and storms. 

Today my bait was squid, squid and more squid fished either whole or in strips of various sizes.  This was mounted on my usual set ups and fished at various ranges throughout the morning.  With everything sorted I sat on my comfortable chair and watched two stationary rod tips.  Unfortunately the tips stayed fairly still all morning; I had a couple of rattles ninety minutes or so before high tide and another couple ninety minutes after but nothing developed and I didn’t manage to bring a fish up the beach.  Maybe if I’d brought Ragworm with me things would have been different?  I did see a Seal, several Oyster catchers and a Ringed Plover landed close to me on the beach.  What’s more despite blanking I enjoyed myself, as I have done fishing saltwater all summer and nothing is more important than that.

Sunday 8 August 2021

Wind, rain, mud, fish?

I’d been keeping an eye on the forecast all week, moderate westerlies with the chance of a shower, a comfortable day on the beach beckoned.  Then on Friday morning the BBC was threatening storms and a gale, that can’t be right can it?

Giles and I planned to fish a different shore once more and arrived at the coastal car park to find the sea was raging.  We checked out another spot which looked no better but a third gave us a glimmer of hope.  We decided to try it and had ourselves set up and strapped down by 1530, an hour before high tide.  An hour later we were back in the car, the tide had been dragging our rigs right down the beach and we had more chance of catching a gull than a fish.

Plan B was put into effect, an estuarine area which google earth hinted might have deep water close in.  This involved a drive through narrow lanes then a hike of close to a mile, we were fishing by about 1730 with the tide now ebbing.  Sheltered by an embankment it was nice to be fishing effectively in relative comfort but were there actually any fish here?  My first chuck saw a definite rattle on ragworm but this didn’t develop, the tide started to drop away as did our confidence, had I imagined that bite?  But out of nowhere Giles had a rattle and was in, a small but very welcome Bass hoisted ashore.  Where there’s one…  Time passed and the tide continued to drop away revealing a growing bank of mud in front of us, I began to doubt we’d found the right spot.  I went for a stroll and just around the next corner found what we’d been looking for.  Here the dropping tide revealed a steeper beach with rocks and gravel as opposed to mudflats, Giles agreed with the decision to move.

This area definitely looked better but to begin with nothing much happened, I thought about maybe saving the ragworm and sneaking out again early morning?  But then I thought I saw a couple of slight downward pulls on rag, I gave it a couple of minutes but nothing happened so on winding in I was surprised by a bit of resistance.  This was long, slimy and snake shaped but I’d caught a fish!  This hadn’t seemed at all likely when we were getting battered on the open beach.  From there things just got better, Giles added an eel and then for a couple of hours we were getting bites fairly regularly, usually after we’d relaxed and we sitting mind numb and comfortable in our chairs.  Giles had a nice Bass which gave the confidence a big boost then a while later I had one.  Now the fishing was interesting and the bites kept coming, mostly on ragworm but I had a rod thumping pull on squid which I managed to miss.  When we packed up around 2200 I’d landed three more Bass and Giles had a couple more than me, these weren’t in any way big fish but a decent average size. 

The walk back was long but we were on solid ground not shifting shingles so less gruelling than some.  I couldn’t help feeling satisfied, we’d persevered and caught fish when a blank seemed certain and I have a feeling we’d found a spot that might be a bit special; sheltered, fairly deep and miles off the beaten track.  I think we’ll certainly be back and not just when the weather is rough.

Sunday 18 July 2021

Reasons to be cheerful

I was feeling pissed off, angry and I couldn’t really put my finger on why?  But really it was just the usual reasons.  I’m just so used to these things boiling my piss that I failed to notice the intensity of these irritants had cranked up a notch or six over the last few days. 

Reason one, our leaders.  Forget party politics, they are all bastards.  Forget party politics then it’s easier to see that the whole shitshow is fucked, it just doesn’t work for 90% of us.  Are they blind?  Stupid?  Or do they just not give a fuck?  The state of the planet renders the collision of “isms” irrelevant, Vote Greta.

Reason two, the great British public.  I wanted England to win, I really did but face it, Italy were better than us.  The way elements have behaved since is shameful and ironically we would have seen other people behaving even worse if we had won.  The Kiwi players and fans at Lords and around the world gave us a lesson in sportsmanship in 2019 and I was glad of their success earlier this year.  But cricket is far more cerebral all round. 

Then combine both of the reasons above and I give you so called ‘Freedom day’.  Just fuck off.  Working with the great British public as I do, I can state that my experience leads me to believe that there are far too many fucking idiots at large for the lifting of restrictions to be anything other than brief window before another lockdown.  People do not socially distance, the habits of a lifetime take over and there are plenty who think that avoiding wearing a mask makes them clever.  Like the silly bastard who invited us to his bonfire party where we could all burn our masks, just one of all too many whingers.  These wankers fussing over a thin piece of fabric covering half their ugly faces for just a few minutes.  I’ll still be wearing mine, all day every day, for the foreseeable future.  Reasons for being pissed off, bastards and wankers, yes the culprits in both cases are almost all men.

I needed to fish, needed fresh air, to clear my head…  Three in the afternoon, Giles and I are hiking along an embankment on unfamiliar soil heading for a spot that someone kind had recommended.  We assembled our kit on a steep beach but not the steep beach.  This one was an outer estuary a few miles from any area we’d tried before.  Half an hour later we were fishing, the water was building and high tide was due around 1700.  With the usual two rigs cast I sat back under the bright sunshine and let the cool north easterly fan me while I stared up at two rod tips.  All the bollocks that had been churning in my head melted away…

Then I was on my feet as a proper rattle had the light rod bouncing, I wound in a small Bass, silver, spikey and perfect which had fallen for rag on the running rig.  As the tide rose bites came to this rod at intervals, I added two more Bass and an Eel.  For the last month I think all of my fish have come to ragworm at close range, the big bait has consistently been left untouched.  Then would you believe it, an exciting moment when the big bait/big chuck went slack and I wound down to find some resistance but this was an anti-climax that was long, thin and slimy, another Eel.  Towards high tide the flood was slowly bouncing my long range rig to the left but slow enough so I felt/hoped the bait would be fishing effectively…  When the tide peaked the rig held and I was happy, content with my place on this earth on this Friday afternoon.  A beautiful vista away from the rat race, great company in comfortable weather, with the sound of shingle being thrown against shingle and two nodding rod tips.  Angling is a bloody silly sport really but what would we do without it?

Around 1730 the tip on the heavy rod sprung back.  As I scrambled to my feet it jagged down again… And again…  Something was definitely moving off with a lump of squid in its gob.  I wound down and pulled into something heavy and began to pump it back towards me but this thing didn’t want to come.  It thumped and throbbed and hauled the rod back down, I had to tighten the drag to get any line back.  For the next few minutes I really did play tug of war; something unseen would pull and bump the rod down, I began to pull back further and harder.  At one point it just went solid for a few seconds but steady pressure shifted it and the push & pull resumed.  Meanwhile Giles had sprung into action with a camera, recording me gurning with a bent rod.  Eventually there was colour in the shallows and with the next wave I managed to drag a bloody great big Ray onto the beach.

I thought it looked about the same size as the one I’d caught a couple of months ago but this one was much more vividly coloured.  In fact it was an awesome, beautiful creature which actually weighed a couple of pounds more and I was blown away.  I know these things exist around our coast (and actually get a bit bigger) but I never really believed I’d see one on the end of my line.  But back to the present, maybe we’d have a chance of another one?

The next hour drifted by, I added another nice Bass and another slimy bloody Eel but despite fishing just a few yards away Giles hadn’t had one single bite.  As the tide started to ebb so the current became more and more powerful, in fact too powerful for us to cope with.  We decided to move along the beach to a spot slightly sheltered by a ‘point’ of sorts and this was a slight improvement.  Although our close range rods were fishing effectively we couldn’t get our heavy set ups to hold at any kind of distance.  I did manage one bite on squid shortly after we’d moved but this was yet another slimy rig mangler.  We stayed fishing until the light faded, the receding tide revealed much and yet again we had learnt a great deal.  We hiked back needing head torches to light the way on a tricky path, no thoughts of what goes on in the real world were polluting my mind just reasons to be cheerful. 

Monday 12 July 2021

Mostly Bass

A day off but a busy one with annoying, tricky jobs to do, tackle to sort and a dinner to cook, it was mid afternoon before I had loaded the car and steered it eastwards.  The cross country route has been frustrated by roadworks for weeks and I needed another diversion today, then nearer the coast the traffic was building, when I got through the worst I was stuck behind a mob of fucking cyclists!  The road to radar seems to be never ending but I eventually made it and found a space in a busy car park.  The weather was clear, bright and dry with an onshore breeze, would the beach be busy?  Thankfully not, there were a few ramblers and one bloke about half a mile away who appeared to be fly fishing?

I was settled and fishing a little before 1600, high tide was just after 1800.  I used the methods that I always use only with ragworm added to the bait bag.  I’d chosen to return here because the steep beach has been poor lately though on this evening’s tide I may well have caught fish there anyway.  I still haven’t a fucking clue what I’m doing to be honest.  It seemed I’d made a good choice when the close range rod rattled violently on the first cast, the result was a small Bass and bearing in mind what happened last time I made sure I got a photo of this one.  Second cast I had a more delicate bite on rag and wound in something small, flat and brown.  A tiny Flounder flapped it’s wings comically when I threw it back into the sea.

After that I had a bite a chuck for about three quarters of an hour on the close in rod, some I missed and some I hit adding two more small Bass to my tally.  With plenty of small fish close in I decided to drop a big lump of squid in short on the other rod in the hope of something big feeding on the schoolies.  This signalled a quiet period when both rods stayed motionless but when I whacked the big bait out again bites resumed close in…  Another hectic period ensued and on the ragworm fished close it was a bite on every cast for over an hour, by the time the tide had turned and was inching away from me I’d caught another six Bass.  While this was going on I had one decent bite on the squid at range but managed to miss it.

On this gently sloping beach the tide recedes quickly and I moved camp nearer to the water, the area I’d been catching from earlier was a mix of sand and shingle but now I was sitting on it.  As the sky began to dim I felt confident as we’d done well here after dark last time but then again the tide was later…  Tonight the bites just dried up.  With the line going into the sea at a lower angle so the waves made the rod tips bounce more.  Sometimes this makes bites hard for me to spot but tonight they’d been whacking the tip round and I was sure I’d see them.  It’s always much cooler by the sea and by 2000 I had added three more layers but was still comfortable.  I tried mixing things up; fished Ragworm on the long range rod for a while and changed leads on the Bass rod so I could fish it further.  This latter move brought me a couple more bites and another welcome shiny silver thing.

2200, the head torch had been on a while but the darkness hadn’t brought on a rush of fish.  I was considering packing up when a slight rattle on the Bass rod got me out of the chair.  This didn’t develop but when I wound in found another Bass had hooked itself bringing my total for the evening to eleven.  I gave it another hour but had no more bites, I knew my best chance had come and gone but still I didn’t want to stop, in the end good sense prevailed before fatigue set in.

Another week, another fish...  We’ve been fishing the same few beaches exclusively and had discussed trying out a few different spots.  This need to explore saw us taking a slow crawl through coastal car parks at low tide, which was a good idea in hindsight as we could see what we’d be fishing over at high water on other days.  After having a good look and sussing a few things out we eventually set up at a narrow estuarine beach, across the water from another more familiar haunt.  I say we; to begin with it was Giles, Isaac and myself, as the evening wore on we were joined in the fishing by Rich and Trev and later nephew Ollie popped in to socialise.

The rain stayed away, the wind was light and the evening was warm.  The beach here shelved steeply and there was deep water close in.  We began fishing with our usual methods, Isaac was first with a bait in the water and was soon getting bites on ragworm.  Giles and I had hardly started fishing when Isaac winched in a small Bass which shook the hook at the edge and disappeared back into the sea.  He followed this a while later with an Eel, which seem to be Isaac’s pet fish at the moment.

Time passed, soon there was a nice group of friends laughing and chatting on the beach but the fish weren’t joining the party, we all had the odd bite but no prolonged spells of action and nothing hooked.  The tide rose and the current flowing upriver got stronger and stronger shifting our leads from time to time.  We could probably have coped with that alone but drifting weed carried on the boiling tide made fishing at any range impossible so all rods were dropped in close.  I had a short spell of luck catching a small Bass and a Pouting on the ragworm then a decent sized Eel on Squid.  Thankfully this was nicely hooked in the bottom jaw and was returned quickly and easily without too much slime being transferred.

Darkness descended, the tide crept ever higher and moved ever faster, in theory this should have been the best time for a bite but nothing happened.  One by one the crowd began to disperse but Giles, Isaac and I persevered until midnight but that was that.  It was good to fish a different area, catch a few and learn a bit more but this won’t be a beach I hurry back to, not until I have more idea of how to fish these conditions at least.

Friday 2 July 2021

Late June

This Covid blighted world we currently live in has caused many families to feel heartbroken and although ours has avoided the virus so far, we’ve had our own share of distress in recent months.  It came to a head at the weekend with tears shed and a permanent hole left in our lives.  Then followed days of logistics; phone calls and forms to fill and meetings to arrange and Jesus Christ why is this so fucking complicated at a time like this?  It doesn’t help when someone interferes without invitation and you wonder how fucking pig shit thick people can be?

The need to heal, patch myself up, fresh air and countryside was required and a beach beckoned.  I’ve spent some of the best days of my life trying to catch fish and it’s also been something I’ve used for restoration after some of the worst.  A few hours by the waterside, trying to outwit a creature allegedly way below us on the evolutionary scale (except carp of course) and regularly failing.  It’s hard to explain the compulsion, even to another angler because we don’t all get the same things out of it.  For me it’s been a different buzz at different times over the last forty five years; catch the most, catch the biggest, catch the most difficult but throughout there’s always been an element of problem solving and a wish to discover what unknown creatures are swimming around down there.

Anyway…  Giles and I found ourselves at a coastal car park in the middle of the afternoon, as we unloaded another angler was heading home.  His news was grim, just one small Bass in eight hours fishing but he kindly gave us his leftover ragworm.  Undeterred we headed for the sea and for once walked across sand and through bushes before emerging at radar beach.  Having endured a series of trips that have featured crap tides (?) and poor conditions for once things seemed to be in our favour.  The day was dry and at times we even saw the sun, there was an onshore wind but the high tide would come after dark, just after 11pm.  It didn’t take long to get set up on this gently sloping beach, as usual I fished a leger rig close in baited with rag to begin and a whole squid was given the big chuck on a pulley/Pennell.  With two rods fishing I relaxed into my chair and made a brew expecting a wait before any action.

But I was wrong, it didn’t take long at all before the rod baited with rag was bouncing and I was moving across the beach at a speed not seen since I disturbed a bee’s nest last spring.  My rapid pace was rewarded with a bending rod and my first Bass of the year splashed through the surf.  I love Bass, glorious bars of spiky silver and I returned it quickly, without a photo as I was positive there’d be more about.  But I was wrong.  We did have a few more quick bites on rag, or at least Giles did but the only thing he connected with was an ‘orrible rig mangling Eel.

Time passed, the waves gradually crept further up the beach and our camp had to be moved accordingly but the fish weren’t having it.  Rich popped in for a brew and a chat but in the hour or so he was with us we didn’t get a bite.  The sun disappeared behind us and the moon sneaked above the horizon in front, as the light gradually faded so at last we began to get bites.

Giles started the action with a couple of nice sized Dogfish then I caught one myself.  On my next cast with the big bait/long chuck combination I had a decent bite.  I wound down to find my hooklength had parted…  I soon had a fresh bait on it and it didn’t take long before the tip was being pulled round again.  I picked the rod up but the line parted on contact!!  I couldn’t work out what had happened as the line had gone just beyond the rod tip but suspect it had cut on a post that poked out of the sand, now hidden by the high tide.

I scrapped this rod, deciding to sort it out in daylight another day but switched the Bass rod to a bigger lead enabling me to cast it further.  Meanwhile Giles was still getting bites and added another decent Dogfish to his score.  My confidence had taken a knock but this was soon lifted when a bite materialised on my remaining rod, I set the hook and felt some resistance but no great weight.  Something flat and Thorny appeared and I was pleased to catch a Ray, another cool creature.

While this was going on the tide had come all the way up then began to drop back down again but under the cover of darkness we were still getting regular bites and even catching a Dogfish or two.  This happens with coarse fishing too, hours of inactivity followed by periods of intense action but here on the beach, after dark you feel literally anything could be lurking out there.  We packed up after midnight, I finished with three Dogs while Giles had four or five.  Had we the stamina to carry on I’m sure we could have caught a few more.

An unexpected opportunity arose so I loaded the car and pointed it to the east.  It was a bright sunny morning and the forecast promised a light breeze, as I approached the car park a hare stood guarding the road but as I got closer it reluctantly hopped into the long grass to join a gang of four of its mates.  As I unloaded three vehicles had converged on the other side, their occupants all had loud southern city accents.  Will there be any peace and quiet today?

There were anglers to the north and south so I dropped in between them, there was loads of space for everyone, until the city boys arrived and collapsed with exhaustion under a mountain of tackle a little way to my right.  They weren’t too close but…  So by 0930 I was set up on the steep beach using my usual methods and mostly squid for bait on what most would describe as a beautiful summer day but will the fish agree?  The massive ferry to Hoek, bright white and serene like a giant swan cruised by heading for Holland and all kinds of adventure.  A group of swimmers arrived and plunged into the cold North sea, as loud as they were brave.

The day passed, the beach filled up with more anglers and loads of day trippers, though I don't know why anyone would want to try beach side activities on what amounts to a massive, shifting pile of pebbles.  Beach cricket would be impossible though the wicket would probably take spin of sorts.  The fishing was crap, I persevered past the high tide in early afternoon and outlasted the city boys but didn’t get a nibble.  My baits were mostly untouched meaning the crabs hadn't been getting away with it and I’d been fishing effectively.

Highlights of the day included the massively endowed hippy chick who exposed everything then went into the sea.  I didn’t know where to look, well I did to be honest, for probably longer than is appropriate.  Then there were the two middle aged ladies close to my right who kept smiling at me.  Was it my animal magnetism or could they not resist the alluring odour of squid in the sun?  Still smiling the ladies undressed right down to the wool before climbing into their swimming costumes and tiptoeing into the water.  At this point I decided I should get home before I got into trouble.