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.