Saturday 31 December 2022

Late December

Over the years the 23rd December has often been a lucky day for me, probably because being close to the dreaded C word I’m often off work?  Whatever, my first twenty pounder was on the 23rd and there’s been at least two more since, including last year.  This 23rd coincided with new moon and with a nice mild spell in progress I really should have headed for Norfolk but the forecast promised sheets of rain so I chickened out.  But still I felt the need to fish, from the bank beneath the shelter of a brolly at least.

I couldn’t be arsed to get out of bed too early and had a bit of a drive to an old lake on the edge of the county.  The morning was dark and miserable, the rain relentless enough for me to put the oval up before anything else so it was 0915 before I made a cast.  Within minutes two more deadbaits splashed down and I retreated to sanctuary beneath the oval where I expected to mostly remain.  But within ten minutes a half herring dropped in close was on the move at speed, a take which I somehow managed to miss?  With a fresh bait dropped back out I sulked beneath the brolly, the weather was rubbish and I missed what could have been my only chance of the day.  The sky was dark and the rain so hard not even the birds were flying.

An hour later it was still raining but not with as much malice, the sky was threatening to get a bit lighter.  Things got even brighter, the buzzer signalling a take on a mackerel and this time I made no mistake bringing a welcome jack to the net, a dark fish in nice plump condition.  In the half hour that followed I had two more fish, another jack on the mackerel and a slightly bigger one of about seven pounds on a herring at close range.  The weather was improving all the time and I was able to spend longer periods sitting outside the brolly, enjoying a different view.  At 1140 the mackerel was on the move again a fish which initially seemed to have a bit of weight to it but shrank at the net.  The recast had barely settled before the float steamed off again but this time the bait was dropped.

By 1300 the rain had all but stopped and the sky was threatening to clear, so much so I took the opportunity to tidy up and have a short move.  This time the rods went out before I needed the brolly and this had only just been erected when I had another take on mackerel.  All the other fish had been in good nick but this one was long, skinny and frayed at the edges.  I sat and pondered; today I’d fished three different baits and had takes on mackerel and herring, smelt remained untouched.  I had two rods fishing float legers and all the takes had come to these, the leger rod hadn’t moved.  It would be easy to draw conclusions about all of this but sensible not to.

I gave it another couple of hours and even saw the sun poke through the defeated clouds but no more pike bothered me today.  Five fish banked which was four more than I expected but where were the bigger ones today?  Maybe I’ll find them another day.

 30th December 2022

A week later, the dreaded annual gorgefest had passed and I managed to convince Isaac it would be a good idea to chuck some lumps of fish in water.  It was another gloomy damp day so I sorted out the bank fishing kit and we headed back to the same spot as last time.  When I looked at the forecast I’d noticed fresh winds but we got out of the car and stepped into a gale.  We’d not dragged ourselves out of bed too early so it was just after 0900 before we were fishing, three deadbaits fished with heavy leads and loud alarms while we sheltered from the fierce wind.

There were fish here last week and I was hoping for a repeat, a take after ten minutes was the prefect start.  It was my rod, a legered herring and I connected with a Pike and brought it all the way to the bank where it found a weedbed and shed the hooks.  I’d seen it and it was a jack but I don’t want to lose any of them.  Unfortunately this wasn’t the start of a mad feeding spell, the rain didn’t abate and the wind got stronger, the brolly was stable but we couldn’t see the water, I hate sitting like that.

In the late morning the rain eased and we had a couple more takes, I landed a Jack on mackerel but Isaac lost one on lamprey.  By midday the wind was still raging and it wasn’t fun, we’d had enough so jacked it in and that was my last fishing trip of 2022.

Another angling obsessed year comes to an end and I’m enjoying fishing as much as I ever have, if anything probably even more because I’m much more relaxed about it all?  Most of what I do nowadays requires minimal effort, is relatively close to home and well within my comfort zone.  I continue to spend my time in wild, beautiful places but most of the actual fishing I do is relatively simple.  I do spend a bit of time on preparation each week so I’m able to keep my tackle organised then it’s just a case of picking up what I need and off I go.  The truth is for most of the year I just can’t be arsed to go to the lengths I once did in pursuit of fish.  These days I look at the effort other anglers make for their fishing and think ‘fair play’ but I don’t want to catch them that bad.  I suppose it goes back to what I’ve said before, it’s the act of fishing that must be enjoyable not just the trophy shot.

The exception is autumn when I really do make a big effort and go the extra mile. Pike time in the special place is majestic and I put more effort into those eight weeks than the other forty four, that’s how it has to be.  My diary tells me I’ve caught ninety nine Pike in 2022, these came from five different waters or maybe eight, depending on your point of view?  I fished in pits, rivers, lakes and broads and managed a few big ones along the way too.

One of the absolute highlights of the year was our trip out west for a few days of fishing which is totally unlike anything we do in East Anglia.  Just this alone makes it thrilling for me and to catch a couple of whiskery things capped an almost perfect trip.  It also made me remember there’s more interesting winter coarse fishing to be enjoyed locally, away from the crowded stillwaters.

After Pike I spend more time sea fishing than anything else and since rediscovering the joy of this insane pursuit I now count the days between trips all year round.  Catching a few Bass on lures was great fun and any Smoothound is an event.  I still make loads of mistakes but I’m learning loads, this year from the sea I caught eight different species including a Gurnard which was a new one to me.  Including this I had five PB’s as well as five second bests and from freshwater I managed one PB and three second bests.  2022, it all went rather well… 

Now all the Christmas bollocks is almost over it feels like I’ve pushed through some kind of obstacle and I can see longer, milder days ahead.  The New year will still be cold, grey and murky but I will mix up the Pike fishing with other stuff, then when the river season ends its back to the beaches.

Sunday 18 December 2022

Cold Buffet

13th December 2022

I had some holiday to use up so booked a week in December, when I did so I couldn’t see a sudden cold snap coming, not after the slow autumn but of course sod’s law intervened.  The forecasters promised ten days or so where daytime temperatures would barely creep above zero.  But stuff the cold, I’d find a bit of water somewhere and chuck a bait in it regardless.  Any fishing plans for Friday were abandoned when I remembered I had to go for a Covid booster jab, following this I felt lousy for a few days, combine that with the sub zero temperatures and I didn’t want to leave the house.  By Tuesday I was feeling more normal and fancied a fish but not for Pike.  Ever since the trip out west I’ve been promising myself I’d go for Chub so I spent some time sorting out a nine foot feeder rod and a few bits and pieces of tackle, enough for a couple of hours by the river.

I was familiar with the stretch because I’ve walked it hundreds of times although rarely with a rod.  The footpath was frozen solid in places and slippery on the slopes with dodge the dogshit in places but I made it in one piece.  I set up just upstream of a reed lined bend that had a gentle flow along the near bank.  I was fishing a small maggot feeder on a helicopter rig with a hooklength of about 18” and a 14 hook, there’s probably a better way to do it but I haven’t a clue.  Any Chub fishing I’ve done was way back in the last century when I seem to remember crude and heavy didn’t put them off.  But with it being cold I’d decided to use maggots and only put half a dozen into the feeder each cast.  I made my first cast just before 1500, intending to fish into darkness.

It didn’t take long for me to realise the nine foot rod was a mistake, even on this little river.  Steep banks and reeds made life tricky, the slightly heavier twelve footer would have been a much better choice.  A second bankstick would have helped too, laying the rod across my lap wasn’t ideal.  But I was comfortable enough sitting here staring at the white tip and trying not to be too distracted by the birds around me.  A Magpie in the meadow opposite, a Robin that wasn’t temped by an open bait box and a Wren climbed the foliage on the far bank.  The intermittent sound of birds was nice to hear but the roar from the dual carriageway was permanent.  There were fishy ripples occasionally too but these were just upstream and not where I was expecting.

After half an hour or so in which I hadn’t had a bite, for some unfathomable reason I recast with a small piece of bread flake.  And after a few minutes I noticed some definite fishy trembles on the tip.  Eventually it pulled down properly, I bite even I couldn’t miss.  There was a bit of resistance and I pulled a nice (bait) sized Roach to the surface, here it splashed about a bit while I groped for the net and managed to unhook itself before I was ready.  The next couple of casts also brought a few nudges and pulls as well as one decent tug that a competent angler would have struck at.

By 1615 the nibbles had dried up. My hands were cold, I was uncomfortable and I could barely see the quiver tip. I gave it one more cast with the head torch on while I slowly tidied up.  The temperature dropped quickly and I was relieved to negotiate the slippery path without incident.

16th December 2022

The days past and the weather got even colder, nowadays I’m just not used to these freezing spells but they were normal when I was a young angler.  Friday I had a day fishing arranged with Mr W but the continued freezing weather meant our first choice venue had a thick lid on top.  I struggled to come up with Plan B, we needed somewhere that a) wasn’t frozen b) gave us at least a theoretical chance of catching a Pike c) wasn’t a total shit whole.  In the end I pointed the car west towards the fens.

The screen washer was frozen so as we drove along the long, straight fenland roads I was peering through a dirty screen.  We eventually arrived at the destination I was sure would be fishable but climbing the floodbank we peered down on the big river which was frozen solid from bank to bank.  After a few minutes of scratching my bonce we got back in the motor which I pointed eastwards, the tributaries usually run with a little more pace I was still confident we’d find somewhere to fish.  Half an hour later we arrived at plan B, somewhere I dropped into back in January when I’d been rewarded with a fish. We climbed a second floodbank and thankfully there was a bit of open water around a bend between frozen straights. 

By 0800 we each had two float legered deadbaits covering the river, near and far sides where the ice allowed.  Tackling up had been an ordeal, my fingertips ached with cold but it was good to sit back with a brew knowing we were in with a chance in theory at least.  On a damp murky day the Fens can be a grim place, the views from the top of the floodbank would lay before me, an endless desert of black fields crossed by lines of dead brown reeds and the occasional wizened tree.  The plains of Mordor…  But when the sun is out on a crisp winter morning the fens are glorious, the view is beautiful so you can’t believe it’s the same place.  The river was a magnet for birds of all types, a Harrier flew lazily along the far bank and away to the west a pair of deer leapt a ditch.  Would any Pike be active?

We’d had more than a week of cold weather, long enough for the fish to be used to it after the initial shock.  I figured Pike would feed if we could find them so with this in mind we recast regularly and searched what water we had available.  After an hour I picked up a rod baited with smelt and as soon as I moved the bait it was taken, I was attached to a small Pike which thrashed on the surface and chucked the rig back at me before disappearing in a swirl.  I had mixed feelings, it would be nice to catch a Pike in these circumstances but unhooking a small Pike in this weather would have been painful.

As the sun climbed so the temperature crept up and more of the river became fishable so we moved upstream and resumed fishing with the little boost of confidence a move always brings.  Recasting regularly was a necessity as drifting ice regularly dragged our lines but on balance I felt this activity would be a good thing.  But it was my margin rod that had been left unmolested that drew my attention, did the float bob?  Yes it did!  Something was definitely creeping away with my smelt, I set the hooks and soon had a jack thrashing on the surface.  This one stayed on but was only just hooked, on this occasion I felt thankful that the double hook had held and we hadn’t blanked.

We had one further move upstream to a nice tree lined area but this didn’t produce anything.  By 1500 the sun was slipping away again, the temperature dropped sharply and the ice floes were near constant.  Enough was enough, we packed up quickly and were on our way home in daylight, sitting comfortably in a rapidly warming car.  I’d been glad of Mr W’s company which is always good but left to my own devices I wouldn’t have bothered to fish today.

17th December 2022

Saturday, according to the weatherman this should be the last cold one and by midday it did actually feel more pleasant than of late so I prepped my fishing gear with a bit more enthusiasm.  Giles arrived and we loaded his car then set off eastwards, somehow we’d manage to convince ourselves that sea fishing would be a good idea!  This autumn the moment I stopped sea fishing Cod arrived in greater numbers than they’ve been seen in several years and it was this that motivated us.  If these fish didn’t put in an appearance we both felt confident of catching a few Whiting for dinner.

We were fishing at the ‘Cauldron’ by 1330, lumps of squid and pieces of fish were chucked into a rising sea at varying distances then we sought shelter beneath brollies.  To begin with the temperature was manageable but the sharp southerly wind was constant and stung any exposed skin.  High tide was due around 1730, an hour or so into darkness.  In theory this was good and we whiled away the afternoon light confident that fish would feed later on.

The sea got higher, the sky got darker, the temperature dropped but the fish didn’t turn up.  We were both active, making sure we had fresh baits and doing all the right things  at what should have been the best time but it just didn’t happen.  Around 1800 with the tide now turned I chucked out a couple of bigger baits and thought ‘fuck it, that’ll do’ then retreated beneath my oval.  Here in a sanctuary from the wind I was comfortable and content but outside my haven the night was hostile.  Around 1830 I actually had a bite, not one of the erratic rattles that had lifted arse from seat a couple of times earlier, this was a definite bite.  I hovered over the rod and when it rattled again I struck too soon, that was as close as I got.

When Giles struggled over at 1900 and suggested we call it a night I was well happy to do so.  To be honest I’d have been happy to go home and hour earlier.  I’d enjoyed the fishing but I didn’t really want to be there.  I’m not sure how that works either?  Once again I felt respect for the lunatics for whom this is their sport of choice throughout the winter, tonight it wasn’t for me.  Will I have another go before spring arrives?  Probably.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

It's always over so quickly

Being a quite useless individual where practical things are concerned my fishing involves a great deal of planning and preparation, never more than my autumn Piking.  There are things I can do before I ever leave home that will stack the odds a little bit more in my favour; the hardware is tried and tested but line and knots have to be checked, as do traces and most weeks I can spend up to an hour in an evening just sharpening hooks.  Most important of course is bait, there’s no excuse for not having the right types at the right times.  Through October I’m obsessed, my mind is not in my body, more often than not it’s in one of several reed fringed weedy bays.  I spend hours studying the weather to come and looking at potential places on google earth.  For a few weeks (at least) I become a fucking Pike fishing trainspotter.  Dragging a fibre glass boat in and out of the drink is hard work and I seem to get more clumsy as I get older leading to frequent bumps and bruises.  Two days and a night afloat and I fish hard, as if I know every swim holds the fish of dreams, it’s physically tough and I get home exhausted.

Is it all worth it?  Based on what I’ve actually caught then there have been several seasons when a sane person would say ‘no, definitely not’.  But that doesn’t matter when the place you are fishing is so special and when it does come right no fishing I’ve experienced comes close.  But it is hard work and I know I won’t be able to do it forever.

It’s been this way for a long time now, I’ve been spending the autumn doing the same thing in the same place and honestly, going into this one I was asking myself ‘how many more?’  The beach fishing has been so enjoyable I didn’t want it to end but happily the changing seasons sees fishy migration in both salt and freshwater so the change came about naturally.  But did I really have the energy to take the place on again?

Now the month has ended, it’s still autumn but the clocks have changed, the restrictions are in place and I’m starting to descend to a place of relative sanity.  Seven visits in six weeks, the big effort is almost over for another year and as usual I’ve lived, breathed and loved it.  Everything was as it should be, the fishing was challenging, the wildlife was wonderful and for once I got lucky and avoided the drenching days.  It was a privilege to be afloat in my favourite swamp and I reckon I’ve got a few more seasons left in me.  But now I need a rest.

Friday 30 September 2022


Saturday came around again, high tide was due at 1630 which isn’t ideal but at least on these shorter days darkness comes earlier every week.  But where to fish?  I had a couple of ideas but Giles came up with a different suggestion; he’d fished ‘posh beach’ once before and had been tipped off it fished well on the outgoing tide which if true would be ideal.  I left in the early afternoon and had a strange journey through rural Suffolk with a kamikaze motor cyclist coming straight at me and a lost caravaner caused chaos on a narrow village street, rumour has it he was last seen at the low bridge in Needham…

Eventually I broke free of the carnage and found myself at the beach which is conveniently lined with a road.  This is good as obviously we don’t have to hump the kit too far but it does have some drawbacks…  There were other cars about too, mostly very large ones with vanity plates and also a couple of fellow anglers.  Giles was already fishing and his tips were bouncing, the waves were high and the sea was roaring but the fresh wind was blowing over our backs and the shelf gave shelter.

 By 1430 I had two baits out and it was pleasant sitting there but for two hours nothing happened except the sea marched towards us, the waves grew bigger and louder.  We sat and chatted and pretty much let the baits soak, with all the commotion we’d be hard pushed to tell a bite but when we wound in we still had bait attached.  Behind us cars came and went, some people sat eating chips and a couple of others just stood looking at us, as if we were some kind of spectacle put there for their amusement.

By 1700 with the tide on the way down and things relatively steady I thought I saw a fishy tremble on ragworm which I’d had to cast further than I normally would due to the big waves and heavy undertow.  This didn’t develop but when I wound in there was a fish attached, well an Eel but at least I’d avoided the blank.  A few minutes later so had Giles with a Whiting also caught on rag and this was the first of very many he caught over the next couple of hours.  As for me I really struggled to see bites or more to the point my tips wouldn’t stop moving and it looked like I was getting constant action.  Even moving the tripod and following the sea back down the beach didn’t help, for some reason my lines were at the wrong angle and waves were breaking over them at regular intervals giving false fishy rattles.  Giles had no such trouble and kept on catching Whiting regularly on rag or strips of mackerel, with darkness the wind dropped a bit and the action continued.  I did manage to catch a couple of Whiting on the lighter rod which I still had to cast further behind the waves than usual, to be honest I didn’t see either bite, the fish were just there when I wound in.  Then a few seconds of anticipation when I saw a thump on the heavy rod, the result was another Whiting.

Tonight we were reminded what a scary entity the sea can be, the waves weren’t just big they were unpredictable with rogues occasionally swamping shingle we trusted to stay dry.  This caused me two wet feet but Giles trumped this when releasing a Dogfish the first we’d seen in months, by falling over in an unsuccessful attempt to out run a wave while back peddling.  I did apologise for my spontaneous laughter.  By 2030 the fishing had slowed but Giles had massacred the Whiting, literally as he was well into double figures and took a load of legal ones to feed the family.  I had another Whiting, another Eel and after a decent rattle on rag a Bass which though not particularly big knew how to use the waves to its advantage.

By 2130 we’d used all the rag and had enough so we packed up and hiked for yards back to the car.  Posh beach isn’t as appealing as the wilder beaches but is definitely a good option for when conditions don’t favour our preferred places. The drive home was longer than it should have been as I missed a turn and found myself going in the right general direction but on entirely different roads but it all worked out in the end.

It was the unplanned bank holiday and my presence in the house was not needed so I spent a few hours in the garden, not doing anything at all that requires green fingers.  It’s that time of year, the great shed reversal ahead of the winter spent mostly Pike fishing?  I went through my bags and checked I had all I needed, Sharpened up some lures then went through the rods one by one, rigging them up for the season ahead.  When that was all done putting some of that gear to the test seemed like a good idea.

Isaac and I were fishing by 1600 on an afternoon that had become cool and cloudy with a light north westerly.  We took a boat out onto an old lake and after a long row commenced fishing with lures.  Isaac fished with floating divers worked slowly over the weed, I covered the same zone but fished with sinking lures, shads and curly tails.  It was slow to begin with but after a couple of moves we found a few fish.  Isaac was first to hook up with a Jack that nailed a salmo perch and unhooked itself beside the boat.  I bumped one on a big curly tail then shortly after hooked one on the same lure, this too was unhooked beside the boat, I reckoned it was about the same size as Isaac’s fish but he swore his was bigger.

We moved again and had a couple of fish that swirled at our lures and disappeared for good but it didn’t matter, we’d got what we came for, my first attempt to catch a Pike for six months was successful so I rowed back while Isaac trolled a lure but this didn’t entice anything.  A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t thinking about Pike but now it’s nearly time, I’m getting the pull.

Another day spent doing odd fishy jobs ahead of the autumn, putting the finishing touches to my Pikey kit ahead of the season.  There’s bait in the freezer and petrol in the can, I’m ready now.  But before that there’s still time for a bit more beach fishing and this weekend the high tide was pretty much where I wanted it.  All things considered it all looked good for another trip to the Cauldron.

I arrived at the shore at 1720, bang on tow tide and looked down at the boiling cauldron.  It was hissing violently as I expected but I’d seen it much worse.  I was in no great hurry to set up knowing the sea would become more manageable as time went on.  As the current eased so the waves should build, at the moment there was the barest ripple hitting the shingle but I knew this would increase and by high tide there would be a boom and crash.  By 1745 I had my usual two set ups cast out, or more accurately lobbed out a few yards as the current would allow.  Too far and the leads would be on their way to Holland.

The forecast had been iffy enough for me to hump the oval brolly across the marsh but once at the beach, for the first time this year, I discovered the north easterly was not half as strong as I’d been led to believe.  At least I’d be sheltered from the drizzle which blew through from time to time and I’d be snug and comfortable for the long evening ahead.  By 1800 I was all settled, sitting comfortably with tea brewing, all was right in my world and at that moment there was no place I’d rather be.  All I needed was a fish or two.  After five minutes the light rod signalled something had grabbed my ragworm, a decent Bass was winched ashore and I hadn’t even drunk my tea yet.

What experience I have of this beach suggested the fishing would be slow to begin with but I expected darkness to liven things up and the two hours leading up to high tide at 2345 should be the best time.  I had an eel on ragworm at 1830 and then waited two hours for another bite by which time it was deepest dark and the sea was growling, somehow I managed to miss it.  Another hour passed before the light rod rattled again and I had a second Bass of the evening.  I expected this to be the first of many but it didn’t work out like that.  I had bites alright, every now and then, never in bursts like can happen but I just couldn’t connect with any.  Many were plucks and rattles that didn’t develop into anything but for some I was too quick, some too slow but others I don’t know how I missed.  Most were on the ragworm fished close but there were two good thumps on the heavy rod which got the heart pounding.

I kept trying, kept casting and varying the distance on the heavy rod, kept dropping the banker bait into the dead cert spot but by 0015 I still hadn’t added to my tally.  Part of me wanted to stay on and keep trying but the sensible voice took over saying ‘get home you idiot you’re fucking knackered.’  A disappointing night on what will probably be my last beach trip of the year, probably but not definitely.

Monday 12 September 2022

Tonight, tonight

Saturday came around again and after a frantic morning and a rushed curry for dinner I managed to get everything sorted for a pick up at 1400, just.  But Giles had wound his watch the wrong way and we set off later than planned after all.  On the way we crammed another old friend into the car, Mr T is another angler who I’ve known for over thirty years though most of our shared experience occurred in pubs and parties in the early days.  The destination was Radar beach, mostly for convenience and the scenery.  The tide times weren’t in our favour but we were confident some Bass would put in an appearance.  This they did with a flurry of bites just after high tide at 1700 and another spell just into darkness.  I think we ended up with two each and Giles managed a Rockling.

But most of all we just sat, drinking beer, laughing and having the kind of conversations that you can only have with old friends because there is so much that doesn’t need to be said. Tonight we discussed dreams and drugs, politics and philosophy.  To be fair between us we have far more personal experience in some of these areas than we do the others.  Inevitably we dissected the state of our planet which is spinning out of control and unquestionably heading for disaster.  That we can find this as hilarious as we do horrifying probably says much about us, whether this makes us good or bad people is open to debate and ultimately irrelevant.  In the end the sentiment of the evening was to stay sane in a mad world you need to indulge yourself in the things you love and one of those is spending time with your mates, sitting by the water, watching rods.

A week later…  It’s been a surreal couple of days, people in general don’t know what to do, entertainment has ceased which is fair enough but work still goes on, of course.  But Saturday I am going fishing regardless and there was no doubt this week, I knew exactly where I wanted to go and felt a little nervous for some reason.  High tide would be just after midnight which seemed ideal for fishing the area I am going to call ‘the Cauldron’.  I didn’t have a plan B which I might have lived to regret but didn’t.

The day passed slowly, I wasn’t quite counting the hours but I did glance at the clock regularly.  TMS helped, an eerie start to the days play, the words have changed on a song I don’t sing.  Even over the radio it felt like a bowling day and England were just too good for a batting line up that managed to be even worse than it looked on paper.  England’s reply was emphatic and by the time a shower interrupted things we were only twelve runs behind with seven wickets intact.  With that I loaded the car, got in and head east.

After some long overdue rain (three months since…) Suffolk is showing signs of recovery, a little greenness lines the roads now for the next few weeks at least.  Relief at the little car park, for once there was room to spare, I was quickly laden and away on a footpath cutting through marsh.  Ahead of me the fun boat cruised serenely along the sea wall, or at least that was how it looked.  When I arrived at the shore there was another angler is situ but not where I wanted to sit.  I looked down at the cauldron, still boiling seaward so I wouldn’t be able to fish far out for a while.  A shower of drizzle passed over as I set up, I was in no hurry to get the baits out so started off with a lure rod, casting a savage spoon type thing which I worked with and against the current.  I felt I had a chance but didn’t feel anything fishy in the forty five minutes I was casting.

It was nearly 1900 by the time I had my two baits out; squid and rag but both had to be fished close for a while at least.  The sky had cleared and as the light faded the sea noticeably climbed the beach, waves building, sound increasing.  After half an hour the flow had eased and I was able to fish the squid at range and half an hour later, with the head torch now on and the full moon rising it was the heavy rod that signalled the first decent bite.  I hoped for big things of the sharky type but the result was silver, a decent Bass.  The recast brought a quick bite, a proper whack on the heavy gear and a rod bending result and after a bit of push and pull in the surf I beached a bigger Bass, one of my best so far.  The heavy rod rattled again soon after and once again it was a decent Bass on a whole squid.  Then things went quiet.

Two hours later I was wondering what was going on, three Bass on Squid but only plucks and rattles on ragworm, the banker bait.  But still I was confident, high tide was still an hour away and surely the best was yet to come?  With the cauldron almost full the bites began, the fish had moved in close and the ragworm was getting molested regularly.  Every cast brought a rattle at least, some I struck too quickly others not quick enough but there were many that I couldn’t miss.  The minutes leading up to high water were hectic but after the turn the fishing got progressively slower.  It was exhilarating fishing, the beach was illuminated by a full moon but the sea looked dark and threatening.  The noise of the waves had built to a booming, crashing wall of sound and I barely had time to sit down, on the go constantly.  I tried dropping bigger squid baits in close and had a couple of rattles but all the fish beached came to ragworm.  I finished at 0145 having caught nine more Bass, none bigger than a pound and a half but only one smaller than three quarters. 

The drive home was on empty roads but punctuated by thick mist patches, inside the car Smashing Pumpkins reminded me of the roaring sea.  I hit bed at 0300 and passed out.

Monday 29 August 2022

A couple of days in August

Where should I go on an early evening tide?  The beaches have been slow and there’s a stiff south westerly today.  If I fished that spot on the river it would be blowing over my head and I’d be sheltered by an embankment, also there’s a chance of catching on lures which is enough motivation to make the long walk.  I was fishing by 1620 with rag on the light rod and squid on the heavy rod but I had to fish both close as drifting weed was a nightmare.  I used the lure rod too, fishing around my lines with jigs, spoons and spinners and wandering down to the snags every now and then but nothing was at home today.  For a while nothing much happened but the signs were good, there were fry congregating in the calm water in front of me, Terns were diving and surely the Bass would be hunting them?

I had a few rattles but my first proper bite came after an hour but it wasn’t a proper Bass, just a little one.  This wasn’t the start of a feeding spell though, I was getting the odd rattle but just one more Bass landed before high tide at 1840 but this wasn’t unexpected.  By 1900 the tide was going out and gathering pace but in truth the fishing action wasn’t.  Bites did come more frequently but not as many as last time I’d fished and I had nothing at all on lures, not even the snags produced any fish.  By the time the sun was setting I was fishing both rods on ragworm, I thought the bites might stop with darkness but I did get a few more, a couple that I don’t know how I missed plus another Bass, my sixth and an Eel.

I packed up at 2130 when I ran out of both bait and energy.  This coincided with an invasion of tiny bugs which covered everything but at least they didn’t want to suck my blood.  Then came the walk in the dark, by the time I got back to the car I was blowing a bit but more than anything I was bored of putting one foot in front of the other.

One week later...

It was supposed to be my day off but an emergency shift popped up so I was up at 0630 and drove north for a busy day in the tourist heart of Broadland.  Wroxham, it is what it is but it’s definitely not what comes to my mind when I think of the broads, this was more like Yarmouth on the Bure.  When I agreed to the shift I arranged to leave early as I’d already bought my bait and had a beach night planned.  I got home and switched the radio on to TMS while I filled the flask and sorted bait and tackle, I happily heard the last four wickets of an England win before the gear was sorted.

Twelve hours after I’d got out of bed my feet were crunching shingle as I followed Giles towards the sea, we dumped our gear at the top of the slope and looked down at a cauldron of boiling water.  This is an area of bars and gullies with currents that would take a life time to work out.  We’d decided to brave the ‘tricky beach’ and having arrived just before low tide we found the water racing out towards the open sea.  From what we’ve learned about this area we expected things to get more manageable once the tide turned, then we’d fish the tide all the way up to the next high point which would arrive in the early minutes of tomorrow.  The sky was clear but a north easterly wind blew in our faces, as usual it was stronger than forecast but as usual it would drop away as night fell.

To begin with any attempts to fish at range saw the rig dragged down tide before the lead had a chance to hit the seabed.  Baits fished closer held for a while until drifting weed added weight to the line and pulled it round, a problem that occurred on and off throughout the night.  With the tide on the way back up the fishing became more relaxed.  I fished my usual methods; Ragworm on a running rig which I dropped in very close and bigger tubes of wretched squidy stinkiness were fished at whatever range the currents would allow at the time.  Time passed and it seemed to get dark quickly but our tips had stayed stationary, I began to have my doubts, the beaches have been slow lately.  As the sea crept up the slope so the waves got bigger and louder, beach fishing is rarely quiet.

About two hours in with the sky fully dark I was watching my tip jag up and down on a whole squid I’d managed to keep pinned to the bottom for a while.  It looked kind of fishy but I figured it was probably just the lead shifting slightly in the tide.  Then two sharp downward pulls convinced me it had to be a fish!  I picked up the rod and wound into a decent weight, I wondered if it was a ball of weed but no this was definitely pulling back.  It seemed to take ages to bring it to the shore and several times the unseen sea creature pulled the rod down with force.  With a good fish in close I’ve learnt to be patient, I can’t pull against the outgoing wave but the next incoming one will help me.  I was expecting to see a decent Ray but something long and pale emerged from the dark water, a Smoothound and my biggest by a distance!  The bigger they get the more impressively shark-like they become and I was chuffed as nuts, the best thing to happen to me in saltwater this year.

Eventually I calmed down and resumed fishing but this wasn’t the start of any kind of feeding spell.  The fluctuating currents meant a lot of recasting on the heavy rod but seeing that fish had motivated us and we were up for it but for an hour nothing happened.  Then it was the light rod fished close in that gave a positive rattle and I wasn’t surprised to wind a small Bass up the beach.  At no point did the fishing become hectic but in the run up to high tide we both had regular bites on baits fished only a few yards behind the waves and we caught Bass steadily, what’s more they seemed to be getting bigger.  A slight tremor on my light rod brought another species, a tiny bloody Eel.  The fishing was interesting enough but we really wanted one of the big fish baits to go.

By the time high tide arrived the stars were spectacular but the ragworm was running out so I swung out a bundle of odds and ends tipped with one small lively worm.  I was starting to tidy up when I glanced up to see the light rod being yanked down violently, a good fish had hooked itself and felt powerful as it tried to head down tide.  It had been hooked on a short line but I had to be patient again and use the tide to my advantage.  I was sure I was playing a good sized Bass and so it proved as a lovely big silver bar was carried in on a wave.  For the second time tonight I knew I was looking down on a PB.  Mind blown, this was surreal.

The changing tide brought a new breeze, we knew things would become unfishable soon.  I left the remaining couple of ragworm for Giles and mounted a small squid on a big hook and plopped it out, big fish or bust.  Giles caught another decent Bass, by now it was approaching 0200 and we were knackered so commenced tidying up.  As usual I left one rod balanced on my chair for as long as possible while I stashed the other gear, this was the squid fished close and I could have sworn the tip just gave a rattle?  I wound in to find another fish attached, my seventh Bass of the evening was another decent sized fish but was nothing like the last one.

Dog tired but happy, we were quiet on the way home but Spiritualised sounded great.  Back home I sorted out a few bits as quietly as possible then washed and head upstairs, I lay down twenty one hours after I got up, today was a good day.

Sunday 14 August 2022


The Princess reminded me we hadn’t spent many nights under canvass this year which was all the excuse I needed to go rummaging for the bivvy/small green tent.  I did briefly consider the possibility of putting it up on a beach somewhere…  But this would have been a bit daft and the tides weren’t inspiring either.  So in the end we returned to the Valley for the first time since when?  Probably last August. 

I set up knowing it was unlikely that I would catch anything, I rarely do at the best of times but just dropping in for a night on the off chance is never ideal.  For once there were a couple of other anglers present but both were friends and after a chat we all gave each other a wide berth.  My plan was to find a couple of clearer patches amongst the weed, dump a pile of pellets on them and top them off with a bright yellow pop up and this is what I did.

With our camp erected we sat back chatting, drinking tea and enjoying a pleasant day in the countryside.  The sun was shining but the south easterly kept the temperature comfortable.  I watched the water, there were definitely patches of bubbles that could only be attributed to fish but was it a large individual Tench or Carp?  Sometimes it is but more often it’s a shoal of silver fish destroying any food available.  Still it gave me a bit of hope, I began to feel like I had a chance but to be honest I’d rather have been sitting on a beach.  We enjoyed the evening but when the sun sank the temperature cooled quickly and we were tucked up in the bivvy/tent by 2230.

I slept badly and not just because the Princess was snoring.  Swans were a nuisance and I actually had a couple of liners which shocked my eyes open.  By 0600 I was awake, sitting in a chair and staring out across the water, there were loads of silvers topping and the occasional explosion of bubbles but nothing to get me excited so I closed my eyes and dozed off in the chair.  I was eventually roused by the sounds of wakefulness coming from the tent which was my cue to get breakfast underway.  A while later we were sipping tea and munching on sausage sarnies, a meal which never tastes better than when you are sitting by water.

I felt the need to catch something so set up a whip with a light rig and an 18 hook, nicked on a fake red maggot and swung it out.  Twenty minutes and twelve Rudd later I’d had enough and the whip was packed away again.  We sat it out till midday by which time the sun and heat were becoming oppressive so we happily packed away.  Another night after the elusive Tench and Carp at the valley went exactly as predicted.

A few days later…

A day off work and although I was busy in the morning a couple of hours opened up in the afternoon, I had a chance to fish and if I could be arsed with the long walk to the Bass spot I’d get there at a potentially decent part of the tide.  But then there was the weather, fucking hot and horribly humid.  Only mad dogs etc.  If I was fishing freshwater then I’d have said it was a pointless waste of time but salt water is different and the weather is always different when you are facing the sea.  High tide was around 1250 which was roughly when I left home and an hour later I was fishing, throwing rubber sandeels into the fast flow and cranking them back quickly before the ripping tide could wash them into the snags where I hoped the Bass would be at home, it had worked last time.

There were fishy boils and splashes and I started getting bumps on the lure from the word go but it was a few minutes before I hooked up.  A nice fish whacked the tip round and dived for the snags, I managed to keep it out but only just.  With the fish tired I walked it down to a spot where I could beach it, a decent fish but not big enough to keep should I have been in the mood.  A few casts later I had a repeat and managed another Bass that was slightly smaller, it was looking good for a few more too.

But it didn’t turn out that way.  I was getting regular thumps on the lure but not hooking up so switched to a small shad and caught another smaller Bass straight away.  Next cast the tide swept the lighter lure into the snags and that was the last I saw of it.  I tried the infamous Dexter Wedge and this done the trick with a big fish that thumped the rod over.  Once again I had a tug of war trying to keep the fish away from the structure but this time the fish won.  It took the line through a load of nasty stuff and I lost both it and the lure.  How big?  Bigger than anything I landed last time.

Despite covering the area with jigs, plugs and spoons that was the last action of the day, the fish had either spooked or moved away of their own accord.  I folded the rod at 1515 after about ninety minutes fishing and commenced the long march back in the searing heat, away from the water the temperature and humidity cranked up. It was all a bit daft really but I’d enjoyed myself.

Another day, another fucking roasting hot day and in the morning I had some unavoidable physical exertion.  I was home in the early afternoon and felt ropey so hid indoors until the worst of the heat had subsided.  The evening was free time which I intended to spend by the water but where?  It would definitely be salt water that much was certain.  High tide was due late, so late it would actually be tomorrow and I didn’t think I’d have the energy to sit it out till then.  I’d be arriving with the tide at its lowest so it made sense to me to fish somewhere with deep water easily reachable and over the last two years I’ve learnt a few spots that fit the bill. 

I headed east, (it’s a very long way to the sea if you go west) through parched countryside, no serious rain in eight weeks now.  Field fires are becoming common, the fire brigade is stretched and I had no complaints when an engine blocked my way for a few minutes.  Further on the Police were controlling traffic, no fire this time just three massive straw bales which had jumped off a trailer on a sharp bend.  Eventually I got through and as I neared the coast I tried to narrow down my options.  The first car park would have been manageable but I really fancied the next one unfortunately this was rammo, no chance.  At the steep beach it didn’t seem too bad so I parked up and humped my gear down the crunching shingle shore line.  There were plenty of people about, a few anglers but mostly day trippers daft enough to dunk themselves in the North Sea.  I was sure most of these would be fucking off soon and so it proved.

Today I told myself I was going all out for the big fish; Rays or Smoothounds, using mostly squid and crab baits.  The heavy rod would be used to launch baits as far as I could and on the lighter one I would vary the distance, I was fishing by 1920, bang on low tide.  Here by the sea the breeze kept the temperature down to a manageable, comfortable level and despite there being no shelter I was soon sitting in shade, I call it the steep beach for a reason.  The sea was flat, I should have no trouble seeing any bites tonight but I was realistic, from my limited experience things seemed far from ideal and I would gladly settle for just one fish tonight.

The evening that followed was relaxed and comfortable, the only exertion came when the rising tide forced me to move my camp to the top of the slope.  The sun sank, the sky grew dark and the moon rose red, I saw several shooting stars and wished on all of them but not for fish however I don’t believe this was the reason I didn’t catch any.  My baits remained untouched all night, not even molested by crabs which made for a more relaxing time although I’m starting to believe the fishing is actually better when the crabs are active, which would make sense.  I gave it till midnight then a few minutes more but I hadn’t felt confident at any point and it wasn’t a wrench to drag myself off the beach.  We all have to blank sometime.

Sunday 31 July 2022

Some days are better than others

Another hot, sunny day but let’s not complain because winter is long enough.  That said in this part of Suffolk we’ve only had one day of significant rain since the beginning of June.  Driving on familiar country roads the fields I sliced through were parched and harvest was in full swing, the sky hazy with dust.  I couldn’t decide where to go; I keep thinking about the tricky beach, an outer estuary spot I fished last year which was either shit or bust, a waste of time or brilliant.  The trouble here is it is a bugger to hold when the tide ebbs, as it will later tonight.  If I can’t fish effectively then I’ll be wasting the first couple of hours of darkness, the key time.  High tide is due a little after eight tonight so if I fished Radar again I’d be in business all the way…

In the end I played safe and went to Radar which is usually the least busy of my preferred places, tonight I was lucky and pulled into the last available space in the car park, this after making off with the last ragworm in the shop earlier.  The beach beside the car park was busy with sun seekers, they had all they needed here, no need to go wandering, if they did they’d find another world around the corner.  I pushed through the gorse and found the wind blowing into my chops and a good bit stronger than the one I’d left at home.  The sea was bouncing too, big waves pounding the beach, some tell me these are good conditions for Bass but I’m not convinced.  I started setting up, for a second I considered turning round and heading back to the tricky beach but thought ‘fuck it I’m here now’.

I was soon tackled up with a whole squid bound and pennelled launched on a pulley rig then a small strip of squid fished on a running leger on the light rod.  I started with two tough baits while I got everything organised and made a brew.  I didn’t expect anything to begin with but once I put ragworm on things might get busy.  As I sipped my brew it looked like something was tapping away on the light rod and sure enough I wound in a tiny Eel which was unhooked easily.  Now time for the live bait, Bass love ragworm and that was what I was mostly hoping for tonight.  It didn’t take long, the first cast brought a decent bite and a nice little Bass wriggled up the beach.

The heavy rod hadn’t moved but I wound in to check the bait and found it was hardly touched.  This suited me tonight, I wanted to leave a big bait out there hoping for a Ray or a Hound while I hauled in the Bass.  Next cast on the light rod brought another bite and another small Bass, everything seemed to be going to plan for a change, this was easy.

But it didn’t work out like that.  The tide rose and the sun dipped but despite everything seeming right nothing much happened.  The expected action at high tide came in the form of just one more small Bass and with the coming of darkness I had another slimy rig mangler.  What bites I had came on the light rod fished about thirty yards out while the heavy rod didn’t show a single bite.  I gave it till 2230, fully dark with the tide retreating fast then called it a day, things had not at all gone to plan.

One week later...

Everyone tells me that the best places for Bass in summer are the salt water rivers but I don’t fish them much.  Where there is access there are always people and I don’t like people.  I like fishing the beaches because they are wild places and there’s always the chance of something big like a Ray or a Hound, it’s these species that motivate me most.  But it’s been slow on the beaches recently and with high tide due at 1355 there was only one sensible thing to do and that was fish a river and go all out for Bass.  Luckily I know a spot, a fairly obvious one really but it’s off the beaten track and a bloody long walk, enough to put most people off.  I paid just one visit last year and was rewarded with a few fish but that walk!  Could I really be arsed?  I shelled out for some ragworm, essential for Bass and expensive enough to make sure I got off my backside and used it.

Because of the early tide I left home in the late morning after a big breakfast.  The first part of the drive was easy, travelling on big roads that were busy, singing along to Tom Petty then the roads got narrower and I finished on a couple of miles of gravel and dust.  Once parked I then had a mile hike to a spot with man-made structure and deep water close in, it takes effort to get there and by the time I dropped my gear I was blowing a bit.  My reward was a swim that would be cramped and uncomfortable until the tide dropped a bit but a nice view was guaranteed, would there be any fish about?  They were this time last year…  The flood bank sheltered me from a decent westerly wind but if the sun broke through the thin cloud there’d be no hiding place.

I started just after noon and fished how I always do; a big bait on the heavy rod, on this occasion squid, and ragworm on the light rod.  I expected action on the rag from the word go but whenever I’m this confident it never happens.  The heavy rod was on the move, loads of weed was being shifted by the tide and dragging the line with it.  I had to fish both rods close in while all this was going on.  For an hour nothing happened and I started to have doubts, would the long walk be for nothing?  Sighting a Seal did nothing for my confidence either.  But at 1330 the tip rattled and my first Bass of the day was steered through clumps of weed.  It wasn’t a bad size either, bigger than most of the handful I’ve had off the beaches this year.  

This was the start of a feeding spell in the run up to high tide, I had regular rattles on the ragworm and landed two more Bass but nothing at all happened on the heavy rod.  I’d brought a lure rod too and was casting a kwikfish with enthusiasm but nothing intercepted it.  After high tide came a lull but I still had the odd bite here and there, by 1530 I’d landed three more decent Bass all on Rag.  Then it went quiet, the tips remained motionless and it looked like the shoal had moved on.

I walked up to the structure and liked the way the water boiled and swirled.  Its snaggy here, risky for a leger rig but I fancied running a lure through the area.  The kwikfish was just being swept downstream so I put a rubber sandeel type thingy onto a jig head and started casting.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when a Bass swirled in front of me and a couple of casts later I hooked one.  It fought like hell on the light lure rod, much more fun than the casting sticks to be honest and eventually I lifted the fish ashore, my best of the day so far, not quite legal size.  A couple of casts later I was in again, another decent fish tried hard to get in the snags but somehow the light gear kept it out, this was a little bigger than the first, definitely a keeper.  I bumped a fish then hooked up again and had another repeat battle and for the third time in a row upped my lure caught PB.  I had one more on the rubber lure making it four in half an hour before the fish moved off; I tried again at intervals but didn’t get another touch on lures.

So it was back to the ragworm and by now I was fishing it on both rods.  The tide was well on the way down now but I still had bites in fits and starts, mostly on the light rod but bigger worm baits fished a little further on the heavy rod brought me two bigger fish, both of which were legal size.  The last fish got itself weeded, making me think I might have something special but when it appeared it was one of the smallest of the day.  By 1830 I was knackered and still had a mile hike back to the car ahead of me but I’d had my best ever days Bass fishing; I caught fifteen, four of which would have been legal ‘keepers’ and for the first time since I’ve started this sea fishing malarkey I bonked one on the head and put it in the cool bag.  We ate it tonight fried and laid on a bed of rice and veg and it was bloody good but I don’t think I’ll make a habit of it.

Gone Fishing by Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse.

I’m a lifelong addicted angler, I like the two comedians cum authors and I really enjoy their TV show.  I don’t watch much fishing on screen, in general I prefer to read about it but “Mortimer and Whitehouse go fishing” for the same reasons I do and they manage to capture this on film.  It’s one of the very few TV programs that fasten my arse to the chair and when I watch I find myself smiling constantly for the whole half hour.  Yes it is about catching fish, preferably big ones but mostly it’s just about being there, in a beautiful place having a laugh with your mates.  I expect it annoys the hell out of people who like to watch carp anglers holding something the size of a water buffalo whilst screaming at the camera. 

But this is about the book which is a predictable money grabber on the back of the series BUT it is an amusing read, it had me laughing and is certainly good for anyone who looks at fishing and think ‘You know, I’d like to try that’ which is what the authors wanted. I can’t remember if its three or four TV series now but I hope they keep going fishing.