Monday 30 May 2022


On paper everything looked spot on; high tide around 2310 just after dark, just how we like it.  The weather was kind too, cool with a light northerly but dry and bright, things should be comfortable on the beach.  But which beach?  Giles and I discussed it on the drive along ever narrowing lanes.  We fancied a change to our usual haunt and the timing of the tide brought shallower areas into play, in our inexperienced minds at least so we headed for Radar beach and arrived around 1845.

The cloud had drifted out to sea leaving a clear, hazy evening.  I could feel the north wind as we loaded up in the car park but our hike took us into a sheltered spot where we would spend a comfortable evening, despite the gentle breeze the waves were rolling and booming but we were comfortable.  As usual I had two baits in the water long before Giles who didn’t help his cause by leaving his bait in the car.  By the time he returned I hadn’t had a bite which was to be expected as he always catches the first few fish.  Sure enough he had bites straight away and managed to connect to two decent dogfish in fairly quick time.  I hadn’t had a bite just the rhythmical rod nodding with the flow, even the crabs were absent. The sun sank below the mound and the layers went on. 

Around 2100 I rigged up a hermit crab and tried to launch it with the heavy rod but the sky was light enough for me to see half my bait fly off.  I wound in to find I still had a decent lump of crab bound to the hook so bulked it up by whipping a slice of squid around it.  This unusual bait (for me at least) was successfully hurled a respectable distance, I tightened up to a nice curve then left it on the tripod while I sat down to whip up a proper bait to replace it.  As I did so I glanced at my rattle free rod tips every few seconds, a few minutes past then I done a double take after realising the heavy rod had straightened.  Whipping the bait was forgotten, I quickly wound down and pulled into a reasonable weight, it felt decent maybe my first Ray of the year?  As usual the resistance seemed to lessen as it got nearer the shore but when it reached the surf it woke up and started running down tide.  At this point I was wondering if I had a decent bass but the next wave revealed a Smoothound, not a big one by any measure but twice as big as any I caught last year and I was delighted. 

By now it was dusky and as usual the dropping light brought on another spell of activity.  It wasn’t hectic but we both had bites regularly, almost all of them coming to bigger baits fished further out.  On my light rod I tried big baits and small baits, varying the distance from a gentle flick to a full blooded cast.  Whatever I tried I only had one noticeable rattle on it all evening.  We missed a couple but each landed two more Dogfish and with high tide still to come we were confident of more.  The larger waves were now slapping our tripods so we hastily retreated our camp backwards a few yards.  In the dark there’s less to look out, the rod tips in the torch beams became the whole world but unfortunately they weren’t doing anything unusual.  Time passes quickly when you become entranced, two hours passed in a blink and without a knock.  It was time to leave.  The evening hadn’t gone as we’d expected but when do they ever?  Still we'd had a few fish each and I was well chuffed with the little Shark.

Monday 23 May 2022

Bernard Gonad and friends

I didn’t fish last week, that slot in the diary was taken up with an afternoon in the park, sitting around in the sun with my fishing pals and our families.  We ate cake, drank beer and played a very gentle game of cricket on a green strip full of mounds and pot holes.  In fact it was so unpredictable it hindered the bowler more than the batsman but I swear I’ve played league cricket on worse around the county of Suffolk.  A lovely afternoon but as the days ticked over I’d missed my fishing fix and Saturday couldn’t arrive soon enough.

Giles picked me up around 1300, with high tide due around 1600 we hoped to set up a couple of hours before then fish through and into darkness.  At home the weather was warm with sunny spells and a light westerly, this should be blowing off our backs and make for a comfortable evening.  As we’d be mostly fishing an ebbing tide we figured it made sense to fish the steep beach where we would always be in reach of deep water.  The car park was busy when we arrived, loads of other anglers had the same idea which meant a long, sapping walk along the shingle to find some space.  I was confused whilst setting up, the wind wasn’t where I’d left it, it was now blowing the wrong way, a south easterly right into our chops.  The sky was clear but the sea looked murky, we set up quickly confident of catching fish.

I’d brought a right old selection of baits but I started with squid on both rods while I got settled in.  Once I was comfortable I used Ragworm on the light rod which I mostly fished very close in.  Rag is usually productive bringing lots of bites from all kinds of species but fish can nick it off the hook easily too so requires constant attention.  On the heavy rod I used tougher longer lasting baits, mostly squid but I was also trying frozen peeler and hermit crabs.  But after an hour I hadn’t seen a proper bite on whatever I chucked out and on most casts the ragworm was disappearing.  I persevered with this bait because Bass like it but in hindsight it wasn’t staying on the hook long enough for a Bass to find it.

As usual Giles caught the first fish, a couple of Whiting and a Pouting.  He’s been doing well lately on strips of mackerel, a bait which is tough enough to stay on the hooks long enough for a fish to hang itself.  I think his flapper rig with short hooklengths gives better bite indication too but I like to stick to the long trace as I’m lead to believe its better for Bass and other, bigger species.  Eventually I saw a strange vibration on the light rod and managed to hit a bite which lead to my first fish of the day which was small, brown and flat, my first Flounder of the season. 

High tide came and went with just the odd rod tip rattle.  I stuck it out with the ragworm but experimented with the range I fished at.  Casting just a little bit further out I could at least see bites and if I wasn’t quick enough at least I knew when the bait would need changing.  I managed to catch a Pouting and a couple of crabs.  Meanwhile Giles managed another Whiting and the anglers within sight didn’t seem to be doing any better than us.  Around 1720 with the sea receding I noticed an angler about a hundred yards to the south of us was well bent into something, he dragged a creature out of the surf and lifted up what was clearly a decent sized Ray.  Within minutes I had a proper pull on the heavy rod and I too found myself connected to something with a bit of weight.  As I gradually pumped it towards me I was convinced I was into a Ray, not necessarily a big one but heavy enough to make its presence felt.   It was a little bit of an anti climax when I dragged a Dogfish up the beach but it was a brute and probably the biggest I’ve caught so far.

That signalled the start of a flurry of bites to us both, Giles had a Doggy and regularly wound Whiting up onto the shingle.  I was actually managing to see bites on ragworm and caught a succession of Pouting on the light rod.  I also had two proper, unmissable bites on the heavy rod which I somehow managed to convert into fuck all.  I think I get to excited when the heavy rod hoops over…  No time to get frustrated though as I needed to get a bait back out quickly.  It felt like every cast would bring something momentous but the feeding spell ended and things slowed down again.  By now it was about 1830 and we felt now it was a case of waiting for darkness when we were confident of more action.  This slow period was interrupted by a decent bite on my heavy rod baited with peeler crab.  I made another hash of the strike but still managed to connect to a something that didn’t feel heavy.  When it arrived on the beach it was a funny shape and almost red in colour, what the hell was it?  I knew what it was, I’d seen one before.

Sometime in the mid seventies we had a family holiday in Sussex, our family of four were joined by relatives; Uncle Charlie and Auntie Grace.  We did a bit of fishing off the beach but Dad was not particularly motivated and Charlie spent most of his time trying to untangle things.  In the two weeks we were there we didn’t angle a single fish but I managed plenty of crabs and a few miniature fishy things by dipping my net into pools.  Other anglers were more successful and we saw Plaice and Flounder caught at night and during the day someone caught a beautifully coloured creature which he put in a bucket and which I couldn’t help staring at.  This fish was a Gurnard and forty five years later this was what I had caught today.  It wasn’t a very big fish but it was beautiful with a reddish brown body and ITFC blue pectoral fins.  I was well chuffed, another first and I think the eleventh different species I’ve managed to catch in the last two years.  Like every daft carp angler I christened this fish with an appropriate name, Giles gave it an inappropriate one.

With the sky darkening we moved our kit down the beach to be closer to the receding tide.  I switched the light rod over to a two hook flapper baiting one with squid and the other with worm.  I figured if I missed a bite I should at least have some squid remaining on the hook.  Nightfall did bring a slight increase in activity, mostly on our lighter rods fished very close in; Giles had a couple more Whiting and I had a couple more Pouting.  This was all very well, after all catching fish is the aim but Pout wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind.  Tonight I’d have been better off without the ragworm, it became a distraction but having bought live bait I felt obliged to use it, another night it could make all the difference?

We fished on but the bites dwindled and it was no hardship winding the rods in at around 2300.  The tramp back with feet shifting in slipping shingle was tough, when we reached firmer ground it was as if we’d been fitted with turbos.  As usual we were dog tired and reeked of squid and other unpleasant substances and as usual we’d enjoyed it.  It was good to sink into a comfortable car seat and ride home through rural Suffolk listening to soothing sounds from these chaps.

Saturday 14 May 2022

Its just good fun...

Away to the coast again, this time with Giles.  We headed in the usual direction but which beach did we fancy?  We didn’t make our minds up where to go until we were well into the journey when somehow we managed to talk ourselves into fishing ‘Long hike beach’.  The lure of a Ray persuaded us to step out of our comfort zones and give ourselves a workout which we certainly got and it was a relief to put the gear down and gaze at the beach in front of us.  The evening was dry and mild but a breeze from the sea prevented us getting too warm and when the sun drops we’re always glad of extra layers.

We set up around 1830, with me using the usual methods that I am comfortable with.  Things were quiet to begin with and typically I was set up quickest but Giles caught the first fish, his first sea creature of the year was a Dogfish.  High tide was due after midnight which meant darkness fell on a rising tide and sure enough the fading light brought the fish on.  We had flurries of bites throughout the evening, catching fish in fits and starts, mainly Dogfish with the occasional Whiting, I had one of 33 cm which might be a PB.  Last time I’d fished here the bites had seemed relentless but tonight I liked the fact that it wasn’t non stop; firstly it was more relaxing and also it made me feel like the baits were staying in tact long enough to enable a Ray to find them?

Tonight it was the big bait at range that brought more bites so I started putting bigger baits on the lighter rod and varying the range.  I was enjoying catching the smaller species but it’s the thought of a Ray that motivates me.  We fished through the high tide and packed up around 0130.  The big Ray didn’t put in an appearance tonight but we enjoyed the evening finishing with about a dozen dogs and a few Whiting.  If the walk out seems long then the return hike feels never ending and the comfortable car seat most welcome.

A week later…

 This sea fishing lark ticks the boxes and I really look forward to my fishing fix these days so the working week dragged by but eventually Saturday comes…  The drive east caused me concern as the clouds were thickening and dropping drizzle neither of which had been forecast, the roads were soaked with huge puddles in some places but just a couple of miles from the coast the sky miraculously cleared.  When I pulled up at the Steep beach rain didn’t seem at all likely.

The high tide was due around 1600 so I was in position and fishing a couple of hours before, despite a spectacular crack off on my first cast.  About forty five minutes later Giles staggered smiling across the shingle and unloaded his mound of gear.  The weather this afternoon was weird; inland just a few miles was thick cloud kept at bay by a moderate north easterly.  Above us the sky was clearer with the sun poking through at times but a few miles out to sea there was more cloud which never seemed to get any closer.

I’d been fishing about an hour when Giles made his first cast but as usual he caught the first fish, A whiting and soon followed it up with a second, this time a Pouting.  He’d started getting rattles from the off and this didn’t stop, he wound in a few crabs before adding another Whiting.  I laughed and remarked that I was yet to see a proper bite and almost straight away the light rod started going and as I stepped towards the tripod the heavy rod joined in.  I picked up the latter and felt a bit of weight which seemed to get lighter as it neared the beach, my first of the day turned out to be a decent sized Dogfish, noticeably paler and with smaller spots than most I’ve caught lately.  The high tide period brought another fish for both of us.  Giles another Whiting and I had another Doggie which could have been the twin of the first, then things went quiet.

The early evening saw the tide gradually slip back down the beach and the when the sun was below the cloud it was clear and bright for a while.  The bites dried up and now we knew we were waiting for darkness to come.  A kind angler who had been fishing nearby passed us his unused ragworm as he stamped up the shingle which gave us another option.  The wind was supposed to ease as the day wore on but this didn’t happen there were fresh gusts through the evening but it stayed dry.

The bites started again just before the head torch became necessary and were sporadic for the couple of hours we stayed into darkness, despite the tide going all the way out.  I had a decent Whiting on the big bait and ragworm accounted for another along with a couple of Pouting on the other rod, Giles had similar results.  As usual we missed plenty and lost a fish or two each.  It was one of those nights when I know we could have continued catching but it had been a long session and we were both knackered.  The walk back to the cars was shorter than some but sapping all the same.  There’s a simplicity to our version of sea fishing which really appeals to me, especially as it comes after a winter of getting in and out of boats.  These two trips saw modest catches - nothing to get excited about but the novelty is yet to wear off, its such fun!