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.

Tuesday 12 July 2022


2nd July 

What a week.  When did life get so complicated?  How can so much stuff happen in such a short space of time?  I missed my fix last week and events seemed to be conspiring against me but my time slot remained clear, what should I do with it?  In theory the tide was all wrong for spending the evening on the beach, yes we’d have a chance but we’d be much better off going all out for Bass at an estuarine spot or even fish freshwater for a change.  I spoke to Giles and what we both decided was what we really wanted to do was just sit on a beach, stare at rod tips and chill out, so that’s what we did.

It takes a bit of motivation to fish ‘Long hike beach’ and how we found this in such unfavourable conditions is a mystery but there we sat in the early evening with the tide going down in front of us and the sun sinking behind.  We told ourselves we were fishing for one or two bites, hopefully from a Ray or a Hound.  We should have known better, we did know better but we done it anyway mostly because we just like chilling out on a quiet beach.  And quiet it remained, the tide went all the way out which exposed some interesting features that we might target another day.  At the very bottom of the tide I didn’t get a bite but I did wind in to find a Pouting had attacked a whole squid and hooked itself on the bottom hook of a Pennell rig, blank avoided.  I decided to change tactics, both rods would now be on big baits for a big fish, at least in theory.

The tide started coming back up the beach as the sun dipped and the sky darkened, there were times when the colours in the sky were fabulous but these were before and after I’d retrieved the camera.  As usual the rod tips held my gaze but the sound of the waves was hypnotic and I lost myself in the discovery that no two waves sound the same; some crash, some thump and some merely tinkle but all resonate in a unique way.  I should have been yanked out of my trance by a violent action on a rod tip but I wasn’t and neither was Giles.  We gave it till around 2300 before deciding enough was enough and tackling the return yomp to where we’d left the car.  From a fishing point of view it had been a waste of time but that kind of thing matters less and less as time goes by.

 9th July

One week later, the weather was hot, bright and sunny never ideal for any kind of fishing and we’re learning that this can also be true of this beach malarkey.  But at least the tide was more favourable, high due at around 1950 and fishing three hours down would take us into darkness.  Giles picked me up later than planned and on the journey after celebrating the demise of De Pfeffel and ranting about life in general we got round to discussing which beach we’d be heading for.  We both fancied similar spots which were miles apart and subtly different.  In the end we went to Radar beach, Giles first choice and my second though I was equally happy to be heading here.

I’d brought some Ragworm for a change and was confident of catching a bass on the light rod, as ever the heavy rod would be loaded up with something disgusting on a pulley rig and hurled.  We were fishing by around 1730 and to be honest I was expecting to be hauling Bass in from the word go but it wasn’t the case.  I was getting bites though, on most casts I’d get fast plucks and raps which stopped as soon as I put a hand on the rod.  I tried holding the rod but nothing would happen until I put it back on the tripod, typical.  Two hours in and I hadn’t hooked anything but Giles who was sticking to cut baits hadn’t seen a rattle.  Our baits were remaining mostly intact which meant crabs weren’t active.  I can’t decide if this is good or bad, it certainly means the fishing is more relaxing but does it also mean the bigger fish that eat the crabs won’t be around?  On the other hand are the crabs in hiding because the big fish are hunting?

With high tide approaching I tweaked the hook position on the rag worm, making the point more central and at last managed to hit some bites.  The first two brought the Bass I’d hoped for only small ones though I was confident a bigger one would come.  My next bite felt a bit heavier, it was but it was an Eel.  By this time Giles had cracked and scrounged some rag which he fished on his unique multi hook flapper set up.  This made the difference and he hit a bite and wound in something different; this was a flat fish and from the shape it could only be a Sole.  I caught one of these last year but this one was much bigger and as it was Giles’ first obviously a PB.

The light faded, as did the bites to my light rod, sunglasses were stashed and the head torch found.  By now the sea was retreating again but the dark always brings confidence.  Nothing had touched the heavy rod and I’d just mentioned this to Giles when something tried to pull it out of the tripod.  In forty five years of fishing I cannot remember a better example of an unmissable bite yet somehow I missed it…  I think I get over excited when the big bait gets taken like that, out of the blue, so I panic and strike like an idiot.  We speculated as to the culprit, surely a Smoothound or a big Ray?  We will never know and this is more frustrating with sea angling because although you can return to the same spot and seek revenge that unknown fish is not constrained by acreage or river stretches.

The deepening darkness brought more action, to Giles at least, his next bite on ragworm saw him wind in his first ever Smoothound, possibly the smallest either of us have ever seen but a first and another PB.  This was followed by another rattle on his flapper rig and another good sized Sole that was actually even bigger than his first.  The action had dried up a bit on my rods, with darkness I’d switched to hurling python sized worms as far as I could but this didn’t improve things.  I did get another decent bite on my heavy rod but managed to fuck that one up too.  Then Giles big bait was moving and he was into another fish which shrunk as it neared the edge as many seem to do.  This was another Smoothound pup, slightly bigger than the first which meant in a funny sort of way Giles had now caught four PB’s in the same night.

Then it all went quiet.  We had ‘one last cast’ and tidied up.  Though our rod tips weren’t moving we sat chatting for a good while longer than planned but eventually it was time to clear off.  Winding in my heavy rod I felt weight and became certain I had a fish attached.  Something long and pale appeared in the surf, it looked like another small Hound but it slipped the hook and became another one I’ll never know about.  Load up and walk back, crunching on shingle then brushing through bushes.  Only a few yards back from the beach the wind disappeared and the waves become inaudible, it’s a different world, warmer and safer but not as interesting.  Radar is rarely my first choice but I can’t remember having a bad time there, that’ll jinx it.

11th July 

A couple of days later the alarm sounded at the hideous hour of 0455.  I groaned and then remembered I was going fishing so swung my legs out of bed.  The day off was a late shift change and the early start was because I was meeting a mate.  Mr K is someone I’ve known for almost fifty years, we fished together as kids but despite staying in touch we hadn’t done so since sometime in the early eighties.  I loved coarse fishing but Mr K drifted towards the coast and hurling leads into the North Sea.  We’d discussed having a fish but this was the first time our days off had coincided.

I drove along quiet roads, outside the car the sun was already bright and a thin mist hovered above fields, woods and hedgerows.  The inside of the car was filled with Hendrix.  By 0630 I was back on Radar beach with Mr K to my right, I could already feel the sun on exposed skin and was thankful I’d remembered sun block.  I used squid and crab baits on my usual methods, basically dumped into the sea at various distances from the shore.  Once again there was no crab activity which meant I could leave baits in place longer and just relax.  Last season I’d not done well on day time tides at this time of year, the summer evenings were much better.  I wasn’t confident but that didn’t matter, just one fish of any species would do me, today catching up with an old pal was more important.

Mr K is an experienced sea angler and had wisely packed some ragworm which was getting a bit of attention.  He had several bites on the rising tide and landed a few small Bass while my rod tips remained motionless.  Between bites I picked Mr K’s brains and I’ll definitely be using the ‘up & over’ rig to make casting long hooklengths easier in future.  As the incoming sea climbed the beach a breeze picked up which made the beach more comfortable than it had been first thing.  Bigger waves were turning the bottom up too; I noticed a band of dirty water along the shore and started dropping the light rod very close in, just behind it.  Mr K had to be away early so I scrounged a couple of left over ragworm which went on immediately.  The new bait hadn’t been in place five minutes before the tip started juddering, I wound in a nice Bass, my biggest of the year so far.  The next cast brought a quick bite, my arse hadn’t even touched down on the chair before I was into another smaller Bass.  My last worm brought another bite and another hooked fish, I spied a small Eelish thing in the surf but thankfully it unhooked itself.

Meanwhile Mr K had managed to add another couple of Bass before he had to reluctantly leave the beach.  I sat in the sun for another hour or so but by now the tide was going out again and the beach was starting to fill up with day trippers.  I gave it till 1230 then tidied up, leaving was no great wrench because the only time I’d felt I had a chance was when I had rag on the hook.  Only a few yards inland I could no longer feel the breeze, it was like walking into an oven, I had a proper sweat on by the time I reached the car.  Next time… will be in a couple of weeks which is no big deal as the tides aren’t great next weekend.  But when I do fish again it’ll be an evening tide.