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.