Sunday 28 May 2023

Every tide is different...


Saturday had been forecast sunny but most of the day was warm with cloud, this suited me as I don’t like fishing when it’s clear for some reason.  Giles picked me up and we left around 1500, our time slot meant we’d be fishing two hours up then most of the evening we’d be fishing the ebbing tide.  After a couple of years of this sea fishing lark we’re starting to get a handle of which beaches fish better at different stages of the tide and after a bit of discussion we agreed to try the Steep beach.  With deep water close in we feel confident here at almost any time but it gets busy so we don’t fish it so much these days.

As we travelled ever eastward the clouds thinned and broke revealing the bright blue sky we been promised.  At the car park we turned left instead of right for a change and settled on part of the beach which for some reason we rarely fish.  Unless my eyes deceived me it actually looked even steeper here but then again these places look different after every tide.  We both fished our normal methods; each of us use a ‘big fish’ rod on which we hope for a Ray or Hound along with a lighter set up with multiple hooks on which we could catch pretty much anything, at least in theory…  By 1600 we were both fishing, rods nodding on tripods and shelters erected to keep the cool north wind at bay.  There were a few other anglers about but not as many as we expected, everyone had plenty of room.  Around 1700 I noticed taps on both rod tips but was still surprised to find a fish attached to the light rod, my first Pouting of the year took a strip of mackerel on the top hook.

For some reason I decided this was a good time for a slight change of tactics.  I clipped on a trace with a size 2 hook and small bait on the light rod, this I dropped in really close hoping for a flatfish of some kind.  I persevered like this for a while but Giles began to pick up Whiting a bit further out while for me nothing happened.  Then a tentative bite on the heavy rod which I probably struck too soon and paid the price…  After an hour I cracked and scrapped the flatty rig, back to the original trace, my first cast further out produced a slight rattle then a couple of minutes later a proper pull.  I wound in a bit of weight which turned out to be a small Whiting on the top hook and a better Pouting on the bottom.  The sea had been fairly flat when we’d arrived but with the tide rising so the waves were building.

1830, with the tide at the top I went all out for a big fish, big baits on both rods.  Giles continued to massacre the Whiting, the family would be eating well tomorrow but having caught a couple of fish I was content to try for quality over quantity.  I was getting indications on both rods fairly regularly but few proper bites.  I had a couple of Whiting on the light rod, both taken on the top hook then at last the heavy rod bent over.  Resistance was minimal but there was definitely something attached, this turned up to be a decent sized Whiting which was noticeably a darker colour than most we’d caught tonight.

By 2000 the action had slowed up noticeably, Giles stopped catching Whiting but by this time he was well into double figures.  The tide ebbed away and the sky dimmed, as it always does I suppose.  We expect this to bring another flurry of bites but tonight this didn’t happen, still there was the occasional rattle, enough to keep us content and interested.  2110, it was almost dark and I had a gentle but steady bite on the heavy rod, I bent into something solid and the heart started to flutter.  But it all stayed solid, a snag?  Eventually after winding down a bit more it went slack, it turned out the hooklength had parted.

We had agreed to give it an hour but around 2200 things were starting to happen again.  Giles hooked something heavy which was the first Dogfish of the night then I had a solid thump on the light rod.  I pulled into a bit of resistance and suspected a Dog and a similar shape appeared in the surf but instead of a doggy it was a small Smoothound, our first of the year and my best fish of the night.  There’s not much to choose size wise between this fish and the average Dogfish and at a distance they look pretty similar but the Hounds are rarer, more shark-like and beautiful little creatures.  One last cast…  Giles added a Pouting and at 2230 it seemed we still had chance of more fish but we were knackered, time to get off the beach.


Another Saturday, a day bright and clear with a moderate north easterly, not ideal weather conditions but the tide was after midnight so would be rising all evening.  Two weeks previously we’d had plenty of fish on an almost identical tide so the “where?” discussion was brief, we headed back to Radar, full of confidence for a busy night ahead.  In the car park we chatted to a departing angler who passed on his leftover bait which we gratefully received.  He’d struggled during the day but this didn’t affect our confidence one bit, we didn’t consider that we might struggle.

The beach looked lovely in the sun and even better it was deserted.  Big waves rolled into the bay, whipped by the wind they were breaking well off shore.  By 1730 we had rods in the water, still using the same rigs I hurled both as far as possible into relatively shallow water then commenced setting up the beach shelter and getting things organised.  I’d just got this done when I looked up to see Giles walking up the beach with something shaped like a Frisbee.  But it was a fish, in fact another Turbot and a little bit bigger than the one I’d caught a couple of weeks back.  It was a total surprise to catch something interesting so early, instead of chilling out soaking baits until the tide came up we both switched on a little.  By the time the tide started to advance Giles had been rewarded with two more small Turbot all caught on trips of rank yellowing mackerel, meanwhile I hadn’t had a bite.

By 2000 Giles’ rods had long gone quiet but I still hadn’t had as much as a rattle, baits had been coming back looking pretty much untouched.  But the sun had just about gone, the light fading and the tide creeping ever closer, I was still sure it was just a matter of time.  Right on time at 2035 I had my first bite of the night, a good pull round on the heavy rod baited with squid which as usual I managed to miss.  I thought this would be the first of many but things remained slow.  Forty five minutes later I thought I saw something different to the usual wave rhythm on the tip of the heavy rod.  I wound into something heavy which didn’t do much as I slowly and steadily pumped it back towards me.  Whatever was on the end wasn’t really pulling back but there was a solid resistance.  I brought it closer, no hurry – still steady, the crucial bit would be timing the waves, then it all went slack…  I’ll never know what it was but I suspect a good sized Ray.  There’s no point throwing rods or sulking, that’s fishing and if we landed them all it wouldn’t be as interesting.

The sky got darker and the sea got higher.  With more water in the bay they were no longer breaking offshore but booming and smashing onto the beach.  Still bites were few and far between but at least I was getting them, all on the heavy rod at long range but I couldn’t hit them.  I’d been mixing things up on the lighter rod, varying baits and distances but so far hadn’t had a bite.  It occurred to me that the two hook rig certainly has its uses but I haven’t done any better than previous year when I’d used the long hooklength running leger rig, food for thought.  Since his early Turbot hat-trick Giles hadn’t seen another bite let alone caught another fish, it occurred to me that a blank could be on the cards.

At 2240 at last I landed a fish, a good sized Whiting which attached itself to a whole squid which probably explains the missed bites.  The smaller species should know better and eat the baits on the light rod.  After that things slowed up even more, just the odd nudge or knock to keep spirits up, staring into the dark, lights flashing out to sea, lights flashing in the sky and headlights sweeping along a distant road.  Still we waited for the sea monsters.  Just before midnight I finally had a bite on the lighter rod and connected with another nice edible Whiting but not motivation enough to keep going.  We trudged off the beach bemused and defeated, just when we think we’re working things out the fish prove us wrong.  But then again twice now in recent weeks I’ve lost a good fish close in, fish that had I landed would have been game changers.  Most importantly we must remember that every tide is different.

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Be careful what you wish for

Be careful what you wish for…  A dry, bright Saturday with an evening tide is just what I hope for at this time of year, things couldn’t be much better, or could they?  Giles and I left mid afternoon and for once we both had a feeling for the same beach.  An hour later we left the car and hiked through the marshes, by 1545 we were settled and fishing at the boiling beach, all manner of fishy filth impaled on hooks and slung into the North Sea.  I fished how I always do but due to the nature of this spot you have to vary the distances.  A long cast at the wrong time in the tide will see a lead that barely seems to touch bottom.  This is a nice quiet spot in a harsh environment, on a strip of hard ground between a salt marsh and fast running salt water.  East of us stands a castle on a hill but not the one in the song by a son of the county that gets played too much.

The day was comfortable and the sea flat but nothing happened for an hour which was OK because on previous visits here early bites have seemed promising but led to a disappointing end.  A little after 1700 I had my first proper pull and wound in a bit of resistance, there was a weird something in the surf which turned out to be a small Dogfish giving a crab a piggy back, which was a first.  The most notable occurrence of the late afternoon was the Town confirming promotion which put a smile on my chops even though I only follow football from a distance these days.

Time passed, the tide crept up the stones and the sun began to dip.  We tried big baits and small baits, short medium and long range but whatever we chucked out, nothing happened although we both wound in baits with Starfish attached, another first for me.  High tide came and went with no change but with light fading the ebbing tide started to run and at last we began to get a few tremors on the rod tips.  Not proper bites but prolonged spells of fishy vibrations that didn’t amount to anything.

Around 2030 it was almost dark when I had a decent bite on a whacked out whole squid.  I managed to hook something with a bit of weight which allowed me to winch it in until it got fairly close where it decided to pull back.  Whatever it was it didn’t feel particularly heavy but didn’t want to visit the beach, then the hook pulled which for some reason didn’t come as a surprise.  I’m fairly sure it was a decent Bass but I’ll never know for sure.

We gave it another hour hoping this would be the beginning of a spell but it didn’t happen and we packed up without adding to the score.  Last week I’d wished for a quieter beach even if it meant fewer fish and that is exactly what we got!

A week later…  While the Princess was enjoying all that royal nonsense I made myself scarce, out in the garden sorting out fishing gear, getting ready to escape later in the day.  The morning was dry but the forecasters had promised a horrible afternoon of almost constant rain.  The south east wind would be blowing straight into our chops making things doubly uncomfortable but fuck it Giles and I were heading to the coast anyway.  The alternative was more of that unavoidable royal bollocks.

Today high tide was due for tomorrow, or to put it another way we would be fishing a rising tide through the evening which was due to peak around 0100, whether we would still be there at that time was doubtful.  As expected the afternoon was damp but seemed to be getting better as we travelled east.  We arrived at the coast around 1700 and tramped through the Gorse and onto a beach we’ve learnt fishes well on a rising tide, the weather ensured the place was deserted as we like it.  Today the beach shelters went up before the rods went out, comfort would be essential if we were going to spend any time on this exposed stretch of sand and shingle.

The first hour saw the tide still retreating which revealed parts of this beach that we rarely see.  The next time we see it this low it may well look completely different, wild waters are always changing which is one of the reasons I find them much more interesting than manicured ponds with hand reared stock.  So here I was on a rugged shore but it seemed hours since I’d had a bite let alone caught a fish. It was cosy sitting in the comfort of the shelter listening to the roll and hiss of the waves, the doorway framed the rod tips but they weren’t moving much…  By 1900 the sea was creeping back towards us and the heavy rod definitely jagged down then back up again.  It looked fishy but nothing developed, it seemed sensible to check the bait but I was surprised to feel a slight resistance as I wound in.  I could see something skipping the waves and this looked crab shaped but no it was a small flatfish!  I expected a Flounder but this was a slightly different shape, sandy coloured with dark spots.  I think probably a tiny Turbot but I’m still not sure, it was another first whatever it was so a PB by default.

Sometimes one fish brings many but not tonight, another ninety minutes passed without a fish but the cloud had broken up and the drizzle mostly stopped.  By 2030 the tide was halfway up the beach and the sky was darkening, despite recent form we were both confident, surely things would start to happen soon?  And so it did, Giles started things with a couple of Whiting then I had a bite on whole squid at range.  Whatever was attached felt heavy and I got a bit excited thinking maybe it was a Ray but no, an angry Dogfish appeared.  Giles quickly followed this with two more dogs before my next bite came on the light rod, this too felt heavy but wasn’t doing much.  As I dragged it through the surf I saw a Whiting attached to the top hook and a Doggy on the bottom one.  Most proper sea anglers have these double shots regularly but this is the first I’ve had since catching Mackerel on shark trips in the nineties.

The action continued on all four of our rods, Giles caught mostly Whiting with the occasional Dog, I had three more dogfish and another Whiting.  After 2300 the action slowed up considerably but we still got the occasional wobbly rod tip, Giles beached a couple more fish but I didn’t manage to hook anything else.  We gave it a last half hour and then another but by midnight we were knackered and happy to go.  After the previous slow trip to have such a productive one was just what we needed, between us we managed almost twenty fish.  But after that, next time out I’d be happy with fewer fish but bigger ones.  I should learn my lesson and be careful what I wish for.