Sunday 30 July 2023

Other side of the marsh


Thursday, driving towards the coast on a weekday morning to fish a rising tide on a favourite beach, one that is never easy to work out.  The morning drive cross country was steady, the sky hazy with low cloud and a hint of moisture.  On arrival I opened the car doors and was struck by the stillness, there wasn’t a breath.  Here the sky was clear, I could clearly see the wind farms miles off shore long before I’d hiked across the marshes.

I was fishing the usual two rigs by 0845 and unexpectedly had bites from the start, these were all on the heavy rod fished a bit further out.  First cast saw a good rattle and a bit of weight but the hook pulled inches from the shore, almost certainly a Bass?  I soon recast and within minutes had another bite, I soon wound my first fish of the day up the beach but it was an Eel, thankfully lip hooked.  Next cast another good bang and this time a bit more weight with push and pull in the surf and a nice sized bass stayed on the hook this time. Fourth cast, fourth bite but I managed to miss this one.  By this time an hour had passed and I hadn’t had time to check the light rod fished in close, when I did the bait was long gone.

After that busy first hour things slowed down, the rising tide had dramatically changed the landscape but I’d barely noticed, all my concentration had been on the tips.  The sea was busy this pleasant morning with boats of all sizes and shapes, some passing close, others miles out.  By this time a gentle sea breeze was blowing into my face, this got steadily stronger through the day and actually kept the threatened showers a few miles inland.  I tried mixing the distances up and my next proper bite came around 1045 on a squid I’d given the big hurl, this was another Bass, slightly bigger than the first.

Soon it was passed midday and although for a while I’d been getting pulls and knocks regularly this had slowed up, I hadn’t had any decent strikable bites for a while.  High tide was over an hour away, I hoped fish of some kind would put in appearance with the sea full up as it had spectacularly a few times in the past.  It will always be worth hanging on here but nothing happened today, the expectation diminished quickly and I was soon hiking back towards the car.


A shortened window of fishy opportunity this weekend but at least it coincided with a 2103 high tide, just as the light would be fading, certainly a decent time to fish.  For the second trip in a row I crossed the marshes and had set up in front of the cauldron by 1745.  The tide was well up the shelf by this stage, the pot simmering gently and it was nice to be out in the wilds with TMS on the radio, Stuarts Broad’s news came as a surprise, we’re going to miss him.  The evening was mostly bright with a moderate south westerly meaning the shelter was facing north for a change giving me a different view of a familiar spot.

This beach is tricky with unpredictable currents which on some days sweep the leads away but when things work out right it’s a big fish spot for sure.  I fished how I always do, mostly casting one in close and the other whacked out but I did drop baits at mid range too.  Bait was mostly squid but I also had a few lumps of nasty crabbiness and I was deliberately fishing bigger baits hoping for the bigger fish.  I know Bass love ragworm but the average size is low, I catch far fewer on squid but they are bigger fish and that interests me more.  However tonight I could have done with some rag, all evening I had one bite and winched in a small Eel which conveniently unhooked itself thus saving the blank.

The tide came all the way up and the sky grew dark but the fish never switched on and for some reason I hadn’t expected them to, it hadn’t felt right tonight.  One of those feelings we anglers get that is forgotten the second something happens.  I walked back along the embankment, face into the wind and head home earlier than planned.


Saturday 15 July 2023

A different view

Saturday afternoon came around again, hot and humid with high tide due around 1600.  At this time of year with conditions and a tide like this our experience suggests the beaches will be hard work and we’d be better off fishing one of the estuaries.  Giles and had I discussed this as the weekend approached and decided to go to a spot we’d had success from in the past but this entailed a long walk.  With this in mind we cut our gear down considerably, the plan was to soak a lump of squid while we fished lures around the area, particularly a snaggy spot close by.  Along with a normal running leger rig I sorted out an old carp rod with a float rig, hoping to try trotting on a massive scale.

We left in the early afternoon, once we were off the A road we decided to try the long hike from a different car park.  In reality the walk would be about the same length but along flatter paths through the marshes.  It was a pleasant hike but in the humid air we were glad to finally be facing the water and fresher air.  The spot we’d chosen had the deep channel within an easy cast and we were fishing by about 1515.  After the long walk we were happy to lay on the slope of the embankment and chill out watching rod tips, just one each for a change.

The estuaries are okay, you can actually catch Bass in urban areas but obviously we avoid these places, no matter how good the fishing may be.  Where we sat was anything but urban, beyond the marshes was rolling arable bordered by hedgerows and small clusters of trees.  Unfortunately the warm Saturday had brought all kinds of watercraft out onto the river and this spoiled the ambiance somewhat.  Worst of all were the roaring powerboats zipping up and down, some towing fat bastards on the end of a bit of rope.  It’s strange how people have different ways of enjoying the countryside, some of us like to sit quietly and try to become part of the landscape while others choose to tear around drawing attention to themselves.  Different strokes…

The fishing started slowly but in truth we didn’t expect much to happen until the tide started to ebb.  Even so I was bringing back hooks stripped of bait, it seemed the crabs were on the hunt if nothing else.  We both tried chucking lures around from time to time but there was nothing showing.  I was seduced by the late start in the test match and thoroughly enjoyed listening to England bowl out the Aussies and set up a potential win?  In the innings break I picked up the lure rod again and wandered down to the snags, by now the tide had turned and was carrying loads of weed out to sea.  Using a long thin spoon I cast uptide and cranked back quickly to keep the lure out of the structure.  I could have sworn I saw something swirl, were there fish around?  After a few casts the tip banged round and I was in.  The first priority was to keep the fish out of the snags which I managed and soon had a silver bar fighting hard in clear water.  Even modest sized bass fight like hell on light tackle in a strong tide but I soon picked this one out of the water.  I was well chuffed, any lure caught Bass is a bloody good fish in my book.

Giles joined me at the snags where there were obviously a few fish about.  For some reason I switched from my successful lure and tried a rubber sandeel.  While this was going on Giles stuck to a spoon and bumped a couple of fish before hooking up and landing his first bass of the season.  As has happened in the past the fish moved off after half an hour or so and it was back to staring at rod tips.  By this time all the fuel burning lunatics had left, probably speeding down the A road in an unnecessarily large vehicle (judgmental? Me?) 

With a fish each under our belts we were happy, despite the lack of action on the leger rods.  If we’d brought ragworm I’m sure we’d have caught fish but it’s impossible to be selective and there are plenty of small bass around whilst squid seems to sort out the better ones.  I did try trotting a sandeel down with the tide which was fun but didn’t produce any bites although I did manage to catch a bloody crab on it.

Around 2030 the wind had dropped away and in the calm water we noticed a series of splashes and swirls, it could only be feeding fish and was almost certainly Bass.  We were soon chucking lures again but the fish were a long way out, feeding over deeper water.  The problem we had was finding lures that were heavy enough to reach the fish but light enough to fish effectively in the upper layers.  After a while I hooked up on a spoon and had a hell of a job bringing a Bass back against the tide.  I could clearly see it and I was winning the battle but the fish dived again and shook the hook free.  We kept chopping and changing lures but couldn’t get it right.  Every now and then the fish would move in closer giving us more choice of lures and I managed to hook one on a small rubber minnow.  This one fought hard too but I was able to keep my hook in it and soon lifted it ashore for a photo opportunity.

We carried on casting and even as the light faded the fish were still swirling but mostly out of range, I did hook up briefly but the fish didn’t want to visit the shore.  By 2130 we’d had enough so loaded up and commenced our hike back on unfamiliar paths.  This was not helped by my navigation skills which sent us on the wrong path and doubled our walk back to the car, by the time we reached it rain had started to fall.  Still it had been an enjoyable evening and we’d learned a load more about catching Bass on lures, really good fun but honestly I’d rather be chilling out on a beach.

Monday 3 July 2023

Brown diamonds and a silver bar

Back to the beaches…  The day was a scorcher, hot, clear and bright.  High tide was due around 1600 which was far from ideal so what should we do?  I suggested travelling light and trying to catch Bass on lures but Giles wanted to sit and stare at the sea so I let him talk me into it.  In truth this didn’t take much doing, watching the rise and fall is perfect therapy.

We were fishing the ‘Cauldron’ by 1430, using mostly squid on our regular rods but we’d also brought lure rods which we both used regularly throughout the trip.  At least here facing the sea there was a cooling breeze making things comfortable.  We started off with enthusiasm, going through the lure boxes and trying different depths and speeds but soon settled down to our usual form of tip watching meditation.  High tide was soon upon us and as the minutes ticked by I wondered if our best chance had gone but around 1615 the tip pulled down then rattled itself back straight.  Something had dislodged the lead and was making off with my squid.  I wound down and pulled into what felt like a snag that was being pulled slowly in.  But this weight throbbed and fluttered then pulled the rod back down on occasions as I slowly gained line and won the tug of war.  I soon had a heavy fish in close, the exact situation I’d lost the battle on two occasions this year but for some reason today I was calm and patient.  With the fish in the shallows Giles grabbed the leader and dragged my first Ray of the year onto the beach.

As usual the fish appeared to stiffen and arch it’s back as if ready for a fight but I flipped it onto it’s back then soon had the hook out. I quickly weighed the fish before posing for a few photos, then waded into the waves to put the fish back, where it flapped its wings and glided away.  My best sea fish of the year so far, nice one!

After that the tide slowly ebbed away and with it so did our chances.  We tried hard; changed baits, varied distances and kept chucking the lure but to no avail, nothing else disturbed us.  We ended up staring out to sea and chatting, just an evening on the beach really and we packed up before head torches became necessary.


One week later…

It’s July already but the heatwave has passed and we’ve had a week of winds that haven’t come from a cold easterly direction.  Saturday came around with a forecast that was just about as good as we could hope for; a mixture of sunshine and cloud, a comfortable, mild afternoon with a moderate westerly blowing off shore, high tide due at 2300.  We’d be fishing a rising tide into darkness which our growing experience suggests is perfect and we had a choice of beaches where we’d feel confident.  In the end we chose one of our favourites where we’d usually be confident of catching Bass at this time of year although this time we didn’t have ragworm with us. 

The plan was to fish big baits for big fish but when we started fishing at 1715 we were both chucking lures for Bass.  I used a spoon and a couple of jigs mostly fishing near the bottom but also shallower from time to time.  After half an hour without anything fishy occurring I cast out two lumps of squid, sat back and tuned into TMS to discover England’s top order had crumbled but as I sat looking at the tips and listening, Duckett and Stokes rebuilt.  Giles and I also had nibbles on small baits fished fairly close but nothing to strike at although that didn’t stop us trying.

When the close of play came I picked up the lure rod again and commenced bouncing a jig along the bottom.  I kept glancing back at the rods but the sun was in my eyes and I couldn’t really see but after a few more casts I looked back and couldn’t miss the sight of my bright yellow line flapping in the breeze.  The lure was forgotten as I picked up the heavy rod and wound into a heavy weight which I slowly pumped back towards me.  I was fairly sure what I was attached to and it was no surprise to see something brown and diamond shaped appear in the shallows.  I went a year without catching a Ray now I had two in two trips, not as big as last week’s but we don’t catch many and all are an event.

I recast the heavy rod with another squid bound onto a 2/0 Pennell.  I put a smaller bait on the light rod and dropped it in close, recasting regularly.  I kept winding in bare hooks but wasn’t seeing any bites.  Then around 1955 there was a weird wobble on the heavy rod, it was due a recast so I picked it up and once again felt a solid living presence.  This one put up less resistance and it was another Ray about half the size of the first.  While this was going on Giles missed a slamming bite, his recast had barely settled before the tip went again and he too was heaving something heavy back towards Suffolk.  We almost expected to see another decent Ray come up the beach and so it proved, we’d now had three!

This was the start of a ninety minute period where we were both constantly on the go, something we’ve experienced a few times before on the beaches but these fish were all Rays.  Whatever we fish for and wherever we choose to do it, times like these are magic, fishing on autopilot, casting out just knowing that bait will be eaten.  Whenever we go fishing we are always hoping for days like this.  We both missed decent bites and Giles lost one in the surf but by 2130 I’d had five and Giles four, at one point we had a fish each at the same time, ridiculous fishing that had been totally unexpected.  Tonight we’d fished the same way we always do but for once it had come together spectacularly and we weren’t done yet. 

It was headtorch dark, just before 2200 I was stood chatting to Giles when he started pointing and jabbering.  I looked over to see my rod bent over double and I almost broke into a run, reaching the rod just before the tripod collapsed.  This fish had the same throbbing weight I’d become used to this evening but was definitely heavier and it didn’t want to visit the beach.  Most of our fish tonight had been the size of large dinner plates but when this one came up the beach it was almost dustbin lid proportions and I was well chuffed.

I added another dinner plate sized Ray shortly afterwards then in the lead up to high tide the bites stopped, as they often do at this beach.  High tide came and went, we’d started to tidy up when my heavy rod bent over low once again.  I wondered if this would be something different but soon realised I was pumping back another good Ray.  I managed to get this one in fairly close quite quickly but reached a bit of a stalemate where I’d pull the rod back and the fish would yank it back down again.  This couldn’t go on forever and all the odds were in my favour, soon Giles grabbed the trace and pulled another dustbin lid onto the beach!  This was not as big as the previous one but still warranted the scales and camera.  With this fish returned I noticed the light rod had gone slack, this had been dropped in really close and there was a decent weight on the end.  Instead of a brown diamond I wound in a silver bar, a nice sized Bass had picked up a lump of squid.

It would have been silly to have packed up then so we put our rods out again and Giles was rewarded with one more Ray.  That was the last action of the evening, we gave it till past midnight but the rods rattled no more.  Between us we’d finished with thirteen Rays and one Bass, I’d caught most of mine on squid, Giles mostly mackerel but it felt like we could have chucked anything out and caught.  We’d been confident when we arrived but never expected the fishing to be anything like this and no idea as to why there were so many Rays around tonight.  Every tide is different.