Sunday 14 July 2024

When Saturday comes

The quarter final kick off time was bloody awkward but then again I’d rather be fishing than watch almost any TV sport so we’d just have to work around it.  The game kicked off while I was getting the last of my kit together so I was in and out of the living room and it seemed England were doing okay, not brilliant but okay.  Which has been the case throughout most of the tournament despite what the media narrative might be telling us.  Giles arrived around 1730 and we loaded up before setting off to pick Trev up on the way to “the secret Bass swim”.  By this time it was half time in the match and still 0-0.

By 1900 the game had finished 1-1 and we were fishing on the estuary, as it was low water we set up on a straight between two shallow bays which was a mistake in hindsight.  A mix of rigs and methods went out, baits squid and rag, I kept it simple and used two running legers.  We’d had rain through the day but this had now cleared, the sun occasionally poking through a mostly cloudy sky.  The wind was a moderate westerly, on our backs so barely felt.  We sat close together tonight so we could have a good yarn, sometimes we can be single minded about trying to catch fish but on others such as this it’s nice just to be sociable.  For a while we were huddled close to the radio, England in a penalty shoot out which tonight was surprisingly comfortable compared to the agonising experiences of the past. 

As expected the fishing started slowly, we figured the rising tide and approaching darkness would mean our chances would increase as the session wore on.  This turned out to be fairly accurate; we had a flurry of bites just as the light started to fade; Giles began things with an Eel and shortly after I wound in a small Bass.  Soon Giles was in again but it was another Eel and Trev lost what was probably a decent Bass.  The flood tide was powerful and carried lots of snotty weed which clung to the line and made fishing difficult but we persevered.  As dusk deepened and the lights had to come on, we had sporadic bites; I managed a second Bass and Trev had a rig destroying Eel.

I’d expected the darkness to bring the fish on which it might well have done but the raging tide was preventing us from fully covering the water in front of us.  Giles and I cut to fishing just one rod each but Trev had had enough so packed up and sat in his chair happily sipping a beer.  I managed a third Bass that might have been a pound then shortly afterwards Giles had one of a similar size.  With high tide still an hour away, an underarm flick with a 6oz lead was being swept inland in seconds, fishing in these conditions was beyond our experience, time to go home.


After last week’s very sociable trip for my next visit I was going it alone so had no trouble talking myself into braving the long hike to ‘Shit or bust beach’.  As I drove east in the early afternoon the sky was clearing after a morning of showers which was just as well as I’d left the shelter behind.  Instead I’d packed an extra rod as this is the one place I fish where I sometimes think two isn’t enough.  Overall I travelled a little lighter but by the time I’d negotiated an uneven path and crunched across shingle I was blowing a bit.  By now the sky was blue and the sun was poking through, the wind a light westerly on my back.  There was no football distraction this week, with the semi final won mid week, who knows what will happen on Sunday?  I was fishing by 1530, ninety minutes before high tide but despite this the sea looked flat, maybe good for a Ray?

With this in mind I loaded a squid on a 2/0 pennell, clipped it to a pulley rig and hurled it as far out into briny as I could.  The other two rods were simple leger rigs with long hooklengths baited mostly with ragworm; the light rod was dropped in close around the length of a cricket pitch from the shore, the old carp rod was even closer, less than half that distance.  I had a bite on the light rod straight away and dragged a little Bass up the beach, a good start.  Over the next hour I had a few plucks and rattles, missed a couple and landed another Bass on each of my close range rods.

With high tide approaching I switched tactics on the light rod and for the next ninety minutes or so I cast it further and alternated between ragworm and whole squid, trying to hedge my bets a bit as this beach does turn up the odd big Ray.  On the heavy rod I kept pumping it out as far as I could for as long as the boiling tide would allow but I swapped squid for peeler crab from time to time.  It all seemed like a good idea in theory but tonight it didn’t bring me any fish.  During this period the old carp rod still fishing rag at close range wasn’t doing anything either, had the fish moved away?  The wind had dropped away nicely and I’d sat mostly in pleasant sunshine although away to the south I could see dark clouds and rain from time to time.

With high tide long gone and the ebb tide picking up power I reverted to fishing two rods with rag closer in, in fact after a time I switched the heavy rod to a long trace and a whole squid too.  Two hours into the ebb the Bass moved back into the area and for the next ninety minutes both the lighter rods received regular attention.  I missed a few good bites, lost another fish but managed to land five more small Bass.  This was enough to convince me to sit it out into darkness in the hope that some bigger Bass would be mooching around but tonight it didn’t pay off.  I did manage two small Eels which were lip hooked so didn’t end up as future pike baits.

By 2245 I was back at the car, knackered after eight hours on the beach between a couple of good hikes.  I’d sleep well tonight content after an enjoyable evening’s fishing on the back of an emotional Test match win, all the best Jimmy – we’ll miss you!  That just leaves the bloody football…



Tuesday 2 July 2024

Recon


Every now and then we get a weekend when fishing time doesn’t coincide with any decent state of tide and we’re left wondering where to go and what to do.  We usually head for the Steep beach as you feel like you’re in with a chance here at any time but it’s a popular spot and these days we prefer to fish other places.  Another good option would be an estuary spot as these haven’t failed us yet this spring.  But in the end we decided to go somewhere completely different where we’d never fished before.

We arrived in the early evening to find a short walk on solid ground, then up a ramp of shingle and found ourselves looking down on a gently sloping beach with small waves rolling in.  By the time we were fishing the tide was on the way out and we fished it down and into darkness with our usual methods and a selection of stinky lumps of sea creature.  As the evening wore on the retreating tide revealed a mix of sand and shingle that reminded us of a favourite spot…  On this evening we caught bugger all, in fact we never had a bite but we learnt a little bit more and agreed it would be a pleasant place to fish on a more favourable tide.



A couple of midweek days off gave me the chance to explore some stretches of the ‘other river’.  My preferred way of searching unfamiliar water is to fish with lures and cover water and I really should stick to what I know best but instead talked myself into wandering around with a float rod watching a stick trundle down the river.  I had to get into AD for some bait so it was late morning before I arrived and after struggling with the gate I began wandering downstream.  I had the rod, a net and a rucksack on my back so it was easy to keep mobile which was just as well as I had a long walk passed shallow water that was sluggish and weedy before I found anything that looked fishy.  Here a slight bend had a bit of pace and a short run down into a shady straight.  This looked okay but I left the gear and wandered a little further downstream but returned after not finding anything tempting.

This first swim was comfortable so I was able to sit on my backside and swing the float into the stream but before fishing I made a brew and just sat feeding regular pinches of maggots and a few grains of corn.  When the tea was gone I started fishing and had bites from the beginning but as usual missed as many as I hit.  I did manage to catch a few fish though, mostly Bleak, small Chub and a Perch although only a few would have been bucket sized and none needed a net.  After an hour or so of this I’d counted twenty fish brought to hand and I became restless so it was time for a wander.  I tied on a bigger hook to hold a couple of grains of corn, hoping a big obvious bait would bring an instant response in any swims I stopped in.  An hour later I was back at the car having added just one more small Chub.

First impressions of this stretch?  It’s not somewhere that will draw me back again soon, there were no sign of any bigger Chub and it didn’t feel Pikey at all but I’ve made a start.


Another day, another stretch of the other river to explore.  Today was mostly cloudy with drizzle at times and a light west wind, not weather to be sat on my arse so I walked upstream as far as I could with the intention of trotting my way back with a couple of grains of corn on a 16.  I started off sitting for twenty minutes in a whole amongst trees where I let my float rest against a raft of flotsam, hoping something chubby lurked beneath.  After that I made my way slowly back downstream, stopping here and there to feed a little corn then allow the float to trundle downstream a way.  This stretch of river is wider and a little deeper but today had little flow and the float made a painstaking journey down.  There were a few areas that looked good for the winter to come but at this time of year I need shallower water with more pace.

After a couple of hours of fruitless wandering I settled into a swim where small fish were showing, sat on my backside and fed maggots then swapped the corn for a couple of red wrigglers and caught a fish on the first cast, then another.  It was a bite a chuck on maggots but the fish were all small, mostly Bleak with a couple of Chub thrown in.  When the drizzle blew in again it looked like settling so I decided enough was enough and made my way back to the motor.  As I walked back I couldn’t help thinking I’d have found out a bit more had I stuck to what I know best and used a lure rod.

Monday 24 June 2024

Another week, another tide


Another week, another tide.  Where do we go?  What do we fish for?  Just another normal mid week email conversation.  With high tide due around 0100 and a convenient weather forecast we decided to head for a shallow beach and hopefully find some Thornbacks.  We timed our arrival so we hit the shore at low water and planned to fish the flood tide up, for as long as our energy and enthusiasm lasted.  The weather was as promised, the afternoon showers had cleared leaving a mostly cloudless sky with a gentle westerly cross breeze.  The sea was flat, just small waves rolling in but even so the volume on these had been turned up.
I began by putting a whole squid on a pulley rig and launching it eastward on the heavy rod.  On the lighter rod I fished strips of mackerel on a running leger rig hoping some kind of flatfish might find it appetising.  To my right Giles set up with his own twist on similar methods.  After a few weeks targeting Bass we’d not bothered with ragworm this time and the plan was to go all out for bigger fish, Rays or maybe even a Hound once the tide started to climb back up the beach.  The first few casts saw the mackerel strips disappear but the squid mostly in tact despite signs of crab attention.  Hopefully there’d be something out there feeding on the crabs.

Ninety minutes into the session, at around 2010 there was a subtle but definite bite on the heavy rod, I thought ‘Ray’ but you can never be sure.  There was a bit of weight on the end but ‘lift and wind’ kept the fish moving and I soon pulled a Ray of a couple of pounds onto the beach, happy days.  Once this rod was back out I wound in the lighter set up, took off the running leger and switched to another pulley rig.  This was baited with a hermit crab wrapped in squid and given a good chuck into an inviting sea.  Ten minutes later this rod tip was yanked permanently downwards without any kind of subtlety and I found myself attached to something that felt big.  As I slowly pumped this weight back towards me it seemed like a good sized Ray but it was hard to be sure on the lighter tackle.  After a couple of minutes of push and pull I managed to drag a cracking Thornback onto the shore, this was more than twice the size of the first and my best this year so far.

With two nice fish under my belt I got another fresh bait out as soon as I could and sat back feeling confident of more.  With a rising tide and darkness approaching surely the best time was yet to come, would this become one of those mad trips when the Rays are on all night?  In short no.  Despite fishing the tide up all the way with everything feeling spot on, I didn’t get another bite and Giles had just one rattle which produced a good sized Doggie.  The most notable event of the evening was watching the ‘strawberry moon’ rise above the watery horizon and to be fair it was a lovely night to be sitting on a deserted beach doing nothing.


Tuesday 18 June 2024

Convalescing


I’ve always been in pretty good health but I suppose as we get older a hospital trip is inevitable at some point.  Nothing too serious, I was in and out in a day and a week or so later I was eager to sit by the waterside having gone two weeks without my fishing fix.  So June 15th and there’s something about that date…  The last two years I’d started the river season out west but this couldn’t happen this year, something for a little later in the summer I hope?  The day had been a right mixture of glorious June sunshine with showers and stormy weather, in fact we drove through rain on our way east and at the car park sat in the motor for five minutes to let it blow over and welcome the blue sky back again.  I was a little anxious how I’d manage the hike but I was well strapped up and in the end it was no problem, by 1630 I faced the estuary.

Due to recent events I didn’t plan to be too active this evening and with a fresh south westerly blowing up river and the threat of showers, my first job was to get the shelter up and make sure I had a comfortable camp.  By 1645, two hours before hight tide, I had two leger rigs out; on the heavy rod I fished whole squid as far out as the current would allow.  I intended to cast this rod infrequently, just sit it out and let it fish, a big bait for a big Bass or maybe a Ray?  You never know what could take a bait in salt water, it could literally be anything…  Most of my concentration would be on the lighter rod, on which as usual I fished ragworm on a size 1, targeting Bass but hoping maybe a big flatty might pick the bait up?  The wind gusted rattling the shelter and a little way to the west a line of ominous dark cloud with rain falling not too far away.  Equally ominous was the Herring gull circling me like a vulture.

Giles had disappeared to explore a tidal bay while it was full of water and the first I saw of him was an hour later when he appeared grinning and holding a big Flounder which we measured at 33cms.  I’d seen a tug on the light rod and wound in a tailless rag but so far hadn’t had anything I could strike at.  The power of the flood tide and loads of shifting weed meant baits had to be fished in fairly close, it’s difficult if not impossible to hold a bait out in the boiling current from the shore, I wonder what would find it if we could?  But at the top of the tide the relatively slack water allowed me to chuck the squid a bit further.  By this time I’d gone two hours without a fish which is not at all what I expected when we’d set off, when I’d been confident of getting amongst the Bass.  Times like this mess with my head and it feels like a bite is never going to come.  Also I realised I’d missed a trick in not putting a bit just above a snaggy area when the tide had been flooding, through the evening the dropping water level taunted me by revealing a very fishy looking area which I’d neglected.  Come to think of it ignoring – or not even noticing the obvious is a bad habit of mine when fishing. There was still a line of dark cloud inland but now there was a second, out to sea and both were dropping rain from time to time while we sat on a dry, bright island with a rainbow bridge.

1900 at last a definite bite on the light rod and I hooked something with a bit of weight but it didn’t feel like a Bass…  oh dear an Eel but at least the blank was avoided.  The turn of the tide saw a gradual drop in the wind strength making the evening a far more pleasant one to be out in.  I watched a Kestrel hovering above the marsh, I’m not sure that would have been possible an hour ago or are these birds stronger than I think?  The rod tips were not being yanked over though and it seemed that we’d be waiting, hoping for the falling light levels to get things going. An hour after my first fish the tip on the light rod jagged again, I struck through desperation and thought I’d missed it but no there was a tiny Eel attached.  By 2115 the light was fading nicely and the wind had dropped some more, for the first time tonight it felt right for a bite.  I sat up straight in the chair, eyes fixed on the rod tips knowing a bite would come and believe it or not it did!  I completed a hat-trick of Eels…

By the time it was head torch dark things were definitely starting to happen, I was seeing fast tugs on the light rod, too fast for me to strike at and when I retrieved, I’d find a tail-less worm.  The bites weren’t coming with any regularity but there was just enough happening to keep me interested.  Around 2230 I had a proper rattle on the light rod and this time.  I felt a fish with a bit of weight which started to move down with the tide, and then the hook pulled.  Never mind where there’s one…  A few minutes later Giles appeared out of the gloom having managed to catch his first Bass of the night.  After a little chat we decided we’d had enough, it was last cast time so with fresh baits out, worms on both this time, I started to pack up in the usual fashion.  The rucksack was tidied and the bait put away.  The shelter came down then I packed up the tripod, leaving the rods balanced on the back of my chair while I found stuff to do that would delay winding in a for bit longer.  Then I was sure I saw the light rod rattle, it did.. didn’t it?  I picked it up and held it tight, yes a bite which I actually managed to hit and then I steadily would a fish towards the shore.  A flash of silver in the torch beam and a nice Bass wriggled up the beach, I laid it on the measuring board – 33cms or about a pound?  Nothing spectacular but the fish I’d set out after and enough to put a smile on my face.  The hike back to the car would have felt much harder without it.


Wednesday 5 June 2024

Working it out? Probably not.

After three weeks fishing the estuary we fancied a change so we made a plan to fish an open beach, one where we would have a chance of a Bass but also Ray’s and dare I sat it, a Hound.  High tide was around 1930 so it would mean another mad scramble around after work and today we had to detour via AD for a wrap of rag.  By 1730 we were hiking again, our destination ‘The Cauldron’, a fast shelving beach with shifting bars and ripping tides that make it difficult to fish. It’s an inconsistent place too, two thirds of the time we come away disappointed.  So why do we bother?  Because when it all falls into place the fishing can be spectacular, with big fish of different species so although we know what to expect we can’t resist going back.  The more we fish it the more we’ll learn and maybe one day we’ll work out when to fish it and when we should leave the place alone.  But probably not.

Tonight my light rod had a long running leger rig baited exclusively with ragworm.  On the heavy rod I started off with a leger but when the tide allowed us to fish further out I switched to a pulley rig.  Baits were mostly squid but also crabs from time to time.  As things turned out this was not one of the spectacular trips in fact it was a bloody struggle.  The high tide period produced just a couple of rattles and we didn’t get any proper bites until the sun had dipped and the light was fading.  In half an hour I had two decent bites on each rod; I lost a small Bass in the waves and landed another both on the lighter rod.  On the other I missed a decent bite on crab then straight away beached a Dogfish on squid.  Beside me Giles tried hard but fared little better.  We fished well into darkness but that was that, the cauldron left us scratching our heads again.


Saturday evening was so slow I still had loads of ragworm left and these had been carefully wrapped and given a cosy home in the fridge for another night, to the Princess’ disgust.  A couple of days later I had another spare day but I wasn’t motivated enough to drag myself out of bed to fish a morning tide on a beach so headed back inland for Bass.  We’re blessed with estuaries in Suffolk and this morning I head for one of the others, a spot I hadn’t fished since last year.  This one is the longest walk of all our favourite spots so I cut the gear right down fishing just the light rod balanced on a rod rest along with the lure rod.  The hike brought me to a spot where the deeper channel swings in close to shore and the bottom is a mix of shingle and lumps of rock where all around is soft mud.  The morning was warm and the sun crept through at times although it was mostly cloudy.  The embankment behind me sheltered me from the north west wind and it was a pretty pleasant place to sit, the scenery actually more like a big lake than a saltwater river.

I was fishing by 1000, pretty much bang on high tide and I was confident fishing the ebb here as the lower water can concentrate the fish.  This spot is usually a banker for Bass and sometimes we manage to catch them on lures too so I settled down with confidence.  It took almost ninety minutes before anything happened then a flurry of bites on the leger rod brought two small Bass through the weed followed by an Eel which helpfully unhooked itself before slithering back and disappearing amongst the tangle of whatever the hell that stuff growing on the rocks is.  After that the bites were sharp unstrikeable raps just at the point my concentration had wandered and my mind was miles away.

There were Bass there alright, swirling from time to time and scattering fry in very shallow water.  I spent much of the day on my feet throwing lures around and as I could see fish from time to time, I kept ringing the changes; shallow divers, spoons and jigs covering all the depths.  The dropping tide left miles of exposed mud and fish were swirling only a couple of feet from the edge in inches of water, surely a rubber sandeel inched along the bottom?  Whatever I tried I didn’t get a bite on a lure but when I removed a rubber worm and put on a real one, I had a third and final Bass of the day.

By late afternoon enough was enough, the rag was virtually gone, I was tired, covered in estuary mud and had a long walk ahead of me.  As I yomped back towards the car I could see Bass feeding in shallow water in other places too, food for thought for another day and if I could work out how to catch them on lures...

 

Monday 27 May 2024

All about the Bass


With high tide due around 2100 in nicely fading light we’d normally be fishing one of the open beaches for Rays but last week’s visit to an interesting estuarine location had stirred our juices so Giles and I couldn’t resist another trip.  The day was sunny and bright with a light breeze from the north, the hike raised a sweat and had us puffing, we arrived by the water around 1630.  Today I’d brought a lure rod and I started off with this and it soon became apparent that there were a few Bass about as they were showing in shallow water.  I spent half an hour going through the lure box, chopping and changing but I couldn’t get a bite.  It seemed like the fish were moving around, coming into range then moving out again as we’d seen them do before elsewhere in the past.

By 1700 I had two rods fishing running leger rigs with long hooklengths; my normal ‘light rod’ was baited with a bit of squid and a 1980’s vintage carp rod was baited with ragworm.  There were obviously fish about so I was confident we’d soon be getting amongst the Bass but it didn’t work out, we sat looking up at the rod tips but they weren’t doing anything.  I tried the lure rod from time to time and saw a decent sized fish swirl at a shallow diver but still couldn’t get one to take the bait.  Then at last, after ninety minutes the old carp rod started bouncing and I had the first Bass of the night on ragworm.  Had a number of fish moved in to the area?  No, the next ninety minutes were fishless but my confidence didn’t waver, I was sure the Bass would arrive eventually.

And so they did, with the tide reaching its peak and the bay full of water the fish moved in, Giles caught two quickly and I managed a second.  The fading light and ebbing tide brought a flurry of action and we had bites on all rods bringing our total to eight Bass and a couple of Eels.  Fishy baits had remained untouched so by now we were using rag exclusively.  As the water dropped again the fish moved out of the bay and longer casts to the edge of the main current brought bites, with not much crab activity we could leave the baits out a while knowing we’d eventually get a bite.  Around 2200 I was alerted by expletives from Giles’ direction, his lighter rod was hooped over as a fish took line off the clutch.  This fish put up quite a battle and Giles’ patience was rewarded with a new PB Bass!

Spurred on by this we stayed later than planned, the gaps between bites was getting longer but they still kept coming if we waited long enough.  We had a couple more fish each, my final one came around midnight and just like last week it tried to drag in a rod that was rested against my chair and also like last week was my biggest of the night.  After a successful session the hike back through the marsh didn’t feel as arduous as it should have but this illusion was exposed once I sank into a comfortable car seat!


Another Saturday shift came to an end at 1600 and just over an hour later me and Giles were laden with gear and heading for the water.  The tides this week were all over the place and tonight we would be fishing through low tide and part of the flood.  Most sea anglers will reckon this is the worst time to go and my experience supports this but we were heading back to the estuary where we felt confident we’d be in with a chance of Bass, especially as night descended.

We were fishing by 1730, I’d reverted back to the beachcaster and left the carpy rod at home this week as it had felt a bit sloppy for fishing in this kind of current.  I had a leger rig with a long hooklength on each rod and chucked lures around from time to time.   In hindsight tonight we probably set up in front of water that was a little too shallow for this part of the tide.  There were fish about giving the odd fast rattle but nothing you could strike at and three hours into the trip we hadn’t managed to drag anything fishy up the beach.  But by now the sun had left the scene, the light was fading and the water level was rising rapidly, sure enough the fish moved in.

Bites came in flurries of two or three in a ten minute period followed by half an hour or so where nothing happened and you began to doubt the bait was still in place, then bang!  A tip light was dancing and another shoal of fish had moved in, from what we’ve learnt over the last few years this seems to be a feature of Bass fishing.  Another thing we’ve realised is you will never hit all the bites and we both missed several.  The fish we did land were a good average size, most would have made a decent meal if not quite legal.  Around 2230 I had a bite on the light rod and a fish that pulled back for a bit, a beautiful silver Bass bang on legal size had I been of a mind to eat one, which I wasn’t.  I hadn’t got this bait back out before the heavy rod was pogoing, this one was a bit smaller but still a nice fish.

After a quiet half hour the light rod banged again and I was in.  Straight away I said “this is a better one…” as something a little heavier was writhing and wriggling.  Bass this size fight bloody hard but on the tackle we have to use to present a bait they are never going to be stripping line, when this one ran along the shore I followed it with the rod tip then when it was close enough Giles grabbed the leader and dragged it up the beach.  A couple of pounds of beautiful shiny silver was unhooked, admired and slipped back in the sea.  A few minutes later the same rod banged again and it was the smallest fish of the night.  We fished on for another hour but the bites dried up and as usual our energy was also ebbing, our tally at the end was into double figures.

We’d never fished this estuary spot before this spring but after three consecutive visits it seems we might have stumbled on a little gem.  We’ve learned a few decent spots where we are confident we’ll catch Bass but this one ticks all the boxes and we’re starting to get our heads around how best to fish it.  However next time out we’ll probably be elsewhere doing something completely different.


Sunday 12 May 2024

Saturday to Saturday

Working Saturdays has never felt right to me and the feeling intensifies when your football team is playing its biggest game in over two decades…  But the heavy lifting had been done on a horrific, nervous midweek evening and today a goal midway through the first half made the afternoon comfortable.  I can hardly believe I’m typing this, the Town are going up!  After that the time soon passed even with an evening by the sea to look forward to.

Around 1730 Giles, Trev and I arrived at our favourite beach to fish the evening tide and everything seemed spot on.  The south easterly wind stopped the seaside temperature from rising too much but the sky was clear and the day dry.  Small waves rolled gently onto the sand, there wasn’t much turbulence out there and with high tide still four hours away everything looked good.  I expected bites from the start and was unwisely vocal in my confidence that we’d catch a Ray or two, I really should know better by now.  The breeze was light and the waves small so our rod tips didn’t have the normal rhythmical movements but unfortunately there were no fishy movements either.  For three hours we sat there fishless, not a nibble but as they say – the craic was good.

Finally as the sky was dimming I had a rattle on the light rod and winding in brought a small, brown fishy disc.  Another tiny Turbot had taken a small strip of Mackerel on a size 2.  This was not the start of anything good or bad, the tide continued to rise and the sky grew darker, the ‘best time’ came and went.  We were starting to think about packing up but full darkness and high tide did actually bring a bit of action for all of us.  Not the rays we’d hoped for but we shared a few Dogfish and I had a solitary Whiting.  By 2300 we were out of energy and head for home.  Trips like this may be disappointing but its good to be reminded how little we really know.


Working weekends comes with the payback of days off mid week so a couple of days later, for the first time in a very long time I found myself coarse fishing on a small lake I’d never even seen before.  I joined this club because of the chance of a bit of winter Chub fishing but as it has a few stillwaters and I had a bit of time, why not?  Today was just a ‘look see’ with a couple of rods thrown in so I didn’t get up early and it was 0930 before I’d got a couple of baits in.  On one rod I float fished corn in the margins over a couple of hands full of hemp and on the other an open end feeder was fished helicopter style with a couple of bits of fake corn on a short hooklength.  This was under armed to my right along side a reedbed.  Sweetcorn and hemp fished close on a warm spring morning, what could possibly go wrong?  I was confident I’d catch something.

The morning was warm and bright, for the first time this year the sun was making its presence felt on my ginger skin but it was lovely being out.  The lake is surrounded but old trees and the bird song was pleasant, I heard a cuckoo for this first time this year and high up a Buzzard mewed.  I’d walked round to get the north breeze on my back and when selecting the swim I’d managed to pick the only one on the lake without any shade.  After ninety minutes cooking I hadn’t had a bite and I needed to move for the sake of comfort if nothing else.  I tidied up, wound the rods in then went for a wander.

By midday I was settled again, fishing a little point near an entrance to a small bay.  The feeder was swung to the right towards the bay and I float fished corn in eight foot of water close to an overhanging tree.  The new swim was shady and comfortable and the water in front of me looked fishy but my luck didn’t change and I remembered I’ve always been rubbish at this kind of fishing.  I love using a float but honestly I’m better off sitting behind a couple of buzzers.  The most interesting thing to happen during the early afternoon was a thing swimming towards me.  I assumed it was a carp’s dorsal but as it got closer I saw it was actually a grass snake, the first I’d seen for a long time.

After a while I wound in the float rod and swapped the corn for a worm off the compost heap. This was swung out again but didn’t bring an instant change of fortunes.  A couple of recasts later the float finally sank and I struck into a fish with spirit if not size, my first coarse fish of the season was a little Perch that was beautifully vivid.  I figured where there’s one there is often more, out went another worm but the fish hadn’t read the script.  An hour later I’d had enough and packing up was quick and easy.  The lake is nice but something tells me it would require more effort than I’m prepared to put in.


Saturday again, no work this weekend so this was the most convenient day to fish but with high tide in the early afternoon where should I go?  I’d been bouncing ideas off Giles during the week and we’d suggested trying somewhere totally new, targeting Bass at an estuary spot.  Local social media had announced the Bass were well and truly in the rivers and from the pictures shown even we could work out where they’d been caught from.  So being bloody minded and antisocial we decided to fish a totally different river.  Last summer we tried mostly for the Rays and we hadn’t used ragworm at all but the number of Bass we caught dropped dramatically.  If we are targeting Bass then ragworm is a must.

In the end I ended up flying solo and as I drove east I almost talked myself out of exploring, it would have been much easier to stick to somewhere I knew but in the end my desire for solitude won and I found myself leaving the car in a different car park and hiking across an unfamiliar marsh.  It was a bit of a scramble to get to the waterside but once there I dropped the gear and surveyed the wide stretch of river in front of me.  To the south was a wide creek mouth and the more I looked at it the more I couldn’t look anywhere else so I hoisted the gear again and finally settled on a corner with slowly eddying water in front of me and a powerful flood tide further out.  My first casts were pretty much bang on high tide, as usual I fished a squid on the heavy rod and lobbed it towards the edge of the main current, too far out would see the rig being swept away.  On the light rod I used a simple running leger with a hooklength around three feet and a ragworm on a size 1, this was dropped in the slack water and I settled back.  The area looked as fishy as hell and I felt confident despite never having even looked at this spot before today.

The day was warm, clear and bright but the north east wind was a cool one, blowing against the tide and whitening the wave tops.  I didn’t know what to expect but it felt right and sure enough the light rod rattled after a few minutes.  I wound in my first Bass of the season which was very welcome, despite being one of the smallest I’ve ever caught.  Where there’s one Bass there’s usually a few more but they weren’t throwing themselves at me.  An hour passed, a couple of times I wound in to find the bait had been robbed and I missed one decent bite before I had my second Bass of the day which was twice the size of the first but still small.  After that the bites dried up and as time passed and the tide dropped it became apparent there wasn’t a great depth of water left where my baits had been landing.  I moved away from the creek but kept my eye of what the tide revealed, details stored in the camera for another day.

The move brough an instant result, a strange fluttering bite and quite a bit of weight on the end although most of it took the form of a big ball of weed.  Most but not all, on the end of the long hooklength was a Flounder and my best so far I think?  After that it all went quiet fish wise, as I had plenty of bait I switched to rag on both rods and kept recasting regularly, different ranges and different directions.  The leads were holding in the current okay until the occasional clump of weed folded itself round the line but this didn’t happen too often. 

I’d planned to be off before low tide but as time passed the shrinking water actually made me more confident and if I looked hard I could see the occasional swirl from fish moving in very shallow water.  I tried dropping a bait under my rod top but nothing happened.  When a bite finally came it was on a big bunch of worms lobbed out on the heavy rod and this was a Bass that would make a decent meal even though officially undersize.  I had plenty of bait left and was enjoying myself so carried on and over the next couple of hours into dusk I had occasional rattles and a couple of decent bites bringing one more nice fish to the shore. 

By 2100 it was head torch dark and I was tired so started to pack up.  I tipped the few remaining worms into the water, tidied up what I could then leant the rods against my chair while I packed up the tripod.  I’d barely done this when the light rod started moving purposefully towards the river, in grabbing it I managed to knock the other rod sideways but there was no time to worry about that as I was attached to a decent fish which very helpfully managed to run beneath the other line and away from trouble.  The fish twisted and turned and ran down the near shelf but with this tackle all I had to guard against was a hook pull and this I managed.  A lovely big silver Bass which managed to roll in mud before I could retrieve the camera, this was clearly a legal keeper but like the rest it went back in the sea.  For a few moments I regretted chucking the bait way but in truth I was knackered and it was time to head home.



Sunday 21 April 2024

The strange and the familiar


Saturday came around again and we had an awkward, middle of the afternoon tide to try and plan around.  In previous seasons we would probably have fished the Steep beach, confident of catching but learning little.  So for the first time in a while we decided to venture forth and try somewhere completely different.  After a journey on different country lanes and some car park confusion we loaded up and tramped down an unfamiliar beach that I will optimistically christen ‘Fukushima’.

The day was bright and pleasant so we knew the Suffolk coast would be busy everywhere and this beach was no exception, despite its foreboding ambience.  We headed to an open patch of shore line close to man made structure and by 1400 I had my usual two rods and rigs, the heavy rod launched and the light rod dropped in close.  High tide was forty five minutes away but I didn’t have to wait long for a bite, the light rod rattled on the first cast but I didn’t hook up.  I had another bite on the same rod a short while later but this didn’t develop into anything strike-able.

By this time the tide turned and the sea was starting to get further away.  Giles was doing a little better than me and had managed a couple of decent sized Whiting but my rod tips weren’t doing much that couldn’t be attributed to the waves and a brisk south westerly wind.  A good hour had passed since Giles’ last fish before the tip of my light rod did something different, and kept doing it.  I wound down and yes there was a fishy resistance but this was long and snake like, my first Eel of the year.  A short while later the same rod fluttered again but nothing developed.  I wound in to check the bait and something felt fishy, then after a bit of winding skipped something small, flat and round across the waves.  Another first for the year, a tiny Turbot of all things which was interesting due to its rarity.  After that the bites dried up and the highlight was seeing a Porpoise breach a few times but this was a long way off shore.

We fished the tide all the way down by which time it was dark but I didn’t see anything on my rod tips to get me excited and Giles didn’t do any better.  The decision to pack up and head for home was an easy one.  Fishing somewhere different had been a good idea and although we could only count up four bites each, we’d learnt a lot and had a good idea how we might approach things on a different day, when other species might have ventured closer to shore.



The working week crawled by but eventually my days off arrived. These started lazily, mooching around the house, tinkering with tackle but mostly clock watching. I left home a little after 1600, flying solo towards what has become my favourite beach and I couldn’t help feeling confident. High tide was due at 2302 and I’d be fishing it all the way up in what seemed pretty good conditions. The day had been a mixture of cloud and clear, sunny spells that had become more prolonged as the day had gone on. The day was cold though with a fresh wind from the north but I figured my spot would be well sheltered. I’d be fishing the best part of the tide on a beach I knew can produce plenty of Rays, it looked like everything had fallen into place. What could possibly go wrong?

The drive on narrowing lanes is never a fast one and once I’d parked I loaded up my kit in double quick time and set off through the scrub.  My tracking senses spied twin grooves in the sand, the alarm bells rang – surely that’s a beach anglers trolly but was it coming or going?  Sod’s law dictated there’d be an angler right where I wanted to sit and sure enough there were two of them.  No worries, I walked to the right but as I turned I saw another angler crossing the beach, thankfully there was plenty of room for both of us.  Setting up I felt unsettled, this is as busy as I’d seen this beach and I hope it doesn’t become the new normal.

I had two rods fishing by 1715 and as usual hurled a big bait out on the heavy rod and used a two hook set up on the other.  However today I was using size 2 hooks with small baits hoping I might pick up a flat fish of some variety.  With the rods out I didn’t waste time getting the shelter up, respite from the wind was essential tonight.  The sky was now clear and bright, visibility good with a view of the endless line of ships heading for Felixstowe and on the horizon, “Sealand” – a relic from war defences now another man’s realm.  People have lived here for as long as I can remember and what once seemed weird now doesn’t seem such a bad idea.

By 1745 all was ready and for once organised as I’d baited up a load of rigs so it was time to sit back with a cuppa and relax.  I sat watching the sea which looked mostly flat out where the heavier lead was landing but this was deceiving as big waves were crashing onto the beach from time to time.  I noticed the flat sea was lumpier than I first thought as slow moving bars of water rolled towards me and it was these that brought the crashing waves.  When these waves broke the retreating water seemed to be sucked back much further than normal and the beach itself was being scoured.  This unusual pattern stayed the same all night, periods of relative calm broken up by a few minutes of crash, roar and tumble then calm again for a couple of minutes.

I expected it to be slow to begin with so wasn’t worried that this was the case but the longer we go without a bite the more the mind starts to play tricks, when the first bite of the night comes it changes everything.  This came at 1900, a definite pull down on the light rod resulted in a small Dogfish.  I recast this rod then decided to check the other and wound in another small dog.  This rod had was barely back on the tripod and I’d hardly sat down before the light rod was wobbling again, I’d now had three Dogs in fifteen minutes.  While this was going on three more anglers had hiked across the shingle and were heading to the left; seven anglers on the beach tonight, what is going on?  The hooklengths on the lighter rod were now coming back tangled which is a sign of fishing in turbulent water so I changed for another pulley rig with a bigger bait which I was able to cast a bit further and beyond the commotion.

After that brief flurry the bites stopped and the tips didn’t show anything to get excited about for well over an hour.  In this time the fading daylight had accelerated into full darkness and I’d clipped the tip lights onto the rod tips.  As we’ve come to expect darkness brought the fish in and the tips started to rattle once more.  I didn’t get any hectic periods - the bites came steadily and all were similar; a rattle followed by a sharp downward pull but tonight the tip didn’t stay down or fly back slack so at no time did I expect to find myself attached to a Ray.  I missed a few bites but managed to bring four more dogfish up the beach, a couple of which were quite big, all the fish I caught tonight took squid.

Time seems to speed up once it gets dark which is strange as there isn’t much to look at apart from the glowing tip lights.  There was no sound other than the boom and crash of the waves, even the rush of shingle being dragged back seemed amplified.  If the noise had been this loud at Fukushima beach last week I’d have been very nervous.  High tide came and went as did my energy so I gave it ‘one last cast’ then tidied my kit away.  I always leave the rods till last but this time it didn’t help me catch an extra fish, then again it rarely does.  The drive home on quiet roads was kind of relaxing with “the dream canteen” on the stereo and as much as I’d enjoyed the fishing it hadn’t gone at all as I’d expected.  Before I left home I’d have put money on myself to catch a Ray but it hadn’t happened and I’d been reminded I should never take these things for granted.




Friday 12 April 2024

Grumpy Sunday, Happy Monday

Sunday morning, the Princess had grim news, my presence was required at a garden centre; “I need your input – we’ll just get what we want and come home…”  on balance this particularly sadistic form of torture was marginally preferable to the grief I’d have got had I refused.

Things didn’t bode well, the Princess was driving which is an experience I never enjoy but something I’ve gotten used to over the years.  The outing went awry from the start, instead of turning left and going to the garden centre a couple of miles down the road we turned right and headed for another one which was several miles in the other direction.  ‘Several’ miles became even more because the Princess just cannot drive in a straight line.  Yes she keeps the car within the lines but hers is a meandering course that likes to use the extremities of the lane.  The most direct route involved a single track country lane but ‘most direct’ doesn’t necessarily mean quickest.

We arrived at the dreaded garden centre to find the car park was rammed, in fact there were no spaces left.  There would have been plenty of room had the other users managed to use a bit of common sense and at least park straight.  Had I been behind the wheel I would have just driven away at this point but after a slow circuit and a couple of seven point turns we found a space that must have been just vacated, I’m not sure if I was pleased at this point?  I suppose the alternative would have been to drive to another fucking garden centre, at least when the car next started we would be heading home.  But before that blessed relief we had the main ordeal itself to contend with.

We were squeezed next to a crisp white sporty Range Rover thing.  These motors should not be clean and white, they are off road vehicles for fuck sake, they should be dark green and mud splattered.  Be real, that was Suffolk a lifetime ago, nowadays these motors are bought to impress others and are usually driven by a tiny, lone female.  The next car over was a vintage sports car of some description, I’m not sure what kind but its owner wore a tee shirt that said ‘Jensen’ in big letters so if I was a gambling man…  Either way it was an unsuitable vehicle to be weighing down with bags of fertilizer which was what Mr Jensen is doing.  But it was the first sunny Sunday of the year so all the soft tops and big motorcycles were bound to be out.

Into the labyrinth of rooms and spaces; (why are garden centres like this?  Random collections of dilapidated barns linked by rattling Perspex) there was very little here that I understood but it was a subject I’d strived to avoid all my life.  Small clusters of slow moving elderly people created hazards in the rows and reminded me of Pacman ghosts, I realised we were the youngest people in the building.  Despite the bursting car park there didn’t seem to be that many people around, where were they all?  Was there something fun going on somewhere in one of these random buildings?  Any curiosity I had was stifled by reminding myself that this was a garden centre, fun is not on the agenda, this was not a place where I belonged.

After a double circuit of the warren we chanced upon the item we set out for and quickly gathered it up.  The Princess could read the signs and knew it was time to steer me homeward before I done “something inappropriate and embarrassing…  We headed into the final building, the last bottleneck where they squeeze the cash out of us before we are allowed to escape.  But there was no one behind the counter.  We waited.  Then we waited some more.  The till area was unguarded as was the office, door wide open with computers and a handbag in plain sight.  I managed to resist the temptation for mischief.  After a while a member of staff appeared with an octogenarian customer in tow, while he flapped around the absentee returned all apologies and we eventually made our escape.

The drive home was on more country lanes, single track with passing spaces which can lead to some questionable driving but it wasn’t so bad today.  We passed a day ticket fishery, a couple of acres of admittedly quite pretty farm pond but it’s full of horrible ghostly carp and I could see anglers everywhere with another rammed car park.  That is not angling, no way and if that was all that was available I really wouldn’t bother.

 

My weekend plans to fish an evening tide had been thwarted by strong winds so here I sat, early Monday morning, facing the rising sun in calmer conditions.  I was wondering if two days of stormy weather would have stirred things up and the big Rays would be on the feed?  Despite the onshore breeze the sea was fairly flat and with a bit of cloud stopping the day becoming too bright everything looked about as good as it could get?  I fished my normal heavy rod/light rod and kept to the rigs I usually use.  Both sailed out nicely and gripped so the two rod tips had a nice curve.  All I needed was a fish.

One hundred yards to the south was Mr K, an old mate of long standing and he started fast with a couple of small bass on ragworm.  Shortly after that I heard a shout and looked up to see him standing up with a seriously bent rod, I picked up scales and camera and jogged down the beach in time to see a cracking big Ray of 7-12 flap up the slope.  This was a new PB so Mr K was chuffed as nuts and a few minutes later he added a second Ray which was about half the size though still a decent fish.

Back behind my rods I was starting to have my doubts, time was passing and starting to speed up, so far I still hadn’t had so much as a rattle.  I was using tried and tested methods on a beach I was familiar with, I expected to catch but it just wasn’t happening.  At times like this we start to second guess ourselves and get weird ideas but I told myself I just had to stick to what I was doing and the fish would come.  Another shout to my right, Mr K was dragging a third ray up the beach.  With a mate catching fish and my tips static the weird ideas started to crowd my brain again!  Around 0920 I wound in the light rod and was surprised to find a funny little flat fish had hooked itself on a strip of mackerel.  This creature was brown on one side, white on the other and almost transparent which makes it a Dab I believe?  Ah well, it had taken almost three hours but I’d caught a fish, the blank was avoided so now I could be happy sitting on a quiet beach on a pleasant morning watching my mate hammer the fish!

I hadn’t managed to recast the light rod before I looked up to see the heavy rod had slackened off and I was on my feet at a speed that surprised me.  I had to wind down a fair way before I felt the fish and for a few seconds I dragged a decent weight towards the shore but then it all went solid and no amount of heavy hauling would shift it.  I slackened off and put the rod back in the tripod for a few minutes.  The rod started to bend over and I thought this might have done the trick but this may have just been the tide taking up the slack as it was still solid.  Eventually the leader gave way and what was on the end I’ll never know although my money would be on a decent ray…

Despite this setback I still felt confident, the bites had started right on cue, exactly when I’d predicted they would to Mr K and I was sure I’d get another chance.  I switched the light rod to a bigger hook and a small whole squid and punched this out before retackling the heavy rod.  At 1005 it was the light rod that yanked over and I was soon doing battle again.  This time I kept the lump of fish moving, it didn’t get bogged down and after a tug of war in the surf I hauled a decent Ray onto the beach, greeted by a cheer from Mr K.  I’d barely recast this rod before the heavy rod fell slack again and I was soon winching back another decent weight.  It was no surprise to see a second, smaller ray come flapping onto the beach, that’s more like it!

In the next half an hour I had bites on both rods and landed three decent sized Dogfish and while that was going on Mr K beached a Whiting, a dog and two more Rays.  Then the fish just switched off and it went quiet on all rods.  Just after 1100 we met in the middle for a brief chat and decided ‘one more cast’ but still the rod tips remained still.  I started to tidy up and wound in the light rod to find a crab had impaled itself.  Around 1130 I had nothing left to tidy up so was forced to wind in the heavy rod and bugger me there was a decent weight on the end which I pumped all the way back to the breakers before it thumped once and came off.  Maybe another Ray but then again…

The hike back to the cars is always taxing and had us puffing, it was a relief to onload the kit then two broad grins broke out, today was a Happy Monday.