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


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...