11/10/2019 - A couple more sessions in the salt

Two more trips to the coast and two more opportunities to have a dabble in the sea, but with the contrasting results. First up was a quick trip down to Wales for the wife's birthday and for her to catch up with her parents before they headed off to France for the best of two months. As usual I'd kept an eye on the conditions with a view to factoring in a session or two.  

Fishguard was favourite due to the prevailing wind and tides, so early on Saturday morning I headed north with the intention of fishing three hours up from low tide.Went with mackerel and squid baits - a big cocktail bait on a pulley pennel and strips on a two hook flapper - having had some success with whiting and doggies this time last year. Had plenty of indications from the off, but unfortunately the baits were attracting the wrong kind of attention as the local crab population homed in and demolished them within minutes! Put up with two hours of this nonsense before admitting defeat. Another factor was that a fine mist had set in as well, which turned the rock apron I was standing on into an ice rink. A weird highlight of the morning was being serenaded by a grey seal, which sounded like a cross between a child crying and a dog howling, which echoed my mood as I trudged back along the breakwater!

The following weekend I was down at Saunton Sands in North Devon with the lads for the second of our annual surf trips. Again, the LRF gear was packed in the boot with everything else in case an opportunity arose to cast a line. A blown out, mucky sea meant that surfing was not on the cards on the Saturday, so we all headed up to Ilfracombe instead. My friend Craig went for the big bait, big fish approach with a whole squid on a pennel rig, whilst I fished my usual scaled-down paternoster baited with bits of "Gulp" sandworm. First drop down the side of the pier I had a small ballan wrasse, quickly followed by a couple of pollack. 

Went quiet after that, but I found that by moving about I could tempt a few bites in each spot, adding pouting, corkwing wrasse and a rock goby to the species list. 

At one stage the pollack pushed a shoal of fry up to the surface, which in turn attracted a lone garfish. Any clumsy attempts to dangle a bait in front of it were ignored as it harassed the fry, unlike the pollack that greedily grabbed at anything that moved! Unhooked one and dropped it back in, not noticing the cormorant that had suddenly appeared at my feet. Obviously used to getting an easy meal off anglers it then climbed up the steps from water level and was comically waddling about on the pier. 

A fish-less Craig was packing up at this stage so duly shared his remaining squid between the cormorant and an equally attentive juvenile gull. Things had also slowed down for me so when the others turned up, bored of trawling the tat shops, I called it a day as well. Scores on the doors were 11 pollack, 4 ballan wrasse, 2 corkwing wrasse, 2 pouting and 1 rock goby.

With more trips to Wales and Falmouth this month hopefully I will have more opportunities to add to the species tally - a goldsinney wrasse and a giant goby would be nice - before it gets too cold. Let's face it, I won't be getting out on any of the local rivers any time soon!

23/09/2019 - Back so soon?

Not wanting to rest on my laurels after Friday's session and with some unfinished business with a big perch I arranged to work at home so that I could finish and be out the door at 3 o'clock on the dot - the benefit of working flexi time! Refreshed my remaining maggots with another pint of mixed from Bridge Tackle in Long Eaton and headed off to the Soar once more. Got to the venue to find that the river was still clear, but that the rain over the weekend had injected a bit more pace into the flow, making it a lot easier to run the float through my chosen swim. Another obvious change was that the hordes of ravenous chub seemed to have moved on elsewhere which, as it turned out, at least gave a some different species a chance.

Soon got into a rhythm catching bleak, chub, roach and dace on the stick and, like on Friday, the perch paternoster was soon deployed at the bottom end of the swim. It had been grey and dull when I arrived, so I wasn't surprised when it started spitting with rain after about an hour. Rather stupidly I had left my coat in the car, so had to rely on my fleece and the tree canopy above me as a natural umbrella. 

This meant that I had to retreat backwards out of the river a few paces, so ended up trotting down a different line out of the main flow. This didn't seem to make a difference as I carried on catching silvers, but also added some bonus species in the way of perch, gudgeon and a little ruffe. Can't actually remember the last time I caught one of these so, along with the gudgeon, it was a welcome surprise.

The  perch rod had been looking after itself all this time, so when the bite alarm eventually signalled a take it came completely out of the blue. However, my hopes of my first big stripey of the season were dashed when another jack started charging around the swim instead. Carried on and added a skimmer on the float rod to make it nine species for the night, before just concentrating on the perch rod for the last half an hour. Unfortunately, I only managed another jack and a small perch that eyes far bigger than its belly! Ended up with 34 bleak, 24 dace, 24 chub, 14 roach, 5 perch, 4 gudgeon, 2 pike, a ruffe and a skimmer.

So whilst a big perch eluded me again, It was another enjoyable session on a river that is obviously in a very healthy condition at the moment. Packed up and headed home a little damp, but happy!

20/09/2019 - First river session for a while.

My river season doesn't really get going until late summer, but this year it was in danger of being pushed back to October, so this week I made a conscious decision to make the best of the fantastic weather we were having and get down my local River Soar. About 3 o'clock I stopped off at Soar Tackle and got my club book and a pint of "mixed" off Scott. A quick chat about my chosen venue revealed that the top of the section had hardly been fished this year - just what I wanted to hear! Fifteen minutes later I was heading upstream across the meadow and into the wood. Soon became apparent from the shoulder high nettles that what Scott had said was true, but I managed to battle through the vegetation in my waders relatively unscathed. 

Got to my familiar spot and found the river low and clear, but still with enough flow from left to right to create a nice crease over to the far side. Looked quite promising from the top of the bank as I could see lots of small fish knocking about, so set up the rods and got down into the water. Started off by trotting maggot under the stick and had a fish on, a small chub, first cast. Was soon obvious that it was like fish soup out there! Most casts the float barely managed to travel six feet before the maggot was snatched by a chublet, dace, or bleak. 

I was therefore able to get some baits in the bucket and the rod with the perch paternoster out into the slack to my right in double quick time. Carried on with the float, building up the swim and letting the paternoster rod work away by itself. 

Didn't have to wait long before a slack line bite indicated some interest from a predator. However, before I could get on the rod the bait was dropped, its scaleless flanks indicating the likely culprit. Popped it back into the slack to be taken again a few minutes later. Unfortunately, thoughts of a decent perch were dashed when a green, spotty torpedo immediately went airborne. Carried on in this vein for the next 3 hours, adding a few roach and a single skimmer that somehow managed to get to the bait before the ravenous hordes of little chub! Obviously, with this much food about, there were also a few more predators in attendance.

However, six more hits on the paternoster just resulted in more pike or stolen baits. Hung on for as long as I could, straining to see the float in the gloom before packing up. For the record I had 94 chublets, 35 bleak, 12 dace, 8 roach and 1 skimmer on the float and 3 pike on the paternoster......but not a single perch on either! Still, it had been a very hectic and enjoyable session and I as I headed back to the car through the nettles the river was absolutely alive with topping fish. Made me think that there must be a big perch there somewhere, but that will have to wait until next time.......

15/09/19 - Bagging up down Devon way

Time flies. Didn't seem like five minutes ago when were picking the boy up from Uni for the summer when, all of a sudden, it was time to take him back again. Friday afternoon saw us travelling fully laden down to M5 to stop off at our friends in Exmouth but, as usual, a spot was found in the car for the LRF gear. Unfortunately, an hour's crawl past Bristol put paid to a potential evening session, instead plans were made to hit high tide early next morning. 

There was a bit of a nip in the air as Simon and I walked down to the docks, but it was bright and sunny and we were soon greeted by a fantastic panoramic view across the estuary. The water was clear and we could see a big shoal of small fish in our first spot at the "compass". We both expectantly set up scaled down paternoster rigs with size 10 Sabpolo wormer hooks baited with artificials, Simon going for "Gulp" angleworm and me for small sections of sandworm. I won the race to get the first fish, a pollack, on the scoreboard. However, it soon became evident that there were a lot of these about - the baits were getting hit before they'd even hit bottom and fish were coming up two at a time! At one stage it was difficult to see anything else getting a look in, but I eventually managed to break the monotony with a small ballan and a couple of sand smelts, my first of this species this year.

After about half an hour of non-stop action we were ready for a change. The incoming tide had now slackened off, so we headed for the dock wall. Found Greg of East Devon Fishing just setting up, so had a quick chat. I was interested to learn that he was actually targeting bream with frozen black lug tipped off with squid. Filed that away for future reference before dropping down the side a little further down the dock. Again, the pollack were there in numbers, but amongst the ravenous hordes we managed to find a few different species, including a couple of corkwing wrasse, and a fat tompot. 

Simon also managed a small pouting, a rare catch from the venue according to Greg. As the ebb tide started ripping through along the dock wall we left Greg and headed to the boat ramp. First drop down next to the sheet piling I had a thumping take from another small ballan. Second drop, same again, but instead of the expected wrasse I found a brace of tompots on the end! At this point Simon asked me if I was there any point in carrying on as I was unlikely to top that. Not one to ignore a challenge I re-baited and dropped down the side of the ramp one more time. A few seconds later the rod tip rattled and I was pleased to find a long-spined sea scorpion on the end. 

After dancing around like a pair of big kids in celebration we agreed that was the perfect moment on which to finish and headed back home for breakfast. Finished with 34 pollack, 3 tompots, 2 corkwings, 2 ballans, 2 sand smelt and 1 scorpion.

Went back the following morning for a session before rugby training, this time dragging Simon's lad Daniel out with us. Some resistance on Dan's part to leave his bed on a Sunday morning meant we headed straight for the dock wall to catch the short window of slack water. Needless to say, the pollack were there in numbers and were all over the baits right from the start. In the clear water, small groups of fish could be seen following their hooked brethren right up to the surface before diving back into the depths. However, I again managed to whittle out a couple of ballans and tompots. 

As the tide turned floating weed became a nuisance, so we watched some huge, barrel jellyfish and the odd mullet drifting back out to sea on the ebb, before seeking out some more sheltered water. There was a chap thrashing the water to foam with a lure with little apparent success on the ramp, so we had a look around the rocks at the end of the dock wall instead. Along with a couple of inevitable pollack, it seemed we dropped into right tompot "hole", as we managed 8 between us in quick succession from the same small area. Inevitably it was time for Simon and Dan to head off to rugby, so we said our reluctant goodbyes. Ended up with 32 pollack, 2 ballans and 9 tompots.

Once again, Exmouth delivered goods. Roll on October when we'll be back again!

03/08/2019 - I do like to be beside the seaside!

Fitted in a week down at the in-laws before our main holiday in France, so again made the most of any opportunity to cast a bait - both natural and artificial - into the sea. Unfortunately the tides didn't fall kindly to allow any early morning bass sessions on the estuary, so plans were made to hit a couple of local LRF marks and to travel up to the North coast instead. 

On Tuesday I set off for Pembroke Dock to try and pick up some ragworm from John at Raven Trading. However, the bait delivery wasn't due for a few hours, so I decided to kill time by popping just down the road to Hobbs Point. I got there just before low tide, and found that I was able to fish off the bottom of the old car ferry ramp for a change. Fished my usual scaled down paternoster rig baited with small sections of Gulp sandworm, which proved extremely attractive to the local goby population! 

Had a bite a chuck, ending up with fifty rock gobies and half a dozen black gobies, with the odd ballan wrasse and pollack thrown in before it was time to head back to the shop a couple of hours later. 

The following morning I was up bright and early to catch high tide down at Milford Haven armed with my pack of ragworm. Fished off the "bull nose", dropping my paternoster rig baited with small pieces of worm straight down the side of the sea wall. Like the previous day I was soon into a procession of fish, but this time the area seemed to be absolutely snided out with little corkwing wrasse, a fish I never really tire of catching as the colourful males are the nearest we have to a "tropical" fish. 

By the time my bait supply had been exhausted I had amassed 30 corkwings, together with a few ballans, shannies and pollack. Dropped into Angler's Corner on the way home to see if I could replenish my bait stocks and had a useful chat with the very friendly and helpful Martin and Sandra, before reserving a pack of rag for the following day.

The next morning I returned to Milford Haven, firstly checking out the access to a couple of potential low water marks on the Hakin side of the docks, before returning to the bull nose. Fishing with bits of Gulp sandworm I found it much harder going than the previous day and had to scratch around in several spots to find the fish. Again, there were were a few corkwings about, along with some rock gobies, shannies and pollack. The fishing slowed right down about two hours after high tide, so I packed up and went and picked up my ragworm, taking the opportunity to pick Sandra's brains about LRF marks once more!

On Friday the tide times had advanced sufficiently to allow a trip up to the North coast for a session with the lad off the inner breakwater at Goodwick. Arrived two hours before high tide with the intention of fishing about an hour into the ebb. Walked to the end of the breakwater to find a grey seal cheekily hauled out on top of the lobster cage and it wasn't long before another one popped up to give us the once over before swimming off into the bay. Undeterred by the competition we set up three rods - a squid and mackerel sausage on a pennel rig and a one up, one down rig baited with fish strips were cast out into the bay and a two hook flapper baited with rag was cast parallel to the breakwater. It was a brilliant, bright morning and we were soon both cooking on the rocks as the sun rose higher. Bites were slow in coming, but we eventually had a brief flurry of activity on the rod cast down the side.

This resulted in four ballans, a corkwing and a pollack. Wound the pennel rod in to find that the bait had been competely demolished by the crabs. Didn't bother putting this one out again, but instead swapped the bait on the other rod to ragworm as well. It was this one that tempted our last fish of the morning, another ballan, before we packed up and headed for the cafe for a bacon butty and much needed drink. 

Was in a bit of a quandry over our last session. With the sea slowly clearing over on the East coast a shot at some garfish at Saundersfoot looked to be on the cards, but a freshening breeze from the South saw us heading for Hobbs Point again for high tide. Wasn't in much doubt that we would catch gobies - lots of them - so a dad vs. lad match was proposed, with James electing to use Gulp and me using the manky remnants of the ragworm. Setting ourselves a maximum of an hour we had bites from the off. It was nip and tuck, but when the whistle blew we'd both had 21 fish consisting of rock gobies, corkwings (they seem to be everywhere at the moment!) and pollack. Suspect that natural bait would have edged it if it hadn't been for the time lost re-baiting. However, I wasn't complaining seeing as he'd thrashed me the last two times we'd had a similar competition!

Didn't get much variety over the week in terms of species, but the numbers of fish caught made up for that and, whilst Nottingham had been deluged with rain, we'd had some glorious weather. See you again soon!

01/06/2019 - Another LRF round up

May is the time that the bass and the LRF gear gets a dust off as the sea starts to warm up and more opportunities to visit the coast arise. It is also the time that we get the dreaded "May bloom" or "May water", that can knock the fishing back for a few weeks. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so it's a question of getting out there and hoping for the best. First opportunity was the lads' annual weekend trip down to Saunton.

Unfortunately, we rather overdid it with the drinking on the Friday night, so a trip out on Saturday morning didn't happen! However, Sunday morning saw me heading out bright and early to Ilfracombe for low tide. Fished around the pilings of the lower deck of the pier for a couple of hours, but really struggled to attract anything and I was beginning to wonder if there was anything about. It was also very cold due to brisk breeze coming off the sea and I had to go back to the car for another coat and a beanie! 

After a bit more scratching about I finally ended up with a couple of nice long-spined sea scorpions (always happy to catch a scorpion!) before bidding Verity goodbye.

First weekend of the May half-term we headed down to Pembrokeshire to see the wife's parents before they headed off to France for a month (lucky them!). I was hoping for my first lure-caught bass of the year, but when I headed off to the estuary for low tide at first light on the Sunday morning the conditions were frankly awful. It was difficult to see where the sky stopped and the water started due to the persistent rain and there was quite a chop on due to a strong breeze blowing straight up the channel, which in turn was churning up the margins and turning them the colour of tea. I probably lasted about half an hour before I realised the futility of my actions and headed home wet and cold!

Next day it was still windy, but dry and sunny, so I made the trip down to Hobbs Point with the LRF gear. Made my way down to the bottom of the car ramp and dropped my isome-baited rig down the side of the wall. Didn't have to wait long before I started getting those familiar knocks on the rod tip before hooking into one of the culprits. Yep, my old friend the rock goby!


Once again it appeared that the bottom was carpeted in them and after about two dozen of the flippin' things I was ready to go home. I was just about to return my last fish when I realised that it was actually a different species, albeit a black goby. The only other excitement was when a Chinese family fishing off the top of the ramp managed to catch a dogfish, which was efficiently dispatched and consigned to a carrier bag, no doubt for consumption later.

For the actual May Bank Holiday we travelled down to Exmouth again to pick the boy up from University (where did his first year go?). I was keen to try and improve on my recent results, so planned a "double header" on the Saturday, aiming to hit high tide at the marina first thing in the morning and again in the evening. Starting at the "compass" the idea was to stop off at a number of different spots as the tide dropped. However, despite catching a couple of ballans out of the "wrasse hole" my friend Simon and I discovered last trip down, I again struggled to catch. The main issue was the amount of suspended weed, which made fishing metals and plastics for the pollack off the boat ramp almost impossible as it was constantly fouling the line.


In the end I kept myself amused by catching a seemingly endless stream of shannies out of some ridiculously small gaps in the sea defences! Later that day I headed straight for the wrasse hole. In contrast to the morning, the fish were definitely switched on. I made the most of the small window before the tide started to rip by again catching several sizeable ballans, but getting smashed twice in the process by something far too big for my LRF gear to cope with.


I also added a tompot, a pollack and Mr & Mrs Corkwing, the male probably being the biggest and most intensely coloured example I've caught to date. As the rip built up it made my little spot unfishable with my light gear, so I headed back to the house, pausing briefly to watch some huge barrel jellyfish whizzing past on the tide.


In the end marvellous Exmouth produced the goods yet again, so it was with great reluctance that we headed back up the M5 the following day. Oh well, not long now until the rivers are open again!

22/04/2019 - When in Rome.......

Sunday saw us down at friends in Exmouth yet again having driven the boy part of the way back to University. Work on Tuesday meant we had only planned a short stop, but there was more than enough time to factor in a quick fishing session, particularly as the conditions on Monday morning - warm, sunny weather and an early morning high tide - looked spot on. 

Unfortunately things didn't go quite to plan, as a late night and more than a few drinks meant our early start went out the window and we didn't get down to the marina until just before slack water. At least the brisk walk served to clear our heads a bit! Setting up on the "compass", my friend Simon and I started off dropping our baited rigs down amongst the rocks to see what was about. About half an hour later and with just two, fat shannies to show for our efforts, we were ready for a move onto the dock. The tide had already started ebbing and running along the dock wall, but I spotted a small, sheltered area of slack water and duly dropped my rig down to the bottom. Literally 10 seconds later the tip wrenched over and after a short, but intense, scrap I scooped a beautifully marked ballan wrasse into the landing net. 

Next cast resulted in another, slightly smaller specimen, so I encouraged Simon to drop his rig into the same spot while I sorted the fish out in the net. I just about had time to unhook it and drop it back in before he announced that he was also into a fish! 

We carried on in this vein for about the next 20 minutes, taking turns in the "wrasse hole" and catching several more ballans in a range of colours and sizes, including a double hook-up to Simon that looked like peas in a pod. Eventually, as the ebb picked up, our little patch of slack water disappeared along with the fish, so we moved on to the next spot at the boat ramp hoping for some pollack. It took a few casts to find them, but they were soon throwing themselves at our artificial baits. 

Our dear lady wives turned up at this point and with thoughts turning to a much-needed cup of coffee and some food, we had a last couple of casts each. I hadn't bothered to change my two hook mini-flapper rig I'd been using for the wrasse and consequently managed to end on a high with two double hook ups, consisting of three pollack and a coalfish, dispelling our wives' theory that we were just catching the same single fish over and over again! Walked back along the front looking for some low water spots to try next time, stopping at Abi's for a quick brunch. Five hours later, after multiple delays on the M5, we were back in Nottingham and getting ready for work!