07/10/2023 - Topwater bass action

Had been in touch with Joel Squires, North Devon bass guide, again before we came down about the possibility of another lure session somewhere. He replied that the tides weren't brilliant, being small neaps, but that he'd have a think about it. 

As it happened I ran into him on the beach at Saunton on Saturday when I got back from Ilfracombe and after a quick chat I arranged to meet him on the estuary at Crow Point later that afternoon. Walking up from the car park towards the mouth of the estuary we discussed tactics. It had been a cracking, warm sunny day up until then and Joel thought conditions would be spot on for a bass off the top as the evening progressed. However, as previously, I started off by bumping soft plastics along in the current, but the small outgoing tide meant that there was not a lot of flow and I kept snagging up in the weed on the bottom. Joel meanwhile had headed a little futher away to see if the bass were interested in a big Pachinko.

Therefore, as soon as I saw him catch a small schoolie I clipped on one myself and started banging it out towards the horizon. Walking the lure back towards me along the surface I could see swirls behind it and the occasional garfish leaping after it, so was full of anticipation. However, the first proper take resulted in a bass that wasn't much bigger than the lure itself! A few minutes later I managed a better one around 2lb, before snagging another tiddler. Joel had also had another couple of small fish, but after a bit of deliberation he decided that a change of location to some shallower, rough ground was required if we wanted a better fish, so we walked back up the estuary where weed-covered fingers of rock exposed by the tide jutted out into the main channel - an inspired move as it turned out. 

Wading out from the shore I did wonder whether Joel was going to stop before we got to Appledore on the opposite side of the estuary, but we eventually got to our new positions with me on one side of the furthest gully and Joel on the other. The light was disappearing rapidly now and the water in front of us was like glass - absolutely perfect! As advised I changed down to a slightly smaller Savage Gear panic prey and again started covering the water in front of me. The move certainly appeared to have been justified as second cast Joel had another schoolie and moments later I happened to look over as yet another fish slashed at the surface at his lure. This was obviously a much better fish and, after getting weeded up a couple of times, he held up a cracking bass of about 5 lb.

There certainly seemed to be plenty of fish in front of us as, frustratingly, I had three aborted takes myself before Joel advised me to slow down my retrieve and I eventually hooked into another bass of around 2lb that also did its best to weed me up on the way in. The light was really fading now and we were into the last ten minutes of the session when my lure was sucked into a vortex, the line tightened and the rod hooped over. Learning from the last fish I bullied it straight into the deeper water of the gully where it woke up and gave a good account of itself at close quarters. Joel by now had waded over to me and as the fish tired on the surface he secured it first time with the boga grip. 

Not as big as his, but a superbly conditioned, dark fish of about 4 lb, so I was well pleased with that. Got a quick snap, unhooked him and sent him back on his way. Whilst we had a couple more casts each that fish nicely brought the session to an end and we waded back to the shore, giving the legs a good workout in the process. Was fully dark by the time we got back to the car park and after promising that we'd hook up together soon we went our separate ways  - me to a freshly cooked cod, chips and curry sauce that the others had kindly brought me from Braunton. Fantastic end to a fantastic day! 

07/10/2023 - Return to Ilfracombe

Hot on the heels of our visit to Cornwall it was time for the second of our bi-annual trips to Saunton Sands in North Devon - good job we have understanding wives and partners, although I suspect that they are glad to get rid of us for a bit to be honest! 

As usual I'd been keeping an eye on the weather and tides and had packed some fishing tackle accordingly. Early Saturday morning I therefore headed up to Ilfracombe hoping to catch a few mini-species. The sun hadn't yet risen over the headland when I pulled up in the car park under the imposing gaze of Verity. However, I could see that there was already another angler set up on the end of the lower landing of the pier, so I made my way down and set up at the bottom of the steps to the upper deck. Tackled up the Rock Rover with my usual mini-two hook flapper consisting of size 10 wormer hooks baited up with sections of leftover ragworm that I'd salted down in Wales. 

Dropped this down down the side of one of the wooden pilings and didn't have to wait long before I started getting some aggressive taps on the rod tip. After a couple of minutes I hooked into my first fish of the morning - a female corkwing wrasse. 

The bites continued to come thick and fast and over the next hour I added several more species to the list, including pollack, poor cod, rock goby, common blenny and ballan wrasse.

By now the occasional larger wave had started to wash over the end of the lower deck, so my fishing companion had wordlessly moved his gear to the steps above me. However, he became a bit more chatty after he dropped his bait elastic in the drink and I rescued it with my long-handled landing net. 

He'd been fishing since 3 o'clock and showed me some pictures of some decent pollack that he'd had along with some strap conger and a single mackerel on feathers. The latter had been cut into strips that were now bobbing around under a couple of floats in the hope of a garfish. Moved up onto the upper deck myself in order to avoid wet feet and first drop down between two of the pilings I had an aggressive bite almost as soon as the lead hit the bottom. 

This resulted in another species - a lovely coloured pouting. Quickly had a three more, followed by species number eight - a tompot blenny. Unfortunately, having just discovered this little honey hole I was approached by a crew member from the Lundy Island ferry and politely asked to move so they could adjust the mooring ropes. 

When they susbequently fired up the bow thrusters and turned the water below into a boiling vortex I decided to call it a day. I'd rattled through all of my rag by now anyway and was using a bit of squid that I'd cadged off my new friend, who had also added to his tally with two small garfish. 

Armed with that knowledge I returned at  first light the following morning with some small metal lures in the hope of snagging one, or  even a late mackerel, for myself. In contrast to the previous day the morning temperature was barely into double figures, requiring me to pull on my quilted jacket. Despite this there were again a couple of anglers already set up at the end of the lower deck. However, this still gave me plenty of water to cover with the lures. Decided to hedge my bets and tied on a trace with two micro-sabikis and clipped a 7g Major Craft jigpara slim on the end. Started off by casting parallel to the pier, letting the lure hit bottom and the retrieving it close to the structure. 

Had a few pollack this way early on, but when the sun rose over the headland they seemed to disappear, so I started casting out into the bay and retrieving the lure close to the surface. Had done this a few times when I felt knocking and banging on rod tip and as I drew the lure closer I could see a garfish snaking behind it in the clear water before it veered off. A couple of casts later I felt a few knocks again before the line tightened and I was into a gar, albeit a lot smaller than the one I'd seen tailing the lure earlier. Carried on a bit longer, but as quickly as they had appeared the garfish seemed to have moved on, so packed up and headed back to join the others for breakfast leaving the pier now bathed in full sunshine. Was happy with nine species as there have been times when I've caught bugger all! However, the oddities that Ilfracombe throws up, such as leopard spotted gobies and clingfish, still elude me. 

Hopefully I'll be able to keep going for as long as Verity continues to oversee things, which will be for next nine years at least!