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Crabbing about

I hope that you find my journal interesting and entertaining. If, having read this, you think that I am talking rubbish then at least you have stopped and thought about it long enough to come to that conclusion which is something of a result in my book. If you would like to comment on this article or anything else relating to my website, please feel free to contact me using the adjacent form. Feedback is always greatly appreciated and very helpful when it comes to improving both my site and my angling. Thank you for looking. If this form will not work for you, please e-mail me at editor@ericweight.co.uk

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I've just returned from two utterly fishless forays along the south coast. The sense of disappointment is a bit heavy to bear at the moment having looked forward to this unexpected opportunity for a few weeks now, but there are always positives to be gathered in if one cares to think about it. Unfortunately it still takes me a while for that let down feeling to recede enough to appreciate them.

As always, I find writing things down a good way to arrange my thoughts and so if you read on, you will have to humour me I'm afraid.

Day one was spent on the River Arun ostensibly fishing for flounders. I'm new to this, and I get the impression that estuary flounders are a winter pursuit. Is that because they leave the rivers in summer or because the anglers do? Are they the last resort of beach fishermen blown off by storms and raging surf? Well, I am none the wiser, because all I caught was crabs and plenty of them. Maybe that's why they are left alone in summer, because the crabs beat the fish to the bait all the time? I could certainly understand that.




Mind you, even the crabs taught me something. Last autumn, I missed loads of good rattles on the rod tip. So many in fact that I had convinced myself that they were caused by crabs. Braid is very good at showing very minor interest in the bait and I figured that was why I was seeing the results of their efforts. Well, on this trip, every bait I put out there was eaten by the little blighters and their attentions were definitely visible on the rod tips, but only as slow, short pull downs and tiny vibrations. Those strong rattles last year were not crabs, no doubt about it. Silver eels perhaps or even tiny bass or whiting maybe.

My up-line, semi-flying lead was a qualified success and on the rod that carried it, both baits were eaten every time. The one without showed less damage to the bait on the top hook, suggesting that it maybe wasn't quite as close to the bottom quite as often. A few fish might have helped confirm or deny the theory, so that remains work in progress. After all, for all I know flounders might find a bait fluttering about just off bottom to be attractive. They are reputed to be pretty predatory and are caught on lures often enough. In fact I have seen them chasing a lure well off bottom.

I have been using gemini breakout clips with a rotten bottom for all of my fishing lately and in the bristol channel they have been working well. In the confines of the river however they flatly refused to drop the lead free, presumably because the impact with the water was insufficient on a short cast?




I fished from low tide to high tide and two hours back down again without a single bite, so I was looking forward to the following day when I would be casting into the open sea. The water was every bit as clear as it had been in the river. Really the south coast is like one of those luxurious caribbean fishing venues compared to the channel. There is no mud at all. This time, there was glorious sunshine, there was no weed, no wind, no waves, unbelievable water clarity but sadly no fish. Night fishing would have been a better bet I reckon.

The water was crystal clear and I guess that didn't help, but sitting there listening to the water lightly turning over onto the shingle and sighing gently as it drained away was wonderfully soporific. It was hard to make myself refresh the baits as often as I usually would, and once more the crabs munched their way through everything I had.


Their effectiveness of the splash down clips made a big difference to my casting as well, and I managed to reach distances that up until today had been beyond me. The difference in flight between a compact, firmly held rig and a flailing, whirling mess was clear to see. They also stay locked up when I inadvertently failed to keep everything tight which makes everything a lot easier.

I am still not happy with my rig and trace lengths though. What looked long enough at home on the bench looked a lot too short by the water. I seem to have wasted a lot of nylon making rigs that still aren't quite right.

I wrap a pretty mean squid bait these days, but that would be easier with a longer needle so I shall look out for one of those, but I hate lug and mackerel. I think I shall switch to sandeels for fish baits for a while and see how that goes but I'm not sure if there are any 'cleaner' baits that work well for flatties. Some more time needed on the internet, I think.

The long and the short of it was two fishless but very instructive days by the water in beautiful if cold weather, surrounded by wildlife and peace. I even heard my first cuckoo . of the year. So many people can't see the point, interested only in results and not appearing to be odd. The joke is on them. They are the losers.


I have to say right up front, that my confidence was knocked about somewhat by the sight of a trawler working up and down the shoreline barely half a mile out. It's a wonder that there are any fish left out there at all. There certainly wouldn't be if the commercials were left to do as they pleased. Few industries take so much from the world and give absolutely nothing back. Farmers, admittedly sometimes grudgingly, fertilise their land and employ field margins and hedges to retain their crops and livestock. Even quarries become nature reserves. Commercial fishermen need to show some consideration for the sea if they want to improve their image, but as it is they mostly seem to believe that the sea is an inexhaustible resource that can stand any abuse. Why they can't see that preserving fish stocks will ensure their own future is beyond me.

I met a couple of other anglers here who spoke of bass and bream, not in numbers or of huge size but regular enough to be worth the effort. It seems I was three or four weeks early though and once again, I blanked. Over the next month, these fish will be moving inshore, and that sums up the biggest problem the lone novice sea angler, living miles from the sea, has to face, local knowledge or more correctly, the lack of it.

In freshwater, the fish are basically there all the time. They may move to the shallows or sink into the depths, but those are usually within casting range anyway. At sea the fish may have moved a thousand miles away or three hundred yards out. Different species show at different times in different places. If the bream or the mackerel are in, word spreads locally like wildfire. Smoothhounds are likely to be caught all around the area I was fishing in two, three or four weeks time. Another year they might already have been there. In freshwater, the question is always, 'are they feeding?' In the sea the more pertinent question is, 'are they even there?'

Tackle-wise it was a different story and using gemini splash down clips instead of imps was a revelation. They just didn't let go of the hooks until they hit the water and at a stroke cured all the problems I had been having with the up and over rig. That is a big plus for me and will hopefully be a great benefit back on the channel when I'm after the rays. Oh, and the rotten bottom links worked much better with the big leads and the longer casts.


artificial lite

FOOTNOTE: Apologies to James B. I tried to reply to your e-mail but it was returned undelivered. Thanks for the tip and taking the trouble to write.