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School of hard knocks

Up until today, I had been lucky. The weather had been pretty benign for every one of my exploratory shore fishing trips to the Bristol Channel and results while not being spectacular had been steady. Only once had I remained totally biteless and a few fish have come my way. Today would be different. It was bitterly cold and I was on the south coast fishing the tidal Arun for flounders.

I am not quite sure what I find so interesting about the idea of catching them, because in fact, I never have, but inspired by a selection of youtube videos, the urge has become irresistible, so for this trip, they were my target species. Not that I would turn down a nice bass or even a moderate eel you understand.

I chose a spot on the seaward side of a hairpin bend, my thinking being that the current would race around the outside whichever way the tide was flowing, and the slack water on the inside would deposit silt that would in turn nurture a good supply of worms, and attract the flounders that I wanted to catch.

I arrived just after low water, picked my spot and set up two rods. One beachcaster carrying a two hook flapper bearing 1/0 hooks and anchored by a 3 oz watch weight. The second, lighter rod was my old pike deadbaiting rod and on that I had a two hook flapper rig armed with size 4 hooks above a lighter 2 oz weight.

For four hours, I religiously changed baits at twenty minute intervals to keep them fresh and attractive, but apart from a plague of weed late morning nothing happened. Try as I might to remain confident, when bites don’t materialise, my mind wanders. I watch the birds, oyster catchers and redshank were whistling up and down the river, I watch the traffic and I watched the trains, I even watched the rod tip occasionally and sure enough at about an hour before high water the heavier rod tip rattled . That had to be a bite didn’t it? It happened a couple more times before the tide eventually slowed to a standstill, but leaving them didn’t get me anywhere. They just stopped.

Now at least the tips were no longer wrapped over by the force of the current or the weight of the accumulated weed and any movement would have to be a bite, surely. My original plan had so far been a little wayward in that the slack water I had expected to be in front of me had virtually disappeared. I was too far ahead of the curve, but as the tide began to ebb, things changed dramatically. All the current was now along the far bank and in front of me was a nice big slack. I thrashed both rods towards the crease, so that they settled just this side of the current and sat back.

I didn’t have to wait long. Both tips were tapping away now. I was convinced these were bites, but I couldn’t hook anything, and my baits were unmarked. Not crabs presumably, but uncomfortably similar to my last trip on the Bristol Channel. Loads of what I was initially convinced were bites, but which I had to doubt in the end, because when I packed at dusk, I still hadn’t hit one. Some I left, some I struck, it made no difference at all.

I left the freezing, wind dried grass and the sloppy mud smeared banks in a complete dither. What to do tomorrow. Return and try the other side of the bend, smaller hooks, different rigs? Or were they just crabs and tiny eels?

Once more I had arrived at low tide and soon had both rods out there, and now it was time to sit back, eyes streaming from the cold wind and with woolly hat pulled firmly down over the ears, to watch the world and a endless wading birds flit by.

I’ll tell you what, this was absolutely the life for me. True the wind was tormenting me a bit, but the air was fresh and clean. The whistling and fluting of flocks of dunlin and redshank interspersed with the bubbling evocative cries of the much larger curlews were, are, and hopefully always will be, music that I can listen to for ever without getting bored. I haven’t been this relaxed for years. Maybe it was the wrong time of day or tide or the wrong place, I don’t care, it was heaven to me.

Once or twice, the rod bearing the pulley rig slammed over but there were always flocks of birds racing past at the time. I put them down to aerial near misses and pressed on. The weed, just like yesterday got to be a real nuisance and I kept up a steady regime of line clearance and bait changing which made the day pass in a moment.

An hour before high, I had a real deja vu moment. The flapper rod was flapping. I had spent the morning getting to understand the signs of leads moving and weed taking hold. This was a bona fide rattle on the rod tip, really. And so it went on Punch the bait out, the tip settles, the weed has disappeared by now, all is calm. Brr Brr the tip goes again. Strike this one - nothing . Leave the next one , once, twice, wind it in, nothing. An hour of this and I was right back at square one.

Were they bites, or not? This is the third consecutive trip where this has happened. Incredibly given that I was at three totally different venues, the ‘bites’ are the same and came at the same point in the tide, starting slowly one hour before high water, until I pack two or three hours later. On the Bristol Channel, River Arun and now off the south coast. Same bites, same result. The square root of bugger all.


In the end, after a sleepless night I decided on a change of venue. I am still finding my feet at this lark and I wanted to throw my baits into some clean wave-lashed water. I had somewhere in mind close to a spot that had been suggested by various others but accessed by a long drive and a tiring walk so that I could have the beach to myself.

No dithering this time. Two beachcasters, one with a 4/0 pennel pulley rig and a big squid/frozen black lug cocktail, the other with yesterday’s 1/0 two hook flapper. It was a nice steep gravel beach with a couple of big gravel spits extending like natural breakwaters straight out to sea. Initially I had planned to fish between them, but, worried that there might not be enough depth in there, I elected to fish a few yards to the east of the largest. Food swept against it might be trapped and then when the tide turned, I would be fishing in the lea where any food coming over the top should be trapped in the undertow. Great theory of course but little sound experience to back it up.

Later in the morning I began to think that I had been right in my assumption that these outstanding features might hold fish, but wrong when I chose to fish outside them because the gulls were going mad in the bay between them. They appeared to be swooping on something but I decided against moving because the tide was due to turn within the hour and I could have found myself on the wrong side of the bar again.

artificial lite

I had a couple of casts left, when the tip nodded yet again. I left it. It nodded again. Next time I would hit it. It didn’t happen again, so I wound in. What’s this flapping across the gravel towards me??? Only a bloody flounder!! Only bloody guthooked. Rejoice, look for the hook, despair. A distant view of a gob of black snot, that would be my carefully crafted lugworm tipped with squid then. Hell.

All that time on youtube wasn’t wasted though. Thanks Billy. Check out this unhooking technique,  it works wonders and I can’t believe why, in fifty years of fishing I have never seen or heard of it mentioned before.


Obviously I now had it cracked which is why I never hooked any more and packed at dusk both happy and frustrated at the same time. The shore fishing adventure continues, seven trips, five fish, five different species. Remarkably I haven’t caught two of anything yet. Where next then - North Wales or Severn Estuary for flounders or off beaches at either for whatever or maybe Sand point or Kewstoke for a proper ray or conger. The world is truly my lobster.

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

beach bum.

artificial lite.



For some reason, I can’t get youtube links to work using this software, so if you’d like to check out Billy’s interesting and well made videos, feel free to look up either Fisho’s shore angling videos or Billy Bantock channels.

To watch full screen on You Tube, click on the video title