From the water’s edge

August 2015 - Heavy lifting

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It's been over a year since I last got out to sea and for the first time for as long as I can remember, the weather never looked like spoiling the party. Sitting around outside the local cafe, excited chatter about the prospects of a good day and the nervous drumming of fingers was the soundtrack to a long, frustrating wait for the tide to push enough water into the estuary to allow Neil's 40 ft lochin to leave the harbour.

In the end we scrambled on board, still too early, simply because it felt like we were getting closer. Sharkey doesn't say much, a man of action obviously, so while the rest of us continuing where we left off after breakfast, talking a good game, he invented a new one; casting off the moored boat into the flooding river. It didn't take him long, his 6" shad was taken by a nice bass.

Another first then for the stubborn lure fishing crew to go alongside the fish Sharkey caught a year or two back on a surface popper over 40 ft of water. The signs were good, and that should have been warning enough, shouldn't it?

The sea was very calm and Neil had warned us to take along some bait as most of his current catches had been made up of black bream. We persisted right up to high, slack water with little success. Certainly no bass, just a couple of pout.

Time to get our hands dirty then. While the others set about catching the bream on cuttlefish strips, I tried to conjure some sort of interest on artificials. Initially I tried dropshotting Isome worms, but interest in the method was nil, from me and the fish. Still, I did try and I tried hard but it was utterly ineffective. Eventually, I changed to the rig and method that the others were already using.



That was a fixed or sliding lead set around two to three feet from the hook, tipped with a small strip of cuttlefish. Interest was immediate, and the tip was being constantly rattled by the ravenous hoards. All that was necessary, was to wait until the fish had hooked themselves and then lift into them. Striking was ineffective, it seemed to work best when we just lifted firmly to see if the fish was already on. If not, the lead could just be lowered back down and more time given. The fish weren't bothered. They would be ragging the bait again before the lead had even settled. Eventually, the rod would pull over more firmly and yet another would be on its way to the surface for tagging.

I tried and tried, using the same rig armed with the Isome worms that have proved very effective in the past with whiting, dabs, plaice, gurnard and pout but aside from a couple of slight taps, nothing. Every time I added a scrap of squid, no matter how small, the tip started rattling away and I would catch another bream. More experimenting to be done there, and with sea time so limited, I could be a very old man by the time I have learned anything. So, why bother, I hear you ask. Well, we all know that we can catch easily on bait if the need to catch becomes overwhelming, so why not bother, I ask?

Tagging? Neil and Mick are participating in a research programme prior to the reef being designated a marine reserve, the potential outcome of which is making everybody who relies on it for a living very nervous. Anything that increases fish stocks has to be a good thing, but if nobody can benefit from the process, it could well be a catastrophe for the local commercial and sport fishing leisure industries and they aren't really the problem. Out of area trawlers are what really impact fish stocks.

Mind you, anglers have a big role to play here. Too many go out and take more than they can eat, judging the success of the day by comparing the value of the fish in their freezers against the cost of the trip. If nothing else such behaviour gives the uninformed something to point at and demand action on. It is unlikely that those who, like us, return virtually everything, will be numerous enough to replace the loss of the 'fishmongers' who still make a fair percentage of the trade available to charter skippers.

Aside from the easily caught bream however, we weren't really giving anybody the impression that we might be impacting fish stocks on the reef. As the tide turned and the current began picking up again, we went back on the drift after bass.

We still failed, but not totally. Clearly, while they weren't feeding properly, there was far more activity. Neil's partner Mick, and Tim were using the much lauded Fiiiiiiiiiiiiish miiiiinnnnnnows and between them had several violent hits, none of which stayed on the hook for more than a few seconds. Sharkey was having the same problem using 6" Daiwa shads, good hits, no fish. Me? Knocks and plucks on zonkers, shads, curlies, and not many fish either.

Three times while winding my lures back to the surface they suddenly became heavier. There was no sign of life on any occasion and at first I just assumed I was picking up weed. But each time, a large brown cuttlefish was clamped around my lure. At the surface they all made a determined effort to hit us with powerful jets of water shot some five or six feet towards us. Each time they let go just as soon as they left the water and could be seen gliding gracefully back whence they came. An interesting interlude, but not exactly the catch of the season.

When it all gets a bit desperate, the hardened lure angler starts ferreting through the accumulated crud in the deepest recesses of his lure box for inspiration. All I could find was (whisper this ) one of Old Pete's flies, carried as I recall in case of a passing shoal of mackerel.

Down it went, jiggle, jiggle - bang!! Oh God no. Now I use a light rod, a rod that was once my standard for canal zander and perch, so I expect a struggle, probably more than the other guys. I could tell it wasn't a bass, but it went well enough, so it was a slight surprise to me and a disappointment to the skipper, I'm sure, that it turned out to be a pouting or poor cod. Me I was happy. Embarrassed that it took one of Pete's flies, but happy. Happier still when the next drop down was an exact repeat. Jiggle, jiggle, whallop. A much better fish, two or three times it pulled the tip hard down and took a foot or two of line. I just managed to handline it over the side but it was a bit too heavy for that really, the biggest pouting I had ever seen, a good two pounds and pretty enough for me.

Sea anglers are curious things, if that had been a bass it would have been netted and the clicker employed with some excitement and renewed effort. But it was a pout. It fought hard, weighed a bit, but only a pout. I think that there are people on this boat that can't understand what excites me about fishing, but then they've never understood why I fish the way I do or what keeps me coming back for more. Those under appreciated pouting, gave me a good hit, a really good scrap, and absolutely made my day. They just have the misfortune to appear brown instead of silver once they are out of the water. Even their colour is superb if you ever get the chance to see film footage of them gliding around a wreck, their bodies decorated with metallic blue barring.



Sadly that was it for the day afloat. Bream in numbers, a few pout and one solitary bass caught while still tied to the jetty. Can't wait for the next trip, and the ordering finger will be in action as soon as I get home. More hooks and fly tying materials I suspect. And there would always be tomorrow when Sharkey and I were going to try from the shore at a new spot he had found on a different river, further up the coast.

So next morning after yet another fry up we headed through the traffic for our next trip. The tide was out when we arrived and we fished it all the way up. There were plenty of bass about especially when the clean blue saltwater reached us on its way inland.

They were hunting up and down the crease between the salt water flowing in and the green river water flowing out. Fry were scattering everywhere, and fish up to maybe two pounds appeared to be there in some numbers but we couldn’t catch them. We both had a couple of hits , one or two of them hard as well, but nothing stuck and the two 4 oz bass that I caught on 2” curly tails were all we managed between us. It made me wonder if the fish were just not quite as committed all weekend because we suffered, on a smaller scale, all the problems we had endured out on the boat. Good hits but no hook ups. Maybe a six inch shad is a big mouthful for a small bass, but 2 & 3 “ baits aren’t. We have until November to come up with some fresh ideas. At least I have added another species to my micro fish list.

artificial lite



journal 2015.


journal 2015.