Artificial

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From the water’s edge

July 2014 - Staggering result

We don’t tend to be very lucky with our sea fishing trips in the summer. More often than not gales spring up out of nowhere in June and July, cancelling our bookings and leaving us scratching around onshore for whatever we can find. Winter has treated us more kindly, but this year as I walked along the front in glorious sunshine with barely a breath of wind ruffling the estuary’s surface, everything looked pretty rosy to me. It looked pretty rosy right up until I bumped into Neil French, our skipper. He was outside the cafe with a full crew of anglers champing at the bit to get out and catch some bass. The last thing I expected him to suggest when I said hello, was that he was on the point of cancelling tomorrow’s trip.

He showed me the forecast - 6mph today, 15 gusting 20mph from the East tomorrow  and 6 mph on Wednesday. Standing under a sweltering hot cloudless, windless sky it didn’t seem possible, but after much discussion and consideration of the tides, we decided to go out and give it a go. It is hard to give up a chance when you have driven down from Nottingham or Leicester

What fun we had!! Those lucky anglers at the cafe had caught a heap of bass on lures, but the change in conditions had killed it. The waves, although the pictures flatly refused to show it, meant that even just holding the rod still would be lifting and dropping the lure around twenty feet on the larger swells. When conditions are against you, when the fish are playing hard to get and when standing upright is only an option if you jam yourself tight in a corner somewhere, you need a skipper like Neil.

Usually he will set up a drift and then pop out of the cabin to join the rest of us racing our lures through the shoals of fish he has so precisely put us over. Today he was far too busy, just keeping us on them, and his hard work paid off. We had a fair few hits each, even if many of them didn’t stick, but he kept us in the right place to make the most of what little action there was to be had.

The most effective lures as usual were the 2 - 4oz pirks and it always amazes me just how quick these fish are at hitting them. Standard technique is to let the lure free-fall to the bottom then wind it up ten turns and repeat. That is a 2 oz or 4 oz lead plummeting straight down at maximum velocity, but they will still hit it on the drop. The combination of tide and wind was moving the boat so fast that the belly, even in our ultra thin braids, would only allow three or four retrieves before the lure no longer hit bottom and then we had to wind as fast as possible to the surface and drop down again for another three or four tries. I actually had a bass hit the lure ten feet from the surface whilst winding as fast as I physically could. It nearly tore the rod out of my hand. But that was one of my two bass accounted for.

My plan was to turn to the dropshot at slack water , but the wind was so strong that it was pushing us along as fast as a rip tide would have and consequently, it was less successful than I had hoped, however I did catch a small wrasse on the Isome worm. I just rigged a straight ledger rig for that with a three foot tail and hung it over the side just clear of the bottom. After all the sea was doing all the work. Working the lure as well, would just have made it even harder for them to catch. Even so, my presentation could hardly have been less convincing and yet the few knocks and taps I did have suggested there is more potential there.

Tim caught the most as always, Sharkey persevered with everything but pirks as usual and his patience paid off with two fish on a 6” shad at the death including the best of the day at around 3 lbs. Considering that every time you let go of the rail you would slide across the boat and land in somebody’s lap, I think we did pretty well. No fried breakfast were harmed in the making of this epic trip. All were retained. Despite the conditions, which given that none of us were sick merely added some extra excitement to the day, I still came back home with a list of things to sort out for trial on the next trip. We may not have been able to fish with any finesse, but those Isome worms showed more promise and there are rigs to be honed there. I tried a lot of different lures today, but still most hits came on the stinger pirks. That silver flash and slim profile seem to be most important. Back in the fly tying box then, lots of tinsel and mirrorflash should make a difference. The most obvious problem with most of the different rigs and tricks that I tried was back-tangling generated during that rapid drop to the bottom. When I needed more weight, I joined two 60 gram pirks together. It worked but on most descents, it doubled up and the hook caught on the mainline too often for my liking.

The most obvious solution is to make everything self-contained, but that means using jigheads that are larger than the lures. That may or may not work, but it is not very aesthetically pleasing and does not inspire confidence. Neil and Mick fish the pirks on the point with a short dropper further up the trace carrying a small white redgill. That is so close to a dropshot rig that it makes no difference and that alone offers a solution. To fish a small but very heavy bait, separate the two and you can use as small a bait as you like and still get down there. The weights are easily swapped according to the tide as well, you need never use more lead than is absolutely necessary.

As Neil likes to point out, all this tinkering just gets me further away from the pure ethic of lure fishing, but for me, once I have proved that something works, then I need to try something else. In my head, I can’t get away from the fact that my three biggest bass never took that stinger pirk; two took a 6” zonker strip fly on a 2 oz jighead, and one took a 4” white curly tail.

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.

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