Monday, 29 August 2011

29/8/11 Conger!..........#5, #7

0900-2100  HW 1208-6.1m

Good trip this one. Left the marina with just enough water under my hull, but on a rising tide which is always useful. Usually I just creep past my neighbouring boats often using them to gently 'pull' myself along to deeper water where I can use my engine. It must look quite a cumbersome manoeuvre to a casual onlooker, and has gone wrong on a couple of occasions, usually when there's a breeze.
The sea was a little lumpy on the way out and the plan was to head directly to the #5,gather bait, and then anchor up just at the turn of the tide and fish the ebb down-the supposed optimum time for a bass.
Stopping short of the mark I drifted with feathers and first drop down resulted in full house of pretty big shad-not really what I wanted. However the mackerel soon showed in big numbers and It wasn't long before I had enough not only for bait, but a few to take to work for tomorrow's lunch. Not another boat in sight so I settled virtually directly on the numbers at slack tide but was soon slightly miffed by another boat turning up and anchoring only yards away from me, and exactly where my baits would settle once the tide had turned. WHY would you do that.!!!
Before I'd even sent a bait down ,I'd upped anchor and moved to the southern edge of the reef as shown on the chart, to seek my own space. Big baits only and the fishing was predictably slow. A dogfish showed, and then a nice thornback on the light outfit which proved to be a handful in the now quickening tide .

Finally, what I'd come for turned up, and not for the want of trying.  Typical nodding bite-give slack, let her run a little, then gently lift the rod to set the circle. Head banging fight meant only one thing- a bass. Not quite as big as my last one, yeah right............ but......nonetheless..... a bass.
The self take was a little more successful this time , but needed a bit of photo shopping at home. I'll get there with this photography lark.

Apart from a tiny ballan wrasse (another boat first)things again went slow, so I decided to move a little further north on to the reef to try and locate Alex's elusive bass. .Nuisance bream constantly nipped at my baits and only heads survived for any length of time, but that was all that showed up. O.K I got my bass, but not in the numbers that I'd aimed for, and know, can be caught from somewhere around here. Again.................I'll get there in the end.

Ordinarily, I'd have packed up at this stage in order to make it over the bar and indeed, all the other boats in the locale were doing so but, it had felt like a short trip, and with France and the Wye barbel trip looming, it may well be a month before I get out again. I decided to sit out the lock out for another five hours, and return to port in the dark-not something I'd done before.
#7 was my chosen destination, and a slow cruise for the three miles or so over slack water would have me arriving just as the tide was making. Looking around, I had the sea completely to myself-literally not another boat in sight and , unusually, the air waves were quiet too. The shallow reef mark, around 35ft at L.W, does have a bit of heritage with conger and, as I'd not had one to the boat before, this was my target.
Once the pick had been dropped, I sent down about a dozen or so chopped scad and mackerel as chum. The tide hadn't picked up enough to wash them away so I was confident they were doing their job in my fishing zone. Heavy rod on a mackerel flapper with big circle to commercial mono (standard big bait rig) light rod on a 1/0 stuffed with squid and cuttle .
The wind had dropped, the light was fading and the boat, and lines, had settled perfectly in the steadily running tide-very comfortable fishing conditions indeed in a peaceful environment. Better sized bream of about a pound and a half steadily showed to the cocktail baits, a couple of which I took for the table- a welcome return after the palm sized ones that we've seen of late.

 It was whilst unhooking one that the ratchet on the 7001 ticked away at a pace. Allowing the run to develop at first, i tightened and set the circle into something heavy which continued to pull hard. The fight was nowhere near as fast as my tope, but just as entertaining with strong, line thieving dives, before the beast surfaced and grabbing the thick trace, managed to subdue her at the side of the boat. I estimated her at around five feet in length and a supposed weight of 35-40lb, got a couple of hasty snap shots, but unfortunately had to cut the line to free her as the hook had lodged inside the mouth and i didn't want to go poking around in there. I'm not too worried-it's barbless.

A fine , though it has to be said, hideously ugly fish but, I'd achieved my target and experienced another special moment in this year's boat fishing saga. A few more bream, and wrasse came along but darkness was descending and the tide would have flooded enough for me to get in so it was time to go home.
A silky smooth run in at 12kts,the speed restricted only by having to keep a watchful eye out for pots in the dark. I ducked under the anchor light using the peak of my cap as a shield, and my night vision soon adapted. I trickled in over the bar with one eye on the sounder but needn't have worried as there was never less than 6ft underneath me. The river was eerily quiet.
 It was great fun being out in the dark, especially alone, but I was satisfied to reach the mooring safely and without incident. I shall certainly be doing more of this night time stuff in the future.

28/8/11 Frustration

A three hour afternoon mullet session on the West Bank and, In unfavourably clear conditions, there weren't actually that many mullet about. Those that did show were flighty and seemingly not in feeding mood. I chased down a couple of sightings which I've done so many times before when the water is like this. You see them, approach them, feed to them, but they seem to sense you from 30yds and disappear downstream out of reach and continue to tease you.
I bumped off one fish so must have been doing something right but, that was that.
Pure frustration.

27/8/11 Mud Flats

I can't believe that it's nearly September and this is my first visit to my old favourite 'The Mud Flats'. Dave joined for a short early morning , and flooding tide session and it was my mate who did the business with the mullet-a fish of about 3lb. I did catch....a bass of about 2lb but that was that.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

21/8/11 Fishing with Jack #2 Half Way,#5.

 Took 'the boy' out fishing  again today and I even let him 'drive' the boat for while.
After our last trip ,Jack was keen to get out again however, with the recent fishing being decidedly 'average' I was concerned that it may not be such a success this time around......I needn't have worried.
Out the harbour at 0700 ,with a flat calm sea on the way out, the plan was to go to Black Ledge and try and get some bait which proved to be fruitless. 'Sprirt' was anchored up in the distance, south of the Half Way mark, so I called Neil up for a chat. 'One string' of mackerel was all he'd found bait wise so, having squid and cuttle plus a solitary mackerel that Jack had feathered, on board we decided to settle at Half Way.
No sooner had we dropped the pin than up came a pack tope, followed by a couple of nice undulates which seem to be the mainstay of inshore boat fishing around these parts this year. I've no complaints-they're spectacular looking fish even if they fight like a 'dustbin lid'

There must have also been plenty of small bream about because our 'big' baits were constantly nipped at by something too small to hook.
One problem we did have at this mark was the baits seemed to be moving back slowly towards the boat against the tide. I thought it may be undercurrents  however, eventually it dawned on us that the boat was creeping down tide and on hauling the anchor we found the reason why. The chain had tangled on one of the flukes preventing the anchor from doing it's job properly.
Things slowed down so we tried yet again for some mackerel this time heading south of the #5. Eventually our patience was rewarded when we hit upon a shoal and feathered up a dozen or so along with half a dozen scad to replenish the bait supply.
The wind was steadily increasing but we decided to anchor up on #5 to try for bass with mackerel head baits. Alex had yet again scored a few  on yesterday's ebb tide. Today we didn't have the luxury of being able to fish the ebb, but it would be worth a crack.
Jack had a delicately creeping bite which turned out to be this nice 14lb Undulate and the best fish of the day.
 After a short move to the site of last weeks big bass, we finished at 1530 as the sea really began to chop up from steady F4 winds and ,as the tide was about to ebb, the threat of a nasty wind over tide sea at anchor-not a pleasant thought.
Exhilarating ride back in which Jack thoroughly enjoyed . Great day out and once again, the boy proved to be excellent crew.

Friday, 19 August 2011

19/8/11 Small Stuff #5,#6,#33

Once again today was a general struggle to find any fish and this seems to be the trend locally. Clive, at the  marina, even pulled his boat out for maintenance this month.
It was one of those days when things didn't really go well from the start. Incredibly, I didn't find one solitary mackerel though thankfully I did have some frozen. Then, having moored up at #6 the pot boat had to haul his line of pots right in front of me .Of course, I had no idea they were there when I anchored up.
He's actually quite a friendly and polite bloke and asked me nicely if I'd pull up my lines whilst he did his work. I obliged but felt that the disturbance might have 'killed' the swim so to speak.
I moved to #5 and settled down comfortably and who showed up after a while...none other than '110'. I'd anchored again, right over a line of pots he was hauling and he proceeded to 'haul' up my anchor. He didn't seem to mind, just a friendly wave and dropped the anchor back in place. He seems to be exceedingly content with his lot this chap, cheerfully working away with Radio 2 blaring out over the loudspeaker on his boat. His boat handling skills are amazing. Not only does he operate at sea alone, but he moors at the marina and watching him single handedly 'park' what is not a small craft, is very impressive.
I'd only caught small pout, wrasse and bream at the ditch so decided to move to #33 and jig some feathers with a pirk in tow in the hope of at least some mackerel. I didn't get any of the target specie but instead had fun with small pollack to 2lb taking the feathers in sometimes less than 20ft of water.
Not my best boat trip of the year.

17/8/11 A New Specie...#5

 Not that much to report on the fishing front with this trip. It was a short one, being in between my night shifts and basically I stuck it out on the #5 in search of bass but found it quite difficult to even find mackerel bait.
 I picked up a few, along with a new specie for me in the shape of scad or horse mackerel but, apart from losing something sizable on a mackerel head, highlight of the trip was finding the coaster 'Mungo' stranded on the training wall at the river entrance when I came home. Quite a sight. She'd passed my stern earlier in the day whilst making her way to port.
Apparently she'd lost her steering!!  Fortunately and rather amazingly, no real damage was done to either boat, or wall and she was safely floated off on the next tide and put in at Shoreham to unload.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

16/8/11 Back To Basics....Mullet

It's been a while since I've caught a mullet having generally neglected them this summer , but also failing to land fish on the last couple of attempts, despite making contact.
I do still enjoy the simplicity of mullet fishing on the river. Rod , net , small tackle bag and a bucket of bread mash is all I take with me and rarely stay in one swim longer than twenty minutes if no bites are forthcoming.
Conditions looked promising (cloud cover and fair water colour) and the tide was just bottoming out as I walked up the west bank easily spotting a few likely candidates in the shallows. I didn't have long as , when the tide starts flooding properly, I tend to lose confidence.
Within minutes of starting I'd bumped off yet another fish and was beginning to think I'd really lost my touch, and was facing another blank. With the tide now starting to flood I moved upstream a few yards to a fresh swim and soon had some tentative bite activity.
It didn't take long for a positive take which resulted in me beaching a nice fish of about 2 1/2 lb which, having been unhooked, decided to cleverly slip out of the landing net before I could get the camera ready. It didn't matter as I achieved my target, but decided to fish on In the hope of getting another. Some bites did soon materialise but resulted in a small bass-my first from the river on bread this season.
Two hours after starting and with the tide was now pushing in strongly , It was time to go. Job done.

Friday, 12 August 2011

12/8/11 Short Session on #5

The winds have been quite strong recently preventing any boat trips, but I have had a couple of unsuccessful bank sessions on the river.
The first, a blank bass lure trip on the east bank with Andy, the second a morning after mullet at tesco's which resulted in one bumped fish-not good.
Today's window in the weather meant I took a chance,  and headed out to #5 after bass.As far as I know I was the only boat in the marina out. Even 'Spirit' remained on it's mooring as I left the river.The run out was pretty bumpy, but the wind dropped and things settled down for a short time,though mackerel baits weren't easy to come across.
I anchored centrally on the reef and the tide was ebbing nicely-usual mackerel head on heavy outfit, fillet on light.Some snappy bites on the fillet indicated that I should change down to a small hook paternoster and soon two of the culprits emerged in the shape of small bream.
I decided that I didn't really want to catch any more of these little fellas, so switched the light rod over to circle hook and head bait as well.
Only action was this male undulate on the heavy rod and a dogfish on the light before it became lumpy. The wind had increased making things too uncomfortable,and I finished half an hour earlier than intended to make the tide.
I've not been that happy with shots of recent fish just taken on the deck.The self take photo was my first and , as can be seen,the set up needs a little tweaking, but at least the picture gives a better impression of the fishes' size.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

3/8/11 Double Figure Bass!.....#5

I took the boat out of the water on Monday to see what effect two months on the mooring with no anti-foul had had on the hull. There wasn't a great deal of weed growth, certainly not enough to slow her down but, there was noticeably more on the side exposed to the sun so it would probably be worth turning the boat round on the mooring every month. Being on a berth that dries at LW and the fact that there is a freshwater rife outlet close by probably keeps the weed at bay.
Perhaps the marina's resident population of mullet keep the hull clean.

A bi-monthly clean up isn't too taxing especially as I can get her out on my trailer but, at the public slip. You would have thought, with all the dosh that the marina take off me that they'd let me use their concrete ramp!
Jan did the honours driving the 'rig' and there were no issues, but it did remind me what a 'work up' it is launching from the trailer compared to the luxury of the mooring.
 I had intended to carry out an engine service while she was on the drive at home, but the parts weren't available so it didn't happen. The boat's had plenty of use and is probably due a service time wise, but I feel that this regular use is probably preventing any problems occurring, and she can get her oil change when she next comes out in October. Nothing mechanical likes sitting around doing nothing and this is especially true of boats which lie in a very hostile environment.
The sea was flat calm this morning so I decided to conduct an experiment and shed as much weight as possible to see exactly how well she'd perform.
Of course I carried a full tank of fuel and fishing gear but, I dropped the auxiliary,  dumped the second battery and bait tank, and had already trimmed down some of the extraneous kit, that I don't really need, whilst she was at home.
She certainly went better, smoother and faster-the hesitation on acceleration virtually disappeared and planing was easy, but I don't think the increase in speed outweighs the advantage of carrying the second motor. The difference is hardly noticeable when there is any sort of swell that slows me down to around 10kts.
 I might feel different about this when I've done a bit of surgery , found out how the motor ticks and have built up my confidence in her. Ted doesn't carry an auxiliary on his 520, and neither does Alex, and they have years of experience between them, Both cite complete faith in their engines as the reason and the ability to sort out most problems should they occur, and would rather not lug the extra weight around. I'll wait on this one.
Dropping the second battery and tank when not needed will help with the weight issue anyway.
So to today's fishing. Time again was limited because of boat testing and the big 6.1m tide which meant a delay getting off the mooring. I also wanted a 'timely' return as the weather forecast for the next few days doesn't look conducive to boat cleaning, so I wanted it all sorted before 'tea'.
I was disappointed not to get a bass four days ago especially as Alex had reported another good catch in superb sea conditions yesterday fishing with piking hero Dave Horton.
I had considered a live bait trip to the Pine wreck but felt that persevering for a #5 bass might just pay off.
Let's learn to walk before I run.
Also this will probably be my last chance at this set of big tides.
Zipping out on the flat sea to the mark, and easily picking up enough mackerel on the way, I found Spirit , Lynander and another boat all at anchor in the wider area. I asked Neil if he'd had any spikeys and he reported reasonable sport with general stuff but none of my intended quarry...yet. He did feel that when the tide picked up pace, there would be a chance.
If two of the most respected charter skippers in the port were on the scene, I can't have been far off the mark.
I started with a couple of drifts with a bucket kept live bait(worked....just) whilst waiting for the tide to turn but also used the time to get a good picture of what lies beneath, which is becoming a little easier now I'm finally beginning to get the hang of operating and interpreting the sounder .I discovered yesterday that the transducer is adjustable and that I'd had it set too high which is why it didn't work when the boat was moving-it was probably sitting in a pocket of turbulance.(Numpty)
Nothing hit the live bait ,so I picked my anchor spot pretty much central on the mark still within sight of my mates and, as the boat settled I chummed with about eight thawed mackerel using the plastic bag method which seemed to get the bait down where I wanted it. I started with a fillet on a 4/0 and a head /flapper on a barbless 10/0 circle .Having caught a 6 1/2lb bass on the circle before I'm not worried by it's size. The gape is equivalent to about a 6/0 'J' hook and seems to fit a mackerel head bait well.
The tide was already picking up, and so was the wind, but bites were slow in materialising and when they did, I would imagine they were barbecue bream or pouting ripping the fillets to shreds and not getting the 4/0 into their faces.
 The big bait produced two ' thumpers' that were missed. I did suspect bass at this stage and as the tide was now in full flow  I needed 8oz to hold bottom. I decided to bin the second rod and concentrate on holding the 'big bait' rod with the reel out of gear, the spool held by thumb pressure.
Things were beginning to get really bumpy but i decided to sit it out especially as Neil was still about (the others had left) giving me a feeling of security.
Suddenly, and during a quiet pensive moment, I felt a solid thump through the rod handle, immediately let the spool run free remembering the words of John Darling and whatever was down there steadily took line. Seconds later I engaged the gear and slowly lifted the rod to set the circle Into something firm that was banging it's head and taking line.
 Watching the angle of the braid, the fish came up to the surface quickly well down tide continually letting me know that it wasn't giving up easily by continually shaking it's head. I remember thinking that this was no tope , certainly no ray, and hoping that a bar of silver would show. When she finally appeared after a dogged scrap I had one of those 'talk to yourself' moments.....YES, it's a BIG bass!!!!!!! It did look huge in the water-I'd hit the target.
Netting her wasn't exactly easy in the tide and swell but i managed it on the second attempt and had one of those 'why you go fishing' moments when she was safely inside the mesh.
I knew immediately that she was a double. A stunning looking specimen -really thick set and mean looking as big bass are. The scales middled out at 12lb on the nose, a new personal best ,first double to the boat and yet another one of those days when something really special came along.
It's a shame that the pics don't really do the bass justice but they're about the best I can expect without spending too much time setting up a remote and risk harming the fish. The landing net is 24" in diameter so at least this, and my size 12 'plate', gives some proportion .
As it was, when she went back I watched her on the surface for a while, looked down momentarily to sort out some tackle and when I looked up again she'd disappeared off to the depths. I'd love to know whether the fish picked up any of my chum.
Nobody else was about so I gave Neil a quick radio call on 17 who was, as usual ,really enthusiastic, but respectful of my wish to go 'low key' and coincidentally moments later Alex called me on the mobile and was equally chuffed. TBH both these top blokes played a big part in the capture of this fish with their endless help and advice. Thanks chaps.
I dropped a flapper down once more but a wave broke over the stern and splashed my shades so I decided that enough was enough.If I want to play in the big stuff with the big boys then I'm gonna need a bigger boat which I can't have so,............... I returned home at a 'ripping' six knots(it was that bumpy)riding out each and every swell and passing Anthony in 'Lady Bird' on his way OUT for a night session. It did amuse me slightly when he commented over the radio that the wind was a little more than given.
It was quite a 'roller coaster' coming in and the river mouth was the roughest I've yet experienced (big tide, full ebb, lots of messy stuff)  but we got through without a hitch and back to the mooring with plenty of time to spare.
I love this boat fishing lark!