Tuesday, 9 December 2014

9/12/14 Short And Sharp.


I've recently received an email from blog reader Paul Morgan asking about the handling and stability of my boat as he's thinking of purchasing one himself. Thanks for that Paul-it's nice to know someone is reading all this.
I find it very difficult to be objective when asked questions such as this as ,having made my choice and spent a considerable amount of cash naturally, I love my boat.
I'm not really qualified, officially,, to comment and my experience is limited to perhaps a dozen or so boats of a similar size that i've either previously owned myself, which amounts to the grand total of one,or boats belonging to friends that i've ridden in. I also rely heavily on the opinions of other boat owners who have ridden in my boat , particularly if they've owned a few boats themselves.
All i can say is that, in my opinion, the 'export' feels extremely safe and stable. When you consider some of the larger species of fish that Ive hauled over her gunwales, and some of the large 'specimens', sometimes two of them, that i've had fishing with me on board, I think I can safely say that she's not a 'tippy' boat.
As far as her sea going ability is concerned, perhaps the above picture, taken today, might give you a clue to how she handles a 'sea'. After all, i'm alive and writing this aren't I!!!
Paul, if you decide to buy that 'Export', and it does look like something of a bargain, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Today's fishing was something of a lightning affair. I'd just finished a night shift and with single figure wind speeds (knots) forecast for this morning, I was determined to get out with just a lure rod again especially as I've missed so many opportunities over the past few days due to work. However, the down side was that there was a 'blow' due in sometime around midday.
With a flat sea at half past nine I literally 'ripped' it out to the chosen mark and, with a little help from a friend, was on the fish immediately. Seven bass in the two to four pound range, a wrasse and a big fat pout later, the tide had dropped off, the wind had kicked up, and it was time to head home. I'd been out for a little over two hours!!
Killer plastic was a 'swat' shad which has served me well recently. Even in a wind assisted two knot drift, I can keep the 50g model pretty much directly beneath the boat and its streamlined design means it gets straight down there fast. The latest design from 'Redgill', the 'evo stik' was also tested with a 60g nose weight and although it did drift down tide somewhat on the drop, still caught fish.
I'm really enjoying this 'lure fishing only' lark and lets hope that there are enough slots in the weather to get a few more trips out before the water temperature drops enough for the bass to disappear.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Four Days In November

In truth, this entry covers six trips during late November but ,only four are of any consequence.
 I do very little beach fishing  . Not that i don't enjoy the odd outing on the shingle , its just that owning your own fishing boat spoils you somewhat in that the fishing can be quite spectacular although, at times, i do question whether boat fishing is any easier than shore. Let's just say that more opportunities for success exist when afloat if indeed, you can actually get afloat.
Despite my kitchen door being a mere hundred yards or so from the high tide mark,the only shore fishing i do nowadays with any regularity, is autumn surf fishing for bass. Recent south westerlies has meant the surf during the early part of the month was excellent but, for various reasons , I failed to be able to take advantage and get out. Unfortunately i missed the boat somewhat as some very good bass were taken from beaches local to me with some excellent results from a mark that I was first made aware of nearly twenty years ago. In those days it was a far more popular spot  and not just when the sea was 'active' either. In calm conditions, I would often see lure and fly anglers chasing 'silver' mostly in low light conditions at dawn and dusk.
Nowadays it is rarely fished apart from a few hardy 'surfers' -mostly known personally to me. They score some very nice bass but put in some extreme effort in the form of rod hours so deserve everything that comes their way.
Although the surf wasn't 'up' , one evening i fancied a bit of a 'sesh' on the shingle, so hit the beach outside my back door. The weed was a pain,(when is it not!) and the fishing not particularly exciting (i caught half a dozen whiting) but, i enjoyed myself nonetheless and it was fun watching the rod tips rattle even if i couldn't really tell whether or not i'd hooked anything until i 'd retrieved the rig!
If the surf does kick up again before the water temperatures plummet, I'll be ready for it.
A boat session with baits in search of cod at a mark some nine miles off produced two lost 'greenbacks' (bugger) and a whole heap of dogfish. I guess it was just one of those days and it occurred to me that the water was sufficiently clear to be thinking about chucking plastic around.

 Plucky wrasse

a brace of fours for the pot.

 4lb 8oz wrasse

 7lb bass
This time of year can provide some of the best bass fishing in our locale. The fish are fit and fat, tend to gather in large numbers, and due to water temperatures still being relatively warm,are more often than not in feeding mode.
My first trip with just a lure rod on board and no bait, was to be very brief. A snatched session with merely two hours wetting a line and the first port of call was a known mark where the tide would be at the 'right' state. I didn't have time to go searching.
The first drift produced a nice chunky bass to a four inch pink manns (top pic)but no further takes occurred in the proceeding runs and very little was evident on the screen. I suspect they were there, but i didn't have time to locate them. A move was in order.
A mile or so distant,the second reef mark showed more life,however they were wrasse and among them,a splendid specimen of four and a half pounds, again on the manns,which came to the boat on the first drift.Two good fish in a short time-bonus.
Bass guru Pete had generously donated a new super thin braid for me to test. This was its first outing and what a difference it made. Even in fast drift speeds approaching two knots,with depths of up to 60ft i was able to keep the lure directly under the boat near to the sea bed with just 30-40g of nose weight. With little or no wind to hamper me today,i was able to fish far more effectively with the new line and it certainly saved on lost lures despite the fact that i was using open hook patterns.
Two days later I returned and, with much more time to play with, scored thirty odd bass in the two to four pound range. Things were indeed looking up, my confidence was building, and i was starting to feel that my lure fishing was progressing mostly due to getting a feel for the method.A combination of the will to search for the fish, and a little patience helped because the fish weren't forming big, easily found shoals. I had to work to find them.
Another two days later and i joined Martin on the 'Blueprint' once again for a lure only session. We fished two of his favoured marks and although at first I couldn't match his catch rate, by the end of the session i was starting to catch up. We caught about forty bass that day as well as a handful of wrasse on a variety of lures including a prototype that we're testing for Pete.
One notable capture when things were a bit slow was a bass on an aniseed scented paddle tail. Who knows whether the smell made any difference but its something that i'm going to introduce to my own lures in the future.
Frequenting one of the marks were two commercial bass rod and line boats from Shoreham and Newhaven one of which was the Warrior 175 that i'd previously come across in the spring.
I know these guys are much derided by some but personally, i cannot help admire their skill and efficiency at killing bass using their live bait methods. I'm certainly happier with this sort of fishing rather than the indiscriminate methods used such as pair trawling.They seemed to score with big fish on every drift and although we were fishing much the same line, our lures could not keep up, particularly as the tide slackened.
The following day I returned to the same mark with Dave setting off in the dark to catch the tide at the bar and hopefully get a few quiet hours fishing before any other boats showed. We arrived as the tide was slacking and as Dave thoroughly enjoyed himself by picking off a few wrasse on plastic, i set about trying, and failing, to catch some live bait on baited feathers.
A few bass were caught but it wasn't until the tide started to move again that things picked up. We'd had the place to ourselves up to this point but it wasn't long before one of the previous days commercials showed up.His live baits immediately found the fish and, unexpectedly,and rather generously he called us over to join him on his drift line.He obviously didn't consider us a threat to his fishing as we put most of our bass back but its likely that our lures could also act as attractors to his own baits.
By that time i did have a small pout in the bait tank which had taken a shad not much smaller than himself and this was duly sent out under a float and literally 'smashed' within a minute by a very decent bass indeed of six and a half pounds.
We did continue to catch on lures and, some very good fish were taken but, we could not get anywhere near that commercial.
In time several other boats, all known to me personally, joined the drift although not all were catching.Dave and me had had our fun so we decided to head off somewhere quieter to a different mark.
Here the bass were slightly more difficult to locate and we were picking off the odd fish here and there rather than finding them consistantly but we'd had a very good day anyway so weren't too bothered.
The live bait method definitely deserves more consideration and what i need to do now is find a way to get a tankfgul of whiting or pouting without wasting too much of these ever shortening days. A plan needs to be hatched on that score.
Overall the four trips were a resounding success and, although no monsters were taken, i can only remeber one bass being less than about a couple of pounds and several decent fish were in the mix up to about seven pounds.
Things are improving.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

10/11/14 Grayling Again.

 1lb 7oz 'ling'
My local rivers are still too high and coloured to fish due to recent rainfall so, after a quick phone call to the Itchen river bailiff to confirm that river conditions across the border in Hampshire were more favourable ,I decided to embark on a second visit to the fishery.
The plan was to split the day in two, trotting for grayling in the morning, and trying to tempt a pike with a deadbait under a float in the afternoon.
The river was very slightly coloured but nothing compared to what we're used to in Sussex and indeed, the water level was little different to my last visit.
Armed with some newly acquired low light polaroid glasses, it took very little time to locate shoals of grayling to target in the fast shallow flows.
I chose to adjust my tactics slightly for this visit firstly by fishing a much heavier 4 swan loafer type float, and secondly, opting to fish sweet corn on the hook feeding half a dozen grains with each run through.
Grayling are not tackle shy at all and, they seem to find sweet corn much to their liking as once again i quickly lost count of the fish taken. In marked contrast from my last trip , the corn seem to select the better fish as I had a dozen over the pound mark with a brace at 1-07 which is the largest I've caught so far.
These fish can also be taken on feeder tactics if preferred and often the best way is to elect to drop your rig into a back eddy,of which there are several along the coarse beat of the fishery. I chose to run my float through a couple instead, fishing to sighted fish, and scored a couple of nice grayling in the process.
The usual 'nuisance' brown trout also showed up on a couple of occasions to add a bit of variety but, in truth, its the grayling I'm really after at this venue.
Unfortunately, the afternoon foray after pike proved unsuccessful although i really only had a couple of hours fishing before dusk, and the closure of the fishery. The bait was dropped into virtualy every likely looking slack on the stretch but to no avail. Perhaps it would be worth trying again but , as i can catch pike at other venues, yet rarely come across grayling, my mind is on the ladies of the stream ,especially as the potential for a really decent specimen is a realistic prospect on the Itchen.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

1/11/14 The Pike Season Begins

 15lb 12oz

 Greedy pike

I like fishing rivers. If I'm ever forced to give up my sea fishing in my boat,  and that day may well come, then rivers will always capture my imagination and provide me with more than enough of a fishing fix.
I've never really done well with lures when targeting pike in our local rivers and despite trying on a number of occasions, I don't think I've ever caught a double figure fish on an 'artificial'.
 Dave, as an accomplished lure angler, has done much better and his tale of an absolute monster some years ago has always stuck with me, as have several accounts of lure angling success by my good friend Michael Kernan who has taken a 30lb pike on plastic, on our favourite river, albeit after over a quarter of a century of piking.
One of the tallest hurdles that we have to overcome is that of water clarity. Our tidals rarely display the 'right' lure fishing conditions during the traditional  pike season.This time of year provides the best chance but, all too soon the depths of winter arrive, and we are almost forced into using bait methods partly by our confidence in the method, but also by the fact that in murky conditions your relying more on smell (dead baits) and vibration (lives) but also need to give the pike time to actually find your bait. A lure tends to fly past all too quickly.
Today's conditions were indeed a rare 'window' of opportunity unlike an attempt I made a couple of weeks ago when I was hampered both by a flooding tide, which always colours up the water, and a bit too much rainwater  in the river.
Dave and me elected to fish a stretch we rarely visit nowadays and by the time I joined my mate he'd already taken one small jack, and briefly connected with a much better fish on his spinner bait.
I chose to go down the 'shad' route fishing an orange and red six incher with a ten gram jig head which I could work slowly in the margins against the flow.
After a couple of abortive takes from a jack pike and a nice looking perch, which obviously had eyes bigger than its stomach, I had a solid thump from something much larger.
 The pike, being an early season fish, fought very well indeed, and certainly punched well above its weight successfully snagging me in a sunken branch right under my feet. Thankfully with 50lb braid on the Ambassadeur I was able to bully the fish a little before Dave managed to successfully slip her in the net, leaving the foliage behind.
A boldly coloured fish of 15lb 12oz and a personal best lure caught esox for me.
This style of piking is a welcome contrast from our usual winter bait tactics and it's very pleasant indeed not to have to lug around heaps of kit. I don't think lures would entirely replace our sardines and roach but, if the water is clear enough on future visits, we'll probably be giving them more outings.

29-30/10/14 Soft Plastic

Brian is becoming a welcome regular on 'Jupiter' especially of late as he's had a bit of window trouble(one fell out!) with his trusty Orkney Fastliner 19  'Marruig'.

Having secured  a replacement from the factory (Orkney boats is just a ten minute journey from the marina) Brian, along with his capable assistant Alan, managed to refit the window thus rendering the boat in a seaworthy state once again.

Of course, the new window had to be thoroughly tested for integrity, and this would involve sea trials with a spot of fishing thrown in for good measure and I was pleased to be invited along for the ride.
Even if the fishing is slow, it's never a dull day with Brian as he's a born comedian who really should be on the stage.
Agreed tactics would be anchoring up on a ground mark hoping for an early cod although we'd both packed our lure kit for the trip (just in case).
Water clarity was the big unknown. From the shore you can never really tell what its  like 'out there' and, as we'd been experiencing some pretty rough weather lately, perceived opinion was that it would be too murky.
Some shore anglers would have you believe, quite mistakenly, that our local river, The Arun, has a devastating effect on water clarity when its in flood but the truth of it is that even on small tides the 'chocolate' coloured water rarely travels more than a mile or so offshore and usually, the demarcation line is easily seen.
Of course the only way of gauging the conditions is to get out there, and see for yourself.
We did drop the anchor and bait fish for a while, catching the inevitable dogfish in the process but, as we peered regularly over the gunwales discussing the condition of the water it became clear(sic) that we were both thinking along the same lines. In no time at all the anchor was 'upped' and we decided to hit the reef.
 As we approached the chosen mark, thankfully with not another boat around for miles, it became apparent that our great allies, the birds, were active.....indeed they were going ballistic.
This event would save us a huge amount of time and, as we carefully skirted the flock to line up the first drift it became clear that quite a large bass shoal was in residence.
From my own findings , the chosen mark tends to fish better when the tide is running in a certain direction and well under way. In these conditions I think the bass tend to shoal up quite tight, and take up station to feed. Once found they can easily be seen on the sounder as a green mass with lots of 'squiggly' bits on the edges, and this was indeed the case today.
It was great to be able to show Brian what this phenomenon looks like on his sounder and I think , from memory, its the first time we've seen this occur when fishing together.
Almost immediately we were into fish as we drifted quietly over the shoal and rarely did our soft plastics reach the sea bed before being taken. On occasion the fish would rise up to the surface where they could be taken on a hastily switched 'top water' such as my favourite 'Patchinko', although these generally proved to be smaller fish in the 2lb range.
The fishing was at times frantic and I'm sure Brian will have a laugh with me when I say that , in all the excitement,his navigation skills between drifts was at times a little 'haphazard' . The birds helped us and.........You got us there in the end mate.
We ended up with a catch of about forty bass with a best fish of about 7lb before having to leave so I could, rather inconveniently, get to work for a night shift.
The following morning in very murky conditions and with time at a premium, I decided on a solo revisit with just a lure rod on board. Once again I had the mark completely to myself(not unusual at this location and nobody would be able to see me anyway) but, as the tide was just finishing its flood the bass also appeared to be absent. Note I say 'appeared'.
A couple of test drifts proved unfruitful so I decided to act on a hunch, use the time wisely, and check out a neighbouring mark (a new one for me) whist waiting for a more favourable tide state.
Its strange how we, as anglers tend to gravitate to the same spots time and time again and I'm just as guilty as the next man for doing this.
On this occasion, a little experimentation paid off as I managed to pick up four bass from the 'new' reef and thus add it to the ever growing list of  'clutter' on the chart plotter. I'd also gathered some valuable information about the geography of the sea bed and discovered that two features in particular can indeed produce fish even over slack tide.
Once the run off had started in earnest ,a return to the original location was in order and almost predictably there they were again in a nice tight formation on the sounder. They're rarely this easy to find.
No birds to help me navigate today but because I was the only boat working the mark and I ensured that each return leg was well clear of the shoal it remained firmly fixed in one place and I was able to extract a further eleven bass in the two to four pound class before having to ,once again, finish while the fish were still feeding to go back to work.

24/10/14 Ladies Of The Stream

My fishing adventures to the South West of England invariably mean that I drive over the River Itchen near Southampton quite regularly. The momentary glimpse of a very picturesque chalk stream mill has often made me think that I should make the effort to fish the venue especially as its renowned for its grayling fishing.
Thankfully, a section of the river is available during the winter months  for coarse fishing and with the winds blowing enough to keep the boat on its mooring, today was an ideal day to break out the centre pin reel and float rod , and hone my trotting skills.
I'm not a fly fishing enthusiast, although I would gladly flick fluff at bass ,mackerel and even a pike should the opportunity arise.
 Curiously on the Itchen, there are sections (beats) of river that are set aside for fly angling only and where, if you are caught with so much as a single maggot, or grain of corn on your hook, you will in all likelihood be hung, drawn and quartered.
 The tickets to fish this 'exclusive' stretch are double what you pay to fish the coarse section despite the fact that , obviously, its all the same river. I wonder if the fish know something that we don't. Anyway, more of that later.
The 'coarse' stretch that I fished provides more than enough interesting water to roam all day long in search of the beautiful grayling, also known as 'ladies of the stream'. Being a week day, I virtually had the whole of the river to myself apart from one other companion at the very top of the stretch who spent most of the day sitting behind a quiver tip rod.
The 'fly' stretch, on the other hand, was fully booked!
For the first couple of hours I concentrated on the deeper lower areas and, apart from one solitary small grayling couldn't buy a bite. Quite obviously, I was in the wrong place. The upper reaches were far shallower and much faster and this is what grayling prefer. Once I'd become accustomed to the fact that I was a river that I could easily wade across, and with a pace as fast as a speeding bullet, things started to happen.
Grayling are actually not that easy to spot in the water. Something in their name gives away that fact but, once I'd got my eye 'in' , several shoals of fish became obvious.
I chose to use maggots on the day constantly feeding a dozen or so with each run through, although I understand that sweet corn is an equally 'killing' bait. I must have fished at least a dozen different runs and soon lost count of the grayling that I caught along with some boldly marked, but somewhat unwelcome, trout of the brown and sea varieties.
I suppose the biggest grayling was maybe a pound and a half if I was lucky but, the fishing wasn't half good fun and they do put a nice bend in your float rod as they writhe and twist in the current.
As far as aesthetics go, in my opinion, trotting a float with a single action reel doesn't get much more skilful and, if the results of a fly fisher who popped 'over the border' for a chat with my coarse fishing companion are anything to go by, far more effective. He'd caught just the one grayling all day on his Czech nymph and showed quite an interest in our avon floats and maggots.
Apparently big pike lurk in these clear waters and as I spied several likely looking 'lairs' on my travels so, I might just bring some appropriate kit on my next visit. They allow you to use sea dead baits!!

18/9/14 More Nocturnal Meanderings

Another evening trip to the shallow conger mark with Simon. Unfortunately  fishing was  quite slow with just the one decent fish showing despite a couple of shifts on the structure.
I think these conger are quite localised on the mark and perhaps they are few in number, who knows.We never seem to have blistering action here but we're not fishing for any great length of time. It will be interesting to see how long the fish stay on the mark as the winter progresses. With evenings drawing in and more hours of darkness available in the 'civilised' hours I'll be studying the wind speeds carefully on future small tides.

3/10/14 The Blueprint

' Blueprint' is an extremely impressive Breaksea 25 recently commissioned by my marina mates Martin, and his father Tony.
In effect, she is a mini charter boat. Fast, and  comfortable to ride in she has been fitted out  to the boys' exact specification resulting in a craft that is custom made for fishing in our local waters and, in particular, bassing on the reefs and long distance wreck fishing.
Indeed, Martin tells me that the anchor will rarely get wet apart from the odd winter cod foray on ground marks.
Martin is one of three local angling buddies, all thoroughly decent chaps,  who's speciality is catching bass, and catch them they do....in good numbers.
 Personally, as a tyro with a long apprenticeship yet to serve, I can't get anywhere near their results when it comes to tracking and boating 'the spikey ones' so, when an opportunity arises to fish with them ,I always jump at the chance.
Every trip with these guys is a 'school day' and regardless of the catch, a thoroughly enjoyable outing to boot.
Let me say at the outset that these guys have no hidden secrets, no special marks nor revolutionary methods. What they do have is a wealth of experience, an in depth knowledge of  the particular marks they choose to fish ,and an understanding of how the fish react at particular states of the tide.
Indeed, Martin admits to only regularly fishing two different areas for bass and both these are  visited by other anglers who usually drop their anchors and bait fish.
Martin's approach is somewhat different in that he rarely takes bait on board his boat these days as it tends to make a mess of his shiny new deck. Instead , he relies solely on fishing lures, usually vertically fished soft plastics which he does very competently, although he does admit to setting up a live bait outfit on occasion just in case.
These skills cannot been learned over night and, although other anglers will have you believe otherwise (I'm always being asked how they do it), there is no short cut to success with this style of fishing. Once you accept that as fact, the fishing becomes much more enjoyable.
Todays catch was , by my standards , quite spectacular and, as can be seen from the pictures Martin had the best of the fish, catching some cracking bass. Exact size is becoming less relevant as time moves on and Martin rarely bothers to weigh his bass unless he thinks they're doubles!!!
 Don't get me wrong, I did catch plenty of silver myself and had a great time in the process and was able to fit another tiny piece of the jig-saw in place that will enable me to take my bass fishing a step futher in the future.................hopefully this space will be worth watching.

2/10/14 Burning Fuel


A rather uneventful trip this one which was a shame because it was a rare chance to take my good friend, and marina neighbour Alan for a trip out on 'Jupiter'.
Since mooring my boat at the marina , Alan has been an invaluable help on all matters 'fishy' in our locale, due in no small part, to his extensive experience of fishing from small boats on our favourite marks.
We decided to go out on a wreck hunt travelling many miles in the process, and visiting several structures but, do you think we could find a fish???
We couldn't even buy a bite until, on the return leg of the journey, we visited one of our local marks and it produced both a cod , and a few small bass, all taking soft plastic lures.
Isn't that just the way with fishing sometimes.
Wrecking, it would seem, is not as easy as it sounds and is something that I will need to investigate further at a later date. Its all very well going out with Martin and having a good day half way across the Channel but, I need to do it in my own boat.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

16/9/14 A Charter Experience


As a boat owner myself, I very rarely use charters and in fact, I was never that much of a boat angler before buying my first 'tub' and can count my previous charter boat experiences on one hand.
 My enduring memory of one skipper from the early 1980s,  out of Brighton if I remember correctly, is of a grumpy old git who spent much of the day tucked up in his smoke filled cabin reading the paper and who (very) occasionally surfaced to bring out mugs of tea which tasted like tar.
His only utterance during the whole trip was 'lines up' and, as we only dropped the anchor once during the whole day, you could be forgiven for thinking that that was extent of his vocabulary.
Dogfish and whiting made up the catch which were undoubtedly attracted to the boat by my continual 'ground baiting' however, I did manage to impress a prospective girlfriend at the time with my culinary skills and made good use of the catch.
That was a long time ago,  the girlfriend is a distant memory as is my susceptibility to the dreaded 'curse of the sea' however , I will admit to the occasional feeling of (manageable)queasiness , but never on my own boat.
Thankfully also, charter skippers have changed their ways at least, they have in my home port of Littlehampton.
One of our best is undoubtedly 'Spirit Of Arun' skippered, and crewed respectively by my good mate Neil French and his very capable crew, and excellent angler in her own right, Mick Mahoney. They make a formidable pair, In the nicest possible way of course, and in my opinion , provide a service second to none.
I'd already had a 'grand day out' on 'Spirit' last year on a charity tope bash and learned then that
with these guys , its not just about the fishing-the whole day is about ensuring that the customer enjoys themselves and their approach is world's apart from our Thatcher era example above.
Usually the boat , a superb forty foot Lochin with all the bells and whistles, is well  booked in advance as the pair generally run with regular crews however, when the word was put out on 'facepack' by Mick than an 'open' day was available, I decided to jump at the chance as did a few others as the spaces were quickly filled.
Also along for the ride was my old mate Robin 'Fishyrob' Howard who I hadn't seen in a couple of years so it was great to catch up with him too.
 Neil started the day with a quick briefing telling us how the fishing would pan out, and then introduced all to each other which was a nice touch.
We started the day on black bream at anchor with everyone picking up a few along the way  before upping the pick and setting off to smoother ground to drift for plaice which, as you can see, proved equally successful. A few gurnard also put in a welcome appearance and I'm always delighted at the sight of these curious looking fellows.
Robin impressed everyone showing off his prowess with a light rod by  'spinning' an Imitation 'Isome worm' for the plaice. It did prove quite successful and resulted in a little competition taking place between the 'black luggers' and the XL isomes. I can't remember which team won but it just added to the general banter of the day which was constant and lively.
Mick out fished everyone (she always does) and plied us with regular cups of 'proper'tea ,  whereas  Neil gave us the benefit of his wisdom regarding all things piscatorial whilst ensuring that his helm seat didn't get too cold.
The 'team' mucked in on the ride home cleaning both boat and catch all of which just added to the enjoyment of the day.
Overall everybody had a great time with plenty of fish and laughs and I do highly recommend this very professional couple to anyone thinking of charter fishing out of Littlehampton.
You'll find all the info here;


Friday, 31 October 2014

15/9/14 Foiled Again

.............by those damned pesky mullet. I spent a couple of hours at my favourite river mark, at my favourite state of tide, using my favourite method (trotting on the pin) and, I had mullet in front of me but, do you think I could catch one of the buggers!! Not likely.
To be fair I did score a couple of sail away bites however, I don't think my 'eye' was 'In' because I failed to connect with either.
There does seem to be a lack of mullet in the river this year at least, that's how it appears, although I'm still seeing plenty under the boat in the marina. I'm not particularly worried nor can offer any reason why and I'm sure there'll be back in numbers next spring. Perceived population levels of mullet in the river do seem to fluctuate each year although its difficult to accurately gauge stock levels especially with the limited amount of time I spend fishing for them nowadays.
This trip did remind me of the frustrations I suffered back in the day when I fished solely for mullet during the summer months.
In a way, thank goodness I've diversified somewhat with my fishing as a few more days like today would probably find me tearing, what little hair I have left, out.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

6-9/9/14 Blue Shark

Finally, I've had an opportunity to drag the boat down to Falmouth , launching at Mylor,once again to chase blue shark-the first time this year. I had expected to be a 'pensioner' by now but things haven't quite panned out as planned  so , at the moment, I'm still gainfully employed and to be honest,work is definitely scuttling my fishing plans for this year.
The intention was to stay in Falmouth for four or five days then, if the weather co-operated, move to Ilfracombe as the tides up there were favourable for porbeagle runs.
These shark trips take no small amount of preparation and I reckon I'd spent the best part of a whole day getting sorted for this one.
As a beginner sharker , you tend to absorb everything you are told or read about, and follow it to the letter . Having now had a few trips and gained a bit of experience, I've developed some ideas and made a few personal changes to bait and equipment that may not be the norm, nor to the liking of others out there in the U.K shark world.
 Back in the heyday of South West shark fishing the would be 'sharker' could easily gather enough mackerel on 'the' day for their chumming needs. Nowadays things are a bit different and, judging by the general lack of mackerel showing anywhere, particularly in Sussex, an alternative needs to be found although,  as will become apparent later in this blog entry, It's not all 'doom and gloom'.
Whatever the case I couldn't take the risk of relying on catching enough mackerel so had to take pre-prepared chum down with me. I've tweaked the original trout  recipe somewhat by salting, instead of freezing it to keep it 'fresh' . I use the term 'fresh' quite loosely and perhaps 'preserved' would be a better term to use as it quite literally stinks to high heaven.
Basically the trout is salted as its gathered at the trout fishery and stored in one of those blue 65 litre drums with a sealed lid that you see everywhere, but can't seem to get hold of when you need one. Once it's full, I get a call from my 'agent' to come and collect it but it doesn't get anywhere near my van until it's had a thorough scrub with a stench masking kitchen surface cleaning solution, much to the amusement of my 'agent'. The drive home is always undertaken with a certain amount of trepidation.
If the neat chum is left to 'ferment' in the drum for a few weeks prior to processing, the salt tends to break down the fish (bones et al)and you are left with a substance of the consistency of porridge which can then easily (relatively speaking) be mixed with bran with no other preparation.
 If you're in a rush then the trout need to be 'processed' ,which, in effect means 'mashed down' and by far the most effective , and quick way of doing this is by passing the fish through a domestic garden mulcher although the  process is hideously messy and far from neighbour friendly.
Once mixed with bran the chum is stored in fifteen litre buckets with tightly sealed lids and usually, two of these will provide you with enough for a day's shark fishing. The sixty five litre drum of 'neat' trout when combined with a twenty kilo sack of bran produces about ninety litres, or six buckets of chum-enough for three days fishing.
For this trip I transported twelve buckets of chum and , as they weigh 35lb each, that was a considerable weight (420lb) to add to my trailered boat and needed careful consideration when loading and securing as there was absolutely no way I was going to lug that lot down in the back of my van, especially as it also served as my bedroom for the duration of the trip. In reality, once sealed in the buckets and cleaned, they emit relatively little odour and I shall be calling on my crew members to partake in the chum transport duties in the future.
After some experimentation,I've also tweaked the dispensing system by loading the chum into a tight weave vegetable sack which sits inside a chum bucket (again 15 litre). This has 20mm holes drilled into its sides. This regulates the chum  to a steady flow and I've now learned to actually time how long each sack will last before it needs to be changed- about an hour at least.
 I can usually get about three  to four sacks from each bucket and by pre-packing the sacks in the buckets before each trip, and loading the chum bucket on the Warrior's extremely convenient transom deck, the mess inside the boat can be kept to an absolute minimum- a lesson I learned in the spring when it took nearly a day to clean up the boat afterwards with a pressure washer.The smell lingered for much longer.
 Keeping the deck chum free also means its slip free . Get any of that oil rich muck on the deck and it becomes akin to an ice rink-less than ideal when tussling with a shark.
Salting, as opposed to freezing the chum means I can transport and store enough for extended trips lasting longer than just a couple of days and not rely on  camp site freezers which would be anti social to say the least. I first tried this chum on last autumn's blue and porbeagle trips and it worked a treat attracting plenty of shark, and it also seems to keep well long term.
I had a couple of buckets left over from last year and the contents hadn't deteriorated in the slightest-the smell had lost none of it's 'tang' and the shark seem to love it as do tope, and I'm now wondering how many other applications it could be used for. My shallow water nocturnal conger outings immediately spring to mind.
On the tackle front, I'm now totally hooked (pun fully intended) on circle hooks for shark fishing. Having had  such success with them on the blues last autumn, when I first started to use them, I continued with them on this trip and ALL the shark taken on them were neatly hooked in the corner of the mouth without fail.
I've also completely got the 'hang' of the unhook with a 'T' bar bringing  the shark alongside the boat, a process  which can be more difficult with a circle pattern of hook.
Basically it works like this; once the shark is alongside and played out ,hand the rod to your crew member and get them to bend into the shark applying as much tension as possible. The drag should be set accordingly in case the shark dives and the crew should grip the spool tightly with their thumb . Run your gloved hand along the wire back along the body of the shark (do not take a wrap.....ever) . This will turn the circle around and if the T bar is pulled in exactly the opposite direction , the hook releases quite easily. It takes a bit of practice but, by the end of this trip I had it mastered and was able to cleanly release each shark in seconds.
This process works a whole heap better if a wind-on leader is being used and here we court controversy again. The subject has been debated, sometimes quite heatedly, on internet forums and the like but speaking personally, I think they work a treat especially on a small boat.
In some respects regarding sea fishing tackle, we in the U.K are still in the dark ages but across the pond they've been using wind-on leaders and braid for shark fishing for years.
My own first batch of four wind-ons, having had some use, are now showing their age somewhat and although they're still perfectly usable will be replaced with some new versions of my own design as I've recently purchased the materials to construct them.
The 'originals' were built with 450lb mono which take up quite a bit of space on the reel spool and I'm not sure leaders of this guage are entirely necessary. The new batch will be built using 250lb hard commercial mono main bodies and hollow Dacron of 130lb-more than enough when you consider that the main line strength is 50lb.
On the subject of main line most U.S shark anglers I've spoken to on the internet use a braid main line with a mono top shot and wind-on leader  and they're catching far bigger shark than we will ever see in the U.K. This means that  they can use much smaller reels and this is something I intend to try next season even going so far as using an Avet MX for the blue shark.
To be honest, the conger I'm catching of late potentially give me far more trouble at the boat that a blue shark and I'm fishing the tiny MX with braid right through to  a ten foot leader for them with absolutely no issues whatsoever.
Don't get me wrong,my Penn reels continue to give solid reliable service especially with the 'smooooothed out drags' but they are a bit of a 'lump'. Conversely,  Dave's almost brand new Shimanos gave him so much grief on this trip with both reels displaying faulty drag mechs rendering them almost unfishable ,that they have been sent back to the supplier.
Another change I made on this trip was to put the boat on a pontoon mooring rather than recover her each day. I'm actually in two minds as to the advantages of this at Mylor because the slipway is so easy and quick to use and  its certainly handy having the boat with you back at the superb camp site I use at Perranarworthal in the evenings to sort stuff out.
It costs but, the staff at Mylor marina do take good care of your boat . One morning the wind had picked up a bit and I'd been forced by space issues the previous evening to leave the boat on an outside pontoon-something I wasn't entirely comfortable with at the time.(Always follow your instincts) The staff had seen my 'mistake' and kindly moved my boat to a quieter mooring for me using an inflatable tug -superb service indeed.
And so to the fishing..........
Wayne joined me for the first two days with Dave arriving for days three and four and by day five, a brisk easterly had built up curtailing any more sharking activities.
The majority of the drifting was done on an ebbing tide with high water In the morning. This meant that I needed to head the boat out in a South Easterly direction to take full advantage of the drift and ensure that the boat continued to drift effectively for what would usually turn out to be eight or nine hours of fishing. I had been advised that the shark could be caught as close as six miles out but this was from someone who uses charter boats with a much shorter fishing day.
 However, Andy Howell who runs a Warrior 165 in Cornwall as a charter and specialises in small boat sharking agreed with our long distance approach so the usual 240ft depth was sought and this meant a ten to twelve mile run out to sea and an obvious temperature rise on the fish finder.
The first three days found us floundering somewhat as the ebb died off pushing us closer in to land in a clockwise direction at very slow drift speeds towards the end of the day.
 Whilst on the last day of the last trip in 2013 this worked a treat with six shark in very quick succession as the boat approached the Manacles, the same cannot be said for this year and indeed on day three, the boat ended up in a mere 60ft of water and so close to land that I called the day to a halt an hour or so early.

On day one when drifting effectively five shark came to the boat (four to my rods) with a couple approaching the six foot mark and the first one hitting my bait within minutes of starting to fish.
The same quick take occurred on day two to my rod and eight shark (four each) in total came to the boat - a new boat record for numbers of blue shark caught in a day.
Dave's first outing (day three) once again produced a very quick take but things slowed right off with just two shark (one each) to the boat and a couple of dropped baits.
On day four everything seemed perfect and i'll admit I was brimming with confidence. I'd punched out just a tad further to ensure an effective all day long drift and this did indeed happen. The slight easterly assisted us by speeding up the drift slightly and the chum trail was absolutely spot on, the boat holding so steady it did not need correcting even once during the day to prevent the lines tangling but................just one shark took my bait all day long and this one made an effective escape anyway. Bugger. I don't think I've ever felt so let down but, that is fishing.
All of the fifteen shark were fat and fit, probably satiated on mackerel, giving us far better fights than those caught last year and I suppose half a dozen were in the six foot range.
As for other life forms in the water well, what can I say about the mackerel. They were absolutely everywhere and not once did we need to resort to frozen hook baits. To be honest we could have relied on them easily to provide enough chum if only we'd known.
At the end of day two Wayne even filled a cool box up to take home-a very wise move indeed, as well as snaffling a p.b red gurnard on a baited feather.
Wildlife highlight was the spectacular sight of a pod of bottle nosed dolphins literally smashing a shoal of baitfish, breaching fully on occasion with a superb view of a good ten footer which swam right under my hull in the crystal clear water.
As mentioned earlier by day five the easterly wind had picked up sufficiently for us to curtail sharking and give the harbour a try. Unfortunately that wind funnelled up the valleys and even quite high up the inlets conditions were too difficult to fish effectively but we'd had a good look around anyway and the scenery is certainly pleasing on the eye.
A very enjoyable trip indeed but whether I'll return to Falmouth next year will remain to be seen as I'm starting to think about new destinations for future blue shark trips.
Unfortunately, although I towed the boat up to Ilfracombe after leaving Mylor to visit my son Jack and inspect his new workshop, the easterly winds persisted and I was advised by Nick (Pix) my local North Devon contact, that it wasn't going to happen this time so the porbeagles will have to wait for another day, and another tide.


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

31/8/14 Brian's Boat

A thoroughly enjoyable day afloat with my marina neighbour, Brian on board his very capable Orkney Fastliner 19 'Marruig'.
The fishing, to be perfectly honest, was pretty slow despite our best efforts to get out of the harbour early that morning, and the weather wasn't particularly kind either but a smattering of interesting species turned up including this red mullet-the first I have ever seen.

Bream plaice, and gurnard made up the catch and as always, Brian's razor wit ensured that the trip was far from boring.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

29/8/14 Hamble Mullet

A very pleasant day's fishing at Mercury Marina on the River Hamble chasing thick lipped mullet on the bread feeder.
Two rods were employed along with a bucket full of liquidised white bread but only one bite all day resulted in this small mullet of about a pound. It certainly seemed as if the fish were absent as none of the usual giveaway whelms and surface movement was apparent, and I was also quite surprised that no school bass were about either.
In fact , the 'word on the street' is that mullet numbers generally are down everywhere this year but I suspect its only a temporary situation and , as occurs with many species, we do see the odd year when stocks appear to be low.
This venue has produced well for me in the past and is one of the few mullet locations that I've fished where you can comfortably leger for a few hours over the twin high tides that occur because of the Isle Of Wight.
With September just around the corner, the best time of year to target these fish approaches and I suspect I'll be having a go at them on the Arun before the autumn is finished.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

15/8/14 A Change Of Tide.

I've been receiving a bit of well meant 'stick' on the Facebook of late after posting pictures of the conger that I've been catching recently. I was 'criticised' for not wearing a lifeline in the pictures and not attaching myself to the boat especially as the fishing was in darkness.
Usually, I accept any advice readily but in this case feel the need to justify my actions and explain why I think a lifeline would be a hindrance, if not downright dangerous in this situation though of course, the reader should carry out an evaluation of the risks themselves, and make their own mind up.
My Warrior is a BIG small boat but, it is still a 'small' boat with relatively limited deck space. Bring a 7 foot long conger on board and suddenly it becomes a very crowded place indeed.
 Crews that I've taken conger fishing have all been excellent at keeping the deck completely clutter free and following instructions to the letter when necessary, and the same can be said when tope and shark fishing. With an element of forward planning and having kit, such as gloves, weigh sling, pliers at the ready, everything so far , has gone very smoothly with all the bigger fish species I've had on board.
What tends to happen , especially with conger, is that there is a lot of strategic shuffling around the cockpit, swapping sides to balance the boat, manoeuvring  to take pictures, measuring, weighing and of course returning the fish.
 A 50lb plus conger needs two people to handle it safely in this environment. In this situation I'm of the opinion, that any form of lifeline or tether would be a real pain in the back side and more than likely be a trip hazard.
What I suggest is that people try it for themselves before drawing any conclusions and I don't mean conger fishing in a charter boat with an experienced skipper on board!
The Warrior has excellent freeboard (one of the reasons I chose the boat) and I'm only fishing for these conger in calm sea conditions,  both of which greatly reduce the chance of going over the side but, there's always THAT chance and I will admit that I SHOULD be wearing a lifejacket and make no excuses whatsoever that I'm not.(Don't do as I do, do as I say)
The boat is equipped with a full compliment of life jackets but personally, I only wear one when I feel that it is necessary-perhaps when sea conditions 'kick up' and I've only ever felt the need to attach myself to the boat with a lifeline on one occasion-when motoring home alone in a heavy sea in my Orkney 520.This may be the wrong attitude but I'll leave the reader to decide on this issue.
I wonder how many regular small boat anglers actually wear a life jacket all the time.
The biggest problem the Facebook comments have created for me, is that my better half now worries about me being out fishing at night and indeed, on the last occasion lost sleep over it. She will get over it but she will take some convincing.
The  'real' problem at night is being able to see when you're motoring, and avoid hazards -usually pot markers. To be honest, this is where the small boat ,where you can stand to helm and look over the cuddy , really scores. I've been out in bigger cabin boats at night and its far more difficult to see what's ahead through a screen or window.
 In the Warrior , once your night vision kicks in you can actually see very clearly indeed and again, with reduced travelling speeds I've not had any problems on night trips despite the plethora of badly marked 'junk' out there.
If I do accidentally pick up a pot line, which I have done during daylight, its easy to just trim up the outboard and set it free. Should a line become tangled with my prop, I always carry two very strong zip ties ready looped up so I can quickly attach my bait knife to my boat hook and safely cut the rope without leaning out over the stern-useful tip this one.
Anyway enough of that safety stuff-what of the fishing. I took Brian for a return trip to my conger mark this evening but on a much bigger tide that was flooding on the mark during the session. Despite the increased size of the tide the flow was greatly reduced compared to recent trips though with very little breeze, the boat held steady and I was still able to position her accurately.
The first anchorage produced very few bites at all although I did pick up a nice undulate ray on a the half mackerel bait.
With things a bit slow in comparison to what we'd been accustomed to of late, I decided to move the boat to a different part of the mark and anchor with baits fishing over what was obviously VERY rough, snaggy ground. This proved to be a wise move and three congers were brought to the boat in quick succession ,though nothing particularly big-upper doubles maybe.
For some reason the flood tide at this mark appears to be less productive despite the fact that, on the first anchorage, we had a shark chum sack pinned to the sea bed, and Brian's excellent bait dropper was used to deposit a few free offerings.
I suspect that the steadier flows that come with ebbing tides here are more effective at getting  scent from the baits into the eel's lairs, or maybe there are just more eels on that side of the mark. At the moment, this is all pure conjecture and a few more tides need to be fished before any conclusions can be drawn however, if the evenings are calm when the tides come 'right' next week I suspect we'll be back for another go. I need to get Brian that big eel.

I'm hoping this post might generate a bit of discussion or some comments??? Please feel free, I'd like to know who is out there.

13/8/14 200 hours.

I've now owned my Warrior 175 Export 'Jupiter's Moon' for 21 months and during that time have completed 84 trips in her and, according to the trip meter on my GPS, I have travelled over 1800 nautical miles !!!
I estimate the fuel usage to be something around a litre per nautical mile but easily achieve less than this (better) when i'm able to run quickly on a flat sea. There can't be many vehicles that use less fuel the faster you travel!
One useful little device that is included with my Suzuki main engine, is that it tells you when it needs a scheduled oil change. Every time you start the engine, the tachometer cleverly indicates how many hours the engine has run and, when a service is due, the oil pressure warning light flashes intermittently and a buzzer sounds.
  I've been watching the tacho closely on recent trips as it approached the 200hour mark and on the last trip the warning signals were activated and it was time to drag her out for a service. Amusingly, and because i'd failed to read the operators manual properly, the last time this notification system activated at 100 hours i thought there was something seriously wrong with the engine and stopped it dead whilst at sea. It took a while for the penny to drop and i realised it was just asking for a 'transfusion'.
The 200 hour service requires replacement of the pump impeller as well as the full 'works'.
In order to maintain the warranty on the 'big' Suzuki the service must be carried out by an approved mechanic and this costs big money. I've no complaints about the marine engineer who has serviced this engine so far but, like all marine engineers, he's not cheap at all so I decided to take a calculated risk,bin the warranty and do the servicing myself.
Whilst i don't have any formal mechanical traning, i've always serviced my own road vehicles, have the necessary tools and feel competent enough to do so however, I would never touch someone else's boat nor recommend that anyone does it themselves unless they have a modicum of 'know how'. Outboard motors are very simple machines indeed and my Suzuki is no different to most-it's basically a four cylinder,twin cam 2 litre car engine which sits vertically and is attached directly to rudimentary 'gearbox'(the outboard leg)
According to the schedule in the handbook, the service includes a series of inspections and the changing of, spark plugs, engine oil and filter, gearbox oil and impeller. I used genuine Suzuki, or OEM specified parts throughout and despite being extremely cautious and thorough, the whole service took me about three hours in total and probably saved me about £300 in costs.
There were absolutely no glitches in the process but, its worth passing on a couple of pointers here to those wishing have a go themselves.
A basic tool kit including socket set will suffice but you'll need a filter strap wrench and a 6mm allan socket for the oil drain plug.
Warm the engine thoroughly before draining the oil (ears and hose line attached of course).
This thins the oil and ensures all the dirty stuff gets drained out. You can see how black it is in the picture.
Make sure you have a big enough drain tray for the engine oil-there are 5.5 litres of it in the 100 hp Suzuki.

There are six bolts holding the leg in place and one of them is accessed by removing the trim tab. Mark the trim tab's position before dismantling otherwise when you put it all back together ,your boat will go around in circles!!
The leg is heavy and unwieldy so be careful when removing it and place it on something protective(i used a sheet of plywood) and don't forget to disconnect and reconnect on assembly the speed indicator tube.
The impeller housing has four bolts and its worth checking the internal faces for wear and replacing if necessary. Mine were still like new even though i don't regularly flush with fresh water however, i do run my engine periodically even if its not being used due to bad weather and always run it in 'clear' water if  I've come in from a trip when the marina is shallow, or its being dredged. The key is to flush out any sediment that might settle in the cooling system .
Get a replacement gasket for the pump housing as it's very delicate and could be damaged when dismantling.
When reassembling the impeller and housing apply a thin coat of marine grease to the components and gently rotate the drive shaft in the correct direction to aid assembly. It also worth greasing the drive shaft, and gear shifter splines.
Get a bespoke hand pump and adaptor to fill up the gearbox oil. They are very cheap , worth their weight in gold and usually come in a kit with a litre of EP 90 and an impeller.
Make sure you get the right impeller by quoting the engine serial number when ordering. I got sent the wrong one initially. Doh.
Get an extra litre of EP 90 gear oil in case you spill any and, rather inconveniently, the leg takes 1.1 litres anyway.
Keep your 'old' spark plugs as spares (mine were still like new).
The only job i didn't do was to check the valve clearances as I neglected to order a spare gasket and didn't want to risk relying on the old one to reseal. This job will be done when she next comes out for a shark run which should be in a month's time.
Overall the process was pretty straightforward and enabled me to get a good look at my engine and see what everything does and how it should function.
One issue I did manage to address was the route of the fuel line inside the engine cowling which caused me so many problems just over a year ago. In a nutshell, the fuel line is routed too close to the gear selector cable bracket and is prone to being worn away with use. It had actually worn through a year ago causing a fuel leak, and was replaced with a heavier duty line at the time.
On inspection during this service, the pipe was starting to wear again, so I decided to dismantle the whole fuel /electric/cable input point (I don't know what else to call it but, its where all the cable leads etc enter the engine casing) and see if I could rearrange things.
I now believe that the cables, pipe, leads etc were incorrectly routed at initial assembly resulting in the fuel line being in the wrong place. This has now been remedied and should cause no problems in the future. Whether the responsibilty lies with Suzuki or Warrior I'll never really know but my marine mechanic failed to notice it although to be fair, the fault is not immediately apparent.
Whilst the boat was out of the water I also gave the baby Suzuki 6hp 'wing motor' the 'once over' checking the plug, levels and all the grease points etc and running her up to working temperature. Although its had very little use I'll probably change the oils next time the boat is out of the water and drop the leg off to get a look at the water pump .
 One thing I ALWAYS do with the 'six' , is flush it with fresh water every time I run her up as she is prone to clogging up with salt deposits if left.
Regular use of any mechanical device keeps it in good working order and this is very relevent to outboard engines especially considering the environment they work in.
 I've also now made up another complete fuel line so I can connect the 'six' directly to the main fuel tanks and not rely on the small built in tank. This will mean that she's always running on fresh fuel and it'll be useful having a  back up fuel line in case something on the main fails.
Finally the boat was given a thorough scrub up and the hull bottom polished once again(I can do topside on the pontoons) just to keep her pretty, before dropping her back on to her mooring.
The whole process took about a day at a leisurely pace and was hassle free-certainly a whole lot easier than servicing a car as everything is easily accessible and there is much less to do, and I suspect that  the experience I've now gained might be very useful in the future.
If you've any comments or questions feel free to respond on this site or email me at completeangler@sky.com

Saturday, 9 August 2014

7/8/14 Double Trouble.

The reader may get the impression that I experience good fishing on every trip out in my boat but, of course, this just isn't the case. Whilst its indeed rare to completely blank there have been three occasions recently when very few fish have been caught.
Firstly, I took my wife out on a short afternoon trip primarily to teach her some vertical jigging with soft plastic lures over one of our local reefs but, as this only produced one small pouting, we decided to anchor up on some mixed ground. Alas just one small tope showed up on a mark that produced an endless supply this time last year.
Another target was mullet , anchoring the boat in the river on the ebb tide and trotting bread flake-the first time i've tried this from the Warrior. To cut a long story short we didn't even see a mullet let alone get a bite from one and it would appear that there are very few in the main river at the moment whereas the marina is absolutely  teeming with them.
A third trip, on a small tide suitable for tope, was with piking guru Jon Cook, his first trip on my boat. We tried my deep marks at the' Chair' and 'Owers ' for just three pack fish and plenty of  nuisance cat shark, not exactly a blistering result and again, not a patch on last year. Perhaps the general lack of mackerel locally is having an effect.
Finally on my most recent day time trip,my friend Alex was keen to get down on the banks to drift for turbot and brill . I'd been told that one of my favourite banks had been destroyed by the winter storms but upon investigation with the sounder this appeared to be far from the case and the bank, although a slightly different shape, has retained its most prominent features in particular a ridge that causes quite a surface rip as the tide runs.
Unfortunately the target species were not found and just one nice plaice of 2 1/2lb showed up on a ragworm bait-the only fish of the trip.
 I had wanted to anchor the bank and fish for blondes which i feel would have produced, but my crew was keen to persist with drifting other neighbouring banks although this proved to be equally unproductive.
Feeling slightly perturbed by the lack of action, I decided the fish weren't going to get the better of me and a return trip was planned for that evening. Marina neighbour Brian agreed to join me at short notice for a ;three hour conger outing on my new mark. After a quick turnaround ,a bite to eat and a fresh tank of fuel collected it was back to the boat for an 8p.m start-the first time I've ever done two runs in a day.
Weather conditions and tide time (HW 8p.m at Littlehampton) were perfect for the mark allowing the maximum amount of fishing time in darkness on the ebbing tide.
With no wind and a steady flow the boat was accurately positioned on the first drop of the anchor leaving the main structure just 30yards from the stern. Half mackerel and cuttle baits were sent down and, as darkness fell the first 'slamming'  bite to my rod produced a small bass of all things. Nice to know there are some about on this mark and food for though for future runs.
Shortly after and a far more delicate take, again to my half mackerel, produced something considerably bigger, and stronger- a good conger was 'on'. The fight was exciting with plenty of  line stealing dives but not too prolonged, my main concern being to get her well away from the snags as soon as possible.
Once on the surface it was clear that I'd scored another good 6-7ft eel and the decision was made to bring her on board for weighing. At 58lb she is indeed my personal best conger-a slimmer fish than Simon's of a few days ago but pleasing nonetheless.
Brian had been unlucky with a break off when his braid parted on something abrasive but eventually connected to his own eel to maintain an even keel and I was more than happy with this. Finally another undulate took my bait before the tide lost its pace just around midnight -time to 'call it' as we both had work in the morning.
So, another successful trip to the 'new' mark for eels and an end to a very long , but highly enjoyable day, and night on the water.
If you've enjoyed reading the blog,please take the time to leave a comment or join as,a follower. If you have any qusetions, i'd be more than happy to help.