Sunday, 27 April 2014

25/4/14 The Hunt.

Heavy rain and changeable winds, a stark contrast to yesterday's glorious conditions, didn't stop Brian and me hitting the reefs today to experiment with our soft plastic lures in an attempt to futher develop the method.
We searched hard, scanning the reef heading west from mark 6 but the fishing was far from easy although, lots of information regarding the terrain was noted for future use. Several pollack, ballans, cuckoos and pout came up but, once again, we failed to find the bass in feeding mode despite locating a shoal of considerable size lying dormant over slack water.
If i hadn't actually caught bass before from this 'green mass' on the sounder, i could be forgiven for thinking that it was just a huge lump of weed but on this occasion, they were definitely there but simply weren't interested in anything artificial that we dropped on their noses.I bumped a couple and actually connected with one but suspect that it was probably foul hooked as it wasn't on for more than a second.
Personally, i think if we'd had them, live baits would have sealed the deal. Leaving the shoal for pastures new we returned once the tide was flooding but failed to find them again. Quite simply, they'd vanished and had probably taken up a new staion somewhere on the rock and, as Neil has pointed out to me,are so easily missed on the sounder.
 Mark 7 produced the best of the wrasse and pollack and this 'tackle graveyard' of 'rough stuff'will definitely be revisited on subsequent trips.
 Whatever the case, i always enjoy a trip out with Brian regardless of the quality of the fishing.The man's a born entertainer and should be on the stage. On the subject of entertainers, Brian's just informed me that local 'celebrity' Alan Beddows is returning to the pontoons having bought back his old boat 'Walrus' that he'd sold just over a year ago due to financial reasons.
 The word on the street is that he's back 'in the money'having done a bank job.LOL
  I didn't think he'd be able to stay away for too long and will look forward to hearing his 'quirky' conversations over the 'wireless' with 'blonde ray'. If you're ever over our way they can usually be found conversing on channel 8. Listen in, and if you don't learn anything you'll always have a good laugh.
Alan and his mates have been fishing our locale for years and i personally have learned so much vaulable information from all of them. Good to have you back mate.

23/4/14 Bream Mission.

Joining me on this trip was my good friend and sharking buddy Wayne Comben from Hampshire. Wayne, along with sidekick Graeme Pullen, is the man responsible for two of the biggest shark to be caught in British waters with huge specimens of both porbeagle(2012) and thresher(2013)coming to his tiny 17ft Wilson Flyer dinghy. I'm indebted to both these guys for the sharking information they have both provided me with leading to the capture of sharks from my own boat for the first time last season.
Wayne is, however, an all round angler and, on this occasion, wanted to sample some of Littlehampton's famous bream fishing and in particular, those that frequent the Kingmere reef.
To us  locals, the Kingmere is actually not necessarily the best place to target the specie due in no small part to the sheer number of boats that can sometimes be found on the reef but, it's always a pleasure show a visitor the much publicised mark and usually a quiet spot can be found where the bream are ready and willing.
 With the crowd firmly camped out at the 'East end' , I chose, once again, to hit 'Brian's mark' on the reef edge and was joined by only one other boat, Dickie on 'Lynander',during the day.
 With a flat calm sea , warm sunshine and the bream more than willing to participate from the off ,we had a great day despite the small tide, and amassed a catch of forty plus good sized fish to 3lb 7oz along with a 'fluked' plaice for Wayne to take home for tea.
Once again a trotted or constantly 'bumped' bait with a 12mm floating bead on the hook trace did the trick although the fishing slowed noticeably over slack water and didn't really achieve the same pace on the flood tide.
 Visiting us during the day was this rather futuristic looking IFCA craft supposedly counting the number of boats fishing in the proposed Marine Conservation Zone area that encompasses the whole of the Kingmere reef.
 Whether or not we'll be able to fish in this area in the future is still to be decided and is a controversial subject both amongst the local fishing fraternity, and those that choose to air their views on public forums.Only time will tell.

Monday, 21 April 2014

15/4/14 Cut Up Rough

A couple of my mates have been doing exceptionally well catching bass on some of our less well known reef marks in the recent light wind conditions. I've had a full work schedule, which has been extremely frustrating, but saw a possible window of opportunity for a few hours this evening for a 'lure only' excursion.
The only problem being, I'd be 'locked out' for four hours over the low tide.
It didn't look too bad at the marina and, although I could sense a slight south easterly building, I decided to take the plunge and go anyway.
In the event the wind did build up quite considerably to Force 4/5(not forecast) which made fishing extremely uncomfortable however I did manage to catch half a dozen pollack on my self designed and poured soft plastics just to prove that they work before throwing the towel in due to barely being able to safely stand up and fish.
Making my way slowly back to port, the last twenty minutes or so saw me hanging around the river entrance waiting for the tide to flood enough to give me enough water to get back in over the bar.
'Foolhardy' you might say?... Not in the slightest, I reply.
Yes, I did get thrown about a bit but at no time did I feel unsafe( I find these sort of conditions quite exhilarating) and once again the boat showed me just what it's capable of, which is far more than my brain can handle.

Monday, 14 April 2014

13/4/14 Brian's Bream.

The Kingmere reef is our 'jewel in the crown' in Littlehampton and anglers flock from far and wide to fish for the famous bream that inhabit its rough terrain at this time of year. It's reputation as a top black bream mark stretches back many years and it is very often mentioned in sea angling books from the fifties and sixties.
The word was 'out' that they'd arrived in big numbers, in itself a pretty sudden event, and I joined my marina neighbour Brian on board his Orkney Fastliner 19 for a trip out to specifically target them .
Being a sunny Sunday with light winds forecast for the duration of the 'fishable' tide, 'everyone and his brother' appeared to be occupying the mark as we approached at quite a late hour due to me just finishing a night shift.
I counted forty one boats in two tightly packed groups at either end of the reef mostly visiting boats I would imagine although, the usual local 'suspects' both private and commercial were nearly all in evidence. Rather than join the melee, Brian had a mark of his own conveniently placed in between these two flotillas, and we had a comfortable space  away from the crowd.
We had the typical rod rattling bites from 'the off' ,and despite being a relatively short session, with nearly a fish on every drop we amassed an excellent catch of fifty three bream, most in the one to two pound bracket but with some exceptional fish topped by a three pound plusser to Brian.
At the end of the day the wind did actually pick up providing a fun, if somewhat damp journey home.
We're both convinced  that by using as small a weight as possible, we mostly got away with a four ounce ball, and trotting the bait down tide by regularly lifting the rod tip and allowing the bait to fall back, results in more takes. We also believe that adding a floating fluorescent yellow, or orange 12mm foam bead to the hook trace which acts as a visual stimulus, also increases bites.
I rather enjoy bream fishing as it does take a certain amount of skill in tackle handling to get the best out of it. They're 'snappy' biters and can, at times be quite difficult to hook consistently a bit like roach in freshwater, but put up a terrific fight especially on light tackle.
Terrific days fishing in excellent company. Ta mate.

I've also been quite busy designing and pouring my latest batch of soft plastic lures of late and actually had a chance to 'water test one today.
My latest offering is a six inch deep bellied shad both an unweighted version, and one with a built in 20g nose weight which will be useful on the wrecks and also as a river pike and bass lure.
I've done well in the past with both these species on this size and type of soft plastic and hopefully these latest 'home brews' will be as effective.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

31/3, 1/4, 3/4/14.......So Much Learnt.........So Much To Learn.

I've not been out fishing for a whole two weeks since the last day of the coarse fishing season and have been getting quite 'jittery'. I'm not really fired up by the still water trout fishing that is very popular among my fishing buddies and don't play golf but have not been idle during this time.
The aforementioned trout fishery, a local establishment, kindly collect and salt down any casualties, off cuts and discarded fishy mess that accumulates on the premises and store them for me in one of those sixty litre chemical drums with a sealed lid.
When its full, I get a phone call and, for the very reasonable exchange rate of a few bottles of 'Hobgoblin' and 'Hoegaarden', gratefully received I might add, I acquire a not inconsiderable quantity of prime shark chum.
The advantage of this exceptionally oily ,pellet fed 'trout' (I certainly wouldn't eat them myself) has been well documented in last year's shark fishing entries but, although extremely convenient, it does require some considerable effort to get it to the stage where it's usable in the chum bucket.
The process of 'processing' this putrid ,oily mess has, in the past, taken me up to a whole day for each drum load,as it has to be 'minced' by hand passing it through one of those cast iron table top devices that everybody's mum had in the 1960s. Bringing myself well and truly into the twenty first century, I decided to purchase a garden mulcher (electric-Black and decker) for the vast sum of fifteen quid-second hand from 'evilbay'.
Although still extremely messy, and perhaps not quite so 'refined', but good enough, the 'process' was reduced in time to about an hour to get to 'neat' base mix, to which bran and even more trout oil will be added at a later date. Because the trout is salted, it is simply sealed in  buckets, and left outside. Bringing it anywhere near the house would result in instant divorce proceedings.
 I  have some mix left over from last year that is still in fine condition, in a manner of speaking, so it seems to keep well .
 The drum and bucket of salt have already been returned to the trout fishery for the next load. Fifteen quid well spent.
I've also been designing and making my own soft plastic lures for the bass, wrasse and pollack that start to appear on our inshore reefs at this time of year.Actually, its entirely possible that the wrasse are resident all year round but poor water clarity has hindered fishing for them.
 This process involves fashioning a blank in modelling clay which is then baked in an oven making it hard and suitable to take a mould from.
 The mould is  cast in room temperature vulcanising silicone and then plastic , melted in a microwave( not the one in the kitchen as this again could result in serious marital issues) is poured in, allowed to cool and 'hey presto' you've got your lure.
 I came up with two designs based on lures that I had been using, and having success with on reef trips last year ;A four and a half inch split belly shad based around a 3/0 worm hook that will be texas rigged to avoid, or try to avoid, snagging., and a wormy, grubby type 'thing' that will be specifically used for wrasse again based on the same Nogales worm hook.
 At the moment I'm using drilled egg weights held in place with silicone rig stops for jig heads in weights up to 3oz but will be looking to cast my own articulated heads similar to those produced under the 'Canelle' name.

If I may be permitted to say so myself, I'm quite pleased with the results and, after a bit of tweaking the lures seemed to show a nice 'action'  when tested in the wife's goldfish pond.  So to get fishing.
The water quality at sea has been very poor of late due to the rough weather,and to use lures successfully, one needs clarity. On the first trip out in the boat I went in search of this clarity on the reef marks at 7 and 9 but failed to find it, and any fish.
 In the end I settled at anchor and fished small baits in the hope of an early bream but could only manage dogs and whiting to save the blank before having to return to port early to catch the tide.      One of my bassing mates however had no such restrictions and, after working extremely hard and staying out over the low tide 'lock out' into darkness did eventually find some fish in clearer water and passed on the numbers to me. They were mostly small bass but with one exceptional 'clonker' in the catch-a stunning eleven pounder.
When I checked the co-ordinates on the paper chart at home, I recognised the mark (31)which unsurprisingly has 'previous' form. I wonder why the bass return to these marks year after year-a great mystery.
I couldn't get out early the next day but, another mate, Pete, running a small open boat the fair distance over from an Aldwick beach launch could, and also had the mark information. The text the next morning said it all. 'They're having it mate, get yourself out here' .
 By the time I'd got myself sorted, the mark had been 'blown' and plenty of boats were in residence but, It didn't matter as we were all friendly(mostly mates anyway) , well mannered in our drifts and all catching bass- some decent ones too with my best being between 6-7lb but others getting some better fish in the mix. Most important of all though was that my home brewed plastics were working a treat, not only on the bass , but a hard fighting 4lb 8oz 'pig' also showed up punching well above its weight indeed. Much derided by so many on our local  patch, usually  those somewhat 'blinded' by bass and in some cases it's commercial 'value', the wrasse is a much underestimated adversary that, in my opinion, is a far more sporting fish than the handsome 'Mr Silver' 
Gradually the boats dwindled as the afternoon wore on  until it was just me and another Warrior 175 with Newhaven markings left on the mark- a commercial rod and line bass boat. I've heard about these chaps who travel over to work our local reefs , but have never actually come across them before at sea.
Watching this guy at work was fascinating. As the tide slowed my lures became less and less effective but float fishing two, or sometimes three live baits (tank stored pouting caught last autumn) this guy just continued to hammer the bass out and they weren't small either- the live baits selecting the bigger fish, or is it the other way around. Sometimes, he had two or even three bass on at once and I didn't see him fail to catch on any drift.
In the end we engaged in conversation  and I probably learned more chatting to this friendly professional in ten minutes than I would in ten trips out fishing.
 O.K he's taking everything he catches and may not be very popular among local anglers but, he's doing it for a living, is working exceptionally hard and I'd much rather see this 'selective' commercial fishing than the 'pair trawlers' any time. Meeting this chap has certainly changed my opinion of the small boat commercial fishing sector and it certainly illustrates the effectiveness of live bait when targeting bass. A thoroughly enjoyable and productive day's fishing.
Two days later and I returned again to the same mark and this time, I had it to myself apart from a different commercial Warrior, another 175 from Shoreham, who seemed to be searching the general area with his floats.
Nothing showed on the first few drifts  and as Neil called me up on the radio to announce his imminent arrival, I decided to stick around to see what would occur.
What did occur was probably the most frustrating single event that I've ever experienced in my fishing career but, at the same time , yet another invaluable lesson.
 Neil had a crew of six, all fishing metal stingers with  a sand eel teaser attached to each trace. No sooner had he arrived, on virtually the same drift as me, than he started to hammer the bass, where as I couldn't even buy a bite. '  
 Mostly , they were small but that's not the point. Every single drift produced fish after fish with Mick in particular absolutely 'mullering' them  . Even changing my rig to match Neil's crew and copying their technique (I was that close) didn't work, nothing was hitting my lures, where as Neil's 'shoal' was getting pummelled by the bass.
 Once he'd had a hundred, he stopped , as his crew were electing to keep the fish and he felt he couldn't justify continuing-forward thinking. In this time, I'd caught just two bass.!!!
 Feeling totally deflated but more to the point, confused because I was absolutely one hundred percent sure I wasn't doing anything wrong, Neil suggested a possible solution.
 With up to twelve lures in the water under his boat the bass were attracted by the 'commotion' and the catching of fish probably just added to the attraction. Its possible that they actually followed his boat  around and to me, this is exactly what it looked like, but it was still excellent skippering and shows why he and Mick are such a well respected team.
Once 'Spirit' had left I felt I was in with a shout but it wasn't to be. They just seemed to disappear into thin air and my only catch before returning home was one solitary Pollack. A hard pill to swallow but once again, so much learned, and to think about for future sessions on lures. I'd failed miserably yet gained so much  and returned to port with my tail well and truly between my legs. However, such is the way with fishing that by the time I reached my mooring, my mood had lifted and I was already planning my next assault.     
As a footnote , plaice in good numbers are showing on marks near #48. Shaun had reported good numbers in his nets as passed the info on to the 'big three' charter boats and I understand that Steve on Jennifer's Pride has picked some good ones up to 4lb. Of more interest to me, is that they are also being plagued by pin whiting-perfect size for bass live bait. Knowledge is everything.                                                            

14/3/14 The Worst Pike Season In Living History

It's become something of a tradition for Dave and me to pike fish at the end of the river coarse season and this year was to be no different. Unfortunately, not a single pike showed the slightest interest in any of our baits today.
I've had a dreadful pike season, if fact, the least productive thus far in over a decade of fishing the local rivers . The heavy rainfall has kept me away from the banks for long periods of time but, at least when he's been able to get out Dave's had a few this year including a handful of doubles and the 'twenty' from early on in the campaign. I'm sorry to report that I haven't even had a double this time around but that, as they say, is fishing and with river piking, particularly on the tidals, there isn't a great deal that can be done about it.
For next season, following lengthy discussions whilst 'blanking', we've decided to make a few changes to try and narrow the odds and see if we can extract a few more toothy friends from these most difficult of venues.
I can only say' watch this space' and perhaps , fish like the one below will once again be admired on these pages.

On a different tack, my good mate Brian's huge blonde ray caught on Jupiter early this year has made fish of the month in Boat Fishing Monthly and also won prises in Sea Angler. Terrific news. Proud of ya mate.

7-9/3/14 Fenland Visit.

Having been quite successful with the zander hunt at Old Bury Hill lake earlier in the year, I decided it was high time I attempted to capture one from it's spiritual home in the U.K-Fenland.
I'd been given a hot tip , and plenty of information, on a likely area on The Old Bedford River in Cambridgeshire and having never even visited the 'land of big skies' before,  decided on a two day trip camping on site in a 'bivvy' borrowed from Dave.

Typically, as I subsequently discovered, my information was about ten years out of date, a zander hadn't been seen in the locale for some time and although the locals rather amusingly blame the recent influx of Eastern European workers for supposedly eating them all, a more enlightened theory was offered to me by local predator expert Mark Barratt, who believes that the pike and perch populations are actually gradually displacing the 'zeds' in certain areas of the Fens. With hundreds of miles of waterways up there, it would probably take a whole country of Eastern Europeans with voracious appetites to clear the zander out , so I'm inclined to give Mark's theory some credence.
You've gotta love the 'British' attitude sometimes. Basically, to put not too finer point on it, it stinks.
Whatever the case , I failed to catch a zander , but managed to get a few small pike instead though others with a more mobile approach, or a boat, did much better than me.
 On the first day a local dinghy angler impressively hammered the pike in the boat pool where I was camped, by placing his baits directly below some moored narrow boats that were well out of my casting range.
On day two, mates Andy and Simon showed up from home , and Andy, using a roving approach managed to bag a couple of nice double figure pike to 16lb , in the dark,which is a new p.b for him-well done that man. Its a pity we haven't got a picture to include here.
I will have a return trip in the future to the Fens and, to target pike, especially if our local rivers are out of sorts. However, being static and tied to a 'bivvy' is not the most productive approach so, with literally miles of rarely fished water to explore, mobile methods would surely be better.

13/3/14 Madness On The Wrecks.

A simply fantastic days wrecking aboard marina mates',  father and son team ,Tony and Martin's superb diesel powered 24 ft Flyer 'Cap'n Cod'.
 Out of choice, I don't do a great deal of wreck fishing from my own craft simply because I have no outlet for the catch, and pollack and bass from the depths just do not 'go back'.
 These chaps have plenty of mouths to feed , are incredibly skilled at their craft and it showed up in todays phenomenal catch of hard fighting fish to 17lb- we soon lost count of how many came on board.
I've absolutely no idea where we were nor, as its considered 'bad form', asked what wrecks we fished but, we must have travelled nearly a 100 miles in total taking fish from every site we targeted, many with a French accent, and on a variety of different lures of varying colours and sizes-it didn't seem to matter.
 Highlight for me was, swapping the normal wrecking rod for my tiny 6ft bait caster set up and battling a pollack from 90ft of depth forcing a ridiculous curve into the little 'stick' .
As you can see from the picture, it was foggy out there all day and thank goodness 'Cap'n Cod' has radar on board because at one point, I was actually looking UP at a huge ship that emerged out of the 'murk' and passed us by a little too close for comfort, and having given no warning signal.
They were probably running on auto pilot and not watching their own radar. Luckily Martin had spotted the 'offender' on the screen and taken evasive action otherwise I might not have been here typing this.
Rather fittingly, the marauder's name was that of my other half- 'Janet'. Perhaps she's trying to tell me something.

1/3/14 Conger Hunt.

Took Dave out to try and find conger out on mark 3 over slack water on this big 6.1m tide. The mark has as a reputation for producing conger at this state of tide .
We concentrated on big squid and cuttle baits and, apart from small fish nibbling at our offerings, the fishing was slow so, following a move inshore to the area around 23 and 28 once the tide began its run, where I'd had my big conger a few trips back, Dave proceeded to nip out a small double figure eel, and a thornback ray to save the day .

One of our local amateur photographers, Geoff Smith, has been getting some cracking pictures of late, and I'd like to include one here.It's a shot of my mate Shaun's new boat, a commercial potter, netter and supplier of superb cuttle, entering the river mouth that was featured on Facebook. I was lucky enough to spot it, and managed to forward it on to Shaun who was thrilled to bits with the image. The power of the internet!!