My angling life has always been full of surprises and last weekend was no exception other than the fact I struggled when all around me caught fish; and good fish at that. I arranged to fish with my son, Tom and a friend, Kevin Bullen to fish my local North Suffolk beach , as Tom and I had some success a few days before catching smoothhounds, thornback rays and yes, a late codling.
On this occasion we were welcomed, as we walked down the steep slope leading to the beach, with what is best described as a good winter like cod sea. There was a very coloured sea and heavy swell pushed along by a fresh north to north east wind and the temperatures had plummeted from the low twenties to some where in the region of the low teens and feeling decidedly chilly. Tom and I looked at the view before us with a great measure of disappointment thinking that our chances of catching the smoothhounds and rays had diminished greatly. Both species seem to show stronger in flat calm sea conditions. Kevin had arrived shortly before us and had the same misgivings but nevertheless had tackled up at his chosen spot, which was slightly to the north of us. With a large measure of forbearance, Tom and I did the same setting up one rod each. Quick discussions amongst us determined that we would fish a couple of hours and then pack up early if it proved to be as quiet as we expected. More anglers were arriving at the beach and by now there was a line of several anglers stretching into the distance. Tom was first into fish taking a tiny little thornback ray. I had decided to fish short hoping that a bass or two would be feeding in the choppy sea; Kevin was taking a similar approach using a whole squid cast a short distance. I was standing by the rods next to Tom, as the tip of his rod lifted and the line slackened. He had hooked into a very energetic smoothhound that moved at speed along the beach. It was a very reasonable fish around the five to six pound mark. The swell and strong undertow meant that I had an active role in landing the fish by positioning myself at the back of the fish and helping to beach it before the undertow carried it out to sea again. It’s always an exciting time landing a decent fish in a good swell and I was rewarded with wet feet. We were elated because it was totally unexpected.
Second to connect with fish was Kevin, who hooked a superb fish of over nine pounds. We were unaware of his success until we saw him beaching his fish. In Kevin’s own words, “ the tip of my rod dipped and just continued to move and I grabbed the rod before it was dragged out of the rest”. Kevin, who has had some great catches of smoothhounds this summer, including one double figure beauty, “ it was the best fight I have had from a hound, as it was really difficult to land with the swell”. Reflecting on his catch later he said, “that fish in that swell was a nightmare” and ” I never thought that there would be hounds in this conditions this morning . It must be thick with them out there”.
At sometime while all this was happening, my rod straightened in the rest and the line slackened falling quickly. I excitingly picked the rod up but the fish had dropped the bait. The next angler to the south of us was then struggling with a large fish and as I walked towards him to assist he finally managed to beach a very large smoothhound after several abortive attempts to beach it on a wave.
Things went quiet for a period and Tom’s rod tip dipped, tightened and then straightened in the rest. Picking up the rod he was certain that this was a big fish. It didn’t run fast like the smaller fish, but it kicked with real weight and it was a tackle testing slugging match. Bringing it into the shallows was the easy bit, as it was a real battle steering the fish to shore through the swell and strong undertow. It was wet feet time again as I waded into the surf to assist Tom and grab the fish in the shallow water before it was dragged out to sea again on the backwash of an incoming wave. It looked enormous in the shallow water and it was not an easy job to manhandle the fish clear of the backwash.
The fish was quickly unhooked and weighed in a carp weigh sling, and photographs taken. The fish weighed 10.24 pounds, our best of the season by some margin and a couple of pounds short of Tom’s personal best. The fish was returned to the water and swam strongly away after a short recovery period. The run of fish was over, with four caught and both Tom and Kevin left me on the beach to have an extra cast or two over low water. After a few minutes of them leaving, my rod straightened in the rest and the line slackened. Yes! No, it turned out to be a small thornback ray of about two and half pounds. Oh well, can’t win every time. More bass fishing next time in the blog. Tight lines!