I have always enjoyed bank holidays for the extra fishing time it allowed, but now being retired it is not such a longed for event because I am no longer constrained by the responsibilities of work. Over the years and even during my school days I can remember angling milestones passed and secured for posterity on bank holidays such as the landing of my first proper cod, weighing eight pounds caught on an Easter Monday at Ness Point in Lowestoft. I have also been fortunate to land many good catches of individual and bags of fish during such times. So the upshot is that I still approach holiday times with an heightened anticipation. This year was no different with reports of good smoothhounds appearing in Norfolk and a sprinkling in North Suffolk, so that would be my target fish. The smoothhound, is a crustacean eating member of the shark family, and grows to a reasonable size of around thirty pounds at maximum. Any fish over five pounds can be looked upon as a fine angling adversary as they are an extremely hard fighting and fast moving species caught on the appropriate tackle.
Pakefield Beach, south of Lowestoft was my favoured venue, as it is a clean sandy beach, which allows me to take a light tackle approach to the fishing. At last summer has finally arrived and the recent Whitsun bank holiday a couple of weeks ago was scorching hot, attracting large numbers of day trippers to our beachside resorts and Lowestoft and Pakefield were not the exception with the beaches crowded.
I arrived to set up my fishing tackle at around 5PM just as the crowds were thinning out.
My levels of anticipation were high, as the beach had been in great form last summer with some good quality smoothhounds appearing on certain tides, but as with most venues smoothhound movement can be random with fish appearing one tide and then disappearing for a day or two.
The conditions were perfect as a light onshore breeze died away and the sea condition was flat calm. I had plenty of fresh live peeler crab which is the supreme bait for the smoothhounds and these were presented on a 2/0 circle hook pennel arrangement attached to medium length pulley rigs.
I varied my casting distance at times during the session, but concentrated mainly at the maximum distance my aging frame can now comfortably manage, as the venue is flat and tends to produce more fish at long range. The result was a bit of a disapointment as the better sized smoothhounds did not show. I managed to land a half a dozen smoothhounds pups up to a couple of pounds in weight, two large dabs and a school bass.
Soon after the disapointment of the bank holiday fishing trip, I arranged a second target session for the smoothhounds with my number one fishing companion, Tom, my son and this was to be six miles north of the Pakefield. Unfortunately this session went slightly awry with the sudden disappearance of his family pet tortoise, Indy, who went missing from Tom’s garden just before we were due to fish. After much searching with support from my wife and I, Indy was nowhere to be found, so our prearranged session had to be cancelled. A short while later I happened to note on Facebook that a friend, Alan was fishing the Pakefield stretch in the hope of catching a smoothhound or two so I decided to join him albeit late in the tide and armed with a single rod. I reasoned that this would be a real tester to find out if the smoothhounds were indeed in residence. All this did was to add to the frustration as again the fish refused to show and we both struggled, despite the perfect warm conditions.
Indy has subsequently turned up and is safely back in his garden home after safely negotiating several busy roads before being spotted in the centre of a road where he was picked up and rescued.
The whole holiday week had left me feeling a bit down on my luck and deflated on the smoothhound front, so I suffered from a rare case of the Bank Holiday Blues. Thankfully this situation did not last too long, as an early Monday morning session was planned following the bank holiday week. Yet again the fishing gods conspired against me and I had to redirect my attention to an early morning trip to A&E, as my wife Bridget, had suffered a scold from very hot fat when preparing Sunday tea. I had to rearrange my fishing to the flood tide that evening and this time I managed to make it to the Lowestoft North Beach without any complications. The conditions were perfect again with a light breeze from the south and nice calm sea conditions. The beach here is much steeper and gives access to deep water at a reasonable distance, but the tides are very strong and the ground is rough in places.The fishing was quiet with the odd dogfish and whiting showing early in the flood tide. I used the pulley rigs again and the bait this time was frozen peeler crab and dirty squid presented as a cocktail.
The tidal flow increased and it was difficult to hold bottom and accumulations of sludge like weed made the fishing far from straight forward, so I had to reduce the length of my casts. As the high water approached it began to look like I had made the wrong call again, when suddenly the tip of one of my Century Fireblades dipped and then continued to pull downwards. Picking the rod up brought an instant response as the fish kicked and moved strongly downtide. Yes…..this was a smoothhound and not a thornback ray, which became clear as the fish moved fast through the water. As the tip of the rod lunged over I had to loosen the star drag on my Penn multiplier reel and the fish took several metres of line in a powerful run. I ended up landing the fish about forty metres downtide from where I hooked it and close to my nearest angling neighbour, Andy, who kindly took the photographs for me. The fish was carefully unhooked and returned to the sea; swimming off strongly after a short recovery period. The fishing gods had finally smiled down upon me! My smoothhound weighed an ounce under eight pounds on a very old battered set of scales which are gummed up with the accumulated sand and grit of many years, so it was almost certainly slightly heavier than the recorded weight. Subsequently, I have purchased a nice digital set and not before time. One other point I should make is that I used a carp fishing weigh sling when weighing the smoothhound to minimise stress and damage to the fish.
The equilibrium has been restored and all is okay in my fishing world again! Yes, I am smiling again! It’s been a frustrating few days of fishing, but it all came good in the end. And I am pleased to confirm that my wife, Bridget is recovering just fine from her accident with the hot fat.