Categories
Alan Stevens

Sliders on the beach – with surprisingly good results

Let’s face it, Northern hemisphere sea fishing isn’t exactly seen as a sexy sport. I know we love it but it is hardly likely that we attract thousands of drooling followers who tune in to live streaming of our endeavours every trip. This is so different in the Southern Hemisphere and especially South Africa where lycra clad gym honed six pack permed hair fishing superstars bring fast action adventures to the masses in a way unimaginable to our world. These folks are household names and every inch of their bright coloured skin-tight clothing is sponsored and live-streamed to the baying crowds. South African beach fishermen are modern day gladiators battling huge fish against the odds. They are warriors, icons.

Contrast this to me, arriving pre-dawn this Saturday with my nondescript all black outfit causing the local neighbourhood watch to twitch the curtains. Think more Joe Pasquale than Joe Wicks. More scarecrow than Armani. But, I arrived at one of my usual haunts more excited than usual because I had a cunning plan. Fumbling with overstocked tackle seat box, bait buckets and rod/tripod cases I stumbled my way across the sand in the pre-dawn darkness. I didn’t care what I looked like. In my mind I was as cool as the guy from the Milk Tray adverts.

The reason I was fishing a stupidly early daytime shift was down to my plan which started to formulate in the middle hours of Wednesday night. I had been weirdly dreaming about being in a helicopter filming above a busy beach in Africa and shouting down to swimmers who were oblivious of the huge sharks swimming below them. Waking up with a start I experienced one of those light-bulb moments. Let me explain. You see the previous weekend, both myself and the super bloke fishing next to me at Holland On Sea caught dogfish close in on scuffed casts. And my rapidly formulating midnight idea was that these dogfish at Holland had learned that dinner would be provided by us fisherfolk each day when we chuck back the pin whiting. When returned despite our care I theorised that for a short period these little beauties might be disoriented to the point that the dogfish had an easy meal. Hardly Great White Cage diving in terms of terror but something I kept developing further throughout the zoom call laden final two days of the working week.

Weighted and non-weighted slider penel rig sets ready for testing out on the dogfish

The plan was to use dead bait sliders from the beach, which if I was proved correct would resemble the disoriented whiting and thus drive countless dogfish to my teasing baits. I know sliders are commonplace with fresh water fishermen, but I have to confess for me it was new from the beach and I don’t see many people using them when out and about. 

For those who are unfamiliar to this technique, you cast out with a simple heavy breakaway weight with a ring-stopper above it at your chosen height, then keeping everything very tight you attach a slider rig to your mainline and the slider tackle slides down your main line to the ring stopper. The three big benefits of this are that with soft baits such as sprats or large herring baits, trying to cast them accurately and delicately enough to present well is tricky. Casting out the weight alone allows you to be precise with the location and sliding the bait down the line keeps everything looking perfect. And finally, as the bait slides it covers all the height of the water, so what ever depth and distance the fish are feeding at, your bait travels through this zone. With me so far?

The golden rules of successful sliding are (no sniggering please); have a very stiff rod, and moisten your slider to help it slide. The rod needs to be stiff to keep the line tension and allow the slider to slide and a moist slider lubricates the lines as it slides to meet the water. The mechanism on the slider prevents the bait from returning up the line once in the water, but that said, for dead baits you do need a significant gradient and must cast down-tide. If the gradient and tide isn’t enough to mover the slider along, you jig your rod repeatedly (stop it) and the action bounces the baited slider down hill. 

using the gradient of the beach, height of rod and cross tide casting to help the slider work

So I greeted dawn with a four gun salute. One 14ft heavy duty rod set up with a whole bluey baited weighted slider that I lobbed out around 50 yards. One light tackle rod set up with a two hook worm baited flapper close by the slider to get the whiting busy. Two more rods were set up for long-distance casting, with one hook clip down rigs baited with whole squid and herring wraps and big lug baits every now and then to mix it up a bit until I found out what the fish were up for. One of the long-distance rods was a second hand set up of a Penn mag 2 reel attached to a Vertix Odyssey acquired from Kevan at Colchester Bait and Tackle. It is that time of year when people are trading up for Christmas and there are some super second hand bargains at the shop. Whoever left these beauties behind..thank you as they are a dream to use.

The weather was amazing for the last November weekend of the year. Pure sunshine, no wind making the day warm up quickly. Ideal for being out but hardly ideal conditions for day time shallow water fishing, my hopes were not high but I was keen to master the slider and new rod/reel. 

The session started slowly to be fair, the tide not being high enough for much action and not helped by a swimmer who thought it was OK to watch for fish amongst my lines from above. Telling me fish were there having not had a bite really helped! After a short exchange of advice he kindly moved along to the completely empty 10-miles of shoreline to my right and calm was restored.

Most notably, even after my usual flood tide line measures where fish begin to feed, I had not even one single whiting nibble. And it went on like this. Nothing for another hour at all. Crabs were busy feeding beyond their normal flood tide water level, which is not a good sign. If they are not scared of being eaten by anything, results usually remain grim, and my justification for being outside was shifting from catching fish to topping up my vitamin D. Stripping off layers of clothing and chatting to passing beach walkers about how this could be a summers day, life remained good.

Then the fishing began to change for the better. The slider gently signalled some action with a tapping of the rod and the bluey had done the business. To my surprise however it was not a dogfish that had taken the penel trap but a decent size thick set flounder. After loading up another bluey and refreshing the other crab stripped rods yet another large flounder found the slider beyond temptation. Many of the flat fish species have their eyes on top of their heads for a reason – they attack bait above them and so it was the case today. The flounders were feeding on the river herrings that crowd our estuaries and bingo – my slider fish bait was working first time out. Happy days albeit that the doggies were nowhere to be seen.

That was it for the slider for a while and my attention began to be dominated by the two rods I was banging out as far as I could manage and the lug worms were beginning to work. Amazingly still no whiting at all. I surmised that they have finished spawning and have left the river mud flats for deeper water. Looking at reports from along the rivers this weekend I think I might be right. We shall see. Still plenty off the coastline beaches if you are missing them of course. 

What had replaced the beloved whiting amazingly were soles and gurnard. All from 100yd plus casts from shore. Not big but very welcome after the last few weeks for sure. By close I had five slip Soles and two Gurnards to thankfully give me something to write about today. This was further enhanced by a decent Thornback on a herring/squid wrap as my worm supplies became depleted. 

As the tide ebbed further  I repositioned the bluey baited slider to be just down-tide of a sandbar. I know Bass hang out there to feed on small fish and crabs as they tumble across the bar. This meant a bit of a walk to get the angle of cast right for the slider to work and I had to abandon the other rods. After 10-mins the rod began to twitch a little. A really small bite and I guessed a junior contribution to the catch stats. Reeling in slowly I could sense that the slider had not reached the terminal stopper ring and to be honest I thought maybe I had picked up some weed and not a fish after all. All that changed when the stopper came into play. My slider had not reached the stopper. Realising something was up, the fish I had on gave a really heavy tug and I was convinced that my dogfish plan had finally worked. Playing the fish for enjoyment my slow retrieve enabled the fish to keep below the water right to the shoreline. The long brown patterned skin came into view as the water met the sand and to my total surprise it was not a dogfish but my first codling of the season. A sleek 3.5 lb beauty was not the pot bellied tug of war type codling but a fit middle weight boxer kind of fish. The slider had done the trick. I was buzzing and I would have remained at that spot fishing forever if the tide had not exposed the oyster laden mud expanse which had provided my bounty.

As I returned to my car to reflect on the day it was surreal. No whiting or doggies, flat fish feeding mid-water, codling, sole and gurnard all in one day. This was not how I planned it. 

Changing footwear I realised I had a broken toe. God knows how I did it – the fishing was so all consuming I truly have no idea what happened to it. Genuinely, I felt for a moment that it was not real. Having watched Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes again over the past few weeks I was imagining being in the programme, some Bowie song to come on the car radio and Gene Hunt to be driving. Sadly the reality is I have to go to work again tomorrow. Already my mind is turning to how to use the sliders on the piers when they reopen this week. We made it through this lockdown, yay! 

For now, tight lines. Time to fire up the Quattro

Categories
Alan Stevens

A tribute to the Essex Piranha

The world is a crazy place right now. Divisive politics, Covid confusion… wherever you look opinions are deeply engrained and more polarised than ever. Thankfully one thing remains a force for bringing us all together in agreement and that is of course the Essex Piranha or as they are sometimes called, Whiting. Oh come on folks! What is it about this little needle toothed visitor that provokes such strong reactions? How come this underwater jar of Marmite drives more emotion than a Glasgow derby? My blog today ladies and gentlemen begs you to think again and fall in love with this bundle of autumnal joy

Durban sardine season

Lat year in those halcyon days pre lockdown I was working in Durban at the time of their seasonal sardine festival. Like we have here with our whiting, each year their coastal waters become congested with billions of small fish. Rather than moan they have a public holiday. Whole communities head to the beach and party appreciating one of natures bounties. They stay there until the fish go away, which can to be fair, be some time. It was brilliant! Same thing in Istanbul when the anchovies arrive. The bridges at the Golden Horn get so congested the city comes to a standstill. An awesome time to be in the greatest city in the world and for a seasonal period of time a focus of peoples lives as passionately as their love for football.

OK, we have public holidays here and they all are for great reasons of course, but nothing in the diary to break up the week from August through to Christmas. Harsh I say, harsh. Four months without a four day week… way too long.

I have an idea. The Germans have Oktoberfest, so how about we have a whitingfest sometime in October/November, where we all bunk off work and fisherpeople from across the world come to Essex to celebrate our treasure. Think of the boost to our economy. I mean, Jaywick could become a global iconic fishing location if we get this right folks. 

So let’s get behind this aquatic bundle of positivity. Having spent a summer in deep water chasing supertankers with Prodigy’s Firestarter screaming in their little heads the whiting return to our waters to herald the return of autumn. OK, granted that this beast is more wild dog than lion, he will never be king of the underwater jungle in a Lord Webber musical but let’s face it; size isn’t everything. Our beloved whiting is fearless, the Billy Bremner, the Priti Patel, the Jack Russel of their world – never thinking that just because they are not big enough that they can’t snarl at life. In a world of snowflakes and correctness driven by the  and doom and gloom media merchants we need more positivity like this. Our country is at a national crossroads with what we face ahead we need to be more whiting!

I mean, no matter how big your bait or our hook, these little cannibals will try to devour the lot in one gulp. They are always hungry and will eat anything. Half way through devouring a whole squid they are thinking what’s next for dinner. Those of us here who have teenage kids will know what I mean right. 

So I find myself again this weekend sitting in the wind on our magnificent coastline marvelling at this seasonal treat. It reminded me of the moment as a kid when I converted from fresh water to sea fishing and it was the whiting’s fault. Aged eight and sitting on Southend Pier, using my lightweight freshwater tackle that had been successful for rudd and roach and slapping a piece of mackerel on a simple ledger set up I caught one straight away. The action that followed was awesome and after that there was no going back to the pond. (this was good really as the freshwater tackle corroded pretty quickly but hey).

I think fresh water fishermen appreciate fish more than us sea fishing gang. We are fixated with size and load up with big tackle to avoid the tiddlers. Whereas the fresh water folks scale down to match their target species and make it a fair contest. I respect that and will do the same with whiting every now and again, including barbless hooks. Using light tackle turns a whiting from being a nuisance to being a trout if you follow. 

And so it was yesterday – looking along the beach the diversity and age of the fishermen was showing the circle of life is still going on. Parents showing their kids how to fish, couples fishing together… quality time connecting with people who care about each other sharing healthy and positive time outdoors. You could feel the enjoyment drifting along the sand. Just what the doctor ordered in this lockdown world we live in. November is the perfect month to introduce your kids to beach fishing.

As families wandered by above the beach I reeled in a fish and heard a kid say “look dad that old bloke has caught a piranha”. Me, old?

Regrettably it was me. I was fishing alone after my big brother had his day with me gazumped by a tardy builder, so as Billy no mates, with one rod loaded with big wrap baits of all description and one light tackle rod with a two hook clip down rig using some awesome lug from Kevan and co at Colchester Bait and Tackle I got stuck in. Some limpets prized from the rocks at my mark had given my hooks a taste of the locality and it was relentless. The heavy tackle rod was flung out as far as I could manage and the light tackle rod close in as the tide rose. Both worked well with fish on every cast. The light tackle rod was way more fun. After high water I called it a day, content with my catch and aching limbs. I beg you fresh water brethren to give it a go with the whiting – with light tackle you will love it I promise. Anywhere for 10-miles north or south of Clacton, fishing 2-hours either side of high water in the dark will guarantee results.

So here is a picture of a dogfish. I caught one as well yesterday as did the guy next to me. Lovely fish but with respect not the final picture that I wanted to post. The problem is that when I try to upload a picture of my whiting from last night here, the content filters insist they are ‘inappropriate content’. Even the internet hates this poor little thing. Well I love them so there!  I guess like our world we will have our views at both ends of the spectrum. I leave you to decide where you stand

Tight lines until next week

Categories
Alan Stevens

Fish can’t eat your rod….although whiting would probably like to.

The most prized fish I have ever claimed in UK coastal waters was a 11 & 1/2lb bass I caught at the mouth of the River Crouch. I was 13 years old and fishing with my father from his boat, having motored down the last of the ebb from the Essex Marina Wallasea Island. We were at anchor just beyond the estuary mouth south shore and having rowed to land cheekily to dig some fresh worm from the foulness sands (I know…) we awaited the incoming tide, helped by strengthening northerly winds to wash across the sand flats. 

Our favourite bass mark as kids at the end of the crouch.

Like most angling families we had accumulated an array of rods and reels over various Christmas and birthdays and all were utilised this morning to capture the awaiting monster bass that would without question come our way. 

And so they did, an awesome flood tide of action that will live with me forever. Most importantly; I learned that day that fishing had very little to do with your rod or reel and so much to do with terminal tackle and bait. The 11 &1/2lb monster bass, yes you guessed it, was caught on a Woolworths own label reel and a cane rod that refused to flex in any way (I kid you not) inherited from god knows where. 

So fast forward to 2020 and to my point of today’s blog. I guess I look at Facebook as much as anyone and I reckon that 90% of beach fishing chat is about the best rod, a reel that costs a billion pounds, …. who has got one of these most obscure casting sets for sale bla bla bla…. Combine this with predictable autumnal complaints that follow about undersize whiting on this expensive tackle having…. yes you got it again… What I see most weekends is the best equipped anglers flinging a small three hook, single worm baited flapper 70 yds out into the surf only to curse with a treble pin ‘ting outcome.

Hardly any chat is about what is on the end of the hook. So here goes..

I put it to you fellow angling brothers and sisters that fishing is simple, what counts at the end of the day is the following;

  1. Are you fishing where and when the fish you are targeting are feeding?
  2. Does your terminal tackle and bait reflect what your target fish are willing to feed on?
  3. Does your terminal tackle and bait deter species or size of fish that will reduce catches of those you wish to avoid?

Do we need expensive gear to deliver this? Most of the time I doubt it. Controversial but true I think.

So; moving on, I found myself early this week increasingly worried about the impacts of the pending weekend weather and tides. Heavy rain, gale force winds and huge flood tides predicted for Saturday and Sunday would need some workarounds. So being the caring kind of family guy I am I suggested to Mrs S that I would only fish a short evening session on Friday and do some essential chores indoors in Saturday and Sunday. Naturally it was an easy sell and come Thursday with the weather still threatening to close in I hurried down to see Kevan at Colchester Bait and Tackle to empty his bait freezer

Herring, sprats, squid, cuttle, sandeel, bluey and razor clam.

The previous Monday, I had spent a couple of hours at Mersea at high tide and the size and quantity of fish was excellent – so I planned a return this Thursday to fish either side of high water. But my mission for this trip comrades was scientific; to test every imaginable bait combo to learn how to catch the bigger fish and avoid the pin whiting. It really worked as I will write later.

So having made up a small batch of a variety of baits and wraps, and with 1/4 lb of ragworm snakes for good measure I headed off well in advance of high tide.

I like to get to the beach earlier than I plan to fish so I can tune into the conditions and set up slowly without thinking I may be missing out somehow. In the case of Mersea I also like getting there early before the tide covers the only road on and off of the island. When you fish high-tides at Mersea you really are committed to being there for the session.

Having set up one rod with a big hook penel rig for my wraps I set about the second rod with a hybrid two hook clip down rig. The top hook was small and would be baited with worm for flatties and bass with the lower hook a size 3.0 to take larger fish baits of herring, bluey or whole sprats. This way, I was planning to limit any collateral small whiting to the top hook of one rod and test over the session which combo baits worked or not.

Herring/sandeel wraps. Deadly bait.

Rods ready, I settled in waiting for the incoming tide to reach the end of the groynes signalling that the depth of the water is adequate for the fish to be in and feeding and reduce the crab bait stealing challenge.

Having a cuppa in the darkness as the water edged towards me, my eyes and ears became accustomed to the stillness and I realised that I was not alone on the beach. At regular, equal intervals foxes were sitting on the beach either side of me gazing out to sea. These beautiful creatures were, I guess, waiting for their nightly flotsam and jetsam feast. It dawned on me that it was Friday the 13th and their company was strangely welcoming and surreal. Chatting with the foxes but with bait box lid firmly shut we respected each others worlds. I felt at one with nature gazing across the river towards Bradwell. Life was as good as it can get.

Tea consumed it was time to fish and what a session it proved to be. From the off my science was working – big baits only catching bigger fish. 10 whiting around a pound in weight on the penel and wrap bait rig along with two undersize bass and one small thornback. The two hook flapper set up indeed confirmed that pin whiting were there in numbers, especially on the worm and sadly outcompeted any flounder that might have been sniffing around. The lower, bigger baited hook on the flapper still counted for the odd pin whiting on squid but when I changed bait to bluey, cuttle or whole sprat the bigger whiting took this well at the expense of their smaller broods.

Big whiting double hit

The tide retreated enough after three hours and I packed up having hit my 50 fish scientific sample size and headed home for bed, leaving my new foxy friends to do their thing until dawn. Reducing the small whiting challenge was really rewarding for me. Checking my pedometer readings, avoiding the small fish activity had dramatically impacted too the effort of an autumn beach session, reducing the steps from over 3 miles to 1.5 miles – meaning that, as empirically evidenced here, to keep my weight down I need to be fishing for twice as often going forwards. Bingo!

whiting fest with smaller hook flappers. Over 3 miles of steps tending two rods.
enlarged baits and hooks reducing smaller whiting hits. Session extended into Saturday 1am so a combined 1.5 miles walked in three hours fishing just tending two rods.

Saturday morning came around too quickly and after a hasty breakfast I was reminded of my promise to do chores indoors. A man of my word I set about them passionately. The first of which was to sort out my favourite terminal tackle set ups in the kitchen, which I had thrown randomly into my tackle box at the end of the Mersea shift. My trusted terminal rigs are like Triggers broom…more new hooks and line replacements than you can count – I doubt if any is original apart from the odd swivel but they work for me and bring me luck. 

The kitchen table was swept of bits of line and rusty hooks and I moved on to the second chore – taking the learning of the most effective wrap combinations from Mersea into mass production. Making up enough for the rest of 2020 our freezer is full of bait ready for the next adventure, carefully labelled of course. 

Mrs S was reminded several times during the morning chores that I have lost over a stone in weight since I have upped my fishing days and night time fishing means less beer consumption. All is good in the house. 

Roll on next weekend where I have my eye back on Frinton/Holland and those sandy stretches where I have a funny feeling my razor clam / herring and black lug wraps are going to be a real hit. By then we will be well past half way in lockdown. Time flies when you are having fun.

Categories
Alan Stevens

Heading for the beach – a 12-hour stint at Brighton Road Holland-On Sea

A perfect November sunrise at Holland on Sea

With lockdown 2 well underway and the piers closed, naturally the weather is perfect this weekend and the gales of last week are a distant memory. Saturday temperatures were forecast to be in the high-teens with wall to wall sunshine, so I figured a long stint on the beach would be a win regardless of which lucky fish decided to come my way.

Yes I know that I catch more in the dark, or on a cloudy day, and with the neap tides this week the rivers would fish well – but hey, a day with sand under my feet and sun on my balding head would be the perfect tonic after five solid days of zoom calls.

Brighton Road, Holland On Sea was my venue of choice. Easily accessible, free parking, loos right by the beach and water tap to hand  – Brighton Road is a wonderful spot for summer evening fishing and BBQ with the family. In autumn it has a reputation for night time codling but to be honest, all I was expecting was whiting.

For a long-stint it is also handy in that the beach is somewhat steeper than other locations so you can pretty much stay in the same place all day without a significant hike chasing and retreating from the shoreline as the tide does its thing.

Low tide exposes a featureless seabed

Arriving just after dawn the area was deserted. Not a breath of wind and with the sea as flat as a millpond, I set up to cover my options. The water was clear and sunlight reaching through any colour that was in the gently ebbing waters I knew I was in for a challenge. The beach at Brighton road is pure sand which extends out to roughly in line with the green hazard markers that show the extend of the rocks for each of the coves that run along the stretch of coastline. Lovely for bathers and for lazing on the sand, but not helpful at all for fishermen. No chance at all of catching anything on this featureless sand stretch, I had to reach the seabed beyond the end of the rocks where the natural seabed is weedy, more rugged and hopefully full of things that might interest a hungry fish. If you want to catch decent fish here you have to cast long.

No two-rod pier rule limit here so I went with three rods to cover my options. On one rod in hope rather than expectation  I had a huge cocktail wrap with a penel rig. Wraps were half squid and herring and half squid and black lug, all 10 of these made up the night before. Respect to any whiting that could swallow on of these monsters. My second rod was a two hook clip down rig which I hoped to get some worms out as far as I could muster. The ragworm snakes from Colchester Bait and Tackle were really fresh and looked good on the hook. The final rod was just for fun, I wanted to see how many different ways I could catch whiting during the session, and to begin with I lobbed a float out towards the end of the rocks with a piece of rag drifting above the seabed across the deserted cove. To be honest I was worried about running out of worms early so the float idea was as much about bait preservation than anything.

The morning passed without a soul to be seen. Nor many fish sadly. A few pin whiting were all I could muster. The sun was beating down and it was hard to grasp that this was well in to November. The only problem was the crabs who were devouring my bait in seconds. Those big cocktail wraps were being scoffed in quick fashion too. I only had the 10 wraps, along with 1/4 lb of rag and 50 lug to last me so urgent attention was required. The float was working and a pin whiting had fallen for the con – something of a first for me so I carried on with this. On the second rod with the clip down set up was changed to a set of hokai luminous feathers tipped with a tiny piece of squid fin. I know whiting find these irresistible so was happy with that change. Finally, the third rod was scaled down to a single big hook raised above the weight to try to keep some height for the bait which was a half of one of the wraps. Thankfully this cured the crab issue but didn’t improve the catch stats and by lunch my tally was about 10 small whiting, but I was happy with the beach to myself. 

Well, not for much longer. The afternoon crowds arrived in earnest. have people seen the news about social distancing? Lockdown? Large groups roamed the coastline pathway no differently that a normal weekend. And then there is the dog walkers…. as a society we have largely got owners to clean up after their pets… but given them a beach to walk their mangy hounds on and it is obviously perfectly OK for them to let their ‘baby’ sniff, pee and poo everywhere. Not one owner was cleaning up their mess. And then the stone throwing started – we have hundreds of miles of coastline yet it is obviously very helpful if people can throw stones right at my lines to hurry the fish along! Thankfully there is a god and these wonderfully helpful kids then preceded to roll in the sand that had been ‘visited’ by the numerous mutts. It was great entertainment for me but no doubt a very smelly car for some on the way home.

Anyway, back to fishing and the afternoon sunshine soon faded and the hordes departed no doubt to mingle and contaminate each other somewhere else. The smarter anglers began to arrive and sagely smiled at my meagre rewards for the hours put in to date. The fish knew it was time to dine too and every cast produced a whiting for all. I gave up on the float  to give space to other fishermen and went back to three rods consisting of a two hook worm flapper along with the hokai squid baited feathers and the big bait wrap line. It was obvious that there was nothing going to be caught but whiting so I embraced the moment. Come 7pm my bait was used up and my tally was approaching 50 whiting, with 10 of a decent size, including one beast who had devoured a whole monster wrap and both penel hooks. Time to head home. Chatting to other fishermen, all had the same results as me. No cod today for anyone but smiling faces all round. 

Sunset brought the smarter anglers to the shoreline

So on reflection a great day – if fishing is not the only objective. Brighton road to me remains a lovely place to fish for fun and socialise beside a BBQ. Yes you might get a decent codling but the truth is that it is rare, and whiting will be the main event of the day this time of year. After sitting in my home office all week, just being outside was the perfect tonic. I kept my exercise app running and walked the equivalent of 3.6 miles tending my rods over the 12-hours thanks to the whiting. The sun and fresh air did me so much good for my physical and mental health. For sure if the weather is set fair then I would go the same again. 

That said – off to do some serious fishing on Monday. 

Categories
Alan Stevens

When the wind blows

Watching the tv on Thursday, the forecast wasn’t looking good for the weekend. Severe gales and plenty of rain was predicted. The sort of day not to be out at the end of Clacton Pier. To make it worse, the gales were forecast from from the south west. Living in North Essex almost all of my usual ‘go-to’ beach marks are exposed to south westerly winds so I do confess to have considered not fishing. Well for about five minutes anyway, and it is all your fault essex anglers.

I could not face the shame of blogging here fishing brothers and sisters that I had chickened out, so rather than retreat I took the challenge full on – and made plans to fish both Saturday and Sunday morning flood tides at totally contrasting venues. Criteria for both had to include that they would be sheltered from the tempest that was lashing our beautiful coastline. It is weekends like this where you really do come to appreciate our wonderful diverse coastline. You can, if you think about it, fish somewhere in Essex in any conditions. And at this time of the year we are spoilt for the target species on offer.

So the plan was to find a mark on Saturday quite inland on one of the estuaries and seek out the bass, well away from the waves and people, and somewhere that would test my skill and perseverance considerably. I wanted it to be tough going from all aspects after sitting in front of my computer for five days non-stop. St Lawrence Bay on the south bank of the Blackwater was my mission. 

On Sunday I wanted easy street at a location where human life is the main aspect of the coast. I wanted to target the high probability species such as whiting, dogfish and thornbacks. I wanted to see human life go by on the water, to people watch, to relax, breath in the salt air and chill. It just had to be Ha’penny Pier at Harwich, on the south bank of the Stour. 

Squid and lugworm cocktail wraps prepared in advance. Well worth it when the weather is grim

So after a Friday evening making up lug and squid cocktail wraps the 6am Saturday set off time soon came around. Heading south and finally through Maldon it was spookily quiet with not a soul around once on the Dengie. Then it occurred to me that of course it was Halloween and the locals were probably off burning witches or dunking poor fellows in the river for no particular reason. I took a deep breath, clutched my crucifix and soldiered on regardless. 

St Lawrence beach tucked away from the wind

St Lawerence really is in the back end of nowhere. Once you get there it doesn’t get much better as there is no parking anywhere near the beach marks. So a fair walk later and regretting taking so much kit I finally tucked myself in below the sea wall just upriver from Stone Sailing Club. The tide was half-flood so I could obtain good shelter beneath the sea wall from the gale blowing above me. Now, normally St Lawrence is a market to consider for low water fishing as it is one of the rare spots on the Blackwater where the deep channel runs quite close to the shoreline, albeit that you have to walk out maybe 30-meters from the sea wall . But with the wind so strong I wanted to keep tucked under the sea wall so was fishing into shallower water for bass. The mark I had chosen has quite rough ground of shells and mud, ideal for the bass who roam around picking crabs and small fry from the undulations. On one rod I went big – a whole squid and lug cocktail wrap on a pulley penel rig. On my second rod I covered my bets with a three hook flapper, each small hook having a different bait – rag, lug and squid respectively. Finally, my third rod had a clip down big hook that I intended to cast with the wind behind me into the deep channel way out in front of me. This was loaded with those huge ragworm snakes  from Colchester Bait and Tackle. 

I expected it to be hard going but it was a nightmare dealing with the weed and crabs. Annoyingly, despite packing the kitchen sink I didn’t pack any lures or floats, so had to keep bottom fishing and endure the continual refreshing of hooks but hey, I was fishing out of the wind and surrounded by nature at its wildest. 

Got to be the smallest bass ever caught

The fishing got better as the tide rose, the school bass were very obliging, including what I confess to be the smallest bass I have ever caught. One decent bass was landed from the cocktail wrap so my Friday prep had been worth it too. Thankfully all were lip hooked and returned to grow. Not a single whiting all day and I returned home at high water feeling shattered but really happy with the short excursion playing out as planned.

A better size bass

Sunday came around and the wind was still giving it’s all. Grey skies threatened rain as I headed off for Harwich. A120 all the way on cruise control was so different to the Dengie narrow windy roads. Just before arriving at Ha’penny pier I stopped for a McDonald’s breakfast and leisurely meandered on to the venue. Ha’penny Pier has got to be the easiest parking/fishing spot ever. You can park right beside the pier. The pier has a fantastic cafe and is a fisherman’s dream with comfortable benches all along it to rest our weary bones. If Carlsberg designed a pier this would be it. 

This is the sort of pier that keeps you occupied even if the fish are somewhere else. Inshore trawlers work away mid-channel. The super-sized container ships at Felixstowe dwarf in scale everything else around. The ferries come so close you think they will snag your line. 

But the fish are there in numbers – and with two rods set (one pulley penel cocktail wrap and the other with a two hook flapper lug set up) I was into the fish from the first cast. Double whiting hits on the flapper rig rod and dogfish on the penel. Four hours of fun later it was time to pack up with all my bait gone. 

It normally is a busy pier and the weather had kept many folks away. In good weather daytime fishing is a bit tricky with such a close audience. But the people are so friendly, and having heard the same story several times from people of how they have moved out to Essex from London and are loving every moment, everyone went home happy and healthy. 

So, reflecting this evening with the wind still smashing its way across the country I feel pretty good. Five days of sitting on my backside will begin again tomorrow but I am ready for it once more. Two totally contrasting days fishing have recharged my batteries. You could not get a bigger contrast between St Lawrence and Ha’penny. Non-sea anglers think we just chuck in a worm and hope. The reality is that our coastline gives us the choices to make it what we want it to be. Easy days on the pier or extreme fishing in wild countryside. Both are fine, just take your pick and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Roll on next weekend. I am already planning.

Categories
Alan Stevens

Clacton Pier, No place like home

Back home after a wonderful week in Dorset I must confess that I was still feeling disappointed with my fishing outcome from Chesil beach. I needed a positive fishing fix to prove I could still catch stuff,  so quickly arranged a Monday day time session on Clacton Pier with my brother Kev and nephew James. 

Clacton Pier to me is like comfort food. Maybe not Michelin star quality results but probably the highest guarantee of a good, warm feeling at the end of the day you can ask for. October is a great month for the pier and after a summer focusing singularly on improving my bass fishing skills – and some prompting from Bailey and the essexanglers blog team – my aim for the day was widen my horizons to see how many species I could snare in one session. I would settle for four or more – whiting, pouting, thornback and dogfish being the most lightly suspects.

The day was going to be a challenge due to the huge spring tide that was running. It really does rip on the ebb along our coast, so the plan was to fish the much more gentle last half of the flood, try to hold ground during the most powerful first half of the ebb and then settle into the slightly less vicious second half of the ebb tide after dark.

Kev and James were rigged with two hook flappers, baited with blueys and squid. I was covering my bets more widely by having one rod set up with a pulley panel rig baited with a squid and worm wrap bait and the other rod set up with a three hook flapper with black lug, rag and cocktail baits respectively. Once the ebb tide started to rip I would change to single hook flowing traces with small worm bait to keep water resistance down. The ragworm bought from Colchester Bait & Tackle must surely be the biggest I have ever seen. They were 2ft long snakes that you would not want to take on in a fight for sure. Superb quality as always

James with the smallest ray of the day prize

On arrival the flood tide was hardly moving at all. Not that this was an issue, but an early sign of just how strong the ebb tide was going to be later on. We made the most of the early conditions, casting away from the shoreline into a fresh breeze. The pier was surprisingly busy for a Monday and the guys fishing towards the shoreline were already pulling in fish. The wind was making casting straight a challenge from our position and it was not too long before lines were crossing and I was moaning, but nothing new there. 

We were into the fish from the start and bagged some reasonable sized whiting, a pouting and several small rays. A small dogfish added to the list and my target of four species was in the bag before high water. James had claimed the prize for smallest ray of the day and was smashing us on numbers of whiting.

As the water slackened, the flat fish came into play on single worm hooks. I had a small dab, the tiniest plaice I have ever caught (but one more than in Dorset) and two more species to tick off. The banter with neighbouring fishermen was great and a lucky guy along the pier caught a beautiful sole. I can’t claim it to be mine but it was well received so thanks to the gentleman in question once more.

Me winning smallest dab of the day prize
A superb sole, not caught by me I have to confess

Once the tide turned it made fishing really challenging. The water was running at such pace it was next to impossible to hold ground regardless of weight used and inevitably our tackle would bounce along until it found a snag. Having lost one set I doubled up on weight and did manage to hold ground for a while, but the sensitivity of bites was not there and it was simply a case of checking every now and then to see if a whiting was hanging on or not. I should have gone for something to eat and let nature do its stuff for a few hours but hey ho.

The only entertainment was these little birds who skilfully kept stealing my bait every time I tended to a rod. They were so tame (or hungry) they would take scraps of squid from my hand and my new best buddies helped pass the time until the tide slackened off a little

As the light began to fade and the patience of the more sensible fishermen had ran out, everyone else began to pack up. I wanted to stay on to see if things improved after dark so within a short period the pier emptied out and I was the only person crazy enough to hang on. 

Thank god I did! As the tide slackened there was a period of around 45-minutes where I took 6 dogfish – one of which was a very nice size, along with several good sized whiting. All on those squid and worm wraps. Once again, the pier delivered in that short period after dark.

decent size dogfish taken a dusk

Time to head for home at 7:30pm, having bagged whiting, sole, pouting, dogfish, plaice, dabs and dogfish making my species count to be seven. I was happy and the day had been just what I needed. 

The pier to me is like a Wetherspoons pub – it is busy and you know what you will get – but I love it. We really do have a great autumn fishing location right on our doorsteps. Off again there today in fact and just as excited as ever.

Categories
Alan Stevens

Chesil Beach Runaway Vacation

Robin Williams was a genius actor. Jumanji, Mrs Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, Aladin,… the list of his hits goes on. All classics. One Williams film that does resonate more than any in our house however, is a lesser hit titled RV Runaway Vacation. A basic summary of the film goes like this; Every year this guy takes his family on holiday but never focuses on them, just his work. The family put their foot down and they head off on a ‘real family holiday’, not knowing that in fact Williams is taking them to a location where he can attend a crucial sales pitch. Various adventures take place en route but it all ends happy with the sale made and a great holiday. This dear readers is the Stevens’ family world, except substitute his passion for work with my obsession with fishing!
So we find ourselves packing the car and heading off to Dorset for a short break to walk some of the famous South West Coast Path. The region heading in both directions from Weymouth is one of the most beautiful parts of the UK and just what we needed to get out of the house during lock down. Sales pitch to family made, all was looking good for the week ahead. Coincidentally Chesil Beach, the world famous autumn cod and plaice hotspot just happened to be smack in the middle of the area we were heading off to, and beach rods were packed. OK I confess; I had been planning this trip all summer in secret and carefully emphasised the scenery and history of the area at the expense of fishing in the weeks leading up to the trip. Collecting a heap of lug and rag from Colchester bait and Tackle the day before had in fairness raised an eyebrow from Mrs S, but all was good and the weather forecast for the week, given it is after all mid-October, was looking superb.
I love to plan and study an area before fishing it, but this wasn’t going to be possible here. Desktop research aside, I was fishing blind here so expectations were not that high. My objective was to map out a selection of locations for another, ‘pure’ fishing trip next year. I also wanted to fish for species not possible to catch here in Essex. Anything would be a bonus beyond the usual autumn Essex coastline catch. To keep harmony in the rented house for the week my aim was to fish from 4 am through to 8 am, being back home for breakfast and a day’s family walking, (mentally marking hotspots for next time). Happy days all round!


In this blog I will write a little about the fishing but also about the locations, just in case readers face the same challenge of getting the family away on a fishing holiday. So here goes;

Day 1. Abbotsbury 4am start.


Abbotsbury sits smack bang in the middle of Chesil Beach. You can park right behind the beach saving your energy for the walk to come. Let me be clear here that Chesil is hard work before you even get fishing. The shingle is energy sapping beyond belief, and a short walk on it left me gasping for air. Travel as light as you can. So, picture me as I stumbled out into this killer of environments and up over the shingle dunes to hear the waves pounding against the shore ahead in the darkness. Gasping for air I paused and my eyes slowly became accustomed to the darkness. Looking in both directions what became clear to see was an army of fishermen already in position meaning I had to walk for 10-minutes along the beach to find a spot. Honestly, if you are not reasonably fit you might consider avoiding this location and I can’t imagine just how busy it gets in summer.
20 minutes of deep breathing gave me enough oxygen to get to work and I regained full consciousness in the middle of setting up two rods – one with a pulley pennel rig holding a whole squid and the other a two hook clip down rig baited with rag and lug. I was covering my bets a little. Sadly, all that materialised was whiting and dogfish. I might as well have been fishing at home. A combination of a whiting and pouting on a single hook did lighten the mood somewhat and the pouting used as bait scored the biggest dogfish of the session.



Thankfully, after an amazing sunrise, I scored a first for me. A beautiful Common Dragonet took a rag and squid combo bait enabled me to claim at least a fish not caught back home. The new dawn revealed a superb day ahead but with the water crystal clear it was evident that no cod would be feeding so I headed home.

The post-breakfast day revolved around a beautiful walk east from Weymouth from Smugglers Inn to Osmington bay and back. Around 10-miles in total. Osmington Bay duly marked for next time. The bay looks to be much quieter and has more character for fishing than Chesil plus much flatter in nature. Easier on the lungs.

Day 2. Abbotsbury late start and West Bay walk
Every piece of me was aching after the day before. The fishing on shingle and the 10-mile walk killed me so no chance of the planned early start happening today. I had to fish of course, and with sun shining once more I headed back to Abbotsbury for a one-hour blast, with just my spinning rod and light tackle consisting of a set of hokia luminous fish/feathers and a triple hook spinner as weight. I was of course targeting mackerel but wanted a bigger challenge of just using conventional feathers and an outside chance too of a bigger fish taking the imitation fish or the spinner. The tactic was to cast and reel back slowly and try to feel a mackerel take the hokai fish/feather and then hold the tension without reeling in any more until all three feathers were taken by mackerel, and possibly a predator would be attracted to the chaos and the spinner. Well sadly this worked for the mackerel but nothing bigger, but within the hour I had my share of these little beauties so another fish not found at home ticked off the list.
Thankfully the afternoon walk was less strenuous than day one – we covered West Bay to Burton Bradstock and back. A wonderful walk familiar to those who watched the Broadchurch TV series which as filmed there. I highly recommend West Bay as a location to visit for lunch and has a superb tackle shop for any equipment you might be short of. One point to be aware of is that given the Dorset coastline does not contain an sand or mud flats – worm bait are astronomically expensive. 40 blow lug costs £18 and is of dubious quality. sticky black lug are 50p each. With the coastline notorious for spider crabs, honestly you can burn your retirement on bait in one session, so take as much lug and rag with you as possible.
Another thing to note is that the beach at West Bay and the pier were where the locals were fishing. Dog fish and plaice had been the order of the day from the beach. The pier only allows float fishing and the locals were targeting garfish and bass with small pieces of ragworm with the float set about four feet above the bait.

Day 3. Ferrybridge in a gale
5am came around way too quickly and I woke to a gale blowing outside. The unusual north-easterly was bad enough in town, but thankfully blowing off-shore to the Chesil south west facing beach. That said I was still not convinced, so I headed off to the closest Chesil location just in case it was too bad to fish and ended up at Ferrybridge – the shingle joining Chesil and the mainland to Portland. The national sailing academy and Portland Harbour was behind me as I parked and gathered my tackle as best I could with the wind screaming around me. Why did I even get out of bed was my only thought but too late now as I had posted the door keys back through the letter box and would not want to wake the Mrs up at this hour and admit failure.
Now; If Abbotsbury was hard work, Ferrybridge is on another planet. The shingle dunes are at least 60 feet high and killers to walk up. The gale blowing behind me carried me over the crest and thankfully I had managed to hold on to my kit. Descending the sea facing side of the shingle dunes the shelter from the wind enabled me to gather my thoughts and bearings. Gasping for air I sat there for 10-minutes until my senses returned. There was no way back until the wind died down or the light came to at least allow me to see if there was an easier way back to the car.
Setting up the same rigs as Abbotsbury the one positive of the crazy wind behind me was the distance I could cast. Hopefully the extra distance would get me out to the cod at last. Sadly it was not to be and the only creatures taking a liking to me were the crabs. Whole squid were being devoured in less than 10-minutes and all I had for my efforts was one nice sized pouting. Tail between my legs I packed up with the dawn sun blazing down on crystal clear waters yet again. There was no way a cod would feed in these conditions and worm fishing for the plaice was pointless with so many crabs about.
If anything the wind has strengthened even more and I literally had to crawl up and over the top of the shingle bank, dragging my kit behind me. Two birdwatchers adjusted their binoculars to watch me struggle, which I guess was far more entertaining than what they had come to observe. Never again will I fish Ferrybridge.
Predictably, after breakfast the gale blew through and by the time our walk began it was the most beautiful of days. The day’s stroll took us around the Nothe Gardens & Rodwell trail, a beautiful 5-mile walk to the south of Weymouth taking in the cost line facing east towards Portland Harbour. I have to say this walk was absolutely stunning and culminated in discovering Sandsfoot Castle and what must be the most idillic bass float/spinning/kayaking spot I have come across. Most definitely a mark for next time. For those who like veg with their fish; the rocks are covered with samphire which the navy used to cultivate and feed to our sailors to prevent scurvy.

Day 4. Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door walk
A day off from fishing sadly, but what I can say without doubt is the most beautiful walk I have done for many years. The coast path from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door and back is again simply stunning. Breathtaking both in what you see and the energy needed to scale the cliff top walk. The walk is hard work but well worth it. Naturally at both ends of the walk my mind was completely on working out how to fish these glorious locations. Daytime is out because of the crowds and the rocky nature prevents ledger fishing – so next time will for sure include a dawn and dusk spinning or float fishing session for predatory fish lurking around those rocks. The weed covering the rocks was full of small crabs so the bait has to be these little luvvies when using the float

Day 5. West Bexington and Portland
The final day began with yet another wall to wall sunshine dawn greeting. The wind had totally dropped and I had overslept again, so the cod would have to wait until next year. Mrs S, seeing the sunshine kindly agreed to join me for a Plaice fishing brunch at West Bexington to use up the final worms. West Bexington is another location where you can park right beside the shingle beach and is the flat fish hot spot for Chesil. Surely today was going to be the day. I even baited a third rod in desperation fanning out my traps under the warm sun. It really was a perfect autumn day at this wonderful location and time drifted on without any fish, or even a bite. I didn’t mind to be honest, just soaking up the moment.
Clearly it was not going to be my day – to the left of me a super guy; James Bull from London; landed a wonderful Brill whilst targeting cod using lug tipped with squid. To my right a guy snagged some ones abandoned line and hauling it in found attached a significant sized dogfish. Time to pack up for the day and go for a drive.
We headed off to Portland, a huge rock protruding into the English Channel and a sailors worst nightmare. Over falls and rip-tides make this area seriously dangerous and the sea bed is littered with wrecks. The next trip will include a day wreck fishing for sure, but for now I wanted to take a look at the rock fishing spots.
There is no way of sugar coating just how grim Portland is as a place. The grey rock that forms the landscape also is used as the primary building material, giving the area a miserable cold feeling. The locals even look grey. Add to this the cloud rolled in and the wind picked up. Maybe the sun never shines on Portland? The fishing here is a million miles away from the shingle of Chesil. Sheer rock faces plunging down into fast moving waters requires totally different tactics. Pollack, Wrass, Conger and Bass are the fish of the day here, and for sure next time a dawn session will be pencilled in. But for this trip, time to get back to Weymouth for one last meal – cod and chips of course.

Heading home
So as I return back to my beloved Essex I find myself reflecting on the week. Dorset is truly the most beautiful county in the country and for sure will be on our list of retirement locations. Fishing of course being a primary consideration in this.
Would I fish Chesil again? Probably no. It is hard work and speaking to the locals it is hyped up somewhat to get more visitors from across the country. What I would do without hesitation is fish where the locals fish – West Bay, Freshwater Bay, Osmington Bay, Portland and all the myriad of spectacular marks that the locals keep to themselves. Dorset is a fishing heaven that I cannot wait to get back to. The sales pitch of which has already began at home. Despite a wonderful week away I am already getting excited about fishing Clacton Pier tomorrow. Hopefully I will have some fish to write about next weekend.
RIP Robin Williams. Sadly taken from the world far too soon.

Categories
Alan Stevens

Mersea Musings

Sitting here at home this evening looking at the autumn rain lashing against the windows, early Summer seems a light year ago. Back then I was, like most of us, in the adjustment phase of lock down. Conducting 8-hours of zoom calls a day was a million miles away from my normal routine. Unable to pass the fridge without gorging on a packet of chocolate digestives, I had put on half a stone in a matter of weeks. Something had to change for sure before I turned into Jabba from Star Wars. I needed to be outdoors.

One early May weekend finally came around and like most of this spring and summer the weather was glorious. The coast was calling. Now, of course we are spoilt in Essex, having a fabulous 562 mile coastline – the second longest in the country. The thing is that we also have a county population of 1.5million people, every one of which was either on the A127 heading for Southend or on the A120 pointing towards our normal family ‘go to’ at Frinton. The roads were gridlocked, nothing was moving, so we changed plan and made haste to West Mersea. 

Mission accomplished and a much quieter, socially distant Mersea beach position secured, we settled down for the day as a family to eat and watch the world go by. For those who know Mersea, the main pastime is of course watching swimmers get cut to shreds by the oyster shells below the high water mark, and true to form by mid-afternoon and a receding tide left most searching for missing toes and those still able to walk had significant lower body lacerations. A mass evacuation of the beach and the queue of cars heading off to Broomfield Hospital was in full swing. Those that mocked our rather unfashionable beach shoes laughed no more. 

Smugly, I looked out across the mud flats and sand banks and for the first time in my life truly studied the emerging tidal Mersea landscape. Right in front of me was the perfect shallow water bass hot spot. Undulating sand banks sat between oyster shell covered mud and weed – teaming with worms casts, molluscs and just about every bait you would ever want to place on a hook. If I was a bass, this is where I would dine for sure. My life was saved and my mission for the summer was clear. Mersea was to be my fishing home and those bass didn’t stand a chance

5:30 am the next morning and armed with a garden fork, I was frantically digging worms on the deserted mud flats and an hour later had around 50 good quality lug – enough for a session. Digging worms is hard work and whatever you pay for lug it is worth it, but I wanted to use the task as exercise to address the COVID weight gain, topping up what extra worms I need from Colchester Bait and Tackle who always stock fantastic quality bait. Preserving my last digging energy for spudding the area where I had chosen to fish, my method was to disturb the surface of the target casting area hoping to attract more fish. Whether this is true or not I don’t know, but for me it is what I do. Settling back to eat breakfast I surveyed the tranquil view in front of me whilst nature brought the tide across the land. 

Two rods set up with three hook flapper rigs were flung out two hours before high water. Single lugs on size one hooks were cast 30 yards out onto the target area. I had chosen both sides of one of the sand bars to spud, thinking that the fish would sit in the lee of the sand bar waiting for any food to be washed over the top of ridge by the tide. Simply I would change position to fish the reverse side of the sandbar when the tide started to ebb. Hardly any tide ran on the flood so a two ounce bomb was plenty to hold bottom. Nothing happened for the first half-hour apart from me feeding the crabs. Having to re-bait every 10-mins began to deplete my hard earned worm stock fast and I was losing faith. But then, it went crazy with school bass taking the hook so regularly it was hard to keep the two rods in the water. Nothing of great size but 90-mins of huge fun.

Slack water saw a cessation of activities so I swapped the target mark to the new lee side of the sandbar and repeated the plan. Just as the tide began to ebb in force my rod went flying. Stupidly I had become complacent with the small school bass and had not set the reel drag for anything significant. Luckily I managed tor retrieve the rod as it was being dragged across the shingle. I must have looked an idiot, doing a good impression of Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army…’Don’t panic!’ I was into something bigger and after a hard fight I had landed a 4 1/2 pounder. Any bass fisherman will testify that they fight like crazy. 

Happy with that the session finished an hour later with a few more small schoolies munching on my last worms. The top of the ebb tide really did rip so a minimum of six-ounce breakaway weight was needed and made even more challenging with weed flowing, but if the fish are there then it was a price worth paying.

So pleased with the first excursion this routine has become my passion throughout the summer. Every weekend trying a different mark between the Waldergrave Holiday park and the main West Mersea area. Only twice have I not caught a fish of decent size and even then a few school bass have come to say hello. I have tried other baits but the local lug works as well as most alternatives. I do however have one secret bait combo that is a killer for Bass when nothing else is working, but will write about that in a couple of weeks time. Only from late September have I had decent fish on ragworm now that the whiting are competing with the bass for food. Writing this blog in early October the bass are noticeably thinner in belly, so I presume they will be gone soon until the spring. Let’s see what the winter brings. 

I know a lot of the local fishermen I see there have favourite marks, which I won’t share here, but what I will suggest is that it is well worth investing time to visit the location at low water to study where the undulations are, where the weed and snags sit. There are countless good marks to chose. So long as there are plenty of worm casts and there is some kind of undulation to concentrate the fish into the target area you will catch fish. If you get it wrong and do lose tackle on a snag, just wait an hour for the tide to do it’s thing and you can walk out to get it back. No excuses for leaving tackle behind.

My final thoughts relate to the the two big variables when fishing at Mersea in my opinion – the quality of light and the weed issue. Firstly; the water being shallow and often quite clear means that eagle eyed Bass can spot tackle in bright conditions. I have found that they feed much more aggressively when cloud cover is in place during daylight hours, with a change in cloud cover literally switching the activity on and off in an instant. I guess that the prey the bass might be feeding on can spot them in sunshine, so the bass simply wait it out until the odds are in their favour. At night however I find that moonlight helps to keep the bass feeding happily. No moon for me has meant less fish. 

Lastly; the weed issue – so many anglers seem to moan continually about weed there. For me it is the opposite. Any nature programme you watch will always show fish congregating around weed. Bass love weed as they eat the tiny creatures that hide in it and use it for camouflage when hunting for larger prey. The challenge for us anglers is how to overcome the weed issue and make it part of our game plan. In a couple of weeks I will write  blog on how I have found ways to combat the weed so watch out for that one.