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The Night Chub

Even though we are at the end of January and the days are getting longer, by the time work is done it doesn’t leave much time for midweek forays to the river bank. It’s not very often night fishing is required. I seem to do just as well, if not better, in the daylight hours. But on this occasion that is just what I am about to embark on.  After several work meetings it’s 4.23pm before I am in the car heading off to the local River Wensum only two miles away. During the five minute drive the sun sinks into a dim pink grey hue. Fortunately it looks to be a clear and cloudless night, the warmest day so far of 2021, feeling mild in comparison to the previous snow and ice filled sessions I’ve had recently.

Pulling into a sandy layby opposite a rusty five bar gate, I grab the tackle, hop the fence and set off. Two meadows separate the road from the river and at this time of year they are just above welly boot height, donning waders is needed to avoid damp socks. In the distance half a dozen swans are cruising and feeding in the deeper water of the second meadow, their brilliant white standing out in the growing twilight. I can hear their honking chatter even above my splashing as I forge through the knee deep water.

The river curves round on my left, this section is fast and deep with the extra water churning through. I was hoping the level would have dropped more but the water is still running from the river into the fields, I will likely be ankle deep the whole session. I am heading to a spot I have previously done well at landing a PB chub and roach just before Christmas. I have to cross a stile and another field of rough dense vegetation but arrive with plenty of light still in which to set up my rod and organise my bait.

The spot I have chosen is a swirling slack just off the main fast flow in front of an overhanging bush and with an undercut bank on the near side. This is a perfect winter holding spot. Despite the extra water a light feeder still holds bottom, this is stuffed with liquidised bread and a large piece of break flake moulded on the hook. While this won’t last long in the current, the big visual bait might land me a quick fish before darkness.

Unfortunately there is no activity from the river. As the sun sets there is some excellent bird watching to be done as they seek roosts for the night. I spot an egret framed against the distant pale winter sun. This location being close to woodland an owl can be heard off in the distance but it doesn’t make an appearance and as the darkness deepens. By this time I have attached the little glow stick to my rod tip, forgetting my holder I electrical tape it on. Tape is an essential in my fishing box, usually being applied to my fingers as a plaster substitute.

The green glow stick eases side to side as the line is pulled by the rhythm of the current and my eyes accustom to the repetition of this. Waiting for the out of time pull that will signal a fish taking the bait. I check the time, having switched to cheese paste, happy to leave the rig in position for longer knowing the bait will stay on the hook. My plan is to rebait the feeder approximately every 15 minutes to keep a small amount of attraction tempting fish out from under the snags. Now is time to settle in and wait.

Once you overcome the oppressiveness of the dark that limits your vision, other senses seem to expand. The gurgling of the river seems louder than before and slight creaks that would not be noticed in day now emanate from the reeds and trees. Occasionally the swans gaggle and splash in the first field and a moorhen clucks. The moon is bright and full and after sitting for a while the general shapes of the landscape can be seen well, even casting feint silver shadows. Just over an hour into this swim and a fish is looking unlikely, experience of small rivers says it’s time to move.

It takes a second to pack down and move upstream looking for another spot to test. On short sessions I like to pack light; one rod, net, fold out stool and a simple backpack of tackle and bait. Manoeuvrability is key, especially in the dark as I don’t want to be bogged down with bulky kit as I may need to move several times to locate a fish holding spot. While you can use watercraft and target likely areas, fish still have an air of unpredictability. Furthermore, at night, fish cautious by day may explore more widely, feeling safer from predation in the darkness.

The next spot is deeper, faster, but has a large willow on the opposite bank providing respite for fish from the winter flood. Flicking the feeder upstream to the opposite bank the current takes it down to rest close to some overhanging branches. The moon is climbing higher and mist starts to form in the low lying land away to the right. I am brought back from watching the night by the slightest rattle on the rod tip, something is having a go at the bait! Letting the bite develop, another slightly harder tap follows, I attempt to set the hook and connect to the fish. Unfortunately nothing this time.

Suspecting we are dealing with a smaller fish, possible a shy biting roach, I make the substitute to maggots on the hook and add some maggots to the ground bait. This all goes back into river on the spot near the snags. After waiting for some time without any indication I decide to switch back to cheese paste again. A short time later the small taps start again, then a bigger knock and we have a fish on!

I flick the head torch on but with the mist I can’t see much, suspended water droplets from the mist reflect the light and dazzle with a shifting white haze. Reeling a couple of turns onto the spool, the rod is bending downstream as the fish pulls and tries to get in the weed on the bank edge. I push the rod out away from the bank to try and pressure the fish back into the main flow. Fortunately this works and I reel in quickly, extending the net I slipping it under the fish. A nice chub, shining bright in the torch light. Being about as long as my forearm I guess a weight of around two to two and a half pounds. This is a very welcome chub and certainly makes short trips like this one worthwhile. Deep in winter, the fish is freezing cold and I lay it in the net ready to slip back. As I move the net away, the chub lingers in the water motionless for a moment then flicks its fins and goes down into the green tinged water.

Despite the fullness of the moon its light is dimmed by the thickening mist starting to engulf more of my surroundings, so I decide this is probably a good time to head off, having caught one fish and not being completely disoriented by the fog. Upstream I hear a loud plop and see an otter rising and then diving again, a black shape against the silver surface of the water. Through the dedication of time on the river bank it is the privilege of the angler to witness such natural spectacles as the sleek otter, shy water voles and iridescent blue king fishers, not often seen by non-fisher folk.

Folding the rod down all the kit is soon stowed away and I am back across the scrub land, over the style and back into the meadows. As I splash along this upsets the swans and they run before taking off, beating wings and whooping. The final obstacle is the gate and then I am back at the car and on my way home.

Ewan (River Foss Fishing)

The Video of this Blog:

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Fly Tying – Montana Nymph

The majority of angling career had been for carp and coarse fish….until quite recently. For years I’d always been intrigued about fly fishing, so just over a year ago I decided to bite the bullet and buy myself a cheap off the  shelf fly combo.

After catching a few decent trout on flies tied by a friend,  I decided to jump in two feet first and buy a basic fly tying set up from a well known Scottish angling shop, and some basic tying materials and got to work. When it comes to tying flies a lot of people say to me they haven’t got the patience or finesse to tie flies. but as my friend Julian says nature isn’t exactly perfect and the trout aren’t going to know.

After a few youtube videos and reading a few books I was well on my way to tying my own flies confidently. So during lockdown 1 I was happily tying flies most days and when we were allowed to go fishing for the time I put them into action either for trout or carp! 

It was a feeling of great satisfaction catching on my own flies, the same as carp anglers feel catching of home made rigs or bait. As I never thought I’d be able to tie flies I thought I’d run a quick tutorial on how easy it is to tie a fly. this one isn’t the simplest of all flies but easy enough even for an amateur.

Fly – Montana Nymph
Hook – long shank size 8 or 10
Thread – black 8/0
Tail – black marabou
Body – lead wire, black chenille
Thorax – yellow chenille and black cock hackle
Head – build up of thread and varnish

  1. Start by thread medium lead wire up the shank (this adds a good amount of weight to the fly)
Step 1

2. Wind your black thread starting at the eye up the shank over the leader. Take a small pinch of black marabou and lock it in by thread a few turns over it.

Step 2

3. Take 7.5cm of medium black chenille. Lock it in by taking a few threads over it. And start to wrap forward towards the eye. Tie this off by doing a few turns and snipped the waste off.

Step 3

4. This is probably the trickiest bit of the whole fly. Take a smack cock black hackle feather. 5cm of yellow chenille. And 5 cm of black. Lock them all in in-front of the body just where you snipped off the last bit of chenille.

Step 4

5. Lastly wrap the yellow chenille around towards the eye. Follow by the hackle. Then take the black over the top. Tie off and whip finish you can snip off excess and neaten up as required. And put a blob of varnish on. People spend a fortune on varnishes but nail hardener works well at a fraction of the price.

Step 5

The finished fly should look something like this.

Finished Product!

Don’t feel that your limited to yellow. I’ve seen black and green. Black and red. Black and pink. The world’s your oyster.

After a year of fly tying I’m still on a learning journey but one piece of advice I will give to anyone wanted to try it is. Have fun. Enjoy it. And be creative.

Stay safe everyone. And tight lines.

Sam

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Using Bread as a Fish Finder

Bread is such a cheap bait to have on your side tray or even have a couple of slices in your bag it always gets me a few extra fish on these winter days where the fish are not moving around much and you need to search around your swim to find them. Back to the club lake as it is always a challenge to get some fish on the bank and I love experimenting to get the most from the day, my chosen swim with peg 2 front lake lovely swim with depths of 7ft-12ft and this day I had a mild wind blowing into me which I didn’t mind as from past trips to this venue the fish follow the wind so I was very confident I was going to get a few bites.

My plan for this day was to use the bread as a fish finder to catch a fish then hopefully make mental note of where I caught the fish with the distance and the time it took to get a bite from my stopwatch awesome piece of kit to have with you. Started 16m straight in front of me with 3 8mm discs of bread on a 15″inch hook length not a indication so fished same range but swapped left and right of me once again not a sign I didn’t panic as 1-30 in I had no fish or indications so moved out to 20m and I had a small fish pluck the bread reeled in bait gone so that got me thinking so next Chuck I slightly fished it to the right and at 8minutes I had a decent bream which was great to get off the mark this led me to fish exactly same spot and I nicked another bream at 6minutes another positive bite , as I found a few fish I swapped to a mini hybrid feeder with cell micros and pink wafter on the hook as I wanted to build up an area for the fish to have a bit feed if and this decision payed of I managed to land 4 more decent bream in a hour then it died off so I knew I had to get the bread back out, Moved to 24m 1st cast I had a decent tench so a different species which was mega to get and unfortunately that was my last bite for 2hrs with continues casting and searching with the bread bomb I don’t mind casting a lot with bread as you’re using it to mug a fish , then the wind got a bit stronger and a bit chilly as the day was coming to a end but I was still confident I was going to get a surprise as this lake can throw it up at any time which is always exciting.

Decided to come back to original spot at 16m to try as the wind was getting worse and worse , 3discs of bread and at 10mins on the stop watch I had a little pull and drop back so I lifted into it and the rod was hooked up to an absolute beast I knew this was going to be a big fish , slowly taking my time to land this took some time as deep water and roots very close and the fish knew where to try get me into but with me putting slight pressure without pulling too hard it was a struggle with the wind too the fish slowly came up and one big gulp of air the fish was in my net with some shuffling but the fish was in absolutely made up with this result, estimated around 18-20lb on a size 18QM1 was a brilliant way to end the session.

Thank you for reading my blog hope you all enjoy this one I certainly did making it 🙂 , Tigtht Lines x

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Lady Fishing Beginners Luck

Thanks for reading guys, This is my first time doing a blog, so here goes…..

I started fishing back in June 2020, and didn’t have a clue about any thing to do with fishing, just used to go for something to do….I met my partner and started to go with him all of the time. Then I started getting the bug………

I saw someone catch a thornback ray which at the time I said to my partner “I want to catch one of those spikey ray things”, and with that, a week later I had one, baited and cast myself weighing just under 6lb! I was over the moon didn’t even know the right name for it, there was no stopping me after that, was so excited!

At this point I was addicted!!

3-4 times a week i fished locally, Medway rivers through the summer, Isle of Sheppey and all across the North Kent coast with my dad which some of you reading this may know, Shane Pullen, who has been fishing all of his life, which I kept on to him to let me go with him and him saying “Not a chance” then with that we now don’t do a trip without one another.

I have had some lovely catches over the past 6 months, from eels and bass to smooth hounds and thorn back rays,  and hoping for some nice plaice over the next couple of months, and maybe a double figure ray! I post on Team Sea Angling on Facebook and will definitely be writing more blogs!

Tight lines everyone!

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Chalking it down to experience

Having unexpectedly relocated back to the area I grew up in, one of the biggest challenges I had faced was finding places to fish! I’d moved to London some 15 years ago having given up fishing as a teenager. I didn’t really get back into fishing until I was in my early 30s, but I had built up a good knowledge of places to fish in London.  I didn’t know of many places in my old/new area or if the places I remembered were still worth fishing. After the breakup my relationship, I had plenty of time on my hands and I needed to get out of the house.  

I’d done a bit of googling and found a day ticket fishery that has got 4 lakes and a section of river. It was the river that caught my eye. I felt this was a good place to start as I knew there would other anglers there and probably a bailiff to talk to. Unfortunely my old local tackle shop had just gone out of business, so no joy there. 

I booked a swim on the lake that backed onto the river (booking was essential due to the pandemic). I fished the lake for a while with a waggler using corn and maggot and had some small carp and bream and a couple of reasonable roach.  I had to chat to the bailiff and was advised that there are some reasonable sections of the river on the ticket, so I changed my float to a stick and went for a wander. I trotted a few swims and had some minnows, not the chub, dace and roach that were assured to me by the bailiff. Soon it was time to call it day.

As I walked my bike back along the river and out of the fishery gate I looked over into the river where it crashed over a small weir and just above the weir I saw 4 hand sized roach just hovering in the current. This looked promising! Unfortunately, I had packed my gear away and it was also getting dark, so I resolved to return the following weekend.  

That week I did some googling and discovered that this small river was a somewhat neglected chalk stream and the section I had seen the roach was controlled by a local club on one bank and was uncontrolled on the other bank being a council run park. What did interest me was the write up on the club website said the stretch was seldom fished, shallow and did not contain larges numbers of coarse fish – my gut told me that was probably wrong.  

Having discovered a few small rivers in East London I had developed something of passion for roving, and trotting a float, you get the satisfaction of covering a lot of water with the excitement of never knowing what lurks round the next bend. 

It had rained in the week and when I returned the river was less clear and faster flowering than the previous week, but it was by no means unfishable, the weather had also turned cold. With conditions less than ideal I thought I’d fish light and scale right down to see what I could nab, I’m an equal opportunities angler and will take a minnow over a blank any day. I used one of my home made porcupine quills, held with 2 float rubbers down to a size 18 hook, baited with a tiny bread flake for the 1st cast. 

On the 1st trot down the float whizzed off downstream getting jostled and bumped in the eddies this was shallower and faster than I had fished in a long while. Toward the end of the run in the slightly slacker water the float just dipped, the bait was gone when I retrieved. “Minnow” I thought. On the 2nd cast the float shot off again and at almost the same spot it shot under! I struck although it was a bit hap hazard as I had just been about to mend the line for the last few meters. The fish was on, and I could tell it was small. None the less it was going mental in the flow! Jumping and flipping out of the water! I swung it in, and I was delighted to have caught, my very 1st wild brown trout! An hour later I had 2 more small trout and 4in roach the latter coming on a single white maggot. It was time for a move. 

I headed upstream away from the weir to where I had seemed some natural reed banks, I found a likely looking spot that probably has been flattened down by dogs entering and egressing the river. The bread and white maggot had built my confidence on the lighter coloured bait in the slightly murky water. A few casts trotting downstream under a tree yielded no results so I decided to cast up stream and bring the line in as the float approached to keep contact for the strike, 1st cast up stream yielded positive bite, and I struck, this fish felt bigger and fought against the current and flashes of sliver in the sun as broke the surface told me it probably wasn’t a trout. Using my 11ft match rod I guided it round the various patches of weed and rushes and netted it! It was a cracking roach, a real beauty. I seldom carry scales as I like to minimise my gear as much as possible however on this occasion, I probably should have weighed it.  

It was time to move and as I wandered upstream the park gave way to a thickly wooded area, there was some bank access but it was a bit of a faff fighting through the brambles, when I got to the water the banks were much steeper and higher and the channel narrower and as a result faster. I managed to squeeze into a less overgrown spot and dropped my line at my feet baited with 2 white maggots the float took off at a blistering speed, dashing toward the bend, I managed to keep sight of it through the brambles and as it shot under I struck albeit not expecting much as I has assumed it had caught a snag and gone under. I was wrong! The drag on the reel screamed as what ever I’d hooked bombed off downstream, I thought it might have been a chub favouring the darker cover of the trees but as I managed to turn fish and start to bring back upstream the tell-tale wiggling and flipping gave it away as the dark spotty flank of the trout breached the surface. It wasn’t whopper by any means but on my light gear it was brilliant fun. The next challenge was netting it, every time my net touched the water (it was extended to the maximum 8ft) the current took it tried to rip it out of my hand… I can see why fly fisherman use those very shot nets for game fish. The trout didn’t like the look off the net and shot off again. After some cajoling and managing to get the net straight and open I guided the fish in and banked it. It’s still my biggest wild trout to date.  

A few more roach and small trout were had that afternoon and it was soon time to return to my bike, and cycle home. I knew that I had found something special with chalk stream and was already plotting my next campaign. It just goes to show; don’t always assume the paid stretches of river are best and that the clubs know exactly what they look after. It’s always well worth fighting through the undergrowth to get to a less fished swim! This adventure and many other can be found on my YouTube just search “the budget angler”. 

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A Day in the Life

Hello-my name is Dan James.

I am extremely fortunate to live in the countryside. One of my favourite places to fish is the River Windrush and it is a tributary to the River Thames.

I started fishing at the age of 8, but I stopped for about 10 years. Life became busy. Then I realised, fishing was paramount to our mental wellbeing.

My Father fished the Windrush as a child himself and he has seen many changes over the years. When he fished, the River was abundant with a variety of fish. Large Chub, large Roach and Dace to name a few. Sadly, over the years the river became very polluted due to raw sewage being dumped into by the water company. Thanks mainly to the campaign by a group called W.A.S.P (Windrush Against Sewage Pollution.), naming and shaming the water company, slowly the River is regenerating.

My first session on the Windrush 2020, I went with my Cousin. It was a beautiful and calm sunny day in the Autumn. Whilst we were there, the local Bailiff showed me the best places to fish. He also said, over the last two to three years, we have been producing close to the British record of large Dace. Whilst I was there, I caught my first ever Gudgeon. I was very lucky as it was my first cast of the day. The excitement I experienced when the quiver tip arched round and subsequently caught the fish, has never left me. The next few times after casting with no success for about 45 minutes, I decided to move upstream to a fishing hole called “Perches Pool”. In the hope to catch a large Perch but to no avail. However, I caught my first Grayling. More by luck than judgement I must admit, as it was on the wind back! I shouted to my Cousin, “Fish on!” After catching, he explained to me, a Grayling has a colourful Dorsal fin and the one I caught, was particularly nice.

Later, we moved upstream in search of finding and hopefully catching the elusive Chub.  This Swim has been known to catch large Chub in the past. It is called “The Horseshoe” because of its shape. I recalled my Father telling he had caught a 4lb Chub on triple maggots years ago. Once I saw “The Horseshoe”, and saw the overhanging trees and deep bends, I knew I was in for a real treat! After my first couple of casts and seeing the quiver tip fly round I was throwing maggots in to get the fish feeding and I have missed a few bites by this stage, I thought I am sure I will catch a fish in a minute.!  So, I changed tactics, and used my Fathers method triple maggots. I re casted out to the same spot where I was producing bites and I chucked a few more maggots in. I will never forget the excitement and the huge grin on my face. Then the quiver tip shot round that quick the rod bent double.  I said, “wow!  This is a really big fish!  The fish went deep in the water and I could of only think of one thing. This is a Chub and believe it or not, they fight so hard like a Carp do on the lake. It pulled straight towards the snags.  I said, “Please no don’t come off. After about 10 to 15 minutes scrapping, it was still holding deep in the snags. Somehow, I got it out and for one moment I thought I had lost it. But it was still there, and I could see the fish coming to the surface finally!  I thought what a beautiful colour and presentation the Chub was. It was quite remarkable. It was larger than I originally thought and weighing in at 1.5lb. I was over the moon, when you catch a Chub like that, it really does make your day and you will never, ever forget that special moment.

For those of you that have never fished the Windrush, just being there is so tranquil and calm. It is so relaxing. There are many stretches along the water that is peaceful and quiet. Allowing you to trot the float down the long stretches and many deep fishing holes at 10ft deep, which produce large fish where they can hold up in.

As I finished the day, and was heading back home, I stopped and looked back at the river one more. I said to my Cousin, “Life is certainly precious and enjoy each day as it comes, especially now the Pandemic is overtaking our lives, breathe deeply and be thankful for our world and it’s wildlife”.

For more information for a beginner, feel free to check out my YouTube Channel: -https://youtu.be/BhWDP2YnUus

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Post Lockdown Match

Thank you Essex Anglers for allowing me to share a blog, hope you all enjoy.

My name is Nathan Mills I am located in Clacton on sea Essex, I have fished ever since I was 8 from a range of fishing to sea , rivers and lakes. I am 18 and now I am a hard working angler and I am very determined to make myself the best as I can when it comes to match fishing.
On the 6th December I fished a club match at St Osyth wick local venue for me which holds many memories of me growing up doing matches and meeting some inspirational people too , 2 lakes here at wick front lake and back lake both unbelievable good when the fish are having a munch , filled with carp from 5lb to 27lb lot’s of mid doubles so much fun hooking one on and the reel screams off. Back to the match drawn peg 24 front lake was really happy with the draw as the swim has lots of room to discover where the fish are located, decided to fish the match with 1 rod loaded with a 24g hybrid the reason for the hybrid and not the flat feeder is the depth of water was around 8ft and drops to 12ft in places and I wanted to get my bait down to the bottom in a tight area with hardly any feed coming off on the way down so I squeeze the bait into the hybrid hard as I can which is a bonus for using these , also with the weather being cold and wind howling straight into my face I said to Myself at the start of that day if I can get 2-3 bites and land them I will be happy with that and what can I say 1hr 30mins in I had my first bite at 18mins on the stop watch resulting into a 8-10lb carp buzzing to get that into the net so early on, then the match took a sudden turn the weather got horrendous and it wasn’t looking good so I perceived fishing around 25m while fishing I was looking around only 2carp was winning at the time so I needed a fish as soon as possible so I decided to feel in Chuck it out 35m then 20mins on the stop watch the rod flew of the rest and I was hooked into a beast so took my time with this one , it was difficult playing the fish as the wind was so strong I didn’t want to pull too hard and loose this crucial fish then the fish came up slowing one scoop with that net and it’s in mega! This was a shuffler lucky my net was big enough to get it secured.

2hrs to go and it was a close match I was so focused on my own match I wasn’t really looking around much , however the 1st hr of the match I love to look around to see what people are doing and are they caching then I can make the right decisions at the right time always a important hr in the match for myself. 30mins to go and 15mins on the stop watch I managed to nick another carp which I was pleased but I didn’t know what others around me have caught so I just stuck it out then 10mins on my last cast I was into my 4th carp which was surprising as these 2 carp came so close within each other which shows the fish was in little pairs and I managed to get them both get in!! .

And there we have it the match was finished and the waiting game was on with the scales working it’s way round the lake was nail biting for me , then it was time I asked the angler with the score board who’s winning and it was 38lb and that shocked me but here we go let’s get the fish weighed, first was the biggest fish of them all and that went 19lb on the dot which was a bonus , then the others got weighed so all down to the adding up and the result was 41lb 2oz making me the match winner absolutely made up with that result I was pleased of how I fished as I said before I wanted a few bites and got them brilliant match.

Tackle and Bait: 10ft Aventus, 3000 tdr reel loaded with 8lb pulse pro , rigged up with a 24g hybrid in the X-Safe system long stem with black elastic , Hooklength 4lb nguage to 18QM1 with a bayonet I’m a huge fan of using small hooks and I have good confidence hooking and landing big fish . Bait – Mainline Match Cell micros with tuna wafter 8mm on the hook , this is all I needed to get some bites and this is my go to bait combo.

Thank you for reading my first Blog , Tight Lines x


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Mystical Unicorns in the Crouch? Surely not.

I’d like to start with saying thank you to Bailey for allowing me to share this blog with you all.

On Tuesday I fished a familiar and local venue that suited my needs – The River Crouch. I live about 10 minutes from South Fambridge which as I am sure some of you know, on the right day will produce some great catches. The trip was requested by a good friend of mine Russell, whom I have known for over 35 years and fished with for over 30. I chose the Crouch simply because of 2 things – its close to me (a little selfish I know) and there have been Rays coming out recently from both boats and the shore. Whilst I have caught Rays from a boat, I have never caught one from the shore and feel very jealous when I see posts from people having 4 or 5 in a session.

We arrived quite early at 2.30pm ready to fish the flow of the tide up to high tide at around 8.30pm. I had decided to walk to the Saltings from South Fambridge as I knew it wasn’t very snaggy and could be fished fairly easily at low water. The Crouch can be quite snaggy all along the bank with rocks, weed and old structures that look like jetty’s from a very long time ago, so to fish somewhere that produces and results in hardly any losses of gear is a win win for me. It takes about 15 minutes to walk from the car at South Fambridge to the Saltings if anyone has ever considered going.

We arrived at the Saltings to find it looking like a WW1 battlefield in the middle of winter. The very high tide from a few nights back must have swept over the Saltings because the ground was an absolute muddy mess. Luckily, an old pallet was there (must have been swept up on a tide) so at least we had somewhere to keep our gear mud free. To very briefly explain what the Saltings are for anyone that has never been there, its simply a stretch of land (salt marsh) about 200m long that is the sea-side of the sea wall and extends out into the river by about 20m or so, which is why it can be fished at low water.

It was nice to arrive with a few hours of light as it allowed us time to decide exactly where to fish, know where the little gullies are so that we didn’t break a leg and to obviously, set up the gear without the need for a head torch. Russ had his rod in the water first and had pulled out the first fish, a whiting (obviously) before I had even attached my trace. By the time I had my bait in the water he had pulled in 3 (this is quite normal for me). Russ decided to use one rod with a simple 2-hook flapper with lug/squid and I was fishing with 2 rods, one with a Pennel rig baited with squid/herring wraps and another smaller rod with a 2-hook flapper on lug only.

My first rod was put out to around 70m so I started setting up my 2nd rod which was to be fished in close, under 40m. I am a bit old-school and like to use multiplier reels when I’m sea fishing, so I chose my small ABU 6000 for the close-in fishing as this is a trusted reel that never lets me down, until today! 2 casts, 2 birds nests with the 2nd nest being supported by my rig snapping off and flying into the horizon. Great, lets start again I thought. Off came that reel as it was obviously playing up today (definitely not user error) and on went an old a ‘trusted’ ABU 9000 that is at least 50 years old and working unbelievable well. Finally, the 2-hook flapper rig went out and I was fishing with 2 rods using 2 different methods. I knew the 2-hook flapper was going to be hammered by whiting all night but I was hoping that my Pennel rig would provide me with that elusive Ray I want to catch from the shore.

Well, as predicted the whiting came thick and fast. It literally came to a point when every single cast produced doubles for us both. Then finally, a bit of a knock on the Pennel rig. It wasn’t a knock to get excited about but as I started to reel in I could feel there was some drag to it and was certain it wasn’t a whiting. By now it was fully dark, so the head torch was on and I was looking into the murky waters for that flash of silver from the torch light hitting the fish. There it was and at first, I thought it was just a larger than average whiting. I reeled it up and took a hold of it to get him unhooked and back in the water. Immediately I knew it wasn’t just another whiting. I called over to Russ and said come and have look at this, I think it’s a small codling. True to form it was. Now trust me, it was no monster and was certainly not even enough to have given someone a fishfinger sandwich, but that didn’t matter to me. These are rare in the Crouch and to catch a different species to a whiting was something but to catch a codling this far up river, was another.

Well after catching a codling our hopes were high for the rest of the evening. Unfortunately we should have realised that was the highlight and packed up but we didn’t and we persevered. But that was it as far as different species were concerned. Everything else was whiting. Russ definitely had the best bite of the night with his rod tip shaking its head off. Only to see what was probably the smallest whiting of the night on the end. By the time we decided we had had enough around 30 mins before high tide, I cast out one last quid/herring wrap on the Pennel while I packed away the other rod. The tide was running faster now and bite detection was a little harder. I saw a small knock so I brought it as I was ready to pack away that rod as well now. What did I have? Whiting again, but not just one. 2 whiting on the same bait along with 2 crabs. Those things really are the most ravenous fish I have ever caught.

I know whiting gets a bad rap but whatever we think of them, they do avoid a blank and from personal experience, being hammered by pesky whiting is better than feeding the crabs all night. Whilst I may not have had a great years fishing in 2020, there are a lot of people out there that have had the best year ever. We’ve seen monster Stingrays and very sizable Smooth Hounds and Bass, all caught from Essex beaches in 2020. Normally I’ be getting excited about 2021’s fishing but as some people are aware from Joes blogs, I am moving to Switzerland in a few days for a new job (I’ll actually already be there by the time you read this) so my fishing opportunities next year are going to be limited to just a few on return trips home, so Ive got to make those trips count.

In all, it was a good evening session and we left contented we had caught about 50 fish between us and a very rare, mystical unicorn from the River Crouch.

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The migration back to hunting Cyprinids

It’s had been almost 4 months since I stepped foot on my syndicate, those that have read any of my previous blogs will understand the bass took over my summer with a final tally of over 500 ranging from fish smaller than the 130mm lures to just over 4lb.
The river hadn’t had me as hooked as it did at the start of the year. vast amounts of weed, gin clear water and an abundance of smaller perch not only made it hard to find the larger residents but to actually then try and fish through the wasps too. On numourous occasions i was landing 50 perch with none over 1lb

A photo of a fish from my syndicate popped up on Facebook whilst I was packing up to leave work to go hit the river, well I had changed my mind and a walk round the lake followed.

I walked and sat in every swim on the lake, what a difference from my last visit, the Canadian had returned with vast rafts of surface blanket weed highlighting the weed beds and obvious patrol routes of the carp.
As I turned to go down the out of bounds bank a huge eruption had me running back to the previous swim to see the aftermath of what was undoubtedly a carp!
The itch was back and my head was already thinking about swims, baiting spots, sorting out rigs.
I got home that night to dig the gear out and stripped it all back to see what I needed, hooks, bait and new braided mainline were ordered with the intent to fish the following weekend. That week my braid arrived and my bait so I spooled up the rods and prepped the bait, 25kg of hemp was soaking 20kg of boilies chopped crumbed and whole laden with glug ready for the pre baiting campaign!
I took a rod with me that first bait up just to have a lead around and find some likely spots. There was 1 other angler on so I went to the furthest swim away to re acquaint myself with the swim. Half hour later I found 4 spots 1 around 40 yards the other 3 all within 3 rod length of the bank. the furthest spot had 3 catapults of whole boilies introduced whilst the other 3 spots had a mix of the chopped and crumbed with just a few whole boilies added.
Back at work the next day all I could think about was getting back down for another hit of bait, at this point the hemp had been soaking for 2 days so a quick recce then straight home to get the cauldron fired up and the hemp cooked.
That nutty aroma filled the kitchen for days much to my girlfriends disapproval. But by that Friday I had baited the spots 4 times knowing there would most probably be someone fishing the weekend I have a bigger hit using half the hemp and boilie mix around 15kg between the 4 spots with the aid of a spod.
The weekend was over and I went back down on the Monday after work with the leading rod just to see if the fish had been on any of the spots. First cast to the long spot and I was met with the same dull thud as I had the previous week, my heart sank. They hadn’t been there and in my head there was probably 3kg of bait sitting there. Quick reel in and reclip to the close in areas, a simple underarm was all that was needed, this time the lead went down with a mighty crack! The sinking feeling I previously had was gone I had been cleared out to the point where the silt was no longer present and they had sifted through it to get every morsal of bait I had put out! Game on. The next spot was slightly firmer but still not as clear as the one just 12ft away from it, the last spot was also met with an almighty crack. I had 2 spots rocking with the 1 to my left being the larger of the 2 I had a plan to fish 2 rods on there and just 1 on the right hand area.
That week I baited a further 3 times putting the last of the particle and crumb out on the Thursday leaving around 1kg of whole 18mm boilies for the weekend. Knowing I could make that kg last and not wanting to bait heavy whilst actually fishing I had a plan to fish stringers and small mesh bags of crumb.
Well Friday came and I couldn’t leave work fast enough. Getting to the lake just after 1pm to find I was the only one on, my girlfriend was meeting me down there later that evening but was going to fish the lake behind meaning I had about 40 yards of bank to myself if I needed to move for any reason.
Well the atmosphere was electric I couldn’t keep my eyes off the spots I was expecting a take any second, as I went to sleep that night I was sure I would be awoken by one of the old residents. Well as I woke up I had that gut wrenching feeling as I hadn’t had a single bleep, I swung my legs off my bed lit the Coleman ready for the first brew of the morning the sun hadn’t started to rise yet it was around 4:30am when my right hand rod let out a single bleep my heart was racing, then another bleep and another, the bobbin held against the blank as I shone my head torch to the rod tip I could see it just nod, I picked the rod up and lifted into it, I could feel something there bit it had weeded itself straight away. Keeping the pressure on it came in really easily a small amount of weed had broken away from the main raft but I Could no longer feel the fish, the sinking feeling was back until I saw a bright red eye peering at me through the weed, a bloody tench! My double 18mm bottom bait hanging from its lips. Not the intended species but knowing there were only half a dozen of these in the lake all around the 5-7lb mark it wasn’t to bad.


As I slipped the fish back my girlfriends rod burst into action, a short tussle later she had a beautiful tench too! We couldn’t believe our luck!
The day passed with nothing for either of us and I was deflated. How could my spots be cleared yet all I had to show for almost 2 weeks of baiting was a tench!
My girlfriend was in once again this time to her shock and disgust was a rather nice eel around 3lb she pulled faces and was adamant she would not hold it, well I made sure she did as every capture counts!
An hour after that eel the same rod was away for her and it resulted in a pristine 21lb 13oz common. Spirits were lifted and I was over the moon she had caught one, she hasn’t fished since before lock down so for her to land 3 fish got the fire lit again.
She went back to bed and I sat there watching the sunrise over the trees.
I had just made my 3rd tea of the morning when my left rod screamed off, kicking my tea over and grabbing rod I was flat rodded instantly and within a second it all went slack! I had been properly done, a hook pull of what felt like a good fish, but they all do when we lose one. I went back and sulked, a bacon sandwich was consumed and I knew it was almost time to start packing up.
I had come to the conclusion I wasn’t going to meet a carp that trip when the same left hand rod screamed into life again this time the clutch was just lose enough to allow the fish to take the minimal amount of line possible. The fight was incredible the fish darted for the main weed bed again flat rodding me but this time the hook hold held. It kited right and picked up my other rod on the spot. I tried to untangle it but to no avail so undone the bail arm and watched as the line peeled from it as I slowly gained some valuable yards.
Around 10 minutes had gone by and I had the fish just out of netting distance in the thick marginal weed, without hesitation my girlfriend donned the waders grabbed the net and went straight in gently pulling the blanket week away to try and scoop the lot in, there about 4ft behind the weed we saw it, a huge framed mirror, big custard cream belly to a gorgeous bourbon brown back, in my head it was 1 of 2 fish both of which would beat my personal best!
To say I was bricking it would be a slight understatement. But Catherine done a sterling job clearing the weed and netting the fish at the first possible chance. Oi dropped the rod and got straight in the lake to see my prize! It was the big mirror! The lakes second largest resident. It had been out 7 weeks previous at just over 36lb post spawn so unless they had done the dirty without anyone knowing, there in my net was my pb, there was no mistaking it’s size when I put it in my retainer whilst we got the camera kit ready.
On the scales she went 37lb 1oz I was buzzing! Grinning ear to ear as I held her up. Cat got some cracking shots both on the mat and in the water, she even added the obligatory bucket of water.

As I clambered out the lake and got a huge cuddle from my girlfriend her middle rod absolutely melted off! She was in a long 25 minute battle ensued as the fish led her on a merry dance to almost every weedbed in front of her swim, I returned the favour and got my waders on and grabbed the net, as the fish surfaced I turned to look at cat to be met with “that’s a big fish” I recognised this fish to again a lovely long mirror and 1 of the A team from this lake, she went in the net first time and as rolled her onto her side could tell this would be very close to her pb too. Well if mine wasn’t enough cat had a new pb too of 31lb 8oz of course I returned the favour of giving her a proper soaking, much worse than what she gave me may I add.


We packed up that Sunday lunch time elated.
I couldn’t wait to get back down there and had decided I would mait up again on the Monday with the plan to fish the Tuesday night, I only had around 50 baits left so another order went in knowing it would be with me Thursday.
16:00 Tuesday came and I was back down the lake just before 17:00 the swim I was in that weekend was taken so opted for one of the first swims closest to the car park as I was to be off my 5am the next morning. At just after 19:00 the middle rod was away a short battle and a lovely 23lb mirror was in the net some self takes and off she went.

I changed my mind about doing the night and enjoyed a lovely Indian. That weekend I was due to be on my local reservoir in search of the perch but the 50mph winds stopped that.
My mind was still thinking about the syndicate and I had to get back down, I had my bait order arrive the previous week so some prep was needed and the Monday night bait up followed.
Again I thought I would get down and do a quick night that week this time a Wednesday. Again I arrived at the lake just before 17:00 and again just after 19:00 I had a fish and yet again it was the 23lb mirror I had the previous week. then just before midnight the same rod was off again this time a rather long 27lb common I couldn’t belive it, 2 fish in a few hours. I went to work with a spring in my step and 2 20lbers under my belt.
I baited up the following day and waited for the following Monday as I had arrangements for the weekend. Monday was here and 16:00 arrived I was in my van and at the lake in super quick time. There was 4 people already there so I slotted in a swim in the middle of the lake. 19:00 came and my left rod was away! There was a bite time for sure. A lovely 23lb common was photographed and returned just before the heavens opened. At just after 1am the middle rod pulled up tight I watched as the bobbin dropped then lifted and dropped again just as I thought it was a liner it smacked the blank and held on the tight clutch just a slow tick tick tick as the line started to leave the spool, I leant into the fish which had already found sanctuary in the weed steady pressure got the fish moving and with a small bit covering its head she was less like a dog on a lead straight into the net a long dark mirror lay in the folds of the net, it looked lean but was broad across its shoulders. She spun the scales round to 30lb 2oz, 2 30s in 3 weeks with 4 20s added for good measure.


I was back down the lake that Friday just for the evening just after 17:00 I had another 23lb mirror then like clock work the 7 o’clock bite came and another long scaly mirror lay in the bottom of my net, up on the scales I couldn’t belive it my 3rd 30 in exactly 3 weeks!

That bring us up to the Friday just gone (1st October) and as I write this I’ve just tied up some rigs, sharpened some hooks and got the bait out the freezer ready for a Wednesday night bait up and evening session!

Tight lines and wet nets

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Guest

A Week In LRF

Hello Essex Anglers and thank you for inviting me to write for your site. My name is Ben Bassett and I’m based in Plymouth, Devon, fishing ultralight with lures for a myriad of sea species. I’m hoping my fishing may help inspire yours, whether that’s based locally in Essex or across the UK.

Recently I enjoyed a really varied week using LRF tactics to catch everything from well known species like bass and mackerel, to obscure unknowns like the topknot. I will delve into that week and introduce you to my passion – LRF or Light Rock Fishing.

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A scad that took a liking to a Monkey Lures Shaky Lui.

I recommend you checking out this blog I wrote for Street Fishing London as an introduction to LRF – https://www.streetfishinglondon.co.uk/post/an-introduction-to-lrf
To sum it up, LRF is ultralight fishing in saltwater using a variety of lures to target anything that swims – from tiny gobies to big bass and wrasse. I have lived and breathed this type of fishing since I discovered it in 2016, catching some really special species along the way. Now I have that basic summary out of the way, lets talk about the week I had recently.

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A rare LRF catch, a 40 cm plus thick lipped mullet.

It started with a mullet, one of the most frustrating fish in UK waters. These large powerful fish are a common sight around our harbours and estuaries, yet they can be disturbingly difficult to catch! Often turning their nose up at any lure or even bait you use, a lot of anglers consider fishing for them pointless or too difficult. Occasionally though, particularly in the summer months, you can find them in a different, more obliging mood.

In my hometown of Plymouth, mullet are a regular sight cruising lazily around the harbour. Most of the time I’m ignoring these silver torpedoes, as they just love to ignore me! Yet, the morning I found myself fishing was different… Me and my brother, Olly ended up fishing next to a chap who was using a monstrously huge beach caster and home made float with two hooks below it, baited with bread. He was certainly getting plenty of interest, despite his crude set up. There was quite a severe language barrier between us but it was clear he was fishing for dinner. I certainly would never recommend eating a mullet from a busy harbour, and that’s without saying how old an eating sized mullet would be. Each to their own though I guess.

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Mullet feed by filtering particles of food through their thick lips, making them dastardly to hook at times.

I did notice that every time this chap struck and missed, the mullet would go crazy munching the freebies left behind. This gave me an idea… I clipped on my lightest jighead, an Ecogear Shirasu 0.6g size 10. Onto the jighead went about an inch of XL Marukyu Isome in Pearl White – which if you squinted looked just like a pinch of white bread. Using my ultralight 7g rated Apia Grandage Lite 74 rod and 6lb rated Majorcraft Dangan braid, I flicked the tiny ‘lure’ over to the feeding mullet.

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It kind of looks like a bit of Hovis… Right?

I kept in touch with the jighead, feeding the line down until it was just out of my sight. The rod tip instantly pulled over and I struck. I couldn’t believe it when I felt serious resistance! In fact this mullet wasn’t playing games as it shot out below me, trying to find cover under the moored boats. From a high vantage point I used my leverage against it, yet still the fish ran and ran. I turned it’s head and watched it shake viciously side to side like a bass. I was loving life, hooking up to a mullet being so rare.

I worked the fish along the harbour wall to the steps, the deep water working to my advantage – the fish kept running but couldn’t make it into any snags. After a few more headshakes, my brother netted the fish for me. In the net rested a fine thick lipped grey mullet, caught on an artificial. What a moment.

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My first chunky mullet of that week.

I followed that fish up with a bigger one two days afterwards, in the exact same circumstances. Being a bigger fish of over 45cm, this mullet ran me ragged, burning up my drag with it’s lightening fast runs. I couldn’t believe my luck. Considering the fact that I also spooked the shoal for the chap taking the fish to eat, I also saved a few lives that day. Not great for him but something all too pleasing to me, mullet deserve respect – not a bash on the head!

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Lean mean bread munching machine, this fish ran me ragged!

The next big session I had (see the September edition of Hookpoint magazine for the full story) proved to be another action filled jaunt. I drove two of my LRF partners in crime, Richard Salter (search Devon Lerfer on Youtube and Facebook) and Joe Mole (search Dawlish LRF on Instagram), down to Cornwall for a day’s fishing. Conditions proved difficult during the day, with strong south west winds writing off a couple of marks. We mostly stuck to the quaint tourist town of Fowey, which served us well in the end,

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Rich looking grumpy and me and Joe looking less so!

The first catches were giant gobies, a protected species and a rare catch for most of the UK. In the warm waters of Cornwall and Devon though these fish can be quite common, although very localised. You can find them in rockpools and they often turn up as surprise catches when we are targeting other intertidal species. They are a huge fish by goby standards, maxing out at 30cm. A true brute of the rockpool, these fish take most small lures, anything up to 8cm will be attacked with venom.

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The rather special giant goby.

The next catches of real interest were common dragonets. These fish are are bottom dwellers, preferring clean sandy ground. To catch them you need to fish hard on the bottom with small worm imitations. The fish I had that day were small even for dragonets, although I did finally tempt a better fish out of around 15cm.

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The common dragonet.

A top tip when handling these innocent looking fish, is to watch out for their gill spines! This species have razorblades for gills, easily slicing through human skin if the angler isn’t cautious. They are a beautiful and not very common catch, so catching three in a row that day was a real bonus.

We had to wait until the evening for the fishing to really switch on. The tide had started to push right in and that led to big shoals of mackerel hunting around the harbour. Every time they appeared in front of us it was easy pickings, any lure from soft plastic paddletails and pin tails, to metal jigs were taken with glee. Joe and Richard tempted out a small flounder each by bumping a whole Marukyu Isome worm along the sand.

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Mackerel and flounder, Cornwall has it all.

The highlight was yet to come. Under the lights of the street lamps, I fancied the chance of a bass. I rigged on an LMAB Kofi Perch 7cm onto a 3g jighead, casting out into the darkness beyond the glow of the lights. Bringing it through the illuminated water it wasn’t long before I had the satisfying smack of a bass. The fight was bullish and head shaking, classic sea bass fight. Richard ran the net underneath it, after almost bumping it off!

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My best bass of the year so far.

Around the 2lb mark I lifted it up for a couple of pics, then quickly returned it. It certainly impressed the holiday makers boozily making their way around the harbour. Richard followed that up with a fine fish of his own.

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Richard’s beautiful looking bass.

To finish the evening we found a spot under a bright light. We all knew this would be a chance for scad – or horse mackerel as they are called. On LRF tackle these fish fight so hard, it didn’t take us long to find them. Bumping small soft plastics along the bottom made it easy, the scad picking up the lures with real aggression. Richard had a real beauty, as you can see below. With all of us tiring, we called it a night.

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A chunky scad for Rich.

My next chance to fish came a few days later, giving the rather famous Plymouth mark called Mount Batten Pier a go. This breakwater is a real treat for ‘Lerfers’ like myself, with massive exposed boulders at low tide, in amongst them hide a vast array of species. It can be snaggy going, but with light tackle and a bit of feel for the gaps in the rock, you can avoid the worst of it.

I rigged up with the ultralight jighead again, all 0.6g of it, with a Berkley Gulp Baby Sardine, hoping to tempt out the weirdest flatfish around. Looking down in the dark crevice below me, it looked a likely place for a shadow loving mini-monster. I lowered the tiny lure down into the shadows and watched as the white ripple of a topknot’s underside came into view. My heart started racing and I knew what was coming… Tap tap on the rod tip, a quick strike and very little fight came the topknot.

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The incredibly odd but brilliant topknot.

Topknot’s are very unusual for flatfish because they don’t live on sandy or muddy bottoms, these fish use their suction cup shape to hang onto the underside of rocks and boulders. They ambush their prey with a large extendable mouth. With big bulbous eyes that can see almost 360 degrees, a wonky looking mouth and mottled skin, they are truly unique. No matter how many I catch I never tire of finding one.

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A face only a mother could love?

The rest of the day was steady as I worked through my collection of scented and unscented worm imitations. I even had a couple of casts out with a little blade bait and caught what seemed to be the only mackerel of the day. In amongst the rocks I found goldsinny and corkwing wrasse, both beautiful little fish. The trick to catch them is to fish very slow, let the bite build before you strike. I even had the pleasure of a real thumping bite, from what turned out to be a tompot blenny – the biggest blenny in our waters. You can tell a tompot by the two thick tubercles on it’s head, plus the orange colouration.

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It’s the ‘eyebrows’ that make a tompot blenny so distinctive and full of character.

Last up was one of my favourite species, although a tiny one… I received the most minuscule tap on the rod tip, striking to find a baby long spined sea scorpion on my hook. These spiny predators look mean but are harmless, unless you are another small fish or shrimp! Very aggressive, they will take lures as big as themselves. Just like the topknot, they are always welcome.

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The long spined sea scorpion.

So that was a week Light Rock Fishing, proving the variety that can be found and caught on lures. In 7 days I caught 15 species, ranging from tiny gobies to hard fighting bass and mullet, all on the same rod and with a range of different tactics.

If you want to read more there are loads of fishing tales and tips on my blog – www.benbassettfishing.home.blog
You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram by searching ‘benbassettfishing’.

Thanks for reading and tight lines!