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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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Guest

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!

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Ryan Dabbs Guest

The humble bass addiction

As I stated in my first blog I’m relatively new to lure fishing and lure fishing for Bass was something that i had never even thought of.
It all started around this time last year after meeting a rather good local lure angler. In the lure world he is pretty well known and has even fished for England.
Wayne Fletcher has become a very close friend and I have a lot to thank him for (if he reads this i will say I didn’t write it) I can talk all day about how he has shown me tips and tricks to target the dozens of species I’ve now caught on lures, but this is about Bass.
Going back to the first ever session for the humble bar of silver, we arrived at a very nice and secluded section of our local estuary. We had a plan to target them on the surface so I acquired an array of top water lures ready for the session, what I didn’t have was a rod that could actually impart the action needed for such lures, it was too “soft” well I didn’t think much of this and had to use what I had.
Now many don’t like to talk about blanks but that’s a huge part of our fishing I believe, its also a great way to learn.
Well I blanked that session and the following two! The rod was way to soft and wasn’t setting the hooks properly. I also learned not to strike, a huge learning point that I now tell anyone who comes out with me, let the bass and rod to the hard bit you just keep that lure working!
That 4th session when I swapped rods was one to remember, we hit the water straight after work on the flood (incoming tide) the weather was clear skies and a lovely 23° with a 4mph westerly. We watched the bass coming in from the distance and after 20 minutes Wayne had landed 1. Next cast he had another and then so did I, we were hitting small schools every 15-20 minutes and each time landing 4-6 fish we only stayed there for about 3 hours as my girlfriend was rather hungry and as we know us men don’t want to have to deal with a Hangry missus! We ended up with 31 bass between us and I couldn’t wait for the next session.


Fast forward to last month and I had asked my neighbour if he wanted to come bass fishing, he is a carp angler as probably many of you reading this are but and angler none the less we donned our waders I set him up a rod and off we went well 1st cast for Lewis and he only went and bagged 1 a lovely schoolie. To say he was hooked from that first fish would be an understatement as he then had 2 more fish that evening and was grinning ear to ear. I had a text from him the following day “any chance we can go again tonight mate?” of course I obliged and that week we went 4 times and landed over 30 bass between us. Not bad going when the sessions were only just over an hour each due to the tide. Lewis has now got his own set up and still comes with me at any opportunity!


July 23rd after a brief meeting with a like minded angler Darren we were planning a perch fishing trip on the river. The day before we were due to go the weather had changed and we had the first day of the heat wave, knowing the perch would be shy biting I asked if he fancied giving bass fishing a go, he had never caught one and didn’t realise they were readily availble on his door step. We had wicked conditions that evening not getting to the water until just after 5pm, the wind was slightly up on what the weather man had predicted but it was blowing the right direction so we had a nice wind with tide scenario where the water is almost like a mill pool and a slight overcast sky it looked great. The bass were deffiently biting but if we could call them bass I’m not sure, we had fish just bigger than our lures being super aggressive and trying to eat them, luckily the single hooks were sharp and we had half a dozen fish up to around 30cm within the first hour.
The wind had started to pick up as the low pressure front crept in and with that the bigger ones came onto feed. Darren landed his 3rd pb a healthy fish around 34cm and I had 2 of similar size.
Then Darren had a take that had me reaching for the net, an explosive hit that pulled drag as it turned and went with the tide, although we are using stiffer rods there still fairly light with mine being a 10-30g and Darren’s a 7-20g, the rod was bent the braid singing in the ever increasing gusts and as it surfaced Darren’s face lit up, to many all out bass anglers this is a schoolie but for where we are fishing its a really nice fish and at just over 40cm an absolute cracker! It was a stunner dark olive green back petering down to an almost golden flank and a snow white belly what a fish, just like Lewis Darren now enjoys joining me for a session and today (August 7th) he is picking up his new bass rod!


Just 3 days after I took Darren out for his first encounter with the bass I had some friends coming down who also fancied their chances with the bars of silver that surround the Essex coast. Rob and Sam.
Now these gents know there way around a lure rod fishing the Thames and surround London rivers for all manor of species, this session was actually me repaying the favour as they had taken me on a wild brown trout hunt in their urban environment!
We had a whole day planned with the first high tide at 05:30 we planned to fish the ebb down to low and then change marks to fish it safer on the flood. They arrived at 5:30 and by 5:45 we were down at the mark, there were mullet everywhere and the odd bass creeping through the weed too. We all opted to start with surface lures but after 20 minutes we were all routeing around for a different lure to try. I now don’t take more than a handful of lures I’m the worst for chopping and changing and not sticking to a lure long enough. Sam’s zara spook was deployed and as we watched the sun rise over the marshes we saw the awesome sight of the bow wave coming from right to left which then sunk down just before Sam’s lure and then erupt as the fish came half out the water shaking its head. A hairy battle ensued as it darted for every bit of weed it could find but finally Rob had it in the net, what a start to the day! The fish was another cracker around the 40cm mark.

The fishing went a bit stale after that fish and as we followed the tide out I noticed something that got my heart racing and my little legs pumping even faster through the waist high water.
At this point I would like to say I know this mark very well and wouldn’t recommend doing this if you don’t know the hazards that are out there where you’re fishing! I wouldn’t fish this mark on an incoming tide as I feel the risk of injury or worse is increased tenfold.
But back to my excitement. We had Gulls diving! This is something I’ve only seen when out on the boat and never this close to the shore line. All 3 of us were wading as fast as we could trying to get as close as possible, we could see from about 200m away the fry leaping out the water followed by big bars of silver! We knew we had to get to them! The closer we got the further out to safety they drifted, we reach a point where there were still a few birds working and we peppered our lures along there, nothing for 4 casts, lure change (I’m terrible for this) first cast with the illex water monitor and I was in, the fish felt really good but with the speed at which the tide was retrieving it was hard to tell. It surfaced and I was elated, a fish pushing 50cm was a brilliant bass for the area I now wanted Rob and Sam to get in on the action, I held the fish in the net to recover hoping one of them would snare another for some brilliant photos after a few more casts from them, nothing! I pinned the net between my legs and flicked my lure back out I had just put the bail arm over and started to turn the handle when the rod tip arched right round, I was in again! 2 casts with the illex and 2 fish, this second fish was bigger too just over the 50cm mark I had a brilliant brace shot thanks to Rob and we carried on until low tide!


We had fished around 4 hours and between us we had managed 11 bass what a start.

We went back to mine where we had breakfast waiting thanks to my girlfriend.

We hit the road and drove the 20 minutes to the parking area, unfortunately we stayed and chatted for to long over breakfast and missed the point of tide I was aiming for, but that didn’t matter after a fruitless hour and the wind picking right up to almost 25mph we decided we would explore further along the coast, presenting surface lures was now impossible and we had changed over to shads and metals to allow us to punch through the wind and still give us a chance of a few more fish, well we fished hard for the next 5 hours and although we all landed a few more they were alot smaller but still good fun. I had now found a potential new mark that needed some more exploring and the twins were more than happy with their efforts for the day! We finished on 17 bass with loads of new skills and alot of laughs. I will end on the equipment used but please remember this is more of a guide, if your local shore line is littered with rocks and snags step it up a bit, I also enjoy fishing light. I have a 7ft 10-30g which covers me for most lures and a slightly heavier and longer one for fishing metals and bigger shads. The 10-30 is my go to for surface fishing I use lures between 90-120mm mainly heddon spooks, illex water monitors and the gunki megalon. Braided mainline is a must as it cuts through the wind and pick up off the water much easier than mono. I have 2 sizes, still heavy ish but I use 16lb on my lighter rod and 20lb on the heavier. Fluro carbon leader this is what changes the most depending on where I’m fishing. I carry 3 spools with me 10lb 14lb and 16lb each have their uses in different situations. Most of the time I find the 14lb my go too I would rather have a slightly heavier leader just incase I do get snagged or rub against a rock, it could be that slightly thicker line that means you land that fish! Reel wise you’re looking for something around the 2500-3000 size for beginners I can highly recommend the daiwa ninja in 2500 it’s what’s on my surface rod. Then after that it’s all down to how much you want to spend.

If anyone has any questions please feel free to drop me a message on any of my social media’s, I may not be a pro but I will help where I can.

Tight line and wet nets

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Lake District tarn fishing

Now then, my names George Lamb and I run Bong’s fishing – an instagram community/youtube channel. When it comes to fishing everyone has their preferences regarding species and methods, and unlike most when I fish it’s not size I’m after. In my opinion the epitome of fishing, and what it means to me, is fishing the high mountain tarns of the Lake district. Living on the outskirts of England’s largest national park, I’m very fortunate to be a short drive away from some of the most stunning scenery in the world and some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places to catch fish our country has to offer.

A “Tarn” is a mountain lake formed by glacial erosion tens of thousands of years ago, and they’re often surrounded by the dramatic cliffs that shape the well known landscape of the English Lake District. Situated at up to 2400 feet above sea level, the ecosystems in places like these are massively variable with many being completely void of any fish life whatsoever.

However, many of them hold a good population of trout. There are various schools of thought regarding how these resident fish got up to these places in the first place. In some, the possibility of simply swimming up streams is the likely candidate. However, one such tarn where this cannot be that case is Blind tarn, a pocket sized mountain Tarn with no obvious in or outflow of water. Some say that descendants of the fish today were trapped 10,000 years ago when the glaciers melted after the last ice age. Another theory is that between 1123 and 1537, monks from Furness Abbey populated many tarns with fish as an additional source of readily accessible food. In addition to these it’s also a possibility that eggs were transported up on birds feet, or simply fish may have been introduced for sport before official records of such procedures began.

These mountain tarns are literally carved out of the mountainside, and as a result often there isn’t much vegetation. Therefore, a common theme is that the trout don’t grow particularly large. This does have exceptions, for example the trout in the attached picture was caught at a place called ‘Small Water’ as occasionally conditions allow for fish to grow larger. For the most part, the trout remain small due to the biological scarcity and lack of available food. For this very reason, the fish are extremely eager to bite anything put in-front of them. There’s a lot of competition for food between these wild fish, and they find even the simplest of spinners irresistible. As for fly fishing, they can prove to be more illusive. According to “Fish and Fishers of the Lake district” by Keith Harwood, the Bracken clock is an ancient fly pattern known to be deadly on these high mountain locations.

As I’m still a beginner fly fishing, lures are still my preference. Maggot feeders are also known to be highly productive, but deep hooking is a risk that I don’t like to take too often but will definitely experiment with more in the future. While fishing maggots there is also a risk of hooking into the endangered Schelley, the second rarest freshwater fish in the country following the Vendance. In addition to these rarer species, its not uncommon to find the occasional perch and pike in the lower altitude bodies of water.

Many of these venues require a hike to get to. Some as little as 15 minutes but some as many as 2 hours, and it’s safe to say fishing these places is not for the faint hearted. However, the Angler who dares to carry their gear and equipment up a mountain to catch small trout will be richly rewarded with a days fishing never to be forgotten. What the fish lack in size, they more than make up for in spectacular colourations and hard fighting ability. In addition to this, the spectacular surroundings create a sort of connection to nature I’ve found unattainable through any other means. In some ways it’s as much of a spiritual experience as it is a fishing trip, even when the fish aren’t biting.

As these populations of Brown trout have been isolated for thousands of years it’s not surprising to see the huge diversity in body markings. In small water I found all the trout to have a unique lilac tinge, whereas in Blind tarn they mostly had vivid white lines on their fins accompanied by a buttery belly and bright red spots. Other places I have fished include Angle tarn, and the trout here are more olive coloured than anywhere else I’ve seen. The markings of these mountain trout often take me by surprise, and I’ve even caught examples that could be mistaken for sea trout if they were to be found in rivers.

If you intend on fishing one or more of the many mountain tarns there are to explore, please do so responsibly. Try to minimise the time you keep the fish out of the water for and catch and release is absolutely necessary in the majority of situations (with some possible exceptions of the very large tarns that have even been used as fisheries in the past). The populations of fish are ancient and possibly very delicate and sustainability is of the upmost importance. Also, unless you want a very sore back and legs, pack light. I used to use telescopic rods until I got in contact with a Lake district travel rod company called Rigged and Ready. I’d highly recommend their multi-piece rods for any angler looking to hike up to these destinations.

I’ve recently began documenting my experiences fishing these trips on youtube, and full videos can be found of both my trips to Blind Tarn and Small water (and both include some incredible underwater footage in the crystal clear mountain water). If you want to stay up to date with how I’m getting on exploring these hardly ever fished scenic locations please consider subscribing to my channel on youtube, it would really help me out and support me going forwards! Maybe also drop a comment or like on some of the videos if you enjoy them, I’ll leave a link below!

Feel free to get in touch with me via instagram @bongsfishing if you ever happen to be up in the cumbria area and you want some advice on where to fish I’m your man! Thanks Bailey for giving me the opportunity for this guest blog post, catch you down the road.

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Budget Angler – Friday Night Out

4pm on a Friday used to mean ‘Put the laptop in the pannier, and leave the office and head to the pub.’ Now since covid closed the office, 4pm on a Friday means leave it on the dining room table, jump on my bike and do some fishing. Which is exactly what I did on Friday.

I like to think of myself as an equal opportunities all round angler, I don’t discriminate fish species or size, and I try not to spend a fortune. So living so close to some of East London’s fishable water gives me the opportunity for any kind of fishing I fancy. Friday’s session took me to the iconic Isle of dogs, it’s just 18 minutes door to swim by bike so if I get organised I can be fishing by 4:30 giving me time for a really good session in these light summer evenings.

I arrived at my favourite swim on one of the deepest parts of the docks I’ve plumbed it at 26ft 2 rod lengths out which is where I tend to fish. My chosen method for this depth is the slider float, it’s a newish method for me having previously fished the feeder. While it can be a bit of a faff, I have really enjoyed it this summer and set up properly the lift bites from the roach and bream have been brilliant. I have some rigs ready made up using floats I made myself during lockdown. (I had to get my fix with fishing being banned and have made over 200 floats).

My chosen bait was good old white sliced bread, and it was often a bait I overlooked, until recently, and this summer it has accounted for all my best roach from various locations. It didn’t disappoint either, and after a few minutes my balsa and kebab skewer float shot under. With the water so deep and clear it’s almost unbelievable to see the thing sliding into the depths. I gave a good positive strike and could feel I was into a good fish, it instantly put a good bend on my springy budget 11ft float rod, and as I played it up, at about 10ft deep I could see the quick flashes of silver meant that this was not one of the usual skimmers. As it neared the surface the red fins gave it away as an absolutely stunning roach.
I suspect readers will want a weight, but I tend not to weigh my fish as I’d hate to be disappointed in a really good fish if it was 1oz off my PB. Apologies.

The 1st hour brought another 3 good roach and some skimmers, things went off the boil then and one of the challenges in such a massive body of water is holding the shoals. I was feeding with a heavy sticky mix of breadcrumbs, micro trout pellets mixed with a branded silvers ground bait that I can’t remember. (What ever is left from other sessions goes in the freezer and comes out on these little after work sessions)

As the sun began to slide behind the sky scrapers, a few more bubbles appeared in the swim, although as they taken 20 seconds to reach the surface if they’re coming up under your float you may be too late!

The next bite was a cracking lifter, it’s so positive and sudden to see the 1st 5inches of the float shoot straight up with onion on the surface. Again a good positive strike and again I felt I was into a good fish although, the tell tale docile flip flopping told me it was a bream, as I brought it to the surface, I could see it wasn’t one of the monsters that live in there but a decent fish and brilliant fun on the float set up.

Things continued in that vein for a while, I had some worms from the garden with me so I thought I’d put one on, on the 1st cast the float didn’t cock properly in the usual time, which is usually about 30 seconds for the shot to settle. I thought This was a bit weird and I’d probably lost a weight. It also occurred to me that something had grabbed the bait on the way down, so I quickly took up the slack and gave a tug, and low and behold, the feisty head shaking began, and of course as the fish neared the surface it was ckear the garden worm had nabbed the obligatory perch! An absolute beauty and a great ened to a Friday night out in the city!

Thank’s to Bailey for asking me to guest on this blog, I share most of my catch reports through YouTube, and Facebook, so if you want to see more of my urban adventures just Google The Budget Angler and you’ll find me.

Cheers Guys Fish On!