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Alan Stevens

Clacton Pier, No place like home

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

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

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

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

James with the smallest ray of the day prize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

decent size dogfish taken a dusk

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

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

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