Joe Chappell Sea

Finally Thorny

Towards the beginning of last month, my Dad and I headed to our local mark on the River Crouch in search of anything that would bite. We’ve fished the Crouch, with mixed success about a dozen times in the last few years because it’s only 10 minutes from home. We’ve caught the usual bass, whiting, dogfish and even a cod but the  Thornback Rays, which the river is renowned for have never played ball with us. With my dad working away in Switzerland and myself headed north for university, this was to be one of our last fishing sessions together of the year.

High tide was around 6:30 however we had to leave at 5:30 because I was heading out for dinner. We arrived at South Fambridge around 1 o’clock and made our way along the river towards an area known as the saltings. Although it’s about a 15 minute walk from where you park, the fishing is much better and the area of marsh means that your fishing away from the sea wall where you can get caught in rocks and weed. If you’re looking at fishing the saltings then make sure to check the height of the tide because anything over about 5.2m and you might be getting wet feet.

By 1:15 our first rods had been cast in. We were planning on fishing 2 rods with bigger baits out for the skate, 1 rod on a 2 hook flapper for anything that bites and 1 rod on a float with ragworm as we’d heard that this was working well for the late bass.  For this reason I hadn’t packed a 4th beach caster, instead I packed an old 12ft carp rod which I thought would be more suitable for float fishing.

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Some Great Ragworm from Trev Hooper

We hadn’t anticipated the strong winds. Upon arriving realising the strength of the wind, we decided that it would be too difficult to fish with the float. I wasn’t sure whether the carp rod would be able to cope with the heavier leads needed to hold bottom in the strong tides but rigged it up with an up and over rig anyway and baited up with a chunk of herring.

While rigging up my second rod, I hadn’t noticed the line slacken on my other rod rigged up with a 2 hook flapper. I tightened the line back up to the lead then the rod tip just hooped over. It was a classic ray bite. I excitedly picked the rod back up and started reeling. The fish didn’t put up much of a fight, as people say it can be almost like reeling in a carrier bag. It’s safe to say that I was delighted with my capture, it was the first ray that either of us had caught from the Crouch. We were surprised to catch it on the top hook of the 2 hook flapper which I had baited with only a three inch piece of ragworm.

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The herring on our up and over rigs wasn’t proving successful so we both opted to change over to squid. I pulled the head off the squid and stuffed it into the body before hooking it and wrapping it with bait elastic. I was really happy with the presentation. The squid had been in the water for about half an hour and I was debating bringing it in to put fresh bait on. Before I could decide, my rod hooped over and I was into my second skate of the day. This one felt much bigger and was darting left and right. It was putting a great bend into my 12ft carp rod. The tide still wasn’t in much and so we had to drag the fish a little way up the bank. As I was lifting the fish up the bank, the hook link snapped leaving the fish stranded on the clay. Without much hesitation I made my way down the slippery mud to unhook the fish and get a quick photo before slipping it back.

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It was about an hour before any other bites came. It was finally my dad’s turn to catch one. We were both standing by my rods when his rod hooped over and my dad rushed to his rod, nearly slipping in his haste. It was his first ever thornback ray from the shore and he was absolutely chuffed. This fish also fell to a whole squid.

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Shortly after slipping that fish back, I had another bite which resulted in another beautiful ray. This one fell to a whole ragworm and put up a great scrap on my 12ft carp rod.

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Around half an hour later, I was rebaiting one of  my rods. I looked up and my other rod  was on the floor along with the tripod. What had happened? Had it blown over? I picked up the rod and something pulled back. I noticed the line wasn’t where I had cast. The fish had kited around about 50ft to the left and would have swam over my over line had I not just reeled it in to change the bait. It was probably the smallest one of the day but more than welcome.

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Despite our best efforts, the last hour was drawing to a close and it was time to start packing up. As I mentioned at the start of the blog, I was heading out to dinner with some friends so we had to call it a day a little earlier than high tide. My dad went to reel his first rod in, ready to pack it away however the fish had other plans. He was hooked up but the fish on the end had given no indication that it was there. He reeled it in and it turned out to be the biggest fish of the day and brought out total fish count to six.

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We finished packing up in a hurry as the fish had put us slightly behind schedule. It was a great afternoon spent with my dad and the fishing made it even better. It might be our last proper fishing session together of the year so it was great to end things on a high note with some amazing fish caught.

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