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Alan Stevens

Hardcore Drift Fishing

A few weeks back whilst collecting some worms from Kev at Colchester Bait and Tackle, we chatted about a recent trip Kev had been on to target Pollock, Ling and Conger  on the drift. Gushing with enthusiasm and with perfect timing, Matt, the organiser of the group arrived as if by magic and joined in the conversation. Very kindly, they invited me along for their next pending trip and I gleefully agreed on the spot. I had no idea how to do this kind of fishing and have zero gear to match either but hey, Kev (AKA Arkwright) reassured me that he could supply everything I needed.  One second after the point of full commitment by me to the trip, Matt then dropped in that the boat was in Looe, Cornwall and we would be travelling there and back with the full day of fishing all in a 24-hour period. Ouch!

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So, one week later and clutching a plethora of muppets and huge jigs I found myself in a car with the guys heading down overnight from Essex to the West Country with an absolutely open mind as to what to expect. Traffic was kind to us and before long it was 5:30 am and we were in Cornwall seeking fuel and food.

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Fully stocked up with our singular diet of enough Cornish Pasties to last the day we unloaded our gear and watched the most beautiful sunrise imaginable, waiting patiently for the skipper of our boat, Sowenna, to arrive.

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Once on board we set off into the flat calm sea. Not a breath of wind nor cloud in the sky threatened what was going to be a day to remember. Almost immediately we were after fresh Mackerel. I had taken along my spinning rod and feathers and alongside the rest of the guys were pulling up big plump Mackerel, which, to be honest, I would have been happy keeping for dinner. But no, we were after bigger game and moved on to the first drift. 

We began by targeting Ling and Conger. Using a high quality Penn rod and reel supplied by the boat, we rigged up. Terminal tackle consisted of a pair of muppets baited with big fillets of the fresh Mackerel.

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Thankfully the skipper Dan helped show me how to make up the rig and we set to work, with short jigs keeping in touch with the bottom not moving our baits more than a few feet above the sea floor. It became clear to all that this was virgin territory for me but was met with plenty of encouragement and patience from my highly experienced mates and expert skipper. 

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Pretty quickly we were amongst the fish with an abundance of Ling bending the rods only interrupted by the odd huge Pouting. This was awesome fishing although it did take me quite a while to get the technique mastered. Chris was fishing beside me and got stuck in to some really good fish whilst to the other side of me Matt hooked a sizeable Conger. 

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Meanwhile, having had his fill of Ling, Ash decided to break out his ice rod and target Wrass in baited Sabiki rigs just for fun.

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Be warned; next years EssexAnglers species hunt will be just using ice rods if I get my own way – how are the carp guys going to cope with that I hear you ask!

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With a good haul of Ling and the single Conger, we changed tactics after lunch to focus on Pollack. Using soft plastic lures, primarily pink Sidewinder Sandeels on long traces, we moved to another reef and drifted again but this time with a technique of dropping the weight and trace to the bottom and then slowly winding up approximately twenty turns of the reel before dropping back down again if there as no enquiry from the Pollack. But when we did get bites this is where it became so counter intuitive. The Pollack began by giving a gentle nibble, which instinct drove me to strike or change my slow winding action. However; what was required was to continue winding slowly and wait for the huge bit to come. 

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Once the Pollack worked out it was hooked, boy did it fight back. These fish are great and we are landing sizeable fish on every drift. Although to be honest, I think my one here was the smallest. 

The squalls that by now were sweeping in on big grey cumulus clouds didn’t deter us and Dan kept us fishing right up to 5pm. We were exhausted and ready to head back but before steaming in to land, Dan even filleted the fish expertly for us. A great final touch from a superb skipper and lovely bloke.

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Sleeping most of the way home, we finally got back to Essex just before midnight, completing the 24-hour hard core marathon. A fantastic day with three great new friends. Matt, Ash and Chris taught me so much and I can’t wait to be back out with them again soon – albeit maybe doing the trip over three or four days as I am getting too old for 24-hour sessions.

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This week I am catching up again on my 2021 goal of fishing all of the hotspots on the Suffolk coast – one of my favourite coastlines in the world. Weather permitting I will be heading up to the southern end of the Shingle Street  beach for some early season Bass and possibly a Smoothound. Can’t wait.

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