Alan Stevens

Heading for the beach – a 12-hour stint at Brighton Road Holland-On Sea

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A perfect November sunrise at Holland on Sea

With lockdown 2 well underway and the piers closed, naturally the weather is perfect this weekend and the gales of last week are a distant memory. Saturday temperatures were forecast to be in the high-teens with wall to wall sunshine, so I figured a long stint on the beach would be a win regardless of which lucky fish decided to come my way.

Yes I know that I catch more in the dark, or on a cloudy day, and with the neap tides this week the rivers would fish well – but hey, a day with sand under my feet and sun on my balding head would be the perfect tonic after five solid days of zoom calls.

Brighton Road, Holland On Sea was my venue of choice. Easily accessible, free parking, loos right by the beach and water tap to hand  – Brighton Road is a wonderful spot for summer evening fishing and BBQ with the family. In autumn it has a reputation for night time codling but to be honest, all I was expecting was whiting.

For a long-stint it is also handy in that the beach is somewhat steeper than other locations so you can pretty much stay in the same place all day without a significant hike chasing and retreating from the shoreline as the tide does its thing.

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Low tide exposes a featureless seabed

Arriving just after dawn the area was deserted. Not a breath of wind and with the sea as flat as a millpond, I set up to cover my options. The water was clear and sunlight reaching through any colour that was in the gently ebbing waters I knew I was in for a challenge. The beach at Brighton road is pure sand which extends out to roughly in line with the green hazard markers that show the extend of the rocks for each of the coves that run along the stretch of coastline. Lovely for bathers and for lazing on the sand, but not helpful at all for fishermen. No chance at all of catching anything on this featureless sand stretch, I had to reach the seabed beyond the end of the rocks where the natural seabed is weedy, more rugged and hopefully full of things that might interest a hungry fish. If you want to catch decent fish here you have to cast long.

No two-rod pier rule limit here so I went with three rods to cover my options. On one rod in hope rather than expectation  I had a huge cocktail wrap with a penel rig. Wraps were half squid and herring and half squid and black lug, all 10 of these made up the night before. Respect to any whiting that could swallow on of these monsters. My second rod was a two hook clip down rig which I hoped to get some worms out as far as I could muster. The ragworm snakes from Colchester Bait and Tackle were really fresh and looked good on the hook. The final rod was just for fun, I wanted to see how many different ways I could catch whiting during the session, and to begin with I lobbed a float out towards the end of the rocks with a piece of rag drifting above the seabed across the deserted cove. To be honest I was worried about running out of worms early so the float idea was as much about bait preservation than anything.

The morning passed without a soul to be seen. Nor many fish sadly. A few pin whiting were all I could muster. The sun was beating down and it was hard to grasp that this was well in to November. The only problem was the crabs who were devouring my bait in seconds. Those big cocktail wraps were being scoffed in quick fashion too. I only had the 10 wraps, along with 1/4 lb of rag and 50 lug to last me so urgent attention was required. The float was working and a pin whiting had fallen for the con – something of a first for me so I carried on with this. On the second rod with the clip down set up was changed to a set of hokai luminous feathers tipped with a tiny piece of squid fin. I know whiting find these irresistible so was happy with that change. Finally, the third rod was scaled down to a single big hook raised above the weight to try to keep some height for the bait which was a half of one of the wraps. Thankfully this cured the crab issue but didn’t improve the catch stats and by lunch my tally was about 10 small whiting, but I was happy with the beach to myself. 

Well, not for much longer. The afternoon crowds arrived in earnest. have people seen the news about social distancing? Lockdown? Large groups roamed the coastline pathway no differently that a normal weekend. And then there is the dog walkers…. as a society we have largely got owners to clean up after their pets… but given them a beach to walk their mangy hounds on and it is obviously perfectly OK for them to let their ‘baby’ sniff, pee and poo everywhere. Not one owner was cleaning up their mess. And then the stone throwing started – we have hundreds of miles of coastline yet it is obviously very helpful if people can throw stones right at my lines to hurry the fish along! Thankfully there is a god and these wonderfully helpful kids then preceded to roll in the sand that had been ‘visited’ by the numerous mutts. It was great entertainment for me but no doubt a very smelly car for some on the way home.

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Anyway, back to fishing and the afternoon sunshine soon faded and the hordes departed no doubt to mingle and contaminate each other somewhere else. The smarter anglers began to arrive and sagely smiled at my meagre rewards for the hours put in to date. The fish knew it was time to dine too and every cast produced a whiting for all. I gave up on the float  to give space to other fishermen and went back to three rods consisting of a two hook worm flapper along with the hokai squid baited feathers and the big bait wrap line. It was obvious that there was nothing going to be caught but whiting so I embraced the moment. Come 7pm my bait was used up and my tally was approaching 50 whiting, with 10 of a decent size, including one beast who had devoured a whole monster wrap and both penel hooks. Time to head home. Chatting to other fishermen, all had the same results as me. No cod today for anyone but smiling faces all round. 

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Sunset brought the smarter anglers to the shoreline

So on reflection a great day – if fishing is not the only objective. Brighton road to me remains a lovely place to fish for fun and socialise beside a BBQ. Yes you might get a decent codling but the truth is that it is rare, and whiting will be the main event of the day this time of year. After sitting in my home office all week, just being outside was the perfect tonic. I kept my exercise app running and walked the equivalent of 3.6 miles tending my rods over the 12-hours thanks to the whiting. The sun and fresh air did me so much good for my physical and mental health. For sure if the weather is set fair then I would go the same again. 

That said – off to do some serious fishing on Monday. 

One reply on “Heading for the beach – a 12-hour stint at Brighton Road Holland-On Sea”

Thank you for the interesting blog re the 12 hour stint at Brighton Road beach fishing. i will be looking forward to going with my son in law for a night stint myself. Again many thanks for the info.

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