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Joe Chappell

Dangling a Line Down Dungeness

That feeling the night before a fishing trip that you have been looking forward to is like no other. I wasn’t quite experiencing the feeling as much as my dad. On both Monday and Tuesday, I had been fishing my local lake. My dad on the other hand hadn’t been fishing in over a month. I think it has been nearly a year since he caught anything from the sea and I knew it was getting him down. He’s been very busy and the last six sessions have resulted in blanks for him. We were hoping that it would all change at Dungeness.

A carp I caught The night before fishing
The beauty of a carp I caught the night before

Sea fishing is by far his favourite. He was brought up fishing with his grandad and uncle, fishing around Southend and Canvey. Later on, he went fishing with friends, venturing further ashore to places like Cornwall, Bradwell and the south coast but once he was married and I came along, fishing became a distant memory.

That was until my first fishing trip aged five. We blanked and I went for a paddle in the sea thinking that I would be able to cast further than my dad. I had no idea what I was doing and looking back on it I’m sure it was rather comical. However, it’s safe to say that on that day he wasn’t too happy seeing me walking into the sea.

So after about twelve years of learning and making mistakes, that brings us to now, where I think he would agree that statistically, I’m the better angler. And dad, before you say something and complain that there was no fish around on your last six sessions, don’t forget that I only blanked on three of them. 

Back to the buzz that I could sense that my dad was feeling. He was working from home in the kitchen while I was doing some homework in my room. Every five minutes he would be poking his head around the corner, asking my opinion on what food we should take, telling me about the tides and providing the latest weather reports. I don’t blame him because he deserved a rest.

We picked up the bait from Trev Hooper in the afternoon and it was fresh as always. We took mainly lug but also some squid, a few packs of rag and some sprats that had been in the freezer since the winters pike fishing. We packed the car and headed for an early night as we were planning on being up at four to get the most out of the days fishing.

It was dark outside and I was awoken by the words “Hurry up, the alarm clock didn’t go off properly it’s five o’clock”. We got dressed and took the bait and more importantly, retrieved the bacon out of the fridge before quietly hurrying out the door.

The journey wasn’t too bad, there was some slow traffic on the A13 due to the roadworks which nobody was working on, again. But we arrived at our destination dead on seven. We couldn’t believe how bleak it was. It was like a ghost down. You could see for miles around and there was the odd house dotted around, the majority of them looking like something from 50’s America.   

Dungeness
The View at Dungeness

The beach was made up of stones and was much steeper than the beaches we had previously fished. We eagerly set up the rods, anticipating that it would be a fantastic days fishing ahead of us. We both used thee hook flapper rigs on one rod and pulley rigs with bigger baits on the other. The hope was to keep busy with whiting or the odd bass while waiting for one of our bigger baits to be picked up by an early cod, bass, smoothound or skate.

We were using the Gemini bait loader tool to wrap up squid, sprat and worm baits. They looked great and we knew if the bigger fish were here then they would definitely take this bait. Both of our first casts proved fishless, however, we weren’t disheartened. We still had the whole day ahead of us.

A perfect sausage of bait created using the Gemini spring loader tool.

We were halfway through cooking breakfast when my rod tip bent down and sprung back. I went to investigate and found a slack line. I started to reel in and it felt heavy. Nothing was pulling back but I was definitely into something. It turned out to be two small whiting. I wasn’t blanking but I was sure that I had missed something bigger. There was no way that those whiting had caused a bite like that. I rebaited with lug worm and cast back out to the horizon.

Breakfast was served!

My dad received a bite and he was sure something was on.  While reeling in he could feel the fish nodding it’s head so he exclaimed “Finally, I haven’t blanked”. I’m not sure what he was thinking because there was no fish on the end of his line. “It must not have been hooked properly” he remarked and cast it back out. Within a few minutes he had another bite. His reward was a schoolie bass around 35cm which was returned with care.

The fish started coming thick and fast however, bites were hard to detect. The deep water and wind were causing big bows in the line. We resorted to reeling in every ten or so minutes to re-bait, unless of course we did receive a good bite. I received one such bite and sure enough there was a bass and whiting on the end.

The whiting were coming thick and fast. On most casts we were catching two, sometimes even three fish. However, the bigger baits remained motionless. We were rebaiting these every half hour but either the whiting or crabs were stripping the hooks nearly bare.

Dad with a triple.

The action continued and high tide arrived around 11.15am. I managed to catch another bass, this one was the biggest of the day and around 45cm, but he went back to fight another day anyway. My dad also managed to catch a new species, a pouting.

We were catching so many whiting that I had the bright idea of using the spare rod and reel with mackerel feathers, tipped with squid and lug worm in the hope of a six hookup of whiting. It was working and I managed to catch a few but never all 6 at once.

The rod was constantly tapping with bites, but we decided to leave it in the hope a few more fish would come along. Suddenly it hooped over, something bigger had taken it. It was putting up a great fight and the result was a beautiful sea bass around 40cm. It wasn’t the six whiting I was hoping for, but this was better in my books.

As the tide was on the ebb, the fishing started to slow down. We were still consistently catching fish but now we were bringing in the odd empty line and the triple hookups had near enough stopped. We still hadn’t received any bites on the bigger baits and were slightly disheartened. We resigned ourselves to the fact that the bigger fish were likely out in the depths as a storm was due in the next day or 2.

Dad with another triple.

Everyone on the beach had gone two hours after high tide but my dad and I still had a few packs of worm left so decided to stick it out. A lure angler arrived a few hundred yards down from us, but he never appeared to catch anything. We felt so isolated it was spooky sometimes. Its quite odd being the only people in an area like that. By four o’clock we’d had enough.

I was putting stones in a bucket every time I caught a fish, and I had a total of 47 stones. I know for a fact I missed a few so I reckon my total was around 50 fish. My dad had got bored of counting at 20 and thought that he must have caught around 30 fish by the end of the day. If you ask me 80 fish (ok, most were small) isn’t a bad days fishing. Even though we may not have caught anything sizeable we had managed to catch four beautiful bass.

Trips like these aren’t just about the fishing. The time we spend together is so precious. My dad is moving to Switzerland in a couple of months as his company have moved his position there from London, so it was good to spend some quality time together doing something we both love.

Hopefully, we will get that cod next time eh dad? Until then!

Thanks for reading everyone, hope you enjoyed the Blog. Catch up with me next Friday when I will be writing a review of Newlands Hall Fishery in Colchester

Tight Lines!

Previous Blog: https://essexanglers.co.uk/when-a-plan-doesnt-quite-come-together/

Check me out on Instagram @joec.carp https://www.instagram.com/joec.carp/

Thanks to Trev for the quality bait as always. Send him a text on 07834769224 if you need anything

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