Watching the tv on Thursday, the forecast wasn’t looking good for the weekend. Severe gales and plenty of rain was predicted. The sort of day not to be out at the end of Clacton Pier. To make it worse, the gales were forecast from from the south west. Living in North Essex almost all of my usual ‘go-to’ beach marks are exposed to south westerly winds so I do confess to have considered not fishing. Well for about five minutes anyway, and it is all your fault essex anglers.
I could not face the shame of blogging here fishing brothers and sisters that I had chickened out, so rather than retreat I took the challenge full on – and made plans to fish both Saturday and Sunday morning flood tides at totally contrasting venues. Criteria for both had to include that they would be sheltered from the tempest that was lashing our beautiful coastline. It is weekends like this where you really do come to appreciate our wonderful diverse coastline. You can, if you think about it, fish somewhere in Essex in any conditions. And at this time of the year we are spoilt for the target species on offer.
So the plan was to find a mark on Saturday quite inland on one of the estuaries and seek out the bass, well away from the waves and people, and somewhere that would test my skill and perseverance considerably. I wanted it to be tough going from all aspects after sitting in front of my computer for five days non-stop. St Lawrence Bay on the south bank of the Blackwater was my mission.
On Sunday I wanted easy street at a location where human life is the main aspect of the coast. I wanted to target the high probability species such as whiting, dogfish and thornbacks. I wanted to see human life go by on the water, to people watch, to relax, breath in the salt air and chill. It just had to be Ha’penny Pier at Harwich, on the south bank of the Stour.
So after a Friday evening making up lug and squid cocktail wraps the 6am Saturday set off time soon came around. Heading south and finally through Maldon it was spookily quiet with not a soul around once on the Dengie. Then it occurred to me that of course it was Halloween and the locals were probably off burning witches or dunking poor fellows in the river for no particular reason. I took a deep breath, clutched my crucifix and soldiered on regardless.
St Lawerence really is in the back end of nowhere. Once you get there it doesn’t get much better as there is no parking anywhere near the beach marks. So a fair walk later and regretting taking so much kit I finally tucked myself in below the sea wall just upriver from Stone Sailing Club. The tide was half-flood so I could obtain good shelter beneath the sea wall from the gale blowing above me. Now, normally St Lawrence is a market to consider for low water fishing as it is one of the rare spots on the Blackwater where the deep channel runs quite close to the shoreline, albeit that you have to walk out maybe 30-meters from the sea wall . But with the wind so strong I wanted to keep tucked under the sea wall so was fishing into shallower water for bass. The mark I had chosen has quite rough ground of shells and mud, ideal for the bass who roam around picking crabs and small fry from the undulations. On one rod I went big – a whole squid and lug cocktail wrap on a pulley penel rig. On my second rod I covered my bets with a three hook flapper, each small hook having a different bait – rag, lug and squid respectively. Finally, my third rod had a clip down big hook that I intended to cast with the wind behind me into the deep channel way out in front of me. This was loaded with those huge ragworm snakes from Colchester Bait and Tackle.
I expected it to be hard going but it was a nightmare dealing with the weed and crabs. Annoyingly, despite packing the kitchen sink I didn’t pack any lures or floats, so had to keep bottom fishing and endure the continual refreshing of hooks but hey, I was fishing out of the wind and surrounded by nature at its wildest.
The fishing got better as the tide rose, the school bass were very obliging, including what I confess to be the smallest bass I have ever caught. One decent bass was landed from the cocktail wrap so my Friday prep had been worth it too. Thankfully all were lip hooked and returned to grow. Not a single whiting all day and I returned home at high water feeling shattered but really happy with the short excursion playing out as planned.
Sunday came around and the wind was still giving it’s all. Grey skies threatened rain as I headed off for Harwich. A120 all the way on cruise control was so different to the Dengie narrow windy roads. Just before arriving at Ha’penny pier I stopped for a McDonald’s breakfast and leisurely meandered on to the venue. Ha’penny Pier has got to be the easiest parking/fishing spot ever. You can park right beside the pier. The pier has a fantastic cafe and is a fisherman’s dream with comfortable benches all along it to rest our weary bones. If Carlsberg designed a pier this would be it.
This is the sort of pier that keeps you occupied even if the fish are somewhere else. Inshore trawlers work away mid-channel. The super-sized container ships at Felixstowe dwarf in scale everything else around. The ferries come so close you think they will snag your line.
But the fish are there in numbers – and with two rods set (one pulley penel cocktail wrap and the other with a two hook flapper lug set up) I was into the fish from the first cast. Double whiting hits on the flapper rig rod and dogfish on the penel. Four hours of fun later it was time to pack up with all my bait gone.
It normally is a busy pier and the weather had kept many folks away. In good weather daytime fishing is a bit tricky with such a close audience. But the people are so friendly, and having heard the same story several times from people of how they have moved out to Essex from London and are loving every moment, everyone went home happy and healthy.
So, reflecting this evening with the wind still smashing its way across the country I feel pretty good. Five days of sitting on my backside will begin again tomorrow but I am ready for it once more. Two totally contrasting days fishing have recharged my batteries. You could not get a bigger contrast between St Lawrence and Ha’penny. Non-sea anglers think we just chuck in a worm and hope. The reality is that our coastline gives us the choices to make it what we want it to be. Easy days on the pier or extreme fishing in wild countryside. Both are fine, just take your pick and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Roll on next weekend. I am already planning.