You will be forgiven for thinking this was a sun kissed Florida beach, but in actual fact this was of all the places in the world it could have been, Gorleston on sea. The only thing missing from this picture was a few thong clad beauties soaking up the September rays and maybe a slightly over weight drunken ageing lifeguard wobbling down the beach to a cheesy theme tune.
I had two distinctly different fishing aims on the agenda this holiday. Firstly to have another go at a fast growing fishing love of mine 'sea fishing' and secondly to try and nab a couple of points for the challenge that I was convinced I could get easily from the broads. The first point I thought would be a banker was the eel point, as over the last ten years of visiting the broads on and off I have always been pestered by the green slimy snot wrigglers and as I was stopping within spitting distance of Oulton broad a few night sessions were on the cards. The other point I hoped I would have a chance of was the Ruffe point. Two years ago whilst on a boating holiday I happened upon a broad that seemed at the time to offer no other fish than Ruffe. so a midweek visit of a hour or two should be adequate time to bag an estimated 2-4 Ruffe.
After a day of travelling and getting settled into our accommodation I got out for my first night session on the broad after eels. My tactics were simple; wormy ground bait with a good helping of prawns, chopped worm and maggots all tossed in within range of a simple under arm cast.
First cast the green tip light sprang back and forth instantly and moments later the familiar feeling of an eel swimming back wards was felt on the rod. I was off the mark with a tiny 1/2lb eel in the net. The next hour or so the tip was not still at all as after small perch after small perch nabbed my worm bait.
Another eel of three times the fist ones size soon appeared but then a dramatic change occurred as line bite after line bit shook my tip. After a while one of the culprits fell to my hook bait.
The bream had turned up in the swim in numbers.
After a long day, three hours and only two eels to show for my efforts I couldn't be arsed to fight through the bream shoals after eels so called it a night and went back to share my new broadland perfume with Jacky who was awaiting my return asleep in bed.
The day before I had keenly purchased a load of bait and was gagging to get lead chuckin in the sea again. On my first sea fishing session I decided to get back to exactly where I had left and dropped onto Lowestoft outer harbour. As sea fishing is seemingly tide related the distance this structure sticks out into the sea kind of cancels out and high tide low tide issues by putting you well out of casting distance of the beach. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how daunting it is staring out into nothing but water before I make my first cast into the sea.
I had decided long before actually arriving that I was aiming a little higher than on my last trip and by that I mean bigger fish. To help me in this endeavour I had been researching different rigs and baits to help me ignore the smaller fish and wheedle out some bigger specimens. My only worry was that I had missed the best of the bass fishing and was here before the cod had moved onshore. With my focus on bigger fish I cast out one rod with a whole squid on a clipped up pennel rig and the other whole sand eel on single hook flapper.
The first rod to receive a tremble was the whole squid rod, but this trembling didn't turn into anything at all and after reeling it in found the whole squid was now nothing more than a few tenticals. After re baiting and casting out I got the same reaction again this time it was followed by a firm tug. Upon reeling in I landed what was to be the first of many, many ,many whiting caught in this session.
Every bait that went out was stripped to bits by hordes of tiny whiting and their tearing tiny little teeth. After two hours of just getting nothing but stripped clean hooks back every cast I switched one rod over to a match style three hook flapper baited with small strips of squid. This kept me busy for the rest of the session as every cast produced one, two or three 2 oz whiting. I caught so many of the lil buggers that I soon lost count though It was good fun. The big bait rod remained still the whole morning not getting so much as a pluck.
After pre baiting a couple of swims on the broad with some rather potent ground bait I had gone out for dinner and a few drinky poos before returning to my now stewed swim to take advantage of the carpet of eels I was sure would been feverishly feeding over my ground bait. As per normal I was well off the mark. My first cast produced a skimmer as did every other cast all evening. After an hour I hooked in so real resistance which turned out not to be an eel but a bigger bream that managed to tangle its pectoral fin in my hook link after scoffing my cube of meat.
This went on all evening as I caught skimmer after skimmer with the odd bream mixed in for good measure. The eels if they were down there never got a look in once.
This one had a very odd mark on it's cheek.
The average size was between one and two pounds and they fought pretty god dam hard. If it wasn't for the fact that they were completely the wrong fish I would have been well chuffed with about thirty to forty pounds of these.
With the sun shining I decided to have a go on another mark I had fished earlier in the year and made my way to Pakefield beach down the coast from Lowestoft. Sticking with the bigger baits and throwing in a few lug worm for good measure I again cast out praying for something a bit bigger.
Again the whiting were the only fish that seem to be in the area or could get a look in. Both tips were bouncing around as numerous fish attacked the baits, though as the tide rose the general size of the whiting increased to a respectable 10-12" average.
Towards the end of the session I did mange to land one tiny codling of around a pound but sadly never got the chance to get a picture as the poor little fellow looked to be rather on the wrong side of peaky, so I gently held it in the surf to try and revive this important fish for the future.
I was very surprised by the size of bait these fish could get there gobs round. This one had forced the best part of half a squid in it's mouth along with my two hook pennel rig and the remnants of what looked like a shrimp. Though the whiting again seemed to be all I could catch , eleven of these sized fish and a mass of tiny ones and my single codling was enough to keep me happy all afternoon.
Jacky and myself both fancied a day around Southwold and as the weather was holding out we made the journey down on Tuesday morning. On the way I stopped of at the local tackle shop for some fresh bait and a bit of info. By dinner time we had both seen everything thing we wanted to in the town and headed down the beach with a picnic and fishing tackle weighing us down.
The beach at southwold is fantastic and after dragging Jacky as far as I dared we settled down for picnic in the now very warm sun. Whilst munching a superb nice pork and apple pie I survyed the sea infront of me.
The area I was intending to fish was a sandy gully formed by the exiting river half a mile away. The guy in the tackle shop had tipped me off about it and how the bass move through it on lower tides chasing trapped fish.
Signs of something below
To cut a long story short I got only one bite all afternoon and I suspect that may have come from an over excited crab and duly spent my time on Southwold working on my developing case of sea anglers neck.
The only time I thought I was into a fish was whilst re baiting one rod with it resting on the tripod the whole set up went flying onto the sand as the tip of the still fishing rod jerked over. After standing gawping at the now seaward travelling rod I managed to get myself together enough to chase it only sea a full size herring gull entangled in the line. Lucky for me it freed itself before I had to deal with it.
Jacky on the other hand had found the perfect way to amuse herself whilst I stood like nelson staring out to sea. On a previous beach sitting session she had found a few amusing shaped pebbles and painted faces on them and left the on the beach for any unsuspecting beach combers to find.
This time she had got full on into it and was now holding some kind of guerilla open air installation all along the beach with some very interesting works and reactions by the public. For me not to include these pictures would be a crime, so here a few that I feel the world must see.
My favourite (I now own this piece)
The thing that really made Jacky's day was when some old chap who was obviously a full time beach scrounger made off with one of her works into the sunset.
Like all insane anglers there is nothing more likely to make us go fishing again than a blank. So another late night foray on the broad was in order. Once again the local eel population was giving me the cold shoulder be my now positively toxic three day old ground bait was becoming ever more dangerous and did nothing to hamper the bream as more and more fell to my crude tricks. I was by now using a rig I thought no self respecting bream would go within miles of. Four inch hook links with a size 10 hook on the end of it, close to the most rancid concoction of mole hill, chopped worms, four day old prawns, meat even vulture would puke at the site of and left over squid guts. The stuff was so bad I had become paranoid about poisoning myself and was now using antibacterial hand wash after every cast.
Did it put those bream off? Did it bollocks! by the end of the session another 8+ skimmers had been banked as well as another decent fish.
I only had time a short sea fishing session this morning so to save time I drove straight onto the breakwater and strangely the visibility dropped immedatley as I left the road and ventured onto the pier. the sea was covered in a dense blanket of fog and made for a very eerie morning. Being out technically in the sea with fog dampening of all noise apart from the fog horn at the entrance to the harbour shattering the silence every few minutes, visons of ships crashing in the concrete structure I was standing began to creep into my head after the first large ship chugged in behind me.
Spot the ship.
The visibility did not improve the whole session, though from where I was standing I could just make out the sound of the busy main road off to my left there was no way I could see it at all. This did not deter an ever growing number of anglers from turning up. Maybe these locals had some secret information about what happens when the fog rolls in.
Somewhere amongst the whiting I did make an interesting capture of a little starfish who had ether been chowing down on my squid or was savagely hooked as I retrieved it.
By 10am I was done with the whiting for today as they had munched their way through the best part of £15 of rag, peeler's and squid and every one of them had begun to look very much the same. I suspected that they were beginning to take the mick out of this non-native.
I had all but given up on the eel point for the challenge by now but I still had gambit up my sleeve in the ruffe point. A few years ago whilst on a boating holiday on the broads I had encountered a very strange phenomenon at Ranworth broad. On this occasion all I could catch was the diminutive ruffe. Cast after cast I landed the largest amount of them I have ever seen and I though this would be a shoe in point.
After throughly thrashing Jacky at pirate golf and winning myself a primo steak tea I talked her into making what I thought would be a short detour inland. Before even getting on holiday I had looked on google earth and thought I knew exactly where this broad was. Jacky was not convinced that I knew where I was going and advised me to obtain a map. This was where the problems started! upon looking in the local tourist information outlet I was confronted with two maps. The first was a OS road map of the broads at £8.99 the other was a cheaper map at £2 - being the cheap git I am I went for the latter.
About half way there with Jacky driving and me navigating the realisation dawned that I had just bought probably the worst map on sale in the UK. The fact it only indicated roads by numbers and omitted anything other than major roads was the first indicator and the fact it looked like someone may have drawn it by hand was another.
Needless to say I kept quiet and tried to bum my way through it. After many missed turns the both of us fell into that thing men and women do in this sort of situation and began getting a little testy. Thirty miles in we managed to find the broad with some local help but by now we were not in a good place.
I began fishing in ernest and Jacky sat seething near by. I have never in my life needed to catch a specific fish so much. Not just for the challenge but more to justify this whim of a trip to an irate Jacky.
So did I get those pesky ruffe... Of course I didn't. I caught roach, skimmers roach bream hybrids rudd gudgeon, and perch. After two hours all I could say was "ok darling lets go" to which Jacky replied "it's xxxxxxx rush hour now you xxxx"
Popular I was not!
Thursday (disaster session)
It has been a good many years since I had a good old fashioned fishing tantrum. But an afternoon on the beach at a mark called the jolly sailors by the local fisherman was to be the scene of an ugly thing. Upon arriving the sky's were clear and I was keen. With Jacky tucked up in her flower covered pop tent I cast out both rods.
After half an hour the odd big spot of rain started to fall. Thinking I was about to get a soaking I went to reel in one of my rods to change the bait before I made for the sanctuary of the tent. Upon reeling I found the rig/lead had found some rough ground and I end up pulling for the break. I lost everything lead, rig and shock leader. This was not exactly the cause of my lapse of serenity but was the precursor of it. As I hastily tried to tie on a new shock leader in the now ever increasing rain the main line kept snapping. By the time I had done this ten or so times my blood began to boil. The only thing I could figure was that the line on this reel had not been changed since my previous sea fishing trip earlier in the year and that the corrosive salt water had in some way degraded it. Anyway after anther ten goes at tying the knot I snapped and the rod went flying whilst a 33 year old man screamed like a mad man at the sky which was now black and driving with rain.
The rest of this low point in my fishing career does not need describing. But no further fishing was done that day and spent my evening consolidating myself with pints of Adnams beer.
I was reluctant to go and waste more time chasing after the now Dodo like broadland eels and even less inclined to go and purchase another batch of expensive sea bait to feed the now plague like whiting with, so I went out for my final session armed only with whatever bait I had left. The tide was out so back to the harbour wall I went. This time I targeted a place I have never fished at this mark. At the start of this concrete structure is a man made tidal defence of huge rocks piled up to protect the beach from erosion. Taking a chance I put a whole squid tight between the wall and this structure thinking this area may be a collecting point for jetsum.
I attached a small bell indicator to the rod and forgot all about it. I had been bashing the crap out of the whiting and even a few pouting had turned up for a few hours and my bait was now running low.
I hadn't even given the rod another thought until I caught the tickling of the bell, I turned just to see it spring back. But now the the previously forgotten rod was well back on my radar. The tip went again and stayed over. My strike was met by momentary resistance of some serious force before the whole thing came free. Inspection of the bait showed half the bait gone and a 3" wide bite in the body of the squid just below the hook. I should have taken a picture but I was to excited to cast out again. After a further hour the same again happened but this time the initial hit was not followed by another. My hopes of getting this monster out were soon ruined when a local prawn netter turned up and rudely dropped eight prawn nets right exactly over where I had been casting. My reaction did nothing hamper his fishing and I had no urge to recast near his nets as the idea of getting tangled up with is gear was something I didn't fancy one bit. After chatting with another chap he suggested it was more than likely a strap conger as they do get attracted to the area by the boulders and collecting crap in that area.
With all my bait gone my sea fishing was over until next year or for now anyway....
As for the eel and ruffe points, I am currently hatching a plan to try and nab at least one of those in the next month or so.