Friday, 8 May 2015

Light lure fishing adventures in brine.

I knew well  before I left that what I intended to do was a risk; who in their right mind heads towards the sea to fish with a light lure rod that weighed little more than four and a half ounces. Probably the same person that thought a suitable back rod would be a drop shot rod instead of a beach caster. As risky as it was, I had actually weighed up the pros and cons of what I was about to do and given that I wouldn't be frequenting the north sea beach heads, I felt I could get away with just a light lure set up for it was the ominously named but attractively boat lined Lake Loathing where I would be fishing.

Everything about the place seemed just right for me to spend any free time I could muster casting light lures around the plethora of tasty looking features that line its banks. Literally, it has every possible feature from skeletal hulls of ancient fishing trawlers right through to giant quays capable of berthing huge tugs. For me it was the nooks, crannies and hidey holes around the various walls that are accessible that drew me. 

I have read so much about light rock fishing (LRF) and the associated facets of light lure fishing, that I had almost convinced myself I could make this work in this massive body of brine, even though there are very few rocks to actually fish around. I have seen enough fish in this water to have sufficient confidence to commit to my theory. Not only was I convinced that there were fish present but I was also convinced I had sufficiently attractive micro lures in my lure box that I might well be able to pry out a few matching micro species using them. That's not to say I didn't top up with a few packs of the strangely attractive smelling Marukyu Isome from Agm products before I left.

So tooled up with a back pack full of lures and with nothing more than my now trusty Sonik Light tec rod in hand, I headed out to cement my place light lure fishing on the perilous cliffs faces of east Anglia. The water was clear, and perched atop a wall I could see the bottom with the aid of my Polaroids. I won't lie and say I wasn't a bit unsure on how to start, but close by and in sight seemed to make sense. After diligently working  a drop shot rigged section of Isome along at least fifty feet of wall with nothing more than a tiny little fish shooting out to look a my lure, I concluded to start casting tight to some of the features a little further out to try and get a pull. First retrieve and I was sure as shit is brown, something grabbed my lure. Over keen I cast again to the same spot and got the same reaction but no hook up. I slowed my retrieve next to see if it was a bit of time the culprit needed, but still no proper hit. It took me a few more casts before I spotted it following the lure before tailing off back to the cover. Next cast I drew them up in the water and got a good view of ten or more darting little fish, rather enamoured by the rhythmic movement of the Isome but were unable to get it in their mouth. It must have taken twenty more casts with an ever decreasing sized pieces of lure before I finally hooked one out.

I wasn't exactly sure of what it was at first but after examining the delicate protruding mouth I concluded it had to be a smelt. They seemed to be lingering around any available cover, probably for their own safety in truth. But something I learnt about salt water species a long time ago is that they are all pretty much predators. Straight away I began focusing on working small sections of lure tight under or around any cover I could access and the results were intriguing. After only moments of the lead making bottom a few swift jerks of the rod would draw in a shoal of smelts and then the aggressive little munchers would dart in flashing and nipping at the lure.

My hooking rate was very poor to start with, but after rummaging around in my back pack I found a spool of 4lb fluorocarbon and a packet of size 14 Drennan paste hooks. With my new set up I was banging out smelt like a Trent trotter bagged silvers back in the day. By the time I had caught enough savage little smelts to start a Spanish restaurant I realized that not only was the entirety of this lake paved with smelt, but also that it was going to be impossible to get through them to any other fish.

Next time out I had thought hard about the smelts and concluded to scale up rigs so as to hopefully discriminate against them. Interestingly I actually kept the rig to compare with my new scaled up drop shot rig. Everything went up in size so as to keep the rig balanced and even though I have shown the weights right under the hooks, both rigs were actually fished at between six and ten inches off the bottom.

Next I began targeting slightly more open water. In truth I was looking for any species other than smelt, although I had no idea what might be lurking around. Eventually I got free of the silver savages, but now I was getting literally no bites at all. That was until I cast alongside a fenced off old jetty. Half way through a slow retrieve of a small Hart 2 ball worm I thought I hooked a snag. That was until it powered off to the left! Whatever I had hooked was powerful and on my light lure outfit it felt massive. After really giving me a run around proving how much fun catching sea fish can be on light gear, my first ever drop shot caught flounder came fighting all the way to the surface. 

After a modicum of success I was galvanised to travel up and fish a nice looking area of harbor alongside the local ASDA store. I was really confident that being as close to the sea as I was that the pilings would be racked out with all the common culprits like pouting and whiting. Even hitting it perfectly on hide tide and the slack water I got little more interest from the fish than one slight shuddering hit. On land though my presence had been noted by a different sort of predator. This time it was the plump day glow coated security type who informed me that I was on private property and politely informed me to sling my hook.

Back crawling into every spot I could to cast a lure I did my best to avoid the smelts. Every now and again it was good to get one just to boost my confidence, but the reality is that they are terminally stupid and go belly up very easily when caught, and feeding the seagulls on my catch is not something I find enjoyable.

Eventually whilst fishing a harbor within a harbor I hooked a second better sized flounder whilst casting a bigger rig around and juddering a full Isome over a muddy bank just beyond a bed of bladder wrack, using my Spro drop shot rod.

These flatties fight so hard on this light gear that I can honestly say that even though I have had loads of them in the past fishing from the beach on heavy gear I have never truly appreciated how hard fighting a species they are. The way they hit the lure is amazing; if they see it and want it then there is no two ways about it, it's going in that strange sideways on mouth. The only disappointing thing I can say it that I couldn't find more of them during my time casting into the brine.

It didn't end there though! On my final outing to Lake Loathing I arrived at high tide expecting to see clear water only to find the lake in one area very coloured up. In the back of my mind I had been thinking, why I had not seen any bigger predators mooching around after these smelts. The moment I saw the coloured water I suspected something was afoot. Tentatively working a rig around I scanned the water for any signs of movement. When I looked down towards my rig I watched open mouthed as a bass of two or three pounds causally cruised by. It took only the slightest bit of notice of my worm before melting away into the coloured water. In a panic and flapping I searched my back pack for anything that looked like a smelt and luckily came up with a three inch long shallow diving plug which was soon hanging from my line as I scanned the water for fish.

Eventually they showed twice as far out as I could cast in a shallow bay chasing smelts out of the water. In absolute agony I watched as the moved round the water consistently out of range until they just stopped surfacing; I had a feeling I knew where they might pop out again and I immediately headed to a spot where I might be able to steal a cast at them. I was ten feet above the water scanning the area where I thought they might come into the second bay, but I couldn't see a thing. I was about to go back to the first spot when I looked down and a shoal of sprats moved like a cloud beneath my feet and three good sized bass charged into the cloud. The whole scene moved to my right, I cast in front of them and reeled the small silver plug wobbling under the water towards them. The bass never gave the lure a second look as it passed by them. The smelts soon disappeared and so did the bass. As for me I worked the whole area ragged with that plug hoping that one of those bass might have gone after it but it was to no avail. That was it, my briney light lure adventure was over in a crescendo of failure. I had seen the ultimate UK sport fish hunting and had a chance to try and catch one but it turned out on this occasion there was no substitute for the real thing.

As for whether I would take my light lure gear to the coast again that is a no brainer. A couple of flounder a bucket load of smelt sand a single shot after some bass is a successful first lure fishing trip to the sea as far as I am concerned, and you never know what species will be around later in the year.


  1. Great write up.

  2. Great stuff, Dan. I don't think coarse anglers without experience of sea fishing realise how dog eat dog the briny really is and how very civilised freshwater is by comparison. As you rightly say, it's a place where everything eats everything else round the clock. I can walk round the corner and cast a worm in the cut and it might crawl about for hours without interest. Do the same anywhere along the coast and it won't last a minute without being attacked and whittled down by crabs, shrimps, or hopefully devoured by fish. I'd love to catch flatties on light coarse gear. Always wondered what a half pound dab might fight like when the tip of a rod capable of hauling 100lbs of weed whacks over like a barbel bite!

    Shame about those bass. They are the most myopic fish when on the prowl, though, ignoring everything but the day's quarry. Matching the hatch really does apply.

  3. Dan I' m going to try my luck at Lake Lothing this Sunday late a m.I've got the gear - being a keen if not very talented drop shotter in fresh water, so armed with some isome and crossed fingers I'll give it a go..

  4. Dan, following in your footsteps I explored the far end of Lake Lothing last Sunday am.
    Came to the conclusion it is well worth returning later in the summer to exploit the numerous opportunities around the boat yards etc.