Sea Fishing Articles: Tips and Advice

Shark ready for tagging and releasing
- Combe Martin Sea Angling

The following articles, written specifically for Get Hooked, will help you get the most out of your fishing in our area.
There is advice on tackle, bait and where to fish. Some are specific to particular areas, others more general. Even seasoned local anglers are sure to find some useful information among them.

Undulate Ray Monitoring in South West England

Submitted by jane on August 19, 2014 - 2:05pm

Understanding Undulates - using angling records to learn more about Undulate Ray populations

 Undulate Ray Identification



The Shark Trust has long acknowledged sea-anglers are in a unique position to record a range of information on shark, skate and ray populations. With this in mind the Trust is asking anglers to open up their catch logs and share information on Undulate Ray catches on the southern and southwest coasts of England and Wales over the years.

Simple Shore Fishing in The South West

Submitted by Mandi on September 22, 2011 - 12:22pm

If you fish in rivers and lakes your main problem – finding the fish – is more or less solved, you know that (unless they have climbed out onto dry land) they are in there somewhere. Sea angling is an entirely different ball game. Your quarry has the entire Atlantic Ocean to swim in and might well be many miles from your chosen spot – tricky! On the credit side there will be many species to choose from – wrasse, pollack, cod, bream, mackerel, scad, bass, mullet, conger, dogfish, flounder, etc., etc., – take your pick!
Each species has its own preferred menu and will select the best times and places to dine, so where do you start? Muddy harbours and estuaries, sandy or gravelly beaches, rocky weedy coasts and piers or breakwaters, all have their own attractions.

Believe it or not you don’t need special rods and reels to cope with these different fish and conditions. Yes, you can buy expensive tailor made tackle but you can catch plenty of good fish with the simplest of gear.
The tackle you use for carp, barbel, perch, chub, trout and the like together with a spool of braided line and a small assortment of nylon, hooks, weights, floats and lures will be more than adequate for catching most of our saltwater species. Armed with this I’d be confident of taking some fantastic fish from the seashore. Let’s look at one or two examples –
The coastline is rocky and weedy with deep gulleys separated by ledges, prime ground for wrasse, pollack and bass. You get up early in the morning (before it gets light), grab the spinning gear, tie a white plastic eel with a waggy tail on to the end of a one yard trace of 20lb nylon and creep down to the water’s edge. A fine Mullet taken on a dry maggot fly

Taking care to avoid dangerous swells or being cut off by the rising tide you perch yourself on a handy ledge and begin to cast. Was that a bump on the line? Next cast, a yank on the rod top suggests that it was a bite. You hook a fish that plunges down into the kelp. After a bit of a tug of war you see the gleaming bronze body of a nice pollack caught in the beam of your head torch, fantastic!
Over the next ten minutes one pollack after another battles its way to your net. One, a bit bigger than the rest, snags you in the kelp and you have to replace the lure. First light is beginning to appear in the eastern sky. You cast your replacement lure about twenty yards out and begin to retrieve. Wallop! You’re into a much livelier fish which boils and thrashes on the surface between a series of clutch screaming runs. You reach down with the net to land a beautiful silver bass.
By now the first rays of sunlight trace a golden path across the sea. As you slip the bass back you notice a few swirls on the calm surface. Flick the lure out again and as it approaches it is harassed by a small shoal of ripple marked mackerel. Quickly switch to a little silver spoon and one mackerel after another darts at the fast moving metal ‘leaf’.

Some are hooked and tear away in a typical fast jinking fight. You keep a couple for breakfast – there’s nothing tastier.
The next cast produces a leaping, green-backed, snake-like garfish. After you return it you notice that your hand is plastered with bright green scales. A few more casts – nothing! The fish have gone, but you’re well pleased with your two hour session. Twenty fish of four species and home in time for breakfast!
In contrast, if you’d chosen to fish a sandy or shingly beach instead of the rocks you could have used exactly the same tackle but this time it might have been armed with a couple of ounces of lead and a dropper bearing a size six circle or semi-circle hook baited with a lugworm, ragworm or soft crab. In daytime you’d have landed flounders, plaice or dabs – each one a tasty meal. Fishing later on at dusk there would be even less need to cast far – perhaps ten or fifteen metres at most. As darkness fell the knock, knock bites of the pouting and poor cod would begin and you might wish that you had brought more bait with you.
Switch to a bigger hook, bait it with a whole calamari, remove the lead (yes no lead) and lob it close to the rocks at the end of the beach. After a couple of minutes there is a fierce yank on the rod tip and the braid begins to race out through your fingers. You flick the bale arm over and allow the line to draw tight. It’s on! The reel screams as a big bass tears out to sea – glorious!
It’s a hot sunny day. You want to fish from the pier or the harbour wall – again you can use the same rod and reel. You’ve noticed the big grey shapes of thick lipped mullet plucking filaments of algae from the stonework. This time you’ll need a bit of a white loaf for bait. Slip a float or even a small cork slit with a razor blade onto the line and add a trace of six pound nylon armed with a size ten hook.

A couple of small split shot carry the pinch of bread close to the wall. Crumble a bit of bread and trickle it down by the stonework. Make sure that if you hook a fish you have some handy steps to get you down to the water to land it. The float dips and you’re into a big mullet. Jeez can they go! It’s probably five minutes or more before you can slide it into the meshes. By baiting with worms you might catch several kinds of wrasse, blennies or even bass (they are widespread) and strips of fish may attract mackerel or garfish.
Whatever the venue – pier, rocks, beach or river mouth – just for a change you could try spinning with a plug. Use a floating shallow diver. Just cast it out and wind steadily – about one turn of the reel handle per second should be OK. As you retrieve the lure dives down a foot or so – well above the top of the waving kelp and rugged rocks – again the change of light is often good. Bass, mackerel, garfish and pollack will all have a go at these fishlike lures. If there’s a decent current you may not even have to cast, just drop the lure in and let it drift away until you’re ready to wind it back. Take it steady the flow will make the lure work. The bites are often fierce and the excitement is intense. Even more of an adrenaline rush comes from the use of surface poppers. Chuck them out and bring them back by short bursts of reeling with pauses in between. The bass often hurl themselves from the water to take the lure – heart stopping action.
Of course there will be times when a gale is blowing, the sea is rough, the water is dirty and many places seem ‘unfishable’ with your light tackle.

Mike Ladle with a lure caught Bass from the Dorset coast

You could try heavy bottom fishing gear when it’s like this and it may produce good fish. However, there’s generally a sheltered bay or inlet somewhere that would suit your ‘normal’ tackle. If it’s very weedy after a storm the best answer may be to spin a ‘weedless’ soft plastic bait. The bass and pollack love these eel-like creations and you can easily fish them through what amounts to seaweed soup.
There’s lots of scope for innovation in sea fishing. It’s common these days for sea anglers in the south and south west to be carrying fly rods. Bass can be suckers for a Clouser minnow and surface feeding mullet will take an imitation maggot fished dry.


You can forget distance casting and nailing your bait to the sea bed. Big fish are often much closer than you think. Keep it simple, keep it close and above all keep your eyes peeled for action, believe me you won’t be disappointed.

Find much more information about sea angling in the southwest on Dr Mike Ladle’s website

Fighting for More Fish and Fishing

Submitted by Mandi on September 21, 2011 - 12:49pm


The Angling Trust was launched in January 2009 and it is now firmly established as the single unified organisation for all game, coarse and sea anglers in England. If you’re not a member, please support our work by joining, and take advantage of the new membership benefits on offer exclusively to Angling Trust individual members. Adult membership is just £25 a year and under 18s can join for FREE.

What we do – in brief The Angling Trust has a wide range of activities which all contribute to promoting and protecting fish and fishing.

Protecting Angling Access – we campaign about local and national issues affecting angling and fisheries. When angling is banned by a local council on a lake or pier, we use the media and other methods to stop this happening and to open up access again. We also promote the benefits of angling to the government and its agencies so that angling access is encouraged rather than restricted.

Campaigns to protect fish stocks – we campaign to stop commercial fishing, dredging, pollution, over-abstraction, habitat damage, the spread of fish disease, alien species and many other threats to freshwater and marine fish stocks. We employ professional staff to persuade companies, the government and quangos that they should change policy and practice to protect our fish.

Legal Action – our unique in-house team of lawyers take legal action against polluters and others who damage our member clubs and fishery owners’ rivers or lakes. Our aim is to get them to stop the damage and compensate our members for any damage caused so that we can put it right. This action is in addition to any criminal prosecution taken by the Environment Agency, which sees all the money from fines disappear into the Treasury! We are currently fighting more than 60 legal cases throughout the UK. We also advise our member clubs and fisheries about legal issues which helps protect the angling industry.

Promoting Angling – our angling development team works throughout the country to promote participation by people of all ages and to develop the sport of angling. This involves training and licensing angling coaches and encouraging clubs to develop junior sections and to link up with schools. We also promote the many positive contributions that angling makes to society in the media and to government. All this work helps ensure a safe future for the sport we all love.

Angling Competitions – we manage England’s national teams for coarse, game and sea angling and find sponsorship to support the costs of our best anglers competing on the international stage. We also run a wide range of national and regional matches for thousands of Angling Trust members in all disciplines.

Member Benefits – as the largest angling organisation in the country, we can offer our members fantastic special offers and discounts. These include free public liability insurance, discounts on tackle at and 15% off at Millets and Blacks. We also have a Fish for Free programme which allows members to earn points every time they shop at over 200 web sites, including Amazon, eBay, the Trainline and Majestic Wine. Points can be spent to buy an EA rod licence, fishing permits and tackle.

Highlights We’ve achieved a huge amount since we were set up in 2009. Here are a few highlights: Securing support from all three political parties for our Angling Manifesto on the eve of the General Election; Hosting receptions with the British Association of Shooting and Conservation at all the party political conferences to promote the importance of angling and fisheries conservation; Getting the Fisheries Minister to agree to designating a senior civil servant as a point of contact for the Angling Trust to represent recreational sea anglers’ concerns; Winning six freshwater environmental campaigns ranging from barriers to fish migration to surface water pollution; Objecting to more than 100 damaging hydropower schemes nationwide and fighting for a national voice for anglers on the development of the good practice guidelines for developers of hydropower; Fighting successfully for more than £20,000 in compensation for two angling clubs on the River Wharfe, and another £20,000 for a club on the Derwent after pollution blighted their fishing; Fighting a further 65 legal cases on behalf of our members; Providing legal advice on more than 500 separate matters for member angling clubs, syndicates and individual riparian owners on issues ranging from access to zander; Applying, alongside WWF-UK, for a Judicial Review of Defra for the failure of the Environment Agency’s River Basin Management plans to implement the Water Framework Directive. This led to new funding and commitment to delivery of the Directive by the government and EA; Launching two new national angling competitions and finding £40,000 sponsorship for the unsponsored England coarse angling teams; Successfully delivering a pilot project to address poaching and illegal fishing in the Swindon area through our Building Bridges project and extending this to the East of England; Supporting a nationwide Crimestoppers initiative to protect fish health by providing a confidential helpline for anglers to report illegal fish movements and imports; Launching the Fred J Taylor Award for environmental stewardship to promote the work that anglers do to protect and improve the environment; Successfully campaigning for a review of the licensing for the control of cormorants to enable anglers to take action more easily on waters they own or lease; Setting up regional forums for our members to share their views and news. For more details of these stories and the most recent news, please check out our web site at Members are eligible to attend our regional meetings which allow you to find out what the organisation has been doing on your behalf, and to provide feedback so that we tackle the issues you are most concerned about. We are doing more and more for the benefit of all angling every week. Now we just need YOU to support us by becoming an individual member.

Why YOU should join the Angling Trust

Angling faces a wide range of threats. We can protect ourselves from these threats by urging politicians and other decision-makers to take decisions which respect our interests as anglers and stop damage to our rivers, lakes and seas. To achieve this, we need funds to run media campaigns, commission expert reports and take legal action. We also need more members so that we have more political influence with government. The more members that join, the more we will be able to do to fight for the future of your fishing. Wear the Three Fishes badge with Pride, and join the Angling Trust today.

What YOU get for individual membership

  Individual membership of the Angling Trust costs just £25, less than 50p a week. Members receive free public liability insurance for all their angling activities worldwide (excluding USA & Canada) and monthly e-mail updates, along with two paper magazines each year reporting on all the activities of the Angling Trust and its legal arm, Fish Legal. 18 – 21 year olds can join for £10 and under-18s can join free of charge and enjoy all our membership benefits. Thank you! We think all anglers should join us to support the work we do, which is important for the future of our fish and fishing. If you want the next generation to enjoy the fishing you enjoy, then please join us now. As well as supporting our work, and being part of the single national organisation for all anglers, you also get the benefit of massive savings on the fishing tackle and clothing you need (and the stuff you don’t really need but will buy anyway!).

Thank you for your support.

Tel: 0844 7700616

[email protected]

Tinker and His mum

Introducing BASS

Submitted by Mandi on June 9, 2011 - 9:11am


Bass Logo

The Bass Anglers' Sportfishing Society (BASS) is both a fishing club and an organisation dedicated to the conservation of the European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax).
BASS was formed in March 1973 following a meeting of bass anglers interested in fishing for and conserving the species. It argues that the bass fishing we used to have was better than what we have now. Better in terms of both numbers of bass and the sizes of bass caught, by anglers. The Society’s long term aim is to restore, at least in part, that situation. To further that aim it has set up a Restoration Project.
The majority of members live in the UK, although there are members living in Eire and other parts of Europe. Members come from all walks of life.
The Society encourages its members to fish in a sportsmanlike manner. They are requested to observe the minimum size limit of 18ins (45cm) recommended by the Committee in those instances when the occasional fish is taken for the table.
BASS members occasionally organise 'fish-ins', at venues around the coast of the UK. These are not run as competitions, instead they offer a chance for members to socialise, share ideas and visit new areas of the coast.
BASS publishes a quarterly magazine, which is supplied free to paid-up members.

Great catch

Each issue is packed with information about the activities of the Society and its members. Contributions to the magazine are welcome from all members, pictures, articles and reader's letters appear in the magazine (and on the website).
All BASS members, with a personal email address, are invited to join the password protected members only forum, where members can 'meet up' and discuss all aspects of bass fishing. Even if a member is not into 'chatting', the forum is worth a visit, if only to read the wealth of information about bass and bass fishing that has been posted there.
The Society is affiliated to the Angling Trust, maintains a membership of the Marine Biological Association and also has close links with Irish Bass,
If you are interested in bass fishing, and protecting stocks of fish for the future, have a look at our website; where contact details can also be found:

Alternatively contact us via:
Lee Campbell

BASS Membership Secretary

30 Daniel Street

Vale of Glamorgan

CF63 1QX

Sea Angling Grows

Submitted by Mandi on July 9, 2010 - 2:12pm


Angling Trust Logo



Sea angling is a fast growing pastime in England and Wales with 1.9 million men, women and children over 12 taking part last year.

In a report out this week, the Environment Agency says this is a rise of 26 per cent since the Government’s Drew Report in 2003 when the figure was 1.5 million including children under 12.

In the past two years 2.8 million people over 12 said they had been sea fishing.

John Amery, chairman of the marine committee of the Angling Trust, the governing and representative body for all angling, said the sharp increase would mean that the number of full-time jobs directly generated by sea angling would have risen substantially above the 19,000 in the 2003 survey.

“Sea angling continues to increase its contribution to the coastal economies of England and Wales at a rather faster pace than we had expected. It has become a vital part of the much larger tourist industry and is of particular benefit to coastal economies outside the peak tourist months, as anglers fish through the winter.”

The Trust would, he said, continue to lobby ministers and every MP and MEP with a coastal constituency to support measures to improve the sport, particularly by restoring declining fish stocks.

“In particular we want the government to ensure sea angling is fairly represented on the ten new inshore fisheries and conservation authorities which will begin operating next year and not lumped in together with commercial fishing.

“The aspirations of commercial fishing have often been over-emphasised at the expense of recreational sea angling and the substantial economic, environmental and social benefits which it alone brings.”

The report shows that even more people, 3.3 million, went freshwater angling last year of whom 940,000 or 28 per cent also went sea fishing.

The social profile of the sea anglers had an AB C-1 bias with 56 per cent in those groups. Freshwater anglers were more evenly spread in terms of social group.

A quarter of sea anglers live in the South East and East Anglia while 18 per cent reside in the East and West Midlands. This latter figure supports the assertion that many anglers travel to the coast to practice their sport, bringing revenue to coastal communities.

The Environment Agency concludes that overall, attitudes to both sea and freshwater angling remain generally positive, and in some aspects more positive than in 2005.

Higher levels of agreement were recorded for “angling is an acceptable pastime”, “anglers care for the environment” and “angling fits in well with other activities such as walking and cycling”. Lower levels of agreement were recorded for “angling is a cruel pastime”.

Young people (12-16 year olds) are more likely to have positive rather than negative perceptions of angling, however they are likely to be less positive overall than adults. Perceptions of angling as an “OK thing to do” had increased since 2005.

About The BDAA

Submitted by Mandi on July 9, 2009 - 3:34pm

 About The BDAA

British disabled angling association is a registered National charity founded in 1996 by former England International Terry Moseley, to offer inclusive fishing opportunities in Coarse, Sea, Game and Specimen fishing for disabled people.

 The team
A board of trustees manage the day to day running of the charity, whilst a team of trained volunteers deliver its programmes, services and events.

The charity receives no government grants or funding, relying on the generosity of public and business donations, gifts, bequests and the revenue generated by our trading arm BDAA services. The charity welcomes any company or individual donations, financial, services, resources, products, equipment to ensure our work continues.

 Who we help
People with physical, sensory or learning disabilities of all ages, those working and supporting disabled people including,  groups, organisations, clubs, charities, families, friends, carers, businesses and schools.

Not just anglers benefit from the BDAA`s work, we also support people who want to help disabled people go fishing but have no understanding of the sport.

 Benefits of angling
Fishing offers substantial benefits for disabled people, not only as a recreational or competitive activity, but also a path to a healthier lifestyle.

Increased attention spans
Socially inclusive
Healthy activity
Team building
Confidence building
Increased self esteem


 How we help
BDAA provides information, support and practical advice on all issues encompassing angling for disabled people. Arranging tailored fishing events to suit any group’s needs.  
Providing an angling Buddy programme which is designed to empower volunteers using the “what to do” & “how to do it” principles of basic angling.
Access audit reports complemented by our “Access guidelines for fisheries” publication helping fisheries improve facilities for disabled people supported by the”Approved Fisheries Award scheme”.  
Delivery of a range of awareness courses designed in house to help bridge any access and social barriers within angling.

 Where next?
BDAA have a vast amount of information stored on our web site with access to details of current and past events, news, articles, adaptive fishing equipment, disabled angling clubs, membership opportunities and benefits, volunteering, partner organisations, funding advice, where to fish, award winners map, coaching and services.
Or write to:
BDAA, c/o 9 Yew Tree Road, Delves, Walsall, West Midlands, WS5 4NQ
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 01922 860912


Submitted by Mandi on May 29, 2009 - 9:40am

Vicars only have to work on Sundays. Airline pilots get free flights. Tree surgeons never go short of firewood. Every job has its perks.

Being a weekly fishing columnist means that occasionally people invite me to go fishing. Pat Carlin is such a person. When he wrote to me and invited me to join him on his charter boat the Channel Chieftain for a day’s wreck fishing from Weymouth, it felt like my perk-ship had at last come in. I took my mate Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall along for the ride. For two reasons. One: because Hugh’s as mad for a day’s fishing as any man alive. And Two: because Hugh’s about the most enthusiastic and able cook of any fish that ever swum the sea.

Pollock was the quarry of choice. And the second world war wrecks 28 miles deep into the English Shipping Channel was the venue to be explored. Pat Carlin loves his wrecks. He collects their whereabouts with an obsessive passion. Find a deep water wreck and you’ll find fish. And Pat has been studying the location of wrecks off the south coast for twenty-odd years. He scours charts. Grills gill netters. Even picks the brains of elderly Naval officers to determine where the Navy lost or sank or discovered underwater debris over their long presence in and around Portland Harbour on the Dorset coast.

The Admiral Stamp is a wreck of a huge Naval tug which accidentally got shelled during a Second World War bombing exercise. It was towing a dilapidated ship being used for target practise when a stray shell holed the tug’s hull and sent it 200 feet beneath the grey foamy Channel. Where now it lies offering a safe haven for pouting, pollock coalfish and congers. Safe, until we arrive. What you need for wreck fishing is a stoutish boat rod, a multiplier packed with thin but strong braid, a ten ounce lead, and a trace of 20 pound line with a fat jelly worm threaded on a strong chemically-sharpened hook.

Jelly worms are an American invention, created for large mouth bass fishing in the lakes of the southern states. Pollock are Catholic in their tastes. They’re lazy, opportunistic fish with big eyes and big mouths. They love to hug around the lee of a wreck and gobble up anything that swims by. They live deep in a dark coloured sea where light penetrates no further than a few feet in the wintry, stirred-up water. There is nothing to see at 200 feet. Just black. So they feed on vibrations, or smell, or instinct.

The jelly worms, which can be up to eleven inches long, come in a rainbow selection of colours and shapes. Jelly fish, small shad imitations work well too. And today on the Admiral Stamp, the garlic-flavoured black jelly worm with a lurid pink tail seems to be the mutt’s nuts. Pollock love them. The trick is to drop the lead to the bottom and then to wind up 20 or 30 turns of the reel, an action which makes the worm look like it’s working it’s way up over the wreck. Then after the short retrieve, drop it back down until the lead bumps on the sea bed, or even the wreck, then wind back up again.

Hugh has mastered the knack in minutes and brought a bug-eyed green-flanked pollock on board half way through the first drift over the wreck. I take longer to get in the groove.  Boat fishing is a beautifully democratic, evilly unpredictable way of angling. You can stand two feet away from a man using exactly the same tackle and he’ll outfish you five-to-one. Why? God knows. It’s best not to wonder. Just take the bad luck with the good, and be happy to see fish come aboard.

Pat warned us about coalfish. “A pollock will take hard and swim down with the bait taking ten or twelve feet of line” he explained. “A coalfish fights much harder. He’ll take twenty or thirty feet and keep going. Anglers often panic and start thumbing the spool to increase the drag. It’s a big mistake. The line breaks and they swear. ‘God what was that?’. It was a coalfish. I tell them. Was. We lose more than we catch”. Not Hugh. Hugh hooked a big coalfish and bullied it onto the deck pumping and winding. Winding and pumping, until the big dark beast was laying in the net. Singing to be supper.

Hugh is a man who when he sees fish, sees dinner. Too many sea anglers simply go fishing, drag home huge bags of fish to give to friends and neighbours and never get around to eating them. Too many sea anglers hate eating fish. Me, I’m a fish-eater first, angler second.

“I have a group of Chinese chefs from Bristol who come fishing with me” says Pat. “They love their fish. They appreciate every single one that comes on board. And they’ll eat anything. If I’ve got live sand eels on board for bass fishing I have to keep an eye on the chefs or they’ll eat them before we get to the fishing grounds”.  Pat, a connoisseur of fine fish flesh himself, loves nothing better than to take fish aficionados out to sea. “The only downside to the Chinese chefs is they’re mad for gambling. They go bonkers when we go too far out to sea, out of mobile phone range. If they can’t contact their bookies.”

One summer he took an Hasidic jewish family to sea. “Complete with ringlets and huge flat hats. They were from London. Drove a big Volvo. I don’t think the kids had even seen a boat before. Let alone been on one. They went mad” he remembers. “It was only a mackerel trip, but the dad took it very seriously. Every fish they caught he had to kill. Then he bled them. Kosher approach. Didn’t want me to even touch them. Just he and his son were allowed to kill the fish. Every one was wrapped and taken home. They were delighted.”  And so was Hugh, to see the big dark coalfish with salmon-silver sides laying in the fish box. When we got it home and I filleted all the flesh off the flanks. He decided he wanted to bake the head. So I trimmed it off leaving a shoulder of meat below the neck.

The huge eye-staring head went into a roasting tin covered with garlic, ginger and lashings of olive oil. Three quarters of an hour later it came out of a satanically hot oven and was served with creamy mashed potato and black pepper. We sucked gobbets of meat out of its cheeks. Dug at hidden crevasses in its cranium and mushed the flesh up with the mash.

If ever there was a day filled with chin dripping perks this was it. Some days, most days, I really, really love my job.

River Cottage run all day fishing trips out of Weymouth, ideal waters for bream, mackerel and pollack. The day includes onboard fish skills, hot smoking demonstrations, superb food prepared in the RC kitchens and all equipment needed. Tickets are £225 per person and trips run from April - September. They also run private trips, hosted by Nick and tailored to suit your party. Go to or call 01297 630302 to find out more.

Running Away To Sea

Submitted by Mandi on May 27, 2009 - 11:52am

I have just got back from a chilly afternoon on the Dorset Stour. At the moment we are in the middle of another cold snap, a cold snap made special this winter by the snow. The river looked impossibly black as it wound between white drifts. The willows were weighed down with snow but every few moments a layer of it lost its hold and slid with a curious hiss into the slow flowing water. So today was what used to be called classic winter conditions, though I have not fished in weather like this for twenty years.

For me, winter will always be the time when I concentrate on my local rivers. Fish like perch, chub, barbel and roach are in their peak of condition and, once the midwinter solstice is past, there is always the happy thought that each fishing day will be longer than the last until the season ends. Then, when the new season begins again on June 16th (I could never disregard a close season), I head towards my favourite tench and carp ponds, eager to savour the old magic of lily pads, mirrored sunrises and painted quill floats. Ponds and lakes in summer, rivers in winter, with a bit of merging of everything in the autumn; this had been the rhythm of my fishing for most of life – until recently.

A couple of years ago I went down to Cornwall, invited by a fishing pal, to have a few days bass fishing. I had only once caught a bass before, during a teenage summer holiday, and, though I was impressed with it, there had hardly been any more opportunities since then to cast for the species. My friend and I fished around the dramatic rocky coastline in a small dinghy, casting lures between outcrops, along deep gulleys and across shallow but quite treacherous reefs. We used floating plugs, a lure I had never used in the sea before, and the whole experience of exploring endless acres of clear calm mysterious water was completely mesmerising and engrossing. Then, suddenly, we found the bass – and everything was even more wonderful than before.

The event triggered a kind of piscatorial revolution in me. Back at my old willow-shaded haunts a week later, I began to have heretical thoughts. I wondered if my favourite ponds and lakes did not suddenly seem rather too quiet and tame after the more elemental magic of the sea. And the rivers, though lovely, lacked the unpredictable wildness that I had found so compelling about the sea. But I suppose it was the bass, really, that caused the real sea change. They are such terrific fish – so perfectly evolved for their environment, so fiercely beautiful – that I knew another obsession was beginning to creep up on me, just like the addictions I used to have for carp and barbel.

Fortunately, there is a more or less winter long bass close season, when the fish traditionally move offshore into deeper water or migrate south, therefore this new infatuation only truly takes hold in the summer and autumn. However, last year I began bassing in May and was still catching them in mid November, which meant that I was largely absent from the freshwaters where I had been an almost permanent summer fixture for half a century. And this year, once the spring comes once more, then I know the sea will begin to call and I’ll run way again, down to the nearest bit of coastline.

But it was nice today, not to feel that pull of the ocean, just the pull of a sparkling bright coloured perch as it dived down under a sunken willow. Each fish should have its season. Right now it’s the season for the perch, which is appropriate as perch are related to bass and even today I had time to dream myself out of the winter wonderland and imagine the calm blue expanse of a pre dawn sea. The silence before sunrise can be magical, and the stillness hypnotic– and then a fish strikes the surface, sending the sand eels exploding in every direction. I cast beyond the disturbance and draw the lure back across it, waiting for the silhouette of a great fish to rise up and charge the dawn with energy.

'Out of the Blue' Chris Yates’ new book about his seaside infatuation, is published by Hamish Hamilton and priced at £15.99.

A Fresh Approach

Submitted by Mandi on May 26, 2009 - 11:01am

As an all-round angler I frequently use tackle designed primarily for freshwater angling in salt water. My approach to fishing is to use tackle appropriate to the species I seek and in many cases that can mean getting more enjoyment from the fish hooked and an even greater success rate. After all tackle designed for freshwater angling is often designed for fish that are on average bigger than those hooked from Britain’s coastal waters. In general the only reason sea anglers use heavy tackle is to combat the harsh environment. Strong tides may require heavy leads to anchor the weight to the seabed. Rock and weed may make strong tackle essential to extract fish from their safe haven. So if we give it some thought we can use our freshwater tackle for a vast range of venues and target a large variety of species.

Light float fishing
Mention the use of freshwater tackle on the coast and many will automatically think of grey mullet. These hard fighting fish are prolific all around our coastline during spring, summer and autumn. They can be caught using light float tackle or quiver-tip tactics. A twelve-foot float rod in conjunction with 6lb line, a chubber or Avon style float, size 8 to 10 hook and a pinch of bread flake will bring success. Harbours, rocks and piers are ideal venues where the application of ground-bait will entice not just mullet but garfish, pollock, mackerel, and even black bream. In addition to float-fishing a cage feeder packed with breadcrumb with a two hook paternoster baited with bread flake will provide excellent sport. A quivertip rod designed for barbel is ideal.

Free lining for bass
After dark an exciting method to try is free lining for bass using a 2lb test curve carp rod and 15lb line. Harbours, beaches and some rock marks can give anglers the opportunity to catch large bass.

Choose a calm night, a flooding tide is generally more productive though this will depend on the venue. A large mackerel bait is my favourite, either a head and guts or a whole side mounted on a size 6/0 hook. I always use a hook length of 30 to 50lb as a precaution against sharp rocks, or the teeth of an unexpected conger.

At many venues a pair of waders are a distinct advantage. Under the cover of darkness large bass will ghost around harbours and beaches in search of prey or discarded food. There is no need to cast far, do not shine a light on the water, as this will spook the fish. Lob the bait out into the flooding tide, it is surprising just how close in bass will venture. Try to keep in contact with the bait at all times, I hold a loop of line in my left hand and feel for bites. On the first indication of a take I pay out a bit of slack, as the line tightens and the fish moves purposefully away raise the rod to set the hook. If the area is snaggy you will need to put plenty of pressure on the fish to prevent it breaking free in rocks or amongst ropes or structures in the harbour. This can be very exciting fishing, the electrifying pull of a fish taking the bait and a short tense battle on a straining line with a rod bent double to the pull of a powerful bass.

Getting light on the boat
A pike spinning rod, carp rod or salmon spinning rod is ideal for spinning for bass from a boat using plugs or spinners. Another fun tactic is to use a light paternoster set up to target flatfish, triggerfish, whiting, pollock and a multitude of other species. I spent a day on a boat last autumn when two of us landed a total of ten species using mackerel strip fished on a two- hook paternoster. Braided line will give greater sensitivity and enable lighter weights to be used to hold bottom.

Estuary Fishing
Many of the South West’s estuaries provide great autumn sport with the humble flounder. A light carp rod and fixed spool reel loaded with 10 to 15lb line is ideally suited to casting out a two or three hook rig baited with ragworm or peeler crab. Put the rod in a rest and await the rattle on the rod tip that signifies the arrival of a flounder, this is laid back fishing, give the fish time to devour the bait and then reel it in. On this light gear they give a surprisingly spirited tussle. From time to time the rod will surge over in a more spectacular fashion as a bass picks up the bait.

Fly Fishing
Bass are the top sporting sea fish to target with the fly rod and can give some spectacular sport. A rod capable of casting a weight forward 9 line is ideal. A leader of 8lb to 10lb fluorocarbon is suitable. A streamer style fly is used to imitate a sand eel, whitebait or prawn. Shallow water at the mouth of an estuary is excellant territory, as the tide floods in over the warm rock and sand wade out up to your knees and cast the lure into likely spots. A pair of good quality polarised sunglasses are an essential piece of kit to spot the bass that will move into water that barely covers their backs. It can prove extremely exciting casting at fish as they hunt the margins. On a hot summers day this fishing has elements that make it comparable to fly-fishing for bonefish in tropical waters.

From The rocks
A wide variety of species can be targeted from rock marks. During the summer months a strip of mackerel suspended beneath a sliding pike float will tempt mackerel, pollock garfish and bass.

If the seabed is not too rough carp rods can be used in conjunction with a large fixed spool reel to target species such as smoothound. These members of the shark family will take small crab baits fished on size 1 to 4 hooks as used for carp angling. Take care to engage the bait-runner facility, as these fish tend to take off at a rate of knots and will take a rod from a rest and out to sea in seconds.

Plugs and spinners
A spinning rod that is used for pike or salmon is perfect for casting lures for bass, Pollock and mackerel. The use of braided line will help to set the hook and feel the takes.

Gear for the roving angler
I have given a brief summary of areas where tackle designed primarily for freshwater angling can be used. I often smile to myself when I see rods labelled for carp, pike, salmon or bass such rods are often remarkably similar. They can often cast a weight of between 2oz and 4oz, handle lines of 10lb to 15lb b.s and have a test curve of between 2lb and 3lb. There are now a number of excellent telescopic rods available that meet this criteria and matched with fixed spool reel loaded with 15lb b.s line they will provide the roving angler with sport virtually anywhere in the world whether the water be salt or fresh.

I hope that I have given a little inspiration to cast a line into new waters. I believe the barriers are coming down between the disciplines with anglers horizons starting to widen as they realise there is not a gulf between freshwater and salt, just a wide variety of different species to seek in refreshingly different surroundings.