Monday, 15 June 2009

I went to the sea, to see the sea, and what did I see?

Over the weekend I went out on a photography camping field trip with the photo group that meets at the gallery once a month; the chosen spot was coastal, and that for me means only the one thing, and it's certainly not the art of fill-in flash but the art of filling freezers with bass
. Besides, I don't have a camera right now having recently manslaughtered my last one in a hapless wading attempt so shooting snaps was quite out of the question. I was hoping that I'd find some shore angling that was an improvement upon my last shore trip to Skegness just a few weeks ago, a trip I failed to write up because it was so utterly void due to prevailing conditions of it being a chance outing to a holiday resort that I would not have chosen to go to and a beach that appeared to be quite lifeless, and was. Not a bite in three hours.

Shell Island in North Wales is the largest camp site in Europe, a sprawling patchwork of secluded pitches in the dunes and fronted by what I hoped were going to be some fine fishing beaches. I bought some frozen peelers and black lug from Barmouth on the way in, just in case bait digging proved a problem, and arrived on site to find that another two of the members of the group had also brought rods and were ready for some beachcasting, but without any bait of their own. I thought mine would stretch if the sport was slow and so we got tackled up and went out fishing.

It turned out that neither had any experience of shore fishing whatsoever and had brought along whatever rods and reels they thought would work under the conditions. Kev had a 1970's vintage ABU Conolon spinning rod in blue with a trigger handle, silver wire loop eyes and an agate butt ring teamed with a largish ABU spinning reel, an outfit that looked heavy enough to cope with some light surf, whilst Gaz had a feeder rod and a Mitchell 300 series reel, an outfit that was seriously underpowered for anything but perfect flat calm. I had a spare rod with me, one of my trusty old estuary rods, really a pair of quite crap carp/pike rods by Cormoran that my brother handed down to me when he upgraded, but rods that are actually perfect for light shore work instead and I thought that Gaz would be asking to use it after the first few minutes!

My usual outfit for heavy beach work is compact and portable. Years ago I asked for advice on a sea fishing forum about where I could find a proper 13 ft plus beach rod in three sections, one that I could strap to my back and take on the motorbike with me. To my surprise an ABU dealer in the West Country had been given an ABU prototype of just the kind of rod I was after to field test and had broken one of the rings in transit; he sent me this rod by post and for free, refusing all my offers of payment for what turned out to be my firm favourite beach rod of all time. I love this rod, built upon a deceptively elegant and slim blank that holds reserves of power you would never believe it had judged on appearance alone. Why this rod never went into production I don't know, it would have been a hit. This is teamed with a silver ABU 6500 with the level wind taken out, a reel that has never given me the slightest trouble even though I have never given it the slightest attention, with 15lb mainline attached to a fifty pound shock leader. My rigs are all ready tied and just snap on to a swivel attached to the end of the leader and the whole outfit can be set up or broken down in less than one minute. It's a roaming outfit, pure and simple.

I chucked out and set about sorting a rig out for Kev. Gaz meanwhile had set up and cast out only to find his feeder rod bouncing around wildly as the weed and breakers tugged his line under - it was hopeless, and comical, and within no time he was retackling with my estuary rod, a rod that can just about cope with the light surf conditions we had in front of us. Eventually we all got fishing but the first hour passed without even a knock. I moved around into the harbour where I found surprisingly deep water, a hundred yard chuck producing a sixty degree angle from rod to to lead! Unfortunately it also produced no bites or fish. Kev and Gaz fared no better and eventually we packed up defeated.

A walk along the beach at low tide revealed the reason for our lack of bites. The sand was quite lifeless, clean and pure but containing little in the way of the kinds of food that support the higher life forms that attract fish. No worm casts, no crabs, no sand eels, no shell fish, no nothing. I went out alone the next morning to a different spot but things were the same. Great conditions for holiday making swimmers, but not for anglers hoping for an evening meal of fresh bass, for no bass would be here unless it washed up dead.

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