The wettest April on record and so far the month of May has been just as bad, certainly here where I am on the Surrey Hampshire border there has not been a whole 24 hour period without rain since the end of March! Yes, we do need it and yes, the rivers are in cracking shape but until someone has the sense to change the close season legislation it’s not possible to take advantage of it!
As far as the stillwaters are concerned the weather has given me little in the way of enthusiasm to get out and my only fishing since the rivers closed has been a slight departure to do something I really love, but which I do all too infrequently: sea fishing.
I just love sea fishing; in fact I love it more than I do most types of coarse fishing. Most especially I love fishing for bass, tope, smoothhounds, black bream and mullet on really light gear and, with the exception of mullet, to get the best from light gear fishing for the aforementioned species you usually need to be afloat and that is why I go rarely – I am hopeless afloat and anything more than a gentle roll sees me hanging over the gunwales losing my stomach contents…
Now anyone who suffers from ‘mal de mer’ will tell you that it is one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s not life threatening but at times as you sufferer you wish it was simply to end it…and of course the fact that everyone else on board is happily going about their business and getting on with their fishing doesn’t help; as doesn’t the bright spark, and there is always one, who tells you that Admiral Lord Nelson was also a sufferer…
This time around I was lured by a couple of things. First off were black bream a species which is serious fun on light gear and, as one of my favourite fish to eat, even more fun under the grill. Secondly was the fact the boat was the ‘Spirit of Arun’ out of Littlehampton which has a reputation second to none along that part of the south coast and the chance to get on board her is never to be turned down.
The day itself did not have an auspicious start as I opened the curtains to look out on yet another morning of sheeting rain but by the time I met up with the friends who were joining me in the Dinky Doo Diner (yes, really) on the seafront at Littlehampton it had cleared and the forecast was promising.
I watched on as they tucked into sausage and egg butties and contented myself with just a cup of tea. I had been recommended some Australian travel sickness pills which were supposed to be pretty hot and along with an early morning bowl of porridge to provide a little stomach ballast that would be my lot, although I had brought along a packed lunch; totally in expectation of bringing it home again…
I had also taken a bit of advice from a few mates on Facebook. Some of the responses to my ‘Any remedies?’ query were perhaps best avoided but others such as staying busy, not staring too long at any one thing, keeping body sugar up were eminently sensible.
On board the ‘Spirit’ introductions were duly made and skippers Neil and Mick gave us a brief talk before we headed out to the Kingsmere Rocks, a large area of rough, broken ground that forms one of the most important spawning grounds for black bream in northern Europe.
As far as the fishing was concerned the news was mixed; the cool weather had meant the bream had not yet spawned and as such the fishing was likely to be slow and the bites finicky – they really have it big time in a post-spawning binge! On the positive side they would at least be big and because of high winds no boats had been out for several days.
Recommended gear was light sea rods with 15 – 20lb line 3 to 4oz leads and 1/0 hooks but that’s really not my thing when fishing for a species which is mostly in the 2 to 3lb range with a 5lb specimen exceptional so I set up a lot lighter than everyone else with a 1.5lb barbel rod, 8lb line and a 2oz lead; bait was a couple of strips of squid to a size 4 Aberdeen on a 4ft 8lb hooklength.
The skipper’s predictions were spot on as the bites were finicky, in fact for me they were non-existent to start with, but eventually I struck into my first half decent pull – which resulted in a garfish…
I eventually found a few more bites by casting a little further behind the boat and eventually the black bream began to come. The bites were not always easy to hit and very chub-like in their quality with a few small taps sometimes being followed by a solid pull and at other times not. I managed to get the hang of it after a while and got into a few of the better fish by switching over to a mackerel strip and squid cocktail.
As I tucked into my third slice of salmon and spinach quiche at around lunchtime it suddenly dawned on me that not only was I having great fun but I had also not been sick, in fact I felt bloody marvellous and with excellent company and some great banter it was turning into one of the best day’s fishing I had enjoyed in a long time but all that was about to change dramatically… for the better!
Skipper Neil had said that one of us might just hook into a smoothhound during the course of the day and when I had a bite which literally ripped the rod out of my hands and took off on a hugely powerful run against a tightly set clutch I realised that’s exactly what I had done. The next ten minutes were great fun and I saw a barbel rod bent into angles from which it should have never recovered – but recover it did and I was more than a little pleased when Neil eventually scooped a nice double into the net – a far better workout than any double figure barbel had given the kit that was for sure. I have caught bigger smuts on stepped up carp gear and bass rods but this was the first I had caught on quite such light tackle and I can wholeheartedly recommend the experience!
Despite the fact the fishing had been a little slow we still put the thick end of 40 bream in the boat along with the smoothie, several gars and a few pout and I was more than a little disappointed when Neil said we had to head for home.
Without a doubt it was the best fishing trip of the year so far for me and, to be honest, it will have to be a bit special to beat that all season – unless I can somehow get back on the Spirit for a day’s bass fishing because on the quiet they are more than a little handy at that!