Monthly Archives: June 2017

Fishing At First Light

Early mornings and summer lure fishing go hand-in-hand and Mike Ladle favours no better time to work a lure along the Dorset coast.
Thanks to Mike for another inspiring contribution to the VMO blog…

I’d checked the tide table and found that my favoured mark wouldn’t be accessible ’til about 06:20. Not too bad! The alarm went off and I got up, dressed, grabbed the rod and the bag, put on the chesties and set off for the coast.

It was a beautiful morning (lots of them lately) and my spirits rose as I walked along the shore to the tide race. I was a bit early so I began to fish the (usually) less productive base of the ledge to start with. There was a strong ebb current well under way. There was already weed showing on the surface so I started with a weightless, weedless Slandra – NOTHING! After fifteen minutes I decided to switch to a popper which has caught me good fish from that spot in the past – again NOTHING! Now my pals would tell you that I’m not given to chopping and changing lures but after a further ten minutes I decided to try a small Mepps, having seen a couple of flash expansions of fry which suggested the presence of small predators – still NOTHING! The sun is now well up and the sea flat calm and clear with the tide still a bit too high to access the main race. “Nothing doing, might as well pack in Mike.” I’m thinking. As the thought crossed my mind another group of baitfish sprayed out only a rod’s length from where I stood. Then another and another. Out went the Mepps but it kept snagging the weed and the fish showed no interest.

Time for another change? I rooted in the lure box and picked out a green-coloured, weedless, EvoStix Redgill. First cast I had a pull and missed it. Two or three casts later I was in and I landed a nice little bass of about a-pound-and-a-half. A few more cast and another missed bite. The tide was falling fast I could probably wade to the ledge. It still looked tricky but I couldn’t resist, so I picked my way slowly onto the rocks. Now I could fish the race and there were fish splashing and terns beginning to feed. The current was roaring past and it was obvious that the lure was going to be far too light so I slipped on a small cone lead and tied on one of Bill’s white Slug-Gills which he gave me years ago. Out it went into the torrent and straight away I had a pull which I missed. The body of the lure was twisted up the hook shank so there was no doubt it had been a bite (I knew it was anyway). A few more casts and I had a three pound fish which fought like a demon in the race. Magic! I took its picture and put it back before starting again.

A bass from the race

A bass from the race

I tried a short cast and let the lure swing down over the ledge. Just as it reached the crease it was taken and a bass a bit bigger than the last one ripped line off against the clutch – it took quite a while before I could slide it ashore.

And again

And again

Now there seemed to be less fish activity and the birds had left so I opted for my regulation three last casts. On the fifth one I had a strong pull. This MUST be an altogether bigger bass I guessed – then it went to ground. Wrasse? I eased off the tension and it came free, it was on the move and then it wedged itself down on the bottom again – double wrasse? Ease off again – eureka! It came free and I pumped it to the surface – sure enough a fantastic golden scaled wrasse. Just another three casts without a bite and I packed in well satisfied.

4 Wrasse from a tide race on an EvoStix lure

A golden wrasse completes the session

A golden wrasse completes the session

My next trip was to a quite different mark. I like the hot sunny weather but it has two real downsides when it comes to fishing. Firstly, it often means a long, laborious trek in chesties and although it is sometimes possible to walk to distant marks in shorts and light shoes, this is the exception. Usually it’s a matter of sweating it out and trying to cool off by standing waist deep in the sea when you arrive at your chosen spot. The second, and to me more awkward problem is that to catch the first light it may be necessary to arrive on the shore by about 03:30 in the morning and at the other end of the day it doesn’t get dark until ten o’clock at night. On my local beaches the high water of spring tides always falls in the evening or the early morning so there’s nothing for it but a long stay or a very early start. To be honest I am a morning person and I prefer the latter.

The morning in question was the first decent tide of the present series. My pal Bill had told me that there was weed on the beach, so I set the alarm for 02:45, gritted my teeth and went to bed. It was dark when I arrived on the shore and at that time of day it’s not too warm so, picking my way over the rocks in the light of my headlamp, I trudged along for a mile or so until I reached a big weed midden. It was still pretty dark so I started with the spinning rod. For fifteen minutes I cast and retrieved with a whitish EvoStix lure. At first there was nothing at all then as the light began to increase I felt a couple of gentle nudges. “Schoolies” I thought and I changed to an Evo Redgill in the hope that the exposed hook would pick up a fish. Just more useless taps – all extremely close in and then I noticed one or two small swirls only inches out from where I stood. I walked back to the bag and picked up the fly rod. The cast was armed with a white Delta plastic eel (perhaps more appropriate, I thought, for the apparent size of fish present) so I began to cast and retrieve.

There was no need for distance as I could now see that the feeding bass were mostly at very close range. The slight cross wind made it a little more difficult than I would prefer but again I had a couple of gentle plucks on the lure. After a few minutes I had a firm pull and hooked a fish which wriggled a few times before coming unstuck.

I reeled in to examine my ‘fly’ and I noticed that there was a small shot nipped on the cast just above the eye of the hook. I decided that it was probably sinking too deeply so I removed the weight and cast again. Almost immediately I was into a fish and it went like a train. In one more or less continuous run it took the entire fly line and then it seemed to be exhausted and I was able to play it back to the shore without too much trouble. As I expected it was a bass but to my surprise it was relatively small, certainly no more than two-and-a-half pounds.

Maggot feeding bass

Maggot feeding bass

Still, at least it was a fish. I pressed on and every few minutes I would get a bite. In not much more than an hour of action I landed four bass and then a nice mullet. Apart from one foul-hooked bass all the fish had the little eel firmly inside their mouths and every one put up a good old battle before I could beach it. The most exciting specimen was a good mullet which leapt into the air no less than six times in succession before shaking free of the hook. Jumping mullet are a very rare phenomenon anywhere in my experience.

Bass on the Delta eel

Bass on the Delta eel

Thicklipped mullet on Delta eel

Thicklipped mullet on Delta eel

Just one interesting comment and something I’ve noticed before. When I could first see the fish feeding they were almost entirely bass and as time passed the proportion of surface skimming mullet increased. This fitted in with the pattern of the fish I hooked. With fish caught, fish missed and fish lost it was pretty much continuous action so it’s fingers crossed for some bigger stuff soon. This reminds me that I really do need a new fly reel, the old Okuma has now just about reached the end of its useful life. Oh, and one other thing worth mentioning. I had changed the hooks in my Delta to stainless versions which have a turned in point. I got the impression that I failed to hook more fish than I should so I’ve just straightened the points to be parallel to the shank in the hope that it might improve matters in future.

Three tides! – By Mike Ladle

Lure fishing guru Mike Ladle joins us once again to give his account of recent successes on the Dorset coast

My pals and I have just fished a series of ‘maggot’ tides.  Here in Dorset these are spring tides when, the beaches are stacked with maggoty weed. We fished three tides on the trot.  On the first evening Bill, Nigel and I went down.  The following morning I was there on my own and the next evening I couldn’t go but Bill, Nigel and Richard fished.

On the first evening Bill spun, mostly with a Slug-Gill (not a typo- but a hybrid lure devised by Bill using the body of a Slug-Go and the tail of a redgill)  Nigel, as usual, had both spinning and fly gear and  I’d rigged a self weighted float with a couple of polyethylene maggot flies as droppers. This set up was on my little Teklon Concept rod and Mitchell Mag Pro reel.  I’ve used similar gear before to combat the problems of casting flies in stiff cross winds. I’d also taken my fly rod and a lure rod.

Nigel had the first fish – a good thicklip on the fly.

Nigel is in first

Nigel is in first

A perfect thicklipped mullet

A perfect thicklipped mullet

Later on I lost a reasonable bass of perhaps three pounds, as it was being beached on my surface float tackle. Of course it would have been put straight back so apart from the lack of a picture it didn’t really matter.  That was more or less that for the evening apart from a beautiful bass pushing five pounds which took Nigel’s wet fly which he’d tried before we packed in.  Bill was fishless so it was a bit disappointing.

Mike plays a fish, but it was a short lived battle

Mike plays a fish, but it was a short lived battle

Nigel's bass taken on a wet fly

Nigel’s bass taken on a wet fly

The following morning I was alone.  I went to the same spot armed as before with spinning tackle, fly gear and a new set of float fished maggot flies. Unlike the previous evening there was no wind at all and the fish were closer in.

The morning after the night before

The morning after the night before

On only the third cast with my floated fly I was into a fine mullet which fought hard for perhaps five minutes before I was able to slide it ashore.  I reached down to pick it up and as I did so it wriggled free of the hook and slid back into the sea.  Naturally I continued to fish with the float tackle.  It was almost half-an-hour of ‘fishlessness’ with the float gear before I decided to change.

I could see lots of bass amongst the surface feeding mullet so eventually I picked up the fly rod and tied on a small, white Delta.  Straight away I had a school bass.  I took its picture, unhooked it and put it back before casting again.

A change of tactic yields a bass

A change of tactic yields a bass

The line straightened and I was into another schoolie, slightly larger than the first.  After the fourth bass I stopped taking pictures and simply unhooked the fish where I stood and dropped them back.

A second bass, slightly bigger than the first

A second bass, slightly bigger than the first

Bigger still...

Bigger still…

In not much more than an hour I landed seventeen bass.  No monsters but they ranged up to about four pounds.  An excellent couple of hour’s sport..

That evening Richard, Nigel and Bill went down again. All three of them caught fish but the total was three bass and one mullet – a 4lb 7oz thicklip for Richard on the fly.

Bass for Bill

Bass for Bill

A beautiful mullet for Richard

A beautiful mullet for Richard

What I’d like to know is – Why the fishing was so different evening and morning – the tides and conditions were similar.  We didn’t fish in the dark at all and between us we tested quite a few different approaches.  Roughly twenty angler-hours in all and, including the ‘two landed escapees, we had three good mullet and 22 bass.