Blackberry Eating Carp

A quick trip to New Court Barton Lakes found me searching through my fly box trying to find something to replicate blackberries when fly fishing.

I fished the 2nd lake, and hadn’t been fishing for long before I realised why I was having no interest on any of my flies – the fish were all tight against the island opposite picking blackberries off the overhanging branches where they touched the water.

No amount of natural flies or even dog biscuit floaters could entice them to look at anything else.

I found a black blob fly in my box, that with a liberal addition of gink floatant just about hung at the surface. The cast to the island wasn’t very far and it was relatively easy to get nice and tight into the overhanging brambles.

The first fish to encounter the blob took it with no hesitation and the ensuing battle finished when I netted a lovely 6lb carp after a very spirited fight.

Full of confidence I now endeavoured to get the fly back in tight under the brambles. Confidence didn’t go that well when paired with dense overhanging brambles and my fly was swiftly swallowed by the undergrowth. This was a bit of a problem as it was the only thing in the fly box that even vaguely resembled a blackberry and no other substitutes seemed to fit the bill – certainly from the fishes point of view. A couple of foam beetles and daddies were inspected if cast near the brambles, but the carp always turned away at the last moment. Did they suspect foul play or was it just because they didn’t look like floating berries? Whatever the reason, that first carp was the only fish of the afternoon.

Oh well, thats fishing – success followed by elation shortly followed by hope then disappointment. Nothing unusual there then.

Black Bream from Beer

Mid September is prime time for black bream in Lyme Bay with the boats usually fully booked up at this time of year. We only had the single trip booked up this year out of Beer, so were desperately keeping fingers crossed for good weather in the lead up to the trip.

Fishing out of Beer is totally dependant on having the correct wind conditions as it needs to be right for the boats to be able to launch off the beach and be recovered back up the steep shingle bank at the end of the day. Thankfully a favourable forecast meant we were able to go, and a gentle northerly breeze on the day made for flat conditions and our hopes were high for a successful days fishing.

Fishing Beer is always enjoyable, and affords the opportunity to fish light tackle in marked contrast to our usual fishing in the Bristol Channel’s vicious tides.

We anchored up and quickly put down ground bait of chopped mackerel and squid. Both Mike and myself as well as the skipper all fished light downtide rods with generally small hooks and a selection of fish and squid baits.

The first bream wasn’t long in coming aboard and after that we had a slow but steady stream of bites and fish throughout the rest of the day. Many were a good size and all fought fantastically on light tackle. I fished the majority of the time with a 6-12lb class boat rod and braid mainline with a 4 or 6oz lead. During slacker periods of tide I even managed to get away with a light spinning rod and fixed spool reel with 2oz lead. That really made for an exciting scrap with a few decent sized bream, the biggest of which was 3lb.

We keep the biggest fish for the pot, but returned all the smaller fish. In total we had over 40 bream between the 3 of us which made for a fun day out. Honours for the biggest bream of the day went to Mike with a 3.5lb fish.

In amongst the bream there were a few dogfish, a bull huss, a couple of nice pollack, some jumbo sized mackerel, several scad, poor cod plus a big tub gurnard for the skipper. I also managed to pull up 3 spider crabs when we had a quiet spell between bites.

Quite a successful trip all round.

 

The Bristol Channel in September

Quick update on Septembers trip out of Minehead.

Overcast but warm with nice calm conditions which made for easy and pleasant fishing.  Mike and myself both up tiding as usual with two rods each. I caught a couple of smoothhound and 2 small-eyed ray. Only had a solitary dogfish as did Mike which was pretty mind boggling considering their usual prolific numbers here in the Bristol Channel. It made for a change to be able to chill out and wait for bites from other fish without being bothered every few minutes by dogfish.

Whilst my day might of been a little quieter than usual, Mike did have half a dozen smoothhounds and a small-eyed ray to go with his dogfish, so all in all we had a respectable number of decent fish on the boat between us.

 

Rock Fishing on the Isles of Scilly

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A two week holiday with the family in the Isles of Scilly recently provided the perfect opportunity to brush up on my saltwater fly fishing. I knew my “go to” approach on the rocky marks around the Scillies would inevitably involve lure fishing primarily followed by float fishing, but it made sense to take along the fly rod too. The only other time I’ve caught sea fish on the fly to date has been in the Scillies the year previously, so I knew it was the perfect location if the weather behaved itself.

We were to be taking the Scillonian to the islands, to save money and ensure we wouldn’t struggle with luggage allowances – especially important as alongside my fishing gear I had to bring along wetsuits and towels and all the other beach paraphernalia that a children’s beach holiday entailed. We weren’t looking forward to the journey as the ferry has a well deserved reputation as being vomit inducing even in calm weather given its shallow draft and tendency to roll somewhat. A serious storm on the day we were due to sail led to the boat being cancelled and we were rescheduled for the following day. Thankfully the whole family it seems has good sea legs like myself, and we all successfully braved the roller coaster ride through heavy seas for the 3 hour duration. Many of the other passengers didn’t fare quite so well….

Despite the lost day and delayed start to our trip we were then blessed with pretty good weather for the rest of the fortnight. In amongst the exploring and beach trips, as well as visits to other islands I was fortunate enough to manage to sneak in quite a few fishing sessions even if they were often of a short couple of hour duration.

The main technique inevitably ending up being the lure rod. Being a multi piece travel rod with a nice crisp light action it was not only a pleasure to fish with but easy to carry around when we visited other Islands. Paired with a small fixed spool reel loaded with 15lb braid this made for a really fun set up which I mostly used rigged up with a cone lead, worm hook and jelly worm fished weedless setup. This over the holiday accounted for the vast majority of both pollack and wrasse. None of which were particularly massive but the wrasse especially put a good bend in the rod. Given that most of my sessions during the two weeks were short, I couldn’t justify sitting watching a float for that long, so really didn’t give it much of a go this time, other than to tease out a couple of wrasse on float fished limpet.

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With the jelly worm I tried crushing down the barb on the hook after the first few fish, to make the hook effectively a barbless hook. I use barbless hooks all the time for freshwater fishing and really found it so much easier, quicker and kinder to the fish when unhooking the wrasse in particular. Couldn’t say it resulting in me losing any fish and the benefit of the ease of unhooking really made it a no brainer when lure fishing. Thats not to say I’ll be using barbless hooks for the rest of my sea fishing in future, but for lure fishing where I would expect to be keeping a tight line and generally feeling for a bite, there really seems to be no downside as far as I experienced.

When it came to fly fishing, I had brought my Greys #8 rod – not because I thought I’d need anything that heavy, but more because being a 4 piece rod it was most transportable. That and I didn’t want to ruin any of my other rods / reels on the rocks and salt water. I’d also decided to bring a reel loaded with a shooting head set up. This was to be the first time I’d tried a shooting head and I have to report being really impressed with it – whilst it may of lacked a little finesse it made up for this with the ease with which I could get a reasonable distance. I made the shooting head myself from a mill-end #10 intermediate line, cut down as per instructions found in a quick google search, along with a braided mono running line. For a tippet I just used 6-8 foot of 10lb fluorocarbon. The braided mono running line allowed a nice smooth transition to be formed between fly line and running line. It all seemed to work perfectly well and I have no complaints with it.

We were staying on the main Island, St Mary’s so this was naturally where most of my fishing was done. Whilst we visited all the inhabited islands on day trips with the family, I only fished Bryher and St Martins in addition to the main island of St Marys.

I caught numerous pollack and wrasse, mostly caught on jelly worms but a few wrasse did fall to float fished limpets, when the tide was too low to sensibly lure fish. I found that the wrasse fishing was better in the shallow weedy areas rather than the deeper water rock marks. The pollack were the opposite with deep water being better. Alongside fish on the more conventional tackle, I also had a few fish on fly – mainly pollack but also had a wrasse. I’ve caught pollack on the fly before, but this was my first ever wrasse on a fly! definitely a thrilling catch, especially as I saw it follow the fly in under the rod tip before nailing it. Really exciting in the gin clear water.

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I tried various flies on the fly rod but most successful was a self tied 4” mackerel like fly. This worked for the wrasse and pollack equally well.

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I didn’t catch any really big fish over the holiday, but had pollack to just over 3lb and wrasse to 3.5lb. All good fun on light lure or fly tackle.

In addition to the pollack and wrasse, we did see plenty of very big mullet, some in very large shoals of impressively sized fish. I couldn’t resist casting a few flies to them as they were within range but had no interest at all. Still, worth a go, and it was just too tempting not to cast a fly into a shoal of such big fish even if I didn’t really think there was any chance of hooking any.

My parents also came over to the Scillies for the last week we were there so I had a couple of fishing sessions with my father. We mainly fished Tolman Head near Old Town, for it’s easy access to comfortable fishing and deepish water. Dad had pollack on lures but most interestingly, also had a nice pollack on float fished limpet… not a bait I’d normally associate with pollack fishing but in this case it did the trick. Staying with the float fishing he also had a feisty wrasse on float fished sandeel.

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The scillies has so much potential for rock fishing – miles of deserted coastline and crystal clear water. During this trip I really felt that I’d got to properly explore St Mary’s as well as a fair sampling of the other Islands. There’s still plenty of parts of the various islands I haven’t explored and a massive amount of fishing potential, but at least when I next go back I’ll have a very good idea of places and techniques to focus on.

It was noticeable that this year we did see a few other fishermen – which is a first, as I’d never seen another on any of my other visits to the islands. Maybe it was because we were here longer, or maybe the Scillies are becoming a bit more “on the radar”?

I have to admit that the lure fishing was by far the most productive technique, but really did enjoy the salt water fly fishing and really must endeavour to focus more on it in future. In particular I’d like to try chasing mullet with a little more determination..

Maybe something to aim for next year.

On that note – next years trip to the IOS is booked up – seems a longtime away now, but looking forward to it already.