If you’ve got worries and problems, spend a few minutes on them but then have something nice to dwell on. You can guess what mine is after catching my first ever salmon last month.
Back to earth after the dizzy heights of salmon fishing, the nearest beach for me is the Hornsea area. I had heard on the net that some thorny backed ray were being caught. It was a dismal day with a stiff south westerly. I found a secluded area and set up my aluminium tripod rod rest about 10 yards up from where the lively surf was breaking. Each line of surf was leaving fine red fronds of sea weed up the beach. An ominous sign and sure enough after my first cast had been out for ten minutes, the plastic sea was pushing all sorts up the line. Reeling in took a great effort as two to three kilos of wet weed clung to the line, interspersed with bits of plastic. What have we done to our seas in the last 50 years?
It took more than five minutes to pick off all the weed before rebaiting with squid, mussel and frozen black lugg worm called ‘‘slaps’’. Really hard work was necessary as I was using two rods. After a maximum of ten minutes each rod needed de-weeding. This was the only way to present the bait and from previous experience the five minutes before being covered with weed, produced some fish. The time taken to pick off weed can be greatly reduced by cutting off the clip that attaches the end rig. The clip can be retied and a freshly baited end rig attached in a matter of minutes.
One hour before high tide the sea had filled up the beach. There was less weed and less pull on the line as time went on. Bites began to register and one of the rods began to twitch and jump before I connected with something big. Reeling in 50 yards of line with a very reluctant catch at the business end felt exhilarating. The exhilaration was immediately dashed as the mystery fish entered the powerful beach surf. The line went slack and guessing, I would say, a large ray was off.
I rebaited with a wrap of squid around a slap and a mussel, secured with bait elastic. Before I had time to feel miserable the other rod tip began to quiver and dipped about 12 inches. Reeling in more gently this time, I kept the line tight and saw a thorny backed ray in the surf. Gently pulled up the beach I estimated it to be around the 3lb mark. It was beautifully marked with cream to yellow spots over a brown khaki background and a white underbelly. Vicious barbs were concealed amongst the spots to deter any seal, shark or angler. Skin can easily be torn if carelessly handled.
This young ray was quickly photographed and returned to its watery home.