Beach battle for season’s first bass

It was Izaac Walton, who wrote in The Compleat Angler in the 1600’s, “Angling is like mathematics, it can never be fully learnt.” I readily concur.
Stewart Calligan with the sea bass he caught at Spurn.Stewart Calligan with the sea bass he caught at Spurn.
Stewart Calligan with the sea bass he caught at Spurn.

His words came to mind as I planned an early morning 50-mile drive to the Spurn Point area. The following were scrutinised: tide time and size tables, the weather forecast, my clothing - long johns, several layers and hand warmers, the tackle needed, the most effective bait hooks rigs, the car plus driving conditions, food, drink and communications/camera – mobile phone, spare battery. These are the main sections of the plan but many sub sections exist.

Such fishing trips need military precision to make the difference between success or failure. It certainly keeps memory, mind and concentration active.

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It was a cold, white and frosty as I set off at 7.30am. Brass monkeys, frostbite, nice warm beds and large fish flashed through my mind. Fuel, windscreen washer bottle, tyre pressure and lights were checked, a speed camera negotiated and black ice encountered as I neared the coast. I was on the beach for 8.30am. The frost was still on the grass and beach sand where it met the cliff.

To my dismay, large rollers were breaking about 150 yards out. The surfing website I’d checked that morning hadn’t mentioned 4ft waves at 10-second intervals. I stayed in the car for an hour or so to see if the waves abated. A sandwich and two lattes later and the offshore wind and surf had reduced as the sea deepened up the beach.

Fleece and woolly hat back on, two rods were set up at the water’s edge. It was then that I was tempted to swear. I’d forgotten to bring my tripod rod rest. I’ve done this before and managed by lashing some branches and drift wood together. Today the beach was devoid of anything useful. After several more drats, I realised I was sat on the solution. Resting the rods on my fishing basket then weighing the rod butts down with heavy pebbles solved the problem, giving me 5ft of elevation at the tip of my 16ft rods. With nowhere to sit it was the best of a bad job. One rig was propelled out as far as possible and one about 30 yards.

Bites were difficult to spot with my Heath Robinson ‘rod rest’ but a lively one came after only 30 minutes. It pulled the rod off the basket and onto the sand. I quickly wound the braid line tight and struck. I had a fish on and it wasn’t the ‘thump, thump’ fight of a cod. This was more like the frantic fight of the trout or mullet. The fish was dashing left and right. It made full use of the surf as it came directly towards me. I fought to keep the line tight. I knew it had every chance of escape if the line went slack.

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Eventually it neared the beach and I timed it to perfection, using the last wave to my advantage to help reel it up the sand. There lay a fine sea bass of 2-3lbs in tip top condition.

It had felt bigger as there was a lot of weed on the line. It had swallowed the hook right down. As it was my first beach caught bass of the season I decided this was one for the pot. The post-mortem revealed a stomach full of shrimp.

I cast back out but more and more weed came along, pulling the rods off my basket rod rest. Apart from a small whiting no more fish were caught and no more bites were detected. The weed had won the day.

Every cloud has a silver lining and as I made my way back to the car the heavens opened up. This cloud had a grey lining. Driving sleet driven by the westerly wind caught my face like pins and needles. The beach conditions were horrible for the next 30 minutes. I timed my departure just right with a little help from the weed.

I drove out of it at Patrington. The public houses there looked very inviting but I continued on the drive home, my sea bass dinner safely stowed away in the boot.

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