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I found this article this evening whilst looking for something else on the computer. It first appeared in the monthly Sea Fishing Magazine that went out of circulation a while back.

A visit to a remote beach I last fished over thirty years ago gives cause for reflection and analysis of the passing years.


On summer nights we waded out into the surf and cast our strips of mackerel into the dark night beneath star-studded skies. The high cliffs and hills towered above us; behind us on the foreshore paraffin Tilley lamps hissed emitting a comforting glow. We held our rods in eager anticipation as the early flood tide crept up sandy channels between the rock and kelp. The cool night air filled with that delightful aroma of surf and seaweed. The Modern Arms super flex hollow fibreglass reverse taper beachcaster was matched to an ABU Ambassadeur 7000c with its iconic red side plates. This was loaded with dark blue 18lb b.s Sylcast line. Of course not every night was a success though sometimes it all came together and that slight tug on the line would be followed by a powerful lunge as a silver sided bass moved away with the bait. The rod was swept back and we would run backwards up the beach to set the hook. The drama of the battle remains etched upon the mind and the sight of the bass as it came to the shore with its bristling defiant fins. Followed by the triumphant moment when the silver prize was held aloft to be gazed upon in wonder.

Looking back into old diaries I find notes of successful forays. On one such night we fished from 9.30pm until 6.00am and I landed a bass of 6lb 14oz whilst my mate Nick Phillips landed a fine bass of 8lb 4oz. This was September 5th and 6th 1980 hard to believe that it was over thirty fours years ago. Looking at my diary I fished there again the following summer landing a bass of 6lb 10oz. These bass whilst not huge were the culmination of several summer and autumn nights fishing this wild and rugged beach. I had first fished the beach in 1976 after hearing of a double figure bass landed from this remote shoreline. In 1976 I was a teenager of fifteen mad keen on fishing especially for bass and grey mullet.

Those nights of adventure are vivid images burnt into my memory. I wonder how many teenagers would venture out to fish through the night these days? Back then the Combe Martin Sea Angling Club had a strong junior membership of over twenty. For a few years sea fishing was all the rage amongst the village youth. Of course in this day and age how many parents would allow their children to disappear onto a wild rugged shoreline and fish through the night returning home the following day long after the sun had risen.

There was an elderly gentlemen I knew who had lived in the village all his life and must have been into his late eighties. He had fought through the First World War and undoubtedly had many tales to tell. I remember him mentioning the beach and how they had set long lines there as boys. Did you catch bass I asked? No codling he replied and lots of them.

I have intended to go back to this beach many times over recent seasons but had not got around to it until I eventually set a date in the diary to meet up with long time fishing buddy Kevin Legge. I had viewed the beach from high above back in the spring after the winter storms and was heartened by a large expanse of sand. The beach has always been a mixture of rock and sand patches with dense kelp beds flanking the beach at low water.

On this evening in early September we arrived at the top of the cliff after a strenuous hike and looked down at the familiar bay below. The path descended winding through dense blackthorn, bracken and brambles. The sweet fragrance of honeysuckle hung in the air and the distinctive sound of crickets was all around. The last few yards to the beach saw us scramble down a grey scree of loose shale and mud.

Standing on the beach I was eager to tackle up but paused a moment or two to take in the scene. The tide had already pushed up past the sand and onto the steep shelving shingle. The sun was still high in the sky and illuminated the familiar coastline that I have fished for over forty years. A big swell was pounding the shoreline, that familiar smell of surf and seaweed filled the air.

The mile long walk to the mark would have been hard going in waders so Kevin had worn light weight walking boots, whilst I had worn a pair of old trainers. Waders and wading boots were packed in our rucksacks to don on arrival at the beach.

I baited with a side of Ammo mackerel whilst Kevin elected to use a large portion of juice and scent oozing spider crab. The baits were launched out beyond the breakers. A considerable quantity of weed could be seen close into the shore and it was obvious that this could cause us difficulties if the line became fouled. To conquer this we held the rods high up to keep the line clear.

After twenty minutes or so Kevin indicated that something had intercepted his bait. Kevin seldom rushes and analysed what was happening out beyond the waves. A tap on the rod tip was followed by slackening line as whatever had the bait moved towards the shore. The rod was lifted and the reel handle cranked until the prize was persuaded to come towards the beach. I placed my rod in the rod rest as high as possible and walked to the waters edge. We both expected to see the silver flanks of a bass but it was no bass that emerged but a bull huss of around 8lb!


To catch in full daylight was a great start to the session as the best time is generally at the turn of the light or after dark when many species move closer to the shoreline. The night’s High water was an hour after sunset; ideally it would have been an hour later but we could only fish Saturday night due to work and other commitments.

Whilst it was light we could observe the presence of the floating weed and at times it was possible to fish with rods upon a rest with the butt cups situated well up the tripods back leg with the rod tip high. As darkness fell I decided to try and fish a second rod and improve my chances. Shortly after casting it became obvious that weed had fouled the line as the rod tip bounced with the crashing of each wave. I reeled in quickly placing the rod with my tackle at the top of the beach. As I returned to the other rod I cursed for I had undoubtedly missed my first chance of a fish as the line had fallen slack ensnaring the line in several pounds of weed.


I continued with the fish bait using a cocktail of Ammo mackerel and dirty squid fished on a pennel rig consisting of 6/0 Sakuma Extras. After casting out I made every effort to ensure that the line was tight with the rod held high. A large rock at the top of the beach enabled me to clamber higher ensuring the line was well clear of the breaking waves and weed. At around high water I felt a tap followed by slackening line, on setting the hook I felt that pleasing living resistance as the fish was brought ashore. Again it was not the expected bass but another plump huss of 5lb to 6lb. After a quick picture out went fresh bait that was once again intercepted after a few minutes with another similar sized huss brought writhing through the surf.


Kevin was also getting bites but failed to connect until eventually hooking the culprit a plump codling of a couple of pounds.

We fished the tide back for two hours of the ebb and packed away close to midnight. With a star-studded sky high above we set off up the steep winding path to the top of the cliff where we lingered for a few moments to glance back across the Bristol Channel and the bay.

It was hard to believe that it was over thirty years since I had last walked this path rod in hand. I will be back to fish the beach again soon in hope of a silver bass. Time stands still on this wild beach as generation’s fish there from time to time. A hundred years ago my old friend caught codling, as did Kevin on this night. We never caught bull huss on our trips three decades before so perhaps this reflects an increase in numbers of this species. Strangely I have never seen a dogfish caught from the venue.

It’s a strange perspective returning to a mark after thirty years in some ways nothing has changed. This gives a comforting realisation that nature and the landscape endure beyond our mortality. Next morning my aching legs reminded me that I was either getting older or I needed to get more regular exercise. The fishing tackle we used had improved but in reality it contributed little to the experience. We tend to think that there were more fish about thirty years ago but in reality my fishing diary tells a different story. Whilst we remember the silver bass we forget the blank sessions and nights when we caught just a couple of pouting.



  • If it’s a long walk pack the waders in the rucksack and wear light weight walking boots or trainers.
  • If there is a lot of weed fish one rod and hold the tip high.
  • Observe where the weed is gathering twenty yards along the beach it may not be as dense.
  • Be aware that beaches change with sand and rock patches changing with tides and storms.
  • Time your session to coincide with peak times.