Combe Martin SAC have been hosting an Open competition at Putsborough for close to thirty years with a two year break for the COVID epidemic and it seems a little surreal to be writing this as I think I have fished and helped organise each and every one, alongside our longstanding Secretary Nick Phillips. I guess we will get the hang of it one day!

There is always a degree of stress and apprehension running the competition for there are a multitude of things that can and do impact upon the success of the event. We have been very fortunate over the years to have been given generous support from our sponsors Sakuma and local tackle shops.

We must also thank the venues owners at for allowing us to stage the event each year with the lower car park opened for us throughout the night.

The main factor that determines the date and time of the event is of course the tide and six months or so prior to the competition we peruse the tide table to find a good tide. This year tides during June were all rather late at night so we went with Saturday, May 18th. With low water falling at 9.38pm the competition was scheduled to run from 9.00pm until 1:00am a less disruptive time than some years when we have been driving home at first light.

The weather is of course the big game changer that can disrupt the event. Even weather leading up to the event can have a detrimental impact if large amounts of weed have been dislodged by a summer storm.

Bank holidays, big sporting events or Royal celebrations can all impact upon attendance. And some of these events are difficult to predict. One year England’s footballers got through to the semis of some big tournament. Now I am an optimist but there are limits! This year Tyson Fury was boxing in the heavy weight title unification bout.

Anyway onto 2024 and after extensive publicising on social media, the local paper and my website North Devon Angling News the night had arrived and it seemed the weather was playing ball with light winds forecast and only the chance of a few showers. A little drama was as always introduced with a severe weather warning of thunderstorms until 8:00pm!

I arrived at the car park a few minutes after 7.00pm having picked up some quality frozen squid and sandeels from Braunton Baits. Nick was already setting up in the familiar  corner of the car park. The sun was slowly setting the warm embers of the fading day reflecting upon a mirror calm sea.

A few early arrivals were already taking rods from their cars keen to get booked in and off to secure a piece of beach. It was good to note that the sands were pretty much deserted as being slightly earlier than some years visitor numbers were not an issue.

Over the next hour a steady stream of familiar faces arrived along with a few newcomers. The atmosphere was convivial and friendly with prospects for the coming fishing very much unknown. I always find it fascinating to put a good number of anglers onto a beach and see what turns up. Every year is different with the odd surprise always on the cards.

By cast off we had thirty competitors booked in and spaced out along the sands. This was perhaps slightly disappointing as in previous years we have at times exceeded fifty plus entrants. Last year had proved extremely successful as regards to fish numbers with the weigh in taking far longer than expected. Learning from this we have scrapped the best brace pool with a flat £10 entry with prizes awarded for the best single specimen fish. It was good to see two junior anglers taking part and we catered for them with two special prizes to award if they successfully tempted fish.

As the sun set dipping beneath the horizon baits were launched and rods set in readiness. Nick and I being organisers headed for the section of beach immediately below the car park an area that seldom results in winning catches. The winning fish generally coming from the central area of the beach where the water is shallower as the tidal pull undoubtedly pushes sand and food to accumulate and attract the hunting fish.

It was good to be back wading into the surf in the fading light. A gentle wave caressed the shore and I wondered what was swimming out in the dark waters.

An hour into the competition I heard excited calls from the right and walked over to where Lee Algar and his son and daughter were fishing. Eight year old Leo was engaged in a tussle with a good sized fish that was putting an impressive bend in his light beach caster. A good sized small eyed ray emerged from the surf to the delight of his proud father. At 6lb 11oz it was a pleasing start and ensured that he would get a prize for his sterling efforts. His sister Chloe went on to land dogfish and a plump bull huss of 3lb 6oz.

(Above and Below) A triumphant Eight year old Leo Algar with is prize winning small eyed ray of 6lb 11oz

(Above) Lee Algar and his ten year old daughter with the 3lb 6oz bull huss that was second in the Junior section.

It was a joy to share the family’s triumph with dad catching several dogfish and a couple of small eyed ray.

Further along the beach I heard of several good fish being landed with small eyed ray of over 9lb beached within the first hour.

(Above and below) Craig McCloughlin with fine small eyed ray

The four hours of fishing passed by all too quickly and we walked back to the meet up keen to find out what had been tempted.

In the last hour even I secured a catch my ratchet rasping into life as a small eyed ray of over 5lb took my bait.

The prizes were set out in readiness on the papering table and Nick and I started to take the entry forms from competitors. It took a while to write down all the fish entries and work out each percentage point. In total close to forty fish were registered with many more fish not recorded as they would not make the grade required to secure a top ten place. Species caught included dogfish, smoothound, small eyed ray, blonde ray and turbot. Full results below.

A turbot fior Daniel Welch


Jack Phillips with a small eyed ray

One pleasing conclusion from the results is that despite general gloom around fish stocks the truth is that some species are doing Ok. The catches over the past couple of years have been exceptionally good considering there have been years when we have worried in case nobody actually caught. Smoothound are undoubtedly far more prolific than in the past. I didn’t hear of any bass this year and over the years bass have been surprisingly absent from catch returns.

Combe Martin SAC are very grateful to the anglers that make the effort each year to fish this popular event in the local calendar. Many travel from Somerset and South Devon to take part with a long drive home afterwards in the early hours.

FULL RESULTS – Putsborough Open 2024

1st Simon Springell – smoothound – 12lb 2oz 121%

2nd Craig Mc Cloughlin – small -eyed -ray – 9lb 6oz 93%

3rd Simon Springell – blonde ray – 11lb 1oz 92%

4th Steve Liddle – smoothound – 8lb 12oz 87.5%

5th Matt Werbitzki – smoothound – 7lb 11oz 76.8%

6th – Tyrone Jones – smoothound – 7lb 10oz 76.25%

7th – Mike Squires – small-eyed-ray – 7lb 6oz 73%

8th = Phil Vanstone – small eyed ray – 7lb 1oz 70%
8th = James Waygood – small-eyed-ray – 7lb 1oz 70%

9th – Gareth Peach – small-eyed-ray – 6lb 13oz 68%

10th – Simon Springell – small-eyed-ray – 6lb 11oz

Top Junior

1st – Leo Algar ( Age 8)– small-eyed-ray 6lb 11oz

2nd – Chloe Algar (Age 10) – bull huss 3lb 6oz