THE LINGERING ESSENCE OF SUMMER – Fishing out of Beer

The coast was shrouded in early morning mist as dawn broke, sunlight breaking through low cloud to glisten upon the calm waters of Lyme Bay off Beer in South Devon. We were fishing aboard Orca Charters skippered by Stuart Pike. A trip that had been rearranged on several occasions over the past two years due to weather conditions and COVID isolation concerns. I was joined by two previous work colleagues fishing pal Mike Spiller and my son James.

It was mid-October yet there still seemed to be the lingering essence of summer. Mackerel had only recently arrived in any number and it was indeed pleasing to catch a few strings of the fish I had always associated with summer. The weather forecast told of a change over the coming days as low pressure systems were due to sweep in from the South West. This would undoubtedly stir up sediment and reduce the water clarity signalling the transition into the true autumn season.

It is always exciting and refreshing to visit and fish a new venue. It is also extremely rewarding to meet up with a new skipper and glean valuable knowledge that can be deployed both at the venue being fished and further afield.

This was not a serious outing in many ways more of an excuse for friends to meet up and enjoy a day afloat fishing for a variety of species. Derek Walters and Simon Trapnel are not seasoned boat anglers but were very keen to learn and enjoy. Mike Spiller is a long time sea angler and has like myself been dangling a line for many decades. My son James enjoys a day’s fishing and has travelled extensively with myself and my friends in search of fish. He is not a dedicated angler but relishes the experience along with the environment and wildlife that it allows him to observe and enjoy.

This was to be very much a team effort without any competitive edge. Well only a little! Black bream were the main target using light tackle with the chance of ray and conger on a heavier outfit.

Orca is a traditional fishing boat and is ideally suited to fish five or six anglers with comfort. The skipper operates fishing trips in the Lyme bay reserve an area that has benefitted from a mission to forge valuable links between fishermen, conservationists, regulators and scientists in order to maintain a sustainable marine environment.

https://www.lymebayreserve.co.uk 

Stuart had greeted us warmly the moment we had climbed aboard and chatted enthusiastically throughout our day afloat. Imparting a wealth of knowledge learned throughout many years at sea.

I had made up numerous two hook rigs for the intended bream that Stuart frowned upon offering up one of his own bling free rigs. I passed this rig to Derek who proved its effectiveness by out-fishing the rest of us throughout the day.

Derek, Simon, James and myself all targeted the bream whilst Mike decided to focus upon larger fish using  larger baits for most of the trip. I also set up a heavier outfit with joey mackerel or large fillets. The intention was to take it in turns to land fish on this outfit giving everyone the chance of a larger specimen.

As the sun burnt off the morning cloud and mist we soaked up the ambience of the seascape. Gulls cried out, fishing boats floated at anchor, gannets dived into the clear water and porpoises rolled close by.

We lowered our bream baits to the sea bed. Stuart advised us to ignore the initial rattles on the rod tip and wait until the tip was dragged down into the water. We used size 4 Sakuma Chino hooks with slivers of mackerel. Stuart explained that frozen mackerel would out-fish fresh with the bream whilst fresh mackerel would be more likely to attract jumbo sized channel mackerel. This was to prove uncannily true throughout the day.

Shortly after lowering down the big rod its tip nodded vigorously. I took first turn and picked up the rod waiting until the tip plunged hard over before setting the hook by winding steadily until the rod was compressed. This was certainly no dogfish!

Steady pressure soon turned the battle my way and line was steadily retrieved as I pumped the fish away from the seabed. A pleasing blonde ray of 13lb 8oz was soon held aloft for a quick photo before being released. I took delight in watching the fish swim serenely back into the clear waters from whence it had come.

As the tide picked up the bream began to feed in earnest with a succession of these delightful fish coming to the boat. Their silvery iridescent sides illuminated in the sunshine. Bream after bream came to the boat each giving a spirited account on the light tackle employed.

In addition to the bream came a few good sized mackerel and a couple of vividly coloured red gurnard.

The bigger rod once again nodded and James took his turn to subdue another fine blonde ray of 11lb plus. Derek followed up with a small thornback ray. The bigger rod brought a succession of conger up to double figures and the occasional dogfish.

As the day drifted along beneath the warm autumn sun fishing slowed as the tidal flow eased . Stuart discussed options mulling over whether to make a move or stay and hope an elusive undulate ray would show as the boat swung with the changing tide.

We decided on a move higher up onto the reef. As soon as our baits touched down the rod tips signalled that the bream were present with a succession of good fish coming aboard some close to 2lb most around 1lb 8oz. A change to strips of squid brought a period of frantic sport with even my rigs bringing frequent double shots of bream to the boat.

All too soon Stuart indicated that our day afloat was coming to an end. The bream bites were by then easing as pouting started to rip into the baits.

Throughout the day Stuart had worked hard unhooking fish and untangling the occasional entwining of lines. His knowledge of the fish and their environment was outstanding and his pleasure in giving his customers a good day plain to see. Stuart is a qualified Angling Trust coach and delights in introducing new anglers to the joys of boat fishing. He is also a keen angler himself enjoying shore fishing in addition to boat fishing.

As we prepared to leave the fishing grounds a huge dolphin rolled close by a sight that thrilled all on board. We sailed back to Beer’s pebbly shoreline where the boat was driven pleasingly into the shore with a jolt before being hoisted up the pebbles over weathered planks of timber. A well-practiced routine plied by many generations of Beer fisherman.

On shore day-trippers savoured the last days of sunshine and warmth. Ice-creams and coffee, children launching pebbles into the clear waters with pleasing plops. Those simple pleasures that have been enjoyed by many generations.

It had been a perfect day enjoyed with friends, memories made and vows made to set out on another adventure next year all being well.

CHEW VALLEY – chasing dreams and creating memories.

There is always a feeling of intense anticipation as a visit to Chew Valley lake approaches. The vast water undoubtedly holds numerous pike of a lifetime but the reality is that such fish are hard to come by. Catching a big pike is like most specimen fishing a combination of being in the right place at the right time. A slice of luck can play its part and ensuring that everything is in place for when connection is made seals the deal.

I was very fortunate to have been invited to join my good friend Bruce Elston who had secured tickets to fish the boat trials. Early October and the weather was set fair with  a blue sky and calm waters.

Due to other commitment’s, I didn’t arrive until late morning and climbed into the boat to find that Bruce had boated two jacks and had several follows. We started off with a bit of trolling using Bruce’s electric outboard. After a short while Bruce boated a jack of 5lb or so which was an encouraging start.

The rest of the day was spent using varied tactics. Anchoring up for periods we put out a float fished dead-bait and searched around the boat using various lures. I experimented with some of my soft plastic bass lures and had a few hits without contacting the culprits. A change to a bright orange shad pattern also brought a few tugs, pulls and  follows from small jacks and trout.

We also enjoyed spells drifting with a dead-bait suspended a few feet above the bottom whilst searching with the lures.

As evening approached and the sun sank lower we savoured the scene. We chatted about lures and I dug a bright orange and yellow spring dawg from my old lure bucket. “They have gone out of fashion” commented Bruce. A few moments later a jack hit the lure and was brought to the boat side. To my relief it saved me unhooking it by erupting from the water to shower us in spray, shaking the hooks free. I was pleased to have avoided a blank trip.

The cry of Bruce’s reel alerted us that a pike had taken a mackerel dead-bait. I watched hoping that this would be a big un as Bruce set the hooks. Unfortunately, it was another jack. A few moments later I boated my second pike of the day a small jack of a couple of pounds tempted on a wobbled smelt.

As the sun slowly sank we were forced to head back to the lodge another enjoyable day chasing dreams and creating memories.

Bruce returned the following day to bait this pleasing double!

OLD FISHERS UNITED

Friendships are a vital part of angling and it is always great to maintain those long lasting bonds with a trip to the water’s edge. Garry, Rob, Ray and I were once part of South West Waters Game Fishing Team who travelled the length and breadth of England fishing in the annual Water Industry Game Fishing Competition (WIGFIC). We have tried to maintain the tradition of an annual fly fishing trip ever since our participation in the event ceased several years ago.

After a long lull due partially to COVID the Old Fisher Farts set off for a weekend at Wimbleball Lake staying at the delightful old Exmoor pub The George at Brompton Regis.

We assembled at the ticket hut at around 8:30am and cooked up an open air breakfast of sausage and bacon sarnies before heading out to cast our lines. Rob and I for the shoreline and Garry and Ray to the boats to be greeted by the ever helpful Trevor.

Conditions seemed ideal with a gentle breeze and light cloud cover. Despite this the trout proved hard to tempt with just a couple of hard fighting rainbows and wild browns succumbing to my lures fished on an intermediate line.

We met up at lunch time for another fry up and a chat.

Garry had managed a couple of rainbows but Ray and Rob had yet to catch. Spirits were still high despite the uncooperative trout and we set off refreshed and eager. With me joining Ray in the boat whilst Garry enjoyed a few hours on the bank.

The afternoon drifted past with me adding another couple of rainbows to the tally along with a beautiful wild brown of around a pound. Mid-afternoon Ray hooked a good rainbow that to my alarm caused him to almost stumble overboard! I think Garry added another rainbow to the score from the bank whilst Rob remained fishless.

As the sun slowly sank we headed back to the pub for a well-earned meal and a pint or two. Back in the early 1990’s we had been part of a winning team securing overall victory in the WIGFIC competition held at Wessex Waters Sutton Bingham Reservoir near Yeovil. In the intervening years since we have fished many times without repeating that victory. Back then as young men working in the Water Industry we undoubtedly  talked a far different agenda. Close to thirty years later we discuss our medications and ailments and have more in common with the elderly gents in “The Last of The Summer Wine” and suffer occasional bouts of Victor Meldrew like grumpiness! The tales of days and colleagues some long gone bounced across the pub table. Memories of younger days rekindled once again.

In years gone by evenings in the pub would have endured into the early hours with last orders signalling close of play. These days catching the end of News at Ten signals a late night!

Next morning when we arrived lakeside where the lake was hidden in dense early morning mist. A bright calm sunny day was forecast so we suspected that the fishing would be even more difficult. Admiring the morning splendour as we chugged out on calm waters having elected to use boats. Catching trout seemed to be secondary as the new day dawned and a brilliant blue sky was unveiled, trees emerging from the mist dissolving in the warmth of the rising sun.

The tree shrouded Upton Arm of Wimbleball Lake is one of my favourite areas to fish. We resumed the days fishing searching the water with various lures. The morning proved frustrating with numerous good trout following the flies before turning away tantalisingly close to the boat.

By late morning Rob and I met with Garry and Ray to discuss tactics and decided on a move to the far end of the lake where we had enjoyed some success the previous  day. We also knew that a fresh stocking had been made in the area so hoped a few uneducated fish would grant us success.

In the shallows we found the trout attacking fry sending tiny fish scattering to break the calm waters surface. Casting into the shoreline I tempted a small brown trout and secured a hard fighting rainbow. Rob also hooked a good fish that threw the hook  after a pleasing encounter. Retrieving lures briskly with a roly-poly retrieve brought several follows from some impressive looking trout including a blue trout that looked a good five pound plus. A few brief hook ups kept us casting until we eventually conceded defeat at around 6:30pm the sun slowly setting to close what had been a magnificent autumn day.

Our lack of catching was certainly nothing to do with a lack of trout in the lake for the stocking of Wimbleball is regular and often with fin perfect rainbows that will take you to the backing. Large waters like Wimbleball are my favourite trout waters for success is sometimes hard earned but all the more rewarding for that.

Once again we resumed tales of bygone days at the pub that evening. Eagerly plotting future forays and discussing the state of the world.

After a delicious Full English on the Sunday morning, we set off for home another collection of memories etched upon our minds. The Old Fisher Farts will hopefully reunite in the spring of 2022.

Lost treasures of childhood days

How many of those reading this started their fishing journey dangling a worm in a small stream? I remember well many hours spent exploring the River Umber that flows through the village of Combe Martin where I was fortunate to grow up. Those early years taught me a lot about fish and fishing and chatting with others who grew up in North Devon I know I am not alone.

Those beautiful wild trout with olive, gold and buttercup yellow flanks decorated with crimson spots were abundant in the main river and tiny tributaries that feed into it on the journey to the sea. I walked the river a few days ago hoping to glimpse a trout as I have on a few occasions in recent years. The river seems tiny now through an adults eyes and it is hard to believe I caught trout of over 1lb from this tiny brook.

My own observations and that of others is that trout are now very scarce in this once bountiful stream. How many other rivers have suffered a similar fate? I suspect that the generation of youngsters that live in Combe Martin now would not suspect the presence of trout in the river and would accept the present state as normal. It is sad that we have lost so much.

As I am now over sixty those days were close to fifty years ago. Fifty years is a long time to us but it’s just a moment in natures vast history and it is devastating how rapidly we are destroying what we once had. I suspect that sewage is a major factor in the decline of the River Umber.

I would be interested to hear other recollections on North Devon rivers and record a few memories before what we once had is forgotten.

Raising the profile of rivers

There is much talk from politicians regarding the Environment but this is of little consequence without adequate funding for the bodies charged with enforcement. If you care about the rivers of the UK help raise the profile by signing the petition below.

          SALMON & TROUT CONSERVATION                                                                                            VISIT S&TC WEBSITE
Welcome to your September news roundup

This time of year is spending round time in Government. We need you to lobby your MPs for more spending on enforcement to protect our rivers from farmers and raw sewage.

Without enforcement action from the Environment Agency, we will not stem the pollution tide. We are heavily critical of the Government and its agencies – we have made the first complaint to the Office of Environmental Protection about the failure of DEFRA and Secretaries of State to enforce sewage pollution laws and we have produced a report (in conjunction with Angling Trust) demanding DEFRA impel OFWAT to allow water companies to invest to slash abstraction and stop dumping raw sewage in rivers – but all will come to nothing without funding and commitment to enforce the guilty to clean up their act.

Nick Measham
CEO, Salmon & Trout Conservation

WILD WATERS FOR WILD FISH
The goal is simple but time is running out. We have until 24th November to reach our goal of 10,000 signatures at which point the government will respond to our petition. 
Please SIGN OUR PETITION using the link below and help to protect wild fish and their habitats from the impacts of pollution and over abstraction.
You can find our more about the petition here

Last casts of the season

After a long dry late summer and early autumn the rains have arrived swelling the local rivers into a dirty torrent. On the last day of the salmon season following rain earlier in the week the rivers had started to drop. I took my rod to the Middle Torridge and swung the fly more to say goodbye to season as in expectation of catching.

The river was at a good height but visibility was no more than 6″. I put on a big orange tube fly in the hope that it could be seen. The water was dark and turbid and rain beat down. The Bankside trees and vegetation showed little sign of the changing season. I savoured the sights of the river bank, the invasive Himalayan balsam has spread widely in some areas. Its pink flowers added colour, water droplets shone like jewels upon  seed heads that popped as I walked past. Rose hips added a splash of colour as persistent rain beat down on this grey final day of what has been a disappointing season. In a few days the river will have fined down and will hopefully be full of salmon and sea trout forging up river to spawn high up on the redds.

Rose hips add a splash of colour on the dullest of days.

We are living in strange times the ash trees suffering from ash die back some already dead and cut into lengths. Nature will heal of course I read recently of the loss of the nations elm trees during the dutch elm disease outbreak during the  60’s and seventies when an estimated 25.000,000 elm trees perished in the UK.

It is hard to believe that another season has passed by and for me a season without a salmon. As an all-round angler there is much to look forward to as autumn arrives and I will be torn as to where to cast my line. Until the wild daffodils once again decorate the banks I will no longer cast in hope of silver.

A HELP IN HAND FOR SPAWNING SALMON

I joined South Molton Angling Club members Edward Rands and Roger Bray on a stretch of their club water on the River Bray to observe work being undertaken to clean the gravel where it is hoped salmon and sea trout will spawn this coming winter. Jeremy Weeks and David Weeks have been working to cleanse potential salmon and sea trout spawning areas over recent years for the Taw Spawning Habitat Improvement Project (SHIP). This important work is coordinated and funded by the West Country Rivers Trust and River Taw Fisheries and Conservation Association. The work entails pumping water into the gravel at the tail of pools to loosen and dislodge the silt that clogs the potential spawning areas (redds). Plentiful oxygen is essential for the successful survival of salmon ova and fry. The South Molton Angling Club have also carried out moderate bank clearing to expose riffles to light and maintain shady pools.

It was unfortunate that sods law intervened with heavy rain the previous night colouring the water to make conditions poor resulting in the work being rescheduled for another day later in the week. Jeremy and David were however able to give a demonstration and talk at length about their work and its value.

The dwindling stocks of salmon and sea trout are of great concern to anglers who invest time, money and effort into habitat improvement. The reasons for the decline in salmon and sea trout are many and complex. Whilst many of these factors are beyond the influence of anglers every bit of habitat improvement can help to ensure the long time survival of these iconic species.

A Day with the Fluff Chuckers

The calm expanse of Chew Valley Lake on an Autumn morning is an inspiring location to start a day if you are an angler. I have fished this renowned water on numerous occasions with mixed success but always relish the challenge that it provides. The water renowned for its huge pike brings a mixed response for as with all famous waters it brings with it the politics and traits of human nature born of egos and a desire to succeed.

I first fished the water for pike during the season it first opened to this branch of the sport and remember those early trips with fondness. Early morning breakfasts in the Lodge prior to loading the boats with tackle. The room packed with the big names of the day; legends of the pike and specimen angling world.

Even then the fishing wasn’t always easy despite the headlines in the angling press. Plenty of twenties, lots of thirties and even a few forties. These fish made the news but nobody read of the blank sessions that demoralised those who went to the lake expecting the fish of their dreams.

The seasoned specimen hunter eagerly spent hours on the phone trying to secure a day on the water that is presently run by Bristol Water. In those days there was a certain amount of friction between the trout fishers and the pikers. Fortunately, I think those days have to some extent gone as the angling world contracts and different disciplines to some extent diverge.

I had joined an online Facebook Group named the Fluff Chucker’s after speaking with my good friend Bruce Elston who is like me an all-round angler and occasional fly fisher. A species competition at Chew Valley Lake armed with the Fly Rods sounded fun so I messaged Bruce and suggested we give it a try.

And so, we found ourselves at Chew Valley Lake as the morning mist lifted from the water and low cloud hung in the autumn sky. An eager group of anglers assembled tackle and climbed into the flotilla of boats. The lakes surface was mirror calm with barely a breath of wind.

The boats headed off to various areas of the water as anglers used their intimate knowledge of the lake or followed their instincts. Bruce and I were somewhere between the two as we had both fished the lake on numerous occasions and knew the topography well.

We spent the first hour exploring the deep water in front of the Lodge hoping for a perch or trout without success. Deciding that we should get a pike under our belts we headed off to fish the shallower weedy areas where we expected to find the pike.

Casting a big pike fly into the vast waters of Chew Valley Lake is always filled with expectation and hope. The fish of dreams dwell within and each cast has the potential to connect so it is always particularly thrilling when the line draws tight as a pike hits the fly.

It only took a few casts before that exhilarating pull came as a jack hit the fly giving a spirited tussle before sliding over the rim of Bruce’s capacious net.

Pike came steadily to our flies throughout the day. I used a large black lure with marabou that pulsed tantalizingly as it was retrieved. Bruce swapped and changed using various pike fly patterns tempting several pike throughout the day. To be honest I’m not too convinced the choice of fly is that important when targeting pike. I just persist with a fly I have confidence in hoping I drop it in front of a feeding pike. Depth, speed of retrieve probably more important than the actual pattern?

We ended up sharing a haul of eight pike between us nothing over 5lb but good fun.

The trout proved harder to tempt. Bruce had a rainbow chase a large white pike fly which inspired me to try stripping a white cat’s whisker. Bang! A hard fighting rainbow trout of just under 3lb.

A steady stream of posts appeared on the phones telling of big pike and a few rainbows. The thought of that big pike lurking in wait somewhere kept us fishing hard until the competition closed at close to 5:30pm.

By now I think most anglers knew the result. The biggest pike caught was an impressive 28lb. Many thanks to Rodney Wevill, Jethro Binns, Bristol Water and Orvis for putting the event together.

I PREDICT A RIOT OF AUTUMN SPORT

Exmoor was shrouded in early morning September mist as I negotiated the twists and turns of the road to Wimbleball. I was meeting with Snowbee ambassador Jeff Pearce for an eagerly anticipated day  searching for the hard fighting browns and rainbows that dwell within the lakes 500 plus acres.

Autumn is an exciting time for the reservoir trout angler with dropping temperatures often resulting in an uplift in sport. The long warm days of summer tend to result in the trout becoming lethargic, languishing into the deep water where they can be difficult to tempt.

Jeff arrived at the boat launching pontoons after the long drive from Cornwall and we eagerly loaded the gear onto the boat. We noted that the water was full of fry and wondered if the trout would be embarking in a bit of fry bashing somewhere around the lake?

It seemed the perfect day for trout fishing with overcast conditions and a gentle breeze riffling the lakes surface. The beauty of a boat is that the lake can be explored  extensively moving from zone to zone within minutes.

We decided to head for the Upton Arm where the tree lined banks often deliver tempting morsals upon which the wild browns and established rainbows feast. A wide range of methods can work at this time of year but recent catch returns indicated that the fish were tending to be down deep. The absence of fish rising confirmed that this could well be the case.

Working in partnership two anglers can often find the key to success quicker using differing tactics until the best one is found.

I elected to start with a fast sinking line and three flies. An olive damsel on the point, a cormorant on the middle dropper and an orange blob on the top dropper. Jeff elected to start with an intermediate line and similar choice of flies.

After 15 minutes or so I hooked into the first fish of the day that came off after a brief tussle. The next half an hour proved frustrating as a succession of good sized rainbows chased the flies to the side of the boat. The trout were obviously interested nipping at the tails of the flies and lures.

Persistence paid off after a while and a small wild brown eventually nailed the damsel. These wild Wimbleball browns are delightful with patterned flanks with hues of green, gold, brown and bronze decorated with black and crimson spots.

As the morning passed chances came and went and it became clear that the trout were still behaving as if it was August and had not yet awoken into their Autumn mode.

Whilst Jeff constantly made changes I tended to stick to the damsel lure on the point making occasional changes to the dropper flies and varying the speed of the retrieve.

As the day drifted past we explored Cowmoor Bay and end up in the shallower Bessom’s and Rugg’s. The vast sky changed frequently from misty cloud to periods of warm sunshine. The landscape was still vibrant and green with leaves not yet showing any signs of the changing season. The occasional martin and swallow swooped over the water.

We reluctantly made our last casts shortly after 6:30pm having enjoyed a great day searching the lake. Four wild browns each and a brace of rainbow between us the best nudging 4lb.

The next couple of months will surely bring a riot of sport as the trout awaken from their summer slumbers. Fry patterns or dry daddies will tempt both hard fighting rainbows and perhaps even one of the huge wild browns that lurk in the lake. The best wild brown caught last year topped 8lb and bigger ones undoubtedly dwell in the depths of the lake. The rainbow stock density is high with plenty of full tailed five pounders waiting to be caught.

I look forward to my return to the lake in a couple of weeks with eagerness.

Many thanks to Jeff Pearce of Snowbee for sharing his images of the days fishing.

         

Catching a store of memories

A gentle surf broke onto the beach as I paused to take in the view after tackling up a pair of rods. There was no rush with high water a couple of hours away and the sun still high in the sky. I walked along the high water mark to see what the previous tides had left behind. Pieces of driftwood smooth and weathered, where were they from I wondered? Flotsam and jetsam always fascinates me wondering what stories it could tell.

(Flotsam and jetsam are terms that describe two types of marine debris associated with vessels. Flotsam is defined as debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by a crew of a ship in distress, most often to lighten the ship’s load. The word flotsam derives from the French word floter, to float. Jetsam is a shortened word for jettison.)

The cliffs showed signs of recent erosion and I noticed that the remains of an old building that once showed on the cliffside had slipped away. My generation would perhaps recall the ruins but as times slips past no one will be aware that the buildings ever existed. There is much that we see in a life time and fail to register, sign posts that tell of times gone by and of other’s lives.

The geographical rock strata with its tortured twisting shapes reflects the power and dynamics of this ever changing world in which we live. Millions of years etched upon the face of the cliffs as erosion reveals a distant history that is hard to comprehend.

As the sun slowly sank lower on the familiar horizon I cut fresh bait and threaded it carefully onto the large sharp hooks. A gentle lob put the baits at the edge of the shingle where I hoped a bass or huss would be on the prowl..

The rods sat poised upon the rod rest silhouetted against the golden light of the sun as it reflected upon the calm waters of the bay. Rob who I was with moved across closer to my station after successfully catching a wrasse having cast out before me, perhaps a little more eager to catch than I was.

I didn’t expect to catch until the sun had set and the tide had reached its high point. The wind was also in the East which gave little confidence but failed to extinguish all hope.

A flotilla of boats paused in the bay carrying sightseers who had undoubtedly paid good money for a spectacular sunset cruise.

The sun eventually sank from sight. The tide peaked and with it ebbed away hope of success. We packed away an hour after high water and trudged slowly back up the slippery cliff path pausing frequently to catch our breath. The air was warm and grasshoppers chirped in the grass. Slugs had emerged to feast in the darkness gliding slowly across the path. The sound of the waves crashing upon the shore far below slowly faded into silence.

At the top of the cliff, we again stopped and looked out over the bay. Where Lights twinkled on the shoreline. As we climbed over the brow we saw the village lights familiar in the valley below. A wasted night some would say but there is more to fishing than catching fish.

A few days later I embarked upon a short mullet fishing session at Lynmouth. It was high tide when I arrived and the tide was pushing up under the main road bridge. I would often take a look to see if any big mullet were present at the top of the tide where fresh and salt water converge but on this occasion I was keen to get set up and start fishing the ebbing tide.

A couple of hours before I had been lying in bed listening to the pitter and patter of rain on the skylight and had briefly contemplated not bothering; fortunately, the quest for a mullet was strong. The morning was by now bright and dry with light clouds drifting slowly across the blue sky.

Fishing trips are sometimes remembered for reasons other than fish as on this occasion. At the top of the slipway, I noticed that a gentleman dressed in what I perceived to be Victorian clothing was arranging a camera and tripod. The object to be filmed was a boat and lady dressed in similar period costume. The boat was being skill-fully manoeuvred by Pete Mold sculling at the rear of the boat. Aware that they might not want an angler casting out at an inopportune time of the film I enquired as to what they were doing. They were performing a piece of classical ‘Elgar’ for their You-tube Channel.

 (Above) Mezzo-Soprano Patricia Hammond informed me,  “Edward Elgar’s “Sea Pictures”, five pieces for alto and orchestra, which Matt Redman has arranged for alto and guitar. We’ve now filmed four of the five…two others are up on the channel already, and the fourth we filmed in the Valley of the Rocks”

I was told I would not be in the way  at all. I was  privileged to have a front seat for the performance with the Classical musical notes drifting around the harbour. The morning felt slightly surreal with the towering wooded hillsides, wisps of mist rising from within, the calm sea and boats bobbing upon the waters of the tranquil harbour.

I contemplated upon  the contrast between the serenity of the morning and past nights spent fishing the harbour mouth as winter swells surged over the wall. Nights when icy rain beat down and north winds that chilled to the bone as the rod tips reflected light from the head torch.

Later a good friend Andy Huxtable who once lived in my home town of Combe Martin joined me for a chat. We reminisced about fishing and our youthful days in Combe Martin rekindling many good memories. The tide ebbed away and the rod tip rattled as a couple of small mullet interrupted the morning.  After a hot coffee from the takeaway I ran out of water and set off for home.

Shortly after arrival I opened the back door of the van to find no fishing bag!! A quick drive to Lynmouth and my heart sank for there was no sign of  it on the wall where I had been parked. I enquired in the adjacent shop if anyone had handed in a green fishing bag? A negative response, but as I walked out a lady commented. “ Did you say you had mislaid a bag?” . Yes I replied to be told it had been handed into the National Park Centre at the Pavillion. I was very relieved to collect my tackle bag and camera faith in human nature fully recharged.

A celebratory Ice Cream followed for Pauline and I.

A memorable morning fishing with poor piscatorial results but one that will resonate in the memory for a good while. There is certainly more to fishing than catching fish.