Big Conger for CMSAC member David Brooke

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            Combe Martin Sea Angling Club member David Brooke fished a North Devon rock mark to tempt a fine specimen conger scaling 26lb 10oz. Large conger are to be expected over the winter months and can turn up at many marks and are often the source of tales of the one that got away. Strong tackle is required to give a good chance of securing these powerful fish that often dwell in the snaggiest of lairs. Whilst conger of over forty pounds have been landed from the North Devon shoreline larger specimens of over fifty pounds undoubtedly exist and offer a significant challenge to the shore angler.

Anglers fishing during the winter months require top quality waterproof clothing to ensure that can enjoy their long vigils beside the murky surging waters of the Bristol Channel. Local company Chillcheaters based in Braunton provide outstanding quality clothing that I have been using for several seasons.


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It’s great to get out on the winter shoreline and during these strange dark days its a welcome escape to normality for the familiar seascapes I have enjoyed throughout my life are reassuringly constant. It was also good to be on the rocks before darkness fell savouring the view of a porpoise hunting close to the shoreline.

The fishing has been hard going lately with large numbers of strap eels seizing the baits and today was little different with several small eels succumbing in the first hour of fishing. A spotted ray was a welcome catch as the tide started to flood though its pale colouring and lack of spots was a little unusual. Bites came steadily with a small huss, dogfish and more slightly bigger straps.


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Cold North and East winds combined with high pressure seldom bring good results for sea anglers at this time of year. The wind is forecast to back to the South later in the month when sport should improve.

Bideford Rover results

1st Dick Talbot flounder 1lb 7oz

2nd Dick Talbot flounder 1lb 5oz

Dick caught his brace of flounder from the River Torridge estuary to win first and second in the clubs. monthly rover.

Triple Hook Club Suspend competitions.

Barnstaple’s Triple Hook Club have made the decision to suspend all competitions until 2021 when the COVID situation has eased.

Combe Martin SAC

Combe Martin SAC are holding a monthly competitions for the first half of their club year. At present Rob Sciones is leading the event with a small eyed ray of 9lb 10oz.

A Humorous Tale – Bass and smelly huts

Paul Lorrimore has kindly allowed me to reproduce this rather humorous tale of big bass smelly fishing huts and Ilfracombe Pier.
Had my first bass just under that hut close in.

Myself and

Simon Higgins

were on day 2 fishing with no sleep in early September – maybe 1998 from memory.

We had been a few other places and got a good soaking from the swell, so decided to get somewhere dry for the night.
Just as we both finally succumbed to a well needed 40 winks amongst the warm and fuzzy aroma of years of rotten bait and piss in the
“love shack”, I was woken to the sound of my rod butt being unceremoniously slammed against the corner light with my rod rest in tow 👀
Not for one second did I consider setting drag back then, or even checking to see if my line had gone under the rod rest in front of the first ring….
After a good hard strike however, my heavy guage old trusty tripod reminded me of my school boy error by near enough breaking my nose and splitting my eye brow open 😂
By this time Simon had made it out the hut just in time to see me getting beaten to death by my own tackle… And found it hilariously funny..
He did manage to regain composure just in time to get a drop net down and land my first ever Silver Lump of 9lb though, so i forgave him a mere decade or so later.
I took my prize bass home, full of excitement as a young chef, furiously CeeFaxing fish recipes, ready for the culinary masterpieces I would create the very next morning.
I awoke to find my Dog had managed to pull the Bass, tail first from the sink of iced water in the middle of the night and endeavour to chew nearly all of it into pulp apart from the head, which he took to my bed with him so I could admire it when i first opened my sleepy eyes… 😳
In retrospect, the dog came off a heavy second in the crime – as it upset his stomach something awful.
I chuckled slightly for the next 3 days as he moped around the house wretching and farting fish scales like a confetti cannon 🐠

“Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

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“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

So goes that song by Joni Mitchell

Long time North Devon anglers will remember the old Ilfracombe Pier and many have fond memories of fishing from the old Victorian structure that was built in1873 at a cost of £10,000. The pier was the base for Ilfracombe & District Angling Club for many years its members holding regular competitions from a venue that was safe and easy to fish from. I remember many wild winter nights fishing from the North End waiting for the rod tip to lunge forward as a cod seized the bait. One of the joys of the old pier was that you could go there at any-time and meet up with other anglers catching up with the latest angling news. It was also an ideal venue for Junior anglers and I am sure many caught their first sea fish from the safety of the pier.

I was chatting with Keith Reed fish recorder for the Bristol Channel Federation of Sea Anglers. Keith was reminiscing about his fifty years as fish recorder with the federation. Back in 1941 young Keith aged 9 or 10 caught his first fish; a pouting from Ilfracombe Pier. The fish was taken back to be eaten at a time when catch and release fishing would have been unheard of. Evacuated from Bristol after their house was bombed young Keith started an angling journey that has lasted to this day with Keith in his mid 90’s. I wonder how many other anglers began their fishing lives at the venue.

Looking back the old pier was a valuable asset to the anglers of North Devon. But did we really appreciate it at the time? As a member of the Combe Martin SAC I only tended to fish the pier when it was too rough to fish from the rocks in safety. Many of my keen young friends would deride the pier saying it was a Noddy’s venue. It was true that a range of anglers fished the venue and a stray cast would often entangle more other angler’s lines than fish. This was however one of its greatest values, for it was a safe place for those anglers starting off and very often after a few tangles they would get good advice and learn quickly as a result.

The Pier always seemed to have big fish stories and the stories of huge conger dwelling in the caverns beneath are legendary. Even now the occasional conger is tempted from the base of what remains and in 2014 Mark Frith landed a conger of 43lb.

The landings that remain still provide a useful fishing platform but only over low water. Each winter it still brings rewards for those who fish it and it still has that community feel about it. But it will never be the same as the Old Pier where you could take a walk at any-time to chat fishing. In summer visitors would of course stroll along the pier watching the anglers gazing upon brightly coloured floats bobbing in the sea. It was a place of life the heart of  a seaside angling community… “Don’t It always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.

Wayne “

 Tony Irwin wrote on a recent Facebook post :  “I fished with my brother in law in a storm there once during the night we fished into the channel inside from the parapet wall the tide was and one cast (and we were using 8oz leads to combat the wind and tide) was blown up onto the pier as it was pitch black we had no idea until I tried to reel in at first We thought I had a massive fish on!  I then realised the line was tight going right . My brother in law climbed up on the pier and my lead and rig was jammed right on the top that’s how strong the winds were but we did finish up with at least two or three doubles if I remember rightly. It was a wonderful winter fishing venue and anglers were always welcome in the hut to have a hot soup. They loved anglers back in those days not like owners of piers these days.”