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.

Early Autumn Trigger Fish

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Early autumn with water temperatures at the highest point of the year brings the chance of trigger fish more often associated with warmer climes. Populations of these late summer and autumn visitors to the shoreline vary each season with a few marks along the coast having a reliable track record.

Ollie Passmore 3lb 4oz trigger fish

Ollie Passmore and Brock Goodson had a successful session targeting trigger fish with Ollie landing a specimen of 3lb 4oz and Brock a fish of 3lb.

Sea Angling News Round up

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Andrew Clements secured victory in Bideford Angling Clubs monthly sea rover with a specimen thick lipped grey mullet of 4lb 10oz. Runner up was Dick Talbot with a ballan wrasse of 4lb 11oz and third Graham Snow with a thick lipped grey mullet of 3lb 10oz.

Josh Atkinson won Appledore Shipbuilders rover with a black bream weighing 2lb 4oz. Richard Boon was runner up with a ballan wrasse of 4lb 13oz and Graham Snow third with his thick lipped grey mullet of 3lb 10oz.

Combe Martin SAC member Kevin Legge took a trip to the Somerset shoreline were he enjoyed sport with smoothound,  sole, ray and silver eels.

FUN FISHING @ Sea Ilfracombe 2021

Combe Martin SAC’s annual Fun Fish was once again held In conjunction with the Sea-Ilfracombe Festival at Ilfracombe Pier after a one year break. This year the club had not promoted the event to the extent of previous years as concerns about COVID still linger amongst many across society.

I arrived early to secure a parking place on the pier and called in to speak with Dan at the aquarium as they had offered some containers to hold any donations to the aquarium we could catch.

This event is as stated a fun event aimed at families and those happy to try something a little less serious. The format is a species competition with 10 points for the first of each species with 2 points for the next two after which any more of that species do not count.

We had eleven competitors dominated by the Stanway and Welch families who had come armed with a variety of baits and light tackle. The event was due to cast off at 10.00am and I took the inevitable snap of Verity towering above the pier dividing opinion as ever among both visitors and locals. It was loaned to Ilfracombe in 2012 by the well known artist Damien Hurst and is due to remain until 2032.

A brisk North East breeze was sweeping down the channel causing some concern that fish would be reluctant to feed. These fears were soon dismissed as rod tips started twitching as soon as baits hit the sea bed.

Young smiling faces soon followed as a succession of small pouting and pollock were swung ashore. I was kept busy with the camera whilst club secretary Nick Phillips made busy with the score sheet. Dan from the aquarium made regular visits throughout the morning to take the required fish back to their new home in the aquarium. I am pleased to say that numerous pouting and poor cod from previous fun fishing events still reside safely in the aquarium’s tanks.

Effie Welch with a wrasse
Jake Stanway with one of the three smelt that helped to a winning points total
Charlie Stanway with scorpion fish
A fearsome looking scorpion fish
A corkwing wrasse
Effie Welch displays a corkwing wrasse
A rock goby
Solly Welch with a ballan wrasse

The morning proceeded with the species tally growing steadily to include pollock, pouting, poor cod, shanny, smelt, scorpion fish, rock gobies, ballan wrasse and corkwing wrasse. Many of these small fish are handsome creatures with an amazing array of colours decorating their flanks.

A Pretty corkwing wrasse

A rather concerning observation was a total lack of mackerel or garfish, species that would historically have been  abundant at this time of year. General consensus is that this year is one of the worst for mackerel in living memory.

I am sure that by the end of the four hours fishing mums and dads were glad to take a rest after working hard detangling rigs, retackling and unhooking fish. The results are as follows.

1st – Jake Stanway – 90 points

2nd – Charlie Stanway – 70 points

3rd – Ross Stanway – 66 points

4th – Effie Welch – 64 points

5th – Solly Welch – 52 points

6th – Paul Maxfield – 26 points

7th – Malin Marcus Young – 24 points

Longest fish – Solly Welch – Pollock 27cm

An array of  quality prizes donated by the clubs sponsors High Street Tackle were presented to the top five competitors. Ilfracombe Aquarium kindly donated family tickets for the two competing families enabling them to visit during the autumn and see the expanded layout and new exhibits.

Combe Martin Sea Angling Club plan to repeat the event next September once again working with the Sea Ilfracombe Festival organisers. With luck COVID fear will have subsided allowing a higher profile event welcoming back those VIP guest anglers and the local coastguard.

An unusual guest appearance at this years event was that of a rather wet and bedraggled grey squirrel that swam onto the pier steps and bounded energetically past competitors!

The competition prize giving was followed by the declaration of winning fish in the club’s lure fishing competition once again generously sponsored by Danny and Pauline at High Street Tackle.

1st – Daniel Welch – bass – 72cm – £200 Voucher

2nd – Wayne Thomas – bass – 67cm – £100 Voucher

3rd – Ross Stanway – bass  -55cm – £25.00 Voucher

Daniel Welch – Winning bass 72cm
Wayne Thomas – bass 67cm

Porbeagle shark brace

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Daniel Welch and Ross Stanway enjoyed an awesome day on the boat with good numbers of bass and a couple stunning porbeagle shark. Dan and Ross both bringing fish of over 200lb to the side of the boat. Dans son Solly was at hands share the experience. The three anglers also enjoyed sport with bass.

Many thanks to Dan for allowing me to use the splendid images.

Daniel Welch takes lead in CMSAC lure competition.

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Daniel Welch has taken the lead in Combe Martin SAC’s Lure Fishing competition that is sponsored by High Street Tackle. The competition ends on September 5th with presentation of prizes coinciding with the clubs annual fun fishing event on Ilfracombe Pier.
1st Daniel Welch – bass – 72cm (Boat)
2nd Wayne Thomas – bass – 67cm
3rd – Daniel Welch – bass – 62cm
High Street tackle sponsor Combe Martin SAC,s annual lure fishing competition that runs from July 1st until September 5th. The competition is open to paid up club members with a first prize of up £200 of quality lure tackle with £100 for the runner up.
Longest bass – To tip of the tail, overall length.