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



Out of Minehead – Ray and hounds with CMSAC

After several aborted trips due to bad weather it was good to eventually get back out to sea on a Combe Martin SAC boat trip out of Minehead with Steve Webber skipper of Osprey Charters. As a club we have been fishing with Steve for many years a skipper who has provided us with some exciting fishing trips over the decades.

On this day we had six anglers on board two of which are good friends who kindly came along filling vacant places left by club members who could not make the trip.

The forecast for once promised calm seas, light winds and perhaps a little sunshine!

The boat was due to sail from the harbour at 10:30am so a rendezvous at the Minehead Witherspoon’s was arranged at 9:00am. This proved an unwise move in some ways as discussing the days fishing prospects over a full English was difficult as it appeared that Butlins stags had invaded in numbers. Alcohol in quantity at 9:00am certainly fuelled the volume making hearing a little challenging for those of us who have impaired hearing. Like many anglers we are getting on a bit!

And so we climbed onto Osprey all pleased to be leaving the raucous delights of Minehead to the young Butlin brigade.

Steve welcomed us with an ever cheery greeting and we set off for familiar fishing grounds to the West of Minehead. The tide was ebbing as Steve dropped anchor at the first mark. The steep wooded cliffs were lush and green. The sea a pleasing calm beneath a blue sky interspersed with light white cotton wool clouds.

Fishing talk flowed freely with a bit of local politics, reminisce and fishy tales thrown into the mix.

         I think I was lucky to catch the first fish a small smoothound. Dogfish were to prove a menace throughout the day snaffling baits intended for more worthy fish.

Jack Phillips caught a smoothound of perhaps seven pounds that gave a good account and was the first of several caught throughout the day.  The best a fish of around ten pounds to my good friend Bruce Elston his first of the species and a welcome catch adding to his impressive tally of species across salt and freshwater.

Bruce Elston with a double figure hound.

Ray were the main target and several small eyed ray were tempted at this first mark of the day.

Club Secretary Nick Phillips with a nice small eyed ray.

Jack hooked a very good fish that put a healthy bend in his rod before severing the 60lb b.s hook length after a ten minute tussle in a strong tide.

A battle lost…what was it?

As the tide eased towards low water. Steve up anchored and steamed further west to a renowned area for ray.

I decided to drop down my down-tider for the first time having concentrated on Up-tiding for the first couple of hours. A mackerel head and flappers was devoured within a few moments of it hitting the seabed. A large huss of just over 10lb appeared on the murky water surface and I was pleased when it slid safely into the net. They have an annoying habit of spitting out the bait on the surface.

A steady succession of hounds and ray were brought to the boat. Steve kept us fully hydrated with tea and coffee throughout. Friendly banter flowed and the sun shone down.

Peter Robinson

Keith Armishaw with a small eyed ray

As the tide flooded we made a couple more moves to new areas based upon Steve’s extensive knowledge of this spectacular stretch of Somerset coastline.

Our last mark was close to where we had started and after a quiet start gave a frantic last hour with several small-eyed nudging double figures and a stunning thornback to Peter Robinson.

I lost a good fish that slipped the hook just a few yards from the boat. A good smoothound or a big bass? I will never know.



Jack Phillips with a good small eyed ray

After close to nine hours at sea Steve called last orders and we steamed back to Minehead. The sun was sinking in the west as we washed down the boat. It had been a great day typical of a day out of Minehead its murky waters home to an array of ray and other species. All within a very short steam of the port.

Steve and his family have three charter boats and Speed-bait operating out of Minehead. Check links below:-





Combe Martin SAC Host their popular annual Putsborough Open on Saturday May 18th. The event is once again generously sponsored by Sakuma Tackle and Quay Sports with valuable prize bundles for at least  the top ten anglers.

Full details on Poster Below

Last year was one of the post succesful competitions so far with large numbrers of fish brought to the scales. See link below :-

Putsborough 2023 – A ray and hound bonanza


Close to a dozen Combe Martin SAC members arrived at Ilfracombe Pier to fish in the club’s latest pop-up fun and species fishing event. They were greeted by a cool and uninviting North East breeze that surprisingly failed to dent the enthusiastic vibe of those taking part.

Ilfracombe Aquarium had expressed an interest in species acquisition and had given me a short list of desirables for their tanks. After the first half an hour things were going slowly and when Dan from the aquarium appeared with a bucket I was disappointed that we had nothing to offer other than a small ballan wrasse that they have an abundance of anyway.

As the tide dropped and the wind eased a few fish started to show with plenty of small wrasse. This was very much an LRF type event though there were no purists using lures only.

Several members embarked upon exploring the rockpools around the pier whilst Ross Stanway headed for a rocky shoreline and reports came back of a large ballan wrasse he had hooked but lost on lure fishing tactics. Daniel Welch added a rare montagus blenny to his species tally that puts him equal second  to Ross Stanway on the leader board for the year so far with 23 species. Toby Basset is top with 27 species.

Nick joined me for a chat on the top of the old pier and was rather perplexed when he realised I was actually fishing in the tiny rock pool he was standing beside. I had already extracted a tiny blenny from the pool and was hoping for one of these rare montagus but with a size 14 hook I was probably fishing far too heavy as size 20 hooks are more appropriate.

The cool breeze eased off and the sun broke through from time to time. As low water approached the water getting got increasingly murky and fish became harder to find. I caught two small pollock on ragworm which were welcomed by the aquarium.

The monthly raffle was drawn out and  number 18 young Lenny Lake was the winner, adding to his prize for the longest fish caught during April. The competition for May is once again the best picture. many thanks to High Street Tackle for their kind sponsorship.

The next pop up fish will be on Thursday evening in June as we have decided to alternate between Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings.



Combe Martin SAC members ventured to Portishead Marina in search of the large mullet that reside within the sheltered waters. The day commenced with heavy rain falling and a bitterly cold North wind that ensured that breakfast the first item on the days agenda.

Fortified with full English and hot coffees members explored the confines of the marina. The mullet proved elusive with John Shapland securing the only fish of the day a superb specimen of 4lb 2oz.



Close to half a dozen members of Combe Martin SAC met up at Ilfracombe Pier for the second pop up fishing session of the Ilfracombe Harbour and Fun Species League. The ongoing dismal Spring weather failed to dent members enthusiasm and I was delighted to find a good number of Junior anglers amongst members attending.

The new format has proved a great success with club members registering an amazing 32 species of fish since February 1st. As this period coincides with what many consider to be the worst time of year for sea fishing off the North Devon coast this is very encouraging.

The leading club members at present are Toby Bassett on 24 species with Daniel Welch and Ross Stanway  22 species each. Gary Prout and Solly Welch are currently joint third on 12. Though this is changing daily and I am struggling to keep up!

With heavy rain pending I was keen to present the prizes for the February and March competitions kindly donated by Danny Watson at High Street Tackle Ilfracombe. The February prize for most species went to Daniel Welch with 22 species and the prize for the best picture also went to Daniel Welch with his stunning picture of a scorpion fish.


Daniel Welch winner in February and March.

The monthly raffle prize kindly donated by Quay Sports was won by Toby Bassett.


Toby Bassett

The water clarity was excellent and as the tide ebbed an abundance of fish were swung onto the pier. Several dogfish were caught by Lenny Lake who has taken an early lead in the April competition which is for the longest fish.

Ross Stanway carefully measures Lenny lakes doggie.

Young Solly Welch caught a number of fish adding a shore rockling to his growing species tally that includes a rare topknot and clingfish.

Andrew Laramy caught a plaice.

Solly Welch with a shore rockling

Ted Childs caught several blenny’s fishing from the Piers inner basin. Inspired by young Ted I added a common blenny to my modest tally of species.

I was pleased to add a common blenny to my tally. As the tide ebbed and the light faded the catch rate dropped and members slowly returned home to dry out.

The gig rowers and Lifeboat exercise added life to the Maritime scene.

It had been an enjoyable evening and I look forward to the next event that will probably be held on a Sunday morning the plan being to alternate monthly between morning and evening.