Fun and Joy in Fowey and Looe

Fowey pronounced Foy to rhyme with joy is situated on the South Coast of Cornwall at the mouth of the River Fowey that tumbles down to the sea from high on Bodmin Moor.

My son James and I were joining a party of anglers at nearby Looe in search of the mighty bluefin tuna that I have added to my bucket list. More of that trip later in the article but for now I will focus on a preceding fun day in the Fowey estuary.

These days my number one goal in fishing is to enjoy it and savour the day and all that it brings. A big fish is nice but friends and the places that the quest takes one are undoubtedly more important. The tuna trip was on the Monday and to avoid an exhausting day and make it a longer trip we had booked B & B in the Ship Inn in Fowey.

My good friend Jeff Pearce lives close to Fowey and has a small boat that he uses to explore the fishing in the Fowey Estuary. James and I were meeting with him at 10:00 to spend a day afloat in sheltered waters in search of a few different species.

We left home shortly after 7.00am and arrived in Fowey just after 9.00am giving us time to park up and grab a coffee and a pasty to take out on the boat. A message from Jeff confirmed that he would pick us up at a riverside pontoon and could we pick up a large Cornish pasty and a coffee. I left James guarding the fishing gear and headed back down Fowey’s narrow streets to grab another pasty and a coffee.

It was refreshing to see the streets so quiet out of season without the hustle and bustle of the summer. A contrast to the many times I have visited with my wife during the summer and early Autumn.

Jeff arrived as planned and James and I jumped aboard full of expectation for the day ahead. Whilst I was very familiar with Fowey this was James first visit and I was pleased to introduce him to somewhere new.

These sheltered deep water Cornish estuaries are unique with trees reaching right down to the high water mark. Fowey like the Fal estuary further to the South has exceptionally deep channels that allow the passage and mooring for large ships. The China Clay industry has been an integral part of Fowey’s history for many years and it was to a mark close to China Clay landing jetties that we headed to make our first casts.

Tying up at a convenient buoy we set up with simple running rigs and threaded king ragworm onto size 4 Sakuma Chinu hooks.


Autumn sunshine broke through the clouds and enhanced the colours of the trees that lined the estuary. We settled into the waiting game absorbing the atmosphere of the sheltered estuary. A buzzard mewed above and glided to rest on a nearby tree. After a few minutes Jeff tempted a small ballan wrasse to get the days scoreboard ticking along.

         The estuary is home to a wide range of species and is popular with LRF enthusiasts who catch a huge range of species by scaling down their tackle. Next time I will make sure I bring along my ultra- light outfit and take the species chase little more serious.

         Recent years have seen an increase of species that many will link to climate change. I was keen to catch any new species to add to my life’s angling tally.

         I added a small wrasse to the days total and James caught a whiting. Then a sharp rattle on the rod tip produced a pleasing encounter with a couchs bream, one of two I was to catch that day. These fish have become prolific in the estuary over recent years along with gilt head bream. Whilst the Fowey estuary has a healthy population of gilthead bream they do not seem to grow as big as those in other West Country estuaries.

         Jeff has intimate knowledge of the estuary and as the tide ebbed he suggested a move to where he expected the fish to be based upon many previous trips. Local knowledge is always invaluable when visiting any venue and we were lucky to have a local guide; a short cut to success.

         The next mark brought a couple of dogfish and a beautiful tub gurnard that must have been close to 2lb. The brilliant blue tipped fins and red flanks are truly stunning. The fish emitted  deep grunts as I removed the hook and held it for a quick photo before slipping it back into the estuary.

         A few bass were added to the days tally all of which were returned in line with conservation regulations in place to safeguard stocks.

         It was chilled out fishing watching the life of the estuary. Seagulls tussling upon the water, a kingfisher flashing past. James even glimpsed a deer at the water’s edge.

         The Fowey estuary has a rich literary history. Daphne du Maurier’s former home sits overlooking the Bodinnick Car ferry. Perhaps it was Fowey’s gulls that inspired her novel the Birds.

The Birds!  Image – James Thomas

         Kenneth Grahame frequently stayed near Fowey and the characters within his book ‘Wind in The Willows’ surely mirror those of our trip with the themes of nature, adventure, and friendship. And whilst Wind In The Willows is aimed at children I cannot help but think of us anglers as big kids rediscovering the simple pleasures of childhood. The joy and excitement I feel now as the rod tip nods is still as strong as it was all those years ago in a Cornish seaside town.

A tangle of starfish

A strong line back to the simplicity of childhood and a tonic for mental health that is being increasingly acknowledged.

         By early afternoon we had boated five species and felt confident of adding a few more as we drifted marks further down the estuary where we hoped to catch red mullet and dabs.

         To Jeffs surprise the drifts proved fruitless and we fished the last hour or so without a fish. The sun slowly sank below the horizon and Fowey’s lights began to twinkle in the fading day. The estuary was tranquil without the hustle and bustle of summer yachts the yellow mooring buoys now bobbing in lines upon the water.

         We bade our farewells to Jeff and headed off for a hot shower and a meal. Planning to reconvene at Looe Quayside ready to set sail at 9.00am in search of the mighty bluefin tuna.

         I will let James tell the tale of the tuna trip as he has written a fine account that I cannot hope to improve upon.

James in readiness

Arriving in the harbour of Looe with the sun glistening off the water was a great sign for the days fishing ahead. However, the evidence of recent storms was still prevalent with sea weed scattered across the beach.

A quick visit to the pasty shop to stock up for the day and we were ready to board Sowenna. As we waited on the quayside fellow anglers Jeff Pierce and James Coggan turned up and we were all full of excitement and anticipation for the day ahead.

A rainbow hung across the river, again a sign of the inclement and changeable weather that November often brings. We were all feeling fortunate to be heading out to sea with the chance of an encounter with a bluefin tuna.

Climbing down the ladder and stepping aboard we met the team, Dan Margetts and John McMaster who were very welcoming and busy preparing the boat and fishing tackle ready to head out to sea. Having never been tuna fishing before I was marvelling at the tall booms that are setup to trail squid lures behind the boat and the sheer size of the reels on the rods that were shining in the sun. As we left the harbour we chatted about how we were going to play the day and I was extremely grateful and a little nervous that I was given the opportunity of the first fish. Thank you to Jeff, James and my Dad for allowing me pole position on the day and the chance of a fish of a lifetime.

We headed out past Looe island with Dan at the helm chatting through the plan for the day. John set about explaining to me how to get ready to play a tuna; harness on and make sure you’re ready at all times as if one takes it’ll all happen in a flash. The main thing is to not give the fish any slack line and keep steady pressure on at all times.

My memories of fish I had lost in the past through bad angling started to resurface in my head; a huge halibut that had broken free in Norway due to a bad knot and a couch’s bream I lost after a clutch malfunction.  I think it is more curiosity of what these fish would have looked like and how much they would have weighed and the missed opportunity that does pain anyone that has lost a significant fish that was the target of an adventure. Sometimes you only have one shot as an opportunity presents itself for a catch and you want to do everything you can to secure the prize.

As an infrequent and novice angler I was feeling the pressure of being given first opportunity of the day and determined if I did get a chance of a tuna that I wouldn’t mess it up due to a lack of concentration.

The hard work and passion of the crew aboard Sowenna was evident and the dedication to be able to target bluefin tuna through the CHART programme and the hours at sea certainly cannot be underestimated. After an hour cruise into rougher waters, we were ready to start fishing. The method involves trolling for the fish with the engine continually rumbling away. The large booms were sent out and the line carefully played out on the reel until 4 rods were all fishing with the lures trailing behind the boat carefully arranged to avoid any tangles. The swell was gently rolling the boat with the odd slightly bigger wave chopping into the side bringing on the feeling of your stomach rising and the occasional clatter of crockery being moved around inside the cabin.

Stories of previous fishing trips were flowing and Dan decided to put out the shout for a cuppa tea. With that the Rod at the back of the boat bent over and the reel screamed off. John and I rushed to the stern and the reel then stopped screaming momentarily, had it come off? John’s experience kicked in as he wound the reel furiously to take up the slack line. The fish had started swimming towards the boat which is a nerve wracking situation as this could create slack line with a chance of the hook popping out. John regained control and passed the rod and reel over to me. The fish then set off on a charge peeling line off the reel with ease.

I was thinking of the battle and how long it would take to regain this line and I knew that a lot of effort and concentration would be required. The fish turned several times trying to create slack line but every time I managed to stay on top of the fish; I think spurred on by memories of previously lost fish. On this occasion, the tackle was expertly put together by Dan and John so an equipment failure was unlikely meaning it was up to me to stay in the moment and focus on the rod, reel , line and fish.

The next 25 minutes it was like the rest of the world had disappeared and all that mattered for that brief battle was hauling the fish in. Modern day life is so busy it’s rare to find a zen moment where you can truly switch off. I think that’s one of the things that draws people, including me, to amateur sport, whether that is negotiating a tricky section on the mountain bike, batting or bowling in a tight cricket match, felling a large tree or playing in a fish. It’s during the period of truly being in the zone with the adrenaline pumping that I feel most alive.

         After around 20 minutes of slowly gaining using the rolling sea to my advantage and the harness setup to slowly gain back line that the fish had earlier furiously stripped from the reel, the leader was in sight. After several circles around the boat the fish came into view for the first time; a lean magnificent silver bar full of muscle.


A short time later, the fish was secured alongside, a relieved feeling that I hadn’t let myself or the others on the boat down was the overwhelming emotion and a pure admiration for such a huge powerful creature that we were all grateful to witness and have a close encounter with.

The recovery of the fish began with it held steady next to the boat with time for some photos and for the fish to be tagged as part of the CHART program for scientific research which will be used to learn about the distribution of fish and their migration back into British waters.

I opened the door, staring at the fish and wondering how old it might be and how far it may have travelled. As I looked up to the camera one of the infrequent waves with a little more chop rolled in and covered me in icy cold water.

After regaining my composure, a few good photos were captured and we were ready to release the fish back to the depths of the ocean. With a powerful turn the fish swam out of sight. As someone recently said fishing trips are often about the memories that are made and this is certainly one that will live with me. The rest of the day passed by and I was gutted that no-one else had the opportunity to hook up with a tuna and felt a little guilty that I had been given the only chance of the day.

My dad had said before that if he had caught a tuna he would have retired from tuna fishing. Dan joked that he would make sure he was always number 4 so that he had to keep coming back. As we headed back to the harbour the light began to fade and thoughts started to turn to the journey home and the week of work ahead. Another adventure over and more great memories made! Thanks to Jeff, James, Dan, John and Dad for making it such an enjoyable trip; a trip I’ll never forget.

         James Thomas

James Thomas & James Goggan ( Fowey Aquarium)


I view a trip out after tuna as very much a team effort a day of excitement shared with friends. To witness one of these splendid fish is reward enough especially when it has been played in by your son. I have already booked up for next Autumn in the hope that I will feel the awesome power of these magnificent fish. Playing the weather lottery once again for in these times of extreme weather it seems that more trips are cancelled than actually get to go.


Illuminated by winter sun – A Cornish Tunny Adventure

The moon was still shining brightly at the cold light of dawn as I climbed aboard the charter boat Sowenna with four fellow anglers. I had met with James Coggan on a previous trip back in the heat of the summer and James and I had conspired to organise a trip after tuna before the seasons end. Previous trips booked in November had been blown off and this trip just three days before the end of season was a last gasp chance.

It was well below freezing and ice lay upon the deck of the boat. James was accompanied by a fellow Fowey chap called Craig and we were joined by Mark and Richard two anglers from the Bristol area both of whom I had met in the Jolly sailor the previous night.

Dan Margetts the Skipper of Sowenna and his deck hand for the day John McMaster greeted us warmly as we all chatted excitedly about the prospects for the day ahead.

The boat was slipped from its moorings and we set off into the bay passing the Banjo Pier as the glow of the morning sun slowly welcomed the day. We had all dressed warmly with only our faces exposed to the bitter cold North East breeze.

As we glided across the calm waters the tuna gear was prepared by John with military precision. Dan and John were undoubtedly well rehearsed and their calm confidence added to our expectations. The sight of big game gear on a UK charter boat is certainly a welcome dimension to UK angling. The CHART program has undoubtedly been a major success and should be appreciated by anglers who have been given a unique opportunity.

In less than an hour the five sets of spreader bars lures and stingers were being trolled across a calm sea. The horizon was scanned with binoculars Dan and John were determined to find any signs of activity that could lead us to our quarry the mighty bluefin tuna.

Flocks of sea birds were seen gathering excitedly with gannets diving frequently into the cold clear water. Dan steered the boat towards promising areas and a tense anticipation hung in the air. We had drawn lots on the way out and I had drawn number five meaning that I was likely to be a spectator for the day. Craig had drawn number one and was undoubtedly slightly apprehensive of what might lay ahead.

This type of fishing is very much a team event with all on board sharing the experience. The vast seascape, the colours as the morning sun illuminates the coast, dolphins breaking the surface a privilege that we all shared over frequent hot drinks supplied by Dan and John.

We noted other boats tuna fishing close-by and expectation grew when a tuna was hooked in close proximity. I had enjoyed a day earlier in the year aboard Reel Deal off the North Devon Coast when we had spent a long and fruitless day searching the waters at the mouth of the Bristol Channel. I had come out today stating that I would be delighted; to just see a tuna caught. My turn will hopefully come one day if I persist.

At close to 11:00 pandemonium broke out as a reel screeched a harsh rasping cry. Craig took his place behind the rod as line disappeared from the reel at an alarming pace.

We all grabbed rods and frantically reeled the remaining lines clear to allow Craig to battle with the denizen of the deep.

            John carefully passed the rod to Craig and ensured all was correctly in place with harness and padding. And so, a brutal battle began as Craig applied pressure and began the task of putting line back on the large capacity reel inch by inch.

            John offered constant advice and assurance. I hovered around with my camera, James Coggan held onto Craigs harness just in case he slipped. Everyone else offered good humoured advice and banter. This banter and encouragement gathered pace as the battle went on and it became obvious that this was a big fish. Line was slowly gained to be lost as the fish made powerful runs testing both tackle and angler to the limit. Eventually the line indicated that the fish was deep below the boat and Craig was heartened when the leader eventually showed above the water. Tension hung in the air for the hook hold could give way at any moment denying us all the view of one of the oceans most magnificent fish.

            The final moments were filled with tension as Craig hung grimly on determined to get his prize to the side of the boat. Sweat covered his brow despite the icy air. We all peered into the sea as the line drew our eyes into the mysterious waters.

            Then it slowly appeared; massive flanks glimpsed in the cold clear waters. The mighty tuna materialised, aqua, sapphire, silver plated jewelled sides illuminated by the bright winter sunshine. The magnificent tuna was carefully gaffed in the lower jaw and held in the water whilst it was tagged. We all admired the massive fish boat side gathering a few images on our cameras none of which could truly capture its awesome beauty. When the fish had fully recovered it was released and disappeared with a powerful flick of its mighty tail. We all watched in awe sharing in one of anglings rich moments. It was after all very much a team effort headed by Captain Dan and John Mc Master.

The fish was carefully measured and estimated at between 450lb and 475lb

            It was soon back to business with Mark ready and waiting for his turn in the pain locker. Hot teas and coffees were keenly devoured as the lures went back out and the quest resumed.


            Flocks of bird wheeled above the sea, dolphins rolled and leapt from the water. Mark watched the lures intently hoping for contact. We looked far out towards the Eddystone and watched a pod of dolphins as they gracefully leapt into the air.

            The day ebbed slowly away, the sun eventually descending beneath the distant western horizon painting the sky in  deep orange glow. Shortly after the sun had set the moon rose to the east peeping out above the hills that had taken on a cold and icy hue.

            The lines were slowly wound back onto the big reels and rods racked before the steam back to port. We enjoyed a last hot drink as we came close to Looe to be greeted by the bright lights of Christmas twinkling in the icy cold air.

            We climbed onto the quay our steamy breath hanging in the air as we said our cheerful goodbyes before heading home across an icy moonlit landscape.

Cornish Reef Fishing

Looe in Cornwall has been a constant throughout my life and a significant stopping off point for fishing adventures for close to sixty years. We were staying in an apartment overlooking the estuary and we delighted in watching the ebbing and flowing of the tides from our vantage point.

Pauline and I had booked the short break to coincide with a boat trip I was joining organised by my friend Keith Armishaw. The trip was to be a reef fishing trip giving the chance of a wide variety of species.

A strong North Westerly wind had been blowing throughout the week making conditions difficult for trips to fishing grounds further off the coast. Keith had organised a week’s fishing that included reef fishing, Shark and tuna fishing. I was heading out on the Thursday and Pauline and I met up with members of the fishing entourage and their families in the  ‘Old Salutation Inn’. This old Inn situated in the heart of East Looe has a wealth of old shark and fishing images upon its walls. Old black and white portraits of huge shark hanging at the weigh station beside their proud captors. Fortunately, such slaughter is now a thing of the past as a more enlightened generation now return all shark alive in the hope that a thriving sport fishery can be maintained for future generations.

 Fishing was of course high on the agenda as we dined and it appeared that the days shark fishing had been challenging with a very rough sea making conditions difficult for even seasoned anglers. A good shark had been brought boat-side and was estimated at 95lb. A qualifier for the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain that has its headquarters in Looe.


Optimism for the reef fishing day was high and with fishing likely to be on reefs closer to the coast there would be a degree of shelter from the prevailing North West wind.

I arrived quayside at 8:00 and met with fellow anglers for the day. Keith Armishaw, Dom Garnett, Mark Everard, Reg Talbot, Peter Evans, Nick Roberts and Tony Christou. Whilst waiting we chatted to the film crew who were busy filming a spin off drama of ‘Death In Paradise’. It was enlightening to see how many technicians and support were involved in such a production that undoubtedly brings significant income into the town.

            We were fishing from Dan Margetts Sowenna

            The boat departed Looe harbour and passed the unique Banjo Pier where I had started my lifelong angling journey close to sixty years ago. I always relish the trip out to the fishing grounds with the splendour of the Cornish coast  as a magnificent back drop. We passed the historic Looe Island that provides shelter for Looe and its foreshore.

            Shortly after passing the Island, we stopped to catch fresh mackerel for the days bait. It was a joy to find them in abundance. Strings full of writhing mackerel were swung on board to be unhooked by a busy crew.

            After catching a good supply of bait, we set off for a reef a couple of miles off the coast. As the boat bounced over the waves I caught sight of gannets diving in a feeding frenzy and thrilled at the sight of a tuna bursting out of the sea in a flurry of spray.

            On arriving at the reef Dan throttled back and set up a drift. A variety of tackles and baits were employed. Live mackerel on long flowing traces, baited feathers and slow jig lures.

            Within moments mackerel and scad were swung aboard along with whiting and pouting. Larger specimens proved elusive with no bass or pollock succumbing to the bigger baits and lures. After one more short drift Dan positioned the boat and lowered the anchor. The engine was cut and it was good to bob around in the lively sea as we lowered our baits. I elected to start off using small strips of squid on size 6 Chinu Sakuma hooks and fluorocarbon hook lengths. Within seconds of the bait hitting the bottom the light rods tip rattled and I reeled in a small pouting and small male cuckoo wrasse. Second drop and a better rattle on the rod tip resulted in a small red bream one of five i went on to land up to around 1lb. The last time I had caught red bream was on a reef fishing trip in the mid-seventies when they were a common catch. The species had declined with very few caught for several decades. A recent increase in numbers caught is encouraging. A handsome female cuckoo wrasse of close to a pound was also tempted with the small bait tactic.

            Mark Everard fishing closer to the cabin also tempted a brace of red bream his first of the species. Mark was also delighted to catch a huge scad that would probably have tipped the scales close to 2lb.

            The sight of bent rods around the boat prompted me to send down a larger bait. A mackerel flapper on a 10/0 Sakuma Manta was lowered to the sea bed and was soon devoured by a conger of around 10lb. Conger sport continued and I watched my fellow anglers rods bending in a typical scene of traditional deep sea boat fishing.

            For the following hour or two conger, wrasse, scad and pouting were caught as regular teas and coffees were delivered by Dan and his helpful deckhand.

Dom Garnett with a colourful cuckoo wrasse

            As the day drifted past Dan discussed an option to try a new mark close inshore where he had received reports of specimen small eyed ray. Ray are not a common feature of boat catches off this part of Cornwall and with a brisk North West Wind buffeting the boat the sheltered waters close to the coast seemed worth a try.

            Dan set off and we were soon anchoring over clean ground just a few hundred yards offshore. It was good to survey the rocky shoreline from the boat places I had visited on coastal walks with Pauline on numerous occasions over the years. The area undoubtedly had huge shore fishing potential and I couldn’t help formulating plans to one day visit and fish. There are so many places to cast a line in this world and so little time!

            I tried small baits first on my light rod hoping to tempt something different. Whilst I like catching small eyed ray they are abundant up off the Somerset coast and if I want to catch them I can go to Minehead. A mackerel seized my small squid strip and was swung aboard and added to the bait store.

            On the opposite side of the boat Keith Armishaws rod took on an impressive curve as something large pulled back on the end of the line. We all watched in anticipation as the battle ebbed and flowed. The head of a large conger estimated at between 30lb and 40lb appeared and writhed at the side of the boat. I suggested we get a picture but the trace failed as Dan tried to pull the fish through the gate. This counted of course as the trace had been touched.

            Dan is a very keen skipper and works hard to try and find fish willing to experiment to build on his already extensive experience. When it became clear that sport was slow close inshore it was back out to drift the reefs once more. Sport soon resumed with wrasse, mackerel, pouting and scad.

            Dan suggested we try one more mark on the way back to Looe. By now it was late in the day and the afternoon sun illuminated  Looe Island. Gannett’s dived into the calming waters. A short drift brought a few mackerel and  a large pouting succumbed to my slow jig.

            Sowenna bounced back towards Looe and we chatted about the day and past and future trips. Seagulls wheeled and turned behind the boat as a few fish were filleted for the table. The ride home after a day’s fishing as the light fades is something I always savour as I gaze back into the boats wake.

            The tide was well in as we chugged into Looe and its familiar lively harbour.

            I walked back towards the car park with Dom and Mark chatting about our trip. All three of us reflected upon an enjoyable day but all conceded that a dabble after large gobies with LRF tackle had perhaps been the highlight of the trip a chance perhaps to rekindle a connection to childhood adventures beside the sea.

Blue Shark on the Fly

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Combe Martin SAC member Kyle Bishop enjoyed some exciting sport off Penzance on Charter Boat “Bite Adventures”-
Kyle set out to tempt blue shark on Fly Tackle with Flies tied onto some of the new Sakuma Fishing kong hooks provided by Braunton Baits.
The flys were presented using a 10 weight Fly Rod.
They also enjoyed mixed bottom sport boating a fine blonde ray of 22lb 8oz. Plus several blues to 70lb plus on conventional shark tackle.

Chasing Wild Cornish Browns with the Fluff Chuckers

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Fluff Chuckers trout bank day at colliford lake, Cornwall.

We will be meeting in the main car park at 8am for a 9am to 5pm event.
There will be a prizes for the most trout landed and for the longest trout landed
Measurement from the nose to the fork of the tail.
This will be C&R event and barbless hooks only and all other swlt rules apply.
The idea of the event is to be a ideal chance for anglers old and new to sample the brown trout fishing to meet up and have some laughs and get on the water and have a great days fishing.
Colliford lake is a vast area to cover and you can fish where you fancy and we meet up at 5 pm to award the prizes at the main car park.
This event is not designed to be a ultra competitive competition more of a great fun day with a few prizes.
For the largest fish please provide your own measure tape and take a photo of the fish with the tape shown on the fish from the tip of the nose to the inside of the fork of its tail.
For the total amount of fish landed please account for them as you would for a normal catch return.
There is no big buck prize to give in false amounts of fish landed, and at the end of the day you are only cheating yourself by giving a false declaration.
But photo evidence will be required for the largest  fish landed.
There is no entry fee to compete just let us know that you will be coming and please pay your day ticket in advance to swlt in the normal way.
Look forward to seeing you there.

Moments of reflection and lost spirits carried upon a flooding tide.

There is something reassuring about the perpetual ebbing and flowing of the tide. Watching the cool swirling waters as the light faded memories flooded in with the tide . I had started fishing in saltwater over fifty years ago whilst on holiday with my parents in this Cornish seaside town of Looe.

Over the years we have been drawn back many times. We had walked out onto the Banjo pier and It was pleasing to have glimpsed the flashing flanks of grey mullet in the clear water.

I  looked out at the horizon where I imagined the tuna shoals that have recently migrated into the waters off Cornwall potentially opening the dawning of a new age of recreational catch and release fishing.

I had looked out from this pier as a teenager and caught the flickering light of the Eddystone Light far out in the channel. I had since fished the Eddystone reef for pollock and caught blue shark many miles offshore.

Fifty years ago, I started on an angling journey that has taken me to many locations yet those childhood memories linger. An orange tipped float beneath harbour lights disappearing pleasingly as small pollack seized the strips of mackerel. Sharing the joys of catching crabs with our son James sat on the harbours edge as Pauline grabbed at his coat tails fearful that he would slip into the water.

Moments of reflection and lost spirits carried upon a flooding tide.

Images from the waters edge

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There is far more to fishing than simply catching fish which is just as well. I don’t always want to carry a large camera to the waters edge especially when traveling light with the fly rod or lure rod. Below are few images captured on the Go Pro that often gives a totally different perspective. On a recent holiday to Cornwall I spent several hours casting a team of flies to huge shoals of golden grey mullet. At one point  hundreds of silver flanks could be seen as wave crashed onto the sands giving a window into a watery world. To blank in such surroundings is not too bad.


A short session on a shallow rock mark casting into Cornwalls crystal clear water brought some success with this colourful ballan wrasse.
 Back home I visited a local trout stream to enjoy a few hours flicking a dry fly into its clear tumbling waters. The quick splashy rises proved difficult to connect with and only a couple of small spotted beauties stayed on the hook long enough to bring to the hand and admire.
A few hours beside a summer stream is so good. To glimpse a pair kingfishers flit past in a flash of electric blue and to stand in the cool flowing waters a delight.


After the first flush of summer we now enter those calm days after the excitement of spring and early. As the days slowly shorten, the trees take on a slightly darker hue, the mewing of young buzzards drifts across the valley, the screeching of swifts are all signs of the passing year. As an angler it is an exciting time for there is so much to look forward to casting in many waters.


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Many thanks to Kody Chugg and Ollie Passmore for sending me this account of their recent trip to Cornwall in search of wrasse.

Got up early hours of the morning, and set off down to Cornwall. Sun shining and a favoured wind in search of a big ballan wrasse. Several marks ventured, fishing crystal clear water. Lots of little taps with baits getting stripped by little wrasse. Last mark we went to we were fishing over low. Missing some really good runs from hook pulls. We both managed to catch a good few fish together.

Fish care with wrasse is vital. These are fragile fish that need to be taken care of, unhooking carefully and resting in pools. Wrasse definitely are in decline compared to years gone by, due to commercial fishing, and taken to Scottish salmon farms. Wrasse are so valuable for the seas Eco system and keeping reefs and corals etc healthy. Great fun fishing and each one being so different and remarkable colours. Crab and hermits doing the business. All on running ledger rigs with 1/0 circle hooks. All in all a great day fishing!

Footnote :- Reading Ollie and Kody’s article takes me back to a trip I enjoyed to the South Cornish coast almost forty years ago with Combe Martin SAC secretary Nick Phillips. A couple of days were spent exploring the rugged coastline where we landed several specimen wrasse the best If my memory serves me correct pulled the scales to 6lb 8oz a fish that is still my PB. Wrasse of over 5lb were comparatively common back then both in Cornwall and along the North Devon coast where I landed fish to 5lb 15oz. I mention this as it highlights how fishing for wrasse has declined over four decades.


The minds eye stores many thousands of images some of which lie dormant whilst others linger on the surface never fading completely. As a teenager I fished from the Banjo Pier at Looe in Cornwall a place I have revisited on numerous occasions since those formative angling days in the early to mid seventies. Strange how certain things stick in the mind, I just checked out the year Carl Douglas released Kung Fu Fighting. For some reason I remember this playing in the amusement arcade in Looe all those years ago in 1974. I was thirteen and by then fishing at Looe with the local lads. ( I never actually liked the song but it stuck in the mind!)

My father had introduced me to sea angling during our annual holiday to Looe which almost always fell during the last week of September and first week of October. Then as now fishing was prohibited from the Banjo until October 1st. prior to 1974 I had fished with my parents and it was garfish, mackerel and Pollock that would drag a brightly coloured sea float beneath the surface. The garfish would toy with the bait causing the float to dither before sliding beneath the surface or lying flat as the garfish swam up with the bait. I probably caught my first fish from Looe when I was seven or eight.

Those childhood and teenage days are long gone, the essence of those days remain etched in that marvelous minds eye. Strange to say that whilst I have revisited the Banjo on many occasions with Pauline watching the ebbing and flowing of the tide, the coming and going of boats and the vast seascape I had not taken a rod in hand at the venue since my last holiday with my parents back in around 1976/7. This was I guess partially due to timing as it was generally out of bounds due to it being summertime.

I remember clearly how I had fished for grey mullet on the ebbing tide in the eddy formed as the estuary meets the open sea beside the old banjo. When discussing a trip to Looe with the Combe Martin Sea Angling Club where better to fish for mullet than my old haunt? My connection with Looe had resulted in a long-term friendship on Facebook with fellow angler Matt Pengelly.  Matt is a fanatical sea angler who has fished Looe all his life. I have exchanged stories of Looe with Matt on many occasions and over the years he has freely shared a vast amount of information to which I owe him a big thank you.

As regards to the Looe mullet Matt confirmed my thoughts in that several generations of mullet later little has changed. Hence close to fifty years after catching my first sea fish I find myself on the banjo pier rod in hand along with our son James and five other members of the CMSAC mulleteers.

Quiver tips and floats are employed and mullet are caught up to around three pound.

I drop my orange tipped float into the ebbing flow. After drifting a few yards it dips slowly beneath those familiar clear waters. I lift the rod in expectation and feel a familiar gyrating motion transmitted through the line. I swing the garfish up into my hand, “Look a swordfish”, cries out a young child.  I remember such comments being made all those years ago. The green scales stick to my hands and that distinctive small of fresh garfish triggers childhood memories.

I chat with Matt who has joined us on the Banjo for a while and he tells me of plans to redevelop Looe and its Harbour. I am saddened to hear of these plans to bring prosperity to this old Cornish town. The pleasures of Looe are simple and special and locked in my minds eye and I am sure in many others who have trod a similar path.

Looking back, I have a wealth of memories relating to fishing and the places it has taken me to. I also have memories of Ilfracombe when it had a pier and how the removal of that pier has contributed to the loss of a community. I Remember how on cold winter nights we would gather on the pier safe above surging waters; ever hopeful. Sadly I feel the essence of angling holds no tangible value to planners and councilors. The social benefits are overlooked in the search for marinas and visions of splendor.

Where lies the value in a garfish and a disappearing float?





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“A beautiful Valley, a charming old Inn, and a rugged cove that can provide plenty of sport for the shore angler.” From Sea Fishing in Cornwall” By Hugh Stoker. Angling Times Publication 3’6. Published in1960.

Hugh Stoker was a Sea Angler who wrote several books and a series of guide books on fishing in the West Country. I have the editions relating to North Devon, South Devon and Cornwall and have over the years visited many of the marks mentioned. In some cases, the marks have changed whilst in other cases much seems to have remained the same.

We were due to head off Penzance in search of blue shark but the weather did not play ball and we were forced to seek alternative sport from the shore. We had planned to do a little shore fishing on the Thursday anyway with sharking planned for the Friday.

Lamorna Cove sounded an appealing place and a little research proved encouraging if one ignored the extensive rants about the car parking prices and the company that enforces the rules.

On the way we called into West Cornwall Tackle in Penzance where we were given plenty of useful advice on where we could use our ragworm and a few bits of tackle.

We were pleased to arrive after the three hour jaunt from North Devon and set off enthusiastically along the rugged coastal path, littered with granite boulders and perilous sheer drops to the sea below. After a ten minute walk we arrived at an impressive rock stack and set up our tackles.

I elected to float fish with king ragworm whilst James used soft plastics and Rob ragworm fished on jig heads. James was soon in action with a wrasse of a pound or more and Rob soon followed with a succession of wrasse. Eventually my float plunged beneath the surface and I was briefly connected to a powerful fish that dived for cover with the hook length parting, probably against a sharp granite boulder.

We spent the next couple of hours searching the rocky headland with numerous wrasse succumbing to our baits. Particularly Rob whose jig head tactics seemed to work well.

As evening approached and high water passed, we decided to head back to Penzance for food and to book into our hotel. As we descended into the cove the clear water erupted as sand eel’s scattered as they were pursued by launce and a large bass glimpsed by Rob.

We hurriedly assembled our lure rods commencing a search of the bay. My slim metal lure was soon seized and a hard fighting mackerel was swung onto the old granite quay. Over the next half an hour I added a couple more sizeable mackerel, a small bass and a few small pollock. Rob and James spotted several fish in the clear water at the base of the quay wall and enjoyed hectic sport with colourful wrasse.

The evening sun illuminated the honey coloured granite and the Atlantic gently caressed the rugged shoreline.  Youngsters swam in calm waters of the cove. We didn’t catch anything big but that hour in Lamorna Cove will probably sit high on my list of memories of the year.

James drove the van up through the beautiful valley passing a charming old Inn where patrons were eating and drinking on this warm summer night. I really must visit more of Hugh Stokers old haunts.