Ilfracombe Pier is often overlooked as a great shore fishing venue but on its day when conditions are right it can produce the goods. Over the years it has probably produced more species and specimens than any other North Devon mark. Whilst this is in part due to it being easily accessible and heavily fished its is also a good mark offering deep water and mixed ground. Ilfracombe angler Toby Bassett is a frequent visitor and catches a wide range of species from the mark with tactics ranging from LRF to standard shore tactics.
“Well what an afternoon that was, rocked up to the pier mid day, and normally i just put small baits out for the mini stuff but changed it up today and put a big octopus bait out as far as i could first fish out a lovely little huss, next chuck my biggest bass to date a cracking silver bar knocking the scale between 9 and half 10.. To top it off i caught 3 lobsters as well”
The veterans amongst us remember the days of the old pier when it provided a safe stable fishing platform at all States of the tide.
Fishing covers a wide spectrum and its always good to hear of anglers successes and experiences. Ilfracombe angler Toby Bassett is an allrounder who catches pike from the local reservoir, sharks off the coast and also enjoys scaling right down to experience the wonders of multi species fishing with LRF tackle. Many thanks to Toby for his account below.
Every year i try and catch as many species as I can and this this year like everyone else I have been limited to just the Bristol Channel due to travel restrictions which has given me plenty of time to focus on local marks and where better then the pier to rack up my tally? I have always heard of weird and wonderful fish coming on out on the LRF gear so thats been my main goal and the clingfish always in the back of my mind as one of the more prized mini species, so when i actually caught one i was stunned, such an awesome slimy little morsal and a big tick off the list! That brings my tally to 20 species so far this year, i still have a few trickier fish to target as the year goes on such as the illusive tadpole fish and the dragonette but this cornish sucker has made me one happy focker lol! Toby Bassett
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.
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”
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”.
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.”
Barry Kift sent me this picture of his personal best bass weighing 11lb 3oz, caught from Ilfracombe Pier in 1981
Well, after taking a walk down the pier the evening before, and seeing a 9lb Bass landed myself and my brother, Lee Kift decided to go the next evening. Fishing side by side, Lee went to help land a conger down below. Asking me to look after his rod. Well, 2 small bites later, on his rod,.I was hooked into this. By the time he came back up the fish was nearly at the pier. He shouted, GIVE ME MY ROD, I told him to f*** off and go back down to land it ! He was not best pleased and hasn’t forgiven me to this day 😳😳😳 cant imagine why 🤣🤣🤣
Combe Martin Sea Angling Clubs annual fun fishing event on Ilfracombe Pier always brings plenty of smiles and this year was no exception. The title of the event explains what the day is all about nothing too serious just a few hours fishing with the chance to meet fellow anglers and special guests. The event focuses on young anglers so the competition is geared towards under 16’s accompanied by a responsible adult.
This years guests included Dominic Garnett who writes a regular column for the Angling Times and works with the Angling Trust to promote angling. https://dgfishing.co.uk/
(Above) Dominick Garnett gets involved coaching young anglers
Steve Dawe is an all round angler who has a particular interest in species fishing and is raising funds for the Stroke Association.
This years event was once again a success with a really friendly atmosphere and plenty of fish caught to give the young participants encouragement. One of the events main targets is to introduce young people to a pastime that can provide a lifelong interaction with the environment as Dominick said to me if we recruit one young person into a life of fishing we have been successful.
The below pictures give a view of the event that is made successful by those who take part.
Tim Poat has set a potential new British Record landing a 15.8 gram connemara clingfish whilst fishing North Devon’s top LRF mark Ilfracombe Pier. The current British record stands at 10grams and Tim has submitted a claim to the Angling Trust’s record fish committee.
Tim tempted the fish on a piece of ragworm fished down the side of the wall on a very calm evening as the tide was ebbing.Tackle was Impact Ajing 5762 Lrf rod Shimano Sahara c2000s reel Gosen 9lb Maxbeat braid All purchased from Art of fishing in Wadebridge Hook size 16 tied directly to the end of the line 7 gram weight about a foot above the hook.
LRF(light rock fishing) Fishing has grown in popularity over recent years and offers a whole new perspective to sea angling with the use of ultra light tackle and finesse not traditional associated with sea angling. One of the joys of LRF fishing is catching an amazing array of species.
Another aspect of LRF fishing is that even moderate sized fish give a spirited tussle on the this tackle and you could call it Light-Rod Fun Fishing.
George Stavrakopoulos is a keen species enthusiast and enjoys trips to Ilfracombe Pier. Their latest venture saw them land whiting, pouting, poor cod, pollack, shanny smelt, rock goby, 3 bearded rockling, shore rockling, conger, tadpole fish and a cling fish it was non stop action. A big surprise was the sight of four big mackerel trapped alive in the pool behind the pier. These out of season visitors were soon caught and dispatched by local anglers who either enjoyed a tasty meal some quality bait for the freezer.