were on day 2 fishing with no sleep in early September – maybe 1998 from memory.
were on day 2 fishing with no sleep in early September – maybe 1998 from memory.
“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 SAC hosted an LRF float fishing social on Ilfracombe Pier where several species of fish were landed including black bream, wrasse, pollock, bass and garfish.
(Above)Jake Moule fished Ilfracombe after dark to land a 10lb 12oz conger. Several spotted ray have been tempted from the pier on sandeel bait.
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.
In January last year he started a fund raising challenge to catch 52 species of fish in a year and has surpassed this already landing his 64th species during this years event, a rock goby.(Below)
(Below)The Coastguard raised awareness of the need to take care at the waters edge offering advice to all who attended.
(Below)Ilfracombe Aquarium were at hand to identify any rare species caught and also hope to obtain specimens for the aquarium.
High Street Tackle kindly sponsored the event with an array of prizes presented to the winners.
Fun Fish rules were – To reduce tangles CMSAC suggested 1 rod with 3 hooks, Barbless hooks preferred but not compulsory.
The top prizes were for the anglers under the age of 16 with the most points.
Points awarded: – 2 points first of each species, 1 point for second of each species.
Prize for longest fish – Lyn Wilson garfish – 57cm
Prize for heaviest fish – Lyn Wilson – garfish 9oz
Family prize for most points – A Family Ticket for Ilfracombe Aquarium -The Welch family with 51 points
Ross Stanway won the adults section with 16 points and was presented with a signed copy of Dominick Garnetts book Crooked Lines
Winner of the event eight year old Effie Welch (14 points) received an LRF rod, reel and line
2nd – Charlie Stanway 11 points
3rd – Solomon Welch 9 points
4th – Ben Clarke 8 points Joshua Jeffery 8 points
5th – Phoebe Dawe – 5 points Jordan Choules 5 points
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.
Ilfracombe pier is not a venue I often fish these days but it is a venue that has a certain appeal. I have many fond memories of the venue that has to be the most heavily fished venue along the North Devon coast and it is undoubtedly for this reason that it has over the years produced an outstanding track record.
Being a veteran I can of coarse remember the pier in its heyday when you could fish from the Victorian structure at any state of the tide in pretty well any weather conditions. The beauty of the pier was that you could turn up and fish being confidant that you would have company. It was the social hub of North Devon’s sea angling community easily accessible, safe and at times productive.
Of course back then we didn’t value what we had taking it for granted like many things in life that are only really appreciated in hindsight. I value the memories of those cold winter nights on the pier and witnessing some fine fish caught. I also look back with a tinge of sadness at the lovely people and characters I fished with who are no longer with us; I won’t mention names but those who were there will share my sentiments.
Ilfracombe lost a huge asset with the demolition of the pier a place where people fished and others strolled to watch us watching our rod tips. Some inquiring what we had caught, some understanding the fascination; others perplexed at the fools who wasted hours staring out to sea.
Those who were there in those distant days will still remember and visualize how it was when anyone mentions the North End or by the Club hut. Beneath the water there were of course always tales of the mighty conger that lurked within the structure eels that divers glimpsed as they explored. Strange that the biggest eel recorded at 42lb was caught from the pier in 2015 long after the pier was demolished.
( Note Chris Wilson refers to an eel of 56lb has anyone got a record of that?)
I fished the pier with Rob Scoines on October 26th the main reason I chose the venue was because I had a few leftover harbour ragworm left from a flounder fishing excursion. With news of a few red mullet being caught I thought why not try the pier might even catch a sole. It was a very calm mild night after a week or so of easterly winds. We offloaded the van and ambled the few yards to the lower landings. There were a handful of other anglers already set up in the hot spot on the corner so we set up where there was space.
I fished two rods one with small worm baits the other with a larger offering of mackerel, to be exchanged for a fresh pouting shortly after catching one on the worm baits. The worm baits brought a steady succession of small whiting, tiny pouting and a solitary dab. Danny Watson from High Street Tackle chatted enthusiastically about prospects for the coming winter. Fellow CMSAC member Ross Stanway turned up with his young son Charlie. We chatted about old times and made plans for future forays. Young Charlie caught a few whiting; bringing a smile to his face.
When we packed away at the end of the night beneath the deviant structure of Damien’s Verity Rob commented that it wasn’t his favorite venue. It’s not mine and the fishing was poor but it still has a certain value as an easy sociable venue where good fish are sometimes caught.