Skill development

Maria and her son Max came for a lesson. They had been fishing a couple of times already but were looking to improve their skills.

They started off learning to ‘plumb the depth’ using a plummet. This is a weight that can be quickly attached to the hook:

Boy with plummet

Next they needed to bait the hook – here Max has got the maggot on just right, with the point of the hook standing clear:

Baiting with maggot

With these preliminaries sorted, it didn’t take him long to start catching perch, so then he needed to master the art of unhooking them:

Unhooking a perch

Maria started fishing with the whip in the next spot along. Her first fish was a roach:

Whip fishing
Maria's roach

We moved on to rod and reel, learning how to cast and wind in (and deal with tangles – this was useful as they had had some problems with this before):

Learning to cast
Learning to cast
Learning to cast

As always, it was a bit harder to catch fish on rod and reel as compared to the whip, but it provided plenty of good casting practice. After a while, Max had his first fish on this method:

Roach on waggler

They are now all set to go fishing again. With their improved skills they should be able to enjoy themselves catching fish while staying tangle-free.

At the seaside

For the first half of August I was on holiday in Cornwall, catching up with family and going fishing most days.

My first job was to head up the nearby estuary to dig worms for bait. Lugworms live in fairly soft mud and sand; you dig where you see their casts. Ragworm seem to prefer coarse sand and shell grit. They don’t make casts so you choose an area and turn it over.

(If you try bait digging, make sure to backfill your holes – people sometimes leave craters and piles of sand all over the place. This is unsightly and also damages the worms’ habitat. The result is that future digging becomes less productive and there are fewer worms available for the estuary birds. Do it properly and there is no problem.)

Next morning my brother Ned and I were out at daybreak, using carp rods with 2oz leads to present the worms on the sand:

Cornwall rock fishing

Nothing happened for the first couple of hours. Just as I was saying it was about time we had a bite, something picked up my ragworm. Winding down slowly it was fish on, and a bit of a head banging fight ensued. It was a gilthead bream, a species I had always expected to catch here but which had always eluded me:

Gilthead bream

Soon after that, we had a tub gurnard each:

Tub gurnard

A couple of days later I was back in the same place. First cast produced a better sized gilthead:

Head of gilthead bream

After that it was quiet except for a couple of small bass and another gurnard. Packing up, I threw my unused mackerel and squid bait into the water and soon after a shoal of mullet came swarming round. I set up a makeshift float rig to present a bit of squid to them on a small hook. I then had a frustrating time as the mullet were apparently taking the bait but I kept missing them on the strike. Eventually I got one:


Next day I was back with proper mullet tackle (coarse fishing rod, 6lb line and waggler float), plus mackerel and bread for bait. Initially I couldn’t get a bite, despite odd fish showing in front of me. I guessed I was too visible sitting high up on the rocks, so I got lower and kept well back. More mullet now appeared, seemingly attracted by my mackerel and bread groundbait. I caught three of these hard-fighting fish, all at very close range (that’s my rod on the rocks with the float just visible a few feet out):

Mullet fishing
Mullet on waggler float

My niece Tess came with me for another dawn session. She caught this ballan wrasse on a lure fished deep close to the rocks:

Tess fishing
Tess's wrasse

She followed it up with a mackerel and the largest launce (greater sandeel) I have ever seen, which weighed in at 4oz. Launce feed on small fish, including sandeels, and she caught it on a metal sandeel imitation:

Mackerel and launce

As we were packing up, we saw a large, silvery fish jump three times way out to sea. To be visible at that range it must have been at least several pounds in weight. Quite possibly a bluefin tuna, but we will never know.

All ages can fish together

Hedley and his grandson Sebbie came along for a coarse fishing lesson. Hedley used to fish matches back in the 70s, whereas Sebbie was a complete beginner (one of many youngsters inspired to try fishing by TV programs such as Chasing Monsters).

They were soon in action with the whips:

Grandad fishing
Grandson fishing

The roach were being very finicky and there were many missed bites and some quiet spells, but they caught a few:

Roach for grandad
Sebbie's roach

Sebbie learned to cast with a rod and reel and managed one roach on this method:

Sebbie fishing with rod and reel

He then went back to the whip for more roach and this nice perch:

Sebbie's perch

Hedley was finding angling to be just as enjoyable as it ever was, even after a 40 year layoff:

Hedley fishing

In the afternoon I was joined by Sam and his son Hector, back for another session after trying fishing for the first time with me back in May.

The fishing was even slower now and after a while Hector asked if we could try the river. It turned out to be a good idea. He had bites straight away from minnows:

Hector's minnow

Then he had some chub and dace:

Small chub
Small dace

Towards the end he caught a cracking dace (no picture unfortunately) and a decent roach:

Hector's roach

Sam had been a bystander so far, but had a quick go with the whip and immediately had a dace (not as big as Hector’s, I should point out!):

Sam's dace

It was going to be Hector’s birthday the next day. I understood from Sam that a set of fishing tackle was the main present this enthusiastic young angler was going to receive.

It had been great seeing the different generations enjoying fishing together.

Sam and Hector fishing
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