Category: Matt’s fishing trips

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.

Hampstead carp and tench

There was a moment of drama during the recent school tuition day on Hampstead Heath, when one of the pupils connected with a large fish which eventually broke away. The general consensus was that it was probably a tench – one of my favourite species.

A few days later I came back at daybreak to try and catch one. It was warm, overcast and still:

Highgate boating pond

Nothing happened for a couple of hours, except that twice I saw large tench roll silently right over my bait. They have a way of smoothly breaking the surface with barely a ripple. As you can imagine this kept me in a state of tense expectation, but my float remained motionless.

In a shallow corner of the lake not far away, I could see signs of life – boils and splashes at the surface. I crept in quietly with my gear and after checking the depth, cast in with a piece of bread set to fish on the bottom. As a couple more fish showed I could see that they were carp, but I was still hopeful of a tench.

The float shot under and the rod started bending round before I could pick it up. When I did, there was a massive surge of power. I was only using a 4lb hook length so I had to just let it run at first. It took a few minutes to get it in the net, with the help of a mate who had turned up to fish just before – a 21lb carp:

Hampstead carp

A few days later I gave it another go. It was a misty morning:

Misty lake

I was standing there in the half light deciding where to fish, when a tench rolled right in front of me. That made my mind up for me, and I placed my bait in the exact spot where the tench had been.

An hour later, the float lifted and twitched before disappearing. A tench of 6lb 9oz was responsible – a handsome fish with its olive scales and bluish-black fins:

Hampstead tench

Soon after that, the rising sun started to burn off the mist and light up the far bank of the lake. Eventually its rays crept round to my corner, and I was glad of their warmth after the chill of the early morning.

Early morning sun on the lake

Pond life

A rather grey and rainy day found me exploring a small pond at Rib Valley for the first time. I took a waggler rod and maggots to test the small fish potential, plus a heavier outfit in case of carp.

The pond has a fringe of reeds along the far side:

Rib Valley pond

Also some beds of lilies:

Lily pads

The maggot rod close to the lilies got off to a flying start with a constant stream of fairly small but brightly coloured rudd:


I catapulted a few bits of bread out to float on the surface, hoping that this might attract the larger rudd. Some landed amongst the reeds, where after twenty minutes or so, gentle movements at the surface indicated that something was taking an interest. Watching more carefully, I could see a carp bumping and sucking at the bread. Occasionally it would gently take a piece, but it was cautious – never venturing out from the reeds – and it seemed reluctant to break the surface.

On my heavier rod I rigged up another float rig which would allow me to present bread either floating at the surface or sinking slowly. After a few attempts I landed it right amongst the reeds, with my bait floating in a small gap. The surface rocked gently as the carp approached, then there was a subtle swirl as it took the bait, the rod already bending as I picked it up. Only about 3 pounds, but I was glad of it:

Common carp

After that I went back to the maggot rod, throwing in some maggots and a few grains of sweetcorn with each cast to try and attract some larger fish. This seemed to work as the rudd were getting bigger, especially when I used a piece of corn as bait:

Large rudd

Sweetcorn also produced a couple more small carp:

Small carp
Head of common carp

It had been an enjoyable and interesting few hours.

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