Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary

A great weeks fishing with three match wins and a second place in two opens and two club events. One of the features of this time of year is the increase in the number of dabs around and I am good at catching dabs. It’s the years of practice I suppose and my liking for lugworm management. You see, lugworm is not just lugworm and the fish are so well aware that when a storm devastates the inshore sand bars there will be lots of worm and shellfish casualties. Indeed after a storm they invade the shoreline for a feast. BUT and here is the rub. Several tides later and its all calmed down and the marine life that was missed by those first fish is buried etc. It’s in a state of decay and then when a small gale of wind sets up a surf the decaying worm is exposed to the fish. They are totally honed in on decaying rotten worm and have tunnel vision towards it – Fish with fresh then and you will catch fish, but fish with last week’s lugworm and you will catch a shed full, especially dabs.

I always have a supply of frozen worm and shells knocking around for such occasions and recently sticky blacks tipped butterfish and clam came into its own for the flatties. I won the Army Benevolent event fished on Hythe Ranges with 44 fish, mostly dabs, then won my club Christmas match fished at Seabrook with 47 fish in four hours and then topped the week off with a second place in the Grand Parade Open fished at Seabrook with 49 fish. Winner just a few grams in from was Karl Nangle of Grimsby with 37 fish – he found some bigger whiting. Anyway, all in all I am feeling proud of myself because both of the open matches had a very strong field of match-men.

TOP TIP: One of the problems when using sticky lugworm is keeping it on the hook. Well the best method is to sew the hook through the soft worm by twisting the worm around the hook as you pass the point in and out of the worm. This locks the bait around the hook eye and line and prevents it sagging too much. Of course you can always use a light bait elastic as well.

Dabs Folkestone Pier

On the cod front the season promised much and if you look at the highlights it looks much better than it was. Lots of the best anglers failed to catch other than codling and a few average anglers caught lunkers, but on the whole most regions were dire for proper cod from the shore. The boats have done slightly better and it does seem that the bigger fish are just offshore and not coming in unless there is a gale to attract them. Many blame the masses of whiting on which the cod are feeding, they have no need to come inshore. There are calls for the whiting minimum size to be lowered back to 25cm. Whatever, time is running out because most southern regions won’t produce cod after mid January – then its dab, pin whiting and rockling time and only the matchmen are happy. In the North the cod can hang on until February but there too reports for bigger fish are not that good. Cumbria though is alive with codling.

If you read Sea Angler magazine you will have seen my feature on Cramlington matchman, Bob Gascoigne – It makes interesting reading I think, although I would say that wouldn’t I? But Bob raises and interesting subject of clipped versus flapper rigs. Flappers have been my first choice rig for many years and in the past won me lots of competitions and I will explain why. Clipped rigs entail having a bait stop on the snoods to prevent the cast from blowing the worm bait up the snood away from and off the hook point. Thus on occasions, whilst its ok for the big mouthed species who snaffle hook and worm, for those small flatties like dabs it means they can easily take the bait off the LINE without getting hooked. Conversely when you use a flapper rig the bait is forced down the hook and around the point when you cast and the hook is always in the bait. It’s as simple as that, so think twice before using a clipped rig and remember what “Sir” Bob Says – “Clipped rigs for casting show, flappers for match doe!”

The TF Gear S Mag multiplier increasingly impresses me – The thicker diameter main drive spindle prevents distortion and the spool doesn’t lock up even with three dogfish on! During a recent session I fished the S Mag with 18lb mono, filled it to the gunnels and the beauty of the thicker line is that it is impossible to birdnest with the magnetic brakes half on!  Increasingly the beaches I fish are snaggy and 18lb mono and a Bimini twist leader knot enable me to get free from a lot of snags and this save tackle. The trick is using no bigger hooks that size 1 Kamasan B940 which the line and knot can bend out of a snag. OK so I am not fishing for cod, rather whiting, dabs etc with multi hook rigs, but a size1 can handle a bigger fish if required. Thereby lies the seceret to fishing snaggy beaches – If you are after big cod use a single 6/0 rather than a Pennel and fish it on a Pulley rig. For multi hooks, small fish and codling little beats a Loop rig.

Few modern sea anglers would disagree that the biggest improvement in rod construction concerns lighter materials allowing longer lengths. Longer rods are longer levers and they are easier to cast further. Don’t believe the twaddle spouted by some that all you need is a 12ft beachcaster. Longer rods give the lesser skilled and older caster a much better return for their limited power because they bend. That’s not to say you cannot overpower yourself with too much length, but that there are plenty of 15ft models that are light enough for the ladies and pensioners to cast with that will raise their game by a considerable margin with a simple overhead style and fixed spool reel.

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and New Year. – May the cod be with you.

Alan Yates.