From late January to mid April I tend to fish just short sessions, maybe three hours at a time. Over the years I’ve found this produces far more fish for me at a time of year when fish are generally thin on the ground.
Most of the adult fish such as cod, flounder, whiting etc, start to move offshore in numbers to spawn in late January leaving only the smaller fish to target. The fish that are willing to feed tend to do so only for short periods and at key times of tide, such as low water and the early flood, and maybe either side of high water.
My latest foray would see me fish for just three hours taking in the last three hours of a big spring tide in full dark. The surf beach I chose is very shallow and floods quickly, but there is a slightly deeper gully towards the high tide line that can hold a few fish.
Arriving on the beach the sea was pretty much flat with hardly any surf. Wading out into the water to have a look, the sea was still a little grey and cloudy, which surprised me given the recent calmish weather.
I started out with two rods to cover as much ground as possible. One with my favourite three boom rig for close in fishing, and the other with a two-hook clipped up rig for longer range. Both rigs had size 2 Kamasan B940 hooks on.
The only bait I took was a pack of frozen black lug and two frozen mackerel. The mackerel is a good winter flounder bait locally and tends to pick out the better fish too, but the black lug is by far the best for dabs.
The gully was still a good half hour from flooding when I made my first casts. I actually saw the lead on the boom rig splash down just 30-yards out and just behind the first breaker, always a good spot! The other one I hit hard and listened to the reel sing in the still night air until I felt the line go slack as the lead touched down.
Apart from some street lights off to the right and the occasional beam of a car’s headlights to the left I was in a world of my own, just watching the rods tips for the slightest indication of a bite.
I hadn’t long to wait. The close in rig was the first to attract a customer. The rod tip dipped, dipped again and stayed still. The same happened again a few seconds later. Lifting the rod to break out the grip lead and retrieving some line I felt weight on there and a double kick. Sliding the fish in I saw I’d got a couple of flounders on, but right at the edge, as I lifted the fish, one fell off the hook and scurried away. It wasn’t big and was no major loss.
Having re-baited and re-cast, my attention went to the long range rod. This too indicated a bite. Again I could feel weight and wound in two dabs, but as before one fell off as I lifted the fish up from the surf. Having this happen in two consecutive casts is no coincidence and I’d also noticed when unhooking the other two fish that the hooks were only just inside the mouth and that the fish had only been nibbling the very ends of the bait. I instantly changed to the same rigs, but with smaller size 6 hooks on and dropped the size of my baits accordingly. This is a typical scenario at this time of year with fish in cold water only half heartedly feeding.
Next cast came two more flounder on the close in boom rig, then a single dab two casts running on the long range rod.
While baiting up I watched the tide creep into the gully and gradually filter towards me. The boom rig went in to the middle of the gully into just a few inches of water, but I continued to hit the two-hook rig out to maximum range. The latter took a double header of dabs, then a single dab. If I baited with lug it was two dabs, if I baited one hook with mackerel and the other with lug, only the lug bait caught, this in total contrast to the close in rig which only produced on the mackerel, the lug being ignored.
The gully now had maybe a foot or so of water in it. I saw a slight drop back bite, but decided to leave it. Watching carefully about 30 seconds later it did the same again. I still left it. Suddenly the rod tip bounced over and the lead pulled free. There was a decent weight on the end and I could feel the flattie shuddering across the seabed as it reluctantly came to the pressure of the rod. As the rig broke surface, on the top hook was a small dab, on the bottom hook a small 5 bearded rockling, but on the middle hook was a half decent flounder. I decided to weigh the flounder, just to see, and it was bang on 1lb 8ozs. I was happy enough with that as we don’t get really big flounders here on the mid Wales coast as a norm.
I lost another good flattie a couple of casts later that was on briefly then shook the hook. With hindsight I should have let the bite develop longer, but was conscious to not let the hook get deep.
The next few casts produced a steady return of small flounders and dabs, most fish falling to the close in rig, with the long range baits producing only the odd dab. I briefly thought about dropping the two-hook rig in short as well, but decided not too. I usually pick up pin whiting and the odd bigger one from this venue at long range at this time of year and felt it still worth a try to add another species.
To sum up then a productive three hours fishing that was busy enough to keep me warm, and for the most part, constantly occupied. Bites died completely as soon as high water arrived and fishing on would have seen very little caught.
These short sessions are obviously more feasible for those of us lucky enough to live on or near the coast. But those of you having to travel for their fishing can also benefit by fishing say low water at one venue, then moving on to alternative near by venue for high water. Covering two venues and maybe two different types of ground gives you the best chance of finding fish willing to feed.