In a strange, drizzly latter summer, I’ve been drawn more and more to try the kayak to get to fish that might not be catchable from the shore. And while I haven’t been setting any records, I’ve been getting bolder and discovering some new marks.
Part of it is probably the influence of Andy Mytton. I’ve learned so much from our LRF fishing in Devon and Dorset, I can now target a much bigger range of species. And in spite of the hassle of clamping kayaks to cars and gathering wetsuits and the endless gubbins that goes with the task, it’s been fun.
The South Hams represent some great sea fishing- and so I invited John Deprielle, who recently borrowed my tandem kayak, to join me for a crack at a quiet little cove near Start Point. A rocky place that usually has a real mix of rock loving species. Getting there is the main issue, at 5am in the morning, via tiny, shaggy lanes and really random Z roads.
I tackled up two rods, a 10-20g lure rod for the bass, along with a heavier 6ft kayak rod and 30lb braid to fish the really rough bits. It so nearly became an epic session too. Within the first twenty minutes, John had a thumping wrasse of about two and a half pounds, while I had a pollack that fought really well on the light rod.
But it wasn’t to last, at least for John, who steadily went green on the rocking waves. He fed the fish on the way in, before needing a break. Really unfortunate, but that’s the way it is with sea sickness.
I didn’t venture too far after that, but added plenty of wrasse on soft lures. You could see all the shelves and kelpy holes under the yak and it was exciting searching them. Soft, weedless lures like the Fiiish Black Minnow worked a treat, but tended to have a short life expectancy.
Mackerel and smaller pollack also attacked, and the only thing I couldn’t find was bass. Perhaps one reason was a large, grey seal in close proximity! It was quite an eerie experience, seeing its head pop up where I was fishing. I decided to leave it in peace and fish elsewhere, but after paddling a short distance, I saw it pop up again, just 20m or so away, following the kayak! It happened twice more, and we were there staring at each other, eye to eye.
Perhaps it’s a good thing John was on the shore, and not able to upset it with his coarse Northern humour. He had reverted to the shore and was getting bites from small wrasse on the rocks. His face had returned to a more normal colour when I caught up, but I couldn’t tempt him back out for a final crack.
And so we left and decided to try a final couple of hours in another location on terra firma, no boats. I hadn’t been to Dartmouth for a few years, but it looked prime for a spot of LRF. Lots of walls and corners to try, and tons of sandeels here for any school bass and mackerel. John got a couple of missed takes, while I picked up a cute goby, in between it hammering it down, but that was all.
It has otherwise very much been a case of pick and choose your days and times. We joined Adam Moxey for a launch east of Exmouth, from a sandy campsite, to try both lures and bait for a mix of species. A small spoon always keeps my wife out of mischief with the mackerel, but I was keen for a bass.
We tried both drifting and casting, and trolling, and it was Moxey who struck into the fish of the day early, a blistering fight from a bass I’d easily guestimate at 5-6lbs. To his absolute credit though, he decided to swiftly release it rather than faff about.
I try not to lecture too much on conservation, but I think too few sea anglers consider just many years a bass takes to reach this size, and how many tens of thousands of eggs it will produce each year. These are wild fish that deserve the same respect as pike or salmon for me. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone the occasional two pounder if you’re getting lots, but a large bass simply has to be released. So hats off to you, Adam Moxey.
Stoked by this early success, we ventured on, keeping to a similar distance out. Paulina found an early mackerel, while I lost a big garfish on the Fiiish Minnow. We also tried drifing with bait and dropshot, which was excellent. With conditions gentle, only and ounce to ounce-and-a-half of weight was required to trail a worm style lure or a couple of baited feathers.
We had wrasse, small pollack and pout and I liked the method very much. With the hook at a right angle to the line and a fair weight nearby, pretty much every fish was lip hooked and easy to release. I think the drifting boat helps hook the fish too.
After a quick break for lunch, we then tried the other direction, towards Sidmouth, but the tide and winds picked up. I tried hundreds of casts for the bass without success. Even on quite speedy retrieves, the wrasse really slammed soft lures and I had six or so that I sort of cursed and admired in the same breath.
In the end, things got quite hairy. We fought bigger waves and took on a lot of water. It can quickly become much harder to paddle, with currents and winds. My arms were burning by the time we reached the shore again- a good job we hadn’t ventured too far out when conditions changed.
This kayak fishing business is an adventure, anyway, and I’m determined to catch a better bass before the winter sets in. We’ll see.
I’m also going to be glad to get back to the coarse fishing with pike and perch back on, species I tend to leave for the autumn. But for all my other recent adventures, you’ll have to keep an eye on The Far Bank in the Angling Times, where I’ve been out testing traditional baits for roach, and also meeting up with Keith Armishaw at bookshop River Reads, one of the greatest fishing Dens you could ever visit!
Speaking of books, if you enjoy this blog and have yet to find it, do look out for my latest collection Crooked Lines, which has a decade of great stories to read, from sea to fly and coarse fishing. It’s available for just a tenner still too, although there are also three amazingly crafted fish leather covers still available from £200 if you drop me a line.