‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’ run the words of the old song. And like most people I’m no exception, so it was with excitement that, as a family, we headed for a vacation to the Dorset coastal village of Charmouth.
Living as we do, smack bang in the middle of the country, as far as sea fishing goes, I am really an opportunist. I have to take advantage of vacations or work related trips that take me to within casting distance of the coast; but when the opportunities present themselves, I’m very happy to grasp them and indulge in some salt-water angling.
Charmouth is a lovely village, situated on the coast a couple of miles east of the more well-known seaside town of Lyme Regis. Although not technically part of it, it is an extension of the sweep of Chesil beach. It is also world famous as a fossil beach and people come from all over to see what sort of ‘goodies’ they can find.
In fact, the beach is alive to a constant ‘tap, tap’ as countless holiday makers join in with the experts, as they break stone after stone to see what lies within. However, as far as I was concerned, my interests lay more in rockling than rocks! And the extremely hot weather meant that, with sun worshippers everywhere during the day, my fishing was going to be confined to the late evening/darkness, which actually suited me fine.
Although there are more productive beaches in the area for fishing, I chose to stay with Charmouth for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we were staying in a cottage just a few minutes walk from the beach, which made it all convenient. I wasn’t on a serious campaign, I just wanted some fun fishing, and didn’t fancy spending my vacation driving to far off spots. Secondly, I intended to fish just a few hours each evening, and a beach on the doorstep is ideal for that!
My emphasis was on fun and the hot weather meant that sitting there in shorts, tee shirt and flip-flops at midnight certainly helped with the casual and informal approach that I wanted to create for myself. However, I still wanted to catch some fish in the process!
I developed a nice pattern, setting up late evening as the bulk of holiday makers were leaving the beach, and then fishing up until midnight at the latest. Of course, this was not always practical with the tides, but above all I wanted to enjoy the fishing, and catching the tide at 2.00 am didn’t fit in with my plans!
On the first evening, the tides just didn’t work out at all and I found myself fishing an outgoing tide, about halfway between high and low marks. However, as darkness descended, so did the pouting upon my bait! Although there are times when a good cast is necessary, that is not always the case with sea fishing, and I was fishing a very comfortable sixty metres out.
For those who are not used to sea fishing, it can come as a shock to realise that the fish that took your rod tip right round weighs nothing more than a couple of ounces! And this was the case with my first fish. A small pouting that was about four ounces, if that, yet it registered a bite that would have done a five pound chub proud indeed!
There is a lot of competition for food in the sea. When a large shoal of fish are in the area, there isn’t time for individual fish to examine the bait before deciding whether to take it or not, as is often the case with hook shy coarse fish that have been caught many times before. Hence bites can be very sudden and quite ‘violent’.
I fished with ragworm throughout the vacation. Ragworm is the sea angler’s maggot! Certainly if one is specialising, then baits such as peeler crab, mackerel and squid come into their own. But if all you want to do is catch fish, regardless of what you hook, then rag is the way to go. And because I didn’t want to spend my whole holiday digging, a trip to the tackle shop in Lymme Regis each morning provided me with the bait!
Although the tides weren’t ideal, I ended the first session with seven pouting and one eel. The best pouting was about six ounces; the eel was a ‘bootlace’. The next night I missed a few bites, but still managed to catch, this time just three pouting, although the biggest was around the eight ounce mark. As with each session, the weather was superb and it was refreshing to feel the cool sea breeze as the days saw temperatures push the 100F barrier.
Certainly the beach got very busy during the day, but once it got dark, I had the whole place to myself, apart from the odd couple taking a late night stroll along the shoreline. Although where I fished was pitch black, with no streetlights or illumination, to my right was the light of Lymme Regis and to my left I could view the sweep of the bay, as it made its way ultimately to Portland Bill. There was just the lights of odd seaside village standing out against the darkness of the cliffs all around.
The fact that I fished during a period of full moon, combined with a clear sky, meant that it was actually a very picturesque scene that greeted me each evening. The next cliff along the coast heading east from Charmouth is known as The Golden Cap. It is in fact the highest cliff on the south coast of England.
Session number three saw not only the pouting still active – I caught four – but also bass put in an appearance. I had actually had a couple of missed bites that made me think that bass were around, and so when I did catch one – a fish of about twelve ounces – I wasn’t actually surprised. Another fish, one that was smaller, around nine ounces, followed this very quickly. As I flip-flopped back to the cottage I was a very happy man.
As the week wore on, the best tides time-wise were yet to come. However, as is often the case with fishing, things don’t always go to plan. And so it was, expecting a bonanza on day four, I was fortunate enough to catch a six ounce pouting that saved the day! I did have a foul-hooked fish, but that didn’t count! On the final session before returning home I was content with just catching something!
After a few missed bites and mashed worms, my prayers were answered when another bass obliged. With a good pouting around half a pound, plus another eel, it was a decent end to the week. With sixteen pouting, three bass and a couple of eels, I had achieved my aim, which was to have some fun fishing.
As all the fish were returned alive to the water, I would like to say that no living creatures were harmed in the making of this article! However, that wouldn’t strictly be true, of course, as I’m sure the ragworms would have something to say about the validity of that statement!
(Article number 6 published August 2003. If you like why not share? Thanks)