Up To My Neck in Neoprene
After a cold and windy day on Blenheim, Neil and Nigel head for an even colder spot of mullet fishing in Christchurch
Nigel Connor and I had often talked about sorting out a trip in search of the Mullet in Christchurch Harbour. But for various reasons we never quite got round to it. Then, whilst sitting in a boat at Blenheim Palace, we made a pact to actually do it.
Mid October is probably leaving it a bit late to tackle one of the best such fisheries in the country, but we hoped there may be a few of the legendary fighters still mooching about down there.
I left that neck of the woods back in the late 1980’s, but still consider Christchurch to be my angling home. I was no stranger to the Nature Reserve that straddles Stanpit Marsh, but, in the nicest possible way, it did feel slightly odd to be listening intently to everything Nigel had to say. He has far more experience in this style of fishing and he was effectively my excellent guide for the day.
An early start ensured we would be in place, ready for action, just as the tide had reached its lowest point. We needed to take advantage of the double tides that the whole area in the vicinity of the Isle of Wight is renowned for. It was a struggle to get our chesties on over the several layers of extra clothing (an absolute necessity as its always windy and several degrees colder down on the marsh). By the time we had completed the 30 minute “stroll” to the Grimbury Point area, we had both worked up quite a sweat.
I’d spent a couple of hours the previous evening coarsely blitzing a couple of Warburtons finest and now added that to some plain crumb, it looked the part and would surely attract the Mullet. Hook bait was to be bits of flake or punched bread (using meat punches).
Nigel had created something similar with lots of stale bread (neatly trimmed off the crusts!) suitably soaked and mashed with a potato masher. Plenty of symmetrical cubed stale bread and similar precisely punched bread were his main line of attack.
|Author Neil with his c.2lbs fish
Standard float gear was the order of the day. Nigel armed himself with a 15ft rod and centrepin whilst I settled for my trusty medium 13footer and little Shimano Stradic, I didn’t fancy the wind too much and had left the centrepin at home! I also reasoned that if I was fortunate to hook a Mullet, the reels superior clutch would come in handy. I set up with a big balsa stick, size 12 to 3.5lb. Nigel’s variation was to go with a big pole float and olivette.
Then came the interesting bit! Nigel pointed to a spot somewhere on the horizon and explained we were to wade upstream and then make our way forward towards the boat channel. That would put us somewhat in the middle of Grimbury Bay! Warning: Do not attempt this unless you know what you are doing! Fortunately the thin layer of mud is underpinned with good solid gravel and the bay has a very even depth. Obvious care must be taken, but it was a novel experience as we made our way to the mark.
We both regularly fed small amounts of “mash” and within an hour the tide had just about turned. The flow started to ease and then effectively halted. I missed two or three very fast bites and then bounced a nice fish. Next cast, the flow had apparently ceased entirely and was just beginning to move in the opposite direction. The float zipped under but I missed it again!
I was trotting the wrong way back up the estuary, but at least the prevailing wind was now “upstream”! I moved the bulk shot a little lower with the aim of slowing everything down. This worked a treat as I finally hooked into a little express. Every time I got it near me, off it would go again. Not a big fish, perhaps between 2lbs and 3lbs, but such speed! I just about had it coming towards the net when it threw the hook!
Two more small balls of mash went in and I soon had a large piece of ragged flake following them. The wind was now helping me to hold back on the float, but it was still travelling the wrong way. I thought that wind was lifting the float so I tried to mend the line only to feel some resistance and then the clutch screamed!
I can understand why some people get addicted to these fish, they don’t know when to give up and their speed is quite something. Eventually what turned out to be a thin lipped mullet of around 2lbs lay in the net, a stunning looking fish immaculate in every detail.
Nigel had been plugging away just 20 yards or so below me, or above, depending on the state of the tide, but had not had a touch. As the tide continued to build, we retreated further back into the bay, repeating the exercise several times. Behind us what had been exposed mud flats rapidly became flooded. The flow started to travel in the right direction and my action stopped. Nigel’s inaction didn’t improve either! So we decided to make our way back to the shore for a warming cup of coffee.
Suitably refreshed I headed a little further down the gravel beach and waded in about 15 yards. Nigel changed tactics entirely, got his chair out and set up a Method Feeder with popped up crust – Interesting! I reckon he was practising for the Clattercote event in a couple of weeks, but fishing back into the bay eventually had results.
His first bite turned out to be from a nice dace of around 8oz, the first of several such specimens, but then a screaming take and bow waves across the shallows signalled some very lively action. No it wasn’t a carp, even though there are some monsters here, even this far down. It was a very lively thick lipped of just over 3lbs. Again in immaculate condition, save for a small, healed puncture wound on its back presumably caused by a cormorant.
Although I continued to work my float down the run, I failed to get any more interest. I didn’t blank though, whilst I may have missed out on the crayfish at Blenheim Palace, I found a near relative from this patch of harbour. Not sure what type of crab it was, it didn’t give much of a fight. Perhaps I should have used it for bait.
Nigel persevered for quite some time, but eventually hoisted his waders again and returned to the middle of the Bay. He struck a lonely but serene picture as he fished away. Passing boaters don’t seem to understand that voices carry quite well over water – “He must have a terrible wife.” seemed a bit harsh!
Meanwhile whilst downing another reviving cuppa I spotted a couple of mullet like shapes in the corner of a shallow bay. I fashioned a sort of waggler from a piece of Drennan Crystal, fixed bottom end only and cast into the corner. Bites galore, but I failed to connect. Eventually I managed to hook one, a very nice specimen dace in perfect nick. Several more followed together with a tiny roach. There were mullet there, but I couldn’t tempt them.
|Nigel with his 3lbs thick lipped mullet|
The harbour is available on a day ticket, only from Davis Tackle, Christchurch, and season ticket directly from Bournemouth & West Hants Water PLC or via membership of Ringwood & District AC.