“A few bass are taken but with no consistency – but there are notenough caught to enable the thinking man to formulate patterns ofbehaviour.” That’s how John Darling described the North Norfolkcoastline in the Sea Angler’s Guide to Britain and Ireland.
He wasn’t the first to write off the 30-mile-long expanse of sand,mud and salt marsh which stretches between Hunstanton, at thesouthern end of The Wash, and Sheringham. He probably won’t be thelast, come to that. But while all the so-called authorities dismissmy local coastline as a poor relation to more famous beaches aroundthe corner, not to mention a dead loss for bass, I kept hearingotherwise.
Take Geoff, who lives in the next village to me. Or is it the nextbut one..? Either way he’s one of the last surviving coastal netsmenworking the fierce tides that rip across the creeks and sandflatswhich line this stretch of the North Sea coast.
Bass and sea trout still grace the long nets he sets on the beachbetween the low and high water marks often enough to eke a living.When he told me this I was earning a crust myself at the time. Wewere on the beach at Holme-next-the-Sea, where the Seahenge timbercircle was discovered two years earlier.
I’d spent many hours on the long flat sands filing stories, asprotesters tried to stop the archaeologists digging up the Bronze Agemonument – or destroying it, depending how you look at it.
I’d got to know some of the locals along the way, including Geoffwho chairs the local parish council. February saw us retracing oursteps, as what appeared to be another timber circle was uncovered bythe tides. On the way I thought I saw a swirl in a tidal creek. “Tooearly to be a bass,” I thought out loud, or words to that effect.Geoff said: “You don’t usually get fish up here, they’re usuallyaround the old wreck over there.”
News stories and deadlines went out of the window as I quizzedGeoff about the bass and the sea trout. While I didn’t get a lot outof him, he’d at least confirmed what I’d already heard from three orfour other sources.
Good bass run west up the coast through Wells and Brancaster Bay,supplementing the ten-inch schoolies that get caught on the beach afew hundred yards from my living room window. They might not benumerous but there were still some good fish to be caught among them.Incredibly – assuming my information was reliable – hardly anyonefishes for them.
Plans were coming together well before the end of winter piking.While I fished the Fens, Broads and one or two other places in myusual failed attempt for a thirty, my mind was on other things. Likewondering what an eight pound bass in a tide race would fight like onthe end of a 9ft spinning rod.
As we trolled Oulton Broad on our last serious day’s piking, I wasmiles away on a deserted beach, lobbing lures at the sunset as thewaves washed around my waders.
Rick, Andy and the rest of the lads thought I was losing it.Suggestions like “there’ll still be time for the zander if it doesn’twork out” began punctuating our conversations.
But I was a man with a mission. And I even had a plan. Cribbingdown everything I could lay my hands on from books, sea mags and theweb had already convinced me lures were going to be the answer.
Unlike lure fishing for pike, which is far more complicated than Iever gave it credit for, this seemed to be simplicity itself.
Most bass anglers swear by two or three lures, like Rapala J13sand Thundersticks. The technique seemed pretty simple as well. Keepmoving around and trying different places and states of the tideuntil you start catching them.
The sea has one major advantage over freshwater fishing when itcomes to this approach. You can recce the whole shooting match at lowtide, see how the land lies and work out where the fish are mostlikely to be. Or that’s the theory.
Just imagine how easy it would be if your favourite gravel pitemptied twice a day and you could inspect every channel, bar andfeature without even getting your feet wet.
As soon as I hung up the pike rods I started prospecting trips tosome of the areas I fancied.
I started taking a rod and a few lures along as well, afterdeciding it was better to learn the mechanics of sea spinning in theweeks before the bass began to show than waste time later.
Casting was the biggest problem. The slightest onshore breeze andmy usual 30lbs Fireline acted like a great big parachute, cuttingcasting down to a measly 20-yard lob.
Dropping the braid to 20lbs barely added another 10 yards on agood day. So the Fireline went on holiday with the pike rods and Itooled up with 16lbs Penn Dynabraid, which has the same diameter as6lbs mono.
The change saw the Rapalas flying a more respectable distance,while spoons like Bridun Lances went out like bullets.
But almost as soon as I started hitting the distances I wanted, Ifound another problem. Lure robbing snags abound on some of my localbeaches.
Letting the lure to back up out of trouble is easier said thandone when eight quid’s worth of plastic meets a weed-covered rock ineven a modest swell.
Knowing where the rocks are is one thing. Allowing for the tide,which can slew the lure several yards off course as soon as it divesbeneath the surface, is another. Still, I thought, it’s better tolearn all this now.
Needless to say I haven’t caught a thing yet. I have seen a fishthough, a swirl and a flash of silver that turned away from a lure ina tidal creek which I assume was a mullet or a sea trout.
At least I’ve been to three or four of the marks I’m going totarget once the bass start turning up.
The gear’s all sorted and I’m reasonably confident I can fish thelures the way I want to. You never know, it just might all go to planafter all.