The Hunt for Wrasse Part 1
My sea angling campaign started this week with a visit to Cornwall. Friends of ours have a caravan in Newquay so Rob and I decided it would be a good idea to explore the coastline whilst there, for one day at least. Rock fishing was what we had in mind, but instead of just heading off we decided to pop into a tackle shop in town and gather some local knowledge, something that has paid dividends for me in the past. I find that local tackle shops are happy to divulge to holiday makers perhaps a little more than the other locals, call it rivalry if you will.
So, with the post code of a lodge near the cliffs and a bagful of hooks, leads and floats we found it difficult to sleep on Wednesday night such was the excitement. I’ve caught wrasse before, plenty of them, but never more than a pound in weight; the wrasse living in the mark we were to fish had produced them to 8lbs in the past, with 3 and 4 pounders common place. I couldn’t wait. The downside was that the shop had run out of worms, but we were reliably informed that no end of limpet could be gathered prior to fishing, but to be sure and remove the black bit, apparently wrasses don’t like that bit.
We didn’t get up mega early, opting to feed to girls before leaving; extra brownie points never hurt anyone. I guess we reached the spot around 9am, clambered around on the rocks for a while and soon prised a couple of dozen decent sized limpets from their home. The rock pools were amazing, I can explore them all day, but with enough bait for a few hours fishing we decided to get to the lodge and find those monster wrasse. It was already shaping up to be a beautiful day, the sky considerably brighter and bluer after just an hour or so of being there.
We parked the car and headed down towards the water, but then everything got quite serious looking. The guy in the shop was half my age, quite obviously fearless and probably part mountain goat. The cliffs were sharp, rugged and steep. As I said to Rob, twenty years ago I might have been down there in a flash, but now, with a family and a little more sense I thought about it for a split second and decided it just wasn’t going to happen. The spot where we’d gathered the bait looked ok, so off we went with all of our faculties intact.
Exiting the car once more we looked at the possibilities of clambering close enough to fish, but still it looked too dodgy, one slip could mean the end, so once again we hopped back into the car and headed for a headland just a mile along the coast. This spot looked far more user friendly, it was still a bit of a climb, but we felt so much more confident that we could get down close enough to fish loaded up with our gear.
The rod I selected for the trip was a tatty Chapman 500 type rod and the reel a Mitchell 300 loaded with 12 lb line. I set up a basic ledger outfit, lead at the bottom and a flyer with size 1 hook a few inches above. On went a shelled limpet and I was very surprised, pleasantly too, to find a depth directly below me of over twenty feet. I held the line in my index finger and half expected it to pluck straight away, but I waited, and waited, and nothing happened. There might have been wrasse down there, but after fishing the tide almost to the top it was apparent that either the limpets didn’t work or the wrasse just didn’t want to play.
With an hour of the tide left to fish I opted to try for a mackerel, attached a string of five tinsel decorated hooks and cast out into the sea. It went about 50 yards and stopped abruptly, I looked down to see why and then realised it was one of the shallow spools. Nevertheless, 50 yards was more than far enough, and this was confirmed when on my second cast something attacked my tinsel hooks and in came a pulsating mackerel. The fish was beautiful and just how I remembered them from catching them all those years ago.
I just slipped it back when Rob mentioned taking it home for tea. Just then I had another flashback, just how delicious freshly caught mackerel were. I wasn’t too worried, catching one on my second cast obviously meant there were loads out there and that we’d soon fill a bag. How wrong I was. It took the next hour and a half to get another take, this time I had two at once, but one let go before we could hoist them ashore. So with one single solitary mackerel and time fading we headed home having had a fabulous day out to ready the frying pan.
The Hunt for Wrasse Part 2
This morning I woke early and grabbed a glass float rod, pin with 4lb line and a bucket of bits. With the boot loaded I headed for the creek, just a mile or so away where perhaps 25 years ago I could sift through the mud at low tide and collect a few dozen harbour ragworms and fish the tide up from the sea wall catching small wrasse around the 8oz mark which gave excellent sport on light tackle. The creek looked delightful in the morning sun, this creek, in case you’re wondering, is the bit of water that makes Portsmouth an Island.
Down on the mud I was 12 again, with my fingers I sifted through the mud very gently in case there was any glass present. The first thing I came across was a £1 coin, quite bizarre but welcome nevertheless. Then I found the worms; they were around 6 or 7 inches down where the mud met the slipway, just where they used to be. I dropped 2 dozen into a bucket of shallow water and after cleaning myself off headed for the bridge and began to set up a small float rig with a size 16 hook.
I found the exact same deep hole I used to fish all those years previous just along the wall. Plumbed the depth, shallowed up a few inches to avoid crabs and threaded one of the worms onto the hook. The first cast landed spot on and after just a few seconds the float trembled and slid sideways, much like a perch bite. I struck and find myself attached to something very small. I swung in the most delightful little goby, I’d almost forgotten they existed, how rude of me.
The next cast produced a slightly bigger goby, and as wonderful as it was, I began to wonder if I’d catch them all morning and whether the wrasse still lived there at all. I needn’t have worried, as the next cast produced a sail away bite and I could tell by the shape this one certainly wasn’t another goby. It was a b wrasse, albeit the smallest one I’ve ever caught, but it was beautiful and a target fish caught. The colours were awesome, even the small one can be as colourful as their larger parents and grandparents. A spiny little wonder I associate as the perch of the sea.
I went on to catch three more wrasse of similar size and then spent the next hour or so doing something else very familiar, chasing the ghosts of the creek, mullet. I think that could be another adventure, the mullet of the creek are a whole different ball game, they just don’t eat!! Next weekend I have a few other spots in mind, might get a bigger wrasse, chance of a bass, perhaps some mackerel for tea. Can’t wait!!!