Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

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23 August 2002

New territory!

Last weekend I took one of my grandsons for his first sea fishing trip on a rocky beach which I know like the back of my hand. I have to say that, even though he is only five, Ben was very good and enjoyed himself a lot hopping about on the boulders (put me to shame!). He managed to catch a couple of corkwing wrasse and a small ballan wrasse on float fished ragworm and had several more bites which removed the worm from the hook. The highlight of the trip (as far as Ben was concerned) was when he caught a shore crab, entirely unaided, by baiting his little net with a piece of ragworm and waiting patiently for the crab to climb in.

Anyway, on the previous morning I'd decided to get up early and try fishing places which I had rarely or never fished before along the same shoreline. As I said I was on a stretch of coast that I know intimately and you might think that I would have fished pretty well every inch of it. Not true! The entire two or three miles is very weedy and snaggy and at low water (which it was) fifty percent of it is so shallow as to be virtually unfishable - until now!

Of course the secret of fishing these difficult places is surface lures. Poppers, sliders and other surface baits can be fished over virtually anything without risking losses. In fact if you tie your knots properly, with a bit of luck, a single lure could virtually last a lifetime. Any way, my first cast, with a repainted Skitterpop, was just as it was getting light. For half an hour I worked my way along the shore without a sniff of a fish when I reached a spot from which I've never caught a bass. It looks good. There is a broad flat ledge covered in feathery moss-like algae and corallines with good sized boulders dotted here and there. The water was calm and about half-a-metre deep with just enough of a ripple to obscure the underwater detail.

I cast the lure thirty metres into the gap between two submerged boulders, and began to pop it back. About third chug I noticed a slightly different pattern of ripples by the lure. It was almost like the disturbance caused by one swirl of a teaspoon - but I know that such movements don't happen by themselves. I stopped chugging and gently twitched the lure, I had been right in my assumption and there was a much bigger swirl by the lure (more like an oar than a teaspoon this time). I let it rest for a couple of seconds and twitched again. There was a huge sploosh and the rod heaved over as a fish took the lure.

After a typically wild, surface splashing battle I landed the bass (3kg) took a couple of pictures, unhooked and returned it, with my heart still pounding. This was a real result for my exploratory trip.

I fished on and after about fifteen minutes more came to a long ledge stretching out into the sea. On the exposed side of the ledge the water was about a metre deep with a jumble of kelp and boulders and on the other side it sloped down gently to a sheltered meadow of bladder wrack and serrated wrack. Both sides look good for bass but again I've never had a fish (other than a couple of wrasse) from them. I walked out along the barnacle encrusted rocks and tried the deeper water to no avail and then decided to have a few casts on the sheltered side. The swell was just breaking over the ledge and ruffling the surface in front of me. At the end of the retrieve I was about to lift the lure from the ripples when the tip of the rod was dragged down. An unseen fish had grabbed the popper just beyond my booted feet. Even though the water was gin clear and less than thirty centimetres deep I had seen nothing. At first the fish splashed so much in the shallow water that I still could not see what it was. I was half convinced that it must be a big wrasse but it turned out to be a beautiful bass of 1.7kg. Two up to the popper.

Ten minutes later and further along the shore another decent bass inspected the lure. This time the water was glassy calm and again the first hint was a tiny swirl following the second chug. Once again I tried the slow twitching technique and managed to induce a couple of big swirls but it did not take. Anyway, two decent fish and one other interested bass in two hours was good by my standards so I shall definitely be trying some more "unfishable" spots in the near future.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -

Ben with his first ever corkwing.

Even these little fish whipped the float under and away.

A 3kg bass.

The fish only took properly after I had twitched the lure twice

This is exactly where I hooked the second bass.

Occasional waves were breaking onto this side of the ledge and obscured the taking fish.

A bit more detail.

After rushing about on both sides of the ledge the fish began to tire.

High and not quite dry.

I still find it hard to believe that the fish managed to sneak up unseen in such shallow water.