Early Articles And Information

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Combe Martin Sea Angling Club Secretary Nick Phillips won the clubs latest Open Match at Woolacombe beach with a fine bass of 10lb 1oz caught on the last cast of the competition.

The specimen bass seized a mackerel bait fifteen minutes before the end of the four hour match that attracted twenty keen anglers. The club organised the competition following the ongoing success of their Putsborough competition held each summer.  Members had speculated that a match held during the autumn could offer the chance of a good specimen fish or two with ray and bass high on the agenda.

After a week of atrocious weather with strong winds and heavy rain the likelihood of the competition taking place was in question. But on the night the winds dropped along with the swell and even the rain ceased for the four hour duration of the match.

Anglers assembled at the booking in and anticipation was high as competitors ambled down the steep slopes to the vast expanse of Woolacombe Beach. A brisk breeze was blowing from the south east and a moderate surf surged against the sands. The next four hours passed and a range of species were brought to the shore including small eyed ray, small bass, turbot, whiting, codling, conger and the inevitable dogfish. The fishing was for most slower than hoped and spirits had slipped since the start with talk reflecting a lack of fish. As always though at the meet up to collate results a good few fish had been caught. At first it appeared that a dogfish could win the match despite the temporary raising of the specimen size for the competition to 3lb 8oz.

The announcement of Nicks 10lb 1oz bass brought a buzz of excitement and congratulations. The picture taken by Nicks son Jack was eagerly viewed by the huddle of tired anglers. The bass injected a much needed surge of enthusiasm ensuring that many will return to the beach again in search of that dream fish. A double figure bass is much sort after and many have not seen such a fish. I have witnessed several over the past fifty years but never been fortunate enough to actually land one. It is very high on my bucket list and is one of the goals that keeps me going. Autumn is the month if you want a double.

Results :-

1st Nick Phillips – Bass 10lb 1oz

2nd Mark Jones – dogfish – 2lb 4oz

3rd Wayne Thomas – dogfish 2lb 2oz

4th – Dan Miles Redmore – dogfish 2lb 1oz

Best ray – Dan Welch small eyed ray – 3lb 4oz



Fish of the season winner for the period July through to August is Robin Bond with a cracking Gilthead Bream of 5lb. Second place to Chay Boggis with his Smoothound of 15lb.

For the period March to May we have Kevin Legge with a Bull Huss of 13lb 9oz and then Mark Jones with anoth Huss of 13lb 6oz. 

Fish of the season winner for December to February quarter is Ali Laird for his Tope of 39lb 12oz caught in December. He wins a £25 voucher to be spent in High Street Tackle Ilfracombe. Second was Mark Jones with a Thornback of 14lb 8oz and third again Ali Laird Conger of 25lb 10oz. 

Our week long Lynmouth Maritime Festival aka Lynmouth Open was held the week running up to June 16th. Twenty anglers competed and the presentation was held at The Ancient Mariner at Lynmouth. The winner was James Gubb who caught a cracking boat caught Tope of 50lb and a Blonde Ray of 12lb 12oz combined giving him 210%. James was also presented with a special prize donated by Ardosia Slate for the best specimen of the week. Second place to Dan Welch for 200.208% and third to Rob Scoines.

Our Putsborough competition took place on June 1st and was attended by 49 members and anglers in near perfect conditions. Many thanks to our sponsers Sakuma, High Street Tackle Ilfracombe and Chillcheaters of Braunton. Also many thanks to the owners and staff of Putsborough for allowing us to continue this popular event. See North Devon Angling News for full write up and pictures.

1st – Ian Laird – Small eyed ray – 8lb 8oz

2nd Dan Welch – Smoothound – 7lb 12oz

3rd -Louis Rooke – small eyed ray – 7lb 3oz

4th – Dan Welch- small eyed ray – 7lb 2oz

5th – Jonathon Stanway – small eyed ray – 7lb 1oz

6th – J. Mayhew – small eyed ray – 6lb 15oz

7th – Gary Andrews – small eyed ray – 6lb 14oz

8th – Ian Hooper – small eyed ray – 6lb 8oz

9th – Dan Welch – small eyed ray – 6lb 5oz

       = Craig McCloughlin – small eyed ray – 6lb 5oz

10th – Craig McCloughlin – small eyed ray – 6lb 4oz

11th – Matt Jeffery – small eyed ray – 6lb 3oz

12th – Brian Retallick – bass – 4lb 14oz

13th – Dale Kiff – Small eyed ray – 6lb 1oz

The winner of the pool for the best brace was Dan Welch with a smoothound scaling 7lb 12oz and a small eyed ray of 7lb 2oz a total % of 148.906%


Our annual prize giving event The Presentation Night was held at The Ebrington Arms, Knowle on March 9th 2019 with many members and guests attending. Wayne also gave us his insight to his last twelve months in the form of his slide show which was greatly received. Many thanks to those who attended and to those who donated prizes for the raffle. Full report with photos in North Devon Angling News.

Our 2019 Calendar of Events is now available to download from the site.

Our Annual General Meeting has taken place at The White Lion, Braunton and was very well attended. Our officers ran though all their reports, re-elections and appointment of committee. Subscriptions remain the same, but OAP's now pay £5 membership. Some great ideas were discussed for next years calendar which should be available mid December. 

Some changes to specimen sizes to place. Pollack (boat) down to 10lb, Spotted Ray (shore) down to 4lb 8oz, Thick Lipped Mullet (shore) up to 4lb 4oz and Thin Lipped Mullet (shore) up to 4lb. Please make a note of these sizes.

All species trophies will now include fish from both boat and shore.

Cod Trophy        Rob Scoines                 Cod                12lb 4oz 

Bass Trophy      Ali Laird                       Bass               9lb 12oz

Mullet Cup         Joshua Jeffery            Thin Lipped    4lb 6oz

Conger Cup        Kevin Legge                   Conger           28lb

Flatfish Cup      Matt Jeffery                Flounder        1lb 14 3/4oz

Shore Shield    Kevin Legge                  Conger            28lb

Medway Cup     Rob Scoines                 Spurdog           18lb 2oz

Ray Shield       Jonathon Stanway        Small Eyed      11lb 2oz

Specimen Shield    Dan Welch 646.737%, Matt Jeffery 622.537% and Ali Laird 634.913%.

Burgess Trophy    Joshua Jeffery       Thin Lipped    4lb 6oz

Wrasse Trophy    Ross Stanway        Ballan Wrasse    4lb 7oz

Scouse Shield      Rob Scoines           Rockling            1lb 9oz

D Kyte Award    John Shapland 6 Mullet to 631.411%

Merit Award    Dan Welch

With immediate effect all meetings will resume at The Cricket Club, Braunton. Including Decembers competitions.


We have now held our Presentation Night and slide show at @ One, Braunton and a really enjoyable night was had by all. Food again was fantastic, so thank you to the new owners, Helen and Aimee and also to their chef. Seeing that they has only been in the business for a few days it went really well. Thanks to all those who donated raffle prizes and again to Craig at Braunton Baits. Thanks to those who purchased the raffle tickets, we raised £83 for club funds. Thanks to Wayne for his slide show of his past year and we know what effort goes into getting it together and James for carrying all that gear. Snowy for his help in getting the trophies engraved and scrubbed up for the night. And of course to all those members and guests who did attend on the night and made it the night it was. Thoughts for next year please.

Please note that our 2017 Calendar has now gone out to all members, but is now available to download from our site.


Our Annual General Meeting was held on December 2nd at The Cricket Club and was attended by 14 members. Officers and committee remain the same as do subscriptions. Several discussions took place but only one, which was more of a clarification than a rule change, was the rule (26a) requiring a need to witness fish by new members under 12 months membership, after this time can register fish on a catch and release basis. Reports came from the officers reporting an increase in membership and subscriptions meaning a very healthy Club. All committee and officers were thanked for their hard work and everyone enjoyed sausage and chips.

Trophy Winners 2015/16 


Cod Trophy        Stuart Taylor           Cod           9lb 14oz 

Bass Trophy        Liam Stevens             Bass         15lb 8oz 

Mullet Cup         Dan Spearman          Thin         4lb 15oz 

Conger Cup        Michael Taylor         Conger     28lb 3oz 

Flatfish Cup   John Shapland           Flounder   1lb 14oz 

Shore Shield        Liam Stevens             Bass         15lb 8oz 

Medway Cup   Craig McCloughlin        Spurdog   18lb 4oz 

Ray Shield         Dan Spearman          Blonde      17lb 1oz 

Specimen League        Dan Spearman          808.050%

                                Kevin Legge                629.636%

Burgess Trophy    Ollie Laird         Spurdog    10lb 2oz

Out Of Limits         

Wrasse Trophy        Dan Spearman          Corkwing  9oz 

Scouse Shield        Ross Stanway            Rockling    1lb 13 1/2oz 

D Kyte Award        Graham Snow           5 Mullet        

Merit Award        Dan Spearman 

Club Records

Dan Spearman        Corkwing Wrasse        9oz        (s)        112.500%

Rob Scoines        Haddock                   1lb 14oz (s) 187.500%

Craig McCloughlin        Spurdog           18lb 4oz (b) 130.357%  


Our Annual General Meeting took place on Friday December 1st at The Cricket Club, Braunton at 7.00pm. A really good attendance with several new faces. Just a couple of changes to note, Spurdog specimen shore up to 10lb and boat up to 15lb. Ballan Wrasse changes from 5lb down to 4lb 8oz from boat and shore. Some of our competition meeting places will now be Cook's Island, Mullacott so keep an eye on our calendar which will be out soon. Also a note for your diaries is Saturday March 10th our Presentation Night at The Ebrington Arms, Knowle.

Trophy winners for 2016/2017 are:

Cod Trophy            Matt Jeffery          Cod              18lb 4oz

Bass Trophy           Dan Spearman          Bass             11lb 

Mullet Cup             Graham Snow          Thick Lip     5lb 5oz 

Conger Cup             Ross Stanway          Conger        30lb 3oz 

Flatfish Cup           John Shapland          Flounder      1lb 14 1/2oz 

Shore Shield          Dan Miles-Redmore Spurdog          13lb 4oz 

Medway Cup           Rob Scoines                  Conger        38lb 

Ray Shield             Guy Spriggs                  Blonde          16lb 

Specimen League          Ross Stanway                           717.875%

                             Dan Spearman                         681.719% 

Burgess Trophy          Ollie Laird            Small Eyed  11lb 10oz 

Wrasse Trophy          Ross Stanway          Ballan           4lb 14oz 

Scouse Shield Rob Scoines                  Rockling      1lb 6oz 

D Kyte Award          Graham Snow                            642.88% 

Merit Award                    John Shapland / Dan Welch 

Out Of Limits Louis Rooke           Blonde Ray    28lb 

Thornback Shield Kevin Legge           Thornback   10lb 8oz 

Club Records 

J Stanway              Haddock      Boat             2lb 7oz


Our Fun Fish on Ilfracombe Pier was again a great success with 20 anglers, mostly juniors taking part. Charlie Stanway took first place with a total of 18 points, second Solly Welch with 17 points and third place to Jack Phillips with 16points. A slight change to the system where 2 points were awarded for the first species and then 1 point for the second of the same species. This helped prevent ties as with previous years. Main prizes went down to 8 places and many thanks to High Street Tackle, Ilfracombe for their support. Also thanks to Matt Maunder ( Devon & Severn IFCA ), Colin Wood and David Harper ( coastguards ) who were available throughout the morning to chat with the many members of the public on the pier. Pictures @ North Devon Angling News.

Our species competition has come to an end and our winner John Shapland amassed an incredible 43 species, but also as good was the runner up Daniel Welch who registered 41 species. Well done to both of you, I know that you both put in an amazing amount of hard work and time for your rewards. Good show to Ross Stanway with 25 species. Many thanks to High Street Tackle for your support. Their will be a fallow year with the next event taking place 2019.


Our Putsborough Competition was again a great success. With 58 anglers fishing the beach on an almost perfect night. Many thanks to Mr Rob Tucker of Putsborough Sands, Sakuma, High Street Tackle, Ilfracombe, Veals MO and to Kevin Legge for donated prizes. See North Devon Angling News for the full story and pictures.

1st – Matt Druce – blonde ray -11lb 41/4oz

2nd -Dale Kiff – small eyed ray – 7lb 14oz

3rd – Gareth Pike- dogfish – 2lb 5oz

4th – Garry Andrews – small eyed ray – 7lb 1/2oz

5th – Matt Druce – small eyed ray – 6lb 151/2oz

6th – Dan Welch – small eyed ray – 6lb 15oz

7th – Dan Redmore – small eyed ray – 6lb 12oz

8th – Colin Emery – dogfish 2lb

9th – Lee Holden – dogfish 1lb 15oz

10th – Gareth Pike – dogfish 1lb 14oz

Nick Smith – dogfish 1lb 14oz

Ben Putman – dogfish 1lb 14oz

11th – Ross Stanway – small eyed ray – 6lb 21/2oz

12th – Ben Putman – small eyed ray – 6lb 10z

Colin Tanton – small eyed ray 6lb 1oz

Best Brace  -Matt Druce – Blonde Ray 11lb 41/2oz & small eyed ray 6lb 151/2oz Total = 163.4%


Putsborough 2015 -
Top Ten
1st -Dan Spearman – small eyed ray – 10lb 4oz

2nd - Graham Snow – bull huss - 9lb 11oz
3rd - Lee Watts – small-eyed ray - 8lb 1oz
4th - Matt Jeffery – small-eyed ray – 7lb 15oz
5th - Graham Snow – dogfish -2lb 5.5oz
6th - Graham Snow - dogfish – 2lb 5oz
7th - Richard Budge – small-eyed ray – 7lb 9oz
8th - Steve Holland – small-eyed ray – 7lb 8oz
9th - Daniel Welsh – small-eyed ray – 7lb 5oz
10th - Kevin Legge – dogfish – 2lb 4oz
10th --Ben Putman – dogfish 2lb 4oz

Many thanks must go to all who ventured out on such a wet and breezy night. As regards to fish it was probably our best yet with numerous small eyed ray caught along with dogfish, bull huss and smoothound. Our main sponsor Sakuma certainly did us proud with a fine array of prizes on the prize table ensuring that a good percentage of the participants went home with a valuable prize. Thanks also to our other sponsors Braunton Baits and Ammo Baits. Once again we thank the owners and staff at Putsborough for their cooperation in allowing this event to continue.

Its always with a degree of trepidation that I head off for the annual Open at Putsborough beach as this year as most I seem to have the chief role of booking in and weighing in. Whilst this not major stress there is always the potential for mistakes especially at the weigh in. Leading up to the competition weather is the prime concern and the weather forecast is studied with care for if its diabolical it may be wise to cancel. We had not had cancel in over twenty years and in May or June good weather should be the norm.
This year the wind was forecast to be light southeast the dampener was heavy rain forecast to arrive during the evening. Well they were not far off; the rain arrived at 9:30 and the wind forecast to be light built as the night went on increasing to a force 4 to 5 westerly.
The booking in went OK despite a slight last minute shuffle due to a miscommunication with the landowner. Anglers arrived steadily paying their entry before striding purposefully off towards the retreating tide.
Shortly after 9.30pm I set off with Kevin Legge, Riichard Budge and Dave Brooke aiming to trudge to the end of the line. After twenty minutes or so we arrived at a suitable gap in the line of anglers. Not to far from the end of the line and probably closer to Woolacombe than Putsborough.
I tackle up eagerly, bait up with a thawed out sandeel and wade out into moderate surf punching the baits out into the dark waters. It feels good to be in the surging water despite the cool rain that is being driven by the moderate breeze.
The rods are set in the rests tips bent slightly towards the weight that is anchored seventy or eight yards out. I ring home to give a report but before the call is answered the rod tip give s nod before plunging seaward the reels ratchet rasping pleasingly. I pick up the rod; and tighten the line feeling for an indication of life on the end of the line. Feeling weight I lift into the fish and start retrieving line pumping steadily enjoying the sensation of the fish pulsating on the line attempting to hug the bottom.
Walking out into the surf I lean over to lift a small-eyed ray from the cool water. At 6lb 1oz it’s a good start to the night.

Dan Spearman is fishing next to me and is soon striding over for me to witness his first ray of the night a fish of just over 5lb. Half an hour after my first ray I am in action again beaching a small eyed of 7lb 1oz this fish gives a spirited account as I persuade it towards the shoreline.

Its always great to share in a fellow anglers pleasure and I can tell that Dan is delighted when he arrives at my side holding a fine specimen small-eyed that pulls the scales to 10lb 4oz.


A few dogfish follow before all goes quiet as the tide floods in. With the rain beating down its not a hard decision to make packing away my gear to get back and arrange the prize table before the competitors arrive back.
I do not have to wait long before competitors arrive to hand over their soggy entry forms listing the fish they have caught and the relevant weights and witness. I scribble the details down and ask for assistance in ascertaining the relevant specimen ratings. Callum Gove does a grand job. Matt Jeffery offers to help sort the placings and after fifteen minutes or so we are ready to announce the winners.
I thank everyone for fishing and read out the winning names inviting them to select one of the many excellent prizes donated by Sakuma Tackle, Braunton Baits and Ammo.
Dan Spearman is the winner with his ray of 10lb 4oz. Graham Snow runner up with a bull huss of 9lb 11oz.

I drive home pleased to have hosted a successful event and vow to get out on the beach again before to long without the stress of a competition to deal with.

Trophy Winners 2013/2014    (click on title to download list)

    Cod Trophy            Ross Stanway           Cod              15lb 10oz

     Bass Trophy           Craig McLoughlin          Bass             8lb 15oz

     Mullet Cup             Adrian Gove                    Mullet                    6lb 6oz

     Conger Cup             Kevin Legge           Conger        31lb 10oz

     Flatfish Cup           Dan Spearman          Flounder      2lb 2oz

     Shore Shield          Guy Spriggs                  Tope            56lb 4oz

     Medway Cup           Chris Martin                   Spurdog      16lb

     Ray Shield             Jason Barrow          S/Eyed        10lb 15oz

     Specimen League                   Ross Stanway          602.500% (6 species)       

                                                   Kevin Legge           556.094% (4 species)

                                                   Ian Laird            422.145% (6 species)

                                                   Guy Spriggs                  408.594% (3 species)

     Out Of Limits          Wayne Thomas          Mullet                    6lb 14oz

     Compt. League          Kevin Legge           34 pts

                                     Graham Snow          26 pts

     Wrasse Trophy          Ian Laird            Wrasse        2lb 14oz

     Scouse Shield Ross Stanway          Rockling      1lb 5oz

     D.Kyte Award          Graham Snow          465.402% (best 5)

     Merit Award                    Guy Spriggs

     Club Records

     Ian Laird               Gilthead Bream           1lb 15oz   Shore

     John Shapland          Grey Gurnard          15oz             Boat



Saturday March 14th 2015 saw our Presentation Night at The London Inn, Braunton. We had a smashing night with a hot buffet of curry, chilli and cottage pie with several servings available. We then had the presentation with almost all Trophies and awards being received by members. We then followed with a raffle which was greatly received with many prizes donated by the Club and members alike. Over £80 was raised for Club funds. The highlight of the night was again Wayne's slideshow which highlighted a year of angling from all disciplines. Many thanks to all those who attended and to those who donated. Thoughts are going to next year's event.

Our 2015 Calendar is now available on the website to download.

Our Annual General Meeting was held at The Cricket Club, Braunton on Friday November 28th at 7.00pm. It was well attended with some great ideas for the calendar and competition format. The Club is now funding the monthly competition with a prize of £25 and a sponsored prize which will be open to all paid up members, so just enter your fish to Wayne who has taken on the role of fish recorder. Please don't just assume that your fish is being entered please register it. Members may if they wish enter a pool during each month similar as we do now and this will be split into 1st and 2nd places as we do now, this will remain at £5. Sponsored by World Sea Fishing.

Many thanks to John Avery for carrying out his role as fish-recorder over the last many years, he is now standing down and Wayne will continue his role.

Subscriptions will remain the same at £10 seniors, £1 juniors, £15 family and free for all the old gits.

Our battle with engraving costs will continue as we have now agreed that we will engrave any trophy or shield that the winner wants engraving, we will of course continue with club records and junior awards.

Finally thanks to all those members on the committee and in office for their work over the year and welcome new members.


Trophy Winners 2012

Cod Trophy                 Brady Edwards Cod 13lb 5oz
Bass Trophy                 Wayne Thomas Bass 9lb
Mullet Cup                     Adrian Gove Thick Lipped 5lb 6 1/2oz
Conger Cup                 Kevin Legge Conger 28lb 15oz
Flatfish Cup                 Jon Patten Dab 15oz
Shore Shield                 Guy Spriggs Smoothound 21lb 10 1/2oz
Medway Cup                Dave Shapland Spurdog 17lb 4oz
Burgess Trophy             Reef Patten Spurdog 13lb 3oz
Ray Shield                     Jason  Barrow Blonde Ray 12lb 2oz
Specimen League         Kevin Legge 758.436%
                                        Simon Silvester 731.616%
                                        Dave Shapland 605.508%
Thornback Shield         Jon Patten Thornback 11lb
T. Clark Memorial         Matt Jeffery Small Eyed Ray 10lb 
Out Of Limits                 Jon Patten Plaice 7lb 8oz
Compt. League             Simon Silvester 42 pts
                                        Kevin Legge 24 pts
                                        Graham Snow 22 pts
Wrasse Cup                 Dave Shapland Cuckoo Wrasse 1lb 5oz
D.Kyte Shield                 Graham Snow 576.451% 
Scouse Shield             Derek Ferrett Rockling 1lb 9oz
Merit Award                 Simon Silvester
Club Records
Dave Shapland             Cuckoo Wrasse 1lb 5oz (boat)
Jason Barrow                 Blue Shark 121lb 8oz (boat)
Guy Spriggs                     Smoothound 21lb 10 1/2oz (shore)
Dave Shapland                 Spurdog 17lb 4oz (boat)

  September 2nd saw the Club take part in Sea Ilfracombe 2012 where we hosted a Family Fun Fishing competition on the pier from 1.00pm to 5.00pm. We also had demonstrations in the art of light rock fishing techniques from the Art Of Fishing from Plymouth. Several other guests included Nick Payne from the Angling Trust and from IFCA Matt Lander and Jeremy Boyd. All of which we hope to meet again in the near future. It was a great day out and many thanks to all those who helped on the day. Look out for more news concerning workshops and fish-in's for new members.

IMG_6321.jpeg (190961 bytes)    IMG_6308.jpeg (251620 bytes)    IMG_6305.jpeg (223267 bytes)    IMG_6359.jpeg (257129 bytes)    IMG_6298.jpeg (202880 bytes)    

Many thanks to Putsborough Sands owners for again allowing access to their site for this years competition. Despite a rough weekend winds abated just to allow 20 or so anglers to fish the beach. Full results on webpage.

David ray.jpg (225896 bytes)    Dave Brooke, Kevin Legge with their Ray IMG_6152.jpg (224343 bytes) and all the 

winners IMG_6154.JPG (268312 bytes).



Our Putsborough competition has been and gone this weekend with nearly thirty anglers from many areas taking part. Many thanks to the Tucker family at Putsborough for allowing the competition to take place. Also thanks to those who donated prizes, especially Sakuma and Ammo who really did us proud with the prize table. Also thanks to those who participated and helped during the night at the booking in, during and at the weigh in. Results on results page.

IMG_3708.JPG (114723 bytes)    Matt Druce being awarded his prizes on the night. And it doesn't get any better than this   IMG_3681.JPG (98482 bytes)

A link to World Sea Fishing website article by Wayne

Sea anglers fishing from the shore will on some occasions benefit from being able to cast long distances in order to reach fish that are swimming at long range. The desire to cast a long distance has lead to extensive refinement of tackle and techniques. Combe Martin SAC members joined Westward Casting Club members at an event near Bodmin on Sunday April 10th. Each month enthusiastic casters meet up to practice the art of casting lead weights for distances close to and beyond 300 yards. Talking with several of the competitors it became apparent that for some the art of casting has become their focus with fishing a secondary interest. Each caster striving to extend their personal best distance and of course out cast their comrades.

We all enjoyed a great day and learnt that if we really want to cast further some tuition will be required. There may well be the opportunity for some tuition later in the summer: watch this space or contact Wayne or Nick.

Further details in the forthcoming club newsletter.

For further information on Westward Casting Association contact: -

Ian Ford – email – inford@aol.com or by phone on 01822 617946

The associations website is viewed on www.myfishcasting.com

Or http://westwardcasting.webs.com/

The link below ties in with our own Club ethics and values.


Kevin Legge took many awards at the Bristol Channel Federation Presentation night including the prestigious Wilkinson Sword Award.


And a link to World Sea Fishing Website below.


On the night of November 6th 2006, Kevin Legge smashed the British Shore Caught Tope record with a fish of 66lb. Four years later to the day he has again proved his worth by pushing the record another 8oz to a stunning 66lb 8oz. Wayne Thomas and Derek Ferrett were there to witness the event and it has already caused shock waves through the media. First for the news go to the World Sea Fishing site, see forthcoming press releases or read the full account of the night in Total Sea Fishing Magazine February 2011 due out January. The fish was returned alive and we all congratulate Kevin on this achievement. A taster is attached......    

One Club record which has stood for many years was that of the boat caught Cod record of 24lb 8oz caught from Combe Martin Bay by Tom Clark on December 26th 1972.....just over 35 years. Well, I've found a picture in amongst old Club paperwork in the loft.

                                                                Tom Clark    TomClarkCod.jpg (218172 bytes)    

Since the above image was pasted on our site I have received a couple of images which relate to catches of bygone times. Big skate were "fairly" common in the Bristol Channel. I have heard of rumors of such fish coming in from Lynmouth and indeed Combe Martin perhaps only fifty years ago.......and here are some images of Common Skate from Lynmouth.

                                                     000801c873f8$522f14c0$7a586f58.jpg (274675 bytes)        005a01c8733b$d0e03b40$394e6d58.jpg (267556 bytes)    Common Skate clearly from Lynmouth.

Members are invited to send in old images for the website.

Richard Fishbourne has just returned from an amazing trip to the Amazon......read his incredible story.  See the 400lb fish in our Members In Action page.


Jay Jay Trip

Seven club members fished off Ilfracombe on the charter boat “Jay Jay”; skippered by Paul Hutching’s. Several marks were fished during the day with tope giving some exciting sport as they steamed off with member’s baits. Top tope of the day both weighed 42lb. One to the rod of Matt Jeffery gave the fight of all fights that was be hooked in its flank. Wayne Thomas landed brace of tope weighing 42lb and another estimated at 30lb.

            Smaller species were noticeably thin on the ground, which may in part have been due to the large number of tope on the prowl. At the end of the trip members had boated close to a dozen tope. Dogfish, small huss, pollock and a solitary whiting punctuated the spells between tope.


Our Annual General Meeting was held early December and many members attended. Subscriptions are now due from this date so a reminder to members. membership costs remain the same. Reports were made by all officers and the general consensus is that the Club is in a great health both financially and bodily. The website was greatly praised as was the work put in by all officers and committee who were all thanked. Officers remain the same and some minor alterations were made to the committee. Clarification was made on our 70% ruling on retained fish at competitions, this is only for "retained" fish brought back to the weigh in and does not apply to returned fish, so bear this in mind when registering fish for competition. Apart from that we were all happy. Trophy winners shown below. 

Trophy Winners 2010 

Bass Trophy                    Kevin Legge               Bass                          9lb 1/2oz 

Mullet Cup                       Mario Manley             Thick Lipped               5lb 3 1/2oz 

Conger Cup                    Andy Joslin                Conger                        25lb 7oz 

Flatfish Cup                     Kevin Legge               Sole                           3lb 15oz 

Shore Shield                   Kevin Legge               Tope                         66lb 8oz 

Medway Cup                   Jason Barrow             Cod                            17lb 14oz 

Burgess Trophy              Reef Patten               Sole                            2lb 8oz 

Ray Shield                       Kevin Legge               Thornback                 13lb 3 1/2oz 

Specimen League         Kevin Legge               830.957%                 

                                        Dave Brooke             726.687% 

Thornback Ray               Kevin Legge               Thornback                 13lb 3 1/2oz 

Xmas Compt.                 Kevin Legge               Conger                      18lb 12oz 

Tom Clarke                     John Patten               Small Eyed                  9lb 

Out Of Limits                   Paul Widlake             Thick Lipped Mullet    5lb 2oz     

Competition League     John Avery & Kevin Legge                            28 points 

Junior                               James Thomas                                              7 points 

D.Kyte (5 Mullet)            Mario Manley             691.854% 

Scouse Shield               Kevin Legge               Shore Rockling       15 1/2oz 

Merit Award                    Kevin Legge 

Cod Trophy                    Jason Barrow             Cod                             17lb 14oz 

Barry Hill Memorial     

Wrasse Trophy                                 


Sea fishing legend Alan Yates calls for saltwater rod licence

By Angling Times

General News

24 August 2010 12:29

“It’s time that narrow-minded sea anglers woke up and put their hands in their pockets!” This is the impassioned reaction of a former England sea fishing international following news that recent proposals for a sea angling rod licence have been rubbished by the Government.

As previously reported in Angling Times, the proposals for the introduction of a licence to fish the UK’s coasts were slammed by anglers as ‘unfair’, with fisheries minister Richard Benyon responding to this by stating that the licence might not be ‘the best way to encourage angling in the UK’ - an admission that almost certainly spells the end of the proposal.

However, former England captain and hugely respected sea angler Alan Yates believes this would be a big mistake for the state of the UK sea angling as a whole.

“It’s time that British sea anglers woke up to the fact that something needs to be done about our fishing, and the best way to do that is to get our money on the table to give us a voice,” said Alan.

“A lot of anglers say they wouldn’t pay to fish the sea until the fishing gets better, but the truth is that won’t happen until we put our hands in our pockets and pay to have our say.

“A sea licence is inevitable, and the majority of ‘serious’ sea anglers I speak to agree that the sooner it happens, the better,” he added.

Speaking to the Angling Times about the situation, Combe Martin Sea Angling Club chairman, Wayne Thomas, said: “Most of our members are opposed to a licence. Anglers just can’t see the value of paying to fish water where commercial fishermen have decimated stocks. But if we saw things improve I’m sure anglers would be happy to pay much more than the price of a licence.” The Angling Trust said it was ‘very pleased’ by the news that the fisheries minister had made a ‘solid statement’ about the proposal.

   IMG_7471.JPG (230924 bytes)    Kevin Legge receiving £100 Cash brown envelope from the Chairman Nick Phillips

There are only 8 official Shimano boats throughout the UK all of which are linked with a Shimano shop, Independent Charters of Clovelly has now joined the very selective and exclusive fleet of fishing boats which makes it the only one in the South West of England. Shimano boats are renowned not only for the quality of their boat and tackle but also the fishing knowledge of their skippers. And at the end of last season when father and son team, skippers and owners Dave and Doug Walls were offered the prestigious Shimano contract and needless to say much celebrating was done.
Here at Summerlands Tackle we can’t say we were surprised that Independent Charters were given the opportunity to become a Shimano Boat after all the quality of the boat and the trips they offer are second to none and we feel very honoured for the shop to be linked with such a great boat.
Half day and evening trips (the evening trips being very popular with bass anglers!) will be available to be booked through Summerlands Tackle on 01237 471291 or for full days contact Doug and Dave on 01237 431374 or you can catch us both online at www.summerlands.co.uk and www.independentcharters.co.uk

Trophy Winners 2009

  Bass Cup                             Chris Martin     9lb 5oz                                  

 Grey mullet Cup              Donald Kyte                     5lb 10oz                                

 Conger Cup                       Derek Ferrett                     32lb 12oz                     

Flatfish Cup                      Derek Ferrett    Sole    4lb             

 Shore shield                     Derek Ferrett    Sole         4lb              

 Medway  Cup             Guy Spriggs      Spurdog                14lb 2oz          

 Burgess Trophy                Jack Welch            Conger  24lb                                  

 Ray Shield                             Jon Patten      Blonde ray           18lb 1oz                                    

 Specimen League             Kevin Legge          814.062                               

 Junior League                   James Thomas                 8 points         

 Thornback Ray              Gary Andrews                 11lb 10oz                              

Wilson Trophy                  Graham Snow        Thin Lipped Mullet  3lb 5oz                       

Xmas Competition                             

 Tom Clarke Memorial            Derek Ferrett           Dogfish 2lb 6oz                              

Out of limits                    Mario Manley          Thick Lipped Mullet -  5lb 10.5oz                                 

 Competition League          Kevin Legge                      35 Points

                                                Rick Blackmore             30

 Wrasse Trophy                        Stefan Jones           3lb 10oz

 Derek Kyte   5 Grey Mullet Trophy  -

Rob Pearson 4-7, 4-9, 4 -7, 4 -2, 3 -9

 Cod Trophy - Donald Kyte  18lb 3oz (Boat)

 Scouse Sheild - Jon Patten – Rockling 2lb 6.12oz

 Merit Trophy - Jon Patten – Outstanding catches throughout the year.

24 specimen rated fish

Including blonde ray – 18lb 1oz, 17lb 4oz, 16lb, 14lb 10oz, 13lb 7oz

Tope – 39lb, 27lb, 30lb 3oz, 37lb, 31lb 9oz, 32lb 6oz

  Club Records

  Derek Ferret -  sole 4lb

Rick Blackmore – Starry smoothound – 16lb

James Fragley Gubb – Tadpole Fish (Boat)   1lb 1oz

Kevin Legge – Spurdog – 11lb 4oz

Trophy Winners 2008

 Bass Cup                             Kevin Legge            10lb 6oz                                   

 Grey mullet Cup              Adrian Gove                    6lb 7oz                                

 Conger Cup                       Jason Barrow                    36lb 5oz                       

Flatfish Cup                      Nick Chidzoy    Sole    3lb 1oz             

 Shore shield                     Jason Barrow       Conger  36lb 5oz               

 Medway  Cup             John Avery  Smoothound 20lb 9oz                

 Barry Hill Memorial            John Avery   Grey Mullet    4lb 5.75oz             

 Burgess Trophy                                      

 Ray Shield                             Jon Patten      Small Eyed Ray 11lb 10oz                                    

 Specimen League             Jason Barrow                  680.6 %                               

 Junior League                   James Thomas                 2 points         

 Thornback Ray              Gary Andrews                 12lb 8oz                                 

Wilson Trophy                  Kevin Legge                    Bass 10lb 2.5oz                      

Xmas Competition                             

 Tom Clarke Memorial      Jason Barrow                  Conger 36lb 5oz                            

Out of limits                    Gary Andrews       Blonde Ray  18lb 3oz                                 

 Competition League          Kevin Legge                      26 points

                                                Runner up Derek Ferret   21 points

 Wrasse Trophy                        Andy Joslin                      4lb 10.25oz

 Derek Kyte   5 Grey Mullet Trophy  Adrian Gove Mullet 4 -6 4-7 4-12 5-5 6-7

 Merit Trophy  Adrian Gove   Outstanding success with grey mullet

Club Records

 Adrian Gove     Thick Lipped Grey Mullet   6lb 7oz

 Jason Barrow    Conger                             36lb 5oz

 Nick Chidzoy    Sole                            3lb 1oz

 John Avery        Smoothound (Boat)             20lb 9oz

Book signing for Water-Aid

Keith and Sandy Armishaw travelled to India on an angling safari where they angled for the legendary mahseer, a fish that has similarities to the carp and barbel native to the British Isles. The trip to India exposed them to a rich culture but also introduced them to severe impoverishment. They became inspired to help the local people firstly by launching a trust to fund research into the mahseer with the long term goal of providing knowledge to sustain a valuable resource. They were also aware that one of the key requirements to quality of life is pure water.

When top-angling writer Chris Yates published his latest book “Out of the Blue”, Keith and Sandy saw an opportunity to support Water Aid. Chris visited their Torrington bookshop “River Reads”, to sign copies of the book and for each book signed £2.00 was donated to Water Aid. The initiative saw over £700 raised to fund bore holes in impoverished areas of Africa and India.

I have been an avid collector of Chris Yates books for many years so I felt privileged to be invited to interview Chris during his visit to Devon. We talked for over an hour on the philosophy of angling, writing and his love of nature.

Chris’s book “Out of the Blue” takes the reader to the waters edge in search of bass where it paints an evocative picture of the seascape and of a rich contentment beside it.

Wayne Thomas

IMG_5914.jpg (275606 bytes)    Wayne with Chris Yates after the book signing at Torrington's River Reads


A Sea Angling Strategy

            The recent, ‘Consultation on a Recreational Sea Angling Strategy for England’ was due to be debated at a meeting at the NFSA’s head office in Buckfastleigh on Monday, February 25th. The purpose of this meeting was to help anglers prepare their response after speaking with DEFRA representatives. Anglers can study the document by logging onto www.defra.gov.uk responses need to be submitted by 31st march 2008.

Finding Sanctuary

Following a meeting with Cat Jones from Devon Wildlife Trust at the Cricket Club on January 6th  which was very well attended by Club members and thanks to those who made an effort. Here are some of the FAQ's raised and a link again to the website where we can download and fill out on line our own input on shore marks and angling around the north devon coastline.

Cat emailed me regarding several questions that came up during her talk at Combe Martin Sea Angling Club the other night. I have tried to answer all the questions below. Please do get in touch if you need any further clarification on any of these points.

1. Please could you clarify how the final decision on the location of the zones will be taken and whether each member of the steering group has an equal say. 

The Steering Group should come to a consensus on the final map of Marine Conservation Zones. This will then go to the Minister via Natural England and JNCC. Natural England and JNCC will see the final map and provide overall commentary on it, for example they might comment on how well it meets the scientific criteria (which we are waiting for the National Science Advisory Panel) to produce. Ultimately it is the Minister who will have to sign it off. It is our understanding that no organization or individuals will be able to amend the outcome (the final MCZ design) put forward by the Steering Group, as long as it meets the scientific criteria. Throughout the planning phase of the MCZ network (June 2010 –June 2011) the Steering Group will be provided with feedback through Finding Sanctuary on how well the different configurations they come up with for the MCZ network meet the scientific criteria, and what impact it will have on the socio-economics, so they can come to a consensus on the network that best meets the scientific criteria and has least impact on different sea users. As Natural England and JNCC sit on the Steering Group their comments on the MCZ network will be fed into the planning process just as any other member of the Steering Group.
Each Steering Group member is equally important; however it is important to point out that it is not a voting system, but rather a deliberation process. All members of the Steering Group will have to work together and compromise in order to develop a final output which firstly all stakeholders can live with and secondly, meets the scientific criteria.  It is of course in everyone’s own interests to try to come to a consensus, as if one party leaves the table the discussions will continue without them and without their input and so their needs could no longer be accommodated.

2. When will the webGIS be available for sea anglers to input their information? In answer to your concerns about the length of time it takes for the questionnaires and maps to be filled in, and whether FS aims to collect specific sample sizes of each stakeholder group given that it would be impossible for them to cover absolutely everyone?
We are hoping to have the webGIS ready for sea anglers by March.
We are well aware that there are a huge number of sea anglers and that they are widely spread out in the South West. We have met with the NFSA to explore the best way to engage anglers. As you will know, the Angling Trust has just formed and so it is pretty bad timing for us, as they will not be able to dedicate much time to Finding Sanctuary for a few months until they are up and running.
In the meantime, and following discussions with the NFSA we have applied for some funding to develop this engagement work with sea anglers. Subject to this funding we would take on a member of staff whose sole focus would be to engage with sea anglers and conduct interviews with them over the next year and a half.
We are looking to interview a representative sample of sea anglers, as with all the stakeholder groups. For sea anglers, representivity would ideally include a consideration of angling site location, bait used and means of natural bait collection- site location is probably the minimum requirement. As our work with sea anglers is in its very early stages, we have not yet produced a value for what this representative sample would be. With the work we conducted with commercial fishermen, we used a mixture of pre existing government data on registered fishing vessels and unstructured surveys of fishing ports to create an estimate of regional fleet composition. Liaison officers would then use this estimate as a means of assessing how representative their survey work had been so far and thus identify shortfalls in data collection that could be addressed by further work. The level of diligence applied to gathering data from commercial fishermen, will also be applied to sea anglers and other stakeholders. Ideally we will use pre-existing information on demographics in order to ensure that we have a representative sample, but if this information is not available, we would have to conduct some original research ourselves.
Once the webGIS is up and running for sea anglers, we intend to publicize it widely to ensure it gets out to as many sea anglers as possible and hopefully we will capture quite a few through that. We also intend on running surgeries for all stakeholders at different location around the South West-this would also be an opportunity for individual sea anglers to drop in and input their data and knowledge. These will also be publicized locally.

3. It is possible for clubs to fill in the maps as a club rather than individuals? Is the GIS loaded in any way according to numbers of people using each area, or is it simply that the maps get laid on top of each other and even if only one person (commercial, angler or otherwise) is using an area, consideration is given regardless?

It would definitely be possible to fill in a map as a club as opposed to on an individual basis, and this is something that other sea anglers have also suggested to us. It would definitely speed up the process. I have spoken to the mapping specialists about this and we will discuss this option over the coming weeks. In terms of the number of people this would represent, we would need to make a few changes here but it would be possible for a ‘club map’ to represent however many individuals participated through the club. We would then also need to weight each site, as presumably some sites would be more heavily used than others.
The GIS is not loaded in itself. We can look at the numbers of individuals from each sector using a given area, but it will be up to the Steering Group to decide the nature and intensity of any weighting or value systems that are used to modify the data in order to help them make decisions. In a similar manner, for the validation meetings we conducted with fishermen we summed up the numbers of commercial fishermen using a given area and reflected this in the intensity of shading in a given map-it is possible that the Steering Group may request this type of information during their deliberation.

4. Can one club member fill in the form online, email to the next club member to add their info to and so on.
No, this would not be possible, but we could provide a group of anglers from one club, for example, with one login from the webGIS so they can all see what each other has already put into the webGIS and can add their own bits too it. Is this something you think would be useful?
I hope I have answered all your questions but please feel free to get in touch if you have any further queries.  I will try to keep you up to date with any developments, specifically on the sea angling side of things. Would you like me to add you to our newsletter mailing list?
Kind Regards, 
Joana Doyle
Communications Coordinator
Finding Sanctuary
Darts Farm
T 01392878328
F 01392878330



Our  recent Clovelly trip - Wayne Thomas

Five members of the club set out from Clovelly's tranquil harbour. 
After heavy rain the previous night, morning sunshine brought promise 
for the day ahead. Mackerel were being caught from the harbour wall 
as we steamed out and we soon caught a few for bait feathering a few 
hundred yards out.
    On the way out to Hartland point we saw porpoise and admired the 
dramatic coastal scenery. On approaching our intended mark it became 
clear that our intended plans of spinning for bass would need 
amending. A brisk south west breeze was creating white caps which 
combined with a moderate swell made conditions unsafe.
    We tried for bass for a couple of hours close in, drifting large 
mackerel baits out behind the anchored boat. With no success we 
steamed out  to brave  difficult conditions in hope of tope, a few 
dog's and  a bull huss were the reward.  An ever strengthening wind 
forced us back nearer the shore, a few dogfish came from our next mark.
    We finished off the day anchored off Bucks Mills were Chris caught a 
starry smoothound and we all caught dogfish and numerous mackerel.
    Clive Pearson our skipper, tried hard all day to put us onto fish, 
but despite years of experience it was not to be; the weather had 
undoubtedly thwarted our efforts.


Most would have read recently from the Journal the recent find of a Ray's Bream by Kevin Legge and Adrian Alford whilst out crabbing. A very rare visitor to North Devon, if ever before, however a few reports from the Westcountry only from Cornwall and South Devon. These fish which can grow to 6 kilo have also been found around Scotland and the North Sea, normally found off Spain and Portugal are uncommon in Britain.

More information from



Any rare visitor details can be sent to Douglas.Herdson@national-aquarium.co.uk


This is what a new Club Record Gilthead Bream looks like................


A new British Shore caught record Tope of 66lb caught November 5th by member Kevin Legge has been 

submitted, full details of the capture and weighing in our next newsletter out soon. The previous record of 

58lb 2oz caught by Ray White of Barnstaple back in 1982 from Baggy Point has been smashed by Kevin's

recent conquest. Our own Club record has been held by Kevin since 1992 when he caught and landed a

tope of 53lb 12oz on November 14th from Baggy. 

Which has now been ratified as a British Record (Jan 2007).


                                                            Kevinleggetope66lb.jpg (137195 bytes)

Kevin smashes British tope record

            Kevin Legge a member of Combe Martin Sea Angling Club has smashed the British shore record for tope during a session at a rock mark near Lynmouth on bonfire night. The tope weighed in at 66lb obliterating the previous record of 58lb 2oz set by Barnstaple angler Ray White in 1982. The fish took a flounder fillet presented on an 8/0 hook to a wire trace. The powerful fish took over a hundred yards of line on its first run, Kevin was forced to do battle holding the rod high in the air as his twenty pound line came perilously close to a jagged rock outcrop. Eventually the huge fish was brought to the shoreline and lifted from the water by Kev’s fishing partner Adrian Alford. It immediately became apparent that Kevin had caught something special when the scales they were carrying bottomed out. The fish was officially weighed eight hours later at Gratton’s Butchers shop in Barnstaple . Kevin had been targeting tope for three nights in perfect conditions certain that success would come. Kevin’s previous best tope held Combe Martin Sea Angling Clubs record at 53lb 12oz and was caught in 1992.


Bass What Method?

I guess that one of the great things about bass is the wide variety of methods that can be used to bring about its capture. There are two main reasons for using a specific method because it is effective or enjoyable, in most cases a combination of the two.

The method we use at a specific venue will be determined by a wide variety of factors. So how do we go about selecting the method to use? First we need to ask a number of questions. Let’s assume that we have chosen a venue that we know bass frequent.

Where will the bass be at each state of the tide?

What will they be feeding on?

What time of day can we fish or should we fish?

What method do we enjoy using the most?

What method will most likely result in the hooking of a bass?

Now to simplify our task lets state the obvious…

We need to put bait, real or artificial in front of a Bass that is willing to feed.


Old Spiky big mouth is back!

Fishing seems to go in cycles and it seems to have turned round to a cracking Bass year, the last four to five seasons hav`nt lived up to expectations. Take for instance our best Bass weighed in last year. Mario`s Eight pounder! We’ve had five weighed in for the club bigger than that already! With Andy Taylor’s topping the list at a stonking 12lb 5oz!

How we do it!

Right! So how are we going to catch one? There has been so much written on the subject in the past, lets try and sort out Bassing locally or How we do it !

Most of the lunkers caught have normally been caught on fish baits. Look down past lists of catches and 90% have fallen to Mackerel. So that gives you a clue. In the waiting game, Mackerel has to be No 1. We did a trial for a couple of seasons ensuring every time we went we had Fresh Mackerel fishing on one rod with Ammo frozen Mackerel on the other. The scary thing was that the Ammo bait totally out-fished the fresh 8 out of 10 falling to frozen! How many times do we hear this? E.G Sandeels, Frozen better. When using fresh Mackerel the flesh becomes very flaky the frozen does not and seems to hold the natural juices inside longer.

Kev`s Way

Right Kevs way, Beach fishing for Bass. First it’s a waiting game. So we normally only fish 3- 4 hours either over Low tide or up to high. Unless you can handle staring at your Rods for any longer? Go for it! You will end up looking like Mart Feldman! I personally use standard beach casting gear. Because no power casting is involved (lose your leaders) fish a premium line 20-25lb b.s on a 7000 – SL 30 type reel. Reason .. Being most of our surf beaches are flat and with surf running up to 150 yds out the Bass running along behind the waves and if there is weed about you are going to look pretty stupid with a Bass on the end, your Knot jammed in the top eye. How are you going to control it now!

If you are fishing two rods make sure they are fishing at two different distances. Chest waders are a valuable asset, especially when wading to cast you can walk out to thigh depth then all is needed is a gentle cast thus no strain no leader.

Kevs Tips

Still use heavy! Trace E.g. 40-50lbs (What that heavy!!)*) Yes. Use a light one in the surf and watch it wrap itself up. The stiffer heavier line will stand out.

Bigmouth’s, Big baits, so you will need a big hook. There is nothing better on the market than the Varivas Big Mouth’s from Veal’s in a 5/0 or 6/0. Excellent hook.


You will catch on most baits. But I put my faith in any of the frozen Ammo Mackerel, Joey fillets or try a Squid /Mackerel cocktail.

Conditions, etc

When watching your rod, keep your lights to a minimum, use your pilot bulb to illuminate the tips. If you can fish the more overcast nights, plenty of cloud cover, even better. With small making tides you are half way there.


That was an insight into how we do it. You can’t please people all the time but it works for us! Yes it’s a boring waiting game but when it comes off you forget all the blanks and the weeded out trips. When that big silver bar is lying at your feet. Oh-Ooh!

By the way I read this myself the other night and thought that makes sense you know and caught a personal best Bass of 11lb 3oz, after weighing and photographing I returned the fish. What a rush to see her swim off! A night I won’t forget in a hurry..

Plug into Bass

The Bass, with its silver shining flanks, gives a powerful and spirited resistance when hooked which combined with superb eating properties make it the British sea angler’s greatest prize. This prize can also be won using a vast range of methods and techniques. This is what I intend to enlarge upon in this article. The prime aim of angling is to enjoy, success is not measured in fish caught alone. The places we visit and the tackle we use can greatly enhance our pleasure. I will not say too much about traditional bassing, methods because it’s been said many times before.

I live in North Devon in the South West of England. I have access to miles of coast, with a varied shoreline. The areas I intend to concentrate on are shallow rocky areas overlooked by the majority of anglers. There are large sections of the coast that are made up of boulders and thick kelp. These areas hold lots of fish, wrasse, conger, pollock and bass. Traditional methods as used on open beaches have no place here. You could use heavy tackle and rotten bottoms to bully the fish out of their home, a must if you were after the conger. This however takes away much of the joy of catching the Bass. There are two techniques I have used to good effect, Plugging and Free lining.

Much has been written about plugging for Bass and yet it is still not widely practised. I’m no expert, but I have found the method very enjoyable. On its day it can be very successful. The greatest thrill for me is the moment when the bass hits the lure, a savage jolt that is transmitted through the line sending the pulse racing. The fish often hit the lure right at your feet and can often be seen following right up to the shoreline before veering frustratingly away at the last minute.

I suffered plenty of blank outings before I started to catch on a regular basis. So to help cut down your blanks here are a few pointers.


May to October, when Mackerel and Sandeel are abundant.

Try to get out early and late. Bass generally feed best around dawn and dusk. If you go out plugging in the middle of the day blanks will be the norm. The best state of tide is dependent upon the mark you fish.


Try to think like a Bass. Where is the food going to be? Look at the terrain, what features are there? Where could you ambush your prey if you were a Bass? Look at the way the flow is influenced by rocks or structures on the shoreline.

Headlands, promontories, river inlets, reefs weed beds or man-made structures. All these are features worth exploring. The joy of plugging is of course that you are free to wonder along the shoreline sending your lure into every likely spot. I personally feel most confident when fishing plugs over shallow areas with plentiful rock or weed.


Rods and reels

Many anglers who practice the art of plug fishing recommend a long spinning or carp rod 10` to 12` in length. This is a good tool and combined with fixed spool reel makes an extremely functional outfit. The long rod has the advantage of steering the plug around obstacles and keeping the line clear of abrasive, barnacle encrusted rocks.

This however is not what I use for most of my plugging! I have done a fair amount of lure fishing for Pike. The outfit I use for Pike is a 7½ rod,” The Seeker ”, made by David Lumb. This rod is designed for use with a multiplier reel. I have an Ambassador 5500 left handed, which combines perfectly with this rod. I use it because it is a joy to use. Remember enjoyment is the prime reason for going fishing.


I use braided line for most of my lure fishing these days. Its thin diameter, strength and lack of stretch make it perfect. A mistake made by many anglers is to purchase the same breaking strain in braid as they would have used in mono. Double it! I use 30lb b.s. This may sound a little too heavy but you need to take into account the lines lack of stretch and susceptibility to abrasion. Another consideration is the cost of lures. With heavy braid you will often be able to pull free of kelp and weed. I also consider the welfare of the fish; a bass with a mouthful of treble hooks will be condemned to certain death. I strongly disagree with the light line being sporting mentality.

Many anglers will be put of by the apparent high cost of braid. Braid however has a far longer life span than mono. I will happily use braid for a couple of seasons. Mono often becomes suspect after just one season or just a couple of sessions. I have used SUFIX HERCULINE, BERKLEY FIRELINE, BERKELY WHIPLASH, MASON BRAID and NEWTECH POWER CABLE. I have found all to be good quality braids as I would think are the many others that are available.


There are a fast range of plugs and lures available that are suitable for Bass fishing. Each lure will have different characteristics to suit different situations. Deep divers, shallow runners, surface poppers, Jerkbaits and spoons. The list is endless; I suggest you get a catalogue from the Harris Angling company or Veal’s mail order. Here you will find every lure you may need; in fact you will find all the gear you need for plug fishing.

My own favorites are as follows :-







Between braid and lure I attach a trace of mono, generally of around 15-20lb b.s. A swivel is used as connector and a snap link to attach the lure and allow quick and easy change of lure.

Your tackle box or pocket should also contain scissors, long nosed pliers for hook removal, hook sharpener, Split rings, and spare hooks for lures {I use Partridge Grey Shadow to replace corroded or damaged lure hooks}. Hook protectors can be used to shield the hook points enabling you to carry your plugs loose in your pocket or lure bag.

I find a pair of polarised glasses a great help. They greatly increase the ability to see into the water and hopefully spot fish as they follow the lure or spot snags or features. A peaked hat will give additional help.

I often wear a pair of chest waders. These enable me to wade out in calm conditions and cover more water. I have pushed my luck a little and with hindsight have sometimes gone within a step of disaster. I have now purchased a buoyancy aid, just in case I fall in. Chest waders and deep water can be very dangerous.

A landing net can be carried but will prove a hindrance when walking and climbing over rugged terrain. I very often leave mine at home and lift my fish out by hand. Watch out for the sharp spikes on the bass’s back and gill covers.

Weather and Conditions

I should probably have covered this topic earlier, as it probably has more bearing on our success than any other factor. The choice of venue will obviously be determined by weather, sea condition and tide. Safety will have a major influence. Some marks may be exceptionally slippery when wet you would avoid such marks after heavy rain. If there are strong winds you may seek shelter or choose to fish were rougher water has dislodged food, which may in turn attract hungry Bass.

If I had to choose ideal conditions they would be a moderate northwest breeze, light surf and clear water. Our time off to fish will not always coincide with our desired conditions so more often you will be forced to adapt to prevailing conditions.


I hope I will have encouraged you to get out and try a little plugging. Believe me when a silver Bass hits your lure you will be hooked on the art of plugging. I intended to write a little on free lining but I think that will have to wait for another day.

Perhaps I will meet you out there one day wondering the rocky shoreline with a gentle breeze blowing from the west, sending your lure out searching every likely spot with the smell of the sea in the air and the sun sinking at the end of another summer’s day. You may not catch, you should enjoy.

Wayne Thomas.

In search of dreams

As summer fades, the leaves start to take on their autumn hues, nights grow longer and colder.

The fish of summer start to leave our shores. At this time my thoughts have for the last few years turned to what is perhaps the British shore angler’s greatest challenge. The Tope!

For many years I had remembered tales of big fish hooked along the coast that had emptied reels of line as they tore off towards the horizon. A small band of dedicated anglers targeted these fish and had considerable success. The British record of 58lb 2oz came from Baggy Point in North Devon during 1982. For many years before this anglers had been landing big Tope from this stretch of coast. Most fish were hooked during October and November when they apparently move inshore to breed.

The largest fish are inevitably females. I have been fishing the North Devon coast for over twenty years and tope was a species I had never seriously targeted it had however been at the back of my mind to one day have a go. However I always seemed to be chasing some other species and thought life too short to chase dreams that may never come true.

For some reason this attitude changed in 1995 when rumours started to circulate of big fish attacking Whiting as anglers wound them in. the poor Whiting were often bitten clean in half or the anglers traces were bitten through within seconds. It was obvious that Tope were to blame. Several of my angling companions had hooked and landed Tope from our coastline all had a good tale to tell. It was probably my mate Ashley who actually lit the spark. He had landed specimens to 45lb + and seemed keen to land more. On December 1st 1994 Ashley and I set out on our first Tope session together.

… It was a calm mild evening with a light breeze blowing from the south. The mark we fished was totally sheltered, as we walked out onto the rocks and glanced into the water with our headlights a huge swirl signaled the presence of our quarry less than five yards off-shore. We hurriedly tackled up, expectation high! Fresh Flounder baits were impaled on razor sharp 7/o hooks and launched out into the calm dark waters. Ashley told me that most runs came on the flood tide so expectations began to grow as Low water passed, Ashley’s tales of past Tope encounters fuelled the fire. I could hardly believe it when my ratchet burst into song, I picked up the rod, the line was pouring from the reel at such a rate that I almost feared connecting with the fish responsible. The rod took on an alarming curve for just a few seconds, then it was gone! I reeled in to find that the hook had twisted and become masked by the bait. That night Ashley and I had five runs all managed to shed the hook within seconds.

This was a baptism of fire. I had never believed I would get a chance on my first trip but I was to learn that Tope fishing isn’t that easy. It was almost twelve months later before the quest resumed.

Six sessions were spent during the autumn of 95. We enjoyed calm frosty nights, marveled at the thousands of twinkling stars in the black night sky, drank cups of hot steaming coffee talked of fish, fishing, life. Many hours pass by but no runs came to our rods.

For some reason 96 saw us give the Tope a miss. But in 97 we spent five sessions, again we had no runs. That first night Tope fishing back in 94 began to annoy even more. How on earth had we blown such a good chance of success? I have learnt since that such nights are not rare, getting a tope to take the bait is only half the battle!

In 98 we started Toping in September after hearing of Tope being lost at a nearby beach. The entry in my diary of 19th September is Typical,.. “Still night, star studded sky. Fished Flounder on one rod, whole launce on second rod. Rods still, reel silent. Maybe next time?”

Success at last.

October 12th 1998.

Ashley and I set out on yet another trip. I will let Ashley tell his story…


Tope On The Run

A Tope trip had been organized, Wayne was to pick me up at 6.30pm but when he arrived it was closer to 6.45pm but I won't dwell on that as it is usually me that’s late. Anyway we made our way to the chosen venue not quite sure what the sea state would be like as it had been fairly rough all day, with a stiff Northwest wind. But we were pleasantly surprised to find it calmer than we thought we would.

The tackle was soon dragged out of the much to heavily laden rucksacks, rods were put together and rigs set up with wire traces in anticipation of what we were hoping to catch. It wasn’t long before both baits were in the water; Wayne was also using a second rod in close to tempt a Bass.

Wayne had a bite almost immediately first thought was Tope but the bite came to nothing and when the bait was retrieved in a tangled mess it had obviously been a strap Eel. He was soon baited up and back in the water.

Only about fifteen minutes had passed when the first run of the night came, a very light bite followed by a run I struck to set the hook and the fish took off on a kiting run to the right shaking it’s head franticly. The fish made another run for freedom, the line went slack the hook had been thrown the Tope was gone.

With both lines back in the water it was not long before another bite came to my rod but enthusiasm was damped when a small conger was pulled in, we were both hoping that strap eels were not going to be too prolific.

An hour or so had now passed since the last bite when Wayne's other rod fishing in close bounced into action and then went slack. A short fight took place before landing a Bass of 5lb 6oz in perfect condition.

Another half an hour went by without a nibble, then suddenly the line on my rod went slack with no indication of a bite, not until picking it up and retrieving about fifteen yards of line until it was tight again did I feel the fish. The bite was very small until the fish started to move away and I then decided to set the hook. Now the fun was really going to start the fish took exception to having a 6/0 hook thrust into it’s mouth, and took off on a powerful run up channel taking full advantage of the tide which was by now in full flood. By the time I managed to stop it my reel was looking decidedly empty bearing in mind that I was using an Abu 7000 with 20lb line which was full. I was now looking at a reel with about forty yards left on it and praying that the fish would not go off on another screaming run.

Slowly but surely I began to gain some line on which both Wayne and I were quite sure was a fairly large Tope. The reel was now looking reasonably healthy but the problem was now, that the tide had swung the fish inshore and the main line was dangerously close to the rocks. Wayne ran across with the intention of if necessary to hold the line clear but by the time he got there the fish had moved out sufficiently to alleviate this problem. By now my arms and back were beginning to ache but with the adrenaline flowing this was soon forgotten. The Tope was now quite tired and very close to being landed, Wayne positioned himself in what he thought would be a good place and waited for it to surface as up until now we hadn’t seen it. Suddenly it appeared right at his feet we both now realized that it was a good size, it took him several attempts as it was quite choppy and he wanted to gaff it out through it’s bottom jaw so it could be returned with the minimal damage. He struggled to pull it ashore and we were both relieved when the battle was over.

Pictures were taken as quickly as possible, the fish was measured and found to be 60 inches long with a girth of 26 inches as neither of us had a calculator with us we could not work out it’s weight but I was sure it was 50lb plus. The Tope was soon back in the sea and swam off to fight another day, which is always a big relief.

Wayne soon had his bait back in the water whilst I needed a few minutes to gather my thoughts, after I had cast back out again we both sat reflecting on the fight and hoping that another may be tempted but it was not to be. We eventually packed up around midnight and made our way back to the car, another Tope session had come to a close but we would now look forward to the next one with enthusiasm.

Using the formula girth times girth times length divided by eight hundred I arrived at a weight of 50lb 2oz not very far away from my estimation this being my largest Tope to date I was thrilled to bits.

I would just like to add a vote of thanks to Wayne for the professional way he gaffed it, he could quite as easily lost it as the conditions were far from perfect, or worse still gaffed it badly and ultimately killing the fish. Thanks Wayne hopefully I will be able to do the same for you one day.


Ashley Clarke

Several trips are to follow in 98 but no Tope come my way.

Failure and success 1999

A lot of Tope have been caught out in the boats this year so perhaps it will be a better season?

My first trip of the year is with an angler I have never met before he fancies a Toping trip and has been given my number. He has been Toping once before and witnessed the capture of a 37lb Tope two weeks previous. I get a screaming run, which stops, as I pick up the rod. No more runs that night but hopes are high for the next!

A week later and I meet up with Ashley for another short session. We arrive at our chosen mark to find another local angler already set up. As he is only using one rod and is also after Tope he kindly allows us to join him. We stand chatting, and then at low water a ratchet starts to emit a hopeful screech…. We all look to the three rods, the centre rod is shaking in the rest, mine!

Picking up the rod I put the reel into gear, wait for the line to Zip tight and raise the rod, I am forced to take a step forward as a fish of immense power heads for the horizon. The spool of my large capacity reel starts to look worryingly lacking in line, I pile on the pressure, my arms start to hurt. Eventually I stop and turn the fish pumping it back towards the shoreline gaining line slowly to have it ripped off the reel again as what is obviously a large Tope fights for its freedom. I feel the battle is almost won when I feel that sickening feeling of the line pulling into a snag. All goes solid, If I ease the pressure I feel the fish shakes its head but if I pull all is solid. For twenty minutes I pull, ease off

And wait trying every trick to get the fish free but eventually there is no sign of my dream fish all is solid, lifeless. I pull for a break; I reel in the limp line dejectedly… gutted!

An hour later our friend gets a fast run. He picks up the rod, strikes the line parts within seconds. He reels in to find his 60lb b.s leader cut as if by a knife.

Then just before we are forced off our mark by the rising tide I get another run….

The rod again bends over as a Tope shakes its head angrily, again that sickening feeling is repeated the fish has swallowed the bait past my 30cm wire trace and severed the 80lb b.s nylon, upper trace.

At the end of the month I fly out to Alderney for a ten day fishing trip. At the end of the week I hears tales of Tope from a beach on the island. A couple are landed, one angler tells of ten runs in a night. Probably the result of a spicy Indian} with hindsight I should have tried for tope on this angler’s paradise. Maybe next year?

Back from Alderney, I soon resume my quest for tope. October 15th. I have been to the estuary on the previous day and caught some fresh flounder. These are cast out from a deep-water rock mark that has produced a Tope a week ago. Ashley’s first run comes in daylight and comes adrift after one long powerful run. It’s my turn next, again I am locked in battle, and the fish is brought to within ten yards of the shore Ashley is ready to attempt to grab it when it shakes its head. I gaze in dismay as I see five feet of fish swim away; the hook has fallen out! Well what do you say? **** It. Ashley gets two more runs that night.

October 16th

My long time angling buddy Nick Phillips has joined me on a beach mark that has produced tope in the past. We tackle up in the daylight and enjoy the slow descent of darkness.

Soon after dark two anglers trudge towards us having made the long descent to this steep shelving beach. Both are anglers I have known for many years. After a friendly exchange they walk on a further fifty yards. An hour later Martin Turner calls my name; I rush over to witness a beautiful Tope of 43lb 14oz. After photographing the Tope is released and swims gracefully away in the beams of our headlights. Martins first tope trip! Well done! Perhaps I am destined never to land a tope?

Five blank outings follow.

November 13th

I return to the beach of a month before with Ashley. I have a stinking cold, feel lousy the walk down to the beach is hard going. Bitter Northeast wind is blowing; conditions are not conducive to a high level of confidence.

The tide pushes us further up the beach till high water. A couple of Dogfish have attacked my launce baits and as I unhook them my ratchet emits a couple of clicks, the rod tip nods, a couple more clicks, I pick up the rod, something has the bait but it isn’t charging away. After the fish has moved hesitatingly away I set the hook. Whatever it is starts to come grudgingly inshore. I turn to Ashley,” It’s heavier than a Dogfish, but…” at this moment the rod is pulled over as whatever I have hooked rips line from the reel. “It’s a tope!” Ten minutes later Ashley steps into the sea to tail my first tope. A male of 29lb 8oz, at last I have achieved my dream. I’m glad that it was Ashley who shared my triumph. The long walk up the cliff path is undertaken with a smile.

I’m looking forward to next autumn. I'll be chasing dreams again 'cause dreams do come true.


In five years of trying to catch a Tope I have learnt several lessons the hard way.


Ensure your hook points are showing and are sharp. ( very sharp)

Check your tackle. Leave no weak link.


Rod - Zziplex Groundcaster.

Reels.. Shimano TLD 30. I have used ABU 7000c‘s but I never feel they have sufficient line capacity. I have just got one of the new Diawa Sealine X 40-HV

This seems the perfect Toping reel.

Line – 20 or 25lb b.s Berkley Big Game.

Leader – 80lb b.s Maxima green.

Wire Trace - 80lb b.s.

Hooks – 6/0 Mustad 79515 or 7/0 Mustad `O` Shaunessy.

Bait .. 1. Fresh Flounder 4. Live Pouting or Whiting.

2. Frozen Flounder 5. Mackerel

3. Launce 6. Herring.


So there you have my experience of Tope from the shore. I wonder if they are still to be caught off the Pembrokeshire shoreline. Clive Gammon tells of his adventures in the book, A TIDE OF FISH.

If you want to learn more I suggest that you read the following books.

A Tide of fish. By Clive Gammon.

Big Fish . By Trevor Housby

Sea Angling with the Specimen Hunters. By Hugh Stoker.   


Landing Fish

A fishing friend asked me to write a bit on gaffing fish. He felt that some advice could be of use in some quarters. Now it is a sad fact that it is often the big fish, the fish of a lifetime that get their freedom. Most big fish are lost as a result of..

Inadequate tackle.

Inadequate landing equipment.



Lack of planning.

Five main reasons for losing fish. I could have added bad luck but then that is generally bad angling? So here are a few pointers to help avoid the loss of that fish of a lifetime.

Ensure that the tackle you use is up to the job. ER on the heavy side, strong hooks correctly matched to the size of bait not masked by bad presentation. Look at your bait, will the hook penetrate easily? Is it really sharp?

It is a general fact that Small light hooks and lines give more bites. While heavier tackle gives less bites but more fish landed. Consider this fact carefully before you cast out.

Make sure you have a suitable gaff, landing net or drop net at hand. The gaff will need to be strong, sharp with a handle long enough to reach the water. This obviously also applies to a landing net.

Experience should be used to guess the likely scenario should a fish be hooked. For example a Cod will hug the bottom, whilst a Bass will often splash around on or near the surface. Think about where you will land the fish before you hook it.



I have an old sea angling magazine in my shed on its cover is a picture of Big Porbeagle Sharks landed off the North Devon coast. The Appledore Shark Angling Club made big catches during the mid seventies. I believe the club eventually folded due to the demise of the Shark? Over the years the occasional Shark were caught by anglers prepared to put in the hours. I think it was about four years ago that my friends started out after these Shark in the hope that they had returned after a few years of neglect.

Shark fishing is a waiting game. Hours, sometimes days drifting with wind and tide watching and waiting for a glimpse of a fin or dark shape in the rubby dubby trail. The scream of the ratchet when and if its comes will set the heart racing. Sport with Pollock and Tope to drifted baits helps pass the time. At times of hectic sport the shark rods are almost forgotten. Mackerel are taken fresh from the sea and fried then eaten off the bone. A crispy delicacy to be savoured as one drifts on in hope. The cry of gulls in the air and the monotonous sound as the sea gently caresses the drifting boat.


That Something.....

It’s difficult to explain why I am an angler or how I started on the way to being an angler. I cannot remember a time when I did not fish; I cannot remember that first trip or first fish. I have lots of memories of fishing and perhaps the most vivid are those of childhood. I have read somewhere that angling brings out the boy in men, or something like that.

Much of anglings attraction is in anticipation of what may happen. A child is free of the boundaries that tarnish the adult’s outlook. Every water holds fish of dreams, we have not learnt or been told what is likely or possible. When I recall my early fishing memories they are often visions of places and fish not caught.

I guess it was my father who introduced me. We had a river at the bottom of our garden and it was here that we went one summer’s day. I have a vivid picture in my mind, we had a tobacco tin containing a few hooks and split shot and a spool of nylon on a bright yellow spool. We had no rod, I guess we used a worm as bait that I cannot recall. The water was crystal clear. I remember seeing an Eel gliding snakelike towards the bait, the feeling of anticipation I felt on that day many years ago is still strong. Strangely I cannot recall if we caught the Eel.

That tiny river held many Brown Trout with vivid red spotted sides. Worms, Bread and Cheese caught me hundreds of Trout to over a pound in weight. In places brambles and undergrowth formed impenetrable tunnels. It was here and under bridges that the monsters lived. Out of site lived the rivers biggest Trout in the dark recesses where the fish of dreams. In holes in old walls lived thick black sinister Eels. One day I peered over a wall into the river and saw a mighty fish, vivid black spots along silver flanks. Nobody believed that I had seen a fish of such a size in such a tiny stream, just a childhood fantasy? The memory is still so clear I wonder, was it just a dream or was it a Sea Trout of five or Six pounds.

I went back and a couple of years ago .The River is still there but it seems so tiny, the dark and mystery filled tunnels have gone. The undergrowth has been cut away, I didn’t see a single Trout somehow it was lifeless.

Every year we went on Holiday to Looe in Cornwall. One night we float-fished for pollock from along the estuary wall, I remember my float plunging beneath the surface and me striking hard. The rod bent over as an unseen and powerful fish surged away. My father urgently tried to instruct, but it was in vain, I did not know about giving line, I just held on until the line broke. For the first time I felt that feeling of loss as the line fluttered loosely in the cool night air. I still wonder what that fish was bass, big pollock? I have lost many fish since that day and each time that same feeling of loss that is impossible to explain to the non-angler.

Later as a teenager I went out night fishing with my mates. On summer nights we would fish for bass and conger. I still recall the smell of meth’s as we struggled to light our paraffin Tilley lamps. The comforting hiss as they burnt through the night. Going out at night was a real adventure. We walked back home through dark wooded cliff paths telling ghostly tales and raising our fears of the shadowy night. Places and images of angling trips fill the mind there are fish in there but there is something more to it all than that. I cannot define what that essence is but it would be nice if my son could find it.



A Brief word on Sark February 06


 We had great expectations of our trip to Sark and hoped to catch some of the huge mullet that frequent the Channel Islands during the winter months. We set off early on Saturday 4th February to catch a FlyBe plane from Exeter airport. On checking in we were immediately made to feel apprehensive as staff threw doubt on the airlines ability/ willingness to transport our rods. We made it clear that without rods we would not be boarding the plane, fortunately this offer was not accepted and after parting with £15.00 per rod tube we proceeded to the departure lounge.

We arrived at Guernsey airport with our luggage and hailed a couple of taxis to St Peter Port. A full English breakfast in a busy café set us up for the day and our ferry crossing to Sark.

It was good to be back on Sark after a smooth ferry crossing of under an hour. It seemed to four of us that we hadn’t been away long. Mario and Jason were about to embark on a new experience. We helped load our gear onto the tractor before hopping aboard for a ride up the hill. We then booked into our accommodation collected our hire bikes, did the shopping and then divided into pairs. John and I fished a mark called Hogs Back, Conrad and Rob headed for Havre Goslin and Mario and Jason went on a recce of the island.

With optimism high the failure to tempt a mullet on this first session failed to dent our confidence. After three days our optimism would however falter. Jason and Mario were not dedicated to the mullet and chose to target conger and other species on the seabed. They too found the fishing hard going though they did locate several dogfish and numerous small black bream.

By Tuesday our spirits had slumped somewhat though we still fished with hope. The mulleteers amongst us headed for a mark we had not yet tried. On arrival we introduced generous helpings of ground bait. After a couple of hours our hope turned to expectation as a huge shoal of mullet appeared at our feet. Several floats dipped but only Conrad made contact. A mullet of a couple of pound was gratefully received and posed for the camera. Rob who was stood at an elevated position witnessed several large mullet. It is at times like this that you realise how fine the line is between success and failure. If one of these big mullet had taken a bait and had been landed we would have termed the trip a great success. As it turned out we failed to a large extent on the fish front.

But we all plan to return to this magical island far removed from the stress of modern life. We told a few tales over pints of Guinness and plotted future trips. Friendships were reinforced and I guess we all benefited from fresh air and exercise. Culinary skills were honed and new tastes experienced. I benefited from a boycott of my cooking following my Frazzles, chips a la’cheese special. (A good tip this if you cook first and disappoint you’ll avoid cooking for the remainder of the trip.)

                                                                   IRISH EXCURSION KILKEE 2004

I expect that many angling excursions are born over a pint in the pub as was our latest trip to the west coast of Ireland. The Combe Martin Sea Angling club has ventured forth on several excursions to various locations including Alderney and Lundy. This trip was inspired in part by Henry Gilbeys programme’s on sky and articles in Sea Angler. I had also visited South West Ireland the previous year on a family holiday and been bowled over by the amazing potential for shore angling.

            As club secretary it fell on me to come up with a viable plan for our visit. The Kilkee area of County Clare seemed a good bet as it gave access to the open coast and sheltered waters of the Shannon if rough weather coincided with our stay. I was given the task of seeking information a wealth of which was gleaned from Henry Gilbey, who gave me several useful contacts. The dates for the trip were chosen to suit various holiday entitlements and tides. An email to Leisure angling outlining our needs resulted in all our travel and accommodation requirements being met.

            On October 9th 2004 we drove onto the Stenna Line ferry at Fishgaurd destined for Rosslare. Four hours later we set off on a long drive across Ireland, two cars carrying seven anglers and a van with two anglers and a mountain of tackle. We arrived gratefully at Kilkee well after 11.00pm after what seemed an epic journey; we had left North Devon at 6.00am, seventeen hours ago. We all slept soundly that night in our accommodation that proved to be of a high standard.

            I awoke eagerly next morning to peer out of my en-suite room (Trip organizer has to have some perks) and get my first glimpse of the pretty cove of Kilkee. After a fry up we set off on a whirlwind tour of the immediate coastline. We were eager to get fishing but knew that a few hours looking about could pay dividends later in the week. We had acquired an abundance of maps and literature on fishing in the area and set about familiarizing ourselves with various promising locations. Preconceptions that are born in ones own areas back home make assessment of marks difficult. The Shannon estuary had areas listed that produced ray, tope, monkfish and conger yet these marks were often quite shallow and the water clear. Clearly we needed to approach with an open mind. A trip to Bourke’s Tackle Shop in Kilkee gave us a wealth of further useful information and a bit of frozen bait to get us started. That first afternoon saw us go off in separate directions, some seeking elusive marks on the coast others to try off a pier in the Shannon while John, Nick, and myself set off to seek large mullet allegedly present in Kilrush marina.

            I suppose I should introduce you to our party who it is fair to say have varied expectations of the trip. Some seek specimen fish others are content to savor the Guinness, criac , peace and scenery of Ireland. Wayne Thomas, Mike Squires senior and Junior, Mark Prouse, Jason Barrow, Mario Manley, Nick Phillips,  Martin Turner and John Avery.

            I guess everyone on the trip has a tale to tell but I can only tell of my experience of the week. So I will begin with Monday after telling you that John, Nick and I failed to contact the elusive mullet of Kilrush Marina.

            With a light North easterly wind and a flat sea the open coast beckoned. Jason, Mario and Martin had located an awesome mark the previous day that teamed with mackerel. We planned to stock up on fresh bait and then try for the pollock we felt sure would lurk in the deep water at the base of the cliffs. All nine of us could fish from various platforms along this headland and after a ten minute walk to the cliff edge all spread themselves out into groups. The mark has a rather grim history and is particularly dangerous spot with huge Atlantic swells responsible for the deaths of several anglers over the years as the warning sign and cross on the cliff top grimly warned.

            This stretch of coast saw remarkable angling feats by Jack Shine during the 1960’s he landed several Porbeagle shark in excess of 100lb casting his baits from the shore. With water of almost 100ft in depth a few yards out this is really not surprising. To add to this sense of awe a whale surfaced just fifty yards from our fishing platform.

            Throughout the day we kept one eye on the sea, despite the calm weather there is always the threat of a rogue swell. The water here is crystal clear and teamed with mackerel that were brought writhing ashore on our strings of bright feathers. Nick, who had failed to pack any feathers made up a trace of bare hooks and proceeded to take a fine brace of mackerel one approaching two pounds in weight.

            With plenty of bait stashed away we proceeded to try for other species. I was keen to give it a go for pollock which I felt sure would be lurking in the clear deep water. A pink tailed jelly worm cast out using a light bass rod soon resulted in a savage take. Several pollock up to just over three pound were soon caught, their green and silvery flanks admired before being released.

            Mike and his son had brought along some king ragworm and used these to tempt a succession of small wrasse. Others in our party launched large fresh mackerel heads and fillets into the depths in hope of huss, conger, bass or big pollock. The inevitable dogfish were soon swung ashore along with several small congers. John Avery eventually hooked into a slightly better eel of around 15lb which gave quite a tussle as it wrapped its tail around fronds of kelp.

            The mark has amazing potential but needs to be treated with respect and only fished in dead calm conditions. Even then a wary eye needs to be kept upon the mighty Atlantic as it caresses the ancient rocks.

            Later that night we enjoy a pint or two of Guinness in a typically friendly Irish bar. When we tell where we have fished we are treated to tales of a wild coastline where entire families have been swept to a watery grave. Of course we also here some slightly embellished fishy tales as well. Nice thing about Irish pubs is that you get into conversations with total strangers as if you have known them for years.

            We head into the Shannon Estuary the next day in search of thornback. Jason and Mario have given it a try during the night but found the water to one vast kennel with dogfish devouring every bait within minutes of it hitting the seabed. In daylight the doggies are less abundant and we manage to land a couple of small thornback that truly lived up to their names with an impressive array of thorns. It seems strange to fishing in relatively shallow clear water for ray and huss. At home in North Devon such ground would hold flounder, bass and mullet. We all learn that preconceptions from your home ground need to be put aside if one is to realize the potential of new waters.

            We return to a mark on the opposite side of the bay next day. Large numbers of bass or mullet can be seen in the shallows as the tide floods. John sets up with float fished bread flake, Martin opts for plug. John gets a bite so declares that they must be mullet! Martin fails to tempt with his plug but I tell him that doesn’t mean they’re not bass. I persist after the ray and get a doggie or two. If I had a fly rod with me I would have proved that they were bass?

            Before leaving Kilkee that morning John, Martin and I had investigated an area of the bay that had a reputation for producing mullet. With the tide out we had smeared a generous helping of mashed bread and fishy flavored cat food into crevices in the rocks. We hoped that the rising tide would later dislodge particles, dispersing them into the rising waters to stimulate and attract shoals of mullet.

            When we arrive at the mark that afternoon a moderate swell is being generated by a stiff breeze. We top up the groundbait that is hopefully already at work and flick our light floats onto the turbulent water. We don’t have to wait long before Johns float stabs under and his rod is seen to take on a healthy curve. The next couple of hours see John connect with five mullet of up to three and a half pounds. Martin and I struggle to get a bite despite fishing at the same depth as John and with virtually identical tackle. Persistence pays off however and my float eventually submerges, resulting in a hard fighting mullet of four and half pounds that takes almost quarter of an hour to subdue.

At around this time the rest of the gang turns up to watch. Young Mark Prouse is offered Martins spinning rod which has a small lead headed jelly worm jig attached. After a couple of casts the rod is bending double as a good pollock seeks sanctuary in the rock and kelp. The fish weighs in at 4lb 12oz, a new personnel best for Mark. With rain starting to fall and a bitter wind blowing we all pack up cold damp, yet happy anglers.

That night we enjoy a superb Chinese meal and a couple of pints off Guinness over which we discuss plans for our final day of Irish fishing. I have this rather romantic notion of digging lugworm and catching a bass from a surf beach. Martin and the Squire’s foolishly get carried along with my enthusiasm.

            Next morning sees a north westerly gale pummeling the coast. We dig our lugworm and then drive around to view un-fishable beaches. Eventually we end up back in the mouth of the Shannon surrounded by lugworm casts and catch a dogfish and a rockling. The rest of the party has braved the wind to freeze it out in Kilkee harbour in search of mullet. John manages a thin lipped mullet and Mario a thick lip of just over three pounds.

            Like all fishing excursions this one is over all too soon and we find ourselves aboard the Stena Line ferry bound for Fishgaurd talking of future excursions. Ireland’s potential is endless its people friendly, its scenery stunning and its Guinness smooth, above all it’s a relaxing place to cast a line , I for one will be back. 


 Leisure Angling - 33 Dovedale Road, Liverpool, L18 5 EP

                              Telephone – 0151 734 2344 



The Central Fisheries Board Tel - +351 1 837 9206 or email: info@cfb.ie


Bourke’s Tackle Shop – Kilkee Tel – 065 9056363 Mobile –086 1955991


Pause For Thought

" On a recent excursion to the coast we unloaded our tackle from the car as the light faded, leafless trees shuddered in a North wind and an owl hooted somewhere nearby. It was good to be out and going fishing ,our jaunty pace as we set off down     an ancient track leading to a mark at the foot of cliffs far below reflected this fact. Waves surged against the rocks and we hoped that some fish had moved inshore to feed upon food dislodged by the pounding sea.

Later we sat on the rocks watching for tell tale nods of the rods tips. My eyes drifted to a solitary farmhouse light on a hill     far away and I wondered who lived within and how long a dwelling had been there. I thought of the old steps that lead to this mark and noticed remains of old stone and concrete structures that told of buildings long since disused. All along the coast similar structures reflect on a rich history and stand as a monument to people of a bygone age. Lime kilns, mines, smugglers paths         and remains of a rich Victorian tourist industry. What tales could be told? I gazed up at the stars in the sky, with some hundreds     of light years away it’s a mind boggling thought to think the moment of light you are seeing is from a time before the ruined structures I have just mentioned were built !  Angling truly is the contemplative recreation, especially when bites are few. " W.T.


" Wherever angling takes you, enjoy the journey and remember to smell the flowers on the way ! " W.T.