Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Rockfalls show dangers as Hunstanton cliffs erode

The hop across the rocks isn't quite the same, but I don't realise why until another angler points it out to me.

"Fresh rockfall," he says, pointing to the tonnes and tonnes of chalk and carr stone which have come down from the cliffs at some point over the last couple of days. "Look, you can see all the dust still. I wondered when that lot was going to go."

There are large cracks up in some of the rocky overhangs. The cliffs are gradually eroding inland, as the elements eat away at rock strata which took millions of years to lay down. The edge of the cliffs has moved around two metres in the last decade, by my reckoning.

Hawkeye reckons he's heard the cliffs creaking and cracking as he's walked along the beach, while I have pictures showing the cliff edge being 20 yards from the wall around the light house - it's less than half that now and another good fall or two will probably see the path on the seaward side lost, as the council move the safety fence back.

People hunt fossils as well as bass at cliff base - like these fossilised ferns I found the other day. Some holidaymakers clamber up the rubble, others sit and picnic underneath - despite the warning signs.

The latest rockfall graphically shows the danger, with lumps of carr stone landing around the high water mark after bouncing their way down the slope.

There were grockles sitting there the other night, I tell the guy who pointed out the avalanche. "They might be under that lot now," he shrugged.

Rock slides apart, the last few tides have been dead.

Sunday night - sea choppy and coloured, large regatta in progress a few hundred yards offshore. Fished next to one of the more consistent local lure anglers. "You will catch 'em when it's like this," he said. We didn't.

Monday morning - high tide at dawn. No sign of any fish, but terns diving about 150yds off the beach.

Monday afternoon - went to try a little stream where I've seen some perch and Hawkeye swears he saw a pike. Few silver fish and - amazingly - bream about in a deeper run beneath an old bridge, but water very clear and no sign of perch.

Monday night - back on the bass. Sea coloured within 50 yards of beach, terns diving move out into a gathering squall, surf building in the gale, got soaked to the skin within half an hour and cleared off.

We have two runs of decent tides left between now and September, so improving on my bass total's going to require a concentrated effort - and one eye over my shoulder looking out for rockfalls waiting to happen.

***It's hard to guage scale without anyone in the pictures. The two flat rocks, sitting on top of each other, are around the size of a small hatchback. Which you obviously wouldn't like landing on your toe...

Making skull jig heads

Genius...! Hat tip Paul's blog, which is a bit like Blue Peter goes lure fishing - ask a grown-up before you heat up the tin, use the oven or the sharp thing *linky*

If you've got time, read his brilliant writings about living and fishing on the island of Erraid *linky* which I guess is where he got the making things bug from.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Mullet - blast me, you won't catch them

Mullet..? Cor, blast me - you can't catch them. This has come close to being the soundbite of the last few weeks for me, having decided to test out this old Norfolk adage. And they were right.

That's why I've been so quiet - I've been trying hard to catch one of these things.

It all started when I looked off this bridge somewhere I'd never, ever think was worth fishing, and I saw a swirl. A gull dived and the surface erupted with fish bow-waving off in all directions.

What on earth are they, I wondered. I took a walk up the bank and found a chap sitting in the rye grass watching the water through binoculars. When I asked if he was bird or fish watching, he said: "A bit of both."

The water heaved as a shoal of mullet chased and swirled on the top. I've never seen anything like this, I told the man with the binos. "Me neither," he said.

He beat me to the spot the next day. We fished but there was no sign of anything. Mullet can be a bit hit and miss like this, apparently - as in they come and go, there one tide, gone the next.

I went back a few days later, having by now read up and tied up some spinners with a fluo trailer to bait up with worm, hit the place as the tide turned at the start of the flood and the mullet were back.

I crept alongside a shoal that must have been 40 or 50-strong, fins and black backs breaking the surface as they nosed along kicking up puffs of silt.

Three or four casts and they were gone - 20 yards down the bank. I squelched down through the mud and lobbed the lure well past a group of fish I saw on the top.  Three or four of them followed it in to my feet and turned tail in a muddy swirl.

Then a tractor towing a monstrous piece of farm machinery made the banks shake as it clanked and thumped its way over the bridge. I never saw another mullet that tide.

I read up and decided to try the mashed bread approach. Mullet apparently respond to this, although there are two kinds of mullet  - thick and thin-lipped - whose habits vary.

You need to know what kind of mullet you're fishing for, apparently, to tailor your approach. Are they of the thick or thin-lipped kind..? Until you actually catch one, you can't be certain. And that's mullet fishing's Catch 22.

One or two of them swirled at the crusts which floated up from loosely-squeezed balls of bread. Sea gulls make floating crust a no-no. When the gulls started diving after the bread, the mullet melted away.

I must admit, I thought a few of these would be an easy steal. Location being 90pc when it comes to catching them, etc etc. I went back and tried tiny spinners rigged with Isome worms on light leaders to a Size Four trailer and you wouldn't have thought mullet had even been invented.

I've been totally side-tracked by these things I'm clearly in no danger whatsoever of catching. I've tried bubble floats and rag. I've tried spinning for them, jigging little grubs and tiny plugs.

You get the odd follow doing this, but they drift away without taking. Five minutes later, the surface erupts down the bank when a bird spooks them or they munch into something on the surface.

I've also had them grubbing about right under my feet and just watched them as they probe the mud.
As soon as you make a move, they shoot off.

The picture is a mullet (not sure which type, as in thin or thick-lipped..) I took in the Sea Life Sanctuary a few years back.

What a fascinating fish, although time's running  out fast when it comes to chasing them.  As I give up (for now...) to return to trying to catch more bass, I decide I'll chase the mullet next year.

Just imagine catching one of them, I said to someone yesterday. "Mullet? You won't ever catch one of them," they replied.

In praise of rivers #1

I watched a big match for the first time in donkey's years today when I went along to report on the Division 2 National on the Ouse.

Apart from four guys who shared a bream shoal up near Littleport for individual honours, the river was hard going for most of the 300 or so who took part.

Instead of the who caught what, chopped worm alternating between the 15m line and groundbait feeder, over the moon, sick as a parrot kind of stuff, I thought I'd see what people made of the river.

"I tell you what," says one of the first anglers I get into conversation with. "I can see why so many people fish the commercials 'round here."

Some seemed to have thrown the towel in by the half way point when I turned up. Others remained focussed on the fishing.

The river's ticking through with a slight flow but it's clear. The verdict is this has switched the bigger bream off, meaning a scramble for bits and skimmers for section points.

A few pegs down, I find a couple of guys fishing like their lives depend on it. One confides the team plan was get 1lbs a member in the net before fishing for themselves.

Their eyes don't stray off the tip or float, as they alternate between feeder rod and pole. Ten minutes down the edge, 10 down the middle, three chucks over the far side, pouch full of feed down the inside, back on the pole.

Every missed bite is an agony, yet it's fascinating to watch. Dave from Stroud (left) ends up with me and a few guys from Lynn AA sitting behind him, willing him to catch as the whistle looms.

We know he's got five or six pounds of hard-won skimmers and bits in his net. One good fish would seal the section.

Dave's travelled hundreds of miles, he's fished his guts out for his mates and puts 3.880kg on the scales when Kye and Webby set up their tripod.

Downstream there are anglers with just grammes in their nets. One says his handful of roach were well worth the trip, because they were immaculate, wild fish, which he had to work all match to catch.

"I'll be back come the autumn," he says. "What a river."