Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Time spent in reconnaissance...

Wednesday, 30 June 2021 at 08:09

Bass ground ...at least spares your eyes from yet another hour of being wrecked in front of emails and computer screens. In between spells of detailed and often trying work I've attempted now and then to get out of the house, however briefly, and scope out some bass marks. What I look for are those places which have sufficient structure to hold food - obstacles, dips on shallow beaches, weed-lines, reefs and shingle bars, places where the tide is channelled. I don't necessarily look for deep water. Yesterday, for example, I stumbled across this shingle spit. To its right is a creek where hermit crabs scuttled across the clay and shingle as I approached. Potentially, then, this seems like a good bass mark. Once the current push of work is over, I shall find out.

Undersides: the tope's belly-button

Monday, 28 June 2021 at 08:22

Tope navel Tope spawn in parts of the outer Thames estuary, including the banks where we were fishing yesterday. One of the lads out on Galloper duly caught - and we of course released - two tiny tope. Scott (Belbin) pointed out that female tope give birth to live young (the eggs hatch inside the female's body) and that traces of the umbilical cord can be found on the underside of the juvenile fish - as here (circled), exemplified on a miniature tope which, Scott thought, couldn't have been more than a month old. The tope has a fascinating life cycle; you can read more about it here: https://britishseafishing.co.uk/tope/

If someone had told me when I was a young angler that one day I'd be photographing a tope's navel I'd have been flabbergasted.


Undersides: the roker's clown-face

Monday, 28 June 2021 at 08:19

Underside of thornback The underside of a small thornback ray (roker). The mouth-parts are wonderfully well-adapted to feeding on bottom-living prey. I've often thought that if you look at the underside of a roker through half-closed eyes and let your imagination run then the underside looks a bit like the face of a sad circus clown. (The 'eyes'  of the imaginary clown are formed by what are really the nostrils of the ray - its own eyes are on the upper surface of the body.) Still, I imagine some roker find other roker utterly beautiful.

Capt. Whiting Almost Gets His Dogfish....

Sunday, 27 June 2021 at 17:54

Hound ...but instead, fishing on Scott Belbin's Galloper, caught and released a good number of rather fine smoothhounds. This was the first and among the best of them (8-9lb., we estimated). These small sharks put up a good scrap on light(ish) uptiding gear. This one even took line. The fish are found in some numbers during the summer in the Thames estuary and along the Thames banks, including the outer Blackwater. As the tide flooded we found that groups of fish would pass by sporadically and these hunting hounds were happy enough to take rag-and-squid baits, though their favourite food is (I read) small crabs.

Along with the hounds, Capt. Whiting - whose speciality is offering high-tec baits on refined tackle to exceedingly rare Clacton dogfish (see March, below) - also released some rays, so it was a fairly steady day out there by the Buxey Sands. Thanks to all for company, advice and good humour. Further information about Galloper can be found here: https://www.essexseafishing.co.uk/


Capt. Dogfish Gets His Roker

Sunday, 27 June 2021 at 17:47

Roker Extraordinary creatures, thornback rays (known locally as roker). This one was only a miniature version - the first of three I released this afternoon - yet when it clagged its wings against the sea bed it was hard to move with rod pressure. The mouthparts are on the underside of the head and the mouth itself is beautifully adapted to browsing on bottom-feeding prey, so in its own way the roker is a masterpiece of design.

If you look carefully you can see the spines on its back, which run down the tail, too. This armoury must be all the more necessary because the fish wouldn't be able to swim away quickly from a predator attacking from above.

Method was uptiding. Hook was a well-sharpened Mustad 79515, size 2/0. Bait was a rag and squid cocktail. Lighting and make-up were by Hopeless Gumby, Inc.


Some bedtime reading

Wednesday, 16 June 2021 at 16:35

Batty I can't remember anything in professional life as fraught as the end of this present, Covid-modulated, academic year. I haven't fished since the Test (see below) and spend long working days in useless gibbering. (Dorothy Parker is useful: What fresh hell is this? I say, as I open the laptop at some unearthly hour.) To keep sane, I've turned to angling titles. I've read about stripers and sea trout; have steeped myself in anthologies, even in angling-related poems. Among the readings there's been an encounter with James Batty's reflections on fishing for bass in Cornwall (see image): there's off-beat humour in this book, trenchancy, and always, first-handedness. It's informative and iconoclastic. From my limited experience of (fly-)fishing for bass in Essex and Suffolk I'd also endorse everything the author says about fishing in (semi-)darkness and (particularly) about the fact that bass can often be found in shallow water. So Batty's Song... is warmly recommended.

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