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The elusive 'triple crown'

Written by Steve Smith

Who needs sleep?
The objective of the day was so so simple; get up early, get to the river, catch a thick lip mullet, move to catch a thin lip and then set up on the beach and catch a Golden Grey mullet and whatever else the mark could throw up (and Widewater, Lancing HAS thrown up all kinds of fish from turbot to 2lb sole and from cod and bass on the same day in Autumn!). The elusive "Triple Crown".

Triple crown kit

Preparation, that's the key I naively assured myself and in all honesty (cough cough) I do usually do my homework and normally only forget things such as tea, landing nets, wellies, waders, water, rods, reels, bait ........ etc etc, but never all at the same time. With this in mind I had already secured myself a heap of prime maddies and arranged with a friend of mine an early morning delivery of 6 loaves of bread and a couple of new Mepps spinners for later use and was even more pleasantly surprised at 8am  with an additional bucket peeling spider crabs - not much use for mulleting but all bait welcome at the start of a fishing day.
'The start of the day' . . , sometimes you can pinpoint when the proverbial wheels begin to fall off even the best laid of plans and in this case it was, 'the start of the day'. Arriving at  my chosen spot where the previous day I had almost been attacked by leaping and swirling, hungry and aggressively 'bullish' mullet, I was greeted by sullen, overcast, windy conditions. With an under-the-breath curse at forecasters who can't predict their own birthdays,  I set up  shop on the muddy bank with a picnic table (cunning eh?), a shimano barbel rod and a 1/2 oz touch ledger rig in fluorocarbon and started to work the bread upstream with a catapult. Now I've found that working bread on a river isn't the easiest of tasks anyway , too much mangling and it sinks like rock, too little and it floats away past your swim, perhaps I need to practice a whole lot more, but white bread on dark water is something the ever starving gulls never fail to notice and in turn they are soon spotted by armadas of swans. I long ago worked out why they are called a "lamentation" grrrrrrrr. Whispered shouts and silent shooing follow, but it's hopeless and coupled with the complete lack of mullet signs we retreat to bacon sandwiches and the test match to re-group.
Phase two was to be the thin lips but I decided to fish the beach first as the scope for river mullet stretched longer into the tide and day and to be honest, I just felt the need to feel something pulling on the end of a rod ! Confidently I set up with two rods and maddies on free flowing traces and waited for that charging lurch and/or slack line so typical of frenzied GG feeding. And so we waited. Having had a 2lb + GG only a few days previously, in less than perfect conditions, catching would surely only be a matter of time. But these are Goldies - notoriously fickle and a started to recall, with due trepidation, an incident the previous year when, after landing 20 or more I had phoned an over-trusting fishing guide, not unknown on these pages (sorry again Rob!) recommending this exact same beach where the following day in mirror conditions precisely zero ggs were caught by three anglers. "Be positive Steve", I told myself but my optimism was ebbing with the tide. Suddenly the lurch I had been waiting for, pick up, fish on and not one of the numerous small flounders we'd been regularly pulling out, but a proper fighter! Gentle pressure ( I call it hurried care) and out of the waves came a ..... Schoolie :

Silver, but not the right one( Oh well. I had brought a lure rob with me as well just in case the fishing was slow, so out went the savage gear sandeels which at least passed the time between small flatties but nothing exciting was forthcoming from the Widewater today.Whether it's a curse or  a blessing, obsession or determination depends on the observer (wife or fishing buddy), but I don't give up easily and still having a pile of maddies I decided to head out to Shoreham West Arm (triple crown in as many tatters as the England rugby squad's) to see if I could console myself. I now had  few Spider peelers too so a smoothound could be quite a "thrill" in the dark with the current and a long drop net. There were a few jolly souls midway along the wall so at least I would have some company during the session. Again it was slow, one rod out on a one up one down rig for starries and "whatever" on the top hook and another rod out with my favoured sole rig, a 'weighted' pully wishbone. Small touches on the crab baited gear proved to be more of the greedy pups I had encountered last week - so small that they were lucky the crabs weren't live as I'm sure they'd have fought back!

Greedy pup Finally though, after moving to my pet spot (long range and only available when there's no harbour traffic)  I got the familiar sole rattle and a 30 cm little beauty slipped over the wall - target achieved and it had only taken 13 hours! The current put paid to further sole searching and by 2:30 am, after some soul searching I decided to be obsessive and move to venue number 4.

Sole at last

The tide was perfect and the now quiet, windless conditions yelled bass on the lure to me louder than my eyelids screaming sleep. By 3 am I was waist deep in water flicking a whole succession of soft and hard plastics in the general direction of the occassional splash that indicated at least some fish were on the feed. two nights before I had hooked into one decent (guessing 2-3lb) fish only to lose it half way in and subsequently have no further takes. I worked out then that most of the rises were very small schoolies and so it appeared today (tonight?)[this morning??]. Too tired to re-rig to almost LRF gear I finally called it a day - and so it was black had turned to cobalt had turned to a fast lightening blue. Time to go home, another dawn greeted and although nothing noteworthy, 5 species (sole, flounder, plaice, smoothhound and bass) had been caught, more tiny lessons learnt and that feeling of peace and wellbeing that only angling seems to bring had spread through me and I would sleep well :)

 

Pollack on the fly

I know  good place...where the rocks are gradually exposed on the ebbing tide and it's possible to hop from rock to rock until you are able to get far enough from the shore to cast a fly into water beween twelve and twenty feet deep even at low tide. There's location in particular where there are two jagged fingers of barnacle encrusted rock that rise up steeply from the crystal clear water and the fronds of kelp growing over the submerged reef.Between these two outcrops lies a bay where pollack heard together shoals of bait fish and they set about them with great ferocity as dusk begins to fall. This, of course, is a great time to be casting a fly or using a light spinning rod.

In other places within this cove they lie in ambush on the down tide edge of the rocks waiting to pick off the small fish as they are swept along with the tide. Pollack will very often sweep upwards through a shoal of bait fish, taking as many as possible before crash diving back to the bottom.

If a fly or lure is fished too high in the water they will totally ignore it so you have to be prepared to risk losing tackle by fishing as close to the kelp as possible. But as the light fades they move closer to the surface and this presents the best opportunity for some exciting action.

When a pollack hits your fly it will dive for the bottom at speed


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