Alan Brown beats the weed and kick-starts his cod season with a near double.
As you might expect, I’ve been champing at the bit for the cod season to start! They are my favourite species and I always look forward to their arrival.
However, it has been a slow start to the cod fishing season in many areas, with just odd small fish, although there have been a few better ones in my area showing here and there.
The mild long summer has had, or would seem to have had, an effect in some way or another, due to long periods of settled weather and gin-clear water around my patch, which has seen high water temperatures holding on well into autumn. Another factor may be that last year’s fish are now bigger, so they will hold out further into slightly deeper water as their feeding habits have changed.
I’d fished six sessions at a few different local marks for the cod with no joy, apart from some mixed bags comprising mainly undulate rays that seem to have taken over from the dogfish as nuisances around here. I’ve also had a few blanks chucked in for good measure!
All this was starting to make me wonder if it might be one of those years where the cod just don’t show on the beaches. But with reports of a few more fish filtering in each week, I’ve started to form the idea that maybe they are just late in arriving.
Well, as with most of my fishing, it’s often a case of watching the weather and tides with my gear always at the ready for those perfect looking windows of opportunity. With more than one venue in mind all the time to keep the options open, I can just drop everything and go at the last minute.
After a week of stiff easterlies hitting the beaches and due to turn northwesterly, one venue sprang to mind… Selsey Bill.
My plan was to fish a spot over low tide in an area that is known as ‘the hole’, although it is more like a gulley now and as not as deep as it once was, due to weather and the continuous pumping of shingle on to the beaches in that area.
As I expected, when I arrived at the beach the sea was calm but heavily coloured, perfect for this spot as it can be very weedy at the best of times, so a choppy sea will make it even harder. It was two hours before low water and you could already see weed bands left on the beach from the retreating tide. Armed with just unwashed dirty squid and Welsh black lug from Solent Baits, I was hopeful of avoiding the rays, but that does not always work when they are on the feed.
I had one rod set up with a smaller bait on 3/0 and the other a bigger bait on 6/0 Sakuma Manta Extras, on Pennel pulleys, my game being a smaller bait at range and a bigger one in closer – just based on the casting potential of the different sized baits.
My first cast saw a classic cod bite, and with little to no weed, I soon saw my first cod of season finally on the beach. It was only small but it showed me that they were out there to be caught. I’m happy to say that after a quick photo it swam away strong as was only lip hooked.
At 9lb 2oz this cod put a smile on Alan Brown's face during a damp evening at Selsey Bill.
The next hour did nothing except produce dogfish and pout. Then it all went wrong as the weed turned up big time on the start of the flood.
At this point it was unfishable, and anglers around me packed up and left, but not me. I made myself a coffee and had a break from the fishing, the reason being that I had caught one cod and I knew when the weed vanished as the tide eased up those cod would or should show again.
After about an hour, and three coffees to the good, the weed finally eased to a point that I could keep a bait out there in the water without being broken out.
I was rewarded almost instantly away with another classic cod bite. Winding down I knew straight away it was a better fish, as I could feel those head shakes all the way in as the fish was giving a good account of itself. Luckily it was on the 6/0 hook rig, as when I beached the fish could see it was knocking double figures. You can imagine the smile on my face, as I was just happy to know all my struggling on previous sessions had been rewarded at last.
While taking pictures in what were rather damp conditions due to some heavy downpours, I looked up and saw that my other rod had slack lined. I jumped up and grabbed the rod to soon find another fish tugging back, but about halfway in it spat the 3/0 hooks. I was not so happy now!
When I turned back to the fine cod that I had landed I was soon happy again, and popped it on the scales to see them go to 9lb 2oz, happy days.
Unfortunately, all I could catch after that were dogfish and some pout until I packed up around four hours after low water, and before the weed returned with high water.
Job done until the next time, and I do feel that we will see a fair few bigger cod this year, and not so many of those smaller fish.
Beating the weed
Here’s a little tip for those of us that struggle to fish in weedy conditions. Weed will pick up on a slacker line quicker, just as it will on a line set lower to the water.
The way I combat this is to follow the tide down and up with my rod tripod, keeping it close to the water’s edge all the time and I set it up so my rod, or rods, are up high.
When casting, I cast up into the tide and once my lead hits the water I don’t let it go slack, but keep it as tight as possible.
It’s also sometimes easier to fish one rod, and if weed does get so bad to the point that I can’t fish, but I know the venue will be fishing when it clears, then I’ll have a cuppa rather than go home, as you can often miss out on some good fish when the weed does clear.