29 October 2017. A decent forecast and a bright day saw new member this season Piotr Dyga and his guest slipping Sea Hog, `Blue Marlin’ into a slowly flooding tide.
With several launches behind him, some practical advice along the way and a very small tide, Piotr decided against running far and anchored up about a mile off, opposite the club. Though nothing of note was to find their baits the fishing throughout the day was consistent as whiting obliged in huge numbers interspersed with a few better fish for the table.
2 September 2017. Nine weeks since Lil’ Hooker last slipped from her trailer and a little over two hours before the afternoon’s low, Alan Taylor and Peter Holland swung past new members Piotr Dyga and his family aboard Blue Marlin, before the two boats headed north to anchor off Cleveleys in 18 feet.
On a slack 26 foot tide it was first fish to Pete Holland as he swung a dog fish aboard, followed by a small thornback and a dab, before he dropped a decent plaice on the top. So far so good, but though Pete (the seal) Dyga and his kids aboard Blue Marlin were also catching fish, Alan’s crab baited rods had not so much as twitched. And so it continued as the tide dropped towards low with only odds and sods coming aboard both boats.
The plan was to sit on the mark until the tide bottomed then move inshore for an hour to see if the plaice would oblige, but with less than 15 minutes to dead low, the first of the crab baited rods set off as the smooth-hound moved in. The next half hour resulted in six smooth-hound in the 4-7lb bracket, not the better stamp of fish Alan hoped for, but nevertheless a bit of fun to catch on light gear before it was up with the anchor and a move inshore into just 10 feet of water.
With just an hour of the flood available to them the pair were not expecting much action. Just two of the targeted plaice came aboard, together with the odd dab and mandatory dog fish, but it had made a gorgeous day and they were more than happy just to be afloat again.
On a bigger tide with some movement in the water it may well have been a very different story, so its fingers crossed then for a few calm days before the month ends.
19 June 2017. After a hectic weekend, Alan and son Andy Taylor had their first opportunity to get out together this season. Early into the ebb on a small tide, their expectations were not high, but the weather was more than making up for it and the sea was like a mirror.
A quick run 6 miles off, with frozen mackerel on board and just 4 hours for the trip there was no plan to feather and as soon as the boat settled at anchor a pair of tope baits went out.
The pair called a halt at mid-day, not a hectic session but the tally stood at four decent tope up to around the 40lb, the smallest fish pictured, five thornback ray hovering around 4-6lb apiece and a couple of dogs. The bouncing slave feathers also picked up mackerel, whiting, gurnard and a dab.
31 May 2017. With another cracking forecast Alan Taylor with cabin boy for the day Mike Jones launched Lil’ Hooker on a flat calm sea just after the morning’s low water. First stop, a drift in 18 feet of water, directly off the clubs where they were into mackerel straight away. With a quick two dozen in the cool box alongside the some crab they headed north in search of a `double’ smooth-hound for occasional angler Mike, then possibly a tope or two.
BBAC angler Mel aboard `Shore Thing’ was already anchored off the north pier as we passed and motored on to anchor on the top of a shallow stony bank in just 12 feet of water. A mark which can fish exceptionally well on low with no tide, they were hoping the flood would fish, but it was very slow. Mike did however manage a handful of smooth-hound including his much awaited `double’ in not one but two starries of 11lb 1 ounce and 12lb 12 ounces, so he was well pleased.
With half the flood gone it was time for tope, so it was up with the anchor and the pair ran back south and set out their stall in 38 feet off Norbreck. An hour later `Shore Thing’ moved over to join them, but after another half hour with still no action it was off to the North Pier for, but surprisingly no tope were to show.
25 May 2017. With the hottest day of the year forecast, but remnants of the previous day’s particularly dense sea fret still lingering, Alan Taylor and Peter Holland delayed their launch until the tide was just short of the wall.
As on their previous trip the pair head north, passing several boats fishing the North Pier area and off Norbreck, to sit squarely once more on the same mark as on their last trip.
The tide was slowing as fresh black baits went over and so a leisurely 5 hours of tanning began. Hardly an energetic session, but enjoyable and punctuated by only two doggies, the pair boated 44 plaice, though it has to be said that though most were keepers to 1lb 6oz, a fair few did go back on this occasion.
As the tide dropped and its flow slowed, Alan could stand it no longer and confessed to Pete that he had indeed brought a few crab to play with. So it was up with the anchor and a move onto some rougher and proven ground for just an hour.
With Pete bumping the bottom with baited feathers Alan set out two rods, the first setting off on a run worthy of a tope within just minutes of the second bait hitting the water. No mistaking what had taken the bait, as a lump of a fish proceeded to test the recently rebuilt reel’s new carbon drag. Pete optimistically readied the net as Alan did the business, but as in many fishing tales it ends there as the circle’s hold gave way a few minutes in and what was most certainly a `double’ was `released’ to grow even bigger.
No time for tantrums as the second rig sang out again and after a spirited tussle Alan’s first `starry’ of 2017 a fish just ounces short of 10lb was boated. Within just minutes rod number one was away again and after a dogged fight a good double was ushered `line wrapped’ and as a result prematurely to the surface. Braid and smut skin, a bad mix and before it could be drawn close enough to net, Alan `released’ that fish also, along with his swivels and lead!
With seven smuts landed and two prematurely `released’ for 10 crabs, the pair up-anchored and ran back to the North pier for a quick feather where the mackerel obliged six at a time.
9 May 2017. An excellent forecast saw Alan Taylor and Peter Holland slipping `Lil’ Hooker’ into a flat sea about three hours into the flood. It was their very long awaited, first launch of season and in clearing out the bait freezer, with only crab that were multiple re-freezes and frozen black that had definitely seen better days in the cool box, the pair were happy just to be afloat again, though a fish or two would be a bonus.
They headed north and dropped anchor in 30+ feet of water to sit off Norbreck in the hope of the odd codling and smooth-hound, but after an hour bites, never mind fish were proving elusive, though Pete had managed several undersized codling and Alan, solitary LSD for his efforts. So it was up with the anchor and off to Cleveleys for the last of the flood.
The sun shone and the pair put the world to rights, but perhaps as was to be expected as the tide slowed there was very little action below the boat, though another doggy and a few dabs did stumble upon their baits.
With little to lose a change of mark was called for so the pair had a scout around with the sounder before setting out their stall in some slightly deeper water. As the ebb tide’s run picked up, the first plaice came aboard, followed in very short order by a second. Though their day could well have continued they called a halt at 3:30, which coincided with Alan swinging plaice number 30 aboard. Not a shabby start to the season.
28 May 2016. A reasonable forecast saw Alan Taylor launching `Lil’ Hooker’ for the fourth time this season about an hour into the flood, with crew Andy Taylor and his older brother James back home for the holiday weekend.
Tope and Smooth-Hound were to be the order of the day and there were a good few boats already anchored up as they ran past the North Pier to drop anchor in just 14 feet of water reading 55 degrees in the Norbreck area.
As expected the small tide, lack of run and bright conditions were perhaps not the best to fish the shallow ground the big hounds like, but they could but try. After a very quiet two hours with just two Smooth-Hounds to show for their efforts the trio headed out to a `banker’ mark in 35 feet of water where there was rather more action, albeit with lesser quality fish and strangely no sign whatsoever of tope.
A quick feather on the way in off the North Pier yielded no mackerel, but a surprise garfish, species number 19 fell to the feathers.
The day ended with a dozen Smooth-Hound to about the 7lb mark, a couple of Bull Huss, Codling, Dogs, Dabs and the `pointy one’
15 June 2014. With a better forecast on the cards `Lil’ Hooker’ with Alan with the lovely Sue Taylor aboard together for the first time this season launched on low and headed directly into just 10 feet of water off Norbreck.
With four rods over, a 6lb class rod baited with crab, two 25lb class baited with mackerel and Mrs T bouncing a set of feathers, first interest unsurprisingly came to the crab. Sue took the rod, set the hook and the smut set off at speed only to `knit one, pearl one’ around the remaining three lines. Not a good start, but with lines untangled the fish was given its head and demonstrated the very best of its abilities on the light tackle as with no depth to play with it headed towards Cleveleys! An entertaining fish it made repeated runs as it was gently encouraged towards the boat by Sue before the braid gave up, likely as a direct result of its previous encounter with the other lines and a pity as the fish certainly scrapped like a `double’.
As the tide rose, the sea became more uneasy and a cool sea mist rolled in but conditions were not to put the pair or the fish off. In their brief morning’s session Sue landed 14 smooth-hounds, a total which included a further two `doubles’ in the shape of a 12lb 5oz starry and a 10lb 7oz common, together with five bull-huss to around the 11lb mark and a small tope in the region of just 6lb.
Though the smuts are in abundance almost everywhere it is noticeable that the better stamp of fish are more frequently picked up very close to the low water mark. Come on you beach anglers.
12 June 2014. Having arrived at the club two hours before high water Alan Taylor and Pete Holland sat it out with a brew whilst the edge settled down sufficiently to launch `Lil’ Hooker’ though once afloat an equally lively swell impeded their progress to the North Pier.
With several boats bouncing at anchor inshore and likely searching for mackerel, the pair similarly set about feathering, switching to baited feathers, crab and a dab baited tope road when the mackerel failed to oblige.
Pete lead the way dinking his feathers every now and then to pick up, smooth-hound, dab, gurnard, dogfish and a solitary mackerel. Alan fished crab on a 6lb class road and picked up smooth- hound and a solitary bull-huss of around 8lb on his dab tope bait, though twice tope cleanly nipped his bait undetected but leaving their tell-tale `cookie cutter’ bite edge on what was left of the fish.
Returning to the Club two hours before low and after quick change of clothes, (he fell off the gunnel of the boat in two feet of water on beaching!) Alan re-launched with Andy aboard and it was back north again this time to sit off Norbreck.
With baited feathers bouncing the bottom, crab searching for smooth-hound and two dab baits awaiting tope the tide dropped down to low water. Codling, dab, dogfish, smooth-hound and tope came aboard, unfortunately nothing exceeding 10lb though Andy did drop a weighty tope, so he claimed as a direct result of Alan’s poor dab presentation!
Shortly before 8:00 the pair wrapped up an headed back to the club. Oh joy! As dozens of seagulls worked close in between Central and South Piers, Andy ran around the shoal to drift back and with just a single set of feathers took full string after full string with a single fish of 1lb 2oz amongst them, which is a very decent mackerel for this area.
8 June 2014. Having spent an enjoyable day working at the club and watching the sea drop off, Alan Taylor returned home to enjoy his Sunday roast. Within 15 minutes of putting his knife and fork down he and Andy Taylor were back in the Club compound.
Ominous clouds gathered all around as they slipped `Lil’ Hooker’ into a lively edge, but once clear of that, the sea flattened off into a long rolling swell. First stop the Glitter Ball to drift for mackerel in about 27 feet of water, with a single frozen mackerel trundling behind the boat for tope. Fifteen energetic minutes later nothing, so it was off further north to anchor up in forty feet.
With the mackerel tope bait back over, the pair feathered away in gin clear water and true to previous years form, the mackerel did not want to know. On the upside, Andy did pick up a couple of whiting so with half a dozen frozen mackerel it was time to set up a second tope rod. With four baits in the water, frozen mackerel, whole whiting, crab and a set of feathers bouncing the bottom the pair settled in, then the edge of the black cloud that was soaking the Ribble and South Shore just clipped them and it poured with rain!
With a little over an hour to high water smooth-hound found the crab and it was Alan who boated the first a fish of around the 6lb mark. From that point forward each crab bait offered resulted in a quick bite, but though the smuts were certainly there they were not running and hook ups on the 5/0 circles proved unusually difficult. Then a dab accomplished what the smuts seemingly could not and Alan replaced his frozen mackerel bait.
The sky was again blue, the sun was warm, the smut rod was nodding away and all was well as Andy’s tope rod set off. Following a good run, the fish was on, only to come unstuck so Andy let the bait fall to the bottom and within seconds, the fish had followed and picked it up again before steaming off. Andy waited what seemed like an age before sliding the lever forward and lifting into it. No mistaking it was a Tope as the rod arched over and the `jagging’ fight commenced, then all went light before Andy caught up as it ran towards the boat.
The fish, which had made two considerable runs before feeling the hook, turned again as Andy made sure the hook was home and it smoked the braid from his reel running way down tide and swinging first right then left around `Hooker’s’ stern. Good fish and no mistaking, but the game was not yet over as this fish was only just getting into its stride. At a distance of likely more than 65 yards, the tope fought very high in the water, on three further occasions streaming line from the reel and sounding each time it came near the boat. As the zip slider broke surface the fish was a magnificent sight in the crystal clear water just some six feet below, but as Alan grasped the leader it was off again on run number four. Back alongside Alan took a hold of the leader, its pectoral, turned it and lifted it carefully aboard. Not the expected `big female’, but a very sizable and particularly sporting male fish, hooked neatly by the 9/0 circle and returned safely.
In the remaining minutes of what had been just a snatched single hours fishing before high water, several more Smooth-hound fell to crab and a double figure Bull-Huss to Alan’s dab.