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"The Tempest" - Devon, July 2019

 

More excellent fishing adventures, described here by Phil Watters

 
 

The long awaited visit from MarkB had finally arrived and I felt a surge of excitement as I left work thinking about what the next five days held in store for us. This year's proceedings had been postponed due to work commitments and this was the very time the long run of hot weather had chosen to break. The forecast for the week looked more than a bit grim but we wouldn't be deterred by a little wind and rain, besides forecasts have been known to get things wrong (shocker!).

Arriving home, I found Mark sat in his car outside the house having just rolled up. It was great to see him again and talk quickly turned to fishing and the weather. After transferring his gear to my car in readiness for the morning, we headed off to the Chinese for a takeaway. Excellent food was consumed and plans were made for the next day's adventure. The weather looked settled as we retired to bed but during the night I heard the rain start and we awoke to a truly horrible vision of extreme dampness and wind. Not what we would have preferred but hopefully this would be the worst day and things could only get better.

We headed off to the first venue to tough it out and endure an inevitable soaking. This was a relatively new venue for me that I had tried a couple of times the previous year without success. However, I had hooked, and subsequently lost, two good fish so I was determined to get one on the bank. In went some groundbait followed by leger rods. The wind was being very unhelpful, pushing a load of floating weed into the bay, not to mention the sideways rain! I had very wisely opted to bring my umbrella and installed myself behind it whilst Mark as struggling to re-rig his rods in the horrendous wind and rain. It wasn't too long before a positive bite saw me into a decent fish. Unfortunately, a build-up of weed on the line made it impossible to keep pressure on the fish and it got into a clump of bladderwrack. I tried pulling in different directions and offered slack line but it was not to be moved, becoming the third fish lost here. After about half an hour I was into another fish and, having tightened my drag right up, was able to keep it out of the weed. 2/03, the first fish of our trip and first from this venue. By about 09:00 the rain had eased a little and some small fish were hitting surface baits together with a few better samples. Mark decided to have a go with the float rod whilst I persisted with the leger. After a multitude of missed bites, he managed to get two out, both weighing a modest 1/03 and I added another small one I didn't bother to weigh. Not a bad result considering the inclement conditions. As the water receded we called it and headed off for some breakfast and a chance to dry out a little.

Our next stop was a marina where we would be float-fishing, one of a number of Plymouth locations now enhanced (?) by the presence of a large painted elephant-sculpture thing (https://www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/elmer/). Unfortunately, the rain had returned and a potentially good area in front of the pontoons was unfishable due to masses of floating weed. We moved to another area which had been successful on Mark's previous visit and set about business. After two and a half biteless hours we'd had enough and headed back to base-camp.

The evening was spent at a local carvery, with generous helpings of delicious food, and a server with a gruesome array of piercings, adorned with every attachment that you would ever need to fix a busted toilet cistern.

The next day we returned to the same bay hoping to repeat the first day's success. As we left the car to embark on the walk down to the water, the sun briefly showed through a break in the clouds. This prompted me to leave the brolly behind to save weight for the journey. I later came to regret this as a heavy shower did its best to dampen our spirits. Things were slow on the leger rig so I abandoned this in favour of the float rod and we both began to get a few bites as the fish hit the surface baits again. Finally, Mark managed to connect with one and it was putting up a good display, refusing point blank to go in the net. Eventually I got it in the net and the scales recorded 2/05 so it was definitely punching above its weight. A lack of water meant it was time to move on so we headed to the next venue via McDonalds (you may see a bit of a pattern developing here).


Arriving at the next location on the River Yealm the rain had cleared away and it was feeling really warm. A few small fish were showing but after a while even these disappeared and it became clear nothing was happening. We then had to cut the session short whilst I attended to a family crisis. In the meantime, Mark went off to a venue near my house and added another 1/03 to his collection.

Day 3 and we headed to a different location on the Yealm. This morning was a mix of sun and showers and the wind had dropped nicely. At this venue there is a short window of opportunity as the fish gather in a pool before heading up river. Large numbers of fish milling about made it difficult to distinguish between real bites and line bites, A frantic period of missed bites followed with floats flying into the grass behind us. It was just a matter of time before one of us hooked one and, on this occasion, it was me. A lively fish ran out towards the estuary then turned right running towards a sunken log. This had disaster written all over it so I put a stop to that. In response, the fish turned and ran left. Then for a moment I thought it was off before realizing it was running towards me. Mark did the honours with the net and it went 2/13. After the activity subsided we moved upstream and spotted a group of large fish in a pool. Stalking tactics were employed but just as they began to show interest in the baits they all suddenly headed off back downstream. These fish seem to have their own agenda and it's one we will probably never be able to fathom. This seemed to be our cue to move on.

The next stop was a favourite and ever reliable one offering a choice of areas and tactics. Mark soon had the fish feeding on surface baits and landed a couple of small ones as well as yet another 1/03. It was getting quite warm now and with the water rapidly disappearing it was time to head off for the obligatory Big Mac and a cooling ice-cream.


After recovering from a severe dose of brain-freeze, we headed to a river location close to my home. Here Mark added another 2/01 to his growing collection of Devon mullet, having spotted a couple of fish smashing into bread fragments in the faster water at the downstream exit of a pool. My contribution to the evening's entertainment was a strike that hit absolutely nothing but still ended with a very loud and dramatic 'crack', and a snapped rod. Back to base camp, cut out a very small section of rod, without ruining the action, fashioned a small dowel insert, and all ready for the next outing - simples.

 


Day 4 found us back at the river Yealm on a misty morning. It wasn't long before I'd hooked and landed one which weighed 2/13 again. The makeshift repair on my rod all held so job done there. Minutes later Mark was into one which managed to slip the hook as they all too often do. A little later, Mark was in again and this time it stayed on weighing 1/06. After that, the activity subsided and it was time to move on again.

 


We returned to the lagoon where we had fished the previous day. Once again, the fish were feeding on surface baits and Mark was getting hook-ups but failing to put them in the net, losing two in quick succession. Having now lost three for the day, he was quick to consign a perfectly good hook to the bin-bag. I managed to land a modest 1/03 which was becoming a benchmark weight for this year's visit. Finally Mark got one in on his new 'confidence' hook, a better fish at 2/05. The day was then cut short for another family-related issue, which saw the two of us babysitting a very tired and grumpy ten month old. We briefly and half-heartedly debated whether we could get away with a quick trip to the river, but wisely decided against it, quickly realising that the resulting mud-caked infant would be a dead give-away. Not all bad, as there was soon fish and chips on offer.

 

Day 5 had come around too quickly, and once again, we returned to the river Yealm. This morning we were presented with a mass of thinlips and very few thicks. Mark had a go with a baited spinner but they weren't playing. I persisted with the bread a hooked one that quickly came off. That was pretty much the end of things so we headed back to the lagoon. The good news was that after a poor start at the beginning of the week, the weather had now taken a more seasonal turn. The bad news was that this had brought out all the local kids who had decided to go tombstoning right where we wanted to fish. We were considering a second spot, but soon, the same kids were there, one particularly reckless individual leaping from a twenty-foot tower into a few feet of water covering (probably) a few feet of soft mud, just as we were singing "... jump into this 'ere blanket what we are 'olding, and you will be alright ...". Mark was clearly disappointed at having been deprived the spectacle of just his legs remaining protruding from the water. This was not going to do much for our chances so, after much discussion, we headed back for another try at the marina.

We installed ourselves in the usual spot, overlooked by a vagrant who bore more than a passing resemblance to Dave Rigden (MarkB: sorry Dave, no disrespect intended, but he really did - the only give-away was that he wasn't holding two ruddy great mullet). Unfortunately, despite the more favourable weather, the end result turned out the same. Spotting some mullet lying under the moored boats, we decided to have a quick go here. Out went some floating baits but this didn't really have the desired effect and only succeeded in attracting a flock of seagulls (no, not the 80s band) one of which flew through my line, getting itself tangled. More muppetry ensued as I battled with the airborne adversary. Luckily it managed to free itself sparing me the embarrassment of struggling with an angry seabird on a busy waterfront. This seemed like an appropriate moment to call it a day.


After a proper feed, courtesy of the Colonel, including more ice-cream and brain-freeze misery, we were soon at the final location. First cast, Mark was into something that was giving him a proper run-around. When I finally put the net under it, I thought this must be the long-awaited three pounder. The scales had to go to VAR but the result settled on 2/15. The disturbance had put a bit of a dampener on things, so we moved to a different area of the river. Lots of small fish were hitting surface baits and we missed bite after bite. Mark managed to hook and land a small, sub 1lb fish. Later I hooked one that felt a bit better but that managed to throw the hook. The final fish of the trip was mine, but only about 12oz.


So that was it. All too quickly, another Devon extravaganza had come to an end. Although the quality fish caught last year were conspicuous by their absence, we'd caught fish every day. So a success, I think. Certainly in terms of laughs and good company it had lived up to all expectations. Roll on 2020.

 

 
Last updated 01.08.20