Sometimes the weather is glorious and you have a chance to go fishing, but no real clue where to go. The tides, wind, pressure and other matters may not be what you’ve been waiting for, but, a chance to go fishing is a chance to go fishing. Even more occasionally, your mate is free at the same time, and that’s what happened the other day. So a few quick messages exchanged, and checking various weather apps and tide tables for loads of different venues and a quick plan was hatched.

En-route to our Isle of Purbeck destination, we spent half an hour seeing if we could collect some fresh sandeel, as we always feel that it’s worth that little extra effort to get the best possible bait if its an option. There’s also nothing more sustainable than collecting your own bait as and when you need it, rather than relying on mass commercially obtained bait. You can never take anything for granted, but thankfully at this time of year the sea along the south coast is pretty rich in bait fish, so it didn’t take us too long with the net to get enough eels for the  session. Along with frozen squid and bluey, plus a handful of worms, we felt confident as we made our way to our chosen mark.

Fresh sandeel goes a long way to boosting confidence in a session.

Having sourced our desired bait, we’d made it to the mark in daylight, which even after many visits is always nice to get your bearings and properly observe the sea state. With daylight soon fading we had a selection of baits in the water, and it wasn’t long before Rob was continuing his hot streak with a nicely marked small eye to get off the mark.

Meanwhile, my ray baits were only getting attention from spider crabs, though my smaller baits I had put out had found constant action, with a couple of bream, a surprise hound and the first  couple of what was soon to become countless pouting…

A beautifully marked small eye
An early hound before darkness hit was very welcome.

I asked Rob if he had tried worm yet to which he replied he hadn’t. I’ll have to take credit for the fish that followed for putting the idea in his head…Lo and behold, first cast on the forgotten worm, with darkness fast approaching, and he landed a cracking sole! The fish was a prime conditioned 2lb 3 oz specimen, and to make it all the more surprising, it was the first one either of us had landed  from any of the Isle of Purbeck marks we frequently fish. That’s not to say that sole are ever our target, but we’d never even landed a solitary slip as by-catch. 

To continue  his good run, Rob’s ray rod then went over whilst unhooking the sole and a lovely spotty of 4lb 10 joined us on the rocks! It was certainly turning into a busy session, not helped by the fact that spider crabs were necessitating quick bait changes whether you had a bite or not. At least there were enough fish about to beat some of them to the baits on this occasion. 

A fish per rod for Rob, consisting of a decent spotty and a specimen sole, our first sole from the Purbecks!

I must admit that I was starting to get frustrated with the difference in quality between our 2 captures, with Rob bagging some fine specimens and myself catching a steady stream of fish but all small. Then, just before high, a spotty and specimen pout double shot lifted my mood a little in between the  pout, strap and spider invasion which seemed endless on my side of the mark… In a lull in the action, which often  happens at high tide on this particular mark, and while admiring the clarity of the milky way overhead, we chatted tactics… 

Without discussing it beforehand, we realised that we were both now fishing 2 hook rigs with worm and small sandeel baits on one rod, with bigger fish baits on the other. So far, all 3 rays had come to the sandeel rather than bluey or squid baits. It’s funny how on any given day one bait will comprehensively out-fish the others, but we were certainly glad of the supply of fresh eels in the cool bag that seemed to be making the difference. Would frozen have been as good? Maybe, but there’s a real confidence when baiting up with fresh greasy sandeels which I just love. 

The pout were a great size.

Knowing sandeel was flavour of the day, and having run out of worm, a quick change of tactics was called for and I changed it up to straight sandeel on both rods… It didn’t  take long for the tell tale pull down of a bigger ray and the typically lazy fight let me know that my first Purbeck undulate for a while was trying to bury itself in the kelp.

Thankfully a strong rod and heavy braid were enough to bully the fish onto the rocks, and although not a massive fish at around 11lb, it was a typical Purbeck undy with stunning markings.

These Purbeck undulates are always fantasitcally marked dark fish.

After a few more straps, too many pout and a 5lb huss to Rob, we realised we had long overstayed our planned departure time, and under the light of the rising moon, made our way back to the car. 

Honours by the end pretty much even on the ray front, but that sole for Rob has certainly got us thinking about how many other slabs may be lurking under the thousands of pout…

A nice spotty for myself
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