Social media and the rise of Facebook fishing groups have been something of a double-edged sword for sea anglers. There is now a vast amount of information readily available at the click of a button. Want to know how an area is fishing? You can get an idea almost instantly. Want to find out about that lovely new beach caster you fancy? You can find out from people who have used it before parting with your hard-earned cash. Unfortunately, there’s also some negativity out there too. Lots of groups, individuals and companies competing for our attention does lead to arguments and bickering. That said, I believe that in general it is a force for good, particularly in bringing like-minded individuals together.
One such success story in my area is the Retro Sea Anglers Facebook group. The brain child of local angler’s Paul “Pablo” Phillips and Andy Seymour, the idea was to run fun matches where either your reel or rod of choice must be over 20 years old. The club hit the ground running with anglers jumping at the chance to dust off those classic Abu 7000s, Abu 484s and other classic gear. I was fortunate enough to win a couple of the initial matches, one of which I secured on the last cast, much to the dismay of organiser Andy who was in the lead up until that point (Oh, how we laughed, or at least I did!).
The group was flying. Then, covid arrived on the scene and the retro anglers were left in limbo. Post lockdown, the angling world revelled in getting back out fishing and it was not until that initial surge had subsided that talk of “going retro” began to surface again. I contacted Andy Seymour to see if he would be doing any more meet-ups and whilst he was very keen to get going again, he asked for assistance. Never the types to shy away from a challenge, fishing buddy Ian Macluskie and I agreed to help out. I put the feelers out on social media and we got a fabulous response, so we got our thinking caps on.
The venue we picked was west end beach, Morecambe, a venue that although quite a walk, offers nice comfortable fishing once at the low water mark with lots of room for anglers to spread out. Ian`s lovely wife Margaret also offered to cook some of her famous pies for all those attending- these pies have reached near legendary status in the area for their taste. We set the date, passed the word around our local Facebook groups and the day of the meet soon came around.
The weather was bright and clear and although the fishing locally had been poor with the cold delaying the arrival of the spring species in numbers, we at least had a good day for it! The plan was to meet up on the promenade to hand out match sheets, sample those fabulous pies, admire each other’s old tackle (ooh-er, mrs!) and enjoy some pre match craic. As each angler arrived there were laughs and talk aplenty. Fishing really is a universal language, some of the attendees had never met before but were happily chatting away like old friends in no time. Amongst the chat, the subject of past meets and clubs kept coming up too, with many saying how sad it was that there was not one in the area anymore. Enthused by the jovial atmosphere and fortified by the pies, which once again had met universal acclaim, we set off across the vast expanse of sand towards the low water mark.
As someone who is within the tackle trade helping with the development of tackle, I should perhaps not say the following…. I really enjoy using older fishing tackle! There is a joy to using classic gear and many of those who have attended the meets have also found the same joy. Beach rods are a notable example, the rods of yesteryear offer an ease of use that many modern equivalents do not. The quest for ever longer, stiffer rods capable of huge distances in specialist hands has been to the detriment of Mr Average on the beach. I believe tackle companies would do well to take a look back at some of those classics of years gone by, but that is another story…
Old reels of course are a different thing altogether with older multipliers requiring an “educated thumb” and exceptionally smooth casts to prevent horrific results. With this in mind my choice of gear for the meet up was a modern multiplier teamed up with a Metalite Turbo. This rod cost the princely sum of £43.00 and following a rebuild is a stunning fishing rod. Diameter aside (it is a chunky monkey) it is a glorious fishing tool, rewarding a slow easy fishing cast with pleasing distances and enjoyable fishing. Other classic set ups at the meets included some superb early Zziplex models, Conoflex’s , Metalite’s as well as examples from Edgar Sealeys , Abu and many more.
The sun was shining brightly, the wind was fresh and invigorating and my glorious fishing set up was not doing me any good on the fish catching front! My concerns about the fishing were proving correct; it was extremely poor. But it did not seem to matter, anglers were wandering from peg to peg, enjoying a laugh and talking fishing. Between casts and checking baits I made my way around, catching up with old friends and making new acquaintances. Word eventually filtered through that odd fish were coming out. Fishing buddy Ian Macluskie had managed a couple of fish as had another well-known angler on social media, Ryan Thompson. Other anglers had picked up single fish although I could not buy a bite! Much to Mr Seymour`s delight, as he hurled well-meaning abuse at me from a couple of pegs away. Low water came and went and the tide began to flood, often a time when the venue picks up fishing wise, but still nothing. Reluctantly I checked my watch, time for all out and neither my son Luke or myself had managed a single fish. I called “all out!” and picked my rod from the rest. Easing the lead from the sea bed, I felt a rattle that went through the rod and up my arm like an electric shock! I could not believe it. There was a fish there! I carefully began to retrieve, trying to be as smooth as possible.
The extra care and attention I was taking must have been noticeable as a shout came from a couple of pegs away, “No! Surely not again, Preston!”, followed by a few other words that we cannot publish! Andy was not pleased, especially when a lovely plump plaice hit the beach. A glance to my left showed Ian had also picked up a fish last cast surely securing himself the bragging rights for the day. With the flooding tide following us, we made the forced march back to the promenade to pack away and collate the results. Based on overall length, the top five were-
1st Ian Macluckie
2nd Ryan Thompson
3rd Myself (with that last gasp plaice!)
4th Ken Forrest
5th Richie Fisher
The biggest fish prizes were-
1st Ian Macluskie
We made the presentation and shared some laughs, jokes, and promises to meet up again before we all parted ways. That evening I keenly watched the local Facebook pages to gauge the feedback. As the reports came in, they were incredibly positive, proving once again there is often more to fishing than catching fish. Despite the poor fishing it appeared we had stumbled upon something that anglers wanted. People were privately messaging me about future meets and saying they wished we had a club in the area. Ian was getting similar feedback and we had several chats over the success of the meet and what was missing in our area. At this point we also spoke to a couple of other fishing friends, Andy Seymour and Anthony Lancaster Paynie. We all agreed the area needed something new and different.
Once again, we popped a post on social media to gauge interest and the feedback was enthusiastic, the four of us now felt we were on the crest of a wave and the momentum meant we simply MUST do something.
The Morecambe Bay Sea Anglers (MBSA) club was born.
We thought Morecambe`s newest club must be something a bit different to try to recapture the atmosphere and fun of meets like the retro one. We have a couple of serious match clubs in the area, we did not want to go down that route. So, we set out some core values. Meets, not matches, focusing on anglers of all abilities. The club would not be affiliated to any company or shop. The call for membership went out and at the time of typing this we have 55 members, have had our first successful fun meet with more on the way, have club hoodies on order and the future looks bright.
Strange to think that going back gave us something for the future…