With the cod fishing on the North East coast of England starting to pick up, the keen northerly wind decided to bring not only big seas, but also freezing temperatures. Large bags of codlings and single fish well into double figures have been caught over these past few weeks and such weather fronts are exactly what the North East coastline needs to push the bigger numbers and better stamp of fish inshore.  
With the recent incident of washed up dead crabs appearing up and down the North East coastline, the fish have turned to worm rather early. 

Cod have been literally spewing up worms as they’re landed and a lack of crab, inside the cod’s stomach, suggests to me that this is why they’re hitting the worm so early. Worm certainly does seem to be the most effective bait this season though, with cart a close second.
With the forecast looking promising for more northerly winds, I came up with a plan mid week to hopefully execute on the Sunday of that coming weekend. I was working in the midlands that week so I rang my good mate Matthew Robson and between us we devised a plan.

Matching the hatch, time for some worm

Beginning with bait prep, I spoke to a great digger over in North Wales, asked him to send me some prime Welsh black lug and he duly obliged. One box ticked! A freezer full of prime red cart wings was sourced from Joe Morrison and the ball was very much rolling for the weekend. 
Sunday finally arrived after what had seemed like a particularly long working week waiting for it to come around, the forecast came off and we had strong winds from the North which put a fair lump on the sea. The Saturday sea state was huge in fact at around 12-16ft, but the winds had dropped a treat and the swell was beginning to decrease nicely.

That morning, prior to fishing, I decided to take the dog for a walk and opted for a pre-session scout about at the intended mark with the intention of sussing out a suitable landing area. Cliff fishing presents numerous challenges, one being the actual landing of hooked fish and rather than crossing that bridge when we came to it, I wanted to avoid panic stations and have a clear plan set out ahead of the game. I came away with one tired dog and a head buzzing for some fish-filled action later that day. These were the conditions that had been craved and everything pointed to what might be a memorable session.

An important scouting mission in daylight

Arriving home, I began prepping, starting with the rods and reels. My rod of choice was the new Zulcron XT 435, recently released by Jay Lee at Zulcron Sports, paired with a Shimano Technium MGS 10000, loaded with 40lb braid and 100lb leader- the perfect outfit for the cliffs in mind. The rig wallet was stuffed, a flask was filled with piping hot coffee and numerous warm garments were piled in to the motor. Loaded up and away in good time, next stop was to collect my good cod-bashing pal Matty. The journey to the mark was undertaken with much discussion about the weather, tackle and of course the cod, but before we knew it, we had pulled up at the mark only to be faced with a biting wind and sideways rain. Conditions were cold at best, but nothing was going to knock our enthusiasm or deter us from our quarry. This was a trip that had spent a lot of time in our thoughts during the week and one that we really hoped would be kind to us, even if the weather was not. 

Matty set up his gear in record time and had a bait in the water before I did, as in my excitement, I’d failed to tie a fresh leader to my braid. Not a fun job in the cold! I was just about to cast out my first baited rig loaded with blacks and razor fish when Matty’s rod pulled over to the tune of a promising take. I waited for it to develop before making my cast and he struck into the first fish of the day, so I put my rod down to assist him with landing if need be. As it turned out, this was just a very small codling that was soon sent on its way, but a fish is a fish and it was an encouraging sign that cod were feeding in the area. Finally, I managed to get my first cast away, now even more excited knowing that cod were in front of us and feeding! Within minutes of my bait hitting the water I had my first bite. Remaining calm and composed I picked up my rod and struck into the still biting fish. With my pre-session recce that morning still fresh in my mind, I walked a few paces away from our station to the designated landing area and soon spotted my prize wallowing in my headlamp beam far below.

The big rough seas roll towards the cliffs

In no time at all I had gingerly winched my first catch of the session up the cliff face; a prime little codling of around 2lb in weight that had taken the 5/0 Mustad Chinu hook perfectly in the corner of the mouth. 
With a bite coming so quickly, I’d yet to prepare a second bait and so hurriedly whipped a cart wing to the trace I had just retrieved and locked it all in place with a paper clip around the shank of the hook. Back out it went, judging by the angle of the line landing in almost the same place as my first cast. I placed the rod back in the rest and tightened the line a little until the tip was set in anticipation. 

From my rig wallet I pulled a suitable pulley rig and got as far as attaching a lead before I noticed my line fall slack out of the corner of my eye.   
I wound down on the slack and managed to get tension between rod tip and lead, but the fish was gone- or so I thought. I put the rod back in the stand and started to get the second rig baited only to see the rod tip pull over again, this time with what seemed like the true intention of taking it for a swim. I grabbed the rod as quickly as I could and it almost pulled from my grasp as once again, I was in to a fish. Repeating the same landing strategy, this one came straight up the cliff without a struggle and was another prime fish of around the 2lb mark.

The cod were soon stacking up in trying conditions!

Lost in the moment of my own fishing, I’d yet to notice that Matty too was catching fish. Matty had scaled down slightly and presenting single worm baits on smaller hooks was picking up better numbers of fish, though possibly of a smaller stamp than the two that I had persuaded to my slightly stepped up end tackle. I continued to add fish of similar quality to my tally and Matty went on to land several more in the 1lb – 1.5lb bracket before opting for bigger baits in an attempt to find something a little lumpier. 
For the next two hours we both enjoyed some frantic fishing, landing good numbers of sizeable fish right up until we lost the tide run and the lines fell slack. 

As is often the case during a busy session, when things do quieten down it is actually quite a welcoming feeling. Flasks were plucked from our seat boxes, coffee was poured and we sat down to discuss the events of the night so far. High water came and went and before too long a trickle of tide became evident in the rod tips that had begun to take on a slight curve. Deciding that break time was over, fresh baits were tethered to our waiting traces and sent out in to the night air with high hopes that the fresh run of ebbing tide would present us with another chance of finding that better fish. 

A great haul of codling for Matty too!

We’d had a great night and were beginning to think about having a tidy up before packing up and heading home when a couple of frantic jabs to my rod tip came out of nowhere. The fish were back and for the next half hour, they fed hard, rapidly descending on any bait laid before them.
It was fast and exciting fishing and although the larger fish remained elusive, we really had no grounds to complain. Even the weather had remained kind, which is always an added bonus.

As the tide finally eased off and the wet boulders below the cliff face began to shine in our headlamp beams, it really was time to head for home. 
A great night had been had, with plenty of fish and plenty of laughs. That’s what fishing is all about and always should be. Oh- and plenty of cod fillets for the neighbours!

No north east cod feature would be complete without a picture of cart. Whilst the cod had turned to worm, you'd be a fool to approach a session without this super bait
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