With a run of nice north westerly winds forecast at long last, I started to string a plan together knowing that one of my favourite marks would be perfect in such conditions, but the only thing putting me off was that I would be faced with a big tide over low water. I just wasn’t sure if the water would empty out too much and I found myself looking back at old photos of the mark on a spring low water. My suspicions were correct . However, as the week went on the forecast just kept getting better and better to the point where any doubt in my mind regarding the tide evaporated.

Friday came around and I was itching to begin the three hour journey back to the north east for some winter cod fishing. Luckily the tide was a late one and so I had plenty of time to prepare my tackle and hit the tackle shop for bait beforehand. A quick phone call to my fishing buddy, Nick, to tell him I’d set off and to meet me at ‘Location X’ and I was on my way. Nick was soon on board and before we knew it we were at the mark and unloading. It was noticeable just how light our main bags were- travelling light was the order of the day as a lengthy walk awaited us. As we set off, talk soon turned to how lucky we had been with the weather, even if there was still just a niggle of doubt in my mind about the size of the tide. We were both clearly excited about the hours ahead and were hopeful of catching what could be the tail end of the north east cod season.

An anglers idea of packing light...

The tide was two hours into the ebb and we were able to push straight around the base of the cliffs to the rocks. Sweating and panting after what was, and always is, some considerable effort, we had arrived at our mark. We had timed it perfectly with the tide and everything told me that we should be straight into cod. As I tackled up I shouted across to Nick that it’ll either be a night of the fish wanting nothing but worm, or nothing but crab cart. I set up as fast as I could and went for a 50/50 gamble and chose worm for the first cast, placing it no more than a hundred yards out in to the kelp. Nick opted for the same; he too had chosen worm. Time seemed to pass fairly quickly to start with and neither of us saw as much as a nibble on the rod tips. Suspecting that my bait had been the wrong choice.

I wound my gear in and went straight for the flask of frozen cart wings. I hurriedly knocked up a bait of a decent enough standard so as not to mask the hook point and once again opted for a cast of similar distance to my first. This proved to be a wise choice as within just a matter of moments the rod thudded in my hand and I was into a nice sizeable codling of probably around the 3lb mark. Realising what I had just done, Nick wound his bait in furiously, rushed to get a cart bait back out in to the dark water and was soon rewarded with a fish of similar size to my own. It crossed my mind that this really was a case of the fish wanting just one thing and luckily, we were able to give it to them. 

It was just a matter of knowing what the fish wanted to feed on...

The sea was roaring and there was a good swell visible in our headlamp beams. If anything this only encouraged the fish to feed harder and it was taking them just minutes to find our baits before greedily scoffing them down. My neighbours had already put in their requests for some fresh cod fillets and as the fish continued to compete amongst themselves for my cart offerings, I knew I’d happily be able to fulfil. We’d been fishing hard for almost two hours and I’d all-but filled a small rock pool with good size codling and released a number of undersize fish. But in the meantime, Nick was struggling with his gear. He was losing a lot of tackle in the unforgiving rock and kelp close in. However, I seemed to be getting lucky and was able to successfully winch my fish through what appeared to be a clearer channel and away from the worst of the kelp. It’s not every trip that happens!

With the big tide almost sucking the water from around the base of the rocks, we were having to do a lot of rock-hopping to find the deeper patches, but in all honesty it didn’t seem to matter. Wherever I was casting, the bait seemed to land in fish territory and I was loving every minute of it. As we approached low water, the fishing slowed down a little as we lost a lot of depth and were faced with a torrent of white water ahead of us. I used this slow patch wisely, enjoying a quick bite to eat and a coffee until the tide began to flood. It was actually good to catch my breath and give my arms a break! Nick also made use of this quieter period by reassessing his armoury. He had endured a slow start, mainly down to tackle issues and suffering several lost sets to the kelp, but in preparation for the flooding tide he broke out the big gun- namely a Daiwa BG MQ 8000 loaded up with 80lb braid straight through.

Nick found the fish too, losing others to the rough tackle hungry ground we were fishing

With the turn of the tide now evident, the fish came back on the feed with as much gusto as they had when we first arrived. Straight away, it was noticeable that Nick’s change of tackle was working for him and his first cast produced a nice codling that was easily pulled through the kelp on the beefier set up. I was continuing to hook into fish, but frustratingly I was bumping them off as they were coming through the kelp and rock. It seemed like my luck had finally run out and the tables had been turned. Although the tide was flooding, we still had very little water in front of us. The largest boulders and kelp beds were still exposed, making it a mammoth task to get fish through.

It was some time before the tide finally pushed up enough to offer the depth required to land the fish we were hooking but soon enough we were both contributing to the rock pool of fish behind us. They were a good stamp of fish, the best of which were pushing 5lb in weight and it had been an enjoyable session to say the least. At the end of the night we decided to weigh our catch in the name of friendly rivalry, with my bag weight totalling 17lb to Nick’s 8lb. The loser had to carry the bag of fish home and I thanked my lucky stars it wasn’t me. My arms were aching enough! 

That will keep the neighbours happy!

The following morning, the fish were presented to the neighbours who received them with open arms. I’d fished a lot over the past season, releasing far more than I had retained, and it felt good to be able to share our little haul. The days soon went by and it was with some sadness that cod reports became less numerous, almost by the day and there was a noticeable difference to the weather. As I contemplated the depressing thought that many of us must feel at the end of a cod season, my thoughts turned to the possible alternatives that I could get my teeth in to between now and then. One particular idea that came to mind was the possibility of locating some cod on the Holderness coast. Reports suggested that there were some fish present, but I’d already tried it as a winter venue in the past and hadn’t been impressed. Hoards of whiting seemed to be there in force and it was one area I’d never really felt I’d got my head around.

isits during the summer months had fared better, targeting the smoothhounds and picking up some nice bass along the way as by catch, but for whatever reason, the winter sport had always been my nemesis. With no feasible alternative and further reports of late codling making a showing in the area, I decided that as soon as time allowed, I’d head down and try and turn my luck around. Eventually I had the time off work to pencil in a session and began assessing the weather forecast. For the most part it was looking like strong southerlies, but swinging south east later on. The Thursday was my only opportunity to take a shot. I knew it would be a hard day battling the winds, but it was my only opportunity and I had to take it.

A sandy beach, in the bright midday sun would be a different challenge...

Wednesday came around and I had everything I needed to give me the best chance at success. Live yellow tails and blacks, peeler crab and fresh razor fish. The only thing I felt I was missing was some lovely snake whites which can come into their own on the Holderness coast (so I’ve been told). That night I was laying in bed refreshing one of the online report pages for that area hoping and praying to see a few codling at least and eventually someone uploaded a report on the southern beaches. It wasn’t the best, detailing a small codling and lots of weed. I knew I needed to hit the middle beaches for any chance of success. I also managed to speak with a local and he advised me on a location where he said some nice fish had been coming out. 

Thursday arrived and I was up at the crack of dawn, raring to go! The girlfriend however was a little less enthusiastic about the fishing trip I’d somehow managed to rope her into. With a lot of convincing, we were finally on our way. Greggs was the first stop of the day, a sausage butty to fill the stomach and a coffee to make me more giddy than I already was.

We arrived at our chosen location and got the gear out of the car before donning the waterproofs and off we went on a short walk through a wet field and down a stodgy cliff. It wasn’t a long walk and we soon found ourselves on the beach.

Greeted by a swell that wasn’t anticipated, I really didn’t know what to expect, but with chocolate coloured water present, I knew there had to be a few fish feeding at least. Firstly, the beach shelter went up facing north to block us from the fierce southerly wind which was ripping along the beach. Then my new toy from Zulcron Sports came out the bag- the XT 435 LITE. 14’4” in length and rated to 220g I was really excited to use this rod. My trusty Shimano Technium MGS 10000 loaded with 30lb braid to compliment the rod was soon attached, rigged and ready. Then I pulled a long pulley pennel with a 2/0 Mustad Viking and a 3/0 Mustad ringed Chinu hooks from the rig wallet. I threaded a yellow and black up the hook and without hesitation sent my first cast out.

Not the cod Stewart went for, but you won't hear any complaints.

I let the sinker settle in the bit of tide I had found and began rigging up the second rod, The Zulcron Bass, which I’d brought along for Sinead to use. This was also fixed up with the same braid, rig and bait. 

We were soon at the water’s edge with a view to getting Sinead casting herself and I went though all of the usual basic stuff. With a little practice she was hitting an easy 50 yards which would hopefully be more than enough to reach the feeding fish. 

Walking back up the beach, we placed her rod in the stand next to mine and started to settle in to our beach buddy home for the day.

It could only have been a matter of moments before I was rudely interrupted from taking a swig from my water bottle by the tip of my rod giving an abrupt bounce, signalling the presence of a fish on the bait. I’d almost told my self it was just a whiting rattle when before our eyes the tip lunged down with great force, thumping away in the tripod in a way that told me to make a grab for it. I didn’t need to think twice and soon the rod was jolting in my grasp, the vicious head shakes of whatever was on the end were all the more evident through the braid that strained through the rod’s guides. Convinced I was now playing a decent cod, I took my time and let battle commence, relishing every pull and run of this as yet unseen power house of a fish. 

A few quick photos before this special fish was released to fight another day

The shock leader eventually appeared through the chocolate water and I scanned the surf for our prize, expecting to see the creamy flank of a pot bellied pig of a cod. All the while, Sinead was looking on and thought I was actually playing a practical joke, not realising that this really was a serious catch! Finally I could see the fish in the surf. It was silver! I was in disbelief but couldn’t take my eyes off of her for a second. Every time a roller came in and I thought she was going be beached, she would get sucked back out as the water receded and when I saw that the hook was only nicked in the lip, my heart was in my mouth and I’d almost convinced myself that it was game over.

As luck would have it, I noticed a particularly large wave rolling in on a set and got ready to make the most of it. Timing would be crucial if I was to beach this fish. The wave came through in slow motion and for a moment I lost sight of her for the first time. As the wave receded, there she lay at my feet. A beautiful, large, shiny silver bass. 

I was in disbelief at what I had just caught and I couldn’t get the words out. Sinead, not realising what all the fuss had been about, described it as “loud noises coming out of your mouth”. I fell to my knees and looked at the fish in awe for a few moments. Quickly, I crawled to my box to grab my scales, only to see they were dead. I looked up and down the beach and spotted some anglers in the distance, a good three hundred yards or so away. I was already exhausted but by the time I got to them to borrow some scales, I really was done-in! A kind gentleman produced some scales and the weight was recorded at 10lb 8oz. He later described the vision of seeing me running down the beach and the “Silhouette of a massive fish”.

Sinead Simms joined in on the action with a nice plump codling

Everything was done in record time and before I knew it, it was time today goodbye. I released her, she kicked off strongly and it was a moment to savour. 

Sinead had managed to snap some pics in amongst the commotion and that was all I need to remember this beautiful fish.  After the madness was over, I baited up my next rig with the same bait and cast it out to the same location as the first fish. My adrenaline rush had come to an end and I was mellow again. I didn’t get a bite on that cast nor did Sinead with her rod. All was very quiet but I didn’t mind after the fish I’d just caught. I could’ve packed up there and then and left a happy man, but decided to fish on all the same, still somewhat bewildered by the whole experience. 

 


Some time went by when I decided to put a peeler crab on with a small slither of cart wing strapped to the back of it and sent it over the sand bar that was starting to show. Not long after a nice bite registered on the tip of my rod- bang, slack, but by the time I caught up with the slack line the fish was gone. Not long after, I noticed Sinead’s rod bouncing, so I shouted over to her while I held the rod from being pulled out of the stand.

She picked it up at struck into the fish- her first fight with a fish on the Zulcron bass rod and it looked like great sport. After a bit of a battle she dragged a nice 3lb codling up the sand which made her day. After releasing the bass, I couldn’t resist keeping a few codling for myself and the neighbours. I continued to put worm out on Sinead’s rod and a crab and cart cocktail on my rod. By now we were starting to get a few more bites registering on the tips of our rods and when my rod curled over once again, I picked it up and the fish was already hooked, but I gave a little strike of the rod just to confirm and sure enough the fish was definitely on. Bringing the fish in over a shallow sand bar was great fun, with lots of head nods providing good sport. Shortly after, the fish was on the sand, a nice plump codling around the 6lb mark, which added to a delightful day.

As the sand bar exposed further over low water, pest fish became a nuisance and we finally decided to call it a day. But what a day it had been and one that would stick in my mind for many years to come. It was a good feeling to have finally beat my old nemesis, even if it had been with a double figure bass rather than a cod!

Stewart rounded off the day with a cracking 6lb codling
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