After our first and what has to be said, a rather chilly session down on the vast Holderness coast back in April which had produced several bass, whiting and dogfish (all of which were extremely welcome during the quieter north eastern months), Gary and I promised ourselves that we’d be back in the summer to target the smoothhounds that we’d heard and read about.
Fast forward just over three months and early August saw our diaries and availability align so a session was firmly locked in. Myself being based in Newcastle and Gary in South Shields, it was always going to be a long day and a gamble in case conditions had changed and we’d missed the fish. However, regular stories of good numbers of some decent sized hounds were circulating on social media so our confidence levels were quietly increasing.
Our research had revealed that the most favourable conditions were flat seas caused by south westerly and westerly winds but with plenty of colour in the water. We’d also ascertained that larger tides could result in lots of weed and pull with conditions becoming un-fishable on the southern beaches between Withernsea and Kilnsea, with the northern beaches between Hornsea and Bridlington preferable. However, on this particular occasion the tides were of a medium size so we elected to head to the southern end of the coastline to Easington where we’d heard reports of better numbers of fish.
The weather had gradually improved throughout the week leading up to the trip with westerly winds flattening the sea right off. So the Sunday morning began with a not particularly welcome 5am alarm, with arrival at Gary’s for 6am after some breakfast and several coffees. We embarked on the 160 mile trip with baits, tactics, conditions and weather forming the mainstay of conversation. With Gary on his species hunt a hound was yet to be captured so adding one to the list was at the forefront of his priorities.
After a clear run we arrived at 08:45am and peered over the muddy cliffs in anticipation, a welcome yet stiff south westerly breeze on our backs. A small one foot swell lapped the shore and the sea was a very encouraging brown colour up to around 400 yards offshore where it then returned to its summer blue. I have only fished this coastline on two occasions and on both have found myself fascinated at the clear demarcation between the coloured and clear water. Conversation with locals suggested that the brown colour is down to the silty clay areas which release sediment into the water from even the smallest of tidal and wave movements. If the surrounding cliffs were anything to go by, this may well be the case.
A word of warning- try and stick to well defined access routes down to the beach. Heavy rain could well make a quick exit extremely difficult which combined with a large incoming spring tide could spell danger. One mistake we made was to negotiate our way down the first available access route. This turned out to be a mistake as there was a far easier route to the beach only 100 yards from where we’d parked. I’d certainly recommend scouting out the safest and easiest access route before loading up with tackle. Lesson learned.
We walked back to the car and began to gather our gear, full of excitement and anticipation at what the day had in store for us. Choice of weaponry for myself was my new hybrid Zziplex which Lee at Zziplex had kindly made for me- this being the standard HST butt and EVO tip which I was eager to put into action. I had decided to take a trip down memory lane so strapped to my rod was my magged and somewhat battered Daiwa Saltist 20H which was loaded with 20lb line and an 80lb shockleader.
The past 10 years or so in the north east has seen many anglers switching from the traditional Daiwa Slosh 30 sized multipliers to large fixed spools loaded with braids of between 50lb and 90lb depending on the terrain. I myself have entered this world and own several big fixed spools which are predominantly used for winter cod fishing matches. Bites are unmistakable (if not savage at times!) and using a fixed spool in the dark means that I can look at where I’m landing the fish rather than down at my multiplier. However, that said, I still hugely enjoy using a multiplier and mono which I personally still think has a very large and firm place in my fishing, particularly when fishing areas with fast tide where an element of stretch in the mono helps the rod tip sit nicely in the tide. So, I had gone ‘old school’ with Gary electing to embrace the modern ways with his 8000 size fixed spool loaded with braid and 13’6’’ Tronixpro beachcaster.
Rigs were relatively short 80lb pulleys with a size 4/0 Sakuma Manta Extra holding the bait in position and a 3/0 circle or Chinu hook secured with a knotless knot immediately above it. Although this system has been around and used by some for many years, I have to confess that I had only stumbled across it recently having previously wrapped my snood around my pennel hook to secure it. I have to say, I won’t be going back to ways of old, not for smoothound fishing anyway as I have found it to yield an extremely high hook up rate. Mounted to our rigs was a combination of fresh and frozen peeler crab which were sent out via 5oz and 6oz grip leads.
Distance was going to be key and baits were clipped down and sent seawards. Low water was just after noon so we had around 3 hours of the ebb before the tide turned. My reel was left on the ratchet which would enable me to hear any runs while preparing my next rig. No sooner had my sinker settled than my ratchet screamed off! Heart pumping, I ran down to my rod, wound up the slight bit of slack line and waited for the bite, one or two very gentle tip movements saw me wind down and strike – fish on! After a short grapple my leader knot passed through my tip ring and I walked back up the sand until the slick lines of a lively smoothound were safely on the beach, which really did bring a wide smile to the face of yours truly.
Upon inspection of how the fish was hooked it was the top circle hook that had secured the victory, being lodged neatly in the scissors of the fish. Mission accomplished. After a few quick snaps the fish was safely released, its dorsal fin powering away into the chocolate coloured water. The next three casts resulted in another two hounds and a dogfish, was this going to be one of those memorable red letter days? Yes was the short answer.
As the tide continued to ebb, the fish continued to feed and next it was Gary’s turn to grab a piece of the action. A couple of very aggressive bites saw his rod arch over and he was soon enjoying every head shake and lunge his fish made. A few minutes later and he was over the moon to be holding his first ever hound- a lovely female fish of around 6lbs. The sun came out and the fish kept on biting down to low water with sport continuing as the tide began to flood.
Unfortunately the turning of the tide coincided with the dreaded red weed that we’d been told about. This did prove to be problematic for part of the session but it really didn’t matter to us given the superb sport we’d encountered for the first part of the session. I’ve given my views on braid and mono above, however, when the weed got particularly bad I did switch to my fixed spool with 55lb braid straight through in order to minimise the weed that would’ve otherwise gathered on my leader knot. So although not my preference for this particular session, it proved a very useful tool to have in order to combat the conditions.
The tide pull at times was particularly strong, which combined with the weed created numerous problems. Walking 20 yards or so and casting up-tide did provide a few extra minutes fishing time each cast. However, it also paid to retrieve at slightly more regular intervals in order to attempt to reduce the amount of weed building up on the mainline.
Once the tide was more or less half way up, the bites did slow somewhat with roughly one fish every forty five minutes or so making an appearance. After a slow spell Gary got a thumping bite on this rod and he was into a hard fighting fish. As I wandered down to the shoreline to retrieve it for him I was stunned to see a plump cod of around four-and-a-half-pounds break the surface! It just goes to show the quality and variety of fishing that is on offer along this coastline.
The run began to slow as the tide reached its peak and although the weed had eased, so had the fish, with bites now few and far between. Just at the point that we had agreed to have one last cast my rod tip launched over and I was in to what definitely felt like a larger fish. After a few heart in mouth moments which saw the fish using its power to horizontally kite parallel to the shoreline, Gary got behind it and safely brought it ashore. This was the best hound of the day, comfortably going into double figures. Typically I didn’t have a set of scales but it was certainly a double; needless to say, some scales have now been acquired and will be packed for the next outing.
The tide had topped out and we agreed to call it a day and prepare ourselves for the long drive home. We’d managed to rack up fifteen hounds between us along with a dogfish and Gary’s cracking cod – a truly superb day and an unbelievable way to have introduced ourselves to the Holderness hound scene. Interestingly, out of fifteen fish, only two were hooked on the bottom bait holding hook with the remainder having succumb to the top hook, thus cementing my confidence in the knotless knot pennel set up.
Some late night road works resulted in the journey back tipping three hours and by the time I had retrieved my car from Gary’s and sorted my gear it was almost midnight. It was a very long but extremely memorable day, unquestionably worth the 320 mile round trip. Safe to say we’ll definitely be returning in the not-too-distant future, particularly with the murmurings of some quality ray fishing and even the odd Tope.