Uptide fishing was developed back in the late 1960's by anglers who realised that when a boat is fishing in shallow water, at anchor, in a fast tide, then the water flowing past the hull causes noise. This noise is represented as a scare area around the boat that fish avoid.
This theory was instantly proven by previous experience where the bulk of the fish were being caught by the anglers fishing across the stern where they could trot their baits and leads far behind the boat using the tide run. Those positioned behind them along the gunnels caught fewer fish. Part of this though, could also be explained by the fish working uptide finding the baits of the anglers at the stern first, but not convincingly so.
However, the thought was spawned that by casting baits away from the boat some 40 to 50-metres, then this would put the baits outside the scare area and ultimately produce more fish. It worked! By casting uptide anglers started to double the numbers of cod, tope and rays caught in many other areas
But there was a secondary important aspect to the theory of uptide casting. In these shallow water areas, the flow of water required very heavy leads to hold bottom due to the force of the tide on the line. By casting away from the boat with a grip wire lead, then letting line spill from the spool as the lead weight sinks to the bottom to form a large bow in the line, the water pressure in the line bow pulls the wires deep into the seabed, working on the anchor principle. Leads as light as 5ozs will hold when uptiding better than a 1lb plus weight can when fishing straight down.
RECOMMENDED AREAS The three principle areas where uptide fishing catches large numbers of cod is in the Thames Estuary, covering principally the port of Bradwell, on the outer banks of the Humber Estuary out from Hull, and the Bristol Channel. Porlock, Minehead, Watchet and Weston-super-Mare are the main ports on the English side, with the Welsh side tending to fish even better. Boats from Cardiff, Penarth, Barry and Swansea enjoy superb cod fishing through the autumn and winter using the uptide technique.
Uptiding is obviously used in many other areas and can even be employed in water up to about 30-metres deep, but it is most effective where depth is around 10 to 20-metres. The Humber and Thames estuaries and the Bristol Channel all fall in to this depth range on average and all have a fast tide carrying coloured water. Ideal conditions for cod.
TACKLE Uptide rods are casting rods and will be between 9-ft and 10-ft in length. This compares to a standard boat rod with an average length between 6-ft and 7-ft. The tip of the uptide rod is deliberately soft, but then the blank quickly stiffens to give both casting power and the necessary strength to pull big fish back towards you against that fast flowing tide.
The soft tip has a specific purpose. When the cast is made and the lead weight grips the seabed, the soft tip will repeatedly pull over and straighten to the swing of the boat at anchor without pulling the lead weight free. This cushioning effect also allows good bite detection.
On a good uptide rod, the reel seat will be positioned about 25-ins (62cms) above the butt cap. This gives a good distance between the hands to generate casting power. A shorter length between reel seat and butt cap should be avoided as the arms cannot function correctly and the rod will be a mule to cast.
You need a reel with guts and power, but the ability to cast well. The proven reel is the ABU 7000 series. They are tough, reliable, cast extremely well and hold plenty of line. Other reels to check out are the ABU 9000's or the Daiwa SL30SH.
Load the reels with 18lb line for clean sand fishing or 25lb line if the seabed is coral or stone. Also add about 15-ft (5-metres) of 60lb line to act as a shock leader. I prefer to use a clear coloured leader line, but when the water is cocoa coloured it doesn't matter. In fact, a bright yellow or red leader can be an advantage when bringing fish back towards the boat, as it gives a marker point for both you and the skipper when about to land a fish.
RIGS You need only one rig design for uptide fishing.
Take 2-feet (60cms) of 60lb clear mono. At one end tie on a Mustad oval split ring size 3/0 to take the lead weight. Now add a rig crimp, small 2mm bead, a size 6 rolling swivel, another bead and a crimp. Now close the crimps to leave the swivel sat about 2-ins (5cms) above the split ring. At the top of the line add a link, either a size 6 swivel or a link clip.
Positioning the swivel tight behind the lead keeps the bait tight to the seabed when fishing and puts it exactly where the fish expect to find it right on the bottom!
The hook trace needs to be between 3 and 6-ft long (90cms to 180cms). I find about 4-ft (120cms) most effective.
You need two hooks fished pennel fashion for maximum presentation and maximum hooking potential. The best way to do this is to tie a 6 to 8-in (15cms to 20cms) loop using two granny knots in to the end of the trace line. Now slide on a 5mm bead by passing the loop through the hole in the bead. Now slide on a Mustad Viking 79510 (turned down ball eye) hook size 4/0. About 2-ins 5cms) down from the bead and hook tie in a single granny knot to leave a lower loop length of about 4-ins (10cms). The last hook is a Mustad Viking 79515 (ordinary eye) size 6/0. Attach this to the trace by passing the end of the loop through the eye, down and over the outside of the hook point, then pull it back to the rear of the shank until it closes on the eye.
By having the upper hook swinging free on this pennel rig it allows better placement of the top hook in the top section of the bait, and the top hook often catches fish the bottom hook misses.
BAITS & BAIT PRESENTATION The bulk of cod fishing is done with worm baits, usually lugworm due to the copious amounts of blood juice the lug holds, but also ragworm.
Black lug, if it hasn't been gutted, is excellent. However, most lug is gutted when you buy it and wrapped in newspaper. If you use gutted lug, then it pays to buy its smaller cousin the blow lug as well. These are also very juicy and can be used at the base of the black lug in threes or fours to add that much needed scent. The black lug does gives the bait some scent but more importantly bulk. Never forget cod have big mouths and big appetites, so give them a big bait. Remember that the more smell you have in the water, the better able a cod working in cocoa coloured water can find it.
It often pays to tip large worm baits off with a long sliver of squid. The white squid flesh moves in the tide and possibly represents a smaller whiting attacking the worm to a cod. Whatever, it adds something to the bait making it more effective.
Progressing towards Christmas time, you can enhance the appeal of lug or ragworm by adding two razorfish as splints alongside the worm then wrapping the whole package with a few turns of thin knitting in elastic to secure it.
To try to single out the bigger cod moving past you, take two whole squid about 6-ins (15cms) long. Cut off the heads, remove the clear coloured backbone and remove the guts to leave a large opening at the head end. Now fill these full of lug and stitch the hook through them along the length to form large bait that is oozing juices. A few wraps of bait elastic completes the job. This is great bait for cod between 10lbs and 20lbs.
For the really big cod, then you need a combination of both large worm bait and a live whiting, and you do it like this. Use the same loop type pennel rig described in the rig section but make the loop no longer than 5-ins (13cms) and use a 6/0 Mustad Viking as the top hook. The lower hook is a size 2/0 Viking. Now slide on the worm over the 2/0 and up towards the top hook until you have a big bait then put the 6/0 through it in to position. Now tip off the 2/0 with either a small strip of mackerel or sandeel. The worm gives masses of scent to the bait which will encourage whiting in to feed on it, but the whiting out of choice will take a fish bait in preference to worm, so by tipping the 2/0 with the mackerel and sandeel we encourage the whiting to eat the 2/0 and it gets hooked. You now have a large worm bait and live whiting putting both scent and vibration in to the water. No big cod can resist it and that big 6/0 hook is lying in wait to catch it.
CASTING FROM A BOAT Casting from a pitching boat in a lively sea requires some thought for other anglers. The best way is to put the hook on to the grip wire on the lead. This stops the baited hook trailing inside the boat where it can potentially snag in to somebody or their clothing. The next step is to shout "casting" to warn everyone of your intention just before you begin the casting sequence. If the boat has open deck space and you're fishing along one of the gunnels, then it pays to walk to the opposite side of the boat from your fishing position and, with the rod tip outside the gunnel, cast from there. This is safe for all. Anglers fishing off the stern can do the same by swapping corners purely for casting.
Make your casts at an angle towards the bow between 8 o'clock and 10 o'clock when casting from the port (left) side and between 4 o'clock and 2 o'clock fishing the starboard (right) side. If you're near the cabin you aim for 10 am, but 8 am if you halfway towards the stern. On the starboard side, aim for 2 p.m. if you're near the cabin and 4 p.m. if you're more towards the stern.
As soon as the lead hits the water momentarily stop line spilling from the spool, then release it again and let line out until you feel the lead hit bottom. Now, depending if the passing tide current is medium or strong, release another 20 to 35-metres of line off to put a big bow in the line to pull the lead hard in to the seabed.
Now watch your rod tip. It will pull hard over in a nice curve and hold there. These are the classic cod bites to expect. The rod tip will either give several "nods" as a fish picks up the bait and releases the grip lead, then the tip springs back straight. Alternatively, it will just spring back straight without any other indication as a cod again picks up the bait, turns in the tide and pulls the grip wires free, and creates slack line as it does so.
To strike these bites, retrieve line rapidly until you start to feel the weight of the fish against the straight line, now lift the rod tip towards the almost vertical position to pull over the tip against the weight of the fish and set the hook in to the jaw.
Cod fight deep, hugging the seabed and shaking their heads. Take your time. Gently ease the fish back towards you by pumping the rod tip up to gain line and then retrieving only on the downward stroke. Be prepared to let the cod have line from the clutch if it's a big fish. Cod are only lost when anglers try to hold them too hard against a fast tide.
With the cod coming near the boat, walk backwards towards the cabin to allow the skipper to get right to the back of the stern of the boat and he'll net the fish. Never try to lift a cod or codling by the hook trace. This is a sure way to lose your fish.
WHEN ARE THE BEST TIMES TO FISH? When booking a boat always go for the bigger spring tides. Neap tides might see a few fish caught, but they never compare with the stronger, larger spring tides. These bring an influx of travelling cod in to swell the ranks of any resident cod, plus the big fast tides will displace more food for the cod to eat and stir up some coloured water which cod feed best in.
In some areas, especially South Wales, skippers do short 4-hour night trips. These often produce the very best fishing with cod happier feeding at night than by day, even in the chocolate coloured water of the Bristol Channel. These trips obviously work out cheaper than full day charters, yet can produce just as many fish. Something to consider if time and money have to be measured.
You can start uptide cod fishing in October, but the best period is from November through to February. Expect codling to 7lbs and a few 10lb plus fish through November, but by December you've a chance of bigger fish towards 20lbs. The very biggest fish, like the 44lber caught off Swansea pictured below, tend to show from the middle of January through March.