The rod tip bucked and kicked yet again, the angler smiled quietly to himself as the fluorescent orange spotted Plaice flared and kited in the translucent green water sweeping hard over the legendary Skerries sandbanks, to the West of Dartmouth.

This fish was no fluke of chance, it was the result of weeks of detailed planning, some determination mixed with eager anticipation and not a little wishful thinking.

Plaice begin to show on the Skerries sandbanks as early as February in some years, but these early fish are usually thin, spent fish after the rigours of the winter spawning ritual. The best and most consistent plaice fishing really begins early in April, in a cold year even as late as May.

Choose tides which are mid sequence, rising toward the top of springs, so that there is movement in the water, compelling the ever ravenous plaice to go foraging for their meal ticket. The smaller neap tides are often slower to produce the fish, easier to fish but usually there are long periods of inactivity interspersed with brief moments of activity when the current is fast enough to get the fish on the move.

Early season, the best baits are crab or worm baits, tipped with a long thin strip of squid and presented on a fine wire 1/0 or 2/0 Aberdeen type hook. Many anglers like to thread a number of brightly coloured beads onto the leader line above the hook as an added attraction to the ever curious and predatory plaice. Some time in late April or early May, the first of the sandeels will arrive, when many anglers will switch their allegiance from the crab cocktail to the inevitable attraction of a sandeel bait.

Whatever bait you choose to use, it is of vital importance that the bait is presented as close to the bottom as possible. To achieve this presentation many anglers will add a small black painted ball weight to their leader near the hook, in order that the bait is kept close to the bottom. If in doubt, use a heavier main sinker than you might think necessary. Often unsuccessful anglers will bemoan their lack of fish when the reason for their lack of fish is that the heavy flow of current is lifting their baits up and away from the strike zone!

After the sinker is felt tapping the bottom, don't engage the reel's clutch but fish with your thumb on the spool of the reel. Constantly feel for the bottom, often you will feel the sinker dragging up the side of a sandbank, then a 'floating' sensation as the sinker clears the crest of the sandbank. At this point, lift your thumb and allow your sinker to find the bottom again because this is where the plaice will be, sheltering in the lee of the sandbank. If your line streams a long way back in the tide and you have difficulty 'feeling' the bottom, this is the time to try a heavier sinker. After a while, providing you are aware of the problem, you will develop almost a 'sixth sense' for the situation. This is when you are developing real expertise and your catch rate will rise in direct proportion to it.

Remember. "the more you practise, the luckier you will get!!"

Tackle. A 6lb plaice is a fish of a lifetime for most anglers, so heavyweight tackle is not necessary and might well detract from your enjoyment of the day. Having said that, the rod and reel must be able to handle a sinker weighing perhaps eight ounces(225 grams). If you are using 15lb breaking strain monofilament and an 8 ounce sinker, then an IGFA 20lb class outfit will be necessary to cope with the weight of the sinker and strength of the current. On the other hand if you choose to use 15lb breaking strain 'superbraid' line which has half the diameter of monofilament, it is likely that you will be able to use a four ounce sinker and fish with a 12lb class rod and reel. Every new season see's more and more anglers swapping to superbraid for this sort of fishing, the superbraids lack of stretch and consequent better bite detection, added to the lightness of the tackle, make it a much more enjoyable outfit to use.

When at last you are rigged and ready, in good company and actually fishing. Feel for the bites by holding the rod, feel for the sand and shingle bottom with your thumb on the reels spool. When a fish takes the bait you might experience a solid 'rat-tat-tat' bite, which is great, because the fish has probably hooked itself. It is more likely that the bites are going to be more subtle than that and often you will only suspect that a fish has picked up your bait. On the slightest suspicion of a bite, lift your thumb from the spool to 'drop back' two or three yards of line so that the bait is not being dragged away from the fish. Then wait to see if the bite develops. If you feel a barely discernible 'tap' from the fish, then this is the time you have to make the decision whether to tighten up on the bite or 'drop back' another couple of yards of line. This is an 'instinct' decision, there are no rules governing what is best to do at this point, just experience and your feel for the situation.

Apply the technology, trust your instinct and you will catch fish. Remember the Plaice is one of the earliest of the seasons species there are better things to come!!