Everybody enjoys a bit of sunshine on their faces and a general lessening of average wind strengths, so what about the fishing you can do down here in the Westcountry? Many people will be travelling to various parts of the Westcountry for their annual breaks, and although the current foot and mouth crisis has shut down large parts of the coastline, there are still plenty of places to go for a bit of fun fishing. Just check the press, related websites and watch the news for up-to-date reports on what is open or closed. Sure, this crisis has really messed up my spring time specimen hunting, but there is not a lot we as anglers can do about it. We have no choice but to adhere to the rules and observe local "shutdowns".
I can only really talk about areas I know, but take what I say and your common sense and apply it to where you might be fishing. I grew up fishing the coastline between Newquay and Padstow, for like millions of others I used to go on holiday around there every year; I fell in love with the Westcountry and now Plymouth is my home!
You can not fail to be stirred by this stretch of coastline, for it is stunning beyond words; the rocks may well stand guard every day, but the constantly changing light continually renders a different view. You can choose to fish from boat, beach, harbour, rock or estuary and for a wide variety of species. If you are new to the area, you could do no better than contact Ed "The Bass" Schliffke and let him guide you on excellent shore fishing forays. Contact him on 01841 521157; he is based up at Treyarnon, near to Padstow.
All the headlands such as Towan (Newquay) and Trevose are places to go and wet a line for typical species such as wrasse, mackerel and garfish, but just do be careful and keep an eye out for rogue waves and lively sea conditions. You can never be too safe on this coast and most people like to fish up high and well out of harmís way.
Ledger crab and worm baits for some excellent ballan wrasse fishing, or if you have a lovely calm day, try floatfishing or even free-lining for these hard fighting rock dwellers. There is some very deep water around, but really it's not necessary for good wrasse fishing. You would most likely be surprised at how willing they can be to feed in relatively shallow water. But those inky black deep spots are useful if the weather has been settled for ages, though this rarely seems to happen these days!
Wrasse are possible to land on very heavy carp rods, but the bigger specimens require real bully-boy tactics to get them away from their natural snaggy ground; sometimes though you can present baits on sand patches near to rocks and draw them out to you and away from the rocky stuff.
Plenty of people enjoy catching mackerel and garfish, for on the right gear they are huge fun and it's usually pretty easy to land a few. Whacking out sets of feathers is not really the most satisfying and sporting method, although if you are after a bit of bait or food then it can be quick and effective. For a bit more of a scrap, bang out floats off any headland that juts out into the tide with small sandeels, strips of mackerel or garfish for bait. Mackerel tend to be that bit deeper than the garfish, so make sure you tie a stopknot above the float and keep moving it around until you find the fish. So often a garfish bite will involve the float rising up to lay on its side, dance a bit, and then shoot under. They are not desperately big fish, but they do scrap and often like to go for a "tailwalk" which can be somewhat dramatic.
Another way to fish for mackerel is to spin with lures or sandeels. Carp, spinning or plugging rods are ideal for this, although you will need a day when the mackerel come relatively close to the shore. The real bonus is hooking up with a pollack, for this is when the fireworks start. I personally believe the pollack to be one of the most exciting fish we can catch from our coastline. The small ones are fairly easy to land, but hook a 4lb plus fish in deep water that wants to dive and you will have a real handful trying to hold it on a light rod. Cornwall is famous for its pollack fishing and although the height of summer is not the best time for the larger ones, there is always a chance of connecting with a decent fish.
Loads of anglers spend huge amounts of time chasing bass all over our coast and Cornwall is as good a place as any, especially for light tackle plugging. It is not something I really do (Ed Schliffke is your man) but many of the "obsessed" like to fish from rocks that flank beaches during gentle onshore conditions. If you take a walk around, you will find countless spots that would scream bass to most people, so travel light and try almost anywhere. A favoured plug is the J13 Rapala; rig it to a carp or plugging rod, 12lb mainline, 25lb clear leader and a decent fixed spool reel. Make sure you have that drag set, for these bass hit so hard it can be quite alarming.
Many of the beaches respond well to a bit of night time bait fishing for bass, especially around low water when there is a gentle surf rolling in. This is the time for hand-held, touch ledgering and gauge your rod and reel to the water conditions. Baits to use include soft and peeler crabs, worms, squid and live sandeels; it really is something quite special to feel the drop-back bite from a bass whilst you stand in the surf all alone and in the pitch black, with the rhythmic sound of the surf your only company.
Rock to sand
On those marks where rock gives way to sand, try putting out sandeel baits at night for small-eyed ray, bass and the ever present dogfish. A flooding tide is often the best, but do be extra careful to keep an eye on the sea state when fishing at night. The same kinds of places can throw up plaice, small turbot and dabs during the daytime, especially around the mouth of the Camel estuary, within which the fishing port of Padstow resides. If you want boat fishing trips, ring a guy called Phil Britts, skipper of the Padstow registered Blue Fox, tel: 01841 533293. There is some excellent boat sport to be had here.
We can but hope that more of this coastline opens up in time for summer, but at the moment, the popular Hopeís Nose (Torquay) and Berry Head (Brixham) marks are open for business, and there are few better places for a spot of mackerel and garfish bashing. The coastline faces such a way that it is often very sheltered.
Hopeís Nose at one time or another chucks up most species of fish and it is a relatively easy place to go and fish for the first time. You will usually see other anglers there, so go and have a chat and see what is being caught. Early morning and evening are very popular times to fish for mackerel, but if you put worm baits out there is the chance of very good plaice and the odd smoothound, as well as dogfish and the odd bass. Nearer the sewer pipe is smelly(!) but a good place for mullet and wrasse, as well as spinning for bass and mackerel.
Anglers fish from the extensive platforms at Berry Head, beneath which is a disused quarry and this is a noted spot for plenty of mackerel and big garfish. You will often see charter boats feathering for bait within casting distance of the shore before they head off out to sea. There are wrasse beneath your feet, but for some reason it is not a noted mark for these fish, although every year there are some very good bass caught from here, often almost by mistake!
The whole of the South Devon coastline is a mecca for wrasse fanatics, but as to where to go all depends on how the foot and mouth crisis pans out; various small parts are open and it does not take much common sense to see where to try, but just make sure you respect any closures.