Sunday, 21 November 2010

Flatties Galore and Science of Tides!

A last minute change of plan saw me return to Cley (pronounced cl-eye) in search of another flatfish, the flounder. The tide was too big apparently to fish my intended venue, Humberston Creek near Cleethorpes. Hopefully the barn owl that I spotted at first light would prove to be a good omen. The weatherman had predicted that the day would be cold and overcast with the wind coming from the north, with rain likely.

Following a little research I decided to fish the ebb down from mid tide and the early part of the flood. My two hook flapper rigs were tweaked to include four small yellow beads on each hooklink with size 4 and 6 aberdeen hooks baited with lugworm. For anyone in the area I must recommend ordering your bait from Brights of Sheringham as on both trips bait quality has been excellent.

I decided to fish closer in than on my last trip as flounder can often be found between twenty and forty yards out.
Despite the fact that at least one common seal was patrolling the area, most casts resulted in either a dab or a flounder. By low water I had taken eight dabs and two flounders with the odd pin whiting.

Interestingly the flood tide produced only one dab and an undersized bass, but as the tide grew in strength pin whiting became a decided nuisance. I cast around on one rod but to little avail. I also failed to get a decent photo of a seal despite one popping its head up and doing a "song and dance" within twenty feet of me!

Amazing to think that tides are created by the relative positions of the moon, the sun and the earth and the gravitational pull these celestial bodies exert on the sea. The spring and Autumn equinoxes see the sun, moon and the earth in alignment and the combined pull on the water leads to the largest spring tides of the year (that is when the difference in water level between high and low water is at its greatest).

The moon travels around the earth on a twenty-eight day cycle and a couple of days after the new and full moon sees the monthly spring tides. At periods of half moon the tidal range is at its least, these are known as neap tides.

High tide will occur around 50 minutes later each day as the moon travels around the earth. Surely a case could be made for reorganising time to fit the natural cycle of things!

The rate the rise and fall of the tide and therefore the speed of the tide is not constant. Gradually the tide flows faster until half tide and then gradually eases off again before falling slack as the tide turns. A quarter of the rise occurs in the first two hours,  half in the next two hours and a quarter in the last two hours. The period of slack water when the tide turns is also greatest on a neap tide.

Enough on tides, how can you tell flounders and dabs apart? Dabs are a small flatfish rarely weighing more than a pound, whereas flounders are sometimes caught at weights in excess of three pounds.

Both fish can be variable in colour and the dabs I caught today varied from a light brown to a darker brown/green mottling. The easiest way to tell the difference is to rub the fish along the back from tail to head, the dab is rough and the flounder smooth. In addition the lateral line of the dab curves around the pectoral fin in a semi circle.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Twitchers, the Gray Phalarope and the crock of gold at the end of the Rainbow

Cley in North Norfolk is a birdwatchers paradise and behind the marshes that attract wading birds to this corner of Norfolk lies a shingle beach giving access to relatively deep water. Cley is known as a good spot to catch dabs and flounders as the bottom is sand and mud. Although conditions were far from ideal with strong wind having coloured up the water I decided to fish from low tide up to high water.

I had arrived late morning in the middle of a major 'twitch', as a rare bird (gray phalarope) had been spotted. There were loads of birders, mainly men, dressed in green coats wandering about with large telescopes. The gray phalarope isn't grey but red and not stupid either as it had departed for pastures new amidst all the disturbance. If I wanted to spot birds I would quietly move to a suitable vantage point and stay still! Whilst fishing I have been lucky over the years to see most native bird species including some rarities such as the bittern and water rail.

En route I had picked up some lugworm and ragworm from Brights in Sheringham. I walked about half a mile away from the crowds just past a wreck which lay within casting distance of the shore. My plan was to fish two rods armed with two hook flapper rigs and cast one short and the other long until I started catching.

After ten minutes the rod cast short rattled and I wound in my target dab. The dab is a small flatfish which rarely weighs more than a pound. It can be distinguished from its close relative the flounder by the distinct curve of the lateral line around the pectoral fin. It also it feels rough when you stroke it from tail to head.

Throughout the afternoon I had half a dozen small bass, two being just over the size limit. The following day these were baked with lemon and herbs and provided a fine dinner. Towards dusk, pin whiting were a nuisance with most casts producing one or a pair of hand sized whiting. This continued through dusk and only one sizeable whiting was landed before I packed up.

Is there a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow? No, but there might be a gray phalarope and with this new information dozens of keen birders sped off towards Cromer!