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!