Saturday, 11 June 2011

Search for a Sole!

The Thames estuary is the largest breeding ground in Britain for the common sole, often incorrectly known as the dover sole. Sole are a nocturnal flatfish but can be caught by day in the murky waters of the Thames. My venue was Grays Wharf in Essex, the home of the World Sole Championship. For once my other half Jacky came with me, not for the fishing but the shopping at Bluewater.

As planned we arrived just after low water and I walked the promenade looking for the soft mud  that these fish inhabit and any gulleys that might act as a food trap as the tide flooded.  Despite the industrial landscape of the area, the local council had done a good job on the promenade. However the local scum had already started to undo their good work, the base of the promenmade wall was littered with block paving and bits of railing that had been vandalised! These sub human scum must have been armed with an oxyacetylene torch!

Sole are bottom feeders so I made up some two hook flapper rigs with a difference. A small lead was placed at the top of the trace and the usual plastic rig beads were replaced by lead beads from my fly tying kit.

The snoods consisted of ten inches of twelve pound flurocarbon to a size six aberdeen hook baited with ragworm. A bb shot was used on each snood as a bait stop with a couple  of red attractor beds.

One rod was cast into a gulley behind a sandbar and the other onto a muddy bottom. As both rods were fished at a maximum range of forty yards, I needed to slacken off slightly to pin my rigs to the bottom.

One of the great things about fishing is the brotherhood of the angle. Total strangers can talk fishing for hours and I enjoyed a conversation with Bob, a local angler which stretched from the Royalty Pub to Mahseer fishing in India.

The first fish was a flounder which was soon followed by a bootlace eel. I must admit I absolutely hate catching small eels, but with their numbers having reduced by over 90 percent over the last decade it was nice to see that this little eel was lip hooked and would hopefully someday return to the Sargasso Sea to breed. With less than an hour to go before being picked up I was relieved when the next bite produced a slip, the term for an undersized sole. My final bite of the evening produced a decent sole