Roving Rods – Bossington Conger & Cod hunt

With October now well and truly here we should be seeing the first signs of codling starting to show inshore although I have caught a few throughout the year it isn’t something I try and target through the year. So with the nights now drawing in quicker and the air getting colder and crisper bringing about some proper autumnal feelings and presence we have the seasonal turn and species returning or coming to our waters or coming inshore which also sees other species change habits as well. Having been ill for a few days I was lucky it had cleared up just in time for a good spring tide hitting high water just before darkness. Chris had mentioned fishing today at a Bossington mark earlier on in the week that I tend to fish a lot and produces some good fish when fished properly but before that mark hitting Selworthy sands, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the day time as it was my boys 5th birthday party. I decided I would be fishing large sized bait for a decent conger and then a couple of smaller baits for the codling that pass through here if they are in yet. I started making some rigs for the night with a heavy duty pulley rig for the conger with a main rig body of 70lb onto Gemini power swivels and a heavy duty trace of 100lb mono ending in a 8/0 meat hook and the same again with a wire trace that ended with a 8/0 meat hook. The traces were short at 25cm I keep them short to prevent the bait lifting too far off the bottom and with eels being scavengers as well as hunters they won’t ignore a large bloody bait naturally sitting on the seabed. For the Codling I made a couple of two hook flappers again short traces of 20cm to 25cm to prevent them flapping around in the large swells as the fish are mainly going by scent here in the murky waters of the Bristol channel. I find personally you score better when a bait is more predictable for a fish to strike. Traces of 40lb ending in 2/0 Aberdeen style hooks were the order of the day. Rigs all tied, gear all set and ready and with kids party over it was time to go fishing. Still in party wear shirt and jeans the 20 year old Land rover was sparked into life and went the fastest she ever gone to grab the defrosted bait on the way through. I quickly loaded the bait and then it was shoot off to Bossington National Trust car park, parked up and throwing on a hoody and loading up the box on my back with the Shakespeare Sherpa which is a brilliant and comfy bit of kit, bait, rod rest and rods and a quick double check I have everything and off I go for a 15-20 minute trek to get to the mark. Finally upon arriving I found out Chris hadn’t been there too long himself and the water was in enough already to fish instantly. Getting out the rods I’d chosen my favourite all round go to rod the TTGSM paired with an Okuma ALC MAG 20 CS for the codling, and for the large bait I was using the WR300 with a Penn 535. I cut a large section of bluey leaving the head on and hooked it once through the jaw up and out of the top and whipped it to the 8/0 hook. All ready to go I just give it a gentle cast out to around 30 yards as there is a small feature there, this venue can produce well in close or farther out but a lot of the better fish are closer in and many make the mistake of casting over the most productive feature of the mark and then say it’s a crap mark.... which s good as it doesn’t get crowded! With the other rod all set up as well I had decided to bait the 2 hook flapper rig with Squid cut in half down the middle and then whipped into a worm shape it’s a nice size bait and gives off plenty of scent as well as its easy to take onboard for the fish. I walk to the left about 10 yards and cast out to around 60 yards where I know there is another feature that fish move along and feed on, after counting about 3 seconds I hear the thud of the weight hitting the water, another second or two and I feel the bump of the weight settling on the seabed. Walking back I pay out a little line and then put it into the rod rest checking both reels drags are set reasonably light and clickers are clicked on. Ten minutes passed and trading some insults with Chris as you do with fishing family with a little fishing chit chat too we were just getting settled down when all of a sudden his rod tip start plucking away, lifting up his rod Chris started to get stuck into his first fish of the night cranking on his 525 multiplier whipping in the fish with a good speed, it breaks through the surf line and is a strap eel of around 2 pounds or more, I said “you can keep them” laughing to myself as I hate small conger with a passion as they tend to mess up your rigs more than anything else and are twice as slimy as a lot of the larger eels making them super slippery and making a right mess all over your clothing and anything else they touch. Seeing Chris releasing the eel you could see the fish care and with a quick look over and a grin with a quick laugh at me as he has drawn first blood this evening, I reiterated that he could keep the baby straps and bootlace eels and leave the proper fish for me to catch with a chuckle. Time was ticking on and were a few bait changes in as nothing has been happening and it’s looking like it may be a shoddy evening, with just 20 minutes to high tide I pull in the cod bait do the same again with squid bait from Riot bait at Speedbait in Minehead which is run by a nice local charter guy called Mikey Webber, and then I fired it back out, I also brought in the large bluey bait, I clear off the untouched but washed out bait, whip up the belly section and lop off the end of the tail allowing all the oil and blood to ooze out it was going everywhere and knew something would take this bait! I just screamed eat me to any predator! It had too. Casting it back out to 30 yards the rods were re rested and clutches checked with clickers on. We were just talking fishing and it’s pitch black as the moon hasn’t risen above the hills and Chris was on about getting the kettle on the bonfire to get a chocolate on the go and I was saying “I wouldn’t worry as this mark fishes better in my eyes on the ebb tide” but to be fair it couldn’t be any worse than the flood so far. With it being slow I thought I’d break the monotony of it all and have a wind up on Chris as he was chatting away I looked over his shoulder sharply and broke the chit chat with “Chris! Chris! Look at your rod tip!” As he turns around all excited is jumped up on his toes ready to ht step back to the rod for more action and gloating, when I say “ look it’s not moving!” and burst into laughter. High tide has just arrived and all of the sudden there is some small knocking on my rod tip which was the large bluey bait so kept watching as I thought it was probably something small trying to punch above its weight class when all of a sudden I’m glad my clutch was set and I’m by the rod! As the tip slams over and line is paid small click screams coming out from the 535. Instantly up and off my box grabbing the rod, the tip instantly goes over on the WR300 which is a heavy duty rod! And is showing the ‘J Curve’ very well! With the small run over I can start to feel the heavy banging on the line and know that one of my target fish is on the end the only question is... how big is it? With the kettle on the fire Chris looks over and sees me cranking on the 535’s reel handle and asks if it’s a good fish looking at the bend in the rod and headed down to the waterside for help if it’s needed for when its landed. Cranking on with the rod going down and then lifting into the rod I could feel the weight and knew was a nice fish, cranking some more constantly gaining line it goes deadweight in the water and was spinning trying to get lose sending that familiar thump thump thump feeling down the rod. It was catching the backwash current of the tide not allowing me to gain any line the 20lb mono is taught and whistling as the wind whips over and under it, the next wave is coming and I decide this is a larger one and I will try and land the eel on this one with the waves pushing motion to help due to how the shoreline sits here it isn’t easy with larger fish. As it comes in I’m almost on max pull of the line and the wave lifts the eel and the back wash stops and I start winding like mad gaining as much line as possible! It’s a good show and we can see the eels head and body it’s still fighting so I keep winding and keep the high ground its punches through the surf onto the shoreline and is lively still but Chris ends the battle hoisting it up the stones and gets it up the steep bank as I continue to wind down leader line back onto the reel and decent eel next to me it’s a T bar job which I fetch out of my box and then when I get there..... I wish it was a bit longer as my hands had to get far too close to that toothy bitey end ... and eels can do some serious damage as they get larger. I locate the hook well and pull and as it comes up the conger snaps shut and bites the 80lb line off but hook and bait are on the T bar so all good. It had a lovely broad head on it and the more we looked at it the better we realised it was, I thought it was around 15lb but it was a real fat torpedo and had a great girth on it, so grabbing the scales and the weighing sling, I lay the sling out on the stones and we gently roll the eel into it. I was faffing about with the setting changing from KG to LB’s and Oz’s as I’m old school that way. I lift it up and it settles on a satisfying 17lb 2 oz I’m happy with that! As just lately my fishing mojo had been lost and this is the first fish back so really isn’t so bad! Getting the camera out Chris plays photographer and points and shoots but with no “Work it! Work it! And vogue!” and with the weigh in done its only been a couple of minutes and I walk down to the water line with the primordial looking beast, I gently let the head go in the lapping waves coming up over the edge of the bank and it needs no rest or encouragement its off like a rocket to go and tell his mates about how he got abducted by strange creatures and performed funny experiments on him. A wash of the hands and a wipe on the stones it is back up to the rods. A re bait with another large bluey bait and repositioned again at about 30 yards and rod back in the rest. I was about to pull in the cod rod for a change of bait as it had been around 20 plus minutes when the rod tip done a nice two solid hits a typical Codling bite so lifting it up out of the rod holder and small strike I feel tension and its fish on! I start winding down, and lifting back into the rod I can feel the weight on the end and a couple of head shakes but it was a short battle and the fish was up on the surface and the white belly showing as it rolls over in the tide. I go and collect the fish and bring it up, with a quick measure on the box and a quick photo it came in at 42cm and was dispatched as quickly and as humanely as possible, It was quite chunky on the sides which produced a couple of nice fillets, with that Chris gave a shout and he was in as well another codling from the bite shown and sure enough after a similar short battle it crashed through the surf mouth open wide no mistaking this fish. Chris collected the codling from the surf line and we had a quick measure and it came out at 35cm although legal they don’t have much meat at that size so he let it go to get bigger for another day. Another brew on and it was my cod rod going for it lifting up into the bite and winding down it certainly wasn’t a cod on the end it was a smaller strap eel with no fight at all it was an easy capture although had managed to wrap itself up in my rig and make a right mess resulting in myself cutting the second hook length off and then using the T bar to release the neatly hooked mouth, it wasn’t anything special but another fish none the less and was about 2 lbs at best. A gentle release back and it was gone into the darkness swimming across the surface at first like a snake before going deeper. As it was the upper trace of the rig that I had cut off I left it off and reloaded the bottom hook with some more squid and casted it back out. Wrapping up the old trace line that was covered in eel snot I put it in a rig bag to be disposed off at home. Things fell silent again now the beginning of the ebb was over and we talked about calling it early as the Chris the old boy needed sleep as he was working at home the next day and I was the lift back for Chris so we agreed we would see out the current baits for 20 minutes more. Chris managed to get another eel which was again about 3-4lb and was clearly going to be night of the eels now! I left the large bait out and pulled in the cod bait and dismantled it all and packed it away ready to move. I used up the remaining the 5 minutes tidying up the box and washing out the weighing sling in the surf. With nothing happening and time up I pulled in the remaining bait, it was untouched so cut it off, cleaned off the rig wound it back onto a Tronix rig wheel and loaded in the box to be washed off at home.

After a short walk back to the car mobbed by moths and bugs making a beeline for the headlamps even though on a dim setting we talked over the evening and how enjoyable it had been and looked at the upcoming tides to see when we should get back out again, with plans left open I dropped Chris home in the battle bus and decided as it was an earlier night I’d go home and plan a few sessions. Until the next session tight lines all...

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