Winter in the UK is always a difficult time for sea fishing kayak anglers but we are a dedicated bunch and are always looking out for a window of opportunity when the weather allows. One such chance came up between 2 storm fronts recently. Because the weather couldn’t be guaranteed and the last minute nature of getting the session organised we decided to keep it simple and go for the first Flounder session of the year on the river Itchen. “We” were an eclectic threesome of local Shirley Sea Angling Club member (Big ) Dave Neil who was to provide the local knowledge; midlander, kayak fishing fanatic and journalist Simon (can I stay at yours) Everett and myself who if nothing else would provide the other 2 with plenty of banter opportunities.
The loaded van was frost covered when we set off for the launch so it was lots of layers, full dry suit, warm beenies and the obligatory flask of “special” coffee. The good news was the northerly wind was no more than a gentle breeze so the wind chill wasn’t a factor.
We knew with the limited daylight, the less than perfect tides and large amount of freshwater in the system thanks to the recent storm that it wasn’t going to be easy. As the saying goes however, “ a bad day on the water is better than a good day at work” so with VHF radios on and cold weather gear donned we set off.
It wasn’t just us yakkers, the kayaks on show were also a crazy cross section. I was using my favourite close quarter fishing kayak the Ocean Kayak Trident 11. I use this for freshwater lure and estuary fishing for the likes of Mullet. It’s short, dry and manoeuvrable with good upfront storage that makes it ideal for fishing around rocks and moorings. The downside is it’s also pretty slow when compared to the 2 sea boats that were used by Big Dave and Simon. Big Dave was in a 15ft Ocean Kayak Prowler 15 perfect for a guy of his stature, high volume but long and slim enough to make it a great all round sea boat. It also suits his preferred side saddle fishing position. I’m sure he hasn’t got blood in his veins, he can sit all day with his legs over the side and not feel the cold. Simon was paddling the thoroughbred Kaskhazi Marlin. This fibreglass sea boat is sleek, fast and light making it perfect for offshore serious sea fishing but not the best for tight corners or around sharp rocks and obstructions. There is no one kayak to suit all circumstances but there are some that are good jack of trades.
The paddle to the mark was probably less than a mile but it was enough to show the speed difference between the yaks and I found myself working hard to keep up but Simon is always keen to stop and take photos so I was able to stay in touch. The location was a classic Flounder muddy gently sloping bank. We anchored up and started to fished the last of the less than perfect ebb. One thing that makes Flounder fishing fun is the variations you find in the traces. Most have attractors, including blades, spoons and beads. We had a fine collection on show. I was able to fish 3 rods, one had a simple set of multi coloured beads to sit on the bottom; another looked like a piece of modern art with beads, silver blades and 2 floating beads to keep the bait off the bottom. The final rod was the classic silver Flounder spoon. All were baited with Ragworm. Big Dave and Simon fished with various variations on the bead theme. Not sure how but Simon found some local Mussels to tip off his Ragworm.
As the tide turned we repeatedly changed positions over Big Dave’s Flounder hotspot. Never more than 30 yards separating the 3 boats. Although the flood tide started the water direction never changed just highlighting how much freshwater was flowing out of the Itchen. The weather went from cold and cloudy to bright and sunny and back again. As the afternoon progressed the temperature started to swing back towards freezing, the cold weather gear and “special” coffee was definitely a good choice.
We used the fish finders to find the shallow gullies and features highlighting possible holding areas in an area about the size of half a football pitch. Simon was the first to find a Flattie. Not the biggest but they all count when the day quickly became about blank avoidance. We were all using light 6-8ft boat/spinning rods and with this gear the Flounders can put up a good scrap. Big Dave was then into one of a more decent size on a simple trace with no attractors and followed that with a Bass. I missed what was probably a medium sized Bass on the Spoon rig. It took line but came off, never to reappear. We fished hard for 6 hours, only Simon found another Flounder, again with a simple rig with Big Dave getting another consolation Bass. They were rightly very happy with this given the conditions.
You have probably worked it out that I was on a big fat Blank. Apart from the one run all I could do was keep the Crabs occupied. They nailed every bait I put down including the floating rig set up. It must have been the Crab Olympics down there. By now I am desperate for a fish if only to keep the increasing banter at bay. Isn’t it amazing how good other anglers become when you haven’t caught but they have? All in good humour and I will get my revenge but as the saying goes I couldn’t catch a cold.
The fading light put paid to my chances and the paddle back was done without incident. We landed just as other boats were turning on their navigation lights. Well done to Big Dave and Simon, that will be the last time I invite them out to play. Joking apart despite some hard fishing it was great to get back out on the water with friends. Most of the pictures were taken by Simon so many thanks for those.
Next session will hopefully be on freshwater chasing Pike – unless there is another weather window.
~ Paul Fennell