My currently aching legs are telling me, as if I didn’t remember, that it’s the day after the day after the Cornish Lure Festival hosted by the good people of ArtofFishing. If you are not familiar with the competition then take a look because if you want a bit of an adventure with your mates or a weekend away in Cornwall one thing is for sure and that’s the rugged coastline always delivers yet always leaves me wanting more and never more so than when I’m fishing a competition. The lure only species hunts will hopefully be one of the many legacies of LRF and CLF is the daddy of species hunts. 48hrs of climbing, shivering, laughing and catching are made tougher by the fellow competitors being some of the best around. It’s tough enough to keep up with my co-anglers Adam Kirby and Chris Wheeler sometimes let alone with the Fox’s, Pender’s and Church’s. If I’m making this sound a chore, it isn’t, it’s a joy from start to finish. Hard? Yes, but sometimes fishing on the hard setting is good. I’m going to try to recount the weekend as best as I can remember. I’ll be vague on specific marks as they are not mine to give away and let’s face it I’ll be going back but it’ll hopefully give an idea of what it’s like to be chasing the species.
After Plans A, B, C….etc were picked apart by tides and places to stay we decide (after some tea) to spend the first afternoon/evening fishing West and this meant Mousehole, Penzance and Newlyn. All are very LRF friendly with differing features and habitats that should offer us the ‘bits and pieces’ that are needed to back up the higher scoring rarities. We arrive at the first venue (after some tea) and in no time we have Corkwing Wrasse hitting the split shot rigs.
No1 in the bag Corkwing Wrasse
After a few more Corky’s I switch to a Reins micro jig hoping for some mid water action and get smashed by a mini Ballan, welcome but it was Pollack I was after, maybe Smelt. Never mind though as it keeps me in touch with Adam who at this point was on four species and threatening to pull away a bit. It shouldn’t matter but when you fish as a team you want everyone to hit the targets at a similar time to keep things moving.
Anyway No2 Ballan Wrasse (on metal!)
I don’t manage to find the Pollack so I switch back to Isome and fish the inner harbour to get my Goby done and to be honest it’s a pretty quick deal. Still needed though and I had some odd bites that I will come back to.
I’m about 2 1/2 hours in at this point and as high water approaches there is a nice flow around the harbour wall. I like a bit of movement, it allows me to tease a lure into places I can’t otherwise reach. Sticking with a split shot rig I get some nice bites that don’t turn into Corkwings and when I eventually hook up its a bonus little Goldsinney that takes me to 4.
So, I’m feeling pretty confident at this stage. The venue is fishing well and there seems to be more to come so I go back to the ‘odd bite’ I had before to see if I can winkle out something different. After 5 minutes trying to retrace my steps I stumble upon the mystery fish and it’s no other than a Dragonet. This is a big bonus as it effectively saves us a visit to the heavily fished Meva’. So after a nod to the boys we are all pleased to see another two Dragonet quickly caught and photographed. It’s amazing how often this will happen with Dragonets, they seem to live together.
It’s at this point after a little move that I can afford to freestyle a bit to see what’s around, ditch the Isome and make some stuff happen as the tide just starts to ebb. I throw on a mini creature bait that I find works really nice on a kind of caro rig/split shot combo. I use some little 1g oval weights with a float stop to shorten or lengthen the trace and I can add SS to make heavier if required. It’s a killer Scorpion fish method when the tides running. I fish the edges and get bites on every cast, mostly small Wrasse I presume but the occasional snap of a Scorpo is what I’m waiting for. I work my way through a couple more Corkwings to then hit a different fish and I’m pleased to see a hungry Tompot Blenny come to the surface. It had completely inhaled the bait, proper killed it.
No6 Tompot Blenny
Back to the plan then and as the fish get more confident I use bigger lures to induce takes. I’m fishing in an almost sacrificial way here to figure out where fish are hiding to then scale down and go back. It doesn’t always work but it can often offer something extra and I’m soon adding a Scorpo to my list. These are tough to get in Cornwall, tough for us anyway, so it’s a big tick and gives us all hope of more species at the same spot.
No7 Long Spined SeaScorpion (Scorpo)
To be honest I’m cruising at this point. I’m switching between lure patterns regularly to make sure I don’t miss anything. I’m still to find a Pollack so on go some Slim Swimz and Black Minnows. Slowly retrieving shads through the weed and structure inevitably lead to annoying a bigger Wrasse. It’s not needed but I measure anyway just in case all the Wrasse competitors happen to have a very off weekend!!
As the fishing slows and more tea is drank the tide ebbs away to reveal the fish that hold on the low water line. Adam is a killer fish spotter and has a Shanny registered in no time, Chris then gets his and although I’m not panicking here I’m very aware that I haven’t caught one. In fact an hour later I still haven’t caught one and I’m getting annoyed. The boys have moved on to other things and the 4th member of team that I can only refer to as ‘Miss S’ has popped off for more tea. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll have to wait for number 8. With no one to unload my Shanny anxiety on to I plug away between the boulders and several sets of tackle later I swing in a lump of a Shanny. Time to relax. Time for tea.
We all decide to move on to our overnight lodgings via a well known fast food outlet. This is slightly scuppered by a bait angler catching a Poor Cod so we hang around for a while longer without luck. I was pleased to reach 8 in 8hrs and equally keen to get the tent set up ready for a dawn assault on the Lizard.
4am alarm call signals the start of a long, long day. We have several targets here with the main one being Rock Cook. Adam and Chris are fishing first and bites are instant but Corkwing-y. Ad’ must of had several fish landed before I managed one but when I do it’s not what I was fishing for but still a ‘need’ the mini-est Pollack I’ve ever had.
Despite adding I’m not fishing well without my morning tea so I declare that the first one of us to catch a Rock Cook is to make the said tea. I stop messing around and briefly tune myself into the ways of the kelp. There is a knack to fishing the leathery weed and it’s takes a while to get into it. When I eventually get myself on to a likely looking ledge I get the target first drop. At this point I wasn’t aware of how thin on the ground these would be but I was still buzzing.
The prettiest mini species of them all, No10 Rock Cook.
I was very, very happy at this point, maybe a little euphoric. This could of been due to lack of sleep and tea. All the while Chris is catching well with Tompot and Scorpos falling to his lures and both he and Adam had got their Mackeral and what Mackeral they were, huge! I must have cast a hundred times trying to replicate their catches without hitting the target. A few nice size Pollack were all I had to show for the best of the tide and as the water receded again we left Ad’ on the rocks while we hit the tea hard. When he eventually returned the shrug in the shoulders told us he hadn’t managed to find a Rock Cook. For the first time since the start we all needed different fish. Chris was still after a Ballan and Rock Cook. I needed Mackeral and Ad was looking for Scorpos and that pesky Rock Cook. We enjoyed breakfast, tea and then some more tea. Plans were hatched and we briefly went our separate ways. None of us got what we wanted.
We took the decision to return to were we had spent day 1 in the hope that we could find something extra. We didn’t need Meva now so we effectively had half a day in hand so we thought this had to account for an extra species somewhere. This is where local knowledge would have helped us. We could’ve found a Mullet or Bass or gone all out flatfish but we just don’t have those banker marks yet. Despite this we fished hard and left nothing untried. We all got our Sandeels. That. Was. All. No11 Lesser Sandeel
When I had to return to the van for yet more ticket money Ad hung back with Chris to try and find a Ballan. While Chris was fishing hard Ad got hooped up right next to him with, you’ve guessed it, a Ballan. This was a theme across the weekend. Despite Chris having caught a thousand Ballan in the past they were set to evade him all weekend. No fun I can assure you, they should be a gimme. This is what CLF does, it breaks you down so eventually all you really know is nothing at all. To be fair though it wasn’t for the lack of trying. His Ballan was my Mackeral which was Adams Scorpo. #overthinking
After a pleasant nights sleep followed by some tea we arrived at our Weever mark for dawn. This isn’t required but we wanted to get them done before the masses arrived. It was a miserable morning and not very inspiring but we had to nail the Weever and in true form Ad’ gets his first cast and moves on to find something extra. Chris gets his quickly as well so I’m thinking there are loads around. A full British hour later and I’m yet to have a bite. I switch and switch yet I’m unable to get it done so I walk away for 10 minutes and force myself to wake up. Soon after the Weever is done and I’m happier but it’s clear that we are all feeling tired and not fishing well consistently.
No12 Lesser Weever
At this point I thought we were done. Fowey was the only place worth a visit but the tide was ebbing and we were lacking confidence. We fished all the usual places without anything new. In desperation I started to fish 3″ shads to try for a shoal Bass more in hope than expectation. We were all in that tired funk where decisions seem harder to make and although I knew I should walk up the hill to get my heavier rods I didn’t and stuck with the Reins Pro 5g. The inevitable happened when my lure gets hit by a shy bite only to then motor off at a pace. Drag singing, rod hooped up. I should be drinking this in but I don’t and realise I’m involved with a proper fish. I’ve caught enough good fish on light rods to know I’m going to need some luck to land it but before I had a chance to see it I was done on the rocks. 0.3pe wasn’t meant for this! As the rod sprung back straight I would’ve happily given up at that point. As my mates were consoling me by suggesting it was just a big old Ballan therefore of no use to me I knew deep down it was a Bass. From the initial take to the headshakes and the eventual bust off it had Bass all over it. Some swearing happened!
We’re all struggling so the sensible thing to do was to eat and drink and give the last hour a good go. As with all these comps anglers tend to gravitate towards each other and with this the gossip starts. I knew I wasn’t in with a shout but if I could reach 13 it just sounds so much better than 12! It was Chris that prompted me to keep at it, he was hell bent on getting a Ballan so I followed suit and kept at it. I left Ad searching for Flounders while I fished under boats and pontoons looking for Smelt and with minutes to go I get the familiar vibro of a Smelt, but it wasn’t it was a Pollack…..only it wasn’t a Pollack it was a Whiting! RESULT. I double checked to be sure even though it was obvious. I took too many photos to be certain I showed the business end had the teeth and the Whiting characteristics.
Tiredness does funny things!
That was it then. 48 hrs. 13 species. Lots of miles and lots of tea. We headed back to the Eden project with heavy hearts. We should have caught more despite the tide times and the wind yet we are not quite sure what we could’ve done different and it’s this that will keep us returning. Get a good run of fish and it’s win-able, get stuck in a rut and it’ll destroy confidence.
It was a very nice surprise to take the top visitors prize in the species hunt and I had the Rock Cook to thank for just edging out Andy Mytton on count back. 5th overall wasn’t too shabby either so in hindsight I’m very pleased. As ever we learn more each time we visit this amazing coastline and it goes without saying we had lots of laughs along the way. CLF can be a bit of an ordeal sometimes, equally though it’s the thought that certain spots have never seen a lure before and the three of us thrive on picking apart a venue and ringing it dry which isn’t something we can all do on our regular patches. Yes, CLF16 you worked us hard but we will return. Time for tea.