Into the unknown
Visit a little beach with big potential.
W hile access can be a nightmare, the potential of the Little Beach, nestling along Portland’s eastern flank, is staggering, with double-figure bull huss, bass and conger eels a real possibility at night. During daylight, muscular ballan wrasse are lurking in the vast kelp beds ready to test the unsuspecting angler, while plugging for bass can be very rewarding. It is one of those venues that can be full of surprises.
I had seen it from a distance while fishing from neighbouring Durdle pier, but had never negotiated the undergrowth to venture to the venue, located below Grove Point. Inquisitive as ever, I was determined to visit what was, for me, an unknown venue.
On a blustery summer’s evening, I teamed up with David Graham, from Bournemouth, and Steve Lawrence, from Poole, to check out the potential of this small, secluded beach in Dorset.
As usual, when heading to a new venue, we were full of enthusiasm, despite the heavy holiday traffic that, at times, was a real journey spoiler.
As we arrived on the 300ft high cliffs just behind the Young Offender Institution on Portland’s eastern flank, Steve’s mouth dropped wide open. “You are having a laugh; surely we are not really going down there,” he spluttered.
Steve thought we had stopped there just to take the mickey, but reality set in a few minutes later when we started to unload the gear. While the cliff might look very steep, there is a zigzag footpath leading down to the midway point where it meets the coastal path. This was negotiated without too many problems, but then the fun started.
From the coastal path, which runs approximately midway down the cliff along this section, there were two options. There is no actual path leading directly down to the Little Beach, so we decided to take the zigzag path approximately 300 yards to the left and then walk along the foreshore; a big mistake. The path had become completely overgrown through lack of use. After tumbling out on to the foreshore, where an old disused pipe stretches seawards, we had to battle with thorn bushes and brambles.
From the old pipe, it is only a couple of hundred yards over some fairly rough ground around a small headland before reaching the beach, which comprises of football-size stones stretching for approximately 100yds. As we spread ourselves along the beach, it was soon apparent that the brisk easterly had pushed a lot of weed and flotsam inshore, but the surface kept erupting with whitebait that were beaching themselves along the shoreline trying to escape from the pursuing predators. The
big question was, were they bass, mackerel or maybe scad, which often come inshore along Portland’s eastern flank, causing the mayhem? Apart from our heavy beach gear, we had a couple of light lure rods, along with half-a-dozen lures. Steve, who had never caught a bass on a lure rod, was the first to set up, choosing a Snowbee Raptor with a small fixed-spool reel loaded with 20lb braid. At the business end was a Hardcore Minnow 130f.
Flicking the lure out 30 yards, he had a take on his first retrieve, right in the edge just as the lure was breaking surface. Alas, the fish beat him hands down and, with a flick of its tail, was gone.
While Steve was trying for his first bass on a lure, David and me set up our heavier gear to see whether or not there were wrasse lurking in the kelp. Casting big ragworm baits, presented on a size 2/0 short-shank Aberdeen on a 20lb hooklength, just 40 yards, the response was immediate. We both had reasonable-sized ballans within a couple of minutes.
We were using 30lb straight through, but the ground seemed relatively clean. There were some rocks right in the edge, but further out it seemed semi-clean, with some weed growth that would account for the fairly plain colour of most of the wrasse.
After landing six fish within 30 minutes, it was time to switch to the lure rods. An elated Steve had just landed his first bass on a lure; only a couple of pounds, but it was certainly a frisky little chap.
The surface was again erupting with batifish, so David seized the opportunity while I was doing the pictures with Steve before he
released his fish. David was soon landing a similar size fish, and this trend continued for the next 45 minutes as the light started to fade. There were occasional mackerel and scad for good measure. All the while, I seemed to be glued to the camera.
“During daylight, muscular ballan wrasse are lurking in the vast kelp beds ready to test the unsuspecting angler”
As the light faded, so the frantic surface action became a memory, signalling the time to revert to the heavier gear for a few more ballans before setting up for the heavyweights. We had decided to give it a couple of hours before heading home.
To be honest, it was fairly disappointing. We caught some rockling and small pollack, but the bass, bull huss and conger eels remained conspicuous by their absence.
After a couple of hours of watching motionless rod tips, we reluctantly waved the white flag, but none of us were really looking forward to the return journey.
Rather than scrambling back around the foreshore and then through the thickets, we took the decision to go straight up what appeared to be a steep, but a fairly clear slope directly behind the beach until it hit the coastal path some 100ft above.
During daylight, this appeared to be the easier option, but at night, it tested our stamina. The first 70ft was reasonably easy going, although there was a bit of low shrub to negotiate before the going got really tough. The last 20ft was so steep that Steve struggled on all fours and when he got to the coastal path he collapsed in a heap.
It was certainly an interesting adventure with a few lessons learnt. During my next trip to the Little Beach, I will travel far lighter and take a better assortment of lures. This venue’s potential is tremendous.
After walking the coastal path since our trip, there would appear to be an easier access point, but only time will tell. It’s a case of watch this space.
A wrasse caught on ragworms by Chris Clark
Steve Lawrence with his first bass on a lure
Dave Graham with one of his bass
Definitely less gear next time