Into the un­known

Visit a lit­tle beach with big po­ten­tial.

Sea Angler (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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

Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by Chris Clark

Dave Gra­ham with one of his bass

Def­i­nitely less gear next time

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