You plan a ses­sion, gear up for a method and noth­ing hap­pens. Good job there is a bet­ter idea…


When chang­ing a plan pays off.

Don’t you just love it when a plan goes wrong! There I was, all set for a live­bait­ing ses­sion for bass, but my tar­get species gave me the brush-off. My col­leagues had a bet­ter plan and, for­tu­nately, it paid off. There’s a les­son here, be­cause I was vis­it­ing a venue away from my nor­mal fish­ing area and was lucky enough to have two lo­cal an­glers to show me the ropes. As many of you will know, fish­ing any­where with­out some lo­cal in­for­ma­tion can waste a lot of time.

Be­ing a usu­ally sen­si­ble sort of guy, I like to seek out good ad­vice from lo­cal ex­perts, which, over the years, has put me in touch with lots of great an­glers, al­low­ing me to tap into their knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence on dif­fer­ent venues.

I first met Dave Lane and Terry Hart­nell at a shore fish­ing com­pe­ti­tion in 2006. In the years since, I’ve got to know both an­glers re­ally well. When

I fan­cied fish­ing at Char­mouth, in Dorset, I had very lit­tle knowl­edge of this par­tic­u­lar beach. Both Dave and Terry are lo­cal to the venue, in fact Terry grow up in the nearby vil­lage of Beer, in East Devon, and Dave at Wey­mouth, in Dorset. Af­ter I called on these guys for some in­for­ma­tion, they went one bet­ter and ar­ranged to meet me on the beach for an evening ses­sion.

Char­mouth is a small vil­lage be­tween Lyme Regis and Seatown, with its beach lo­cated at the mouth of the River Char. Part of the Juras­sic Coast, it is a very pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for hol­i­day­mak­ers in sum­mer. A café, masses of car park­ing and quick ac­cess to the beach make the vil­lage an ideal lo­ca­tion for an­glers of all ages and abil­i­ties, who can en­joy catch­ing a wide va­ri­ety of species.


We’d ar­ranged to meet at the beach car park for 6.30pm. I de­cided to ar­rive slightly ear­lier to check out the ground we would be fish­ing. This is a high-wa­ter venue where the best fish­ing times are two hours ei­ther side of top wa­ter.

I had geared up to fish live­baits for bass and, at first glance, the right-hand side of the beach looked per­fect. The shin­gle on the right was much steeper than on the left, it looked deeper, and there was a series of nice-look­ing sand gul­lies.

On this oc­ca­sion I was the vis­i­tor, and it was Dave and Terry’s de­ci­sion. They chose to fish to the left of the beach, their rea­son be­ing we would have a much bet­ter chance of catch­ing a few rays. Af­ter a bit of per­sua­sion, I was happy to go along with that idea.

Ap­par­ently, a series of reefs makes the right-hand side of the beach very snaggy. Although that sounded per­fect to me, I got the im­pres­sion that nei­ther an­gler was in the mood for rough-ground fish­ing and the in­evitable tackle losses.

On the sub­ject of rough ground, on the left-hand side of the beach there is also a reef that runs straight out from the car park. The seabed does, how­ever, clear to much cleaner sand once you have reached the area on the beach ad­ja­cent to the cliffs.

We set off left, crossed the River Char, walked along­side the cliffs for about five min­utes and ar­rived at a mark where Terry of­ten fishes. The mark he had se­lected had easy ac­cess off the beach and up to a coastal path, and was very safe. Be warned, though, that when fish­ing spring tides at Char­mouth you could be cut off eas­ily by the tide and get pushed right up against the cliffs. The les­son is to check the size of the tides, take the weather into ac­count and be safe.


Our plan was to fish two hours up to high tide and one hour down. We would be fish­ing one hour of day­light tar­get­ing mack­erel and scad, and then two hours of dark­ness fish­ing for bass and rays.

Dave and Terry set up two rods each, one heavy and the other light. Terry cast out his heav­ier rod first with a sandeel bait, and then Dave fol­lowed with a fresh peeler crab.

Ap­par­ently, you can catch small-eyed rays in day­light here, and there is a chance of smooth­hounds on the crab baits. Hav­ing said that, it seemed nei­ther an­gler was ex­pect­ing too much ac­tion on their heav­ier gear be­fore dark­ness and placed more at­ten­tion on the lighter gear.

Their lighter rods were set up with three­hook flap­per rigs, made with long snoods and car­ry­ing pop-ups, and small hooks baited with strips of mack­erel belly.

If fished cor­rectly, pop-up beads will float baits off the seabed and at­tract those species that swim nearer the sur­face. This method pro­duced bites straight away, and Dave and Terry were soon wind­ing in fish.

Mack­erel were feed­ing from the off, fol­lowed by scad and pout­ing as the day­light be­gan to fade. This was great news for me as I was live­bait­ing and, as a re­sult, sev­eral good fish were placed in a bucket of sea­wa­ter. By the time it got dark, both Dave and I were fish­ing a live­bait in the gut­ter, while Terry per­se­vered with the sandeels, look­ing for a ray.

Apart from pout­ing on the sandeel baits, there was very lit­tle ac­tion lead­ing up to high tide. By this point, Dave also had a fresh mack­erel bait fish­ing far­ther out in the tide.


Just as I won­der­ing if any­thing was go­ing to hap­pen, Dave had a good bite on his live­bait rod. He picked it up and ap­peared to be into a good fish. Smil­ing from ear to ear, he was cer­tain this must be a bass.

As the fish swam into the light of our head­lamps, I re­mem­ber him say­ing “Here it comes”. Imag­ine his dis­ap­pointed when a strap con­ger, which had taken a small pout­ing, ap­peared on the beach.

Sec­onds later the line on Dave’s other rod went slack and he re­trieved a dog­fish. Two fish were landed in quick suc­ces­sion, but nei­ther was one of our tar­get species. Nev­er­the­less, it seemed like the fish were com­ing on the feed.

The ac­tion con­tin­ued when Terry’s rod tip pulled down very slowly, came back up and his line went slack. It was a crack­ing bite that looked un­miss­able… but, un­for­tu­nately, when Terry lifted his rod the fish was gone.

Af­ter an­other quiet spell we reached one hour af­ter high tide. At this point I was ready to call it a night, con­sid­er­ing I had a long drive back to Bris­tol and work the next day. How­ever, Terry and Dave seemed fairly con­fi­dent that we could still catch a ray. I was per­suaded to stay an­other hour.

Just a mat­ter of min­utes af­ter my de­ci­sion, Dave had an­other good bite and was into a

fish. All three us gave a loud cheer (of relief) when a small-eyed ray slid up on the shin­gle. This was our first of the night, but no more than five min­utes later Terry wound in the sec­ond ray.

As it ap­peared that the rays were on the feed, I didn’t want to miss my op­por­tu­nity. I wound in my live­bait rod and pinched a pul­ley rig out of Dave’s tackle box. This def­i­nitely was the right time in the tide. In a mat­ter of min­utes I caught the third small-eyed ray of the night. Then, as quickly as they had ar­rived, they were gone. A few more casts pro­duced a dog­fish and nu­mer­ous pout­ing.

As the last of the wa­ter was run­ning off the beach, we had to call it a night. It had ended up be­ing a good ses­sion and I was re­ally glad I had stayed on for that ex­tra hour.

Un­for­tu­nately, there were no bass caught on this oc­ca­sion, but I will def­i­nitely re­turn to Char­mouth for an­other try. Ap­par­ently, any time from late Septem­ber into early Novem­ber can be a great time for the big­ger bass, par­tic­u­larly when the sea is rough.

Terry Hart­nell’s cast­ing stops the traf­fic Mack­erel live­bait

Dave’s strap con­ger had taken a small pout­ing

A small-eyed ray for Terry

Sev­eral good fish were placed in buck­ets of sea­wa­ter

Dave cast­ing out at dusk

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