Hard won cod
Battling the conditions pays off with a few cod off the Suffolk coast
With a light offshore wind it was time to go fishing, and because I’d bargained for a weekend session, it would give me the chance to fish with some of the guys I don’t see very often.
My alarm went off early and I heard the patter of rain. I don’t like rain, but I do like fishing, so I dragged myself out of bed. I left early and pulled up at the car park at Corton, Suffolk, where Frank Burden and James Leech, who was full of cold, awaited my arrival. They both hoped I would cancel, but to no avail. They begrudgingly got suited up.
Aaron Napper turned up next, then Tim Weston, and with us all sorted we made our way down to the beach, 90 minutes before high water in the hope the flow was now manageable.
We got Aaron launched first, then laughed at Frank as he hooked his PFD and battled the shore dump while attached, his kayak approached vertical, and then he was out.
We followed. It was quite a swell considering that conditions should have been perfect, but no matter.
As it was his first time here, we got Aaron anchored. He shot backwards as the stretch came out of his warp and I floated rapidly downtide. I paddled up past him and dropped my own anchor. It was so fast that instead of ending up alongside, I was beyond shouting distance downtide, slightly further out. A four-minute mile kind of day.
I cast out. It was my first time using my new 7ft boat rods and lever-drag reels. The charter boat Lead Us steamed past on its way north, while Cleveland Princess was out for a recce with another boat Wader Bay, while High Flyer was out but not in sight.
Tim was alongside me and we were both solid. Frank and James were down from us and Aaron was suddenly catching us up – his anchor has pulled. I called over to him to release it, paddle in and come back out in half an hour when the flow had decreased, but he couldn’t hear in the wind.
He continued downstream and so did James. Soon Frank called up that he’d caught his first fish. I told James to head in with Aaron and wait, but he’d gone over to assist anyway. A friend in need and all that. We watched as the two of them battled four knots of tide for a while to land level with us an age later. Bet that hurt! Tim and I were getting loads of snatch bites, but nothing was connecting. They were mostly whiting, but two more pulls that screamed cod go unrewarded.
I stopped watching Tim and looked at my rod just as it moved. It felt nice on this rod. It felt nice in this tide. Soon the cod was in the tankwell under the net. There was not too much longer to wait, ten minutes maybe. With my hood up because the wind on my neck was grim, I got another keeper cod.
We could see James heading back up the ramp, his cold had got to him, but Aaron wasn’t giving up. He came out through the shore dump with no trouble, paddled uptide and sufficiently inshore that he could drop anchor without causing problems for us and let his warp out like he’d done it a million times. The flow caught him out too, though, and he ended up further down than he wanted. He was right in front of me, but at an angle to his warp so I could still fish. He caught a cracking whiting within minutes.
I needed a whiting now, for a species competition. Out went the mini set-up too. I produced another cod, which was returned and then got my whiting. A good one too. I was happy with two species, two keepers and everyone safe and catching. Tim was waiting for cod, but apart from him and Aaron the rest of us had had them. But what was Aaron doing? He appeared to need a stronger rod because his was bending too much. Except it’s not the rod. He called over that he’d hooked a cod, easily bigger than mine. What a result! Of course, I convinced myself it was my cod, suggesting it had been heading up the tide to my juicy bait when it spotted his and wondered what it was, and got hooked accidentally while investigating. But I let him take the credit.
LOST AND FOUND
Soon after the yaks started to wander as slack approached and the wind took over. We hauled up, headed in and landed. I gave Tim one of my cod as he’d driven a long way for his first cod session of the season. Besides, he’d earned it.
Why? Well, when we came in that shore dump was in the way and so was a beach angler. Our launch spot was taken – and rightly so, we don’t own it. We had to land south of the groyne. In I went and with my stern lifting on a wave I leant back, kept the nose floating and then it ploughed through the shingle. I was still upright. That wave passed under and the backwash got me. I got flooded by the next wave, turning the yak on its side and locking on to the chine. I managed to get out and haul it up the beach.
Trouble was, there was a gulley and I was thigh deep. The next wave picked up the kayak sideways and it came at me. I held it, and stayed upright, but there was water everywhere and one of my cod had gone. I hauled the kayak and started looking in the waves. Tim spotted it though, 50 yards up from us, so it was kind of his.
Tim and Frank landed, showing good skills, and Aaron picked his moment for an easy ride. Time to see the fish…his first Corton cod. ■
New 7ft boat rods teamed with lever-drag reels
Mark Crame found the Corton codling
All kitted out for kayak success off Corton
Squid bait went down well with codling