Monday 23 August 2021

Instow - Sea Dogs and Sebastomania

Now the term fishing is something of a generalisation for no other pastime contains within itself so many aspects embracing so many different facets, some so far divorced from each other in style as to be hardly comparable. 

And yet, despite this variance of styles and techniques, there is a special camaraderie among anglers, almost masonic, established immediately it is known that the other man fishes. 

It contributes much to the fascination of angling, the non-angler is often surprised to discover that angling is the largest participant pastime in the country, and wonders what on earth anglers find in angling. Conversely, anglers wonder why on earth there are such people as non-anglers, and constantly try to remedy the situation.

The non-angler will never understand the bond anglers have either, but then that is not entirely unexpected unlike this dinosaur cloud that appeared about the Ho !!

They are not at all surprised at the great enthusiasm for catching fish. In a world where so little is left entirely to the whim of the individual, fortunately there is still fishing. 

There are virtually no rules, no times to start or to finish, very little that is truly predictable, much that is speculation, and great scope for ingenuity. 

The words always and never do not apply in angling. It is hardly surprising that in recent years there has been such a great increase of interest in sea fishing. 

There are no frontiers or limitations to the sport to be found in the sea, and one takes as much from sea fishing as one puts into it. 

The man content to lay back in a chair, with rod pointing to the sky and fishing for itself, enjoys the sun and the sounds of the sea on the shingle, and, when he has done, he packs his rod and is happy with a brace of flounders. 

Another man may go afloat in search of winter cod, or clamber over difficult rock faces with a LRF rod to find his sport a more rugged environment. Maybe a lifestyle change is the way to go eventually as I'd love a boat, I really would.

Now perhaps the most important feature of angling is that it is a matter of personal interpretation. While traditionally cut-and-dried methods do undoubtedly yield fish, there is much scope for initiative, particularly in coping with conditions which vary from coast to coast. 

As very much a novice to sea angling, for this another family holiday to North Devon to see my brother and his kids I planned to have another dabble. We were staying in Instow again which is a small village on the estuary where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet. It is between the villages of Westleigh and Yelland and on the opposite bank of Appledore which is the crabbing capital of the World.

 Last years trip didn't go well, the weather changed quite dramatically a couple of days in to the weeks break when a storm hit the area, and the sea changed colour from blue to brown after it. Don't get me wrong, you know me I love fishing in all weather conditions be it good or bad but as someone who is fishing largely blind and is a novice sea angler, I was wasting my time.

The weather was predicted to be a little better for this trip and my brother on the ground said some of his mates were catching bass over at the HO !! using lures and also live prawns under bubble floats. 

It was a family holiday after all so I've be largely limited to Instow around the pier which was a 3 minute walk from the accommodation and also I'd fish just behind the cricket ground as there are plenty of rocks over there which is a fish holding area. The Volvo XC90's boot is ridiculous really so I'd even bring a fork to dig some lugworm as I fancied fishing a bait on the bottom this time round. 

So tackle wise I cobbled together an old carp rod an old reel with 15 pound line and I would fish a single hook flapper rig with crab, small sandeels and mackerel, and then my usual heavy'ish lure rod with surface poppers and some sandeel jobbies. There wasn't any fresh lug in Summerlands tackle but still enough bait to be getting on with.

As I was fishing the jetty with pieces of mackerel for my first short trip out the owner of Estrela Do Mar before heading to his boat stopped for a chat and gave me a few tips of where to find fish in Instow. He even gave me a circle hook from his limited stash and also some live grabs for me to try out, top fella and the story of his 13lb bass was great to listen to.

The problem I had after given some pointers was that I didn't have the right gear to give the bigger bass a good go around the old industrial pier but hopefully the lure will do the business in one of the trip outs. 

It turns out this next month the bigger bass turn to the rivers where their diet changes I assume to fatten themselves up before the temperature drops. Sadly no flatties succumbed to to the mackerel, crab or sandeel baits but the sandeels were coming back proper mullered so I can only assume there were some crabs getting in on the act. 

I knew from the last trip here there is quite a deep gully a short chuck out which hopefully will be a fish holding area. At least the kids can have a go for them especially as its so handy. 

It was quite a windy morning but luckily the best weather is to come. It's always nice to get sea air though isn't it and soon as the tide starts to go out revealing the seaweed and the like the bird activity increases tenfold.

One thing I have noticed is that things do cost me round here, be it a pint of ale, a pub meal or general shopping items. But then I suppose its a captured audience it is the nature of the beast I suppose. 

For the second mornings session I walked all the way over to the industrial pier and stopped off a couple of times on route so chuck the lure around some areas of the flat water where there were fish topping.

I'm not exactly sure what the bait fish were but despite using a popper and also a small fiish minnow nothing decided to take the lure.

The water was crystal clear as expected and I really did think I'd have a nibble or two. The tide was going out fast so the last area was in and around the pier itself.

Wading up to my knees in places the water wasn't particularly deep but I kept plugging away and with small mullet almost swimming around my feet I'm sure there was a bass or two hanging around.

This cheapo sandeel lure looked brilliant in the shallow water and despite the proud hook is seemed to pull through the seaweed no problem.

I was running out of time for this session though and with the diary makers wanting beach time later on where it would be 23 degrees or so, out of the blue literally a couple of meters away from my feet a bass shot out from my left hand side and absolutely nailed the lure.

Patience paid off in the end and a fat fish of around 4lb was on the end of the line and gave a pretty good scrap to be fair.

The change to that lure made the difference so with another 4 mornings at my disposal and also the odd evening hopefully something bigger will turn up. I was already late for lunch so I told the wife to forget the ham sandwiches and I treated myself to some fish and oysters from the Glorious Oyster on the way back.

Sweet chilli skate cheeks with Japanese togashari, chilli spices with mix leaf salad tomatoes with cabbage and carrots. A lovely combination indeed and what a way to end the morning.

Simple fishing in the end with a sandeel lure but a cracking way to catch a bass especially when I saw the fish actually take it. Hopefully I can catch something bigger also with some mullet milling around I'll bring some bread  with me next time.

To be continued... 


  1. Nice bass Mick, is the sandeel lure worth a try on the Avon?

    1. I bet pike might like it yes, a great action in the water

  2. Very nice bass Mick well done.
    Great writing about angling and anglers too, sums it up well.

    1. love it by the coast, LOTS!!!!!!!!!!!! to learn though


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