I think most of you are aware that one of my favourite things in sea angling is hunting new species! One I’ve been after for a while is a brill. I’ve tried a few times to catch one of these stunning looking flatties, but so far they had avoided all contact with my baits.
To put this right I was looking forward to a trip with Weymouth skipper Colin Penny aboard the famous Shakespeare/Penn sponsored “Flamer 4”. Also in the back of my mind was the chance, whilst fishing the Shambles Bank, of clocking up a grand slam of plaice, turbot and brill all caught in the same day.
The tackle I’d use would be an MTI 20/40 rod matched to a Penn TRQ100 reel loaded with 30lb braid. The tide was still a fair size and the drift would be quick aided by a stiff southwesterly wind. This meant I’d need to use up to 12ozs of lead or more to keep in contact with the seabed and not to tangle with other rods when fishing under the boat.
The rig used is a simple flowing ledger rig. You slide a short sliding ledger boom on to the leader, followed by a 5mm bead, tie on a size 4 rolling swivel, then add 5 to 6-feet of 40lb Fluorocarbon to a size 3/0 hook. It’s as simple as that.
The baits are long thin slivers of white belly mackerel cut the full length of the fillet. You hook these in the root of the tail to give the bait maximum movement as it travels over the seabed.
I didn’t get a take on the first drift, but the second drift as we were just dropping down the incline of the bank, I felt a short sharp tug and instantly released a few feet of line, this to give the fish the chance to take the bait. Clicking the reel in to gear the line tightened and I felt the rod tip pull over to the weight of the fish.
In no doubt it was a flattie, it stayed tight to the seabed as I retrieved the first few yards of line. Then the full weight of the fish came to bear as it was forced up off the seabed. The fish tried to dive a few times dragging the rod tip with it and pulling a few yards of line off the reel each time. This fish fought hard up the through the water column, then as it came in to view it swam round anti-clockwise, then dived again. But this last dive sapped its strength and skipper Colin netter a nice turbot around 4lbs for me.
On a subsequent drift other anglers aboard caught plaice. I instantly switched to a 2-hook adjustable rig with size 2 Aberdeen hooks on and added a short section of black lug above a section of king rag, plus added a further short fillet of squid to the hook to add movement. As we were coming up on the rise of the bank I again felt a sharp tug and rattle. Once more out went some slack line to let the fish have the bait. As I tightened up I felt a good weight, but it didn’t feel right.
This fish hung tight to the seabed, but I could feel sharp tugs as well. I realised I had two fish on, but knew one was likely to be a flattie. I was slightly surprised to see a small black bream appear first hooked on the top hook, but on the bottom was a pretty plaice that was approaching 3lbs.
It was early afternoon now and on three different drifts brill came aboard to other angler’s rods, the best about 4lbs. I needed to do something quick if I was to get my first brill!
I went back to the sliding ledger rig and changed to a heavier 12oz lead to make sure the bait was dragging hard on the seabed. I also changed over to a longer 7-foot trace using 30lb Fluorocarbon to try and give the bait more movement. With the lead down on the seabed, I also started lifting the lead up and down to also lift the bait up off the seabed momentarily again to draw the attention of any nearby fish.
The very next drift I felt that now familiar rattle and fed the fish plenty of slack line. Slowly tightening in to the fish I felt a double tug and then the rod tip banged over as the fish felt the hook. Again this fish stayed tight to the seabed, but weight came on the rod tip as it was forced upwards. It tried to dive two or three times and I was fearful the hook might pull out.
I was playing the fish under the boat out of sight due to the way we were drifting, but then one of the anglers at the stern shouted, “He’s done it”, and without even seeing the fish I knew I’d hooked my brill. It came in to view and looked to be well hooked, but it was a stressful few seconds waiting for skipper Colin to get to me with the net. My first ever brill and my 103rd species in UK and Irish waters!
The joy of bagging a long sought after species meant I didn’t initially realise that I’d also got my grand slam of flatties all in the same day!
My thanks to Colin Penny and to all the great guys on board who contributed hugely to a fabulous days fishing!