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Pier pressure

Written by Adrian Farley

Peter, a Postgraduate student from Portsmouth University wrote to me saying he hasn’t been able to catch.
So, it came to be that two days later I was on a blustery South Parade Pier in sunny Southsea awaiting my new ‘student’, Peter. I was still tackling up a float rod and feeling none too optimistic about the blustery ENE Force 5 which was blowing  anything and everything along the lower deck.

“Hi Pete”, I say, with a rather nervous smile; you see this was my first outing on the pier this year as well. It was the 1st of May and not many reports had been coming my way as yet. This was a ‘dangerous’ experiment but it turns out that Peter is a bit of a molecular biology ‘boff’ and is completing his PhD at Portsmouth University.
No worries Pete, I’ll just call you Doctor hereinafter. Experiment underway …..

PressureI kit out Doc with a 20g float set at 5 feet with a tiny piece of mackerel strip on a size 6 carpie hook. It’s a bit of a gamble, so I finish putting up a ‘Southend Rig’ on a second rod. Now, the point of this rig is that it presents a paternoster type set of hooks but about 12 feet off the bottom or mid-water for surface feeders like garfish and mackerel. More to the point it allows me to set out my stall and pour a cup of coffee.
Well, to be absolutely honest I got a split ring connector attached and was disturbed by “Fish on …” from Peter. Nah, I said to myself; probably caught piles!
Oh dear, his rod tip is vibrating and the clutch just squeaked! Seconds later a beauty of a pier pollack about a pound, gleaming like polished copper in the spring sunshine, is swung, without ceremony, over the railings.

Well, “I told you, see ..” says cocky I! It was certainly the start I was looking for.
The fish was neatly unhooked and returned as gently as we could from 15 feet up. If you have a drop net; drop them into it and lower the fish down gently. I gave the pollack a score of 9.4 and Peter returned to the foray.
Bruddy ‘ell! He dropped the float straight down and it shot off as if there was a queue for the bus down there. This time a bigger fish of 1 ¼ lbs.
“Right”, I say to Peter, “job done, I’m off!”

But the lure had been set and I abandoned the static rod and put together my own slider by which time it was four, prime pollack to Doc Pete and sod all to me. I put together an 11 feet Daiwa 2 ¾ lbs carp rod, Okuma baitrunner and 10 lbs line. My slider float was one of a set I made at home especially for the pier.  
To cut an exciting 90 minutes short, we kept count till we reached 25 and then gave up counting; and anyway, the tide had begun to pull strongly under the pier and bites were becoming more sporadic. Pete had two for his tea and already on ice; both around 1 ½ lbs, while the rest went back.

Back to the ‘Southend Rig’, then. I baited each small hook with a sliver of mackerel strip and sorted Peter out a similar set-up. We managed a coffee and a snack before my rod tip bounced twice and the line tumbled slack. Nice one …. it’s the first garfish of the year, neatly impaled in the tip of the beak, but lasooed a number of times around its bill as well. These gars scamper along the surface when hooked and tail-walk rather than jump, but provide real fun on the right gear. Float or freeline fishing is great sport. So back to the float it was. “More gars on the float than pollack.” I muttered to Pete.
No sooner had I spoken than the float slid typically sideways …. but hang on, there are two tearaways on the trace and neither is a gar! First this way, then that, then under the pier girders; I don’t think they liked each others company. It was plain to see why,  when a plucky pound plus bass and similar pollack slid over the rail. “Don’t think I’ve done that before, Pete”, I remember saying.
I should have pretended it was the norm, eh?

Pete mentioned he had never caught a garfish before - exactly two minutes before his static-rigged rod bounced once; then nothing. Then again; more of a gentle feeler this time. No time to dwell, as the lead pulled out and a gar leapt and skittered across the chop. It wasn’t happy at all and neither was Pete when he grabbed it and it scraped its hacksaw blade teeth along his fingers. “Just behind the head, Peter, firm grasp …”.  
“Ouch, booger!” he replied.
Ah well, first encounters!
Now all this had happened in under two hours, at which point Gibran from Malaysia joined us and proceeded to tell me he hadn’t been sea fishing in the UK before.
 “What do I do?”.
No early departure for me then? I set Gib up with a scratching rig to fish straight down and baited up with ragworm for small wrasse, pout or pollack just to keep him happy and used to his new gear.
I might have guessed, eh?
Wallop! Bass 2-5-0 and his first UK fish. No Gib, it doesn’t get any better, does it?

A nice mackerel came my way as high water approached.
 “Now I’m going home OK?
Have fun fellahs!” ….. Now that’s something you can do on a pier.
I started at 5 years and still run a special day on South Parade Pier for beginners and Juniors at around the time you’re reading this article.
To see the look of awe on a five year olds face as they actually count the colours on the scales of a corkwing wrasse, check the beaks out on a garfish or as two young ladies discovered last year: “Mister, this Sea Scorpion talks and buzzes when you put it on your palm; it feels all tingly!”
Well, I didn’t know that till she told me.
We live and learn.

Copyright Adrian Farley 2010

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