What’s the saying, New Year, new me? I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions (although I am trying to drink more water this year) but the change of the calendar does always prompt a bit of reflection and a bit more dreaming of what will come for me as I go fishing in Cornwall in 2021. It goes without saying that 2020 was hard and when we crawled across the line and made it to the Christmas holidays I was completely burnt out. During that difficult year I was fortunate, my job was secure and it was a job that couldn’t be done from home so the business remained open and that provided routine and human contact outside of our immediate family bubble. Work didn’t just stay open either, we were in fact incredibly busy. My wife and I manage a small manufacturing company together and as the world adjusted to a new way of living, it seemed everything we make was in big demand. Happy days you’d think, and yes of course it was, but upscaling the business and most importantly, keeping everyone safe, happy and healthy was relentless hard work. Add that to a small family which for the first lockdown at least meant that we had every other day at home schooling them whilst the other was then left single-handedly running the factory meant that come Christmas, we were spent.
It is the first year for I don’t know how many years that I didn’t have a Christmas social fishing trip. Of course with the restrictions it was never going to be a great big party of a trip but I couldn’t even muster the energy to go with one other mate. In fact, I couldn’t even be arsed to go on my own, THAT’S how tired I was. Come the end of the break, which incidentally, in Cornwall we started in tier one (remember those tiers?) and we came out of and just 24-hours later went into lockdown, I had at least regained some energy. The hardest part though has been getting the momentum back. It’s the longest break from fishing I’ve had for years and it’s been really hard getting that motivation and momentum back. For people that haven’t fished for ages, I now completely see how it’s hard to get back into it. Something I must make more consideration of when I’m coaching people coming back to the sport after years away.
When I am in the swing of things and the rhythm is good, my fishing throughout the year is like the feeding pattern of a good match angler, little and often. I’ve already said I’ve got a busy job, and three kids (one five year old girl and two year old twin boys, thanks nature…) which means the days when I’d spend the whole weekend fishing are long gone. Instead, once a week I grab an evening or an early morning when the kids have gone to bed or before they’ve got up and I’ll pop out for a few hours. Very often this means I’m either up at 4am or I don’t start fishing until gone 8 in the evening and, on a school night I need to be home and in bed by 11 else I’m going to be a very grumpy so and so the following day. That means my average fishing session is 2-3 hours long. If I want to catch something, and particularly if I’m chasing something a bit special, then you’ve got to get those couple of hours spot on.
Where I live in Cornwall, in South West England, we are spoilt for choice. With the mix of sea fishing, coarse fishing and even game fishing, there is generally always something to catch. That something isn’t always going to be record breaking but there will be a fish somewhere. The variety of fishing can be both a blessing and a curse. When the season and the conditions are good, the hard bit is focussing on one thing and I have a habit of being a bit of a headless chicken rushing around trying to catch everything. That’s all well and good but if you’ve only got a couple of hours, you’ve only got to get a wrong a couple of times and it’s easy for a month of prime time to go sailing past and you’ve caught absolutely nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have had fun and benefitted along the way but I do love actually catching fish. So, the best way I find to do this, and it’s a bit of fun, is to write a bit of a wish list for the year ahead. Not exactly a New Year’s resolution but a bit of goal setting.
As I’ve already said, Cornwall has a huge amount of variety when it comes to fishing. Not everything in record breaking sizes, far from it in most cases but, there are at least some good specimens to be fished for. I tend to break the year into the four seasons and think about what’s my best chance in each season based on my time available and the waters I can access. For me the hardest part is right now, January and February. We don’t have coarse fishing in the rivers in Cornwall, it’s just Salmon, Sea Trout and Grayling. There’s no Barbel and Chub like the rest of the country and from what I can gather, the sport during the winter months on these beautiful flowing waters can be excellent. I used to fish for Pike through the winter months and have been lucky to catch some real crocodiles but oddly, they never really set my world on fire. Don’t get me wrong, a big Pike is a hugely impressive fish but somehow, having caught a few big ones, I’ve never really had the urge to rush back to them. So what else? The sea fishing can be very good in winter but the weather and the sea dictates whether you can go or not. It’s possible for days or even weeks for many of the marks to be downright dangerous to even get near let alone try fishing as the huge Atlantic swells come rumbling in from the west. Yes, there’s always somewhere sheltered you can safely cast but the fishing from those locations might actually be a bit pants or a longer drive than I can afford given the time I’ve got available. It does always feel good to get out in the fresh air, I’ll never deny that but when I go fishing, I do want to be in with a reasonable chance of a fish or two.
When things warm up all of a sudden it’s all change. I don’t know whether I should be going for the Tench and Crucian Carp on a quiet little pool, flicking dry flies for little wild Brown Trout, searching the creeks for the fabulous Gilthead Bream or seeking the enigmatic (and very tasty) Plaice! For some of these species for season can be quite short. They can appear in numbers for just a few weeks and then for the rest of the year the chances of hooking up are pretty slim. It’s therefore important to try and keep an ear out for what’s happening and where and quite often it’s not when you thought it was going to be due to a late or early spring and so you’re left turning the garage upside down and sorting out tackle for a completely different species to last week’s target.
To try and prevent the headless chicken act then, I do try and have a bit of a plan and have the tackle looking something like it before I need it. You’d think after more than 30 years of fishing I’d have enough tackle but you know what it’s like, there’s always something you need (or want). All my tackle is pretty much in storage at the moment because as well as a family and a busy job we’re having a house extension built, to accommodate all of those children. So actually getting at the kit at the moment is tricky without falling over paint tins, unused sledges and everything else that’s been bundled into storage. When it’s all done though I should have a nice man cave to play in again.
My plan for 2021 therefore looks a bit like this. Since January has passed I’ll make a start in February, my least favourite month of the year. I’ve just joined a new fishing lake syndicate and it holds some good roach and perch and at the moment that’s about as much as I can hope for. March is a funny month, the days are getting longer quickly and things are warming up but the fishing can sometimes be slow to follow, it really does depend on the weather and how fast or slow things buck up. Throw a “Beast from the East” in the mix and it can all grind to a halt. Have a few silly days of bright warm sunshine and everything races forward and the fish start behaving like its summer. For me though, I love fishing for Tench and Crucians in spring as well as a dabble for wild trout on the tiny streams that criss-cross the countryside. This year however, I’m really keen to do some Plaice fishing during the spring. The Plaice fishing around here isn’t great but I love catching flat fish, and tasty ones too. I’ve not mentioned my boat yet, but I’m hoping in spring the garage will be built and I can bring my boat home. It’s currently sat at a mate’s place in storage so the engine will need a little love before we launch again.
The when we get to April and May I’m going to have a go for some carp. I’ve not fished for carp for years and the new syndicate I’ve joined has got some in so I’m looking forward to that. Somewhere in the mix I’m going to go after the Gilthead Bream. These are a bit of a speciality down here in Cornwall and guys travel from all over the country to fish for the fish that I have close by but I never make time for. You can see what’s happening already though. A couple hours a week, small windows of opportunity, the maths don’t add up, I’ll never fish for all this lot and it’s only June! Next comes summer and all eyes turn to the boat and the blue water. I don’t need to say too much here but for the last few years there have been giants swimming around the Cornish coast. The fishing is genuinely world class and this is the only fishing where I make time for a whole day at it. Oh, and there’s the shark fishing too and those little things are fun.
Then comes autumn and it’s time for Bass and Ray in the surf. I’ve had some really good small eye ray in the last few years but the hoped for big bass hasn’t been found yet. I’ll keep looking! I’ve forgotten to put mullet on the list. I love mullet fishing and I think 2020 was the first year for a long time when I didn’t go for them. Before you know it it’s winter again and thoughts of mythical Cod start again. It’s a big list and there’s far more that I’ve missed off that either I’ll try and squeeze in or will just have to wait for another year. First though I’ve got to get the momentum going again. I’ve got out of the habit of going, having the kit ready, watching the weather for the best window and dragging myself out and evenings that are less than inspiring as the rain comes down sideways.
Who knows, maybe this year it’ll all go to plan but if the last few years have taught me anything it’s to simply enjoy what you’ve got, live in the present, check in on your mates from time to time and don’t take anything too seriously. Whatever your plans are for 2021, good luck and stay safe!