Cornwall - Gilty pleasures

I’ve scaled down my tackle somewhat, as dragging my kayak up and down these steep Cornish hills to the various launch sites is at times very strenuous!. The other morning I was taking the kayak down a steep hill to launch at Cadgwith when my boot slipped on the damp road. With a fully laden kayak directly behind me it was a near death experience!!. I could see the coroner’s report, cause of death ‘flattened by Hobie Outback’.

Over the past few years I’ve seen many photographs of Gilthead Bream that have been caught around the southwest. Their numbers are steadily increasing and from what I’ve read they are great sport on light gear. However, I’ve also read that they’re not the easiest fish to catch and locating them can be particularly difficult. I was very fortunate in the fact that I was given some pointers off Ian, one of the local kayak fisherman that I’ve fished with this week.

I wont disclose the marks for obvious reasons (please don’t ask), apparently there’s also major issues with netters, another reason not to.

There’s then the difficulty of bait, apparently one day they are feeding on crab, the next day lug then another day razor fish. No doubt there’s other baits that prove most successful at times. I’d chosen fresh lugworm, though once peddling along the river I came ashore and picked up a dozen small crab, a mixture of peeler and hardbacks.

A local angler had wandered over and chatted for a while before I launched. He regularly fished for Giltheads and mentioned that the conditions weren’t ideal, I really wanted a good ripple on the water. He’d fished the day before but had only experienced a couple of bites, normally he’d experience five to six. He never actually stated how many he successfully hooked into, though he did say that he’d caught them to 4lb. His preferred bait was ‘stinky razor clam’, past its sell by date.

With plenty of fresh bait aboard I made my way to the first mark of the day. I’d rigged both rods in the same manner, running ledgers made up with a 2oz drilled bullet lead with a 3-4’ 20lb fluorocarbon trace. The hook was a size 1/0 Sakuma 450 Chinu. These are an extremely sharp forged hook, ideal for what I’d heard was a strong fish. I’d lost enough big fish over the past few days, if I was fortunate enough to hook up with a Gilthead I wanted to land it!.

I baited one rod with crab, the other with lugworm. Once tied off to a buoy I cast both baits out about 35 yards ahead of the kayak, positioning each to one side in the hope of avoiding tangles. I won’t lie, I felt very little hope of catching a Gilthead. I was fishing new territory for a new species by myself, it just didn’t bode well.

Within sixty seconds of casting out those first baits I had a few hard taps on one rod. As I grabbed it from the rod holder the rod bent over and I was hooked up into a very lively fish!. It felt like nothing I’ve experienced before, surely I’d not hooked into a Gilthead within a minute of starting the session!. As the fish neared the kayak there was a flash of gold and the unmistakable shape of a Bream, unbelievable!. It was carefully netted and bought aboard the kayak for close scrutiny.

What a gorgeous fish, I couldn’t believe my luck. Like all Bream they’re rather spiky so care is required whilst handling the fish. They have a highly impressive set of crushing teach, not somewhere to stick a finger!. It was quickly unhooked, photographed and released to fight another day.

I quickly re-baited with fresh lugworm and flicked the bait back towards the same grounds. With five minutes there was a very aggressive hit to the bait and I found myself hooked up once again!. This was a much better fish and it went a little crazy, darting around from side to side. It made a few good runs, ahhhh, how I love the sound of a singing drag!. As it came closer to the kayak it didn’t really let up the fight. The landing net came into play once more and at the second attempt it slipped into the net. I’m not too sure on the size, though it was a lovely fish.

Like its cousin the Black Bream they’re rather lively once out of the water, spikes everywhere!. I do enjoying taking photographs whilst fishing so I make no apology for adding a few extra photos of this lovely species.

With the second fish released it was time to continue fishing. I started to hook into some school bass, perhaps a pound or so in weight, occasionally more. For small fish they were surprisingly lively and gave a great account of themselves on my light tackle.

I’d been told to always fish ahead of the line of slick/scum that drifted up the river with the tide. Apparently the Giltheads tend to travel ahead debris field. I kept glancing back but I saw no sign of it at all. The fishing continued and I landed more Giltheads and a steady stream of school bass.There was rarely more than 20-30 minutes between landing the Giltheads, this wasn’t at all what I’d been expecting!

I was constantly having to re-bait and send fresh offerings out into the water, the action was pretty much non-stop. If the Bream weren’t taking the bait, the bass were straight in there and snaffled it up.

I only bothered to photograph the first 2-3 fish, though I tried to catch a little video action on the GoPro. However, having viewed it I’m not publishing it as it’s a little too revealing as to my location, sorry folks!.

As I mentioned, these Bream are rather feisty once aboard the yak and handling them at times can get a little exciting!. Yup, it is indeed a Bream below and not a flying fish!

The safest place for these fish is back in the water!. I wasn’t keeping any fish at all, I rarely do, the only exception is generally cod and the occasional nice sized bass.

Yet another Bream slips back into the water…

The fishing eventually eased off, the Giltheads had seemingly gone off the feed, though the bass were still being tempted by my lugworm. I’d noticed a little foam floating past from time to time, was this the slick that Ian had been referring to?. I paddled upstream and after a few hundred yards I saw the line of scum spanning the river. How had that passed me without me noticing?. I later noticed that the line often travelled parallel to the river, not always across it, that’s probably why I’d not noticed it passing me by.

I dropped anchor in a narrow channel and continued to fish. I picked up a couple of school bass, though the Bream weren’t there, or at least not biting. I tried more marks, though the further upstream I went the more weed was present in the water, to a point where it became totally unfishable. The tide was on the last of the flood so I headed back downstream to my original mark. First cast I was hooked up into another Bream!

That was my last fish of the day, bringing my tally for the session to seven Giltheads and over a dozen school Bass. I missed or dropped several fish as well. I’d not expected to catch any of the elusive Bream, never mind a sizeable bag. I fished over slack  water and it was totally dead. I was going to fish into the ebb but time was seemingly passing extremely slowly and the water just didn’t want to move, so I decided to call it a day.

I’d been afloat for just over six hours and  another very successful trip was under my belt. This trip to Cornwall was certainly producing the goods!. The local angler who chatted to me when I launched launch came over to see how I’d faired. He seemed rather surprised that I’d caught so many, he’d never had more than five in a session. Guess it’d been beginners luck!. First call post the trip was the fish and chip shop, I was absolutely famished. Ian had left a message, suggesting that we meet up at Coverack for a pint, well, it’d be rude not to!. It’s a lovely fishing village, somewhere I used to regularly frequent when I lived down here a good few years ago.

So there you have it, my first Gilthead fishing trip had been a huge success. It was no doubt hugely helped with the local information kindly supplied by Ian and a good helping of luck on the day. I’ve nothing more to added so I’ll let the Bream have the least say…

This is my last report from this summer’s fishing expedition to Cornwall. If you wish to read more of the reports click here.

Cornwall – Cadgwith Fishing Festival

Now I’m not really one for competitions, I used to be in years gone by, though not anymore. Sure, I fished at Oxwich for a species competition a few weeks ago, however, the real attraction had been trying out a new venue. Earlier last week Sam had mentioned about the Annual Cadgwith Fishing Festival taking place that weekend, perhaps I’d be interested?. I knew nothing about it, though as Sam was going to fish it I thought that I’d join him and double the number of kayaks taking part!.

I was there for around 7:30am and started to rig up and was a little surprised when Ian appeared. He’d been unable to fish his chosen venue for one reason or another and decided to join us for the competition. That bought the tally of competing kayaks to three, all Hobies!.

I’m not entirely sure how many people were competing, though it must have been forty or more. Cadgwith is truly a picturesque hamlet, what a cracking location for a competition!

With my entrance fee paid I quickly perused the rules sheet. Prizes were available for various categories, heaviest Cod, Pollack, Mackerel, Wrasse. There were also awards for the best specimen, best junior prize and heaviest overall fish. There were a couple more though my memory fails me.

We launched at around 8:30am and the three of us stayed together, initially fishing close the to rocks in the hope of hooking into a wrasse. It wasn’t to be, though some Pollack were taken. We moved along the bay trying various patches of rough ground, though nothing was producing fish. Sam decided to try an offshore mark and he disappeared into the distance rather rapidly. I joined Ian and pushed further South, though the swell was gradually increasing as we left the protection of the bay. The swell had been around 3’, though it quickly increased to 5-6’. We continued to push towards the rough ground that we wanted to fish though the swell soon hit 7-8’ so we decided to turn back towards somewhat calmer water.

I’d fitted my sail and Sidekicks once again and after some consideration I decided to push back out towards the heavy swell. I was hoping that it would lessen once I’d passed over the reef and that the target fishing grounds would be fishable. I was starting to regret that decision as the swells rose up to 8’ or more at times. I repositioned the Sidekicks so they were permanently in contact with the water, thus providing tremendous stability. To be honest I was quite enjoying riding the swells, quite the kick. I reached the mark, though the swells were unrelenting. I started to fish anyway, the Outback was ultra stable and I was in my element.

Much to my surprise I saw Ian on his Revolution 13 carefully pushing through the swells, heading in my direction. We kept close and jigged deep for Pollack whilst drifting. Fish were being caught, I took a couple around 5-6lb, Ian seemed to be catching a steady stream of fish and clearly lost a very good fish at one point. It’s very difficult to take a photograph from the kayak that actually does the sea conditions justice. However, the photo below seems to come close. Ian is perhaps thirty metres from me and his rod tip is just visible.

Thankfully the weather began to ease off and gradually the swell began to lessen throughout the morning. Sam appeared from nowhere and joined us to fish the mark. His offshore mark hadn’t produced anything worthy of note, hopefully with the improving conditions we’d have some better luck.

I managed to pick up a couple more Pollack, nothing big, though the fish are generally in superb condition. I’m really enjoying fishing deep with heavy jig heads. The takes are often  savage and the ensuing fights are quite exciting. There’s no better sound than line being stripped from your reel!!


We were all catching fish which was a great thing. Ian was constantly hooking up and releasing a steady stream of fish, he’s quite the angling machine. Below is a photo of Sam hooked up into a lively Pollack.

I’d drifted off the rough ground and decided to continue my drift over an area of what appeared to be sand on the fish finder. Why?, to be honest I was being a little lazy and could see from the GPS that in a few minutes I’d be hitting another area of rising rough ground. To my surprise the lure was smashed and line started pouring off the reel. It was a big fish and I was in no rush to get it to the surface. It made several hard dives and I found myself continually adjusting the drag on the fixed spool as it was clearly providing more drag as the fight continued. I’m putting it down to the drag washers heating up and expanding, though it wasn’t exactly ideal!

Eventually I started to bring the fish towards the surface and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat when a large slab-sided Pollack appeared from the depths. It dived hard when it came close to the kayak, this was not a fish that I wanted to lose!!. I stayed calm and just let it tire itself out and it slowly came back towards the kayak. It was a big relief when I lifted it onto the relative safety of the kayak. It was an absolute cracker of a fish and at the time I guessed the weight at around 11lb.

Ian peddled over and kindly took a couple of photos, just as well considering my GoPro remote battery had oddly showed up as flat at the beginning of the trip, hence no GoPro.

I hate keeping fish inside the kayak as it tends to stink them out, however, I was taking no chances in losing this fish so I shuffled forward and slipped it straight into the front hatch. I managed a couple more smaller fish, though to be honest I was highly unlikely to better that. When Sam headed in I decided to follow suit and have a spot of lunch ashore with a view to heading out for a couple more hours in the afternoon. The wind had picked up once more  and it’d mean peddling back into a stiff breeze and through choppy water. Not a problem, I unfurled the sail and set a direct course for Cadgwith. The kayak pushed along at a steady 4mph whilst sailing quite close to the wind. Sailing and fishing is proving to be a great combination!.

Once ashore I grabbed some lunch from the local shop (I’d not been organised in the slightest!). With a good fish in the hatch and some food in my stomach I decided to sit out the rest of the competition and just enjoy the festival. There was food and drink available plus a few stalls. With a really good turnout of people the atmosphere was great. The sunny weather eventually departed and was replaced with ominously black clouds. Sure enough rain followed. Sam found himself some convenient cover as can be seen in the photo below!.

The competition was drawing to a close and all catches needed to be weighed in by 5:30pm at the latest. A couple of boats were clearly cutting it close as the came steaming into the narrow cove. I’d weighed my Pollack when I came ashore using my Rapala digital scales and weighed in at 10lb 15oz, very close to my original guess. Sam did comment that it was a long fish, more akin to a fish weighing 13-14lb in peak condition.I took the opportunity to weigh the Pollack that Sam had kept, he reckoned it was 7-8lb and he was suitably disappointed when my scales were showing it as under 6lb. Anyway, it was time to officially weigh in.

When my Pollack was placed onto the scale I glanced at the readout expecting it to have lost several ounces as a good few hours had passed since its capture. Much to my amazement it weighed 13lb 4oz!, that was closer to what Sam thought my fish should have weighed and put his fish exactly in the weight bracket that he’d expected. So my Rapala scales were under-weighing by well over a pound!. I’ve weighed dozens of good fish over the years using those scales, I wonder if they’ve been wrong since I purchased them?, rather disappointing.

On a plus note it was looking quite likely that my Pollack was going to have a chance of winning its category. As it turned out it did, the next biggest Pollack coming in at around 11lb. What was even more pleasing is that is was the heaviest fish of the competition!.


To think I’d considered not entering!. I felt a little guilty walking away from a local competition carrying trophies for heaviest Pollack and Heaviest fish overall, but hey, I’m sure I’ll get over it in time!. It was a good day for the kayak fisherman, just goes to show you that you don’t need to be on a boat fishing offshore wrecks to be in with a chance of catching a good sized fish. Next trip will see me trying for a Gilthead Bream, I’m not holding my breath!

Cornwall – Going Cuckoo

Today saw the weather deteriorate considerably. The forecasters sadly got it right, 15-20ph winds, gusting to 25mph, far from ideal. I launched from Cadgwith and initially headed south. The sea was a little lumpy, perhaps a 3’ swell with a slight chop, perfectly doable. However, within a couple of hundred metres of passing the headland the sea lifted into 6-8’ swells. This in itself was doable, but the swells started to break so I decided to err on the side of caution and did an about turn!

I tried a multitude of marks over a couple of miles with only a few small Pollack to show for it, it was proving quite difficult. I decided on a complete change of location. My local contact had suggested a few marks further north, a good three miles from my current location. I hoisted sail and set a direct course. The wind was gusting quite hard so some concentration was required to avoid any potential of capsizing, though having the Sidekicks fitted minimises this risk dramatically.

In thirty minutes I’d sailed across the bay at an average speed of 5.5mph, not bad!. With the sail furled I started to fish and soon myself hooked up into some nice sized Pollack. Not monsters, but enough to put a bend in my rod and provide some good sport.

I hooked into one fish was didn’t put up much of a fight at all. It was all to clear as to why when it broke the surface. It was badly damaged by some discarded fish net which had embedded itself into the fish causing severe damage. It was quite a wonder that the fish was still alive, I’ve not seen anything like it before. It was in very poor condition and was quickly released.


I tried a few marks, discovering some interesting features on the fish finder whilst moving around. I was drifting over an area of clean ground, in between two marks, when the lure was hit hard. Or had it been?, it felt more like a snag when I pulled into it.. however, the snag was moving!. I lifted the fish 2-3m off bottom before it pulled line from the reel. It came up again before nodding hard and going back down. Seconds later it spat the hook!. I reckon it was a big cod, who knows.

At times the Pollack just pluck at the lure, other times they hit it rather half-heartedly. It can get rather frustrating when you miss one fish after another as can be seen in the short video clip below.

More frustration!

I picked up a couple of Ballan and Cuckoo wrasse, both are pretty fish, the Cuckoo’s colours are quite striking.

After much jigging I decided to take a break and started throwing some small lures into the foaming water close to the shoreline. I was hoping to find some Bass, but the Pollack thought otherwise. I was hooked up first cast before taking another two small Pollack within minutes. I’ve heard that the Bass are rather thin on the ground at the moment. I’ve managed a few school fish, hopefully I’ll manage something bigger over the next few days.

It’d been another great day afloat, sadly the bigger fish were making a mockery of my efforts to catch them. I’ve now hooked into three big fish and lost them all. However, I have faith, it’s only a matter of time before I get a run of good fortune. I’d still managed about a dozen nice sized Pollack to 6lb and some Wrasse. I didn’t take much video, though there’s a short clip below catching a little of the action.

I was still three miles from my launch site and I’d been afloat for eight hours. The wind was still in my favour so I unfurled the sail and headed back to Cadgwith.

I’d clocked up just over fourteen miles during the session, most of that under sail. I’m really enjoying the combination of sailing and fishing, it’s opening up a world of possibilities.

I’m planning a day off tomorrow, fishing everyday is rather tiring!. The combination of the fresh air, early starts, late finishes and a few ciders are slowly taking their toll. On Sunday it’s the annual fishing competition at Cadgwith, weather permitting I’ll be taking part.

Cornwall – Fish & sail

I’d fitted the sail to the Hobie Outback quite some time ago, and as much as I’ve sailed the kayak on several occasions, I’d yet to combine it with fishing. To use the sail whilst fishing was always a big attraction to me, so the time to test out this combination had arrived. The wind this day was a steady offshore breeze of 5-15mph. That was pretty much ideal as it would permit me to sail up or down the coast with maximum efficiency from the sail.

I’d chosen to launch again from Porthoustock as it’s not just a relatively easy launch site, but it also provides access to multiple fishing marks. The Manacles are located just to the south, with various marks off Porthkerris and Porthallow to the north.

Rigging the kayak to sail is a simple case of fitting the sail, clipping on the rigging and fitting the Sidekicks. This adds about five minutes to the rigging process, the question was would it be worthwhile or too much hassle whilst trying to fish?

I peddled out of Porthoustock and turned north to fish a mark towards Porthallow. I’d bumped into a friend who was diving in the area and he’d mentioned that this particular mark was holding some good sized Pollack. This is what we kayak fisherman need, send in the divers to recce some marks before we actually fish them!.

Once I was out of the bay I unfurled the sail and began sailing north. Once clear of the land the light breeze was a little stiffer than expected and I was sailing along at a steady 4.5-5.5mph.

Within fifteen minutes I was coming up on the mark so the sail was furled away. It literally take 10-15 seconds to stow the sail and the control lines. The breeze had continued to pick up so I made note of my drift before positioning myself for the first drift of the day. Again, I was jigging, using a 4oz jig head and an eel tail. Halfway through the first drift the lure was hit hard and I claimed my first Pollack of the session.

I was only getting 3-4 minutes drift time over what was a rather small mark, the fast drift wasn’t helping matters. That said, on the first four drifts I managed four nice sized Pollack, a fish a drift!. I continued to fish the mark until it eventually stopped producing hits, though it’d accounted for eight fish, all of a similar sort of size. I did hook into a good sized fish, though it was off within seconds, another frustrating moment. I really seem to be having difficulty in staying hooked up to the big fish. They’re either shaking the lure loose or I’m getting broken off. The latter it concerning me somewhat as the line has now broken twice on the mainline, not the weaker leader or the knots as you’d expect.

I didn’t even swear!

I sailed over to a couple more marks that looked as though they had some potential, though apart from a few plucks to the lure they weren’t producing any fish. There’s a Naval dive centre situated at Porthkerris and whilst sailing close by I was spotted by a friend and beckoned me over for a cup of tea… well, it’s be rude not to!. With the kayak tied off I enjoyed a hot brew and a stretch of my legs.

Once suitably refreshed I re-boarded the kayak and continued to sail south towards the Manacles. I enjoyed a couple of long drifts, though the action was rather slow. I did manage a couple of Pollack, though not the Bass that I’d been hoping for. Still, there’s no point in complaining when the scenery is stunning and the fish are biting!. It was rather choppy out there and it was important to keep a close eye for dangerous rocks throughout the drifts.

I decided to get out of the chop and move closer inshore, more for a spot of sightseeing to be honest. It really is a pretty area and I do enjoy nosing around the inlets and jagged rocks that are along this part of the coastline.

After a spot of feathering which only produced small Pollack, I decided to sail back up to Porthoustock and call it a day. I managed about a dozen nice sized Pollack whilst losing a couple of much bigger fish. I really want to bag myself a double figure Pollack, so I intend to persevere in the hope of achieving that goal.

So what my thought about combining sailing the Outback with fishing?. I’m totally sold on it, it really does transform the fishing experience. I clocked up just under ten miles during the session and 60-70% of that was under sail, maybe more. With a suitable wind I actually found myself not wanting to even peddle. Why bother when I can be under sail within ten seconds!. The Sidekicks and sail don’t get in the way at all, and it’s easy to control and re-direct your drift as required using the Mirage Drive.

The plan for tomorrow is to fish another venue in the hope of a large Bass or Pollack, surely it’s only a matter of time!