Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Smooth Hound Fishing, Reculver

The Hounds Of Heaven

Reculver Towers, Reculver, Kent, CT6. UK

Reculver Towers
Summer is in full swing here in England, sun with a grand temp of 25 degrees Celsius "don't laugh to loud!", a gentle neap tide so not much floating weed to make you trip hell, wind at about 4mph = flat sea, and  high tide at dusk. I don't think I could of picked a better time to hit Reculver and try for my first ever Smooth Hound. I have been carefully keeping a eye for this window for a while, and by a sheer twist of fate, The day before my planned trip, work left me 10 mins away after my last job, so I was able do some recon. And this was the final nail in the coffin that resulted in all other plans for Sunday being cancelled. during the hour I was there, I saw 4 smooth hounds caught and one fisherman gloating in Ecstasy, whilst rubbing his hands in glee "I can't do nothing wrong!!!" He had caught nine in total, one a big double,  he was so happy, and that's an understatement honestly!  this just egged on the excitement in me, nothing was going stop me returning with my rods.

Fish Hooked
I invited Jerry, my cousins husband with an out of the blue phone call cheekily saying "fancy shark fishing tomorrow?", after a very short pause a "OK". The details were discussed. I've been fishing plenty of times with Jerry before, but always carp fishing, I did have to wonder if he thought I was mad with this new proposal, but he loves his fishing too, and the lure of catching a Smooth Hound would appeal to most fisherman. We meet at the railings along the seawall at 2pm, over eagerness or stupidity? the tide was so far out it made fishing impossible from the railings as it meant pulling any hooked fish over a small mountain of weedy boulders. We could of fished off the beach, but from my recon I knew the fish were coming from here, the water was deeper, and I felt that we should just set up and wait, rather than lose the swim to another fisherman, and why not, it was a beautiful day and I found just waiting very relaxing.

juicy soft peeler crabs
The time wasn't totally wasted waiting for the tide, we went foraging for crabs in the rock pools, although we had some frozen peeler crab, you really can't beat fresh bait from the beach your fishing, it's exactly what the fish are eating. We found about twenty crabs,  but the feisty crustaceans had a great escape planned, which left us with ten.  I did wonder how to fish them as they had hard shells, but we was lucky, one of the large crabs was soft, he had just shed his shell, I keep that ace up my sleeve. The rigs were simple enough, a straight though running leger rig with a 5oz breakaway lead, a 1 meter, 35lb clear mono snod with a 2/0 tronics big dog hook. I was using my 11' 6" Shakespeare extreme bass rods and Shimano Biomaster reels loaded with 15lb mono and tapered leaders, I had absolute faith in the reels, but a fisherman's comment about my rods left me in a little doubt, because they are on the lighter side. But the sea was calm, and I just thought I've played big carp and catfish on lighter rods with ease. I was only going to find out one way, I had to hook a Smooth Hound.

It took an eternity for the tide to come in enough to start fishing, it was getting on already, and to a beautiful sunset we cast our lines out, baited with frozen peeler crab. My first couple of casts at full range of about 80 meters seemed to find themselves landing straight into seaweed beds. and resulted in me struggling to reel in a large mound of bright green seaweed, Jerry on the other hand wasn't casting as far and avoided the weed. By the third cast I had found a clear patch at about 80 meters. I had some funny bites that I didn't recognise, almost vibrations with single little pulls imbetween showing on the rod tip, possibly crabs or maybe seaweed hitting the line, I never really did find out. But I knew they were not Smooth Hounds, I was excited to see how a Smooth Hound bite would go, The clutches on the reels were set light enough to allow line to be striped from the reel during a take and strong enough hold line in the current, every piece of Smooth Hound fishing advise I read, says how extreme the bites are and how easy it is too lose a rod. I wasn't going to ignore it,  I needlessly rechecked the drag on mine and Jerry reels repeatedly whilst waiting for a bite.

beautiful sunset
About a hour had passed, and I was seriously wondering why we hadn't had a bite yet? this time yesterday over ten had been caught from this spot. Was it the frozen peeler bait? maybe not, the other fisherman to the left and right hadn't caught anything yet either. But a cyclist commented as he slowly passed by, carefully riding round the ends of our rods " They're on there way! they've just started catching the on the other side of the Towers." I didn't think twice, it was time for the one shot weapon, our one and only fresh live peeler crab!, cut in half, one for me and one for Jerry. We left the legs and claws on, laided the hook shank along the cut flesh, with the point as far away from the legs as possible, I then bound the bait to the shank of the hook with elastic carefully going between each leg and claw with a few extra turns at the top and bottom. Perfect!! What a difference to the frozen peeler crab, It smelt nicer, was juicier, had more colour and a full set of intact legs, we cast cast out and waited with even more anticipation.

I ain't nothing but a hound dog!
Then just as dusk was starting the guy to our left had one hooked, I immediately walked to my rod to check the drag again, now definitely a habit!, and as I touched the reel its screamed loudly! as quick as it started it stopped, was that me? I looked around to see if I had kicked the rod, I hadn't as I looked up and rod tip swung round in a big curve to the left with a continuous screaming clutch as line was taken. I definatly wasn't losing this rod, it was already gripped in my right hand. I lifted the rod and held the spool to stop it spinning, and struck! the rod bent right round almost at a 45 degree angle, I quickly set the drag. Woo...A proper fight! it ran for a bit more before I stopped and turned it, then I gained a lot of line very quickly as it headed straight towards me, then it ran again stripping about 20 meter of line. I was in no doubt that this was a Smooth Hound, Apart from the power of the fish, I also noticed that it was also fast and kited along the water, It was a good fight, the best I'd ever had sea fishing! I found the rod was fine for this fish, and being lighter than the average beach caster made the fight a lot more fun. Although I admit I could be singing a different tune if the Hound was twice the size. After a few more smaller runs I had the fish at the waters edge. I walked along the wall to the largest gap between the weedy boulders and carefully guided the Smooth Hound through the gap, Jerry had gone down the steps to the 4" ledge, which run along the bottom of the wall, he grabbed the leader and pulled It too him, holding the shark by the tail he lifted him straight up in the air. YES!!! my first ever Smooth Hound!! A Beautiful Starry. It was strong and took quite a effort from both of us to hold it still on the unhooking mat, the hook was perfectly hooked in the middle of the lower lip, and came out easily with long nosed pliers. And a very big thank you to Jerry for going bare foot down a very slippery concrete ramp and balancing on the slippery boulders to release the fish back into the water without throwing him, which could result in the fish landing on the submerged boulders as the tide wasn't in quite enough.

I have to say I was over the moon and punched the air a few times in celebration, I had done what I set out to do, for some strange reason I wasn't concerned about catching anymore, But I did want Jerry to catch one, and even gave him one of my rods. unfortunately we just had the frozen peeler crab left, but nothing, no more bites, so we decided to pack up before dark, it was late, and we both had a long drive home with work the next day. All in all, and for a change, It had been a beautiful day for fishing, and believe me there have not been many this year, yet! I had carefully planned and successfully targeted a Smooth Hound, a new species to me. And what I learnt for next time is to make sure I have the best quality peeler crab I can get, the frozen peeler crabs I had seemed washed out and broken, I just got the impression that we should of had more bites than we did. I would also love to do a night fish for them, but that involves having two days off work in a row, and that's a luxury in my trade. Its been a while since I've been so happy about a session, and looking at a few of the pictures in recent blogs I really have to say that I don't seem to smile much. well I do! and today! I couldn't stop ;-)

Smile for the camera!

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