Friday, 2 August 2013

Cornish Lure Festival : 1700 miles, a British record, a couple of monsters and a podium finish.

Due to lack of work over the summer I had resigned myself to missing out on the Cornish Lure Festival at the start of last month, however I recently turned 40 and my wife surprised me by not only offering to pay for the trip but also offering to single handedly look after my two children while I was away. What a magnificent birthday present as not only do I love fishing in Cornwall where it's relatively easy to catch fish but it would also let me pit my wits against like minded lure fishermen to see who came out on top. With Scott being a very organised bugger, having decided to go months ago, planning on doing his own thing on the south coast for ten days and deciding not to take part in the festival I decided to give my friend Dan Sales a ring to see if he had heard about it and to see if he would be interested in coming down with me to Cornwall to join in.

Dan is an extremely accomplished angler, a former Ebro guide who has caught literally thousands of big catfish and carp and his UK exploits with monster perch have earned him a sponsorship from Fox Rage. Dan is one of the very few anglers that have matched my passion for fishing and although his saltwater experience was limited his skills are certainly not! When I explained the concept of the festival Dan was already there and we hastily organised to meet at his home in Stevenage. I arrived on Wednesday after a drive of 387 miles and we spent the evening playing with lures and discussing tackle and tactics. The next day we wouldn't be leaving until Dans partner Krystal had finished work, as she wanted to come too, so that gave us a day to play and we hatched a plan to fish the nearby canals for perch.

The next day we got up early and joined the rush hour traffic heading towards London and after a brief stop so I could pay for a rod license and grab a sandwich we arrived at the first section of the canal. I was kitted out with my LRF gear and rigged up a 3" white Ecogear Paramax on a Ecogear Shirasu jighead. With the sun so bright it wasn't ideal perching weather and with the summers increased boat traffic the canal was pretty muddy. We focused our casts around the moored barges as that's where the perch would normally hang around. It didn't take long to get some attention, all be it from a large carp that grabbed the tail of the paramax, but rather annoyingly when I struck I pulled it right out of its mouth!

I swapped to a smaller 1.5" Grass minnow again in pearl colour and began to hop it across the bottom of the canal. I could feel the tail of the lure vibrating with each lift of the rod tip and so could the perch and as the lure came into the margins a nice little perch grabbed the lure before being unceremoniously hauled out into my hands. I unhooked it and released it without taking a pic as I really believed there would be much bigger! I carried on catching a further six small perch and had another follow by the carp and again I left the camera in the bag as I hunted for one of Dan's lunkers. After twenty minutes Dan called time at this section as if the big perch were around we would have had one, so we hopped in the car and nipped off to another part of the canal.

On the brief journey we discussed the carp attacking the lure, Dan said he had never actually had one take a lure before, which was interesting considering the amount of time he had spent hunting these stretches of canal. We arrived and made our way to fish around some pontoons and moored boats all the time hoping for some big perch. After twenty minutes or so we noticed a few carp milling about and Dan managed to plop a lure right in front of one them. Quick as a flash it greedily sucked the lure in and Dan set the hook as the carp went roaring off. Dan put his Fox Rage rod through its paces and really lent into the fish curtailing its run and quickly guiding it back to where we could land it. Dan is an expert with carp and the fish was quickly landed, photographed and released before it knew what was going on. It was a nice looking mirror around 10lbs and remarkably his first lure caught one from the canal. I carried on trying for a perch before trying for the carp which were still milling about. Dan followed his first with another two carp both mid to low doubles, whilst I tried for perch but soon it was time to go and get ready for Cornwall.

Dan expertly plays this carp, his first on a lure from the canal.
A brilliant start, Dan then went on to land a further three carp on lures!

After sorting our gear and packing it in the car we picked up Krystal, made the awful journey along the M25 during rush hour and eventually arrived at the campsite in Cornwall at around midnight. We hastily got our bivvies and mattresses set up and promptly fell asleep.

Friday dawned and we were up early keen to get our bearings and start fishing, we grabbed some breakfast then headed down to the beach next to the campsite.

Full of excitement, Dan and I make our way down to the first Cornish mark.

It was another glorious day, sunshine, blue skys and a flat calm sea so we excitedly made our way to the rocks and gullies at the end of the beach. First stop were the large rockpools to show Dan and Krystal what lurked in them and my LRF gear was rigged with a #10 2g jighead and tail section of Gulp Sandworm. I lowered the lure into a rockpool and gently jigged the lure alongside a boulder. Right on cue a blenny popped out and promptly nailed the lure, Dan was amused at how aggressive they were especially how bitey they could be when being handled! He and Krystal both had a go and quickly winkled out a couple more before we turned our attention to other areas nearby.

Dan headed off to fish into the open water and he rigged up a Slug-Go on a 10g #2/0 jighead while I stuck with my LRF gear and searched the slowly flooding gullies. As I searched it didn't take long to get some interest from the resident wrasse and I watched as the small fish came out of the weeds to check out the lure. A couple of little ones came out and pecked at the lure before a bigger one muscled its way in and grabbed it. It did its best to get into the weeds but was soon landed and Krystal was on hand to take a photo. It turned out to be a clonking corkwing wrasse which weighed 195g and was a specimen fish. Back it went leaving me to continue searching the gulley. Dan was in next with a nice 2.5lb pollock which was landed after a fun fight, putting a great bend in Dan's rod! We fished on for another half an hour before we made our way back to get to St Austell to sign in for the Cornish Lure Festival.

Searching the gulley soon put a bend in my rod.
A clonking corkwing weighing in at 195g.

After we signed in we quickly slipped into competition mode and headed straight down to our first harbour mark. The plan was to fish this until evening when we would head back to the beach to see what else we could catch from it. Tactics wise I thought that if Dan and I fished together we should end up on the same amount of species, barring freak captures! Dan's limited saltwater experience mattered not a jot as all I had to do was recommend a jighead and and lure and he was able to work it to catch the target fish. Krystal acted as our fishing caddy and was always on hand to grab a camera or make vital shop runs, when she wasn't too busy catching pollock! Fishing wasn't great but we decided to stay and by the time Scott arrived to spend a few hours fishing with us we had racked up a reasonable amount of species.

Species #1 : Pollock.
Species #2 : Sand smelt.
Species #3 : Long spined sea scorpion.
Species #4 : Common blenny.
Krystal also got in on the act with four species. Pollock, common blenny, giant goby and this long spined sea scorpion.
One of Dan's many long spined sea scorpions.
Urrgh! Scott hooked this ling carcass from the harbour. It provided some much needed light relief.
Species #5 :  Poor cod.
Species #6 : Dragonet.

In amongst the usual species I also manged to catch my first tompot blenny and when I first hooked it I thought it was a small wrasse such was its size! I knew it was a big fish so after a quick measure it was 19cm long and weighed 205g. It was only when I got home that I discovered that was heavier than the British record, which stands is 156g and was caught at the same venue!

My first tompot blenny was well over the British record which is 156g.
Once I got the fish to lie still it measured 19cm, it wouldn't lie still for the camera though!
205g of tompot blenny sits in my hands, my first tompot blenny and the first time I've bettered a British record!

Fairly late in the evening we went back to base to get a bite to eat before meeting up with Scott again at the beach near the campsite to try for bass. I left the harbour with six species not including my British record beating tompot blenny as all blennies were classed as one species for the competition. Dan was on five as he was missing a dragonet after becoming the pied piper of poor cod, even though he was trying for a dragonet the poorcod were throwing themselves at Dans lure. After fishing the beach with Scott for a while it became dark and we fancied trying the rocks where we'd caught a few fish on Friday morning. Scott, not being in the competition, feeling very tired and having made plans for the following day already to go wrassing in the morning before leaving Cornwall in the afternoon wished us luck for the rest of the competition and headed off. Our midnight foray in the rockpools and gullies provided us with a nice surprise and saw us catching our first ever giant gobies. We got back to the campsite at about 1am and hastily grabbed some shut eye.

Species #7 : Giant goby.

On Saturday we woke up later than we hoped but were back fishing the harbour by 8am and Dan was first in. He had rigged a #14 hook to 3lb nylon with a chunk of Isome and weighted with a 3g olivette. He was working the weed line along the wall when he got a couple of taps so he struck and all hell broke loose. At first we thought he was snagged but the rod kept lunging down. Dan managed to get the beast out of the weeds and we saw the most enormous lobster rising up from the depths. With disbelief we managed to get it into the dropnet before landing it to hysterical laughter! The relief and sheer size had us in stitches, a truly amazing capture. We estimated the Lobster to be about 8lbs and despite offers from people to buy it Dan decided to release the old girl back to her home, much to the disbelief of the locals!

Dan grapples with a real monster!
We couldn't believe the size of it
At around 8lb and landed on a #14 hook to 3lb nylon, this lobster is a lucky beast as Dan returned it to the water!

The fishing was tough as we fished the tide down but I managed to add a launce to my tally and also managed to get a goldsinny after Dan had found a little shoal of them. Dan had kept pace well but had failed to get the elusive dragonet and the launce were proving elusive for him too.

Species #8 : Launce.
Species #9 : Goldsinny wrasse.

We then headed to the south coast to a sandy harbour mark where we hoped to pick up some sand dwelling species. Dan was pretty surprised when I said to fish the shallow incoming tide, the water would only have been a foot or two deep. He was even more surprised when I pointed out the hugely aggressive flounder chasing after my lure. I then went on to catch about ten or so of them before I added a lesser weever to my tally. Dan soon had the hang of it and added a couple of weevers and some flounder to his count. Dan had also spied a load of launce hanging out behind the harbour and after ten minutes finally managed to get one on a 1.5gram #10 decoy rocket jighead and pink isome combo!

Species # 10 : Flounder.
Species #11 : Lesser weever.

We then headed to another part of the south coast, with the intention of finding some nice ballan wrasse marks. This was one of the fish that Dan had been really looking forward to catching as the tales of their hard fighting and beauty had really whetted his appetite! Unfortunately our visit turned into disaster when I got a parking ticket from some random bitter old man hiding in a car. Rather than waste time trying to find a new mark we decided to head back up to the beach by the campsite as I knew there were probably some good wrasse to be had there. Upon arrival the tide was just starting to ebb and I gave Dan a Lunker City Ribster in Arkansas Shiner, mounted on a 10g #2/0 football jighead. I advised him to work the lure in the gullies tapping on the rocks and bouncing it over and through the kelp. While I was still tying up my drop shot rig Dan had bounded off leaping over gullies to get to a good looking skeer of rock. While I rummaged in my tackle bag casually chatting with Krystal I heard Dan call out and looked up to see his rod doubled over as he fought a big fish. It was a wrasse and a really good one too and Dan had to fight it hard as it tried to get under the ledge he was on. It was a tough fight but Dan is a master at landing big fish and he soon had the better of it. I grabbed the camera, ruler and scales and quickly made my way over to see Dans beast. When I got to Dan he was grinning from ear to ear and rightly so as his fish turned out to be an utter kelp donkey! We measured and weighed it and it came in at 49cm and 4lb 10oz, a really great fish and Dan's first ever ballan wrasse and would no doubt see him in the running for the longest wrasse section of the festival. I was really pleased as I really wanted Dan to experience the joys of wrasse, their beautiful colours, aggressive lure taking and their powerful fight, Dan was blown away. He ranked it as one of his most memorable captures and it was a truly magnificent fish. Dan released the fish and it  went off like a chubby rocket with a big tail splash. Dan had used a landing mat and this made sure it went back in pristine condition and this has really made me think about using one too in future more often to protect fish.

What a fish! Dan's first ballan wrasse was an absolute cracker!

I grabbed my rod and rigged up a swimming ribster and straight away I started to get interest from the resident ballans. A stream of wrasse fell to Dan as I lost a couple before eventually landing one of about 37cm which took my tally to twelve species. We carried on fishing for more wrasse but as the tide dropped they went off the feed so we turned our attention to bass. We spent a few hours working various lures and I managed to hook a fish at range which certainly felt like a bass. Unfortunately it manged to throw the hook about half way in so I never got to see it, I tried to console myself by thinking it was just a pollock, but deep down I knew it was probably a bass. It had got late by this point so we called it a day as we had to go and get some sleep in order to get up early the next morning.

Sunday dawned and with it our last few hours of the competition so we headed back to the harbour mark to try and grab Dan a dragonet as well as hunting for the elusive corkwing wrasse. The fishing was even tougher than the day before but after a couple of hours Dan finally managed to winkle out a dragonet bringing his species tally to twelve as well. We carried on but after another hour of no corkwings we decided to head back to the gulley where I had caught one on Friday. We were running out of time so after we parked up we ran down the hill to the mark. We had about fifty minutes to fish before we would literally have to run back up the hill again to pack up the camp and head to Wadebridge for the sign out. We searched the gulley and after half an hour Dan managed to tempt a tiny corkwing to take his lure and I managed to winkle one out with about five minutes to go before we had to leave.

Species #13 : Corkwing wrasse.

We ran up the hill and got to the car utterly exhausted before tearing off to get back to the campsite to pack up. The roads were full of Sunday drivers and it seemed to take an eternity to get back, we decided we would just have to grab Krystal and come back later to pack up camp. However on arrival Krystal had everything packed and ready to go, she even dealt with my horrible dirty socks which she deserved a medal alone for! Unbelievably we packed the car in under five minutes and made a mad dash to the Royal Cornish Showground where we would register our efforts and attend the prize giving. We eventually arrived at the showground at about 11.50am only to be informed that sign out was on till 1pm! Doh, we could have spent another hour at the beach mark which could well have yielded some Cornish silver in the form of the elusive bass!

The prize giving was set up by a small lake, a small lake that held blue trout and after double checking we could fish it we grabbed our gear. I rigged up a Berkley Gulp 1" Minnow on a 1.5g #10 Decoy Rocket jighead and Dan did like wise. We made our way to one of the fishing platforms and within minutes Dan and I had both had one Blue trout each, much to the surprise of the other anglers! After ten minutes we had both caught another two before we called it a day but it was fun to do especially with an audience watching.

Dans first blue trout, taken while we were waiting for the end of the competition sign off.
We both ended up with two each on our impromptu trout session!

We chilled out in the sun, chatting happily with our fellow anglers before registering our catches. It turned out that we had done really well, Dan's Wrasse was the 3rd biggest landed over the weekend and our impressive species tally of thirteen each put us both on the podium in joint second! I was over the moon, Dan and I had been a great team and although his sea experience was limited he really helped us achieve a quite impressive species count. It was also very pleasing to fish against the local anglers who have an extensive array of marks that they fish a lot, whereas Dan and I had to use our instincts and skill to find the fish without relying so much on local knowledge. The places were announced and we both got a great cheer as we went up to collect our prizes!

Winners from left to right, Kyle Robinson winner of Junior section, Joint first were Dean Pilgrim (standing) and Josh Fletcher and joint second were Ben Church with myself and Dan!
Joint second on thirteen species each, Dan Sales, myslef and Ben Church.

We chilled and chatted and felt thoroughly exhausted but really, really pleased, the fishing was excellent, and the company was too. It really was a great experience and one I will not forget. We met a lot of like minded anglers and  made some vague plans to get them up here for a crack at some wilderness fishing. Ben and Jo from Art of Fishing put on a fantastic competition and their generosity with prizes as well as the whole organisation of the competition was truly awesome. They really have made it the premier lure fishing event in the UK. You can read Ben's write up of the event here. Finally it was time to head back to Stevenage to drop off Dan and Krystal and the journey although long was completed in a very happy daze. This trip was one of my favourite fishing experiences, great fishing, a British record tompot blenny, a massive lobster, huge wrasse and spent with a good friend who is right up there with the top anglers in the country. I can't thank Dan and Krystal enough, what a result! Dan and I are already planning the return next year, although I hope we can get them up here for a fish before then!

Tight lines,Schogsky.


  1. Cracking report Jake, looks like you had a great time.

  2. Thanks Martin, it was indeed an excellent adventure!Hows the shoulder? Be good to get a wrasse session soon!

  3. Aye, shoulders fine not had the result of the biopsy but given it was nearly three week ago you would think it was OK.

    Off to Wales for a week on Saturday, will sort something out when I get back. Your partner on crime is coming over Thursday night, need to find him a Bass in the dark....