I don't mind admitting that the sea surrounding the Isle of Wight came as a bit of a shock to me. You see my impressions of the water surrounding our nation are founded on the muddy waters of Great Yarmouth, Weston Super Mare, Skegvegas or Blackpool. From the moment the ferry which carried us to the island left Southampton water and entered the Solent it became quickly clear that the waters surrounding the island are pretty much gin clear. Really, from most places on the island overlooking the sea you could easily surmise you were in the Mediterranean if it weren't for the multitudes of regional British accents you hear and the general lack of consistency in the weather.
I have learnt my lesson with trying to fish as much as I have in the past on holiday since BB has come along and for now with a raging toddler filling both mine and JB's time, I conceded to not over commit and just take a couple of lure rods along just in case I got the chance to have a dabble in the rocky clear waters around Colwell Bay and Totland where we were staying.
Not long in I got the chance to have a little explore and chose to go and check out a intriguing reef which jutted out from the land between Colwell and Totland. Literally with no experience fishing these clear rocky marks I choose to fish a 4" curly tailed grub on a Texas rig after research revealed this to be a good method to target wrasse and maybe even bass along the edges of the reef. I realized as soon as I arrived that the tide was on its way up and this meant my fishing of this area was of a single dimension. Really I would have loved to gone out onto the rocks but good sense prevailed and lucky it did as the tide, once level with top of the rock, ripped over them with the power of the Atlantic behind it. I raised a single hit on this session which I was convinced was from a wrasse lurking close the edge of the reef. My failure to strike may go some way to explain why I never connected with the fish, but hey ho they'll be another chance I thought....but there wasn't!
On my first outing I did notice through my polarized glasses that the entire sea wall in the area I was fishing was paved with massive random boulders along its base. So when the next opportunity came along I went out armed only with a drop shot rod to fish worm style baits amongst the rocks and target some of the mini species I figured should be lurking in the nooks and crannies.
This turned out to be my best decision and just happened to coincide with the best evening's weather we had the entire time we were away. First drop in and I felt the familiar rattle as some micro monster took umbrage with my wiggling worm gyrating in its front garden. Paradoxically to how quickly I got some interest, it took me ages to settle on a productive hooking arrangement and to actually hit one of the aggressive little fish which were assaulting my lure. After several missed strikes I finally hooked a powerful little fish which once pulled from the rocks circled like a mad head before revealing itself to be a stunning and my first ever corkwing wrasse.
Turns out every gap in the rocks bigger than half a foot seemed to contain at least one which would come flying out its hidey hole once my lure touched bottom and began to gyrate around in front of them. Whether it was hunger or aggression motivating attacks one thing was evident, these colourful critters did not stop biting that tiny worm lure until they ripped it off, I removed it, or they got hooked.
Through the few hours until the sunset I caught loads of these amazing little fish that lived in quite a savage place amongst the rocks with the pulsating waves constantly smashing upon them. Some were only a few inches long and others as big as my hand. But they all had the same things in common; they were all the most amazing myriad of colours, and they all were super aggressive.
The conditions proved to be my greatest problem whilst we were on the island. The incessant west south west wind battering up the Solent made light lure fishing seem rather futile. On more than one occasion an opportunity to get out for a quick session was made pointless by the wind. In the end I was tempted to go and spend a late afternoon on Yarmouth pier to try and winkle something from amongst the pilings.
Once again the wind didn't help me out and that, in combination with a racing tide firing along, it made for an interesting session. A lot of the locals were chucking out mackerel feathers with big leads to drag them down in the savage tide. Me on the other hand had nothing more than a 30 gram drop shot weight to try and get my lures near the bottom. This endeavor did not prove fruitful at all! Even with low diameter braided line and my heaviest weight, the whole rig was sinking only momentarily before the tide tore it away and lifted it off the bottom.
I wasn't about to give up though and after a good look round I found a couple of shoals of small bass loitering under the end of the pier, attacking tiny fry as they attempted to seek shelter around the pilings. Instead of fighting the flow I used it to my advantage and with a black and silver Fox micro fry on the hook I cast the weighted rig up tide and retrieved it mid depth along the pilings past the shoals of hungry bass in the shade of the pier.
First cast...BOOM! and even a one pound bass sticks a proper bend in a light lure rod in the powerful tide of the Solent, trust me. The little bass were so preoccupied by attacking the smaller fish they never gave the lure so much as a second look before smashing it. These silver spiny predators were stuffed full of tiny little fish which were unidentifiable once the little bass had grabbed hold of them. In a manic hour I was casting constantly and retrieving the lure through several lines around the piling; doing so resulted in me catching several nice bass and losing quite a few as they shook off the hook just as I tried to lift them up. As quickly as they appeared, those little Bass sank back under the pier, but finding them in the first place made the trip up the coast and the day ticket fee well worth it.
That trip to Yarmouth pier turned out to be the last session of the holiday as the conditions towards the end of the week got a bit worse and before we knew it it was time to board the ferry again to cross the Solent back to the mainland.
I find myself thinking back to these few short sessions with fondness and I realize now that in perfect conditions and with the addition of a maybe a beach outfit, the Isle of Wight could really be sea fishing heaven. The combination of being able to go after the micro species and bigger fish could produce some amazing captures as long as you can actually get out fishing and cope with the strong tides. Maybe in the future I might get a chance to put my theory into practice, possibly when young BB is a bit older and might want to come along for a go himself should we go back.