We were on neap tides the best sort when visiting this area by kayak. Low tide at Hurst Point was 8am & I would have to take the ebbing tide down to the Needles. Given distances involved (about 4miles from Hurst Point & 6 miles from launch) this meant an early start. However, British Summer Time had just ended & I'd gained an hour. The weather forecast was also looking good. The decision was made & the trip was a goer.
5:15 am saw me rigged up and heading out from Keyhaven slipway in rain and in pitch black. Within seconds I was stuck in marsh land after thinking I had been following the Keyhaven outlet channel (aka Hawkers Lake).
Adjusting the fishfinder screen to the 'nightvision palette' hadn't helped and I should have been looking where I was going. By the time I had squelched my feet in the mud to back the kayak out, my eyes had adjusted and with the fishfinder tweaked I followed a line of boats moored in the center of the channel. I was soon out into the Solent & took the ebbing tide up towards Hurst Castle. Along the way I stopped off on the shingle bank. It was still dark and as the tide can race through Hurst Point I didn't want to pass through the main shipping channel until I could see what the tide was doing.
After a spot of breakfast on the shingle bank (chargrilled chicken, mayo and pasta ), dawn came and I relaunched the kayak.
At twilight the Solent was very quiet and the water was calm with little boat traffic. However, after passing through the main channel towards the Isle of wight I heard the buzzing of a RIB. It was heading out from Lymington & a minute or so later it sped past me. The RIB was bright orange with a full crew and it had a blue light flashing on top. I had a sneaking suspicion this was a lifeboat. I hadn't heard anything on the VHF as to why they had launched but 5 minutes later I saw them a few miles away out near the Dolphin Bank assisting a yacht (the only boat out there at that time). Within 10 minutes the yacht was undertow by the RIB and they were heading back past me against the tide.
The tide running through the main channel was quite fast and I made good progress. With little effort I averaged about 4mph down to the Needles. I was passed by two angling boats who had the same idea and were the first of many to make up the car park of boats around the Needles that morning.
I had planned to stop off before the Needles at Alum Bay to tackle up and stretch the legs before fishing commenced. However this diversion would cost me a mile whilst also paddling out of the main current. Instead I went with the flow right down to the Needles and then through the large gap between them round to Scratchell's Bay.
The shingle beach of Scratchell's Bay can only be accessed around low water and I had to land here to get the rods out of the front hatch. After a brief on water survey of the beach I opted for the eastern end near Sun Corner. This was perhaps not the best place to land as it was steeper than I had thought but I landed there ok.
I had to wrestle with the kayak to drag her up the wet polished stone shingle. The beach is a lot steeper than the photo shows and there is swell.
The sail had been fitted but like my last trip there had either been no wind or when there was it was not in my favour. I've also fitted a new center hatch to the kayak. The 6inch hatch which came with the Scupper Pro was useless. Despite being resealed and using vaseline on the thread it always leaked. The new one is 7 inches, is pressure rated for use on water tanks (and also used by bait tank manufacturer, Tek-Tanks) and has a small lip so any water has to move up and over into the hatch. It's also fixed with 10 rivets so there's less flex where the hatch meets the plastic. The extra inch makes a difference. The waterproof bag I put in there is easier to fit and today I managed to squeeze a 5lb box of squid through the hatch
After tackling up I seal launched the kayak travelling 10 feet or so down the shingle & into the sea. I had no choice the shingle was steep & it was hard to stop the kayak from sliding down on the wet rounded stones. I took a wave over the bow & the cockpit got flooded. I sponged out the water and paddled over to 'Drop 1'.
Drop 1 was the first waypoint on my GPS that I planned to fish first. Given that Drop 1 was close inshore, there was swell running and I was in less than 20feet of water I decided to abandon this mark. I also skipped Drop 2 for similar reasons and headed out to Drop 3. About 3/4 mile out from Scratchell's Bay and in 70 feet of water I felt I was in with a better chance. Whilst baiting up more boats arrived. By this stage there were also a number of charter boats about a mile further out from where I was fishing. Needles Cod Master buzzed by to say hello and joined the other boats out there.
Armed with a 5lb box of squid, size 8/0s, a few token mackeral and thick mono trace (conger are caught in this area even in daylight) my tactic was simple. Fish two rods with lots of bait on a flooding tide (which at that stage had just started). Each trace was threaded with 5-6 calamari and dropped over the side.
My scent trail started and the fishing began. Unfortunately that's pretty much where it ended at Drop 3. However I did pick up a bass which gorged its way along a trace of squid until it reached the 8/0 hook.
A few hours had passed and the temptation to join the boats further out grew too much. I upped anchor and fished Drop 4 which turned out to be in between a few boats and near Needles Cod Master. I was fishing in 88 feet of water, the tide was flowing faster than my previous spot and over the VHF I think I heard of a 10lb'er coming out from one of the boats amongst us (it could have been my imagination ). Either way I felt I was in a prime spot and things were looking up. However, after a good half hour I didn't get any bites and my anchor starting dragging. I don't think I let out enough line and I was drifting down towards one of the charter boats. Given that I had to be careful timing the tides I decided this might be a good time to start heading back.
Fishing this area on a kayak you can't have it both ways with the tide - at some point you will have to paddle against the tide even if it's for a short distance. You can take an ebbing tide down to the Needles but once around the corner you're paddling against it (unless you get down there near slack water like I did).
Now that the tide was flooding I had to paddle against this until I got around the western side of the Needles from where I could take the tide up the main shipping channel. For a neap the current was quite strong, the tide was racing and pushed against me through the large gap in the Needles but I made progress and joined the main current back up to Hurst Point. It's these situations where the speed and rough water capability of a kayak count.
As with the paddle down, the paddle up the main shipping channel was easy with the current doing the bulk of the work. The tide was racing near Hurst Point as it normally does on the flood and it got quite choppy. I didn't take water in the cockpit like the last time I passed through here. Once round the corner I used the remaining squid for a few drifts over ' the Hole'- a deep water mark popular with shore anglers. I had no bites here and after half hour or so headed back. By this point the tide had eased off and I started to question whether or not I would have made it back through Hurst Point if I had left the Needles fishing ground a bit later than when I did. If I had been caught out and the tide had turned I would have tried landing on the Hurst Shingle Bank.
I will fish the Needles area again but as spring tides will be with us soon and the weather has been so variable it could be some time before I head down there.
Seems the fishing was not just slow for me today.
Edited by SpeciMan, 30 October 2006 - 06:46 PM.