Former Olympic athlete and coarse angling personality, Dean Macey, tells Sea Angler how he recently got bitten by the sea angling bug and why it’s given all his fishing a new lease of life
Not to get too political, but I don’t agree with fishing the rivers right now, so for the first couple of weeks of the river season I’m always a bit lost about what to do.
A few bank holidays ago I took a couple of carp angling pals for a bike ride around Canvey Island, where I live, and as we rode past the sea one of them said, “Oh, I went fishing there once and caught a couple of bass.
We were using heavy rods like broom handles and only fishing 20 yards out off the rocks”. A couple of days later we were trying to go coarse fishing but it was super busy everywhere we went so I said, “I could get my barbel gear and if you think there’s a chance of catching a fish why don’t we have a go fishing off the sea wall and see what happens”.
We went to the local tackle shop, bought some ragworm and ended up catching six bass. They weren’t big but for the first time in my life, after living on an island for 45 years and not being interested in what’s been underneath my nose, sea angling got hold of me.
I always associated sea fishing with big rods and little fish and I remember stories from my school days about dredging in the Thames Estuary that killed all the fishing. My brothers-in-law all fish from the island and from boats, but I’m not really a big boat lover so it never appealed to me.
I’ve got a 35g lure rod I use for perch fishing (damn, have I spent some serious money on lures!) and a 2lb barbel rod that I use and can take 4oz of lead if I need it. They are the two rods that I stick on my bike. I’m literally barbel fishing for bass.
I don’t think I’ve blanked yet and I’m now fishing further afield than just the island. Aside from bass I’ve had a couple of thornbacks, a couple of flatties – I don’t know what species they were.
I’ve found mullet in probably the most difficult scenarios. I’ve done all my research but not only am I targeting very spooky fish, but fish that aren’t in front of me for more than two minutes.
I’ve had a couple of goes using lures and bait and had a few follows using a fluorocarbon hooklength on the back of the lures baited with a little bit of ragworm.
I’m learning a lot of what I call blood lessons.
My mate said “don’t go fishing after a storm because it doesn’t fish very well”. I’ve learnt that. “Don’t go fishing on a big easterly”. I’ve learn’t that too. I’m learning different marks, different tides, when the marks start fishing and when they switch off.
It’s just like when I started fishing as a kid on the rivers and the lakes. I’m learning every bit of information this year and I’m making all the mistakes now, fishing as often as I possibly can so I get them out of the way so that when I do find the big ‘un I’m ready.
I’ve had a couple of bass pushing 4lb so I’ve done alright but I need to get the thrill of the bites out of my system – I’m addicted to them. Some of the bites from the little schoolies are so dramatic!
If we go up to the River Crouch we take our bikes and just ride until we don’t see anyone. Fishing is very popular again at the moment but there comes a time when you don’t want to be fishing a swim 20 yards away from a complete stranger.
You want your own bit of peace, isolation, space, time and freedom.The best thing about sea fishing it is that it’s given me a spark back for fishing. All of my fishing is better because I’m excited about one element of it.
I caught four PBs this winter – perch, barbel, grayling and arctic char – but it was all a bit “samey” and I really wasn’t enjoying my fishing that much. Then came the spring and I started bass fishing and realised that sea fishing was a whole new world to me because now I know I can do it on light gear, go off on my mountain bike and fish for four hours – it’s exactly what I used to do as a kid.
The fact that I’ve got another string to my fishing bow has given my fishing a boost. I’ve just taken delivery of my new two-man fishing kayak that my wife wanted – it just happens to have four rod holders on it too. Whether that five, six or seven-pound bass takes me two or three years, I don’t care.
This is my life now.
I’ve had a couple of bass on Momo surface lures. The majority of the better bass I’ve had have been on the Savage Gear weedless minnows with the three-gram belly weighted hooks. I’ve got a mix of everything – some recommended to me, some I thought would work well and others that I researched online.
I love fishing night tides but it messes with my day’s work the next day. When you are carp fishing you can go to bed in your bivvy and go to sleep if nothing’s happening. When you’re fishing a night tide, you’re up, awake and fishing all the time.
I’m excited because I’ve lived near the sea all my life and I’ve trained on the beach, along the sea wall and on the steps three days a week for the last 30 years. Now when I go for a run or I’m riding my bike with my wife I’m looking at the sea in a completely different way – everything is a recce for my next fishing session.
It’s come along at the perfect time. None of the filming, presenting and sponsorship within fishing that I’ve had over the years has ever been by design – it’s all just come along at the right time and it’s the same with sea fishing.
It’s given me so many more targets that I didn’t have four months ago and it’s rejuvenated all my fishing. I will always be thankful for track & field and fishing because if it wasn’t for them I honestly don’t know what I would have done with my life, and I’ll always be thankful for sea fishing because it’s given my coarse fishing the kick up the backside that it needed.
We all go through peaks and troughs when we can’t be bothered but this trough has been a little bit longer than usual and sea fishing has helped to snap me right out of it. It’s given my fishing a new lease of life.