Martin Greaves, 46, runs Whitby Angling Supplies …
“We keep a whole range of rigs ready-tied for those who just want to clip one on and start to fish and we do a starter combo of 12-ft beach rod, fixed-spool reel and line, for about 35 quid. But if you went up to, say, £150 or so, I can guarantee you would notice the difference. Watch a cheap rod and it twitches with every wave. A good rod stays steady until you get a bite but when you do you know it. I don’t know how they do it. Serious anglers will pay up to £300 for the best carbon fibre, which lets them use rods up to nearly 16 ft to cast a five or six-ounce lead, and £100-£200 for a reel, because a multiplier is best but a cheap one will not cast like a fixed spool.
“November to March, the locals are after cod, which come in close when you have rough seas churning up the ground. You fish for them at the bottom, with a trace taking your hook a couple of feet away from the weight. Fresh lugworm is the most popular bait when available but you can buy frozen bait at any time – lugworm, mussel, squid or what is known as crab cart, which is basically chopped crab offal tied up in a teabag or clingfilm with holes punched in it. A cocktail of that and worm is effective, because the cod are tuned to the smell of crab. In the summer, they tend to be further out and it’s harder to catch them from the shore. Where you get cod, you get whiting, but you want a smaller hook.
“Basically, you are not going to get anything much where you just have vast plains of sands. The cod want some structure to lurk in, rocks or a ledge or whatever, and so do the sprats and sand eels they are chasing, so you need to know where to cast to find them. The advantage of a charter boat is you get taken to the right place. But the locals know where to cast from the shore and you can see some of the likely places at low water.
“The tourist season really gets going about Easter. That is actually a bit of a flat time for fish but around the end of April, the bass start to come in quite close with the tide, chasing sand eels. You can catch them by casting as little as 20 yards with light spinning gear and a hard lure, meaning an imitation of a sprat or a sand eel or a big worm, made of plastic or whatever, about 13 cms long, with a little weight to hold it just below the surface. Rapala and Yo-zuri make good ones.
“June, July, August, are peak months for mackerel. You can take them with a little metal spinner but some people like to use four or five silver or glittery feathers, like you would off a moving boat, with an ounce or two of lead so you are retrieving through mid-water.
“People get confused by weights but all the designs have a point. The standard bomb is good for casting. A ball-shaped lead is known as a rollaround because it is meant to be swept about in the current, taking your bait with it in a natural way, which is another way of fishing for bass. A coffin lead or a clock lead, like a big Polo mint, is more likely to stay where you put it. A lot of leads now come with an arrangement of wires designed to give you grip when you want it but to let go when you pull. You might also take the precaution of a rotten bottom rig. If your main line is 30-lb breaking strain, you would probably go up to 60-lb at the rig end. But the line between the weight and the swivel your hook is tied to would be say 25-lb, so it gives when it has to. To stop the weaker line breaking on the cast, you hook the weight up on a rotten bottom clip, which is an open hook designed to let it all slide off when it hits the water.
“For line, most sea anglers nowadays use braid, which is much stronger for its thickness than monofilament , so you can use 30-lb braid on a reel which would only hold 12-lb or 15-lb mono. It stretches less, too, so you can feel every movement, and even fishing from a boat, where you don’t need to cast far, 30-lb braid is better than 30-lb mono because it is thinner and less likely to get carried out of place by the tide. But you still use mono for the end rig for various reasons.
“In September, as the mackerel fade away, people fish off the pier for pollack, which come in for the big sand eels known as launce and you use them as bait, alive or dead, or a bit of mackerel belly. A popular trick is to take one of those little dense bouncy balls and drill through it so you have a float which hangs just below the surface and moves with the tide, so you can use an outgoing tide to take it out for you , with your bait hanging four or five feet below.
“There are all sorts of rigs but you can get away with a hook on a simple trace, known as a snood, dropping off your main line or a swivel tied into it.
“Weed is a problem you just have to live with sometimes, because it often goes with fish habitat. One hook is less likely to get snagged than two but you might fish with more than one if you know the conditions.
“Some fly anglers like to use fly in the sea, because it’s a sporting way to take fish. A bass will rise to a big fluffy fly.
“I like to go after salmon and sea trout on the River Esk, but the Esk is fairly well tied up. The Esk Fisheries Association runs most of the prime waters which are not entirely private and it has a waiting list. But the Danby Angling Club sells day tickets for the higher stretches, where you get some big fish and a good stock of brown trout. And there are some free stretches where you only need your rod licence – not the most likely, but fish are taken there every year. There are also two good local still waters – Lockwood Beck and Scaling Dam.”