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PYE’S PROGRESS

GARY’S TRAVELS This is the continuing antics of top northeast sea angler Gary Pye, and his task of trying to catch fish every trip. on Words and pics – Terry Patters

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FACT FILE

Angler: Gary Pye Age: 28 istant Occupation: Tackle-shop ass e erle Pet : wn Hometo rs Angling experience: 23 yea sea to es Ambition: When it com win to ts wan he s, angling matche ing! everyth

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PYE’S PROGRESS

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t’s that time of year again, winter fishing is tailing off rapidly and spring fishing has not yet begun. Gary called me and said: “Time for another trip, mate. It’s a rotten time of year, but I’ve a good, reliable place I can bank on. How about it?” Gary Pye challenged the editor of Total Sea Fishing, Barney Wright, that he could catch fish wherever he went. I, Terry Patterson, go along to record the action. So far Gary has been successful and caught fish from every venue we’ve been to – how long can this string of successes last? Gary has fished from Durham Beaches, Robin Hoods Bay in North Yorkshire, South West Scotland, Newbiggin in Northumberland, The Tyne Estuary and the cliffs at Easington. So I ask him: “Where are we going this time?” “Well,” he said, “I think we’ll go to Hartlepool. Well… not exactly Hartlepool, but a couple of miles north, to Steetley Pier. It’s not very salubrious, but usually produces fish.” “Right you are then.” I replied “I’ve never been there, so I’ll meet you at your house.” So I did. It was midday when we arrive at Steetley. Gary had brought a friend, Michael Chilcott, son of Century MD, Simon Chilcott. Michael hadn’t done much sea fishing, so he had come along to get some casting/ fishing tips from Gary. Steetley was, at one time in the past, a magnesiumprocessing factory, but long ago became derelict. We

pick our way through the discarded industrial debris to a path that leads us to the pier. The pier itself is about 600-yards long – the sides are pipes about three feet high and the walkway is wooden. The pipes were used to extract sea water from which the magnesium was processed. There is a platform at the end of the pier, which is again surrounded by pipes, and very handy to fish from. When we get to the platform there are already anglers there. The only space left to fish is from the middle, so that’s where Gary sets up. We soon hear that nothing had been caught in the last few hours as the tide went out, and everyone is hoping that things will pick up as it floods. The anglers around us get fed up and go, only to be replaced by others. We are able to change our position on the platform and, despite Gary’s casting and excellent baits, the time wears on and still no fish! The tide starts to come in, the water is still coloured, but not one of the anglers had caught anything. Gary is starting to get downhearted. “It’s the time of year,” he tells Michael. “A fortnight ago this place was heaving!” Just then he feels a small bite and soon lands the first fish of the day – an undersized dab. After we return the dab to the water Gary has an idea: “I know,” he says, “let’s go for something to eat and come back when it’s dark.” He chuckles. “I know I’ve caught something, but one small dab isn’t enough for the challenge!”

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PYE’S PROGRESS

ROUND TWO

So that’s what we do. Michael has to go home, but just after dark Gary and I make our way back to the pier. We park the car in a different place this time, nearer houses and street lighting, meaning that our journey was now through a pretty manky tunnel. Back at the pier there are still a couple of anglers. They tell us that they’ve only caught an undersized whiting. Things don’t look promising. Added to everything else, the wind has got up and is now blowing a ‘hooligan.’ Gary alternates his casts – first short with three hooks, then long with just the one. With the westerly winds blowing on our backs, his long casts are going more than 200 yards. He renews the baits completely each time he brings his line in and uses different combinations, rag, runnidown lugworm, mackerel and cocktails. Nothing seems to be working, but eventually he bags a better-sized dab.

Gary is very impressed with the new Daiwa 7HT mag reel.

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After a couple more hours we look at each other and I sympathise by saying: “Never mind mate, you can’t crack it every time.”

Gary lines up for the first cast of the session.

LAST CHANCE!

To tell the truth we are both getting tired of being buffeted by the wind and it is getting colder and colder. “Just one more cast I think,” Gary says agreeing with me, “then we’ll call it a night.” He decides to go for a short cast with three hooks. He baits up with lug and rag, and because he has run out of mackerel, he sends me to negotiate with the other anglers for a swap with some lugworm. He tips off with the bartered mackerel and lobs out about 60 yards. Because the wind is buffeting his rod tip, he holds his rod and has the line between his thumb and forefinger. After about 10 minutes he calls to me: “You’ll never believe this Terry, I’m getting a bite!” Thinking it was some sort of flattie, he is very

Lug, rag and mackerel are the baits you need.

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cautious. At first he just winds in the slack. “Yes,” he says, “definitely a bite.” As he winds in slowly he tries to identify what sort of fish he has on. “It’s quite a good one!” he grins at me. “Could be a small thornie, or a codling, I’m not really sure.” Finally when the trace breaks the surface we see that there are two fish – a dab of about three quarters of a pound and a half-pound whiting. What I see, apart from the fish, is a very relieved angler. “Phew that was close!” All that’s left is to battle our way, against the gusting wind, off the pier and back through the smelly tunnel to the car, which, happily, is still there and undamaged.

Gary is right, Steetley Pier is not a very salubrious place, but I can see that in the right season, and with halfdecent weather, it might be a cracking little hotspot. As there are only two fish we let them go so there is no supper for me, or my dogs. However, I reckon that with those fish Gary has again beaten the challenge. As usual, I don’t know where we’re going to next. It could possibly be the west coast, but I’ll just have to wait for Gary to make that decision. I can’t say that it was a pleasant trip, being buffeted by gale force winds! But from the comfort of my armchair when I got home, it didn’t seem so bad.

Hurrah! The first fish of the session is a pretty little dab.

GARY’S TOP TIPS 1

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1. LIGHT MAIN LINE

When fishing from the end of a pier (such as Steetley) you may find that you are casting onto a sandy bottom. This means you can use a lighter main line because there will be fewer snags. Still use a shockleader – a minimum of 50lb is advised – for safety reasons. A lighter main line means the casting distance is increased and bite detection improved.

2. NIGHT FISHING

Fishing in daylight is very pleasurable and many fish can be caught. But it is a fact of life that most coastal marks fish better in the dark, although this can depend on the time of year. So if you’re having no luck during the day, fish the mark into darkness and sport should

3. WINTER FISHING

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It may be just a northern thing, but give thought to keeping warm on a fishing trip. Although Gary and I were fishing from a pier, we both wore neoprene chest waders. These ensure an extra layer of windproofing.

4. FISH WITH A ‘PAL’

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This prolongs angling life! If fishing a remote mark or in the dark, it’s better not to go alone. Accidents happen and fishing with a pal means help is always at hand.

5. FLATTIE BITES

These are usually quite distinctive. The fish nibbles continuously at the bait, which causes quite sharp movement of the rod tip. Don’t be tempted to strike hard, but reel in the slack and retrieve the line slowly and steadily. Flatties only have small mouths, so don’t pull that bait out!

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Gary is all smiles because it’s mission accomplished.

PYE’S PROGRESS

ry A better dab for Ga re! mo be uld co – there

That’s it – they’v e had enough. It ha s been a dreadful trip, but at leas t Gary hasn’t blanked! Now for the ghastly walk through th e mucky tunnel…

TACKLE, TACTICS AND BAIT seabed. He removed these before TACKLE INFORMATION Steetley Pier is only a mile or so north of Hartlepool. Once part of a magnesium processing plant, now derelict, it really is a gem of a spot. Most of the factory has been pulled down, but a lot of industrial debris remains. It fishes all year round, with cod in the winter, including a few to double figures, and is a cracking place for mackerel in the summer. Anglers have also caught thornback ray, dogfish and bass, with reports of a 12-pounder last year. In the morning when we went to the pier, it was safe to park the car on the old factory road near to the cemetery. This offered a very short walk to the venue. When we went back in the evening, a safer location for the car was nearer the houses. This unfortunately meant we had to go through the underpass, under the railway line and then thread our way around the remains of the factory boundary, making the walk longer. Because the site is redeveloped, Steetley Pier, like many fishing marks around the country, will be put in jeopardy. It will be a shame if this happens and the old pier is lost forever.

Gary used all new tackle for this trip. His rod was a Kompressor S 13ft 10in Super Slim with Gearbox Design butt, supplied by Century, coupled with a Daiwa 7HT Mag Tournament Millionaire, straight out of the box, supplied by Daiwa. He’d had a practice session earlier in the week and filled his reel with 15lb Sufix Tritanium clear mono. “It goes like the wind Terry!” he told me. He added an 80lb Sufix Surf shockleader, with a clipped-down Pennell rig and a 6oz Breakaway Impact lead. For distance casting he used two 1/0 Gamakatsu worm Baitholder hooks. These are smaller than Gary usually uses, because he was targeting flatties and whiting, although they would certainly be big enough to handle a codling should one come along. Fishing from a pier meant he could short cast and still be amongst the fish. He used his Century Carbon Metal BB 14ft with an ABU 6500 C3 CT Mag (orange). This had the same weight of line and shockleader as the Daiwa 7HT Mag, but had a threehook flapper trace, again, with 1/0 Gamakatsu worm Baitholder hooks and 6oz Breakaway Impact sinker. In the daylight session, he used luminous floating beads next to the hook to keep the baits clear of the

fishing in the dark, because he wanted the bait hard on the seabed. Again, he was using his Flexigrip (three in a packet from Poundsavers) to secure his rod to the rail. The Century Kompressor S rod is designed with a metal strengthening ring and a 6in deep band of neoprene, as a grip, on the top section of the rod just above the joint. This makes it easier to put the rod together. “It’s the little things that make the difference in rod design.” Gary said.

BAIT

Gary had brought runnidown lugworm, previously gutted then wrapped in newspaper for a few days. This toughens the worms and increases the odour that they give off. He also had ragworm and, as it turned out, insufficient frozen mackerel fillets. He used various combinations of the baits, but the successful cocktail comprised a 1/0 hook with a lugworm threaded up the trace, followed by two medium sized ragworm, tipped off with a larger sliver of mackerel.

TACTICS

As he was fishing from a pier onto a sandy bottom, he needed to locate the fish. Initially he used two rods, one to cast distance and the other to

lob bait close in. For distance casting he had a clipped-down Pennell – this streamlines the bait meaning a few extra yards can be gained. Also, the two hooks on the Pennell double the chances of hooking a fish. On a short cast he used a threehook flapper rig. This method spreads the bait over a wider area increasing the chances of attracting fish. As a matchman, when Gary brought in his rig to change the bait, he completely stripped the hooks and started from scratch with fresh. Fishing many competitions, this procedure is standard practice for him, and gains an advantage as he always fishes with effective bait. In the evening, when he was only using one rod, while the bait was out he would bait another trace. This is called ‘double patting’, which again is standard practice with all match anglers. This means that the traces are out of the water for the minimum possible time, therefore allowing for more fishing time. The time of year adversely affected the number of fish feeding round the pier and, although Gary didn’t get many fish, at least he left knowing that he had caught. Whereas most of the other anglers fishing the pier that day blanked – going home with empty fish bags!

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