As I hadn’t been fishing for a long time I decided to join a few guys on the beach at Cleveleys. They were holding a match and although I wouldn’t be participating I needed to get out fishing. The forcast was cold with maybe a touch of snow.
You can just make out two of the lads walking to the sea, waterproofs and warm clothes clearly evident, and boy was it needed. As I got down to the water after crossing a couple of gulleys (more on these later – you can just see them in the top photo) a blizzard started, whipping up the beach from the south (left to right) and the temperature dropped so much I could hardly feel my fingers.
They say anglers are mad and I’m inclined to agree but damn, it was good to be out after so long. Good company is worth a little hardship and if we didn’t fish in rubbish weather we’d never go out in the North West.
Normally I’d be re-baiting every 15 minutes or so but as my hands felt a lot better inside my pockets I left my bait out longer than usual so I could chat to the guys and catch up on gossip, and keep my fingers warm.
I was using Mackeral as bait as the cold weather had driven the lugworms deep into the sand making it almost impossible to gather them even for the professional bait diggers.
The usual banter was had with dave trying to convince us he could see a bite developing, we were convinced it was wishful thinking on his part but, as is not uncommon with Dave, he proceeded to reel in a lovely little Dab.
This put the pressure on the other guys that were fishing the match – I was just glad to be there as by now the snow had stopped and it didn’t seem to bad after all.
I was started to regret not bringing my serious waterproofs though as they’re a lot warmer than the top i had on yesterday. I wasn’t cold as I had many layers on but my other top is padded, it’s just not very waterproof anymore so it was a case of increased warmth verses fully waterproof. With the snow at the start I guess 100% waterproof was the best choice.
I walked along and chatted to a few of the other guys then wandered back to my rod. If fished competitions before where every second counts but today I was just enjoying being on the beach with a bunch of friends.
Imagine my surprise when, after reeling in I had also caught a Dab – I just hope this is a sign of things to come, local knowledge and skill are very important – but you can’t beat luck.
As the tide turned we made our way back over the gulleys, we know that they fill quickly and it’s hard to see them in the dark – as I was only wearing wellies, all be it with fully waterproof salopettes, I was first to cross followed by the others. The first gulley crossed we fished for another 1/2 hour or so before I made my way back over the final gulley. I noticed that it was filling quickly and called to Dave who was next to me (wearing full chest waders) that I was shifting ‘camp’ to the other side of the gulley. Dave called to the rest of the guys then waded over himself.
By this time it was dark and as Dave reached me the water was up to his waist. What we couldn’t see was one of the other guys had become stranded on the sand bank on the seaward side of the gulley. He was not alone but he only had wellies on but he’d left it a little to late and his boots had filled with water. Ian stayed with him as long as possible then waded across futher up the beach to get help.
Then we noticed the light was still on, on the sand bank. Our friend could not get off, he was starting to get very, very, cold and the water was getting deeper and deeper. Only one thing for it, call the coast guard. Someone from the prom had spotted us and brought down a rope with a bouyancy aid attached but Dave got swept off his feet as he tried to make it across the now very deep gulley, thankfully the rope was firmly anchored on our side and he made it back but still our fried was stranded and getting increasing desperate.
But we couldn’t see Ian anywhere. Thankfully he’d found an area to wade across and rejoined us on the landward side of the gulley. He told us later his heart sank as, from a distance he saw someone’s light as they attempted a rescue knowing that the water was to treacherous and yelled at them to stop but couldn’t be heard. Thankfully Dave was wearing a floatation suit that is not only warm, but bouyant.
Time stretched and it seemed ages until the coastguard showed, our friend was getting desperate and was shouting that he was going to try and swim. Remember how cold I said it was? We yelled for him to stay put and just as it looked like he’d given up the light from the RNLI’s inshore boat could be seen, he couldn’t see it as the water was up to his chest by now but we could. We shouted at him to listen for it, anything to give him the strength to hold on and just stay put then they arrived.
From what he says the water was to shallow for the boat so two of the crew jumped in and swam to him and threw him on board. After a brief trip to the station and a cup of tea all was well but it could have been so much worse.
Now we are all very experienced anglers, we fish this coast a lot, we know the dangers and we know when to come off the beach when the tide turns. Looking back at it now I can see what went wrong. It was a very big tide so the flood (when it turned) was very powerful and came in quickly. The wind from the South made the tide flood even faster than usual. It was dark and it’s difficult to see the gulleys fill behind you. It was very cold and although our friend fishes a lot he is not as spritely as he once was, he says his strength just went once his boots filled.
So, needless to say after last nights adventure and looking back on all those times I’ve thought “just one last cast” I will no longer fish this area at lo-water on anything except the most moderate tide heights and during the day. And although I never do, it just goes to show you should never sea fish alone.
This was a lesson learned – thankfully with no lasting harm done. It was reported in the local paper – not entirely accurate but close enough – Blackpool Gazette
Here is the link to the RNLI and I encourage anyone who does anything anywhere near the sea to visit and perhaps make a donation – without them I’m not sure our friend would be here today.