Hope’s Nose: the rough with the smooth

The waters of Torbay, like so many other locations, no longer teem with fish, but Hope’s Nose in Torquay, Devon, continues to come up with the goods – it’s one of the best shore marks between Teignmouth and Brixham. Around 25 different species have been taken here at one time or another.

You get down to the quarry floor by a steep but easily negotiated path leading down from the road. The final way down is via a plateau where there are several choices of descent for the last 21m (70ft).

On the north side of the point there is a small beach of sand and shingle. About 4.5m (15ft) out from the undercut rock wall the ground is light rock and stone, surrounded by shingle. Beyond this the bottom is cleaner shingle and sand.

On the south flank the fishing is influenced by a sewer which pours out into the sea, creating a clear stripe visible for rather more carefully.

Hope’s Nose is a considerable size and there are a number of areas of particular interest for anglers looking for bass, ray, bull huss and conger.

The south flank is very rocky and when the wind is gentle, coming from the northwest or south, fishing from the front edges of the exposed rock is perfectly safe. But wind from the east and south-east above force three can be dangerous – particularly some distance out to sea. The ground here and farther round the south side is rough — consisting of gullies and ledges which can account for a lot of lost tackle. Underwater the rocks give way to semi-rough ground and then shingle farther out.

Sport for all

As a summer venue for mackerel and garfish Hope’s Nose has no equal. So prolific are these species during the hot months that the collection of ledges on the spit’s north flank is known as Mackerel Point. The swelling tide sweeps round from Lyme Bay bringing mackerel galore to this zone while on the other side of the point you find only the odd mackerel.

These two summer sport favourites offer great fun for the hordes of holiday fishermen – especially on float tackle. But the dedicated angler, who is interested in bigger fish, needs to consider the approach during big, springtides.

When conditions are right anglers work the front edges of the rocks, casting baits on to a fairly smooth bottom of sand and shingle for plaice, dabs and ray. From the small beach on the north side out to Mackerel Point, the ground is much cleaner and consists of shingle and sand.

Most of the plaice and dabs, and also the occasional small turbot, are taken in this area. For flatties you need to fish the last two hours of the drop to low water. When the water is down the fish tend to be more concentrated and the baits are possibly a bit easier for them to locate. When there is a fair chop on the sea you find that the chances of plaice are improved too. A 75m (80yd) cast is usually sufficient.

The shape of things

It is after dark that Hope’s Nose gives the best fishing results. That’s the time to whack out peeler crab baits into the flooding tide. As the water gradually engulfs the long stretches of jflat rock, the bass move in. You need a strong trace — say 25 lb (11.3kg) — to combat the bass’s fighting antics over a dangerous terrain.

To fish successfully at night or when the ground features are covered, you can’t beat having a thorough knowledge of the character of the place, or at least getting some idea of the profile of the bottom at low tide, in daylight. It helps you to drop your bait into the shallow gullies which are most likely to be visited by bass in the early stages of the flood tide. Bass are found all around the headland in the months of September and October, but there is every chance of a very large loner throughout the winter.

Ground knowledge is the name of the game here. Not only does it make it easier to target likely fish-holding areas, it is also important for personal safety. When working the forward areas keep a close watch on the incoming water and establish a safe line of retreat.

Night prowling

Between June and November, sizeable conger are on the move at night. Large baits of squid or mackerel or a combination of both get the best response. On the far right of the Nose there are deep channels which hold many feet of water from quarter tide up. These can be reached by a moderate cast from high and relatively safe rocks. Take extra care, however, when moving over them in the dark.

The rough ground on this side is ideal territory for conger weighing in the region of 40 lb (18kg). But even if you connect with a fish of such a size, getting it ashore is a rather rum prospect. The danger is in getting down to the waterline to gaff. Try to work out the best tactics before you get a fish on the hook. Long-handled gaffs are the order of the day but even then it’s no easy matter to control 1.8m (6ft) of writhing eel in the light of a pressure lamp. It is essential to fish in company at night – the deep clefts can be very dangerous.

In the conger areas expect encounters with bull huss too. A single hook leger with a size 9/0 hook on a 90cm (3ft) wire or mono trace can be effective. Although the rocks are waiting to eat up all your gear, your best bet is to try to cast on to the fairly flat rock platforms between the gullies. Then ‘swim’ an eel over the hazards.

From the rocks facing Thatcher Rock – an offshore island—you’ve a chance of locating spotted and small eyed ray on the shingle beyond the ledge. Like conger and bull huss, rays are best sought during the night with live sandeel bait.

Round the bend

Large grey mullet swim in the sewer outfall near the tip of the nose, feeding on the rich effluent. This is where you should float-fish your bread baits -just on the edge of it.

Specimen wrasse are a possibility when the tide swells. The fish tend to lie under overhangs of rock which never dry out. They can be voracious takers of hard, soft and peeler crab on a single hook leger rig. The odd small one succumbs to sliding float tactics. The biggest wrasse are taken from the rocks facing east (front of the spit). Divers frequently report ballans as big as 15 lb (6.8kg) in the deep kelp-strewn gullies in this area. Divers are a good source of information for anglers who want to know more about what’s going on underwater. The size of the tide is quite important — the bigger the better for most species, especially pollack and bass. The best state of tide depends on the species you are after. Wrasse fishing is best for the last hour of the ebb, and the first hour of the flood, especially if you’re looking for them in deep holes. You can pick up the odd fish the rest of the time.

Pollack, bass, mackerel and garfish are best fished for on the flood, as are plaice and sole.

Conger feed best on the night flood on overcast and especially on moonless nights. Mullet can cruise through at any time.