Andrew and myself headed down to the river early morning and were greeted by the sight of the entire river valley filled with freezing mist. It was cold.... cold for Cornwall anyway. I wasn't going to be cold though, i had two layers of thermals on my bottom half and 3 layers up top including the awesome Tsangpo thermal from Palm. A couple of thick thermal socks beneath the drysuit socks would help keep the feet warm. This all sat beneath the Bora drysuit to form the barrier between me and the icy cold air and water. A warm hot topped things off. Suited and booted. The kayaks were rigged and loaded and then trolleyed down to the launch spot. The low hanging mist and silent river created a somewhat eery atmosphere...
There wasn't a breath of wind and the water surface was very calm. The kayaks seemed to glide effortlessly on the surface. In these conditions you can really enjoy how the kayak moves through the water and pay attention to each of your paddle strokes. Paddling on such water really is a joy. We headed up river as the plan was to fish in the tidal creeks. Flounders will move up and over the muddy flats within the creeks on the flooding tide to search for food, mainly worms and perhaps small crabs, prawns and shellfish, that can often emerge from the muddy ground as the tide covers them.
As we made our way up the river the water went super glassy calm, but something didn't look quite right. On closer inspection the surface of the river was covered in a thin sheet of ice!! It was so still and so cold within the river valley that the saltwater had frozen! This is not something i have encountered before in the usually mild South Cornwall.
The sound of crunching as the kayak bow and paddle blades broke the ice was incredibly satisfying, almost like popping bubble wrap!
Between the sections of ice were pools of perfectly calm water, which made for some stunning reflection shots. The paddling really was effortless and the river quite beautiful through the mist.
We carried on paddling into the mist. The cold air against the face was bitter!
A couple of miles from the launch spot we reached the creek we wanted to fish. The tide was already flooding over the mud flats and hopefully the fish wouldn't be far behind. The plan was to drift fish flounder spoons. This is a technique where a metal or plastic spoon (without the handle!) is attached to the line a few inches behind a hook loaded with the bait of choice. Today that would be ragworms. The spoon is then dragged across the sea bed and can be freelined if its shallow, or fished on a running ledger, and this was the method opted for today. As the spoon skips over the sea bed it causes a disturbance that would hopefully attract the Flounder. Some say the action mimics a crab (a potential meal) on the move, others believe it is the shiny or coloured spoon which grabs the fishes attention. It is likely a combination of the vibration/disturbance given off by the spoon and the visual attraction which cause the fish to take a closer look. This technique is also popular for targeting Plaice. I will have to put together a rig post at some point.
By drifting, we hoped to cover ground and find more fish. The small neap tide had other plans. Our 1.5oz weights were enough to hold us stationary in the slow moving tide. It was as if we were fishing in a lake. We persisted for a couple of hours but the bites just weren't materialising. I think a combination of lack of tide and super clear water had killed the fishing.
We pulled over to the side for a leg stretch and coffee break before ditching the fishing. It was time for a paddle and explore! The tree-lined creeks making the perfect place to paddle around and look for interesting things we could take a closer look at. We paddled to the top of the creek where a freshwater stream met the top of the tide.
A small set of shallow rapids prevented anymore paddling so with the kayaks pulled up to the side we carried on up the overgrown stream by foot for a little while. It really was quite beautiful with big boulders covered in thick moss and big ferns lining the banks.
The water was bloody cold but all that clambering required a cool down. The water was hovering around a balmy zero so in we went!
Despite the icy cold water we remained dry and warm in the drysuits, highlighting the importance of wearing one in the colder months. The body parts exposed to the water (hands and face) were absolutely freezing and numb within seconds of contact with the water. Had i been wearing clothing that would have allowed the water through to my skin, things would not have been so comfortable and potentially led to more serious problems that may compromise self-preservation.
Refreshed and ready to go we headed back to the kayaks and set off on the 2.5 mile paddle back to the launch which was a joy in the calm. The blue sky had replaced the hazy mist and the ice had mostly melted. Despite the lack of fish an enjoyable day was had on the water with some different scenery. It's a bonus to even get out during January so I'm not complaining!
We put together a little video of the day for the new Canoe Shops Group website, you can check it out below:
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