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Have you heard the tale about the guy who won a free holiday which cost him a small fortune to collect?

This isn't one of those stories.

When Jim Whippy rang me (Tim) to tell me that I had won the competition, set by Stewart Smalley in the October 2002 edition of Boat Fishing Monthly, I was surprised and delighted. The prize was a free day trip for two on Stewart's 'Aldeburgh Angler' out of Orford, Suffolk.

Aldeburgh Angler
Aldeburgh Angler at Orford

During my two years as a member of Locomotion Sea Angling Club, I have made many good friends and two have become close mates of the type that you couldn't choose between when it comes to a fishing treat. When Stewart returned from wintering in Kenya, he contacted me and we used E-mail to arrange the trip.

Unfortunately for John, Reg and I, 'Aldeburgh Angler' is only licensed for two anglers. In addition, Suffolk is a long way from County Durham. We arranged, therefore, for three days fishing, two anglers each day with my free trip as one of the days. We also booked accommodation for four nights at the Mill Inn in Aldeburgh. This meant that we had a leisurely journey to and from Suffolk, with no driving on a fishing day.

Mill Inn - Aldeburgh
The Mill Inn - Aldeburgh

We were exceptionally lucky with the weather and we were able to fish all three days. Reg and I took the first day and although the sea was quite 'lumpy' Stewart had us some 20 miles out on the tidal rips soon after mid-morning.

Wake of Aldeburgh Angler
The wake of Aldeburgh Angler as we planed towards or first mark

Fishing with light gear, fishing for bass and using launce for bait were totally new experiences for us but Stewart was close at hand to offer support and guidance. By lunchtime I was lucky enough to boat two bass; the larger of which was just under 3lb. Then the tidal rip began to ease and the bass went off the feed. The rips are areas where there are banks of sand or shingle which are much shallower than the surrounding sea - the tide rises over the bank and creates an area of 'boiling' water.

Tidal rips
One of the tidal rips where we fished for bass

Mill Inn - Aldeburgh
One of my two bass
Photograph courtesy of Stewart Smalley

We moved further out to a wreck and we thought that we might feel more at home since in the Locomotion SAC we regularly fish wrecks off the North East coast. Not so - still the light gear and launce or shads as bait; and up came the cod. They were fine fish too; mostly in the range 3 to 7lb.

Reg with a fine cod
Reg with one of his best cod
Photograph courtesy of Stewart Smalley

Stewart explained that the wrecks in that area are best fished at slack tide. Our best drift, when we were almost stationary over the wreck, produced a bumper catch. Reg boated five excellent cod during that one drift. All too soon, slack water past and so did the cod. Our tired, bumpy but elated journey back to port completed a memorable day.

Reg with a five cod
Reg displays the five cod which he caught on one drift

John and I took the second day and it was a smoother trip over a very slight sea. We covered similar areas to the first day but the rips were less severe, due to a smaller tide, and the bass were biting but we were unable to hook any. The cod on the wrecks were more cooperative and the highlight of the day was a 12lb cod for John.

John and Stewart with 12lb cod
John and Stewart with the best fish of the trip - a 12lb cod

Tim fishing
Tim concentrating hard on trying to beat John's cod
Photograph courtesy of Stewart Smalley

Reg and John fished the third day whilst I took a trip to nearby RSPB Minsmere. The anglers had a reasonable day but with still less tidal range the bass were not feeding on the rips. They returned with a decent bag of cod which was soon in Stewart's refrigerator to chill it for our journey home the next day. We had come equipped with cool bags and chiller blocks so we could all have fish to add to our freezers. At Minsmere, I had good views of a bittern, which is usually an elusive and secretive bird, so my day was a success too.

Stewart, Reg and John on Aldeburgh Angler
On the last day, Stewart, Reg and John return to Orford on Aldeburgh Angler

So yes, the free trip did cost us quite a bit in travelling, accommodation and extra fishing but we all agreed that it was well worth it and are starting plans for another trip next year. It could be all the better if Stewart offers another prize trip!

Many thanks to Boat Fishing Monthly, Stewart Smalley and the Mill Inn, for making our trip memorable and rewarding. My personal thanks also go to Reg Lewis and John Battye for being such good travelling and fishing companions.

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Locomotion Sea Angling Club