Frayed Nerves

Submitted by Bill Fagg 26/10/2015

It’s a decent set of tides so I arrange to meet up with my mate Nigel Mullet Machine. 

We arrive at the car park at the same time, tackle up and get going. 

As we tromp along in the drizzle I mention to my mate the fact that my braids been fluffing up for the last couple of weeks, after a few hours of fishing it gets the point where it snaps at the slightest tug. I know something is wrong with my gear but I just can’t put my finger on it.

I can’t find any cracks in my rod rings, the line roller on my reel looks good but I’m worried. 

Having duff tackle is like having a dodgy car, it’s always at the back of your mind and if it’s going to let you down it’s going to do so at the worst possible time. 

I suggest a couple of spots where I’ve seen banks of weed on my last expedition the previous week. 

We have a couple of casts on the way but we are conscious of the high tide time so keep an eye on our watches. 

We reach the first weed patch and sure enough a few mullet are moving about and before long Nigel is whipping his fly line backwards and forwards whilst I fish a bit further along. I don’t mind fishing alongside Nigel going for mullet as where there’s mullet there is often bass. 

After only five minutes I get a hell of a good bite, my rod hoops over and line peels off my reel. 

I shout over to Nigel “Good fish!” 

Nigel looks up, the fish takes a few more feet of line and then……the dreaded PING. 

My braid snaps. 

“THAT F******* BRAID” I scream in rage. 

Nige comes over “Steady on Bill, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you that angry before, in fact I didn’t know you did angry” says Nigel. 

“That was a damn good fish Nige, I just hate it, something is wrong with my gear but I just can’t put my finger on it, maybe it’s just a duff batch of braid?” I moan. 

I chop off a further 10m of braid, stuff it in my pocket and soon resume my fishing. 

Cast at the cruising mullet, plop, retrieve, bump a few fish, pick weed off my lure ……repeat. 

The mullet numbers have increased and it comes as no surprise to see Nigel battling a mullet.


Blimey! That’s a good one I think as I see Nigel palm the spool of his reel against another strong run as I run over camera in hand.

The fish is putting up hell of a scrap.

As I watch another angler comes along to watch the spectacle of machine versus mullet.

“Alright Dan” I say.

“Well that answers my question, looks like there are fish here then” says Dan.

After the quick hello I turn round to look at Nigel.

He looks pale and sick.

Nigel is holding the rod in one hand, line in the other and grimacing.

“Help, help” says Nigel.

Christ, he’s having a heart attack I think.

I put the camera down and run over.

I think Nigel has dumped a load of line from his stripping basket into the surf so I grab a handful and chuck it up the beach.

“NO, NO, the spool, the spool” screams Nigel.

Then it twigs, It doesn’t look like Nigel has a reel on his rod anymore. He has somehow managed to hit the quick release and the spool has fallen off the rod and into the kelp filled rolling surf and there is line and weed everywhere.

Meanwhile the mullet is still going mental.

I catch a brief glimpse of a tangle of line and the spool as it unwinds, pulled back by a weed filled wave.

I lunge for it and miss but grab some line instead; another 6ft of line unravels from the spool before I see it and grab it.

I walk an armful of weed, line and spool back up the beach.

Nigel lets go of the line and starts to try and untangle the mess.

By this time I’m taking the pi$$ out of Nigel something rotten.

Dan, who has never met Nigel before pipes up “Do you always do comedy with angling”.

I try to stifle my snickers.

Nigel takes 5 minutes to sort himself out, pops the spool back in place and winds in the slack when his rod lunges round to the left.

“I DON’T BELIEVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“ITS STILL ON!” yells a shocked looking Nigel.

The fish has gone down the beach and Nigel staggers through the waves and boulders to gain line.

After another epic battle the fish is beaten but getting it through the weed filled surf is tricky, Nigel almost gets the fish out of the water when the wave drags it back out but I’m ready and I quickly scoop the fish up and chuck it on the beach for my mate.

“Well done Bill!” says a relieved Nigel.

Its yet another cracker! Nigel estimates it at about five and a half pounds.

Nigel, Dan & I admire the fish then we notice something odd.

Instead of being hooked in the mouth the fish is hooked through the eyeball – which is bulging slightly

The barbless hook has not penetrated “meat” or bone, its gone in one side of the pupil and out the other.

“My god, bulls eye Nige, how the hell to you land a fish by the eyeball, on a barbless hook as well?” I giggle “What awesome mulleting” I say.

The hook is gently removed and Nigel poses for yet another “Me and Mullet” photo to add to the machines collection.

And then the fish is returned, hopefully with no lasting damage but if I were that mullet I’d pay a trip to spec savers.

After all of the action the fish seem to have thinned out, after fishing for another five minutes I suggest another spot where I saw a thousand mullet early one morning on the last set of springs. We agree it’s worth a shot.

We hurry down the beach and reach huge banks of rotting kelp, there are mullet in their millions but they are quite far out and the sea is like rotten vegetable soup.

I flick a sluggill through the fish and every time I get multiple bumps but no more bites. In the difficult conditions Nigel manages yet another mullet.

As normal the fish thin out as the tide ebbs, the sun goes down and we both decide to head home.

“You out tomorrow Bill?” asks Nigel.

“Yea, I’ll be up early, but I’m going to chop off a load of fluffy line when I get home and try another rod just in case there’s a hair line crack in a ring that I can’t see” I say.

I grumble about the lost fish and cr@p braid all the way back to the car.

I get home chop off a load of fluffed up line and attach my reel to my old but trusty Varivas violente.

I wake up well before my alarm.

Thoughts of what is causing my fraying line have woken me up. I just don’t get it I’ve inspected each ring with a magnifying glass, run a cotton bud round the inside to see if any cotton catches and even lights run a Stanley blade round the rings to feel for nicks….nothing. I’ve inspected the line roller with magnifying glass and all seems fine.

I’m stumped and it’s doing my nut in.

I get up and turn off the alarm before it goes off and get ready.

The car says 3.5 degrees on the way to the beach but I’ve got a jumper and hoodie on as well as my coat so I should be toasty.

I make my way along the coast in the dark having a few casts here and there.

As the sun comes up I get a bite which sticks, thoughts of snapping braid flash through my mind but soon a small spiky fish is on the beach.

After the fish goes back I inspect the line. It doesn’t look quite as pristine as it should.

What the hell?

I’m using a different rod so I’ve either got a duff batch of braid or there is something wrong with my beloved Stella.

I do a short 10m cast onto the pebbles, put the rod down and walk along the line giving it a good hard tug every meter or so. The line holds but my confidence in my tackle is low. Knowing my luck I’ll hook another good one and loose it.

I’m clambering over a boulder when behind me I hear an inhuman scream.

What the hell was that?

I scan the cliffs…..nothing.

I walk a bit further and I hear another blood curdling.


I’ve never heard anything quite like it but it doesn’t sound happy.

I pick up my pace and the screaming continues.


What the ruddy heck is that?

I stop (hide?) behind a boulder and watch. Out of the hawthorn bushes comes a big stag.

I hear another scream but it’s not the stag I’m watching.

Further along the hills are another group of deer, one of these has another good set of antlers as well.

I hear the noise again and figure that it must be the deer; I’ve seen plenty of deer before but never heard anything quite like the howls from the cliffs.

Do rutting deer scream?

I’ve gone far enough, after a chilly start I am now sweating buckets, I slowly start to fish back the way I’ve come.

Half way back I stop and have a fag and inspect my line.

It is in tatters.

I give it a tug and it just about holds, I loosen the drag on my clutch and keep going, oh well maybe it well get me back to the car, I almost hope I don’t hook a fish.

As I head along the coast I reach a calm patch in between a series of finger like ledges.

I’m not sure if it’s my imagination but I think I may have caught some movement.

I cast at the ripple and no sooner has the lure plopped I get a good bite.

On a light drag the fish goes all over the place and I’m just waiting for the dreaded ping.

As I play the fish all I can think about is my knackered line and it is with great relief that I eventually land the fish.

A couple of walkers come over to see what I’ve caught.

It’s not big by any means but the couple seem impressed. After admiring the fish one of them is kind enough to take a snap before the fish goes back.

The couple walk on and I examine the line again and what I see is horrible, frayed beyond belief, I can’t quite believe it didn’t snap.

I have a few more chucks and with two modest fish under my belt decide to go home with frayed line and frayed nerves.


Postscript – I did a bit more investigation when I got home and discovered that although under the magnifying glass the line roller on my reel appeared fine it was in fact causing the braid to chafe so at least I know what was causing the problem and can now do something about it. What a relief!

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