Loe Bar – Taking the Myths out of Fishing the “Bar”

On the South coast of Cornwall, lies half a mile stretch of shingle bar separating the largest fresh water pool in Cornwall, The Loe from open sea.

The deeply sloping beach is renowned for its fishing as well as other interesting facts, myths and legends.

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Myth – The shingle bar was created by Jan Tregeagle a man of evil who was given the futile task of moving all the sand from Berepper beach to Porthleven. He fell when crossing the then mouth of the river Cober and the sand emptied into the mouth of the river blocking its entrance forever.

Fact – Until the mid 1800s the river Cober was still used by ships crossing the gap before it became blocked.  Large storms and tidal waves have probably played a major role since the 1850’s. Tidal waves hit the Cornish coast in June and October 1859 and in April 1868. These events were not part of any storm and were not just simply one huge wave – the one in 1868 was described as being a “succession of hundreds of great waves for more than an hour”. In January 1924 another tidal wave destroyed part of the fishing village of Porthleven, swept away large areas of the cliff and threw vast quantities of shingle onto and over the Bar.

Fishing Loe Bar

Understanding the Bar and how it works will help keep you safe when fishing. The Bar is replenished with shingle at an incredible rate especially during big storms. Longshore drift operates in both directions across the bar. The drift is immediately apparent when your fishing, cast straight out and you will find your lead moves left (predominantly) with the drift before settling in the shingle. The bigger the sea and tide and prevailing wind, the stronger the drift runs right to left across the beach. If your lead does not hold ground, you will find it washed a hundred yards to your left and buried in shingle in no time.

If you’re planning a session and the forecast is anything over 3ft, take beach spikes with you if you have them, they help keep the lines as high in the water as possible and prevent your line being pulled into the dump by big waves and helps stabilise the rod for bite detection. Under 3ft and a standard rod rest should suffice.

I often fish with both spikes and rest when the wave height is higher.

rodrestand spikes

This lets me put the spikes down the beach just above the wash up the beach, the kit and rod rest are well back. This way I am at a comfortable distance back from the dump for bait changes, unhooking fish etc. without having to look over my shoulder at what the dump is doing, especially once it gets dark!

When to fish the bar? There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account. Wind, wave height and strength is the most important. Use surf forecasts to get a rough idea of the predicted wave height for the duration of your session. Don’t rely on this however, as its rarely accurate but always look at the predicted wave height for the duration of a planned session. It may start small but can quickly build into a monster over a 6 to 8 hour session.

In this clip, wave height 7 to 9ft – it looks like I’m standing close to the dump, I’m standing on the rocks under the cliff right under the Anson monument, 2 hours before HW. The dump is powerful enough to sweep right up the beach to the rocks. Now imagine that in the dark with all your gear on the beach!

This clip is the same day, looking back up the path towards Porthleven, then sweeping around to the Bar.  The waves can be seen sweeping up the beach, with this regularity its a sure sign that that its not a day to fish the bar no matter how far you’ve traveled to get here. Bigger waves are always expected, no such thing as a freak wave , they appear too often to be called “freak” down the Bar.

A few tips that may help, especially so if you’ve never fished there before:

Always get there before dark and on arrival, don’t do anything until you have watched the wave action for 10 to 15 minutes.

  1. Note how far the waves wash up the beach, if the wave strength is high they will travel a fair distance up the beach, do not fish in these conditions.
  2. Note wave height, if it’s up to 5 foot, in my opinion this is your limit, over 6 foot and it’s not only dangerous, but it will be very difficult to get the lead to hold on the cast.
  3. Scan the surface, it’s not unusual after a storm, for rafts of weed and general rubbish to be on the surface. Once it’s dark you won’t see it.
  4. If the tide is on the flood, the waves will increase in size as it nears high water (HW), take this into account especially if HW occurs later in your session when it’s dark and if it’s a Spring tide it’s likely the waves will increase a few foot on the rise, falling back slightly with the ebb.
  5. Keep watching as some bigger sets of waves are very common on the bar. If you stand and watch carefully you will see just how regular these bigger sets come in.
  6. Do not be tempted to stand in the wash up the beach, it only takes a couple of inches of backwash to take your feet away from under you, the bar is very unforgiving if you end up in the water, do not take any chances.

So you’ve checked it out and you decide to fish. Check out the beach and note the HW line, that’s the best place to put you gear for an incoming tide. If you have beach spikes, these can be put a safe distance from the line of the dump coming up the beach and moved with the tide.

A 5oz gripper lead will do for anything up to 5ft, if the wave height does rise and the lead does not hold then its handy to have a few bigger leads handy just in case, providing your end gear supports it, so probably best to rig up with a leader with a view to going heavier if needed.

If you haven’t fished the Bar before, it’s worth just attaching a lead for an exploratory cast before rigging up, so that you can see how the drift is working. Unless the wind is Easterly, the drift will be from right to left looking out to sea. Try casting slightly right of straight out first and beyond the dump. You should notice the drift will take your lead left, before settling on the grippers which if you got it right should now be straight out. If it’s gone further left, subsequent casts should be further right until you find the right spot. You can’t afford to have slack line, as the dump will take your line in and you’ll end up back on the beach or lose your rig, having said that, it is unusual to lose a rig on the Bar.

This clip by forum member bigraymaster shows how to fish the bar when the dump is just about on the limits of being fish-able, great care should be taken and keep gear well up the beach.

Distance casting isn’t needed at the Bar, it goes deep quite quickly, but you have to clear the dump. This will vary from day to day, all that is needed is to clear the breaking waves. You’ll know soon enough as the lead won’t hold if you’ve cast into the dump particularly when fishing the bigger 5ft or so waves. Too close and your rig could end up buried, the backwash is pretty powerful, you’ll notice that on the retrieve, try to time it to make use of the incoming waves to “surf” fish up the beach.

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When the beach is busy and crowded, it’s the guys that haven’t worked it out that end up crossing your lines or you dragging their line in when you retrieve your rig which you have correctly positioned straight out. If you’re not confident with your casting, when it’s crowded the bar isn’t the place to go. On the other hand, when it’s quiet down there it’s the perfect place to practice getting your casting right.

Parking and Access

The whole of Penrose and the Loe Pool area is NT land. There are farms and holiday lets at both sides, Penrose and Chyvarloe

Chyvarloe:

The access is from the Helston end of Loe Bar, check out the Google maps and look for the road that turns off by Culdrose main gate and head towards Chyvarloe farm. The parking areas are signed just past the farm. There is a metal post which prevents cars driving down the track to the bar, use the car parking areas and walk down, its only a 10 minute walk. Do not block any farm gates, this is a working farm.

Porthleven:

Back to Google maps and check out Loe Bar road, there is parking at the end of the road, park here and walk to Loe Bar, again only 10 minutes. Penrose estate is private and access is restricted to residents and holday lets, please respect the privacy and do not attempt to drive through the estate to Loe Bar.

Stay safe and enjoy your fishing.

The information on this website is provided “as is” take the advice given if you choose to or just ignore it and do whatever you usually do when going fishing. SWSF makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information on this website. Use of the information contained here is a guide only, you fish as always, at your own risk.

One comment on “Loe Bar – Taking the Myths out of Fishing the “Bar”

  1. Varian Lea says:

    Great informative write up. This is why i have took the time to learn to cast well. You can fish Loe bar for longer than most as you are above the shore dump and can cast from a safe distance.

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