Hanging Out in Cornwall
A talented photographer and videographer, as well as a skilled all-round angler, Laurence Hanger should be a name that plenty of you out there are already familiar with. Having spent years honing his craft behind the camera with his own YouTube channel, earlier this year, the 27 year old from Surrey landed a well-deserved job as a media producer for the tackle giant Drennan.
Laurence went to college in my hometown of Newquay and it was here that I first met him whilst out fishing a local mullet mark. He had already amassed a wealth of knowledge on the mullet fishing locally and over the next year or so he selflessly shared what he’d learnt with me, opening my eyes to exciting prospects that I had right on my doorstep and giving me the knowhow and confidence to make the best of them. He’s a great guy to fish with too, bringing a lot of freshwater-schooled subtlety to his sea angling style. I’ve learnt a lot of useful things just from watching what he does and asking him about where the thinking behind it comes from.
Since finishing his degree and moving back to Surrey last year, Laurence has made a point of trying to get down to Cornwall whenever he can and indulge his passion for the unique coastline around these parts. His trip in September of last year was a big hit on the fish front, with small eyed ray and bull huss falling to his rods, as well as his usual quarries of mullet and wrasse. When he visited again in March of this year, he went all out on the mullet and scored two five pounders in a week.
Laurence had planned to come down to Cornwall earlier this autumn and catch the productive September/October period but, as things panned out, it wasn’t until the beginning of November that he was able to make it. November is still a fantastic month for shore fishing around these parts and I was confident that between us we could rustle up a few fish.
Thick lipped mullet were high on the list of target species and there had been a few showing locally. However, Laurence’s visit didn’t coincide with a particularly good window for fishing any of our more familiar haunts and so for our first venture, we decided to try a little further afield. I wanted to have a crack at an open coast beach mark, whereas Laurence had a good feeling about a popular harbour venue. In the end, we decided to fish both, trying the beach for an hour or two on the flood then moving on to the harbour for the ebb.
As soon as we arrived at the beach it was clear that I had badly misjudged the weather conditions. Legering is the method at this spot but with the wind coming in hard straight across it, it was virtually impossible to read anything but the hardest bite. Fortunately, a small thick lip did take pity on us and kindly impaled itself on my size 8 Kamasan but even before high water we were both feeling that the harbour had to be a more sensible proposition.
Retreating from the windswept coast to the shelter of the harbour, we were both glad to get down to some fishing where we had at least some chance of seeing a bite! These bites were quick to come too, with both of us getting some good knocks almost straight away on our bread baits fished with a small cage feeder. I had a feeling that these were small fish and this suspicion was reinforced when Laurence hooked and landed a small thick lip. I suggested that we move to the other side of the harbour where a pontoon offered cover to the bigger, more wary fish.
The bites were quick to come at the pontoon too, with the fish steadily growing in confidence until Laurence finally converted a rattle into a hooked mullet. Training our torch beams on the clear, calm water, we could see the flashing of a meaty flank as the fish gyrated underwater and we both hoped that it wouldn’t get any ideas about running off under the structure. Luckily, the mullet behaved and it wasn’t long before it came in range of the net and I managed to get it in the sack. Despite its stocky frame, the fish weighed a little lighter than we both thought it would but at 4lbs 1oz, we certainly weren’t going to complain!
The next couple of hours passed in a blur of missed bites for both of us. I only managed to make brief contact with one fish while Laurence did hook and play another thick lip in the 3lb class before it shed the hook just as we were starting to think about netting it. Still, we’d had an absolute result with the four pounder and we were both thinking the same thing – it had to be worth another go the next day.
The following evening, we made our way back to the harbour accompanied by Mark Reed who was keen to try his hand at a nighttime mullet. We all decided to start out with leger gear near the pontoon, although Laurence and Mark were keen to explore the rest of the harbour if things started out slow and Laurence was dead keen on trying to catch one off the surface if the chance presented itself. As soon as we started fishing, it was obvious that the mullet had learned from the previous evening and were a lot cagier. I fished hard for a good couple of hours before finally hooking a mullet that ran me under the structure three times before the hook dropped out. Gutted! Mark and Laurence had trouble getting anything going in the first spot they tried and they both began moving around the harbour looking for fish.
We all fished on but it wasn’t until I was thinking about calling it a day that I noticed some excited chatter from Mark and Laurence about thirty yards away in the corner of the harbour. They had found a lone mullet butted right up against a boat that was taking floating bread from the surface. I carried on packing away my gear but my attention was suddenly grabbed by the sound of a buzzing clutch. I wheeled around to see Laurence with his rod tip buried as far under the water as he could get it, applying the heat to a seriously pissed-off mullet. I dashed around as quick as I could, catching the tail end of the battle as Mark’s calculated stab with the net paid off handsomely and a plump thick lip was lifted to safety in the mesh. We all felt this fish was an easy five pounder with its solid frame, although when I picked it up in the net it felt lighter than I was expecting. The scales don’t lie and this surface feeder failed to make the five by a measly three ounces – Laurence should have waited until it had downed a few more globs of soggy bread before catching it! Nonetheless, it was a tremendous fish and the best any of us had seen caught at that venue to date so we were well pleased. With a fine bit of angling teamwork, Laurence and Mark had salvaged the session.
The next morning, Laurence managed to drag himself out of bed early and headed out solo after another of his favourite quarries: ballan wrasse. I was halfway through the school run when a video came through from Laurence showing an absolutely beautiful fat ballan languishing in his net. It turned out he’d ended up tempting a couple of 4lb+ lumps in the last half hour of his session: result! Laurence had some video work to take care of for the rest of the day but he was keen for a go at catching a huss later in the evening. Choice of venue was a no-brainer for me, with ideal conditions, the spot that had done us well the year before was screaming out to be fished.
A small swell pulsed at the base of the comfortable rock ledge we were stationed on with the odd bigger wave sending up a puff of spray. We steadily worked our way through the bait supply, throwing large offerings of fish and squid flesh into the darkness. Although Laurence was kept busy by a steady stream of small eels, I was confident we’d tempt a huss at some point in the session. As it turned out, the big doggies must have been in a sulky mood as it took a good few hours before my rod tip banged over hard with a typical huss bite. I picked my moment to hit into it but I knew I had got the timing wrong when the fish started to come in too easily, despite feeling like it had the weight to put up a fight. Sure enough, as the huss surfaced in the torch beam, it looked like a reasonable one possibly into double figures. With a lazy lash of its rough-skinned body, it leisurely spat the hook and slowly swam back down into the depths. I’m usually quite at peace with the fact that huss are such capable escape artists but it does burn a bit when you’re trying hard for one and your only encounter of the evening ends so frustratingly!
Our time on the mark dwindled away and we packed up, our business with the bull huss left unfinished. Laurence had to go back home to Surrey and had no more time to try and get revenge on Cornwall’s huss population but, then again, it does give him all the more reason to come back down to Cornwall in the near future and settle the score. I’ll be sure to report on that when it happens but until then, keep an eye out for Laurence’s video productions for Drennan at https://www.youtube.com/user/DrennanInternational/ – he has a knack for making fantastically engaging short films that are sure to appeal to anglers of any and all disciplines! Also if you’re on instagram, be sure to follow his angling photography at https://instagram.com/laurencehanger/.