04/09/2016 - Go (South) West!

Considering I live in the Midlands, I've had lots of opportunities this summer to indulge in a bit of sea fishing, particularly light rock and light game fishing for the smaller species.

The August Bank Holiday saw us down in Pembrokeshire again. However, the fishing didn't go entirely to plan as I had a blank for the bass and then again for the trigger fish. However, I did find a spot where I caught some donkey-sized shannies that will come in useful for next year's species hunt. 

This weekend we were down in the South West again, but this time in Exmouth visiting friends. Saturday morning saw the lads and dads heading down to the docks for high tide armed with a pack of fresh rag. Unfortunately, ongoing works to the slipway and a residential development meant that access was quite limited. However, we found a spot near the compass where we could fish over the wall into a large slack next to some rocks.

My friend Simon had brought his kayak rod, so I set him and his lad, Daniel, up with a two hook flapper rig baited with whole rag on size 4 Aberdeens for the "big" stuff, whilst my lad, James, and I fished with scaled down scratching rigs baited with scraps of rag on our LRF rods. Simon was quick out the blocks with a couple of small ballan wrasse before I'd even got the other rods set up.

With the other baits in the water we soon started picking up more ballans, along with the occasional male corkwing wrasse, James getting a "triple shot" at one stage! Despite being the only fishable spot, it soon became apparent that there were loads of fish about and, whilst we were fishing over rocks, they were flat and relatively snag-free. Along with the wrasse there were lots of small pollock to keep me busy unhooking fish, re-baiting hooks and tying new rigs for everybody else - deja vu! We weren't the only "fishermen" in attendance either - the local seal popped up a couple of times and there a couple of cormorants fishing off the little beach in front of the apartments.

        As the tide started to ebb, the bites from the wrasse seemed to dry up and, whilst Simon got a bonus little bass, it was the shannies that moved in instead. James started bringing them up two at a time and Daniel caught some real "donkeys" by sight-fishing for them in the shallower water. However, I was holding out for either a scorpion or my first tompot blenny, both of which had featured in various Googled write-ups about the venue. Just as we were thinking of packing up, I had a determined rattle on the rod tip and as I wound the fish to the surface I realised I'd added to the species list after all.

Bizarrely, next and last drop down I had another, so I was quite chuffed when we headed home for a well-deserved sausage bap!

Simon and Daniel had rugby training on Sunday morning, so it was was just James and I that headed back down to "compass point" for high tide again to use up the last of the rag. Unfortunately, I'd not checked it before we left. Upon unwrapping the newspaper, it was obvious it hadn't fared well in the utility room overnight, i.e. it was dead and well on the way to decomposition! However, whilst this made the baiting up process not particularly pleasant, it didn't seem to put the fish off at all as we picked up where we left off the day before. The juvenile pollock appeared first before James found a spot in between two rocks that yielded a number of ballan and corkwing wrasse and a couple of bass. The fishing followed the same pattern as the previous day, with the shannies becoming more prevalent as the tide turned. James added a tompot to his tally before I got smashed up by a much bigger fish that took the very last scrap of usable bait. Packed up at this stage and headed home after another successful session, but stinking of semi-rotten ragworm and very keen to wash our hands!

05/08/2016 - Gars and silver bars

Happened to have a chat with John at Raven Trading about how his species hunting was going and got around to garfish. He mentioned that there were quite a few coming out at Saundersfoot so, having managed to procure a mackerel at the last minute for bait, James and I headed off down to the harbour for a evening high tide.

The outer wall was lined with grockles flinging mackerel feathers to the horizon, sideways or straight up in the air depending on their competency, but we spotted a gap where a couple of chaps and their kids were packing up. Had a quick chat with them, but it didn't sound too hopeful as they said nobody had caught anything all evening! However, undeterred, I set up the float rod for James with an adjustable two-hook rig baited with thin belly strips of the mackerel, which turned out to be less than fresh! To start with one of the size 6 hooks was set at about 18 inches below the float and the other at 3 feet. Cast it out about 20 yards to the edge of the ripple. It was then just a question of getting the boy to keep an eye on it as it drifted back towards the wall, hopefully to be intercepted by a garfish or a mackerel. 

In the meantime I set up one of the light rods with a scratching rig and dropped it down the side of the wall baited with bits of equally stale ragworm and prawn to see if there was anything about. Didn't have to wait long before I had the first of many rattles.

Basically there just seemed to be a couple of species present. Either the bait on the bottom was taken by a shanny, or a sand smelt grabbed the bait on the top hook - it was a race between the two! However, didn't mind as there were plenty of both and I still appeared to be the only person catching anything! The garfish rig had been re-cast a couple of times when James said the float had gone under. Told him to wind the slack in quick and he briefly felt a fish on before it came off. Cast out to the same spot and it wan't long before the float was off again. This time I wound down and struck for him and then handed him the rod. After some brief, surface acrobatics our target species was safely in the net.

Unfortunately, he turned out to be deep-hooked, so he was swiftly dispatched for the boy's tea. Re-baited and cast out again for the float to disappear almost immediately. James confirmed fish on and got it to the point of lifting it out of the water when it fell off. However, there were no problems with the next one. This was hooked nicely in the beak, so was released with a quick shake of the forceps. Not long afterwards I had an unexpected silver eel that made a complete mess of my end rig! It was getting a bit dark to see the float by now and the crabs seemed to have moved in under my feet. John happened to turn up at this point as well so, after thanking him for his tip off and gleaning yet more useful information off him, we gave the crabs the leftover, manky bait and headed home. 

A few days later, I had the opportunity of lure fishing a couple of early morning low tides down on the estuary at Lawrenny for the bass. 

First morning I was up at 5 am, making my way down to the estuary in the half light to catch the tide as it turned and started flooding back in. Kept faith with the "teaser rig" - a bass fly on a dropper about three feet up from the lure. It was nice and still when I arrived, so started with a surface lure, but after about half an hour I'd had no interest, so switched to my favourite Megabass X-120. However, whilst this obviously got down the where the fish were feeding, all of the subsequent takes were on the fly. Had a couple of mini-bass, then lost a decent fish as I was drawing it into the shallows to unhook. Working my way up the beach I had a better schoolie before the racing tide and bright sunshine called a halt to the session.

In complete contrast, whilst I got an extra hour in bed, the following morning was cold and windy. Got to the venue to find somebody already fishing from the point and, as I put my waders on, another van pulled up beside me. Had a quick chat with the driver who was also down for the bass. He said that there'd been some decent fish coming out on soft plastics. I'd not got any with me this trip, so that was filed away for future reference. He was obviously keen to get going, so left him to join his mate on the point, while I went down onto the beach.

Over the next couple of hours I methodically fished my way towards them, occasionally having a crafty look to see how they were doing. Saw van chappie catch at least two nice fish. All I'd had at that stage was a micro-schoolie that you would have struggled  to make a fish finger out of! However, that was to change with the weather. The wind dropped completely and a fine drizzle set in.

My companions on the point packed up, confirming as they walked past that they'd just had the couple, whilst I persevered a bit longer. Walked up to the point where the incoming tide was now creating a pronounced crease between the main channel and the beach. Cast down and across the crease and was rewarded by a thump on the rod tip from a plump schoolie. Next cast the tip thumped over again, resulting in a bigger, albeit skinnier, fish. Carried on for a bit, working back down the beach, but that was it. 

Stopped off on the way home to pick some samphire, which I made a very satisfying breakfast of with a poached egg on toast. Well...you can't have a bacon sarnie every day!

31/07/2016 - Gobies, gobies and more gobies!

A family celebration combined with a "staycation" meant two weeks down in Pembrokeshire this summer and hopefully plenty of opportunity to wet a line. Mini-species hunting was definitely on the cards again and I'd already made up some light rigs at home in anticipation.

Rather than fiddle about tying these up from scratch with my fat fingers and failing eyesight, I bought some Flashmer "mini sprat" rigs from Alderney Angling. With a couple of extra swivels, a few beads and some hooks hooks to nylon out of the tackle box I got three "two up, one down" rigs out of each packet, which for £1.30 each I thought was a bargain.

First opportunity to put them to use them was the morning of the family do. With things not kicking off until the afternoon, my son James, friend Simon and I were allowed a couple of hours down at Hobbs Point. Things didn't get off to a flying start when we called in at Raven Trading to find that their last two packs of ragworm were already spoken for. However, after a quick stop at Tesco we had some raw tiger prawns as back-up and headed down to the dock. We'd timed our arrival to co-incide with low tide, so we could fish in comfort off the end of the old car ramp.
Tackled up the rods and baited the mini-rigs with slivers of prawn. James was first in with the ubiquitous rock goby, the first of many!
                                                                                                   I was soon into the action with some rock gobies of my own, with the occasional black goby also making an appearance when they could get a look in! Could see a few fish darting in and out of the weed on the side of the ramp and a bait dangled in front of their faces soon confirmed these to be little pollock. Simon had been struggling up to this point with his heavier gear and bigger baits, so I swapped rods with him and it wasn't long before he was into the gobies as well!
Carried on being pestered by the hoards of "rockies" (the seabed must have been covered with them), with just the occasional pollock and small wrasse thrown in to break the goby monopoly. However, by the time our couple of hours were up, we'd all caught fish and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The next trip down I was by myself. The weather had also taken a turn for the worst, with a brisk wind blowing straight up the Haven, bringing squally rain showers and white horses with it. Figured the best place to be was down on the temporary mooring, tucked out of the wind. The downside was that it was like fishing off a boat with the swell pushing up the estuary rocking the mooring from side to side!

Fortunately the weather hadn't put the fish off and I actually managed a couple of other species apart from the ravenous packs of gobies. Dropping the rig off the end off the mooring platform into open water I had a couple of sand smelt in quick succession, almost translucent when held up to the light apart from a solid line of silver scales along their lateral line. Moving around the corner I tried something different, scraping the lead down the face of the wall until it found a ledge. The reaction was instant as a greedy little shanny, or common blenny, grabbed one of the baits. Tried the trick again only to feel a familiar "pluck, pluck, twang" and a dead weight as a crab seized the bait instead.

Had had a few of these bait robbers when a particularly vicious little shower came through and  effectively called a halt to proceedings. Called into Raven Trading for a pack of rag on the way home looking like a drowned rat! Had one more session down at Hobbs Point the following day. Fished the first hour with the heavier rod and bigger baits hoping for a bigger wrasse, pollock, but didn't get a sniff. Switched over to the light rod, but couldn't shake off the gobies, or add to the species tally. Time to follow up a hot tip..........?

11/06/2016 - Return to Gran Canaria, part two

Over a few beers on the terrace, Stuart suggested that we have a fishing competition - one hour with same bait and method (Angleworm on the dropshot) for most fish and most species, me against him and Rob - so the next morning saw us heading over to Puerto Mogan again. As soon as the tide allowed we scrambled out onto the breakwater with the crabs. 

The competition was a "roving" competition within the confines of the rock, which in practice meant we were often fishing within a foot of each other depending on where the fish were! 

The action was fast and furious right from the off, with hordes of damsels and ornate wrasse attacking the bait as soon as it hit the water. At the end of the hour I'd edged it on numbers 49 to 47, whilst we'd both had three species - me a parrot fish and the others a small puffer. With it being Saturday, there were also quite a few locals on the main breakwater, all float fishing bread or prawns, in the deeper water beyond the drop off. However, apart from one unfortunate parrot fish that was dispatched into a bucket, we saw nothing else caught! 

Next day we drove into the interior via one million hairpins (certainly felt like it!) and walked up to Roque Nublo, a basalt needle in the centre of the island and what's left of the original volcano that formed it. On the way back we stopped off at the beach at Taurito for some food and a couple of beers. Leaving the others at the bar I ventured onto the rocks up the right hand side of the beach and made my way around the corner to a spot I'd had some success the year before.

However, apart from getting smashed up a couple of times by what were probably big parrot fish, I only managed a few damsels and ornate wrasse before the tide forced me back up the rocks. Stuart had snorkelled around at this stage and mentioned that he'd seen a big shoal of small barracuda in the vicinity of one the hotel discharges, so I switched to small metal lures in the hope of snagging one. Didn't have to wait long before I had a couple of bumps and then a fish on. Unfortunately, despite carrying on casting to the same area, that was the only 'cuda I could manage and a couple of lost jigs brought the session to a close. Monday morning saw us back at "sex" beach. Stu had ear problems, so it was just me, Rob and Duncan that scrambled down the valley. Upon arrival we found we had the beach all to ourselves. Unlike the previous visit, there was a visible line of debris at high tide level, presumably blown in by the onshore wind. Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, it was obvious that it was mostly fragments of plastic, an all too common sign of what we are doing to our oceans!

The tide was still in, so I started off casting from the beach over the sand, slowing bumping the rig back over the ridges and feeling for bites. 

After a few casts I had firm rattle and hooked into a small fish. As it got in closer I could see it was a flatfish, similar to the one I'd lost on the previous visit. When I swung it into my hand I confirmed that it was specifically a perfectly camouflaged (and perfectly named), wide eyed flounder - another new species. Had three more of these of various sizes before handing the rod over to Rob, who'd been hovering around behind me. After a bit of tuition he managed to catch a flounder and a couple of Atlantic lizardfish, which seemed to satisfy his curiosity and get me my rod back!  A few casts later I was bringing in another small fish when the rod tip slammed over as something suddenly made a beeline for the rocks. My suspicions about what had happened were founded a couple of minutes later when I dragged a large Atlantic lizardfish up the beach clutching the cleaver wrasse I'd originally hooked. The wrasse was successfully rescued and returned apparently none the worse for wear before I had a closer look at the lizardfish. I certainly wouldn't want to be a small fish faced with that huge mouth filled with needle sharp teeth! 

Had one more flounder and a couple of small lizardfish before it went quiet, so had a break and sat in the sun with the others for a bit. However, once the tide had gone down sufficiently I started to make my way over the rocks to fish the drop off. I'd just passed a dustbin sized rockpool when I spotted a big blenny-like head poking out of hole. Whatever it was hastily retreated upon seeing me, so I quickly tied up a split shot rig with a #16 to nylon baited with a fragment of Angleworm and dropped it in. Felt a tug and unceremoniously hoiked what I later identified as a pretty little rockpool blenny out of his hideaway!

Popped him back from where he came and headed to the edge of the rock platform where I reverted to the dropshot rig again. Had loads of nibbles from the off, but converting them into fish was difficult. I suspected that pufferfish were to blame as they tend to chomp their way up the Angleworm leaving it looking like beaded necklace! Managed a few Canary damselfish and ornate wrasse and a single, female parrotfish that had two horrible looking lice on her head, which I carefully removed before popping her back. Wasn't too long before I was getting "hurry up" gesture from the others on the beach, so called it a day. 

Had one last session at Puerto Mogan before we left for home but, to be honest, I was feeling a bit fished out. However, overall we had a great time and I would certainly recommend sneaking a few bits of fishing tackle in your luggage if ever you head to the island, or one of its neighbours.

Final scores on the doors

94 canary damselfish
45 ornate wrasse
5 wide eyed flounder
4 Atlantic lizardfish
4 cleaver wrasse
4 European parrotfish
2 Madeira rockfish
1 derbio
1 European barracuda
1 Macronesian sharp nose pufferfish
1 rockpool blenny

Cheers Gran Canaria!

09/06/2016 - Return to Gran Canaria, Part One

Last year's trip to Gran Canaria proved so successful that we found another excuse (this time Stuart's 60th birthday) to go again, even down to booking the same week at the same hotel! As before, I took a selection of LRF and light game gear hoping to add a few more species to my tally from last trip. Arriving Wednesday afternoon, the rest of the day was spent settling in, admiring the view over to Puerto Mogan from our balcony and having a few drinks down on the patio. 

Next day we took the short trip by hire car to Puerto Mogan and headed down to the water front. While the others got ready to go for a swim, I headed straight out onto the old section of breakwater, where there was already one other chap float fishing off the end over the rocks. 

I set up a tried-and-tested drop shot rig with a #10 Sabpolo wormer hook baited with Gulp Angle worm and dropped it down the side to be met with instant bites. Found that the usual suspects were to blame, i.e. Canary damselfish and ornate wrasse. The place seemed to be snided with them! Eventually had a couple of female European parrotfish that put a proper bend in the rod, before dropping my rig down into the shadows next to a large boulder. The next fish was a lot smaller, but was a new species - a Madeiran rockfish - swiftly followed by a slightly larger one next cast. Unfortunately, it was back to the damsels and wrasse after this until the tide dropped and the fish retreated to deeper water. 

Talked to the other fisherman after it turned out he was English as well. He was floatfishing bread and just picking up the odd damselfish, so I gave him some Angleworm to try when I left to re-join the others on the beach. Before we left we had a walk around the harbour, or "free aquarium". As well as numerous species of bream, mullet, colourful male parrotfish and the odd bass, there was a big shoal of barracuda in residence, in sizes ranging from about 8 inches up to the odd individual getting on for three feet long - unfortunately due to Spanish law all out of bounds!

The next day we ventured well off the beaten tourist track down to a "secret" beach I'd found on Google, which involved a bit of a scramble down a barranco (ravine). I'd also warned the others that it had a bit of reputation as a nudist beach, so it wasn't really a surprise when we got down to a small, enclosed, sandy beach to find a few locals already there and "au naturel"! Got the snorkel gear on for a quick recce up the left hand side of the beach and soon spotted a number of different species both in the rocks and out on the sand. Back on the beach I headed out with the fishing gear, gingerly making my way over the still wet and very slippy rocks to a point where I could fish down the drop off. Not surprisingly, the ornate wrasse and the damsels were out in force. However, I did also manage a Macronesian sharpnose pufferfish before being forced off the rocks by the incoming tide. 

Back on the beach I had a cast out over the sand and got a fish on first time - the smallest lizardfish I've ever seen! Wasn't complaining as this was another new species for me - the Atlantic lizardfish rather than its rock-dwelling cousin the diamond lizardfish. Carried on casting from the beach, inching the rig back slowly and keeping the rod tip high, feeling for bites. Had a few rattles and knocks doing this, before hooking into another fish. This one I knew straight away from Scott Hutchison's blog to be a cleaver wrasse, or pearly razor fish, with its brilliant colours and its two pairs of "fangs" with which it did its best to nip me with while I unhooked it. 

Casting over the same spot I had two more of his companions before the bait was taken on the drop by something a little more acrobatic. This turned out to be a silvery derbio, which flicked its spiny dorsal fin in and out of the slot in its back like a switchblade. Next cast it was something different yet again. However, I only had glimpse of a small flatfish before it came off! Had my suspicions about what this might have been and was a bit disappointed as it was another one of my target species. Went quiet after this, so returned to the others to soak up some rays before we had to make the scramble back up to the car. On the way past some rocks Stuart and Duncan disturbed some seriously big-looking Gran Canarian giant lizards, which belted straight down the path at me and Rob! Luckily they shot off into a hole before we had to take avoiding action. 

Had a few deserved beers back at the hotel that night and agreed with the others we'd definitely return to what was now dubbed "sex beach" by a prudish Stuart!

31/05/2016 - Fish of a thousand casts and a double drubbing!

Down in Pembrokeshire for a few days over the Bank Holiday weekend and for once the tides and weather seemed to be spot on. The first morning saw me up at 0530 hrs and down at the estuary at Lawrenny for low tide after an elusive first bass of the year. 

Conditions again looked perfect (as they did last time!), so started off with the slider/teaser combo during slack water in an attempt to get one off the top. 

When the incoming tide picked up an hour or so later I'd not had a sniff of a bass, although the mullet were now passing me in droves on their way upstream. Switched over at this stage to an IMA Komono in candy and then, as the water clarity improved, my favourite Megabass X-120 in sardine and carried on flogging the water. Was beginning to think that another bass blank was on the cards when I eventually had a solid thump on the rod tip. Even then I was thinking that I'd foul hooked an unfortunate mullet! However, I was soon pleased to see that it was a bass, albeit a little schoolie, hooked fair and square by the X-120. Watched him swim off with some relief - definitely a "fish of a thousand casts"! Carried on with renewed enthusiasm, but to no avail. Dropped into Raven Trading in Pembroke Dock on the way home to pick up some ragworm and to glean a bit more local knowledge from the obliging John and Jamie Henton. The next morning saw me putting the bait to good use down at Hobbs Point. I'd even managed to drag the boy out of his pit, so challenged him to a mini-species match. I'm always at a slight handicap in that, despite now being a strapping lad of 16, he still insists on me baiting up for him and unhooking his fish! However, I had no doubt that I would still give him a good thrashing.

Set up two rods, one with a scaled down "one up, one down rig" and another with half a set of sabiki's, both baited up with scraps of the ragworm. We both started catching steadily from the off and it was soon apparent that the dominant species were gobies - both rock gobies and black gobies. There must have been hundreds of them down there judging by the maddening knocks and rattles on the rod tip as soon as a bait hit bottom! However, thankfully a few ballan wrasse were about to put a proper bend in the rod for both of us.

James was edging ahead of me slightly when the two hour mark passed, despite me trying to claim a small edible crab as an extra species (no chance!). He then spotted a shoal of fish apparently following his bait up from the bottom. By letting his rig dangle just under the surface he soon had a sand smelt to add to his tally, a big-eyed predator in miniature. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I followed suit and had another three before the shoal melted off.

After that it was back to the gobies and the odd wrasse. When the three hour mark and end of the session arrived we'd had four species each, but he'd beaten me on numbers, 24 - 21! With one win under his belt he was sufficiently enthusiastic to get out of his bed again and let me have a rematch, so the next day we were down at the mark bright and early once more. Unfortunately, whilst still bright and sunny, a chilly wind had got up and was blowing straight into our faces. 

However, this didn't seem to put the fish off as James was straight into the fish with a double shot of rock gobies on his first cast as I was still setting up my rod! By the time I'd got a bait in and had a rock goby of my own he was romping away, even with me now refusing to bait up his hooks for him (I was still having to cut up the rag though....wimp!). We'd both added a couple of nice male black gobies with their banner-like dorsal fins when I sneaked a little ballan wrasse. However, it was James who stole the show next with a fish I have yet to catch myself, a cracking tompot blenny. I was a bit envious  to say the least, but pleased we'd caught something different. Unfortunately it was back to the gobies again after this but, as the wind strengthened and water coloured up from the wave action on the muddy banks, even their interest seemed to be on the wane. We were also getting quite cold and were just in the verge of packing up half an hour early when James again spotted a shoal of sand smelt pursuing his bait. A quick switch to a mini sabiki rig saw both of us add to our totals. We totted up after this to find he'd done me again by 26 - 23! We'd both had great fun in the process and, after a bit of lad 'n' dad banter in the car on the way home, resolved to have another rematch the next time we're down in the summer. In the meantime, I've got another trip to Gran Canaria coming up and hopefully a few more "exotic" species to catch.