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.
Down in Saunton this weekend, supposedly for a lad's surfing weekend but, whilst the weather was fantastic, the surf conditions were poor. Luckily, I had thrown in some fishing tackle to cope with this eventuality, so Sunday saw us making the short trip up to Ilfracombe. Arrived early and on mid-tide. Wandered down under the gaze of Verity onto the pier. A quick chat with a couple of other anglers revealed nothing much had been caught and that we'd have about an hour and a half before the tide covered the lower level that we were stood on. Everybody else fishing seemed to blasting out bottom baits into the bay or float fishing, but again some distance from the pier. Nobody was fishing down the side as I had planned to do. Set the first rod up with a "one up, one down" scratching rig baited with scraps of ragworm from Purrfect Pets in Braunton and handed it to Rob. I'd not even set up the second rod before he announced that he'd got a fish on, promptly swinging in a little ballan wrasse. The appearance of a fish resulted in a sudden interest from the rest of the lads and, instead of fishing myself as planned, I found myself setting up and handing out the rods, sorting out snags and tangles and re-baiting for Rob as he caught a succession of small wrasse. It was worse than fishing with kids!
The sea was just starting to flood over the top of the deck when I managed to get hold of a rod for any length of time. Had a determined rattle on the rod top and lifted into a fish that, after a quick check on Google images, turned out to be a pretty, female corkwing wrasse, which was a first for me. We were risking wet feet now, so moved up onto the upper level at the back of the Lundy Island ferry.
Rob was back on one of the rods now and carried on winkling out little wrasse. However, it was Adam who, despite living in Cornwall most of his adult life, had never picked up a rod before that soon had something a bit more interesting in the shape of an LRF angler's favourite - a little, fat long-spined sea scorpion.
This was soon followed by a slightly larger one, both of which generated some interest with not only passing holidaymakers, but also with our fishing neighbours, who were quick to change tactics and drop a rig down the side. However, it was approaching high tide now and bites seemed to be slowing down. To be honest, whilst we had caught a few fish between us, I had been expecting it to be a bit more prolific than it was. I was also a bit surprised that we'd not seen more fish in the clear water of the harbour apart from a small shoal of bait fish swimming around under the bow of the ferry and the only other successful angler was a chap and his son returning from a reef trip with a carrier bag full of pollock. While Rob went off and found a toilet I had a drop right down close to the wall, which resulted in the last fish of the day and another first for me - a common blenny, or shanny.
Handed the rod back to Rob upon his return, but there was no more interest in the baits and a snagged and lost rig brought the session to a natural end. Packed up and headed for ice creams like the big kids we are!