15/10/2017 - Being kept busy in Ilfracombe

This weekend was our second annual lads trip down to North Devon. As we get older, these weekends are becoming far less about surfing and more about just chilling out in nice surroundings. Conditions really have to be spot on to tempt us into the water nowadays, but that's not to say we are completely idle! The fishing gear usually goes in the car now and this weekend was no exception. Recent reports had also indicated a few unusual species coming out at Ilfracombe, including two species of clingfish, leopard spotted goby, topknot and tadpole fish, so some new species were possibly on the cards. Saturday morning therefore saw me heading off at first light, with the rest of the lads aiming to join me later. Arrived bang on low tide and set up on the lower deck of the pier. Set the bass rod up with a two hook flapper baited with a ragworm and mackerel cocktail and lobbed it out 40 yards, then set up the LRF rod to have a dabble down the side. Had just caught a little ballan wrasse when a chap came and told me that I'd have to move as the Lundy island ferry was coming 'round for loading for a 10 am departure. 

Had to move to the very far end of the deck and by the time the ferry had moored up I was left with about ten feet of wall to work with. Cursing my luck I temporarily put the bass rod away and concentrated on the LRF rod instead. Wasn't a problem in the end. The swell was creating a bit of movement at the end of the pier and this area appeared to be full of fish as a result.

After losing a couple of drop shot rigs, it was obvious that there were some hefty snags to my right, limiting me even further to where I could cast. However, by feeling the rig down and letting it bounce around gently just off the bottom I was soon into loads of little pollack and some sizeable sand smelt. Was well into double figures when Rob appeared with the others. Let him squeeze in next to me and he was soon into a succession of pollack himself, while I had a colourful, male corkwing wrasse.

During this time they had finished loading up the ferry and moved around to the upper deck again to allow the foot passengers to embark. Gave Rob the nod and we quickly moved into the vacated spot, but not before catching another ballan wrasse that came compete with one of the drop shot rigs I'd lost earlier! Fishing was bit slower in the new spot, but I thought there'd be a few more species around the pilings and it gave us a chance to put the other rod out in the hope of something bigger.

Left Craig in charge of the bait rod, while I carried on dropping down the side and was rewarded with a little poor cod and another ballan wrasse. Craig in the meantime was getting knocks and pulls and decided that it was time to reel in. However, the culprit was found to be a large velvet swimmer crab that had got the braid tangled around its legs. 

Lobbed out some fresh baits into the same general area again and it wasn't long before the tip started rattling again. However, it was a fish this time in the shape of a small whiting. Not long after this, with the tide rising and the swell starting to breach the lower deck, we eventually decided to avoid wet feet and call it a day, but not before Craig repeated his crab-catching trick. This time it was a little spider crab, exquisitely camouflaged with bits of seaweed. Two locals in matching fishing gear had arrived on the upper deck by this stage as well and were busy casting over our bait rod - obviously some kind of subtle etiquette there that we missed, because when I snagged one of their lines retrieving ours I found myself apologising to them!

The next day I sneaked out of the bungalow before anybody else was up and made the short drive up the coast again to Ilfracombe to find the pier completely deserted. A text from Rob informed me that the others had decided to play golf, so I had a free rein in more ways than one. However, set up at the bottom of the steps down to the lower deck and never had to leave the spot! I'd caught the last hour of the ebb tide, which meant there was a bit of movement in the water around the pilings. 

Concentrating on the LRF rod, conditions again seemed ideal for the pollack and sand smelt, as they were both present in numbers and for a good half an hour it was a fish a chuck, the angle worm being grabbed on the drop, or as the rig hit bottom. As slack water approached the bites died off a bit. However, a few different species started to appear, including shannies, some really colourful little ballan wrasse and a grumpy-looking tompot blenny. Started getting some unhittable rattles after that.

In the hope that it was one of the "oddities" that had been coming out recently, I tied on a scaled down 2 hook flapper with size 16 hooks baited with scraps of ragworm. However, the culprit was revealed as an inevitable rock goby. Carried on for a bit longer, but the bites had slowed right down and the pier was now getting busy with the Sunday crowd, so called it a day.

Was nice to have been kept busy, but a shame that I'd not been able to add to the species list on what was probably my last trip to the coast this year. We'll have to see.......

01/10/2017 - Another trip to the seaside!

I find it bizarre that, although I live in the East Midlands and about as far from the coast as you can get, I've done more sea fishing this year so far than anything else. Truth is that, whilst work and family commitments have conspired to keep me away from the rivers while I've been at home, it's been very easy to fit in a couple of hours here and there while we've been away, particularly when prevailing tides allow me to get out to a venue, fish and then get back before breakfast. A quick weekend trip down to Pembrokeshire to celebrate my wife's 50th birthday with her family was a good example. High tide was conveniently early in the morning, so plans were made and venues were chosen in order to maximise the available fishing time.

Unfortunately, I woke up at first light on Saturday to find a grey, Pembrokeshire "wet wind" blowing across the fields - the kind of fine drizzle that seems to be able to penetrate the most expensive waterproof clothing and leaves you wet, cold and miserable. 

Needless to say my plans went out of the window and I went back to bed! The weather did brighten up later allowing us to have a trip out to Amroth for a quick walk along the beach and a mocha and cake at The Pirates. I even managed to winkle a new species out of a rock pool while we were there (unfortunately not allowed under competition rules) - a tiny little rockling.

Next morning there were no such issues with the weather, but I had to make a decision of where to go. In the end I opted for Goodwick due to its mini-species potential, so first light saw me heading north up over the Preseli Hills and then down a mist-filled Gwaun Valley. Arrived at deserted car park and headed out to the end of the 750 metre long breakwater. 

Settled in on the rock apron on the left hand side of the building housing the navigation light. Set up a two hook flapper rig on my 10-60 g spinning rod and baited up the size 6 Aberdeens with some mackerel and squid dug out the bottom of the mother-in-law's freezer. The mackerel in particular was a bit far gone and required some copious wrapping with the bait elastic to keep it on the hooks! Lobbed the rig out about 40 yards into a gap between the numerous crab pots dotted around the bay in the hope that there might be a few pin whiting about while I set up the LRF rod. Bait quality didn't appear to be an issue as literally five minutes later the rod tip started rattling, signalling some interest. Left it a bit before winding in a small whiting - mission accomplished and (legitimate) species number 15 for the year. Popped him back, re-baited and sent the rig out again into the same general area. Had a second whiting about five minutes later. However, it wasn't long before the crabs moved in and started stripping the hooks, leaving me to concentrate on the LRF rod instead.

Jigging a dropshot rig back parallel with the breakwater resulted in lots of little pollack, accompanied by the occasional codling. At high tide I made my way back along the breakwater towards the car park, trying a few spots along the way, but this only resulted in more pollack. No doubt at all that the venue is a good spot if you want to add a few members of the cod family to your list (I had pouting and poor cod last visit as well), but I was again left wondering about the lack of other species, notably wrasse.

With no more planned trips down to Wales before Christmas, that'll be one to try and crack next year. However, with a weekend down in North Devon with the lads coming up, the species hunting is not over yet!