19/12/2021 - Grayling in the gloom

Left it until today for the main rivers to sort themselves out before deciding where I would be heading for another grayling session, this time with the "long rod". Settled on the River Dove near Tutbury and set off down the A50 and into the gloom. 

Once again I arrived far too early, so was tempted to pull into the local garage by the sign proclaiming "fresh coffee". Reality was a nasty cup of instant from a girl in her twenties who insisted on calling me "mate" and who had a perma-tan that wouldn't have been out of place on an episode of TOWIE. Weather forecast had been a tad over optimistic as well, with the reading on the dashboard stubbornly refusing to rise above two degrees Centigrade, so I was at least grateful that the coffee was hot! Got togged up and set off downstream into grey, uniform landscape thinking that I perhaps should have brought a loaf and some cheese paste and gone chub fishing instead, especially when I saw that the river was still carrying a bit of colour. 

Headed to a swim where I'd done well previously - a long glide with a footpath on the far bank that attracted plenty of dog walkers thereby keeping away the black death. If I was going to catch it would be there. Lowered myself into the river, stuck two maggots on to give them a bigger target to see in the combined murk and poor light and then ran the float down for the first time off the end of the Acolyte. Took me a couple of runs down to get the depth right, but after the third adjustment the float promptly disappeared and I was into a fish! A small grayling came fighting all of the way to the net, to be followed by five more of his brethren in subsequent casts, including a nice male of about a pound. Hmmm, perhaps I made the right decision after all. 

Next trot down my strike met with a bit more resistance and thoughts of an elusive two pounder immediately crossed my mind. However, after drawing the fish up carefully and slowly upstream against the flow, I raised the rod to get it up onto the top and scooped the net under a decent chub instead. Swim seemed to die off after that, so I moved 25 metres down the glide and started again, adjusting the depth once more until I was happy that my double maggot offering was just tripping bottom. 

Was soon into fish again and put another half a dozen in the net before it went quiet. My right index and forefingers, having been in contact with the back of the centrepin for an hour, were completely numb by now despite my neoprene gloves, so I took the opportunity to warm my hands up under my armpits before deciding where to go next. Headed upstream into the gloom that, if anything, had got even greyer and mistier. Tried a couple of likely looking spots without any success, but my mind was really on another of my "banker" swims.  Second trot down in said spot the float disappeared and my strike met with a thump. However, the fish gave the game away by making a determined run for a bankside bush and then a dead reedbed. 

I therefore wasn't really surprised to see a black-edged tail rather than a big dorsal fin waving above the surface as I bundled another decent chub into the net. Popped him back and carried on but, try as I might, I could not buy another bite so headed off upstream again. I was into unknown territory now, having not ventured this far before. However, I reached the upstream limit disappointed after finding that  there were no more suitable swims. Walked back towards the car, briefly considering whether to drop into the swim where I had started, but decided to head home for a proper coffee instead. Gifted the last few maggots left in my bait apron to a friendly robin before heading back along the A50, the display in the dashboard still showing two degrees!

Had been a bit of a struggle and I had been grateful to drop on those fish in the first hour, otherwise it would have been a different story. Hopefully I can squeeze another session in before the New Year, so Happy Christmas until then!

16/12/2021 - Birthday ritual delayed

I usually treat myself to a day out fishing on my birthday, but with the rivers out of sorts last week it wasn't until today that I set out into deepest, darkest Staffordshire in search of a grayling or two. Headed off to a small tributary of the River Dove that's always treated me well in the past as the idea was just to enjoy myself, not necessarily catch monsters. Was a bit too eager to get going so it was still dark when I arrived at the venue.

I had also misjudged the weather, expecting it to be warmer than the 5 degrees indicated on the car dashboard and was a bit light on layers. Luckily I found an extra fleece in the boot and slowly got togged up as the light improved. Set off upstream across the still water-logged fields to find the river running low, but with a nice tinge of colour. It was evident that the combination of storms and floods had already done some re-modelling, with several large trees down over the river and new banks of gravel heaped up in places. 

That's the beauty of a spate river - nothing stays the same and whilst previously productive swims might disappear, there will be new ones created that the fish soon take advantage of. Arrived at the upstream limit and settled into my first spot. Had got my 11 foot Drennan Ultralite coupled with a Speedia centrepin loadedwith 3lb line, end tackle being a small wire-stemmed stick carrying 4 x No 4. shot bulked up above a small swivel to which the hooklink was attached. Have yet to find the perfect hook, but a Drennan widegape comes close in my book and a size 16 with a No. 8 shot above it completed the set-up. Trickled a few maggots into the swim before swinging my float carrying a single offering out into the flow. 

Second cast it span into a little side eddy and the orange tip disappeared resulting in my first, albeit tiny, grayling of the day. Soon got itchy feet and after a few more casts I moved a short way downstream to try a "new" swim I'd spotted on the way up where the far bank had collapsed creating a lovely crease with a small area of slack water on the inside. Waded across further downstream then crept back up to the top of the bank. Dropped the float into the flow and let it swing naturally into the slack where it promptly disappeared. Unfortunately I bumped that one, but it was sign that fish were there and I subsequently had half a dozen over the next few casts, including a nice male of 1lb 4oz. 

Carried on in that vein, catching at least one grayling everywhere I tried, but occasionally finding a spot where half a dozen or so were holed up. Also had a couple of out-of-season brownies that went like the clappers and had me thinking I'd caught a monster grayling until their airborne acrobatics gave them away. By lunchtime I'd arrived at one of my favourite swims, thankfully unaffected by the floods. Whereas in most of the previous spots I'd been fishing literally off the rod tip, this swim had a nice even glide of about 25 metres that I could properly run a bait through. Trickled in a few maggots while I had some lunch and a drink, then sent the float down for the first time.

Had a nice grayling of over a pound straight away and another one a few casts later. Next trot through the float almost got to the end of the run before it disappeared. This was definitely not a grayling as it did its best to reach the tree roots on the far bank. Wasn't surprised when a small chub hit the net as I'd had them out of the swim before and over the next few casts I added three more and a solitary dace to the tally. Carried on downstream to the end of the section before heading to the car. There was another vehicle parked up by now and I could see another member in the distance further downstream. Not wanting to disturb him or go over ground he'd already covered I deceide to pack up.

Also, although it was only mid-afternoon it was already getting very gloomy, the sun that had been forecast never actually appearing all day. I'd had a total of 25 grayling, 4 chub, 2 brownies and a dace, so was pleased with my efforts. Hopefully, as the settled weather continues over the weekend, I'll have a chance to get out on the main rivers with the long rod.

24/11/2021 - A few more Soar snappers

Whilst it was a bonus to catch that PB croc last time out, I'd actually failed completely in my primary objective to add to my tally of Trent zeds. Unfortunately I didn't another chance as family issues again took over. By the time things had calmed down there had been a change in the weather, with cold winds from the north accompanied by overcast days and a plunging barometer - perfect deadbaiting conditions! 

Had just enough flexi in the bank to take a half day, so early this morning I headed off and joined the line of red tail lights snaking south down the motorway. Arrived at the river at first light and made my way upstream to my usual starting point. Thankfully the beds of floating pennywort had all but disappeared and I was able to flick a few pieces of chopped up bait that had seen better days into the margins as I went. Within a few minutes I had a float-legered smelt soaking in the edge upstream and a mackerel on the same rig downstream. However, my pre-baiting tactics were soon scuppered as two chaps appeared with motorised trollies laden down with enough gear to pitch base camp at Everest. 

Sod's Law they chose two swims downstream that I had intended to leapfrog the rods through. However, their appearance was not without benefits as one of them came over for a chat and mentioned that the pike had been a particular nuisance for one angler during a match at the weekend and went as far as to name the peg number. After an hour and a half without a sniff I therefore set off further upstream to the area he had indicated. The peg itself was on the inside of a sweeping bend, but apart from this there weren't many physical features. Popped the smelt upstream alongside a clump of dead rushes clinging to the near side margin and then gave the mackerel some welly so it laid tight to the pilings on the opposite bank. 

The baits had hardly settled before the upstream float bobbed a couple of times then waddled off, resulting in a mint little jack. He was kind enough to give me my bait back, so I dropped it in the same place. Ten minutes later it was off again and another jack was bundled into the net. Had to replace the bait this with another, still frozen, smelt. Dropped it in the spot again and hadn't even got the rod in the rests when it was picked up! However, the culprit must have decided that it didn't actually want a smelt lollipop and it was quickly dropped again. Had just re-set the drop off when the other rod nodded signalling a take. Wound down into a fish that put up a bit of intial resistance before letting me drag him over the river.

Once in the near margin he re-joined the battle under the rod top, scrapping well over his weight. Unhooked him and popped him back and was just getting a fresh mackerel out the bag when the other rod went off again - this was getting daft! Less than half an hour after dropping into the swim jack number four was in the net. Took a few minutes to sort out the rods and re-position the baits, but as quickly as they appeared to have switched on the pike switched off again and the next hour passed without any further interest. Walked back downstream at this point, thanking my friend for his hot tip on the way past, and settled into my one remaining pre-baited swim for the last hour. Dropped a smelt into the margin, then launched a section of lamprey into the mouth of the side channel on the opposite bank. 

Sat intently watching the margin float as I was sure it was going to be the one that went first only to hear the buzzer signal a take on the other rod. Unceremoniously winched a micro-jack across the river with the lamprey sticking out his mouth like a fat cigar. Quickly returned him, letting him keep the bait as reward for his bravado! Didn't bother rebaiting this rod as my time was running out and I concentrated on the margin float once more. As expected it eventually headed off towards Kegworth and jack number six soon hit the net. Time was well and truly up at this stage, so packed up and headed back to the car. Hadn't broken any records, but it had been good to be out and get my string pulled before the weather goes windy and cold later this week. 

10/11/2021 - Zedaches and an unexpected PB!

October flashed by without me wetting a line - more pressing family matters to attend to, followed by a well-earned break in rural France. With things settling down I thought I would take advantage of the continued mild weather and fish some short sessions into dark for the zander. Last seasons zander "campaign" consisted of one trip out onto the cut where I was lucky enough to catch a new canal PB of 8lb 4oz. This time, however, I would be concentrating on a section of the River Trent about 15 minutes from home where I'd had zeds of up to 9lb+ in the past. 

Conditions on the first session seemed perfect - overcast, mild and still. Settled into a previously reliable swim dubbed the "snag pit" and soon had two rods out with a "top & tailed" roach on one and a 3" lamprey section on the other. Was still light when I had a drop back on the lamprey, which had been cast into open water to my right. Wound down the slack and struck into what I thought was the bottom....until it started to move! Whatever it was felt very, slow and heavy and it was intially just a case of steering it away from my other rod and the trees. However, once in shallower water it woke up and there was a couple of big tail slaps on the surface before it shot towards the reed bed to my right. Thought I'd stopped it in time but realised from the grating sensations and angle of the line that it had run through an unseen snag. Slackened off to see if it would free itself, but just kept winding it back into the snag. 

Eventually the inevitable happened and everything locked up solid and I could no longer feel the fish, it presumably having shed the hooks. Pulled for a break with the wire trace coming back "pig-tailed" just above where the top hook would have been. To say that I was gutted was an understatement, particularly as I carried on for another hour and a half without another sniff. 

The following session proved to be a total blank despite renewed enthusiasm and some fresh deadbaits, so tonight was really make or break. Ignored the snag pit this time and instead settled into the next swim upstream, which gave access to a lot more water. Put the roach straight out in front of me and then cast the lamprey down alongside the margins to my left. The bailiff arrived shortly afterwards and we had a quick chat before he took his leave and I settled down properly to await proceedings. Once again it felt a lot milder than forecast, which brought a late plague of midges buzzing 'round my head. Darkness brought some respite from the little buggers, but I'd not had a twitch on either rod until, completely out of the blue, the bobbin on the margin rod dropped off. Picked up the rod and felt the line pulling slowly through my fingers before winding down into what felt like another lump. 

Steered it away from the trees into open water where I was confident that my balanced tackle would do the job and after a couple of short runs and more tail slapping I had the fish on the surface and sliding over the net. I'd not had to use my head torch up to this point, so it was only when I went to lift the net up onto the bank that I realised how big the fish was - not a zander, but a very decent pike. Quickly got it unhooked, into the sling and onto the scales. Thoughts of a twenty briefly went through my mind as the arrow span 'round the dial, but it eventually settled at 19lb 10oz, still beating my previous best by an ounce. 

Snapped off a couple of photos and then had a good look in it's mouth where a recent mark on the lower jaw suggested that this could have been the fish I'd lost a few nights earlier. Let her rest in the net in the margins for a bit before watching her swim away strongly into the darkness. Had no further action, but couldn't have cared less really. Went home in a much better frame of mind, but certainly puzzling over the apparent lack of zander.

27/09/2021 - Ups and downs!

Have had some very rewarding days in September through the years, but it can also be very fickle with mellow, warm days in short sleeves suddenly giving way to rain, howling gales and the need for a decent set of waterproofs. The latter certainly seemed to be the case for later in the week according to the weather forecast, so it was now or never if I wanted to use up those maggots. 

A few short, sharp showers in the morning were followed by clear blue skies and a fresh breeze, so once again I headed off to the River Soar confident on two counts - that I could find somewhere to tuck in out of the wind and, given how low the river had been on my previous visit, that the earlier rain wouldn't have even touched the sides. Made my way through the wood, reminding myself to bring a bin bag and a thick pair of gloves next time to clear up an abandoned tent that was rapidly being covered by leaves - love nest, drug den or failed wild camping trip, who knows? Slid down the bank into the same swim as last time to find that the water level was indeed slightly higher, but that the clarity had been unaffected.

The bleak were all over it from the very first cast, snaffling the maggot on the drop and rocketing across the surface like tiny tarpon, so I was able to get the perch rod out and working at the downstream end of the swim from the off. Eventually the other usual suspects managed to get a look in and I started adding dace, chub, roach and perch to the tally. 

On the rare occasion the bait actually made it to the bottom a couple of skimmers and a handful of gonks also put in an appearance, further adding to the species count. Carried on in this vein for a couple of hours, my rythmn of casting, unhooking and rebaiting only interrupted by the occasional clump of the dreaded pennywort floating through the swim like a green iceberg. 
Had two chances on the perch rod during this time, both of which I managed to cock up. The first time I was a bit slow to the rod and the bait had already been ejected when I wound down - lack of scales and no puncture wounds suggesting a stripey was the culprit. Second time I was perhaps a bit too eager as I failed to find a hook hold and the rig came flying back minus bait completely. 

As the sun dipped a bit lower it started to feel a bit chilly despite my fleece so, having had a mixed bag of 70+ fish, I decided to treat the ravenous hordes to the remains of my bait apron and pack up. 

Was making the final trip back up the bank with the last of my kit when  my feet slid away from beneath me and I hit the deck, taking most of my body weight on my right shoulder. Had to take a few moments while the pain subsided before managing to finish packing up and heading back to the car. Shoulder was a bit painful during the night, but it was only in the morning that I looked in the mirror to see that it was very swollen with an obvious lump at the end of my collarbone. Fearing the worst, but not wanting to dash straight to A&E, I got the daughter to take me down the GP's for a quick examination. Thankfully he confirmed the collarbone was intact but that I had probably "disrupted" my acromioclavicular joint (ACJ for short!), prescribing anti-inflammatories, ice packs and rest. 

Something I can now afford to do as true to form it's absolutely pissing down outside!

21/09/2021 - Multi-tasking on the river

Arrived back in Nottingham from my Cornish idyll to be plunged into a family crisis. Mum's dementia carers had arrived at her home one day to find empty packets of pills and she had been rushed to hospital on suspicision of an accidental overdose. Thankfully this was not the case, but then safeguarding issues were raised and social services became involved. Mum then had to spend six days in hospital with no visitors whilst various assessments were carried out and paperwork completed - a very confusing and frightening experience for an 80 year old with her condition. The family has basically now been left to deal with the aftermath. For me this has already meant several 2hr+ round trips to Birmingham to visit her while she is temporary respite care. As a result, before this week had even started, I was feeling mentally and physically drained. My wife therefore suggested that I take a break and go fishing to clear my head. 

Whilst I actually felt more like nipping to bed for an afternoon snooze, I subsequently threw my tackle in the car and dragged myself into Long Eaton to get some maggots. Plan was to do some trotting with the pin, but have a sleeper rod out for the perch at the same time. With that in mind I headed to the River Soar near Kegworth. As I walked upstream to the weir the local farmer was busy baling up the last of his wheat straw, a reminder that autumn was definitely on it's way despite the warm, sunny conditions. Crossed the lock and followed the path throught the nettles, a bit more defined since my last visit but still hardly indicative of much angling pressure as this section of the river tends to be neglected by those wanting an easy walk and a nice level spot for their seatbox. 

Got to my chosen swim to find the river carrying a tinge of colour but very low. This had me wishing I'd brought the longer float rod as the main flow was pushing along the far bank. Thankfully I'd had the foresight to put on my chesties and I was able to wade out far enough to reach the crease with a gentle underarm flick. 

First trot down and the stresses of the week were temporarily forgotten as the float disappeared at the end of the run and my first fish, a bleak, came to hand. Was therefore able to get the perch rod out early doors, positioning the bleak on a paternoster at the downstream end of my swim just off the crease. Carried on trotting away and building up the swim with a few freebies each time, hopefully attracting some predators at the same time. 

There was obviously a lot of small stuff about as the maggots were invariably getting crushed each cast. However, thankfully the dace soon appeared, bullying the bleak out of the way, but allowing the occasional roach and chub to also get a look in. Out of the blue, a couple of bleeps on the micron indicated some interest on the other rod and I was on it before the line pulled out of the clip. Wound down to feel a solid weight and applied some pressure to see something long, lean and spotty loom out of the depths before it decided to wake up and spit the bait. 

Oh well, not what I was after anyway. Another bait was therefore quickly obtained and the paternoster re-positioned. Had started to pick up a few perch on the float rod by now, so was hopeful that a bigger one might be lurking on the fringes. 

As if on cue, I had another take on the paternoster and again wound down into a fish. However, this time I felt a welcome, tell-tale head thumping on the end of the line. A flash of red fins and black stripes as it went into the net confirmed it was what I had been after. Not a monster, but at a gnat's over two pounds, it was the biggest perch I'd had from the river for some time. Carried on for bit with the float rod and after two and a bit hours had amassed a mixed bag of sixty-odd fish, the vast majority being dace. Didn't manage to get any ruffe or gonks this time, but a decent stripey was ample compensation for that. Headed back to the car just as the sun was dipping below the horizon, glad that I'd made the effort and still with the best part of a pint of maggots - enough to treat myself to some more fishing therapy in the near future.

11/09/2021 - Rockpool beasts

Flushed with the success of the previous morning I once again zig-zagged my way down the cliff at first light. On this occasion the day dawned bright and sunny. Again, the cormorants and the seal were in attendance and at one stage I had a shoal of sandeels at my feet. However, despite going through my whole repertoire of lures, I eventually headed back up to the cottage frustrated, frazzled and fish-less!

On the plus side, the tide had also been a bit lower when I arrived this time, exposing some interesting looking rock pools in the gullies that had me thinking about a species that has been on my wish list for quite a while - the giant goby, Gobius cobbitisConfined to sheltered beaches on the south-west coast of England, this mini-monster spends its life in the rock pools at the highest extent of the inter-tidal zone and if these have a bit of freshwater running in to make them brackish even better. There it munches on gut weed and consumes anything unfortunate enough to be washed in with the tide. Living for up to ten years and reaching a maximum length of nearly 30 centimetres it is a target for any self-respecting LRF angler, but one I had not a chance to try for. 

A few hours later I was therefore back down again (absolutely no problem getting my 10,000 steps in today!). Tactics were simplicity itself - a 0.5 g bright pink, tungsten jighead baited with the tail section of a mini-isome worm, which would be "dabbled" in front of any likely-looking goby lair. Creeping up to the first rock pool I lowered the jig down the side of a large rock and wiggled the isome with the tip of my Rock Rover in what I hoped was a suitably provocative manner. It must have been a higly amusing sight for anybody looking down from the coast path to see a fully grown man basically fishing in a puddle. However, I thought I had nailed it first cast when a fish shot out, grabbed the bait and shot back under the rock.

Unceremoniously dragged him back out into the daylight kicking and screaming only to find that it was just a mere pretender to the rock pool crown - the perpetually glum-looking shanny, or common blenny. Popped him back under his rock then proceeded to try a few more spots, but it seemed that only shannies were in residence and my enthusiasm began to wane. I eventually came to the final pool, which was no bigger than a bath and only inches deep. Again, I made the isome do its little jiggy dance in front of a gap under the only rock big enough to house a potential "monster". Literally a split-second later something aggressively launched itself out from its hidey-hole and wolfed down the worm down with gusto. 

This time I knew straight away that I had my intended quarry and after another one-sided tug of war I was looking at my first giant goby and he certainly was a splendid chap - fine scaled and deep brown in colour with a head like a bulldog.

Returned him to his pool, hopefully to terrorise his tiny domain for a few more years, then scampered back up the cliff despite knackered knees and with a stupid grin on my face - job done! 

10/09/2021 - Bars of Cornish silver

An annual holiday somewhere with the "lads" (youngest 54, oldest 65!) has now become an permanent fixture in the calender. Unfortunately our planned trip to Sardinia earlier this year was cancelled to the dreaded COVID. However, by way of recompense we ended up in a cottage on the scenic Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall for a week in September instead. 

The plan was do a bit of walking, surfing, paddle-boarding and just generally chill out and catch up. However, a quick look on Google beforehand revealed a nice-looking rocky cove within walking distance of our digs, so some bits of fishing tackle went in as well, with wrasse, bass and mini-species in mind. 

Managed to source some ragworm, albeit on the turn and barely usable on close inspection, from a local garden centre and popped down with the wrasse gear one evening at high tide. Found a nice looking gully and fished a simple twisted boom rig with a single size 4 hook and a rotten bottom down amongst the boulders and the kelp. Unfortunately my one chance came when I had my back turned ferreting in my bag for something and I turned round to see the rod bent double. That was enough for a suspected decent wrasse to well and truly snag me and after some alternate slack-lining and heaving the rig eventually came back minus lead and fish. 

On the plus side, another angler had arrived and was obviously lure fishing for bass. After a quick chat, which established that he was local and sounded like he knew what he was talking about, I at least made it back up the cliff with some idea of what to try next. A couple of mornings later I was therefore back at first light with the lure rod with the intention of fishing one hour either side of high tide. Made my way out to the end of the rocks and started casting a white, weedless Savage Gear sandeel out into the gentle swell. A couple of cormorants were actively working the bay and, whilst I didn't see them come to the surface with anything, I took this to be a good sign that prey fish were about and with them hopefully the predators that I was after. 

The rising sun briefly made an appearance between the horizon and the low cloud, but otherwise it stayed dull and overcast and I briefly had to put on my waterproof as a light shower came through on the light westerly breeze. Had been fishing away for about 15 minutes when I got the thump on the rod tip that I was hoping for. 

After a spirited fight and near cock-up with the landing net I was looking at a pristine schoolie bass in the safety of a nearby rock pool. Popped him back and very next cast had another! Things were looking good and got even better when I added a third a few casts later. Went a bit quiet after this, so I moved slightly to my right to cover some different ground and duly added a fourth little spikey. 

Moved a couple more times but, as quickly as they had appeared, the bass seemed to have passed through. Didn't help that a grey seal suddenly popped up in front of me and just sat there despite some arm waving and choice words! To be honest my stomach was rumbling by now so I left him to it and headed back for breakfast, my morning's work making the long climb back up the cliff seem a little easier - but not by much!

24/08/2021 - Pembrokeshire Part Six (A bass at last, but not for me!)

Failed dismally to catch a bass on lures last time we were in Pembrokeshire at what is usually a reliable venue, so I was keen to try and make amends. However, rather than artificials again I decided that I would try bait fishing this time, so duly made a trip to J & W Tackle in Pembroke Dock for some worm. 

Plan was to fish the last couple of hours of the flood on the estuary at Lawrenny, which meant a 0530 hrs start. Our lad James was with us this time and, whilst he normally wouldn't surface from his pit much before mid-day, to my amazement he agreed to accompany me. The beach at Lawrenny is steeply shelving at the top, but then levels out with a far gentler slope out to the main river channel. Breaking the beach up are a series of shallow gullies that certainly looked to me as if they would act as both food traps and natural funnels for any fish coming up the estuary on the flood. On my last lure-fishing trip at low tide I'd lined each of the gullies up with landmarks on the near and far shore, so I could be sure of landing a bait in one of them if we arrived nearer high water. 

The small neap tides of the last trip had also been replaced by some big spring tides that I hoped would push the fish further up the estuary. However, it also meant that the water level was already well up the beach by the time we arrived and the gullies were submerged, so I got to put my plan into action. Set up a one up, one down rig with each hook baited with a couple of the bigger worms and cast it out as far as the crease formed by the incoming tide. 

Felt the lead hit the bottom with a satisfying clonk that meant that it was lying in the gully and not in the weed and then settled down to wait. Passed the time chatting with the lad, spotting mullet and watching a couple of cormorants work the shoreline further down the beach. 

Saw several little egrets flying upstream, along with the usual oyster catchers, curlews and other waders. All in all a very pleasant morning, particularly as we were now in glorious sunshine and there wasn't another soul about. The lad also got to try out his plant ID app on his phone, finding the rather unimaginitively named "seaside sand plant" then discovering that not only was it edible but that it had an aftertaste reminiscent of capers! Two hours therefore passed very quickly with just a few rattles on the rod tip from small stuff, an occasional check on the bait and a couple of moves up the beach ahead of the advancing water level. By this time there was only a couple of metres of beach left in front of the sea wall behind us and we were now contemplating packing up. Bent down to start clearing up to suddenly hear James shout "Dad!" and then see him grab the rod, which had been in the process of flying off the tripod and out into the estuary had he not intervened!

He confirmed there was a fish on, so I let him carry on playing it into the beach. A couple of minutes later we were looking at a small, but very welcome bass. Popped him back and then carried on with renewed enthusiasm that lasted approximately another ten minutes, an earlier promise of eggy bread and bacon being too hard to resist. Two bare hooks also suggested that the local crabs had switched on, so confirmed it was time to go.

Went back to the venue the next day, not to fish but just to have a look what it looked like on the corresponding spring low tide. Rather than the exposed bed being full of the additional features we had hoped for, I was shocked to see how barren it appeared. However, on closer inspection the bed of the river channel was covered in shellfish - mussels, winkles, dog whelks and even some small native oysters that we threw further out into the channel away from any less responsible members of the public.

Made me think of the elusive gilt head bream that are meant to be present in the estuary and whether this would be a feeding area for them, but that could be a path to madness! 

Talking of which, a trip out on the SUP on the last morning of our trip explained to a certain degree where all the mullet go. Often when I've been lure fishing for bass at low water large shoals of mullet would swim past me, lazily heading upstream on the incoming tide to who knows where. Taking advantage of the last hour of the flood I therefore launched at Lawrenny and had a quiet paddle around the little creeks and bays upstream where I spotted loads of mullet over and amongst the beds of seagrass. Another area they seemed to like were the old barge channels dug to serve the limestone quarries at West Williamson. Unfortunately this piece of information doesn't make them more catchable, quite the contrary. 

Anyway, I've got a hot bass tip to follow up next time we're down!

22/08/2021 - Pembrokeshire Part Five (Salted rag and wrasse)

The weather at the end of our last stay down in Pembrokeshire turned unsettled and windy, so rather then get blown inside out on the Haven I went for some decent walks out with the wife instead. However, it did leave me with a problem because I still had quite a lot of ragworm left. 

In the past I have just kept them in the newspaper I bought them in, but too many times I have unwrapped them to find a putrid, stinking mess! This time, on advice from the tackle shop, I'd kept them in a tray of seawater in the fridge. With regular changes of water they'd stayed fresh and lively for several days. At a fiver a pop I therefore didn't fancy just feeding them to the birds. Luckily I recalled seeing a YouTube video by Greg Green, aka "East Devon Fishing"on salting left-over rag (see end of Greg's video on drop shotting for wrasse here), so I went and raided the local Spar for a couple of bags of Happy Shopper's finest. 
On day one I layered up the rag in a plastic container between generous coverings of salt, then left them overnight.

The next morning the salt as very wet having drawn out the vast majority of the moisture from the worms, so I knocked/brushed it off them and then layered them up again in fresh salt. This process was repeated a couple of times until the worms were flat and leathery, at which point they were put in a plastic bag and popped in the fridge. The wet salt didn't go to waste as this was dried on a tray in the oven to be used again (NB: it takes on the smell of the worms, so don't use it on your chips!).

Back in Wales for another few days I was keen to find out whether the effort had been worth it, so headed out to a venue where I knew I would get plenty of bites - the stone pier on the Hakin side of Milford Docks. Got there an hour before high tide at 0700 hrs to find two anglers already set up, both fishing baits rods out into the Haven. Got chatting to the first to find that he was from just down the road in Nottingham! He'd just had a doggy and the other chap was after bass, so I wasn't going to bother them fishing for tiddlers down the side of the pier. The clear sky overnight meant that it had been only six degrees when I left the house earlier and I had dropped down into thick mist in the river valley, but that soon burned off and it was looking to be a very nice, sunny day. Set up a mini two hook flapper with size ten Sabpolo Wormers and baited each with a small section of the salted rag. 

Found that the thicker pieces from the head end of the worm were easier to hook and it only took a couple of minutes in the water for them to start re-hydrating. However, I was more interested in what the fish thought and whether I'd be resorting to using "Gulp" instead! Dropped the rig down and got a rattle as soon as it hit bottom. Couple of seconds later the tip pulled over properly and the first of many corkwings came to hand. They seemed to love it as it was every throw a coconut! The only trouble was keeping bait on the hook long enough as they were adept at stripping it off and had me constantly re-baiting. In between the "corkies" I had a few pollack and shannies. 

Had to move from the "hot spot" to the end of the pier when a fishing boat came in to makesome repairs, but it meant that I had an informative chat with the other chap fishing there. He'd retired to Milford Haven from London via Selsey and was a mine of information about the local marks. He was fishing a massive lump of peeler spider crab on a simple running leger cast just a few feet off the end of the pier. A little while later I saw the tip of his rod jag round out of the corner of my eye. Next minute it was bent double as he fought a fish that made every use of the flow of the ebbing spring tide. However, a few minutes later he landed a cracking bass of about 5 lb that was swiftly dispatched and consigned to a carrier bag for his tea! 

I filed all of this away whilst continuing to catch - mostly corkwings, sometimes two at a time - until I ran out of bait. Ended up with 35 corkies, 9 pollack, 5 shannies and a solitary rock goby, so on that basis I considered the salted rag to be a success! 
Did go back a couple of days later with some live rag as a "control". However, apart from catching a couple of ballan wrasse that were strangely absent during the previous session, there wasn't much difference in terms of species and numbers. I will therefore definitely be salting down any leftovers in future, if only to have as a standby bait. My bass-catching friend was also there again, so we continued our chat during which I gleaned more local information and he caught another bass of about 2 lb, again on a locally collected peeler crab. Having never run into another angler at this venue before I was certainly grateful for these encounters and the advice so readily provided. 

Particularly given that, despite my best endeavours, I am technically still yet to break my bass blank this year (but more of that later!).