09/12/2022 - Post COVID pick-me-up

My first (and hopefully last) experience with COVID was thankfully a bearable one, the boosters doing their job and minimising any effects, with just a bit of a sniffle and a phlegmy throat to remind me of its presence. It also seems that there are lot worse things about at the moment as a colleague at work has been off for nearly three weeks now with a nasty chest infection.

Tried to minimise any social contact anyway and spent the last week keeping out of the way of the kids, so hopefully I've not passed it onto them - the daughter particularly has got far too much going on before Christmas and my life simply would not be worth living if that was cutrtailed! Had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast whilst sat on my arse as I had a good half pint of maggors in the fridge and was itching to have another go at the grayling.

The current conditions looked spot on - freezing cold, bright and sunny and no wind. Had a window of a few hours this morning, so headed off in the van to the River Derwent again. Arrived just after first light, the moon and sun having a brief battle for supremacy before the latter burst over the horizon and flooded the frost-covered landscape. Wasn't in a rush so made myself a coffee and waited for the sun to get a bit higher in the sky before donning the neoprenes and making my way over the footbridge and across the field, leaving dirty great footprints on the otherwise pristine, white canvas. Had just over three hours before I had to leave in order to give me time to get home to dial into a meeting.

I therefore walked straight upstream to the first swim I'd fished last week in the the hope that the grayling were still in residence. The river had visibly dropped since my previous session. However, the newly exposed mud indicated that the only visitors in the interim had been those of the furred and feathered kind. The water clarity had also improved and my only doubt about the temperature was dispelled when the float disappeared on the very first trot down resulting in the first grayling of the morning. Wasn't massive, but was nice start particularly when another one followed next cast. Blank avoided I settled down to catch a few more despite it still being cold enough for ice to form in the rod rings and requiring me to periodically dunk the rod tip in the river to free the line.

Eventually the sun rose high enough to warm my back and I got into a rythmn of trotting and feeding. When it came time to leave I'd had 21 grayling and could have quite happily stayed and caught more if it wasn't for that inopportune meeting.

Bumped into the bailiff when I got back to the van, so gave him a catch report. Seems very few people bother with the river when the barbel fishing tails off and few venture very far from the  carpark, which suits me fine. However, think even I need to leave my comfort zone and  travel a bit further afield if I'm going to catch a "two" this winter.

02/12/2022 - Grayling therapy, but with a twist

Couldn't ignore the prospect of another dry day without any wind and with a pint of maggots already waiting in the fridge I booked the morning off work and headed to the River Derwent with the long rod hoping for the first few grayling of the winter.

There was a car already in the carpark when I arrived and as I got togged up in my chesties I was surprised to see my fellow angler coming back over the footbridge. Turned out he'd just forgotten something, but from his albeit "traditional" gear - canvas bag, split cane rod and matching landing net - it was clear that he was also after the grayling. Had a very informative chat before going our separate ways - him downstream and me upstream - having agreed to compare notes if we saw each other later. It was 4 degrees Centigrade and another overast day when I arrived, but thankfully the gloom had lifted slightly by the time I reached my first spot. Nobody had fished the peg since the floods had receded and I slid down the muddy, wet bank more than stepped into the river. 

Water clarity was also pretty good, although I'd asked at the tackle shop for a few orange and yellow fluoro maggots to be included in my mix just in case and picked these out for my hook baits. Started off with a single grub on a size 16 Drennan widegape, running it downsteam under the Avon as far as my eyes would let me. After a few trots, each accompanied by a few freebies, the float buried and I felt the familiar mad gyrations of a modest grayling on the end of the line. Carried on catching at regular intervals, the fish apparently spread out rather than bunched up in one place and ranging in size from a fingerling to just over a pound. They were obviously feeding well, coughing up maggots in the net and properly nailed by the widegape, although it never ceases to amaze me watching the lengths that grayling go to shed the hook, sometimes more successfully than I'd like. Got into a nice rythmn, disturbed only by the occasional test explosion from the cracker factory on the opposite bank.

Before I knew it two hours had gone past and I'd had 19 grayling grace the net. Bites had slowed by now so I gave myself a couple more casts before upping sticks and moving downstream, disturbing a few redwings in the hawthorn bushes as I went. With just the morning off I wanted to try at least one more swim, so dropped in upstream of the pipe bridge where the sun finally made a welcome appearance for the first time. It had stayed cold all morning and I'd had to put the gloves on to keep my fingers warm. Started getting fast, jabbing bites straight away and missed several before I hooked one of the culprits, a small dace. Seemed to be quite a few in the swim as I added half a dozen more, along with three more grayling. My fellow angler appeared behind me at this stage and reported that he'd had fifteen grayling to over a pound.

He'd also lost a large chub that he'd managed to coax thirty yards upstream before the hook pulled out. Gave it a couple more casts after he'd departed, but I really was pushing it with the time so packed up, pretty happy with a few hours work. However, the twist was yet to come. The wife had been in locked in isolation in the spare room all week with the dreaded COVID after finally bringing it home from work (neither of us had sucumbed to it until now). During the morning I'd started to feel increasingly ropey with what felt like the onset of a cold. First thing I did when I got throught the door was to take a test and yes - I was positive! The two of us are now isolating away from the rest of the household, although I suppose there are worse things than being waited on by the kids! 

01/12/2022 - Zander fails and a few paltry pike

Gave myself a couple more sessions to try and break out of the zander rut and for my "lucky" mascot to repay the debt of rescuing him from the floods last winter. 

First one was back on the River Trent. It had hammered down with rain the day before and the river was on the rise, but not too coloured and not yet at a level that was unfishable. Unfortunately what I hadn't accounted for were the floating rafts of flood debris that forced me to fish a maximum of a rod length's out, or risk getting wiped out every five minutes. However, I was still fishing in about 8 feet of water and there was the likelihood that any sensible zander wouldn't be sat out in the main flow anyway. Out of the two rods I was convinced that the one with a lamprey section positioned next to a bush downstream would be the one to go and I had my eyes glued to the tip for any signs of movement. However, as it started to go dark it was the other rod, with a headless roach swung out into open water in front of me, that started nodding instead. 

Wound down and bent the rod into a fish that banged its head a couple of times before getting momentarily snagged up in something soft, but it was quickly out and free again. Reaching for the net I was prematurely congratulating myself for breaking my run of bad luck when the hooks inevitably pulled out! Took a moment before rebaiting and casting out again, but my heart wasn't really in it. The river had continued to rise and when the slack I was fishing started to furiously back-eddy it was time to go. 

Next attempt was on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Burton, usually a reliable venue that has produced zander up to 8lb 4oz in the past.

Weather conditions seemed perfect - mild with not a breath of wind - and the canal was carrying a nice tinge of colour. However, upon reaching "the spot" it was clear from the worn and muddy bank that it had been receiving quite a lot of attention. This was confirmed shortly after I'd put out both rods when a portly chap came wheezing up the towpath and asked me how long I was stopping as he had intended to fish the same swim. Turned out that him and his mates, including "Polski Pete", had been fishing the section solidy since the summer and, whilst they'd had some good zander and pike (which they'd given names to after several re-captures), the last month had been "crap"! Didn't seem to register with him that this was possibly because they'd hammered it. 

As he carried on I could feel my confidence slowly ebbing away and it was nearly at rock bottom when he finally departed with a cheery "I hope you catch something". Fished a couple of hours into dark, changing and moving the baits around, but failed to attract a single bite. More disappointing was that the venue had been discovered and probably sucumbed to angling pressure, let's hope temporarily. For my next session, rather than face the prospect of another blank straight away, I headed out to the River Soar with the pike rods. Again, weather and river conditions seemed perfect. The recent flood had removed the beds of floating pennywort, sending them off to cause a nuisance further downstream, and it was clear that none of the pegs had been fished since the river had fined back down. 

I'd also been and got some sardines from the local fishmongers (cheaper than off Mr Fickling!) to supplement the bait bag, so was feeling pretty confident.

Walked up to the head of the section, flushing a kingfsher and a heron from the reeds on the way, and soon had a sardine and a lamprey positioned in the near and far margins. As the gloom lifted in what passed as a sunrise the sardine developed a life of its own and the first jack soon hit the net. Shorty afterwards it was the lamprey's turn. Didn't have time to put this rod back out again before a fresh sardine on the other rod went off again. Briefly felt a fish on the other end before pulling out of it, although judging by the dithering about with the bait it was probably a tiddler. Still, three runs within the first hour was looking promising. However, as quickly as they turned on, they turned off again! Despite regularly leap-frogging the rods downstream and fishing hard for the next three hours I could only manage one more jack before it was time to pack up for work. 

Think it's time now to pick up the float rod before it gets cold and windy over the next few days. Surely the grayling won't let me down?

09/11/2022 - Something better change!

The words of the Men In Black seem particularly apt given the ongoing shit storm we find ourselves in as a country. On a more personal level the fishing recently has been particularly pants, with a trip over to France at the end of October setting the tone.  Took my little Advanta River Ambush rod and a few bits and bobs with a view to targetting the River Charente that runs less than five minutes from my in-law's cottage in rural Vienne.

Purchasing a holiday permit or "Carte de Peche" online is a pretty simple process nowadays and, whilst I had chucked in a couple of bags of pellets, most French supermarkets have a fishing section where you can buy tackle and bait, including worms and maggots. The section of river I had in mind was of a similar nature to my local River Soar and ran through an "aire de loisirs", which had an information board at the entrance depicting the species alleged to be present, including chub, roach, carp, bream and even wels catfish. 

I'd seen quite a few chub of various sizes in the river at nearby Civray on previous trips, with barbel further downstream at Ruffec, so set my stall out accordingly. With daytime temperatures still in the mid-twenties I picked a handy swim downstream of a small weir that looked spot on.

However, despite pre-baiting with pellets and corn and then fishing for the next three evenings on the trot, baiting up again each time before I left, I failed to get a single bite. Not that it was entirely lifeless. A few pellets thrown into the margins soon attracted a cloud of fry and as the light started fading a few fish started topping mid-river - there just didn't seem anything of any size present. Frustrating and puzzling at the same time and certainly not the best thirty Euros I've spent in my life! Still, the rest of the holiday made up for it with plenty of walking, foraging for chestnuts and mushrooms (incuding some delicious ceps) and wildlife spotting, with several praying mantis, a family of coypu, a male hen harrier and a black winged kite being the highlights.

Back in a decidedly cooler and damper UK my thoughts turned to zander and when the first opportunity arose I headed off to the River Trent near Sawley. Had a rummage in the freezer before I left and found some small roach and lamprey sections that had seen better days, but stuck them in the bag anyway. Good job as when I called into the local tackle shop on the way they had virtually nothing in the way of deadbaits. Got to the river to find that, like an idiot, I had forgotten both my waterproof coat and my head torch in my haste to get out the house. With the light rapidly fading it was too late to go back so I soldiered on regardless and soon had two baits out in a swim that had produced zeds up to 9lb 11oz in the past. 

As it got dark the lights from the nearby builder's yard proved more than enough to see by and when it did start spotting with rain I just sheltered under the fallen trunk of a crack willow.

The river was also in good nick, slightly above normal level and with a bit of colour. However, it was the quality of the bait that immediately started nagging at me and after a couple of biteless hours my confidence was unsurprisingly at rock bottom! Following the inevitable blank I therefore called into Walkers of Trowell the next day to raid their freezer. Stocked up on some more coarse deadbaits and a few lamprey, the latter costing me a small fortune - poor Mr Fickling must be down to his last farthing! First opportunity to soak some fresh bait came this evening on the River Soar following a meeting down in Rothley. Headed to a part of the river near Barrow where again I'd previously had zeds to 8lb 10oz. 

Some match anglers were just leaving when I pulled up in the car park and a quick chat revealed that it had been tough going in the bright, clear conditions. However, a report of nuisance predators grabbing and biting off the odd roach sounded promising, so I got togged up and headed downstream. Unfortunately my optimism was shirt-lived as I found my preferred peg to be completely clogged up with huge mats of the dreaded floating pennywort and totally unfishable. 

The same was true for the rest of the section, the low flows over the summer presumably insufficient to keep it on the move and prevent it from proliferating.

Therefore headed back the way I had come to the wider, deeper section upstream of the weir. Whilst the pennywort was still present on both banks, swims had at least been dragged out for the winter matches. Settled into a spot near the car park, popping one bait down the nearside margin and the other in mid-channel. Despite the enforced change of swim things felt good and as the light levels faded I focussed on the rod tips fully expectant of a bite. Sure enough, as the sun finally dipped below the horizon behind me, the rod down the side started nodding and I was straight onto it before the line pulled out of the clip. Wound down into a fish that came in like a wet sack and was further disappointed to see a small jack flop into the net.

As I was unhooking him the indicator on the other rod beeped a couple of times, but then stopped. Wound this one in after a few minutes to find that something had been chewing the arse off my lamprey, probably signal crayfish. Thought this would at least put a bit more scent in the water so re-positioned both rods and sat back to wait again. Unfortunately the sky had cleared in the meantime and the rising full moon lit everything back up again. Looked like this had put paid to my chances and after a biteless half hour I was ready to pack up when the rod in mid-river suddenly roared off. Wound down into a much better fish that felt like a zander from the initial head shaking, but which mysteriously turned into a nocturnal pike just shy of double figures by the time it hit the net, making several determined lunges under the blankets of pennywort and testing my tennis elbow before it did so. Gave it another half hour on the back of that fish, but didn't have any further luck. 

Headed home having at least avoided another blank, but without catching the target species again. Guess I will have to keep trying until I find one!

11/10/2022 - Another short Soar session

Either I am very frugal with my loose feed or the chap at the local tackle shop is very generous with his measures because I had over half a pint of maggots left over after my session on the Soar last week. Either way, he certainly looks after his bait as they were still top quality after a few days in the fridge.

With the weather forecast to be unsettled for the rest of the week I therefore headed back there this evening to finish them off. Walked up to the island past the rapidly establishing beds of floating pennywort to find - shock, horror! - another member sat in the peg immediately downstream of my usual spot. He'd already got one rod out for barbel and another for pike.  However, after a quick chat he was perfectly amenable to me dropping in upstream of him. As it was the river level had dropped since last time and I had to wade a bit further up the bank to be able to reach out into the main flow with my 11 ft Ultralite. Had also brought the perch rod again but, unlike last time, I struggled intially to catch anything big enough for bait as I was immediately pestered by masses of this year's chublets,.

Slowly the loose feed started to attract some better fish, including some nice dace and roach, and I was faced with the opposite problem - too big. Not that I was in a rush and I didn't want to play my cards too soon given the close proximity of a fellow angler. The river was also gin clear, with the bottom visible at least half-way across the channel, so I doubted that there would be much predator action before the light levels started dropping off anyway. Eventually got a couple of suitable baits in the bucket, positioning one of them just upstream of a trailing willow. The rest of the session was virtually a carbon copy of last week's with dace and small perch dominating affairs,  although it was nice to see a few gonks turn up this time. 

I've had a total of ten different species from the river on the float now after the Essex Scribbler identified a silver bream from a picture on a previous post, the only ones left now really being barbel and carp. It's a shame that such diversity doesn't seem to breed specimens, although the presence of so many prey fish along with signal crayfish must mean that there is a monster perch, pike or zed lurking down there somewhere. Not on this occasion though. Heard the bite alarm on the perch rod beep a couple of times  before the line came out of the clip and started tumbling off the reel. Wound down into a lean, feisty jack that charged around a bit before throwing itself in the net. He was cleanly hooked in the scissors, so I easily unhooked with my fingers and sent him on his way. 

Put another bait on and re-positioned the paternoster at the tail of the swim. A couple of tentative knocks a bit later signalled some more interest although, having quickly pulled the line out of the clip, there didn't seem to be any subsequent movement on the other end. However, after a few seconds I saw the line start twitching across the surface, so wound down to briefly feel a fish that banged its head a couple of times and was then off. Perch. Possibly. Hopefully not a big one. Not long afterwards a couple of pipistrelles appeared in the fading light, twisting and turning over the river. This signalled the end of my session as I was now struggling to make out the tip of the float in the gloom. 

Had fished for two and a half hours and had had a fish about every two minutes including bleak, roach, dace, chub, perch, skimmers and gudgeon. Packed up to find my companion was doing the same having had a chub and a jack. And yes, I had some maggots left over, so turns out that I am actually a scrooge! Not sure what's next - I would like to catch a decent perch, but we're off the France next week and not long after that my thoughts will be turning back to pike, zander and grayling. Where's the year gone?

08/10/2022 - A brief Devon dalliance

Headed down to Saunton at the weekend for our twice-yearly surfing trip, although the advancing ages of all involved mean that, unless conditions are absolutely bang-on perfect, the surfing is often replaced by other activities, such as walking, golf (God forbid!) and of course fishing. 

On this occasion I was keen to catch another bass or two, so had packed the lure rod again along with the usual LRF gear. Had a walk down the beach upon arrival to check the conditions (blown out mush!) then went on the scrounge along the high tide line for any free fishing tackle, but picked up a ball of sundry rope, nylon and twine discarded by the commercial boys instead. Following morning I was out early and first in the queue for the gate on the toll road down to Crow Point to be opened. Had rather unwisely packed my neoprene chest waders and by the time I had struggled through the dunes to emerge on the estuary I was already sweating cobs. However, it was a worth it as there was not another soul in sight, - only me, the egrets, oyster catchers and waders of various description. 

The tide was already racing out exposing the rocks and mussel beds despite it being only a couple of hours into the ebb, so put on a baby Patchinko  and spent the next hour or so following the tide and working the surface lure in amongst the rock gullies as they emptied out into the main channel. Looked back over my shoulder at one point and was surprised how far I had gone - it almost felt as if I could touch Appledore on the other side of the estuary with the tip of my rod! 

Slowly made my way back to the shore and then walked up to the river mouth where the current was ripping along the near bank. Took the Patchinko off and then spent another hour swinging and bumping soft plastics along the bottom. By this time the constant casting and "high-sticking" was playing havoc with my tennis elbow, so I reluctantly resolved myself to a blank. Took some comfort in that the two anglers moored up in boats nearby and the commercial hand-liner zig-zagging backwards and forwards across the estuary had also failed to catch anything either. Made the long walk back along the beach - I covered 8 kilometres in total, and felt like I'd lost about a stone in sweat by the time I reached the car! 

Back at the bungalow the others were proposing a trip into Ilfracombe, so after a quick shower we were off again. Left the majority to trawl around the tat shops whilst my friend James and I wandered down to the harbour. Unlike the bliss and solitude of the estuary earlier it was absolute carnage! The tide was already coming in over the lower deck of the pier, so the upper deck was completely rammed with noddies with rods and lines all over the place. Was minded to go and get a pint instead, but James persuaded me to get the LRF gear and we squeezed into the one available gap. Fished a mini two hook flapper made up with size 16 Drennan widegapes and baited with small pieces of salted ragworm left over from the summer. 

Dropping the rig down the wall resulted in bites straight away and alternating the rod between us we soon built up a respectable tally of sand smelt, pollack, ballan wrasse, rock gobies and shannies - much to the amusement of an elderly couple that stood watching us, but less so for everybody else who were catching bugger all. A very canny cormorant was patrolling close to the bottom of the wall for an easy meal and caused James to lose the best fish of the day as he popped up at our feet just as James was bringing the fish (probably a wrasse) to the surface. In the time it took me to scare him off the fish had found the sanctuary of a snag and was gone. By the time the others eventually rocked up with their tat shop bounty the odd wave had started breaking over the upper deck, so called it a day. 

Not what I was hoping for, but at least it wasn't a blank and the cod & chips at Squires in Braunton later that evening was top drawer as usual.

Roll on next May when we are back again!

04/10/2022 - Trotanostering

Caught up with the latest series of Mortimer and Whitehouse this week - one series too many in my view. Even John Bailey, the show's angling consultant, appears to have lost interest given the distinct lack of any decent fish caught and the only thing that really made me laugh out loud was Ted the dog dressed in a dinner jacket. 

However, at least the perch episode inspired me to drag my lazy arse out to the Soar for a few hours this evening. Headed for the top of the club section at Kegworth where I knew that I'd be tucked out of the wind. Found it to be gin clear, although the recent rain had topped the river up to near normal levels again. As usual I had the whole section to myself, but dropped into my usual trotting peg downstream of the weir. However, unlike in the summer the fish weren't there in numbers straight away.

Took about half an hour to build the swim up, but then it was a bite a chuck, including dace, roach and colourful perch. Had brought the paternoster rod and had set it up next to me within arm's length ready to go, but I was actually struggling to catch anything small enough to consider using as a perch bait. Eventually got a couple of suitable roach and chub in the bucket and was able to position the paternoster at the downstream end of the swim. Got couple of subtle takes very quickly - the rod tip just pulling down a couple of times before I was on it and pulling the line out of the bobbin clip. However, wound down on both occasions to find that the bait had already been rejected with just a few missing scales on the flanks to show that something had at least had it in its mouth, albeit only momentarily. 

There had been a pike lying up in the lilies when I arrived that ghosted away downstream when it spotted me, but I suspected that small perch were to blame as I was catching quite a few on the float rod. I like to present my baits Archie Braddock style on a size 16 hook that's hair-rigged to a size 4 or 6 Korum Expert Specimen. The point of the bait holder is turned in on itself with pliers to keep the bait on and also to prevent it catching in the perch's mouth. However, presenting baits in this way does mean that small perch may not take the main hook into their gobs. Popped the bait out again, but wouldn't get any further action on that rod until it was almost dark. 

Carried on trotting away, adding a little skimmer and a couple of bleak to the species count. Decided to swap the bait on the paternoster rod for one of the latter for the last half hour or so. Dropped him in downstream but then wondered why the line kept dropping back in the clip. Took a couple of seconds to realise that the bait had been taken on the drop and wound down into something that definitely wasn't a perch from its subsequent acrobatics. Scooped a jack into the net - probably the one I'd seen earlier and nicely hooked in the scissors. Sent him on his way, but didn't bother putting the paternoster out again. Kept on working the float rod until I could no longer see the orange tip of my stick float in the gloom. 

Ended up with a nice mixed bag of seven species including the pike, so at least a better effort than Paul and Bob! Devon this weekend with the lads and the chance of another bash at the bass on the lure rod  - weather permitting, as it looks like its going to blow a hoolie!

23/09/2022 - Bass from the back garden

Couldn't find the time or inclination to get out on the rivers after returning from Wales and before I knew it my week with the lads down in Cornwall had come around. After spending a very relaxing week on the Roseland peninsular this time last year we decided to return, this time to a cottage near St Mawes overlooking the Percuil River, an off-shoot of the Fal estuary. 

Headed down on the Saturday and a couple of delays on the M5 meant that I was cutting it fine when I pulled into the Roseland Plant Centre to get some bait. Turned out to be fortuitous in that they were going to be shut until Tuesday, but disappointing in that they no longer stocked live worm and only had a small selection of frozen bait to choose from. Therefore had to make do with the last wrap of black lug, some razors and a pack of squid. 
However, despite taking enough tackle to cover all eventualities, it was the lure rod that was used the most during the week anyway. 

The actual location of the cottage was amazing  - hidden in woodland overlooking the river. No access by car meant that all our gear had to be rowed the short distance over from the boatyard opposite. Saw herons, egrets and kingfishers before I'd even got out the boat! Happened to arrive at low tide and was able to survey the ground immediately around the property, which consisted of rocky, weedy fringes giving way to clean silt and patches of shingle. However, two spots looked particularly good. 

The first I had already spotted on Google Maps - just down from the cottage the river made a 90 degree turn around a headland and on the inside of the bend a shingle bar formed a natural bottle-neck for anything travelling up or down on the tide. The second was the gently shelving and weedy bay right next to the garden of the cottage itself, which was alive with small fry and the odd mullet. The following morning the river was like glass as I headed down to the headland at first light, the silence only broken by the occasional call of a sandpiper. The tide had just started to flood as I started casting my favourite combo of a shallow-diving Megabass X-120 with a sandeel fly teaser upstream of the bar. 

Allowed it to drift over the top before starting the retrieve in the hope that a bass would be satthere there waiting for an easy breakfast. However, when I was pushed off the bar by the rising tide an hour and a half later I had only one small schoolie to my name. The next morning I returned and added a couple more schoolies to the tally. However, before adjourning to the cottage for breakfast I decided to have a few casts in the bay. Second cast out between the moored boats the lure was taken with a bang by a fin perfect bass of 44 cm. Over the following mornings I continued to fish the bay, initially during the first couple of hours of the flood but then as the week and tides progressed over last couple of hours of the ebb. 

Picked up at least one or two fish a day, including three between 45 - 50 cm, with the light appearing to be the limiting factor. 

Whilst we were lucky to have clear blue skies and flat calm conditions all week it did seem to knock the bass fishing on the head when the sun was fully on the water. All fish took the X-120 apart from single schoolie on the last morning, which took a sandeel fly fished with a bombarda float just for a change. 

Did get the bait rods out a couple of times in the hope of a gilthead bream, supplementing the frozen razors with some freshly foraged mussels. However, apart from snagging a spider crab that was ornately decorated with spones and seaweed, I blanked spectacularly. The only other fish and fluke of the week went to my mate Stuart who, fishing from the boat just off the steps up to the cottage, managed to hook and land a bull huss of about 7 - 8lb on a squid strip on a size 6 hook! Needless to say we didn't hear the last of it all week. Filled in the rest of the days with walking, swimming and paddle boarding, never really feeling the need to venture far from the cottage and just drinking in the scenery (and a few glasses of red wine!). 

All put back into perspective by the drive back up the M5, which included an encounter with a twat in a Mercedes SUV with blacked out windows and number plate "N9RCO". Oh well, won't be long before we'll be back down to Devon for the weekend!

27/08/2022 - This week I 'ave been mostly catching...

Switched my attention to wrasse for the remainder of the holiday, with a trip up to St Bride's for starters. 

Had fished here a couple of times before and had quite a few small wrasse, but had seen a fish whilst out paddle boarding that dwarfed anything I had caught to date. Walked around from the beach in brilliant sunshine to get to the rock mark at low water, but with hindsight I could have left it another couple of hours before starting to fish. Rather than fishing under the rod tip as previously, I had to cast over the exposed kelp to find some depth. Fished a two hook flapper with size 4 heavy gauge Aberdeens baited with rag. As a concession to the snaggy ground I'd added pop ups to the shortened hooklinks and tied on a rotten bottom. Was a good decision as the first fish of the day snagged me up and after a bit of pulling the rig came back minus lead. 

Subsequent bites were slow in coming and when my alloted time was eventually up (the wife and mother-in-law were waiting for me back on the beach!) I'd only had a couple of corkwings, albeit both stunning males. The following session was up at Fishguard. Arrived just after first light and made the long walk along the inner breakwater to find a "tinsel tosser" had already bagged prime spot on the concrete apron at the end, so had scramble over the rocks to find an alternative position to fish from. Tackle and bait were the same as the previous day with the rig being cast out and then allowed to swing back in on a tight line to hopefully rest out of the weed but somewhere near the base of the sloping side of the breakwater. 

The first half an hour after high water was slow with just a large and very angry velvet swimmer crab taking the bait. However, thing suddenly picked up and I had a mad 30 minutes that resulted in one corkwing and seven ballans, but several more missed bites and stripped baits. However, as quickly as the bites started they completely dried up. The tide had started ebbing by now so wondered if this was the reason until a big, fat seal surfaced under my rod tip, rolled his eyes at me and went lazily on his way. When a cormorant popped up in front of me just a couple of minutes later I decided to call it a day! Returned the following morning to find the conditions a bit less inviting with a stiff wind pushing a swell straight into the bay. 

However, got to the end to find that another mackerel basher had beaten me to it again, so made my way over the rocks once more. This time bites were immediate, but I couldn't connect with any of them and was repeatedly re-baiting stripped hooks. The reason became apparent when I eventually foul-hooked a tiny corkwing. Every time thelead hit the bottom it must have been like banging a dinner gong because as soon as I put the rod down the tip started bouncing away as the little beggars zeroed in on my baits. Eventually managed a couple of small ballans before my time again ran out. Had eked out my ragworm to allow one final session at Hobbs Point this morning. 

Got there for high water knowing that my window was going to be limited due to the big tide. Dropped my rig straight down the side and left it to do its stuff while I used the mankier bits of rag on the LRF rod. Was kept busy by the small stuff, including rock gobies, pollack and corkwings, while the wrasse rod remained motionless. After about 50 minutes the tide turned and started ripping along the wall forcing me to put the LRF rod away. Rebaited the wrasse rod, dropped it down the side again and literally turned away for two seconds, distracted momentarily by a shoal of bait fish flashing under the surface. Turned back to see the rod bent double. Made a grab for it, but the tip had already sprung back and the chance had gone. 

Not the most satisfactory way to end the session and the holiday, but I've caught a fair few fish over the two weeks, with the trigger fish being the highlight. I'll be back soon and I've got a week in Cornwall coming up in September to look forward to in the interim.

23/08/2022 - Rainy day spotties and an unexpected first

Went back to Hobbs Point the day after the trigger action fully anticipating catching some more. Needn't have bothered as the rod tip didn't move for two hours! Just shows that you need right place and right time. Thankfully the mini species were more obliging, so not a completely wasted trip. 

However, with the weather becoming rather wet (what drought?) and Wednesday looking particularly pants I thought I'd give the sea fishing a rest and scraped together some worms from the father-in-law's garden with a view to chasing a few spotties on "my" urban trout stream. Had rained overnight and was still drizzling when I set off this morning, so I was expecting there to be at least a bit of colour. However, upon arrival, I was surprised to find that the stream was still low and gin clear - what rain we have had must have therefore gone straight into the ground. Tactics were the same as before - my LRF rod, reel loaded with 6lb braid, a 4lb flurocarbon leader and a size 12, 0.5 gram tungsten jig head baited with a worm "wacky" style. 

Quickly became apparent that things were going to be difficult as, soon after lowering myself into the water and starting to wade slowly upstream, I saw several puffs of silt and fish darting off several metres ahead of me. The tree canopy prevented me from casting very far in front of me so I did't get any joy until I came to the first riffle, which allowed me to sneak up on its residents unseen. Picked off the odd one here and there by moving like a heron on tranquilizers and using any cover available. More often than not I snagged up on the various bits of urban debris littering the bottom, cursing as I did so because it meant a promising spot was ruined every time I had to retrieve the jig head, causing my targets to go flashing past my legs in alarm. 

Got to the little pool downstream of the old sluice and manouvered into position to be able to cast as far upstream as I could. Got a hit first time from a little spottie, so thought I might be in with a chance of a couple more. Flicked the worm up the pool again, let it sink and slowly inched it back. Felt a couple of knocks and then the tip went round as a fish grabbed the bait. As I drew it in front of me I was confused that I couldn't see it in the water. Reason became apparent when a little flounder suddenly popped off the bottom! I've never actually fished for flounders before, so this was a first for me. However, I certainly didn't expect to catch one from a trout stream. The hardy little soul (no pun intended) would have had to negotiate several miles of tidal river, a sewage works outfall and several trash dams to end up where he was in completely fresh water. Popped him back and wished him luck with the rest of his travels! 

Had a couple more brownies further upstream, but it was really difficult to get close to any fish without sending them scattering with it being so low and clear. Therefore decided to leave them alone and come back when the stream was in better condition. Went and got a coffee and drank it overlooking the tidal river nearby. Although it was low tide there were loads of mullet milling around in what seemed to be a natural holding area - a pool just downstream of a bend. The only ones I have caught so far have been by accident rather than design -  foul hooked while lure fishing or on baits meant for something else - so it looked like a promising area to come back to. Something else to add to the list!