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!

20/08/2022 - Trigger hunt

First and foremost I have to thank Dave Burr for the "hot tip" that resulted in this post. I had successfully targeted trigger fish at Hobbs Point in Pembroke Dock several years ago, but I had subsequently been told in one of the tackle shops that after the local crab fisherman had moved their holding pens to a different area of the Haven the triggers had stopped visiting the mark (apparently they liked to nip the legs off any crabs unfortunate to leave them sticking through the mesh!). 

So when Dave mentioned in a comment on my blog that he had recently seen one at Hobbs my interest was well and truly piqued and a session was planned for the first available opportunity, which happened to be slack water at low tide at first light this morning. Arrived just as the sun was peeking over the hill to find a stiff breeze blowing straight up the Haven and a bit of a chop on, but that the water clarity was still good. Used exactly the same tackle and tactics as when I targeted them before - my bass rod and reel loaded with 30lb braid down to a two hook flapper made up with size 4, heavy gauge Aberdeens baited with raw king prawn. A few beads were also added not only to provide some attraction, but also a bit of protection for the nylon trace from their teeth. 

Dropped the rig straight down the side of the wall and it wasn't too long before I started getting the typical "pecks" on the rod tip. First time I was far too eager and struck way too soon. Second time I let the bite develop and after a couple of proper knocks I struck into a heavy fish. Lifted it up to the surface to see that it was a trigger about the size of a dinner plate! However, as soon as it saw me it dived powerfully back down to the bottom. This went on for a bit, but after I'd got it back to the surface for the third time it looked ready for the net. Unfortunately, looks were deceiving and it again crash dived - this time the hook pulled out! I surprised myself with how calmly I took this as I re-baited and dropped the rig down once more in the hope that I'd not blown my chances. 

All this time I had also been fishing with my LRF rod and had been pulling rock gobies up one after the other on a mini two hook flapper baited with scraps of rag when I struck into something completely different that charged about all over the place. Eventually got it up to the surface to see that it was a sizeable mackerel. However, thoughts of fresh fish for breakfast were quickly dashed when that too fell off before I could net it! Didn't think that it was going to be my morning when the other rod tip started tapping again. This time I left it for as long as I dared before lifting into another powerful fish. Raised it from the depths to see that it was another decent trigger, before it dived back down taking line off the reel against the clutch and pulling my lure rod round into an alarming curve.

After several surging runs I managed to get it under control and was mightily relieved to bundle it into the net on the first attempt. It was every bit as weird as I remembered them, the bizarre body shape and relatively small mouth containing a formidable set of gnashers, but with flashes of azure blue on the dorsal fin and the same highlights around the eye to give it a touch of the exotic. 

Got a fellow angler to take a quick photo before returning it and watching it swim away strongly. Re-baited and cast out again, but the shoal must have moved on as I had no further interest on this rod. However, continued to catch on the LRF rod, adding a couple of corkwings, a few black gobies and several pollack to the procession of rock gobies. Ended up with well over fifty fish in total after about an hour and a half, but the star was definitely the trigger fish! 

18/08/2022 - A purple toe and some baby bass

Headed down to Amroth with the wife after returning form Milford. Taking advantage of the low tide we walked the length of the beach and around the headland in the direction of Marros. 

However, whilst trying to keep track of a seal bobbing around just offshore I smacked my bare, right foot into a rock sticking out the sand. Hobbled back to the car and by the time we got back to the house the top joint of my middle toe was completely numb and resembled a red grape! The next morning it was still swollen and had become a deep, port wine colour. As there was little or no pain I could only assume that it was just badly bruised rather than broken. It certainly wasn't painful enough to stop me going fishing. 

I therefore set off to Lawrenny at first light with the bait rods to fish the flood. Arrived just as it was brightening up and, apart from a few plaintive cries from the juvenile gulls wanting breakfast, it was completely silent. Plan was to fish with a two hook flapper baited with rag on one rod and a running leger baited with crab on the other. However, when I unwrapped the latter I found that the soft backs that the tackle shop had given me had obviously started to harden up before they had been frozen. Made mounting them on the pennel rig a bit more difficult but with use of the scissors and plenty of elastic I eventually had a bait that I was happy with (and hopefully the bass as well). Popped both rods out into one of the gullies running down the beach, dropping the baits onto the crease formed by the incoming tide, and sat down to wait. 

About an hour in I had a big pull down and immediate drop back on the crab. Picked up the rod and wound down into a fish that was already steaming off upstream towards Creswell Quay. However, after a few seconds everything went solid as it presumably went through a clump of weed. After a bit of alternate slackening off and pulling the rig came free minus fish. Despite the disappointment (and a few expletives) I saw that as a good sign that there fish about. 

However, that turned out to be my one and only chance as I fished the next 3 hours all the way up to high tide without another bite! The only other excitement was when a peregrine came ghosting in low over the water, causing a flock of seagulls to scatter in noisy alarm. 

Not to be outdone I returned this morning, this time with the lure rod. Arrived a couple of hours after low to find it was dull and overcast and the wind had switched round, blowing straight up the inlet from the main estuary. Found a bit of shelter in the lee of the sea wall and started off by "walking the dog" with a topwater over the shallows, but bits of weed coming in the with the tide kept fouling the hooks and killing the action of the lure. Therefore switched to my favourite X-130 in sardine. Waded slowly along the beach towards the point and was eventually rewarded by a thump on the rod tip, resulting in a schoolie bass not much bigger than the lure! Carried on, chopping and changing lures as the water clarity changed, and had another schoolie on an X-130 in candy. 

On the point itself I changed again to a Savage Gear sandeel, the extra weight required to get the lure down in the current, which was now ripping past the old wall. Allowed the lure to swing round, bumping bottom, before retrieving it back along the crease. A few casts later another thump on the rod tip resulted in one more schoolie, although it felt a lot bigger in the flow. The weather had turned pants by now, black and overcast and gusty. I'd also got fed up of being hit in the crotch by the wind-blown chop, so headed back home for a coffee and a bacon sarnie. Might have a rest day tomorrow - can't cope with two early mornings in a row at my age! I've also had a tip-off about trigger fish that I might follow up on the right tide (thanks Dave!).

16/08/2022 - On holiday again!

Haven't been out on the rivers lately - didn't seem right with them down to their bare bones. Even the mighty River Trent has been showing the strain with a fraction of the normal flow passing over the weir at Beeston. Therefore didn't come as a surprise when the Environment Agency announced drought status across 8 of its 14 areas, with only far the north-west being classed as under "normal" conditions.

This state of affairs happened to coincide with the start of our two week holiday in Wales where hosepipe bans had already been announced in Permbrokeshire and Camarthenshire due to reservoirs falling to critical levels - not that you would have known from the relatively lush, green grass in the fields on our way through to the in-laws. However, the most important job upon arrival was to get some bait so, after unloading the car, I headed off to J & M Tackle in Pembroke Dock for some rag and crab, although I had to wait patiently while the customer in front of me had a five minute rant about the current state of Man United - effing and jeffing away in front of his two young kids! 

As usual the rag were top drawer and as thick as my little finger. Seemed a shame to miss an opportunity while I there, so headed over to Hobbs Point. I'd accidentally on purpose timed my visit to coincide with low water. On the back of the recent springs, the day's tides was still big enough to expose the end of the old car ramp, not only allowing access to the weed-lined fringes but also to the siltier ground beyond. Chopped a couple of the smaller rag into bits and used them to bait up a mini two hook flapper made up with size 10 Sabpolo wormer hooks. 

Dropped straight down the side past the kelp the bait was immediately snaffled by the inevitable rock goby or small pollack. However, swinging the rig slightly further out over the silt allowed the black gobies to get a look in. 

Stood at the end of the ramp with the sun baking the backs of my legs for the next hour or so until the tide started properly flooding. Ended up with forty-odd gobies, a few pollack and a couple of corkwings. The following morning I had planned to go wrassing or bassing. However, disaster had struck overnight  - the mother-in-law's spare fridge that I'd been allowed to put my bait in had been turned up to max, so by morning my quality rag had frozen solid! Therefore hastily decided on another mini-species session, this time heading to Milford Haven in order to get some shelter from the brisk northerly wind. In contrast to the bright, sunny day at Hobbs it was dull and overcast and despite having the hill to my back it was still quite breezy out on the pier. 

The rag had thawed out by the time I got there with some of them miraculously showing signs of life. However, the mini-species don't seem to care whether they are alive or dead and it makes no difference when they're chopped into bits anyway! Dropped my baited rig down the side and started getting rattles straight away, which were soon converted into a procession of corkwings, small ballans and pollack. 

As soon as the tide started ebbing along the wall I moved to the area of slack water off the end of the pier. The corkwings must have been stacked in this small area like sardines as they were coming up two at a time, with only a solitary shanny to break their monopoly.  The northerly wind had really got to me by now to the extent that I was actually shivering so when a big group of kids turned up and started tombstoning off the steps it seemed a convenient time to call a halt, having had over 30 corkwings, 9 pollack, 4 ballans and that solitary blenny. Whilst I obviously enjoy catching fish whatever the variety I really need to find some new marks now as the old ones are becoming very predictable!

01/08/2022 - Some Pembrokeshire rarities

Returned to Milford yesterday morning with bass as the target. Had witnessed a chap catch a couple off the end of the pier last summer on a big, ebbing tide and was hoping to replicate his success. 

Weather again was grim, with more "wet wind" and poor visibility up and down the haven. The rag that I'd bought the day before, whilst kept in the fridge overnight, had already started to go off a bit (the difference between dug and farmed rag it seems), so I sorted all the manky bits out and used them on the light rod to keep myself amused over slack water. Again corkwings were in abundance and I quickly had about a dozen of them -  mostly tiny but with one better male making an appearance. 

An equal number of shannies and a few pollack and small ballans were also added to the tally before it was time to get the bass rod out. The frozen peelers I'd bought turned out to be pretty small, so I elasticated a couple onto size 2/0 before lobbing them out into the now outgoing tide on a simple running leger. Wound in half an hour later to check the bait to find it had been completely stripped, so re-baited and sent it out once again. Repeated the process again 15 minutes later but, apart from the crab activity and one proper pull down that didn't amount to anything, it was pretty quiet and I packed up bass-less. Grabbed a coffee and a bacon bap (no ketchup issues this time) again on the way home, stopping off at Milford waterfront where I found that one of my favourite fishing spots, the "bullnose", was now inaccessible. 

Since my last visit the harbour authority had installed a hydrogen vehicle charging point for a leaseable car that looked like something out of the Jetsons - that's progress! Therefore changed tack this morning and headed for Hobbs Point instead to try for a decent wrasse. With the large tides I knew I'd only get a small window of opportunity at this spot, so got there well before slack water. In fact I was so early that the incoming tide was still ripping along the wall when I arrived, so I adjourned to the local Lidl for a couple of their delicious Portugese custard tarts (they're only small!). While I was there I bumped into David Miller, who will be known to most of you as the artist responsible for the fish pictures on our rod licences.

However, he also takes some amazing underwater photography around the Pembrokeshire coast with subjects including puffins, bass and blue shark. For his website see here and Facebook page hereHeaded back to Hobbs after a quick chat and set up a simple flapper rig with two size 2 Aberdeens, each baited with half a peeler - what could resist? Dropped it straight down the wall so they would waft about amongst the kelp. As yesterday, I also popped out the light rod baited up with more scraps of rag. The fish were straight onto this, more specifically the rock gobies in all sizes and colour variations. Therefore thought it was going to be the usual goby-fest, but had a couple of nice surprises in the shape of a tompot blenny and then a long-spined sea scorpion, both quite rare in these parts (well, for me anyway). 

The other rod had been very quiet when all of a sudden I spotted the tip jag down and the butt fly up. A short scrap resulted in very pale ballan wrasse - not massive, but bigger than anything I'd caught so far this weekend. Popped him back without any issue (they can be a bit flaky if you bring them up too quick here because of the depth), re-baited and dropped the rig down the wall again. 

Carried on catching gobies, interspersed with a few pollack that were intercepting the bait on the way down. Whilst the other rod did eventually rattle off again, it was a much smaller ballan this time. The ebbing tide had now started to rip and boil along the wall, so decided to call it a day at that, donating my few bits of left-over rag to a dad and his lad fishing on the other side of the ramp. Hopefully we'll be back for a longer stretch at the end of August when I'll be looking to get some serious bass and wrasse fishing done.