29/08/2023 - Last chance saloon

Was pleased when the lad expressed an interest in coming out fishing with me on the last morning of the holiday. He's off to Lithuania shortly after we get back home to start a PhD in eagle ecology at a research centre in Vilnius, so thought it would be good to get some "lad and dad" time in given that our plans to go surfing and paddleboarding earlier in the week had been kiboshed by the weather. 

He didn't even flinch when I said that we'd be leaving at 6 am to catch high tide up on the north coast, it being an hour later than  down on the south. Was a bit gloomy when we set off, but it had only just gone sunrise. However, as we climbed up towards Maenclochog we could see that the Prescelli Hills were shrouded in grey cloud and we were soon enveloped in drizzle. Said that I was sure it would clear when we dropped down the other side.....but it didn't and when we arrived at Fishguard and looked out over the bay we were in two minds whether to even get out the car! 

However, nothing ventured, nothing gained and we had some prime rag to use up, so we got our waterproofs on and made our way out to the end of the inner breakwater. Whilst we'd arrived just after high the small tide meant that the water level was well down the rock apron but, to be on the safe side, we stayed up on top of the breakwater rather than risk venturing down the steep, slippy sides. Set the lad up with a lightweight outfit consisting of my lure rod with a simple two hook flapper. Baited up the size 4 Aberdeens with sections of ragworm and swung it out so it came to rest as close to the base of the rocks as possible. The lead had literally been on the bottom for all of two seconds before the rod tip started banging away. 

However, the hasty strike didn't meet with anything and the rig came back with the rag on the bottom hook already a mangled mess. Got him to sit on his hands for the next one and wait for the rod tip to properly bend over. Again the response was almost instantaneous, but this time his strike resulted in the first of many pouting splashing to the surface. Actually quite a pretty fish with its shades of purple and bronze, but not the intended species, although there were obviously lots about as I struggled to get the other rod set up in between unhooking and re-baiting (laddo not wanting to get slime and "ragworm juice" on his hands!). Eventually there was enough of a lull to make up a pulley pennel and bait it with a mackerel and squid cocktail. 

This was lobbed out into the bay and left to fish by itself in the hope of at least a doggy. After a few more pouting on the rod down the side we eventually got what we were after in the shape of a nice male corkwing and a small ballan. 

I'd had wrasse in good numbers on previous trips and felt sure that there would be some decent ones about. However, it was back to the stripey bait shredders after that. About two hours later the relentless drizzle finally got the better of us, soaking into our clothes and the fishing gear and giving us wrinkly fingers. The bites had dried up anyway as the tide had dropped, so wound in the other rod to find that the bait had been completely stripped. We'd probably been fishing with bare hooks the majority of the time! Headed back to the ranch for a well deserved breakfast of bacon, egg, laverbread and lots of coffee. In summary, not the greatest few days sea fishing I've ever had in Pembs, but I'm down in Cornwall for a week in September, so fingers crossed for then.

28/08/2023 - A bank holiday brownie bonanza!

After three consecutive early mornings I was in need of a lie in, so had a day off from the fishing and went for a walk with the family instead. 

However, arriving down at Amroth later I wished that I had got a rod and some feathers with me as there was a large flock of gulls chasing a shoal of sandeels or whitebait on the surface close to the shore, no doubt as they were harried by the mackerel from below. There were a couple of grey seals knocking about as well and when my lad went in for a quick swim one of them popped up about two metres from him to say hello and then followed him over the next few minutes, much to the amusement of everybody watching. 

Anyway, suitably refreshed by a large coffee and a bowl of chips at the Pirates Cafe and back at the in-laws I pondered where to go on the Bank Holiday. Decided that a change of scenery was in order, so spent an hour scrabbling around in the farmyard turning over wood and plastic sheeting until I'd gathered a hundred or so redworms. Early the next day I was off to Haverfordwest to "my" urban trout stream. Parked in the layby off the dual carriageway, surreptitiously donned my waders and then slipped down the bank when the coast was clear. It was dark under the tree canopy and when my eyes adjusted I saw that the little stream was clear, but running at a nice level - not bare bones like last summer. 

Baited up a pink, 0.5 g tungsten jighead with a worm and cast it upstream, allowing it to bump back along the bottom with the flow assisted by little flicks of the rod tip. Was just about to lift it out of the water when the worm got smashed at my feet. 

Unfortunately he didn't stay on long, but it was a good sign. Worked my way slowly upstream, casting into any little holes or "pockets". Pricked and lost another three before finally nailing first perfect little brownie of the morning. Had been checking the hook point and it had seemed fine, but then lost the next two fish as well before I was forced into changing the jig head after opening out the hook pulling it out of a snag. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly I started hooking up properly after that - just shows, if in doubt change your flippin' hook! The action was pretty fast and furious and I was going through my worms at a rate of knots as they were getting shredded by tiny teeth on each drift. 

Managed to avoid getting caught up too much on the various bits of urban debris, but it was still frustrating when a perfect cast ended up straight in a snag and I had to ruin the swim to go and free it. Was sad to see the number of disposable vapes appearing with all of the rest of the usual rubbish. The bloody things are everywhere and should be banned in my opinion. By the time I had reached the top of the section just two and a half hours after starting I'd had twenty uniquely spotted little, wild brownies and had lost half as many again, mainly due to my earlier laziness. Had really enjoyed myself after the relative struggles of the last few days and even felt inspired to try and fit in a session back home before the end of the trout season. 

Said goodbye to my bit of Welsh trout fishing heaven for another year and headed home for some well-earned breakfast.

26/08/23 - A windy morning at Hobbs

Was up early yet again this morning. However, on this occasion I headed off to Hobbs Point in the hope of replicating last year's success and catching myself another trigger fish. 

Didn't actually know whether they were about yet and was aware they'd been late turning up at places like Chesil, but as I had caught one exactly 12 months ago to the day I thought it would be worth a shot. There was always a chance that a wrasse, or even a bass, would show up as well. Had planned as before to fish over low water and had chosen this morning because it was the smallest neap of the week, which would give me maximum depth at low tide. Called in at Tesco at Pembroke Dock and got a packet of raw king prawns for bait before driving down to the point as the sun was just clearing the land opposite. Apart from a taxi driver taking a break I was the only person there, so carefully made my way as far down the ramp as I dared without slipping and falling on my arse. 

Set up a two hook flapper with size 4 Sakuma mini mantas, whipped on a couple of prawns and dropped the rig down the side of the wall. On previous, successful occassions the fish had been straight onto the bait, so I sat down on the quayside holding the rod and waited for the tell-tale "tap, tap, tap" of a trigger. However, 30 minutes later I'd not seen any indication of any interest, so decided to hedge my bets and set up the LRF rod. Left the other rod to fish by itself, keeping an eye open for any movement on the tip, whilst I baited up a mini two hook flapper with bits of last summer's salted ragworm and sent it down to the bottom. Didn't have to wait long for the first determined enquiry, but was surprised when a black goby appeared on the surface. 

These usually play second fiddle at Hobbs to their more aggressive cousins, the rock gobies. However, I added three more on successive casts before a small ballan wrasse broke the monopoly. Was kept busy over the next half an hour re-baiting the LRF rod, adding more black gobies, a couple of corkwing wrasse (Mr and Mrs) and (eventually) a rock goby to the tally. However, the prawns to my right remained un-touched. A couple of other anglers had arrived by now, including another chap with LRF gear. Saw him catch a couple of fish on the dropshot before he came down to ask me whether I'd had a scorpion, as he was after one for a species hunt. However, when I responded in the negative he went straight back to his fishing. 

Carried on a bit longer, but the bites had slowed down and my nose was dripping due to the stiff, cool breeze that had been blowing straight into my face all morning. Gave myself one final cast with the LRF rod and had an opportunistic pollock shoot out from the kelp to intercept the bait on the drop. Wound in the untouched prawns before packing up and making my way back up the ramp. Stopped and asked my fellow angler if he'd had his scorpion, but he was also now packing up after catching a few ballans. Took the opportunity to have a quick chat about the local fishing. He was interested that I'd been after the triggers and that I'd caught them from Hobbs in the past. Turned out that he had held the Welsh record for a boat caught trigger at one time. 

Before he left he gave me details of another spot on the other side of the haven to try for them and introduced himself as Nev. Thought his face was vaguely familiar, later realising that he was a member of the Tenby and District Angling Club whose Facebook page here is a valuable source of information for a travelling angler like myself and one I often refer to. Was therefore pleased to receive a message from him later offering his knowledge and assistance whenever I was down in Pembrokeshire - the power of social media! 

Had just left the car park when I spotted a sign for bait by the side of the road. Therefore stopped for a quick look and was pleasantly surprised to find a well stocked tackle shop at JMB Marine (details here), even more so when the guy behind the counter said that he'd got plenty of fresh rag in at £5 a quarter. Getting bait in Pembrokeshire has always been a problem as decent tackle shops are few and far between, so I duly parted with my money and got a pack of nice fat worms in return. Again I took the opportunity to glean any local knowledge before I left, promising the chap I'd be seeing him again. Will hopefully get to use the rag over the next couple of days, but at the very least I can salt them down for future use. Onwards and upwards! 

25/08/2023 - Estuary blues

Whilst we'd already had our main summer holiday in France, I'd got enough leave in the bag to be able to have a few days in Wales either side of the Bank Holiday. The weather forecast leading up to our departure had been all over the place, but it looked as if we were going to be in for some cool, windy, unsettled weather. 

Tides were not ideal either as we would arrive in the middle of some very small neaps. However, the bass and LRF gear went into the car along with everything else anyway. First morning I was up at 5 AM to get down to the estuary for low tide. The forecast had been for light winds, but as I got out of the car I could hear the sound of stays pinging against yacht masts in the breeze. Got the waders on and walked down to the water's edge, the dropping tides evidenced by parallell lines of seaweed and various bits of flotsam and jetsam. 

The wind was coming over my right shoulder and riffling the surface of the water, but around the corner in the lee of the quay it was nice and calm and looked spot on for some surface lure action. Therefore started off with a Fishus Espetit, with a teaser fly on a dropper tied on with a water knot about three feet up the fluorocarbon leader. Second cast I'd just started "walking the dog" when there was an eruption just in front of the lure as a fish snatched the fly. Played it all the way in and was just drawing it into the shallows when it came off! The angle of the light on the water had prevented me from seeing the fish the clear water, so consoled myself that it had just been a little 'un from the lack of significant resistance. 

Thought this might have been a good sign, but despite working the area hard over the next hour I had no further takes or follows. The tide was pushing in now and the new digital display on the quayside had started ticking over as the water level began to rise. Swapped the lure for a shallow diver - a Megabass X-120 - and started making my way against the tide up to the mouth of the inlet. However, despite thrashing the water for another hour, I was still fishless when I reached the point. Despite it being a small tide, there was still a decent incoming push and the mullet (some huge ones judging by the distance between their dorsal and tail fins!) were now taking advantage of this, flaunting themselves as they made their way to who-knows-where further upstream. 

Snipped off the teaser and swapped the lure for the normally reliable Savage Gear V2 weedless eel and started bumping the bottom in the flow. My enthusiasm was waning now and when the lure became irretreivably stuck in the rocks I called it a day. The following morning I was up early once more, but headed further up the estuary to a spot I'd noted on one of our walks where another inlet (known as a "gut" in these parts) joined the main channel on a sweeping bend. My theory that it could hold fish at low, slack water seemed to be confirmed as I walked down to the water. 

The margins were alive with mullet, pushing right up into the shallows to feed. Therefore started with an Espetit in a mullet pattern to "match the hatch", again with a teaser tied in above it. On only the second cast the water exploded and I found myself connected to a fish, albeit very briefly as it ran straight into a big clump of bladderwrack before I could react and came off! Had fleeting visions of deja vu and missed chances, but was rewarded a few casts later with a schoolie that stayed attached. There was more surface activity now that didn't look mullet-related and casting into the general area I started getting bangs and knocks on the rod tip, before hooking another bass on the Espetit that was barely hand-sized! Had four more of these ambitious little buggers on both the surface lure and the teaser, before I swapped over to a Megabass X-120 in an attempt to get away from them. 

However, this didn't work as on the very next cast another tail nipper hung himself on the end single. Luckily I wasn't frustrated for very much longer because they seemed to clear off as quickly as they arrived. Unfortunately so did everything else as the action completely died a death! Half an hour later the wind that had been coming over my shoulder suddenly changed direction and starting blowing stright into my face. When I felt the first few spots of rain I looked up to see the far bank of the estuary greyed out, so decided to hot foot it back to the car, only narrowly getting to shelter before the heavens opened. So a a difficult and disappointing couple of mornings, but at the very least it was more information added to my expanding file on bass fishing. 

This was added to further by a subsequent trip to the local tackle shop where I was told that a 10-pounder and an 11-pounder had recently been caught and released at Lawrenny - now they really would put a bend in the Nebula!

16/08/2023 - Summer trotting part IV (yet more dace)

Just spent a relaxing two weeks at the in-laws place in rural France, eating cheese and baguette and the odd punnet of snails, drinking wine and just dossing about. The "neighbours" were certainly varied this year - we had redstarts in the garage, lesser horseshoe bats in the barn, roe deer in the back field, bumble bees and lizards in the walls, honey bees in the chimney and dormice in the roof. However, the buddleia in the garden kept us entertained for hours with the huge variety of butterflies and moths it attracted, including scarce swallowtails, southern white admirals, silver streaked fritillaries, hummingbird hawk moths and broad banded bee hawkmoths.  Even managed to get some half-decent pictures with the iphone (along with many more blurred ones!).

Unfortunately it was all over too soon and it was time to make the seventeen hour journey back home - not quite the same as the outward journey that had been full of excitment and anticipation!  

Hadn't bothered taking any fishing tackle on holiday with me this time due to my complete failure to even buy a bite on the local River Charente last time, so I was ready to get my string pulled again. Lasted all of two days back at work before I decided to have an early finish and head off for a few hours on the Derwent. Had just the one swim in mind from my previous visit - the one that had involved a scramble down a near vertical, ten foot high bank. However, I was better prepared on this occasion with a bank spike and a length of rope as I very nearly didn't make it back up last time! Timed my arrival at the car park just as another angler was opening the gate and had a quick chat as we both got kitted up. He'd just come down for a couple of hours with the float rod as well, but opted for one of the more comfortable swims near the footbridge while I headed upstream for a spot of abseiling. 

With the crops in the fields now harvested there was a distinct "end of summer" feeling. The banded demoiselles, so prevalent last time, had also disappeared and there was just a few dragonflies hawking up and down like police helicopters patrolling the local estate. Arrived at the swim and sorted out the bank spike and rope before sliding down into the river, getting showered by seeds from the Himalayan balsam as I did so. 

The decision to go fishing had co-incided with a warm, sunny day with virtually no wind for a change and I'd already got a bit of a sweat on walking up, so it was nice to feel the relative cool of the river through the waders. 

Got into the usual routine of trickling in a few loose maggots whilst running the float down the nearside crease and it wasn't long before the first of many, chunky dace came to hand, all like peas in a pod. Tucked down under the bank I was in my own little world and for the next couple of hours I was kept busy, adding bleak, chub and grayling to the mix. As the bites eventually started slowing down I gave it one last cast before calling it a day and had another of those pristine, elusive Derwent roach that keep tantalising me. It was at that stage that I realised that I'd lost the pawl out of my centrepin and so couldn't engage the drag. Briefly had a look around my feet to see if I could spot it on the bottom before giving it up as a lost cause and finding a piece of stick that I could push through the reel housing to stop it rotating as I clambered back up the bank. Luckily, upon returning home I was able to cannibalise an old fly reel for a perfect replacement, so it was panic over. 

Off to Wales next week, so probably won't have time to fit in another session on the rivers, but will be looking forwards to chasing some bass and wrasse instead!