30/05/2024 - "One last cast"!

With the in-laws in France the wife and I headed down to Pembrokeshire to check their house over and have a few days chilling over half-term. Resisted the temptation to pack all the LRF tackle in as I knew I would just get distracted chasing "minis". 

Instead the lure gear went in, the plan being to try a get a bass or two. It was also a chance to try out my new Penn Spinfisher after yet another Daiwa Ninja had bitten the dust - great budget reels but the unsealed bearings are not too fond of the salt. The tides were looking good for it, mid-range and with low water early in the morning. The only possible fly in the ointment was going to be the wind as a brisk northerly was forecast all weekend. However, Saturday morning I was up at 0530 hrs, out the door and down on the estuary for 0615 hrs. 

At first glance conditions looked pretty good, but as I rounded the corner I could see that the wind was blowing straight up the arm. Got togged up and made my way down to the water to find that the clarity wasn't brilliant and the water had a brown hue. Closer examination revealed the presence of the dreaded "May weed" with loads of snot-like clumps of algae suspended in the water column. Not a great sign as its appearance often results in the fishing temporarily dropping off, possibly because it affects the oxygen levels in the water or even irritates fish gills. Wading out mid-thigh I could just about see beyond my knees, so started off with a Savage Gear slender scoop shad in sandeel mounted on a 4/0 worm hook with a 3g cheb weight but soon changed that to one in lemon back. 

Worked my way down to the pontoon and back without any hint of a fish, so made my way up to the point and put on a usually reliable Savage Gear weedless sandeel in white. The wind was now strongly gusting from right to left and making casting a nightmare. The tide was also pushing in strongly now and the combination of wind plus tide was making it difficult to keep the lure out in the channel. Had been fishing away for a few minutes when I noticed a lot of bird activity away to my left. A flock of seagulls were repeatedly diving down onto to the water and as they got closer I could see the occasional splash of a fish on the surface. Rummaging in my bag I found a silver, 19 gramme Westin Salty so clipped it on and whacked it out in the general direction of the commotion. 

Over the next few minutes I had four hookups - first one came off halfway in, the second came off when I wound it into clump of weed and the two I did manage to "land" were micro-bass barely big enough to cover my hand! 

As the gulls drifted off the bites stopped but I carried on with the Salty - for a small lure it flew like a bullet and I was able to punch it out for some distance into the wind. 

However, despite working hard for the next half an hour, I'd had no further interest and was on the brink of giving up but for whatever reason I decided to have one last cast from the point. Whacked the lure out into the flow once more and let it swing in the current before starting to retrieve. After a couple of turns of the handle the rod tip thumped round and I found myself connected to a heavy fish that came up to the surface very quickly. Thought I'd possibly foul-hooked a large mullet, but then caught sight of a spiky dorsal fin belonging to a decent bass. After a couple of runs I caught sight of it again and it was certainly bigger than anything I'd caught before, which had me praying for it not to come off!
Gave me some hairy moments as it made a few more determined runs out into the flow, but I eventually managed to steer it into the slack water of the bay to my left. The Salty looked tiny in its mouth and when I unhooked it I saw that it was only secured by one point of the treble and that this had been bent part-way out in the fight. Measuring 66 centimetres and weighing about 7lb this was a new PB bass for me. Had seen a couple of people heading for the cafe and contemplated going to get somebody to take a trophy shot, but in the interest of fish safety I took a couple of snaps on the phone and watched it swim away strongly instead. Was a very happy angler when I got back to the house, but it could have been so different if I'd not had that one last cast!

19/05/2024 - A plague of tompots

Headed down to Exmouth last weekend to see friends and not to waste a potential opportunity the LRF gear went in the car as well. As usual we had a lot of catching up to do over food and drinks on the Friday evening, so I wasn't really prepared for an early start the following day. 

Had a pleasant morning instead walking along the front, drinking coffee and people watching in the sun. Weather turned a bit grim in the afternoon, so we jumped in the van and had a run down the coast towards Teignmouth and back. Took it a bit steadier in the evening and so upon retiring to bed I set my alarm for an early start. After checking the news to find that, after all the hype and shenanigans, the little bloke had beaten the big bloke I was up and out of the house by 0630 hrs. In contrast to the previous morning it was pretty chilly, with a dense fog cloaking the estuary. The tide was on its way out and through the gloom I could make out the solitary figure of a bass angler, patiently casting his lure out into the flow.

Carried on down to the docks to find another angler already there. He came over to chat as I set up, dropping his two-hook flapper right in the spot I'd intended to fish, promptly pulling out a double shot of  wrasse! After I jokingly said he'd nicked my spot he moved along a bit and we carried on chatting and fishing. First drop down I had a quick rattle on the rod tip, which was converted into my first fish of the morning - a little tompot blenny. 

This was quickly followed by a small ballan wrasse and then another tompot before I got properly smashed by a very powerful fish, probably a much bigger wrasse, that made short work of my 4lb hooklink. I was using my usual mini-flapper baited with salted ragworm, which sparked the interest of my fellow angler and prompted a conversation about the general dearth of places where you can buy fresh bait, hence why I always now have some preserved bait in the bag. 

After catching himself another small ballan he said that he had to shoot off, but not before he kindly offered me the the best part of a quarter of left over rag. Gratefully accepted his gift and immediately set about using it. However, the tide was now well into the ebb and was making it increasingly difficult to hold bottom and after losing a couple of hooks and dropshot leads to snags (the old dodgems from the former Exmouth Pier according to my new friend!) I decided to move to a more sheltered spot around the corner. Also decided to get rid of one of the hooks to try and reduce the snag rate. First cast out onto the sand beyond the rock armour at the base of the dock wall the tip jagged round resulting in yet another tompot. 

After that it was a fish a cast, mostly tompot blennies of all sizes and in a range of colours from sandy to almost black. By the time that my friend Simon turned up on his Brompton I'd had 25 tompots, 10 ballans, 3 sand smelt and a solitary rock goby and was fast going through the bait. Handed over the rod to him and he carried on where I had left off, catching another 13 tompots, 2 ballans and a single, female corkwing. The sun had burned through the fog by now and it was turning into a fabtatsic morning. In addition the Pride of Exmouth had pulled up and the dock suddenly became busy with folks waiting to board. After entertaining a curious audience of small kidsfor a short while and with the fresh rag finally running out we therefore packed up. 

It was bang on low tide now anyway and you could easily see the bottom where we were fishing - sand with a smattering of weed covered boulders. Headed back to the house via a now sunny and bustling seafront to join the wives for a slap up full English. Had been a decent session in terms of numbers if not variety, the absence of any pollack being particularly noticeable. Off to Wales for a few days in half-term, so I'll have to see if I can fit something in before then.

12/05/2024 - A new species and a new venue

Haven't a clue where April went but at least some planned trips in May promised a few fishing opportunities. The first of these was the regular lads' weekend in Saunton Sands in North Devon and whilst the tides weren't ideal I threw some bits and bobs of tackle in the car to try and cover a few different eventualities. 

Early Saturday morning saw me heading to Ilfracombe pier in search of some mini-species. I arrived as the sun was rising above the headland, bathing Verity in golden morning light. The flood tide had already breached the lower part of the pier, so I started fishing from the steps to the upper deck. I'd brought two rods with me and started by throwing out a small metal jig in the hope of a pollack or an early mackerel. Half an hour later and fishless I switched to the other rod and dropped a mini two hook flapper baited with bits of salted rag down the side of one of the wooden pilings. Had to wait a few minutes for my first proper bite, resulting in a scrappy little ballan wrasse. 

Added a small rock goby before I was pushed onto the upper deck. However, bites continued to be slow in coming and I was on the verge of giving up when the tip jagged over and I lifted into what I thought was a snag, but with a bit of pressure the culprit came free and was brought up to the surface with little resistance. Was stunned when I swung it to hand to see it was a topknot, a real prize in LRF circles. Fairly common, but rarely caught, they are a proper little ambush predator. Perfectly camouflaged they are able to cling to vertical surfaces and even upside down on overhanging rocks and on the inside of caves, waiting to suck in any passing small fish and crustaceans with their exendable mouths. Took a quick photo and popped him back into his lair, allowing myself a quick fist pump in celebration. Carried on for a bit longer but didn't catch anything else. Not that I really cared as that ugly, but wacky little fish had made my morning! 

Got back in time to join the others in our coustomary walk over to Georgeham for a drink at The Rock. When we got back there was still a couple of hours to kill before dinner, so I hopped into the car and headed into Braunton for a quick session after the prolific, wild brownies that frequent the River Caen thaat runs throught the town. Fishing with just a small worm on a size 14, 0.5 gram jighead I dropped in at the fish ladder and made my way slowly upstream, flicking the baited hook into any likely spots whilst trying to avoiding the various bits of urban "furniture" as I went. As usual I had plenty of interest from the off, mostly from tiny little trout that pursued and nipped at the worm as it drifted downstream, causing me to curse as I missed bite after bite. 

However, every so often one of their bigger brethren managed to get a look in and by the time allotted time was up I'd managed to land a dozen, colourful spotties. Would have liked to have stayed longer, but the day was roundly off nicely with a huge fish supper at Squires instead. No fishing the following morning. Instead we got the paddleboards out and paddled from Crow Point, up the estuary and then all the way up the tidal part of the Caen to Velator Quay. Unfortunately, when we turned round to go back we found that the breeze had strengthened significantly and we had to battle against a headwind for most of the return journey. Was therefore a bit knackered when we eventually got back to the chalet, so after lunch most of us retired to our beds for a nap! 

Weather took a turn for the worst on Monday, coming in wet and windy, so we didn't hang about and were soon packed up and on our way home. However, after dropping my friend off in Bridgwater I decided to go and have a look at Portishead Marina, which is only about ten minutes from junction 19 of the M5. The venue had cropped up in a few videos on YouTube and there was definitely potential for a couple of different species I'd not had before, such as grey gurnard. 

When I arrived it was still very grey and gloomy, but at least the rain had eased of, so I grabbed the dropshot rod and some salted rag and went for a wander. Was surprised to see that the water quality wasn't that bad seeing as the marina is fed directly by the muddy Bristol Channel. The crabbing platform at the deep end of the marina looked to be a popular spot in the vidoes but it was locked off, so I carried on walking round until I spotted a chap sat float fishing with bread for mullet. Had a quick chat (always after local knowledge!) and it seemed that there was potential for basically anything to swim through the lock gates from the Channel, including bass, pollack, flounders and even gilthead bream. 

Walked on a bit further, eventually stopping near the main slipway. Dropping my rig down the side of the wall I soon started to get little rattles on the rod tip and after a couple of minutes I had my first fish, a fat rock goby. Added a couple more before landing a male black goby with his extravagant, sail-like dorsal fin. After catching half a dozen of each I upped sticks and headed down to the shallow end. There were plenty of small fish about in the margins, possibly bass fry or sand smelt, but rather than try for them I opted to try the small, stone pier on the far side of the marina. However, I couldn't tempt anything else and I was getting a bit twitchy about being stuck on the motorway at rush hour, so headed back to the car. 

An interesting venue and one I would definitely try again, although preferably when the sun is shining! Exmouth next weekend so more mini-species potential, tides permitting.