Thursday, February 21, 2013

Escaping the winter blues down in Wales.

With my mate Ross heading over to Jersey to work at the end of March my other fishing mate Lee and I were keen for the three of us to meet up before he left. The weather in Scotland has been pretty crap so far this year and the fishing has been disappointing as well to say the least. The trip was planned around Lee's time off work and unfortunately this meant that Jake wouldn't be able to make it as he had a gig that weekend so I booked a train and when the time came headed south for five days of fishing.

To say the last few big trips I've done have not been blessed with the best weather would be a complete understatement but for a change the forecast looked quite good for the duration of my stay in Wales

A mixture of fishing styles was planned but to be honest I was just looking forward to having a laugh with the lads and catching some fish. In the back of my mind though was the desire to catch a few new species. Top of my list were rockling. Having tried a few times locally with no reward I was assured before going down that they were plentiful on several marks around Anglesey. We'd also be targeting rays at night and Ross and his mates had already caught a few this year including a couple of the small eyed variety. This would be a new species for me if I managed to land one. Ross also caught a nice greater spotted dogfish, more commonly known as a bull huss, whilst fishing for rays. This is another species I've never caught. So with these in mind I was excited by the bait fishing. We also planned to do some lure fishing for pollock and wrasse as well as some lure fishing for pike. My ultra light gear made the trip too as a spot of mini species hunting was also on the cards. The chance to catch a tompot blenny or two isn't something I can pass up easily! All in all a nice varied selection of target species and styles to enjoy.

I arrived in Bangor just after 22:00 last Thursday night and was picked up by Ross from the train station. He'd been out trying for bass but had drawn a blank. After grabbing something to eat we headed back to his flat where I'd be crashing for the night and enjoyed a few pints of cider and watched a film before calling it a night.

Friday morning we headed out for a spot of piking. Ross had a text from his mate Terry telling him that he had caught a few pike earlier that morning so our hopes were high. When we arrived at the venue though spot where Terry had caught all of his fish had been taken already by an angler dead baiting. We worked our way around the waters edge but there was little sign of any fish. Finally after a while Ross hooked a small jack that released itself at his feet. He didn't seem too bothered about it though. We fished on for a while but with no further action, apart from a few low flying fighter planes overhead, we decided to head to the coast for a spot of mini species fun.

These RAF planes flew over us at regular intervals.

A short drive, walk and scramble down rocks later Ross and I were perched on a ledge fishing for mini species with drop shot rigs. The usual suspects were in attendance at the mark and over the course of the next few hours we managed to catch most of them between us although I didn't manage to catch a tompot blenny despite Ross getting a few. I was quite pleased to get my first few corkwing wrasse though.

Pretty little male corkwing wrasse.
Funky fish. Ross seems to have a knack of catching them.

Ross also managed a small thick lipped mullet on a piece of freelined bread. I had a go at this too but after being given the run around by them I was soon trying to catch a tompot blenny again as I wasn't sure if we'd be back at this mark again. After a catching a few common blennies it was time to head back to Bangor to pick up Lee. After dropping our stuff off at the hotel and sorting out our bait gear we were picked up by Ross again and after grabbing some food off we went to a rock mark that Ross said he had caught quite a few three bearded rocklings from whilst targeting congers. We soon arrived and walked down along a path to the rocks and climbed down. Lee and I set up one up one down rigs and fished small mackerel and squid cocktail baits close in whilst Ross lobbed out larger baits to try and tempt a conger eel. Fishing was slow for the first couple of hours but as a bit more water covered the ledges and gullies beneath us Lee and I started getting bites. I then had a decent bite and as I was using circle hooks I lifted my rod and began reeling in until I could feel the weight of the hooked fish. It didn't feel very big so I thought it may be a three bearded rockling but as it came to the surface my hopes were dashed when a small codling came into view. I quickly re-baited and cast back down. Another hour or so passed and during this time Ross and Lee both hooked and lost what they thought were small congers before I hooked another small fish and this time I got what I came for, my first ever rockling.

A small shore rockling. My first new species of 2013.
Another species disliked by anglers as they take baits intended for other fish.

We carried on fishing for a bit but despite a few rattles on the rod tips that Ross thought were lobsters clawing at our baits we didn't manage any other fish. On the way back to the car we passed a couple of white horses that gave me a bit of a fright as they suddenly appeared out of the darkness.

I'm lovin' it.

Saturday and with Ross working during the day Lee and I grabbed our ultra light gear and headed to Menai Pier in the straights hopeful that we could enjoy some mini species fun. The tides there can be very strange, switching direction and changing in strength very quickly. After fishing jigheads and letting them swing round in the current with no reward I fished a drop shot rig using a 15g lead. Bites were pretty much non-existent until I caught a shore crab. After a while it became evident that there weren't any fish around especially when I switched from Isome to a chunk of ragworm and still had no bites. Crabbing became the sole source of entertainment for us and we caught about twenty between us. I caught the most including a double shot both holding onto the same bait. Lee got the biggest one.

No fish but we still had a laugh.

We were quite glad when Ross finished work and we headed all headed out for more night time bait fishing. Ross headed to a conger mark with his mate Steve and dropped Lee and I off at Almwch breakwater. Lee chucked out a bait rod and also fished lures down the inside of the harbour wall. I meanwhile fished two bait rods. One up one down rigs with mackerel/squid cocktails and also ragworm were the choice and I also continued my experimentation with circle hooks. Bites were soon coming and I manged to catch a few fish mainly whiting but also a few small codling, a single poor cod and my second shore rockling of the trip. Lee meanwhile got a codling and some whiting on bait and his first ever poor cod on lure.

Circle hooks in action. All my fish bar one whiting were cleanly hooked in the mouth.
Scales coming off easily is an easy way to tell poor cod apart from pouting.
Lee was happy to get off the mark with a whiting.

Ross meanwhile had manged to land a couple of conger eels and winkled out a long spined sea scorpion from a rockpool. Steve caught a dogfish but unfortunately lost the conger eel he hooked which would have been his first ever. They both returned to pick us up at about midnight and we headed home shortly afterwards when we ran out of bait.

Ross doing the conger.
A nice reward from a rockpool whilst waiting for a run on his conger rods.

Sunday morning and we decided to go and have another crack at pike but unfortunately the result was the same. An angler dead baiting at one of the good spots and no action anywhere else so we decided to head off for some mini species fun again. I was keen to get a tompot blenny and as Lee has never caught one he was keen to get one also. Again a steady stream of common blennies and corkwing wrasse were caught before I finally managed to get a tompot blenny.

Another nice corkwing wrasse for me.
Ragworm proved irresistible to this tompot blenny.

That night we headed back to the mark where Ross had fished with Steve the previous night to try and tempt a conger or two. The only run of the night saw Lee hook an eel but after experiencing the fight for a short time the fish came off. Lee was gutted but admitted that this had stirred his interest in bait fishing and may lead to him doing more in the future. As we were packing up Ross couldn't find one of his conger traces. After looking all around the area and failing to find it Ross turned around and we found the trace, complete with luminous muppet and half a mackerel still on the hook hanging from Ross's back. He must have laid back on it whilst watching his rods. A very funny moment indeed.

The next day we headed down to the Llyn Peninsula to hopefully try for pollock and wrasse from some rock marks. Ross thought it would be too rough but we went anyway only to find Ross was right. The area was very beautiful and I can see that on a calm day it would no doubt produce plenty of fish. Having travelled all the way down there we decided to have a look at a slightly more sheltered spot further down the coast. There was still quite a swell running but the water looked a bit clearer so we decided to have a go. This eventually paid off with us all catching pollock.

A 4ft swell breaking over the rocks and dirty water meant a short trip further down the coast.
Perseverance pays off and a change of lure helps. This small pollock took a Lunker City Ribster fished on a Carolina rig.
Lee gets a pollock too.
Ross joins Lee and gets in on the action too with a few pollock.
I would certainly like to revisit this area on a calm summer day.

Returning to Bangor we decided to try a spot of Ray fishing that night. Arriving at the mark though we found that the preferred ledge had already been claimed by another angler so we headed along the cliffs to another spot. Fishing pennel rigged sandeel on long pulley rigs we cast them out as far as we could to reach the sandy area beyond the rocks. Ross was first to hook a fish and after a tricky landing had a nice ray on the rocks. This would prove to be the only ray of the night though. Some time later I landed a dogfish and unfortunately Lee blanked. By this point we were all rather tired and agreed to call it a night. On the way back we agreed to have a later start the following day and just decide what we wanted to do in the morning.

Ross gets the only ray of the session, a particularly thorny thornback.
I make do with a dogfish and was happy to avoid a blank.

On Tuesday morning we decided it would be a good idea to pack up and travel light as Lee and I were heading home at about 17:00. We headed back to the mini species spot and enjoyed another fun session. Lee was keen to try and catch his first ever tompot blenny and Ross and I were just happy catching anything although I would have liked a few more tompot blennies. Lee was quickly into a few corkwing wrasse whilst the common blennies seemed eager to grab my lure as soon as it entered the water! Ross manged another mullet also as well as a few tompot blennies much to the annoyance of Lee and myself who for some reason just couldn't seem to hook one.

One of many corkwing wrasse Lee caught in quick succession on his drop shot rig.
Second thick lipped mullet of the trip for Ross. On Isome this time.

Soon it was time to go and we all clambered back up from the ledge to begin the short walk back to the car. Another good trip to see my mates in Wales had come to an end and despite the fishing being difficult at times I think we made the most of it. 13 species in total between the three of us in 5 days isn't too bad for February, the worst month to fish in the area in Ross's opinion.

I climb up from the mark to end the trip.

Unfortunately on the way back to Bangor I realised that I didn't have my phone. A quick search of the car and a return to the mark to look for it without success also meant I missed my train back up the road. A pretty bad way to end the trip. We headed back to Ross's and Lee was picked up by his wife. I've promised him that I'll visit him during the summer and we can spend a few days down the Llyn Peninsula camping and fishing. Ross is off to Jersey in April and I'd like to go over there too so that's something else to look forward too if I can make it over. I booked a train up the road for Wednesday morning leaving at 5:14 and went off to bed early. With Ross about to start working ten days in a row and the tides not really ideal for night sessions he popped out for a short bass session whilst I slept. He got back about 01:00 and told me he had managed one bass.

Will this be Ross's last fish for a while? I doubt it somehow.

I really enjoyed fishing with Ross and Lee again and despite losing my phone, which made the trip quite an expensive one, I had a great time and managed to add eight species to my 2013 saltwater tally and also caught my first new species of the year. Not sure when the three of us will meet again and we are talking about a trip to the Mediterranean to beat the winter blues next year but I hope we'll be together again before that!

Tight lines, Scott.

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