Friday, 17 August 2012

The Trophy Room

Although I am not a match angler I have entered or been entered into a range of competitions. 

As a youngster I used to send in details of my specimen coarse fish captures to gain Kingfisher Guild Certificates from the Angling Times. An Angling Times Top Ten badge was proudly worn for a while, this was the mark of a true specimen hunter at the end of the seventies.

My allegiance then changed to the Anglers Mail, and at one stage I used to send in photos for publication. In those days the Anglers Mail paid £25 for each photo it used. Believe it or not, a 5lb 9oz Welland Chub back in 1989 won me a reel as the fish of the week. How things have changed, even a six pound chub barely gets a mention nowadays!   

Various badges from Trout Fisherman and Sea Angler Magazines have arrived in the post and like the Angling Times Top Ten Badge have briefly adorned fishing clothing. I don't recall ever entering a trout, it being good publicity for day ticket fisheries.

My match career is limited, I have entered one trout fishing match. I travelled all the way to Bure Valley Fishery in Norfolk to find that the only way I could fish that day, was to enter a competition. I fluked a four pound rainbow first cast and walked off with a trout rod for the biggest fish of the day.

Despite this glittering array of awards I had never won a trophy until a couple of years ago when I was the weakest link in a two day RNLI competition aboard Colin Penney's Flamer III. Today I finally got another trophy to accompany it after accidentially winning a Portland and Surrounding Waters competition aboard Flamer IV.

 I have entered several matches aboard Flamer, simply because this has given me access to species rich areas that would not normally be visited during a charter trip. During Colin's matches I have landed several new species including the rare Red Band Fish and the Baillions Wrasse. Whilst I admire match anglers, I have no real desire to compete and continue to concentrate on trying to catch new species. I felt that I had a chance of Trigger Fish, Dragonets and Butterfly Blennies and fished accordingly. Unfortunately I failed miserably and yet again, the angler next to me caught the only Butterfly Blenny of the day. 

I was truly astonished when Colin announced that I had not only landed the most species but was also the points winner by some way. I don't really understand why, as I am sure that Steve Clements the runner up caught far more fish than me. However I would have happily swapped the kudos for Steve's  Butterfly Blenny and the weakest link spot!

Where is my trophy room, the downstairs loo of course!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Small Eyed Ray!

The muddy waters of the Bristol Channel are famed, both for their strong tides and the quality of fishing. August is a good time to fish for the small eyed rays so I booked a couple of days with Kevin Axtell on Seren y Mor out of Swansea Marina. As well as the rays there was also a chance of a trigger fish showing on the inshore wrecks and rough ground to the west of the port.

I arrived in Swansea the evening before the trip and spent a little time familiarising myself with the location, finding the tackle shop and Kevin's pickup point ready for the morning. Rogers tackle in Pilot House Wharf opens early enabling anglers to purchase bait prior to boarding your charter boat.

I phoned Kevin after 7pm to check whether the trip was on and although the forecast wasn't great we would be able to get out. Unfortunately Thursdays planned trip was cancelled as stormy weather was forecast to arrive wednesday evening.

After collecting some bait from Rogers Tackle I joined a mixed party of individuals on Seren y Mor. Kevin explained that we would be heading east due to the weather conditions and would be unable to get out to the offshore banks. Kevin's crew for the day was his father David.

Swansea Marina is joined to the sea via a lock and we joined a small flotilla of boats in the lock eagerly anticipating a day at sea.

We headed east out of Swansea down into the Bristol Channel. The shoreline became more industrial as we passed Port Talbot. Our first mark was on broken ground and we could expect smoothounds, eels, huss and the ever present lesser spotted dogfish that abound in welsh waters. Off Holyhead they are called Welsh Tiger Shark and here they are called Swansea Salmon!

As the muddy waters of the Bristol Channel are shallow I set up an uptider and lobbed my bait away from the boat, to get out of the scare zone.

Fish baits produced a string of LSDs with the odd small bullhuss. As smoothounds were being landed to crab, I baited up with crab and had three in three casts. The biggest hound just into double figures fell to Ray. It appears that the smoothound fishing is prolific with the larger hounds, fish to fourteen pounds being caught in May and June.

Our second mark offered a chance of a small eyed ray so I set out my stall with a large sandeel tipped with a strip of squid. It was tempting to go for the hounds as other anglers landed fish to just into double figures whilst my beautifully presented sandeels attracted a string of LSDs.

Ray joked that he had small eyes and therefore was a "small eyed Ray".

As the wind was not as bad as expected we pushed offshore to a sandbank for our third and final mark of the day. Kevin advised that this was a prolific ray mark.  We timed our arrival to coincide with the tide reaching it's peak, which is when the rays feed best on a Neap tide. On Spring tides the first and last hours of the tide provide the optimum conditions on this mark.

We anchored on the slope and fished down the bank, within minutes I had a series of slow taps as a ray maneuvered its body over the bait. I had expected the rod to pull over but the taps continued. I wound down and my first small eyed ray of around three pounds was boated. The next five casts produced a further five small eyed rays to nine pounds. I was surprised how well these fish fight compared to other rays that I have caught.

Thanks to Kevin and David for a super days sport out of Swansea. I will be back for a crack after a trigger fish.