Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Yearly Trip to Wales

With the warm weather in full flow a few weeks back it was time to pay a visit to family in North Wales and get away for a week or so of fishing, which I usually do every summer.

On arriving, I spent a few hours with the family but, although eager to get out fishing for the last couple of hours of daylight, the tide was low which I have never found to be any good here before. I decided to get out, for a stroll along the beach if nothing else, but this time I went to a different mark and ended up in a shallow, rocky area strewn with boulders at the bottom of a granite cliff. I’ve never been able to get to it before as I generally fish at high water but it looked “fishy” if you know what I mean. Whether there’d be any bass there was anybody’s guess.

I made my way around the rocky area casting my trusty Lucky Craft Gunfish 115 in Ghost colour, enjoying the solitude and beauty of the coast, and mesmerised by the surface lure walking and popping its way back with a stunning sunset as the background. On one such journey back, as the lure got close to the swirling water around the rocks, I thought I saw a splash just behind the lure but without giving me time to think about it a bass hit the lure hard and charged off. Wow, what a take and all within 15ft of the rod tip. After a decent fight, with the bass making long runs in the shallow water, it came in and was a bit bigger than the normal stamp of fish for the area, at least for the last few years. Not big by any standards but my first bass of the year at about 3lb. Shortly after another, slightly bigger, fish came up in exactly the same way and nailed the lure at the second splash. It was now fully dark so I made my way back round and started slowly walking along the beach, casting as I went, when I missed an unmissable take at distance. Not sure how as I heard it, saw the splash, felt the fish and struck, but I still missed it! Doh! No matter, I’d had two and it was well past the time to go.

Anyway, the following evening I thought I’d do pretty much the same and again, two more bass were caught in exactly the same way, with a missed splash and then a full on take… I wonder if they were smashing into them first to damage them before coming back to finish them off? I know some people believe that happens. One a bit bigger and one slightly smaller this time but the action and decent size of all of them made me hope that the bass fishing planned for later in the week in a better area might be good.

Before that there was much more fishing to do, albeit not too seriously. This yearly trip isn’t about catching monsters but more about fun and getting about a bit.

First stop was a big glacial lake that I’ve fished for a few years. One of my fishing mates, Jono ( Reel Fishing ), has a caravan there. It was now early Sunday evening and in the last couple of miles before I got there,after driving from the coast, I think I saw a pair or ospreys but can’t be sure. They are seen in that area sometimes and Jono has had a close encounter with one on his boat out on the lake.

Over a few beers we decided on what we were going to do over the next few days; we had a lot to fit in and needed a plan. Somehow, in a drunken haze, a plan emerged and even had the added bonus that there were no early mornings, which was a blessing as we had a barbeque and beers every night until the early hours… it is a holiday as well, after all. J

First on the list was an afternoon and evening on the boat, lure fishing for pike, but before that a plan had to be put in place.

For years I’ve often thought about filling a sealed container with dead fish etc and tying it off in a swim, with the intention of attracting eels and/or catfish. For some reason I’ve never got round to it but I’d planned to give it a go here. I’d picked up a big bag of nasty, smelly fish from the local tackle shop on the coast for £2! To be honest, I’m sure the woman was happy to get rid of the old, refrozen stuff at the bottom of the bait freezer that she could never sell. It suited my needs perfectly, even if I did have to seal it in 3 carrier bags and a bin liner because of the smell.

Anyway, I’d made a load of holes in a big container and tied string to it, and Jono had made one. I knew the area I wanted to try for eels so we made our way across and had a quick scout around with the echo sounder, finding the marginal drop-off and the drop-offs going across the lake. We picked our spot, which was a deep area close to a shallow, snaggy area, and filled the containers with dead fish of all sorts, pigs hearts, livers, kidneys! We tied markers to the string and dropped one overboard on either side of a swim. We spread some food they could get at all over an area about the size of two or three tennis courts, tried to get the smell off our hands, and went off pike fishing.

The pike fishing was tough and after a couple of follows I eventually had a fish hit a surface lure, only a jack but we then caught 3 more off the top before calling it a day… the biggest being a double to Jono. For some reason the pike fishing there this year is poor compared to the last few years with fewer, but bigger average size, fish. With the boat out of the water we went back for beer, bbq and laughs until stupid o’clock in the morning, as usual.

The next day was eel fishing day so after an easy start and a trip to the local tackle shop, and a quick one in the pub, we got to the boat launch area but could see a load of kids in kayaks had got out of the water exactly where we had dropped the chum buckets. They eventually left but it was now late afternoon. We settled into the swim to fish lobworms on one rod each and fish bait on another. The worms were lobbed (sorry!) out near to the bucket and before I’d even set the second rod up it was away. A short fight and the first eel was landed. To cut a long story short, we fished until about 2am and I had 6 or 7 eels, between 2- 3½lb or so, and Jono had, I think, 3. The eels seemed to like my bucket more than Jono’s and I couldn’t find time to sit down; it was hectic. With the worms all gone I took to using bigger and bigger fish baits but it just meant the 2-3lb eels couldn’t get them in their mouths, although they didn’t stop trying… lots of missed takes. Quite a successful session, even if a monster eel never showed up, and the chum buckets and free bait certainly worked… in every eel we caught you could clearly see several lumps where they had eaten the free bait. To be honest, eels in big glacial lakes are very aggressive when it comes to food and can smell, and will travel, a fair way for an easy meal, so you can use it to your advantage.

The next day we’d decided to go fly fishing for grayling. Now, I’ve not cast a fly rod since I was a kid and only then very occasionally… in effect, a total beginner! I think I understand the mechanics of fly casting but putting it into practice was going to be interesting. Fishing with a tiny dry fly on a 5wt is a long way away from my normal pike gear of 100lb braid and lures of 8oz upwards! Going by my demeanour and general heavy handed approach, some people might say I’m not that big on finesse, but fishing Birmingham canals and park lakes for roach as a kid taught me the odd thing or two about going light, even if I hide it well. J

After a few failed attempts I could see where I was mainly going wrong and eventually I could make a good enough cast to catch something on a fairly regular basis. When you get it right it’s effortless and a lovely way to fish, and certainly something I’ll look into doing later in life. Anyone who knows me knows that if the opportunity arises I’ll surface fish whenever I can so I stuck with dry flies, even though it probably wasn’t the best option in the bright, hot sunshine. No matter, I wanted to get a grip with casting more than anything, as long as I caught one or two. J

It turned out better than I expected. My casting was okay for most of the time and I caught 3 or 4 mini grayling and a few salmon parr and brown trout… all juveniles but these were the first grayling I’ve ever seen and they were all beautiful. To catch them on a dry fly was great as well but a big one that I spent an hour trying to catch was far too smart to fall for my awkward casting.

The next day we made our way up to the coast and set up camp. We’ve been coming bass fishing to this particular campsite and mark for a few years now and the fishing is usually excellent. Even if the bass aren’t around in decent numbers we usually catch a few along with more than 50 pollock each over a few days, along with wrasse, and the odd mackerel, coalfish and launce. This year proved to be very, very poor. Anthony arrived the next day but we all struggled to catch anything at all. Jono managed a codling and a mackerel, and we caught a few small wrasse, but we couldn’t find a pollock or bass at all! Usually you only have to chuck out a toby and you can’t fail to catch the pollock. The bass were elusive until the last night when we tried a different area and fished well into dark, where we all managed to catch on surface lures. Not long before dark we saw what might be one of the reasons for the awful fishing; a commercial netter came along in his fairly big boat and set zig-zags of nets in the area we had been fishing, and the new area we were now in! The bass haven’t got a chance but it might not fully explain the disappearance of the pollock.

Another fishing buddy, Noodle, and his family turned up on the last night and although he didn't fish it was good to catch up with him.

Last years report of this trip had plenty of fishy photo’s ( A Week in Wales ) but we never got any photo’s of the bass, but however bad the fishing is the scenery of the North Wales coast is truly stunning and just being there is good for the soul.

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