Sunday, 8 July 2012

Wet Weekend

This weekend saw me and Brian off on an Anglo Welsh adventure. The weather forecast was pretty poor and so all plans for camping were hasilty changed to nearby budget hotel accommodation.

Friday was a sea fishing day courtesy of Brian hitting the big 50 last year. One of his gifts was a sea fishing experience for two, courtesy of his daughters. Neither of us are sea fisherman, so it was largely a venture into the unknown for us. I had done a small bit of fishing from my uncle's boat down in the Solent over 20 years ago, but that was about it.

We were joined on our vessel by 8 other hopefuls, along with the owner/skipper and his accomplice. The starting point was Penarth marina just south of Cardiff and we headed out for an hour or so along the Bristol channel towards Barry. The ever increasing smoke coming from the engine compartment was slightly concerning, but the skipper seemed to brush it off and we arrived on schedule.

Now, there were 10 people fishing, of which only 1 was female. You can probably guess who caught the first fish! Yes, it was the girl who had the first action, but I'm taking some credit for spotting the bite and pointing her in the right direction. It turned out to be a 7lb 7oz Conger Eel.

The fishing wasn't overly hectic and I managed just a single Thornback Ray for all my hours of staring at rod tips.

Brian matched my Ray with one of his own, but went on to take the lead in our little challenge when he boated a Conger Eel of about 4lb. That earned him a couple of pints from me for bagging the most species and the biggest fish - as per our side bet agreed at the start of play.

He also hooked into a Dogfish later on but it slipped the hook as it hit the surface. A few others had Dogfish and Thornback Rays, but the pick of the bunch by far was a Blonde Ray of 19lb 2oz that also gave birth while on the boat! 

The journey back was interesting to say the least. The skipper had decided to move us back towards the marina where it was more sheltered from the bad weather that was now moving in. The smoke from the engine started again and seemed to be a little worse if anything. The engine began spluttering and then gave up the ghost as we battled against the wind and the tide. 

We then had a period of drifting aimlessly out into the Bristol Channel heading into much rougher waters than we'd previously been in. The skipper and his mate were back in action and the smoking engine compartment was opened up for repairs. Everyone on the boat went silent while they scratched their heads and gave us very little by way of encouraging signs. After 15 minutes of bobbing up and down at ever increasing rates, watching more and more water washing over the deck while it was pissing down with rain, the engine thankfully fired up again. It was a lack of oil according to the skipper. We were all just glad to be moving back in the right direction again.

After a good 15 minutes we finally got past the bhoy where we'd previously broken down and now we were making progress again. The skipper never looked confident though and he had to throttle back again to save another total stall. After a few more minutes of slow progress he decided to anchor us up and do some more fishing. The main reason was that we'd now missed the slot for re-entering the harbour via the impressive lock system - largely caused by the big spring tide leaving the water too low for accessing the lock.

The enforced wait allowed for some more convenient engine repairs and this time the skipper cracked it. Apparently he'd changed some washer recently and forgot to fill up the water level. The engine had overheated. This time we got back to shore in one go.

Sea fishing definitely isn't my thing, but I wouldn't rule out doing it again. On this occasion there were too many in the boat to make it comfortable and the boat itself had seen better days. With a better boat, a couple of less bodies on board, a few more people in your own party, some better weather and it would probably be OK!

Saturday saw us tackling the River Wye a few miles upstream from Ross On Wye. We'd pre-booked it a few months ago to tie in with the sea fishing trip. Although it's always a case of hoping for the best in terms of the weather, we couldn't have got it much worse. The deluge of rain the previous day had left the river very swollen, still rising and the colour of drinking chocolate.

We found a couple of pegs close to the parking area that had a bit of slack water close in. There were only 2 other viable pegs further upstream so it made the choice very simple. We bedded in for the day and just decided to hope for the best. The 1 rod maximum rule on our ticket didn't help on this occasion - 2 rods doubling the rod hours is far more preferable when the going is likely to be tough. The side bet was once again most species and biggest fish. In all honesty we expected a no score draw.

All manner of debris was piling through during the whole session. It's amazing just how much rubbish gets into the river. It was just a procession of crap running downstream throughout, the pick of which was a TV!

The fishing was tough going, but I eventually hooked into something Barbel-like that led me a merry dance for a minute or so before it slipped the hook. That gave us a bit of encouragement and we continued to slog it out. I was eventually rewarded with another bite just after I'd abandoned the feeder for 4oz of straight lead - the increase being necessary to hold bottom in the ever increasing flow. I banked the fish - a Barbel of 6lb 7oz.

We contined to battle the river and it was clearly the river calling the tune. It was rising throughout and came up 3ft during the session. It was only in the last hour that it finally stopped rising. By that time we'd both been pushed back up the bank on 3 occasions and were about 12ft back from where we'd started the session!

I managed one more Barbel which went 5lb 2oz.

It was still an enjoyable session though in peaceful, stunning surroundings - even if the river was a bit on the ugly side on this visit. We'll hopefully head back in the Autumn for another crack at it. Someone owes me a couple of pints on the first night of that visit!

Doing a bit of research, I've unearthed a photo taken 2 years ago from the opposite bank to where we fished - about 150 yards dowstream. In terms of the session I've just written about, I fished directly behind the pillar on the left. I can clearly see a Salmon croy poking out from the bank that I didn't know was there! It might explain some of the snags I encountered!

The photo below was from Saturday's session showing the same 2 pillars. I can now appreciate how much higher the water level was on this occasion. It must have been 9-10ft up.

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