Guided Shore Fishing on the Cardigan Bay Coast of Mid-Wales
    
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Shore Fishing: A Guide to Cardigan Bay - the book

Shore Fishing - A Guide to Cardigan Bay -  was published in 2013 by Coch-y-Bonddu Books of Machynlleth and is available via their website and at their shop in Machynlleth. It was a bit of a mission so here's the story behind it.

In 2009, I took on an an ambitious challenge: a target of 40 species of fish to be caught from the Welsh shore in a calendar year. The target was reached in December of that year. Taking good quality digital images of the fish is all part of the game in species-hunting, as anyone with a similar obsession knows. Looking at this and the previous year's collection, I wondered what use they could be put to.

Fast-forward to September 2011 and I decided to sit and download 30 years worth of sea angling experience into a manuscript. Many weeks of hard work later, with winter setting in, I had something to take to a publisher and Paul Morgan of Coch-y-Bonddu Books was a good first cast! There followed much landscape photography around the coast in the spring of 2012, lots of editing over the summer and working on layout/proof-reading through the autumn until, by the following February, we had a product, or more accurately a palletload or two of books.

The book starts with the very basics of angling to help beginners. It explains in detail how the weather and tides work and how to stay safe. It describes how Cardigan Bay came into existence after the end of the last ice-age and what different fishing grounds formed as a consequence. It then embarks on a tour around the bay from St Davids round to Aberdaron, not giving away specific fishing marks but noting the distribution of the different types of ground. There follows the 'how to' section: firstly how to fish the different types of ground and then how to fish for key species - or being in the right place at the right time of year in the right conditions with the right rigs and baits.

The final section of the book concerns fish identification. On internet fishing forums, threads entitled "Fish ID Please!" are a frequent sight, so here was a chance to put the images from 2009 to good use. With these, and with a few other images obtained from fellow anglers, we managed to illustrate some 65+ species. This is by no means exhaustive, but it covers everything that most of us regulars catch and a few none of us are likely to catch!

John Mason's book cover Reviews

"Once in a while, a book comes along that is truly outstanding. One such book is Shore Fishing by John Mason - a book that is destined to become a must for anyone who wishes to fish along the shores of Cardigan Bay." - Moc Morgan, Cambrian News, 21st Feb 2013.


"We were pleasantly surprised when we read this book. We thought it would just be another guide written about a multitude of marks in a specific area with some generalisation on how to fish them and what to expect. We were wrong. The book covers a whole lot more than just marks. Whilst the book is called Shore Fishing: A guide to Cardigan Bay – a lot of the topics discussed are relevant to all areas of the UK and anglers everywhere. It is an excellent guide to the tactics and fish species available in the area." - Mike Thrussell Jnr, World Sea Fishing

This comprehensive reference for anglers focuses on the glorious stretch of coastline between St David's Head and Bardsey Island. Stuffed full of information and accompanied by some stunning illustrations, many of the chapters look at tackle and bait. Also featured are the weather, tides and geography and the geology of the area. Many will find the illustrated species identification section, which also includes mini-species, invaluable. This is a well-written book and a must-have reference for any angler looking to fish around this majestic and productive part of the Welsh coastline. - Dave Lewis, Sea Angler magazine, issue 493, June 2013.

And finally - the tale of the Streaked Gurnard...

There's a funny story connected to that species-hunt. In September 2009 I had a productive session at Raven's Point on Anglesey. It's a rock-ledge with sandbanks within casting range where red and grey gurnards are common and I caught both among a 10-species catch that included species 33 and 34 for the year. Now let's jump forward three years: i
n late 2012, Holyhead-based charter-skipper Gethyn Owen kindly sent me a batch of photos of additional species for the book, amongst which there was one of a rare streaked gurnard. Although red in colour, it has vertical streaks along and above the lateral line and a very bluntly shaped forehead, compared to the red gurnard's concave snout. Checking through my photos of 'red gurnards', I discovered I had caught and overlooked a streaked gurnard at Raven's Point in 2009:

streaked gurnard
That is by far my most unusual catch from boat or shore. I doubt if I will ever repeat it. Had I not written the book I'd never have even known about it.

An oversight maybe, but one that had me frantically chasing my tail around Aberystwyth and Tywyn during a weekend-long weather-window in mid December of that year for supposed species #40 - a five bearded rockling. Time was - apparently - running out.

Defeated twice by dense floating seaweed and large swells, I finally arrived at the Stone Jetty at Aberystwyth of a chilly Sunday evening to find it fishable. I managed to catch 7 species in the session - including two five-bearded rocklings. Phew - 40 species challenge completed. 
Had I only but known!