Shore Fishing on the Cardigan Bay Coast of Mid-Wales
May 10th 2017 update
About time, I thought, to go and catch some Llyn air (and hopefully fish), so on Monday morning I set out, calling for some extra bait at the Tackle Box in Criccieth. We got chatting and I learned that a few spotted ray were being caught locally, so with plenty of time at hand I went down to the beach to drown some sandeels:
Blazing sunshine and a buffeting NE wind, curling round the rock and threatening to blow the rods over at times, dampened my hopes but I gave it two biteless (even crabless) hours and continued on westward. Got to Penrhyn Mawr and wandered down to an empty mark. There were tell-tale signs of mackerel, with lots of scales covering one area of rock plus discarded feather packets (now removed), but try as I might (and I tried hard since this was supposed to be supper-catching), all I managed were a few small pollack to about 14oz. Neither feathers nor red sabikis could tempt anything else.
Luckily I had some bread rolls and butter with me, so got to the campsite, pitched the tent, had said uninspiring supper and wandered up Mynydd Gwyddel with a bottle of Red and glass and sat watching and listening to the riptides as the light faded.
It's something I do every time I stay up there. Often you have quite a bit of company!
After a good night's kip I surfaced early the next morning and after a brew I set out for another try. I like this campsite since you can base yourself there and just wander at will with no need to drive, find places to park and all that hassle.
I chose the "easy mark" at St Mary's Well Bay, the one that is crowded through the summer months, and had it to myself. The mark usually offers a number of fishing options. The only problem was the swell that had gotten up overnight. There's always a chop here on the flood but this time it was a bit more than that...
I normally fish from the outcrops to the left! Dry for ten minutes at a time, then suddenly engulfed by huge waves - this swell was not only big but, more seriously, very unpredictable.
Finding a comfy spot high enough to be out of harm's way I fished and fished, again alternating feathers and sabikis, until finally:
Nice size, too. By then the hunger-pangs were making themselves felt so I trotted back up to the campsite and got breakfast on. I sweated garlic, spring onions and paprika in butter then did a production-line on the fillets... it was the best breakfast ever!
After stuffing myself to the gills to make up for the meagre offerings the previous evening, it was time to think about the next session. It was clearly too dangerous to fish for anything else from these rocks and mackerel would only go off in the warm weather so there was no point in catching more of them, so I cleared out from the campsite and went straight to the next item on the agenda - Gimblet Rock at Pwllheli.
It was like the Mediterranean there! But I can think of worst places to spend a sunny afternoon so I fished it three down and three up. one rod with legered sandeel sections in hope of the elusive spotted ray, the other with various rigs and hook sizes/baits, to see what else might be about.
A steady stream of the resident small dabs on the scratching rod, guaranteed every time I tried frozen black lugworm. Nothing else, not to popped up, paternostered or legered baits on hooks from size 2 down to size 14. It's still a bit early in the season, I told myself.
On the sandeel rod I had a solitary dogfish and this:
That's a first for me there but have heard of others being caught. A good size and a good munch - had it for breakfast this morning.
To conclude, slow fishing but a great trip all the same. Had the swell been smaller and more predictable I could have tried for the bigger pollack, but no fish can justify an angler taking silly risks. But the fishing isn't everything - it's just good to get offline for 36 hours, away from the news and the rest of the artificial world and back out into the real one. I like the Llyn Peninsula for the variety of fishing that it offers and will be back up there soon, anticipating the arrival of more summer species.
May 6th 2017 update
Boy am I looking forward to getting out there again soon! We have had some nasty overnight frosts followed by a strong easterly that has blown several days on the trot. Prior to that, a few fish were being caught from the local beaches - bass, small-eyed rays, flounders and turbot and we do not seem to be suffering from the dogfish plague being reported from the South Wales venues. But everything needs to warm up a little more. There are some big tope around, although you need a boat to get to them. A friend recently boated one well over 60lbs, a few miles off Aberdyfi - a superb fish.
Only one road-trip of late, a few weeks ago when I had a species-session on Holyhead Breakwater, fishing the murderously rough ground on the outside. Target was a specimen three-bearded rockling, a fish that has curiously eluded me for years, but the smaller shore rocklings were there in vast numbers, pouncing on any bait offered. I'll be back, though, next time I fancy a dose of masochism! I've had some good fish along there over the years and it's a great venue later in the year for variety.
On April 20th, I met my friend Kate and her lad Sam, who is very keen to learn about sea fishing. I chose Ynyslas as it is so user-friendly - safe and snag-free. He took to it well for a young 'un, learning how to secure baits like sand-eel with bait-elastic and his casting was really starting to come on - not in terms of distance as that will come later with practice. Main thing was he had them all going straight on-target. Good fast learner. Shame the fish would not co-operate. I had one half-hearted bite on sand-eel fished at range, that never developed into anything. Not even a dogfish at long range which is a bit abnormal. Little surf did not help. The baitfish are in, since the terns were diving on them. A small pod of dolphins came to say howdy around sunset to round off a pleasant few hours. Thanks to Kate for the image below - "is that a bite??"
The forecast for the coming week is much better and given the slight swell and warm, drying sunshine I will try some of the deeper marks up in NW Wales. Got a few locals wanting tuition sessions but I'm trying to wait until there is something to catch. Bring on the summer!
January 21st 2017 update
The question of whether December 2016 would be any good for codling has been answered with a firm no! OK so there have been odd ones but it looks like the good season in 2014 was an outlier. The whiting have been plentiful though: just before the New Year I took an experienced freshwater fisherman, John Scott, for his first beach session, at Tywyn, and he christened his new rod with a steady stream of insize fish - in fact we both had a good bag of 30cm plus individuals, so that was a satisfying end to the year. No photos - the rods were rattling the moment the baits hit the sea-bed!
Sea temperatures are still quite warm for winter: a friend was out on his boat off the Llyn Peninsula last week and among the resident pollack and codling he reported mackerel, of all things!
There seems to be a pattern emerging here with the mackerel being around later (and earlier) yet thin on the ground during the summer months - the traditional time for them. Warming waters and large numbers of baitfish seem to be holding them inshore in October and November, but in summer it may be the case that many continue migrating northwards. Mackerel have certainly become a common species in the waters around Iceland and southern Greenland in recent years. It seems that as anglers we have to be adaptive to the changes and plan our fishing accordingly.
Bass regulations for 2017 remain as in the previous years: total catch and release until July 1st, then one bass per angler per day through to the end of the year. There have certainly been a lot of small bass around the Welsh coast in recent months and the glut of whitebait will have ensured a good feed-up for these and their older cousins. The larger fish were not especially evident towards the end of 2016, but with such an abundance of easy food around this is unsurprising.
So to the coming season. I've already taken one booking for June and am looking forward to getting out there soon - a minor glitch in the form of a vehicle-change in the coming days then I'll at the whiting until they clear off. March is usually the quietest point in the calendar and then it'll be a case of targeting the summer species as they start to show up.
So it just remains to wish everyone a productive year's fishing in 2017, and I'd like to thank the 2016 customers and hope they are putting my tips and tricks to good use!