part 1 - Indian Summer Sunsets before seasonal squalls!
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has seen a fragmented but nevertheless very welcome Indian Summer
during the Autumn of 2009. Mild and even warm days, and remarkably
little frost at night, with just the occasional rough spell until late
October saw me making up for lost time and getting out fishing a couple
of times a week, travelling to localities in North and South Wales and
everywhere in between - my version of a holiday in other words!
When many people think of sea-fishing, visions of plump sea-bass or
cod, or strings of mackerel come to mind, but it's surprising as to
what can be caught around the Welsh coast. Here are a few examples.
Firstly a garfish - these are active predators that can be caught by
floatfishing with tiny strips of mackerel that resemble - to the
hunting garfish - erratically swimming fry. Garfish have the
peculiarity of having bright green bones - the old name for them is
"greenbone" - and for that reason people are put off and hence you
don't see them in the shops. I can confirm that the specimen below was
delicious - I shall definitely hunt for them again next year!
is a small-eyed ray that took a bait intended for turbot. They can be
caught at night from some Welsh beaches, where they hunt for sand-eels
and other prey. Although this one is over ten pounds in weight, it is
only the "wings" that are eaten, and the bit down the middle is
discarded. This seems a waste to me: although I used to eat them, I put
them back these days and hope instead that the next bite will be a
Although this fish is
tropically-vivid in its colouration, it is a widespread resident of the
seas around the UK and is delicious when big enough to take - sadly
this one wasn't. It's a red gurnard, one of a group of fish that live
over sandbanks and ambush anything that swims past and can be swallowed
in one go! Quite a thought really - many fish end their days by being
This is a bit more interesting - a triggerfish. Warmer temperatures
have seen this subtropical fish increase its range northwards and its
numbers in recent years and they are quite common in some areas,
especially along the South Wales coast. It is one of a number of
species that are becoming caught more frequently - another being the
gilthead bream (sold as "dorado") - I wonder if we will be eating both
frequently in years to come?
Fishing brings the benefit of a regular supply of fresh seafood but
there are other benefits to anybody with an interest in the natural
world. One early October evening I fished from the rocks at Mwnt, near
Cardigan, when all around me the bottlenose dolphins began jumping
clear of the water. I only had my fishing camera with me, which is a
little Pentax compact, with that irritating delay between pressing the
shutter and the image being taken that most compacts seem to have -
making anything momentarily visible difficult to capture. This was the
only shot I managed that had anything in it!
That same evening, the sunset was one of the best I have seen this
year. Alone on my remote rocky perch, with the sea gently lapping at
the high water mark ten feet below, it was a deeply tranquil hour into
After dark, in a place with absolutely nil light-pollution, no moon and
no wind - and thus no sound except the slow heartbeat of the sea - and
a sky glittering with stars, it was a tough thing to drag myself away.
It was only the heavy dew that started to form that made me pack up and
leave - the rock at this place takes on the frictional properties of
teflon when wet, I was alone and it is no place for a slip. So
everything went in the rucksack before I passed the rods up the 20ft
rock-face that is the only way back and climbed carefully up out of
there, getting back to my jeep in the deserted car-park by 10pm, a
little weary but at the same time spiritually recharged.
Early November saw a shake-up in the weather-department with Atlantic
lows taking firmly over, with bands of rain followed by showers and
windy conditions. The above shot was taken between Tywyn and Aberdyfi,
whilst the one below was taken above Aberdyfi, looking down over Borth
and the Dyfi/Leri estuaries. Visibility was poor on many of these
November 7th showed more promise with a mesoscale area of low pressure
moving in from the west, containing numerous showers and thunderstorms.
Rather fortuitously, I chose Borth as my intercept-point, arriving in
heavy rain which cleared to reveal the scene below:
This approaching heavy
shower proved to be one of the most intense experienced by Wales on the
day! Here's the Netweather radar-plot, with a core of over 70mm/hour
approached, rain began to fall from the long, low sloping anvil,
partially obscuring the view of another storm in the distance...
Suddenly, out to sea,
lightning flickered and my radio crackled simultaneously. A few moments
later, a muffled boom of thunder found its way to me. Sat on top of the
shingle storm-beach, I was one of the higher things in the vicinity, so
I thought it wise to get to lower ground and headed to Ynyslas. The
lightning, never frequent, got closer and closer and with the view
obscured I decided to head back to Borth - straight through the middle
of the thing!
This was quite a beast. Torrential rain and hail lashed across the
landscape, drowning out the thunder, the road becoming awash and the
putting-greens on the adjacent golf-course turning white with
accumulated hailstones. On I plodded at 15mph, until I arrived at Upper
Borth with a view back to what I had just driven through, retreating up
the Dyfi Valley....
Here's a zoom-in. The little black dots in the sea off Borth are
Here's a final view of the storm heading up the valley from Ynyslas:
By now the
light was starting to fade, and with nothing particularly promising
upstream over the bay, I followed the storm on its heading towards
Machynlleth, with thoughts of a fire in the grate and supper in the
pot. A successful intercept then, and the chances seem reasonable for a
few more similar encounters in the coming days!
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