Autumn 2009 part 1 - Indian Summer Sunsets before  seasonal squalls!


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Mid-Wales 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!


This 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 turbot!

Small-eyed Ray

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 eaten alive....

Red Gurnard

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!

bottle-nosed dolphins

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 darkness....

Sunset over Cardigan Island from Mwnt

Sunset over Cardigan Island from Mwnt

Sunset over Cardigan Island from Mwnt

Sunset over Cardigan Island from Mwnt

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.

Squall near Aberdyfi

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 days......

Borth from above Aberdyfi

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:

Squall moving in at Borth

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 indicated.....

Radar capture of squall

As it approached, rain began to fall from the long, low sloping anvil, partially obscuring the view of another storm in the distance...

Distant storm anvil viewed through veils of rain

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!

Torrential hail and rain with thunder

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....

After the storm - from Upper Borth

Here's a zoom-in. The little black dots in the sea off Borth are surfers!

Zoom in after storm at Borth

Here's a final view of the storm heading up the valley from Ynyslas:

Thunderstorm moves away up the Dyfi Estuary

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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