Living where I do, as far from the coast as anyone in England can be, any sea fishing trips I make are what you would call opportunistic. It’s been a few years since I visited the seaside for work related trips (I made regular visits to North Wales and Lancashire at one time) so these days we are talking about the annual family vacation. So with a caravan in Pembrokeshire booked for the half-term week (see how up-to-date my Angling Journal is!) it was time to literally dust down the sea fishing tackle.
However, let me say right here and now, at the start of this week’s entry, that it was one of the most disappointing holidays I have had as far as the fishing was concerned. And particularly so when last year – at the same time and place – I had one of my best sea fishing times ever. As the old saying goes ‘What a difference a day makes’, I can quite easily confirm that you can change ‘day’ to ‘year’ and the extremes are just as real.
My first visit to the local beach saw the rod pulling round after just a minute or so of casting out. Nothing to do with giant bass or running tope though, but weed – and lots of it. So much of it wrapped around the line in such a short time, that I had to literally pump at the rod in order to bring the lead in. After a few casts I knew I was beaten, and so returned to the caravan where we were staying.
Looking forward to the second night, I tuned in to the local weather forecast on TV. Normally they announce rainfall in mm, but when they said that four inches would be falling that day, I knew that fishing would be out of the question, because not only was there a torrent of rain on the way, but it was being brought in by extremely strong winds. It was one of those nights whereby you are happy to sit by the fire with your feet up!
The next night saw the rain ease off, but the winds were just as ferocious. But getting itchy feet as darkness drew in, I got my tackle together anyway and walked the short distance to the beach. The closer I got, the more exposed I was to the full force of the wind as it blew in from the Atlantic Ocean. By the time I got to the sea front itself I was literally in danger of being blown over! Forced to retreat, I was determined to get it right the next night, although in fairness to myself, these really were conditions that were totally out of my control.
Well, the next couple of nights did see me actually casting out, although the wind was so bad that bite detection was virtually impossible. Thankfully the weed had gone though, but the rod tip was still bouncing around in the air as if it was connected to a dancer at a rave. I managed to catch one small whiting, but even then it was a case of having the fish on when I reeled in. It was only as I drew the line back through the surf, that I realised I had caught a fish.
And so that’s how it all ended. It was a bit like going on a week’s fishing on the Great Ouse and catching a gudgeon! Of course, my consolation was that it wasn’t a fishing holiday but rather a family one, where angling was a side dish. So on that front it wasn’t a problem really. As far as sea fishing is concerned, I am a genuine pleasure angler, the equivalent of the guy who goes down the canal on a summer’s afternoon and is happy to catch a bag of gudgeon.
But like most anglers, I also take more than a passing interest in the wider natural world that we find ourselves in when fishing. So it was with great joy that we (as a family) spotted numerous Atlantic grey seals in the many coves in the area of Pembrokeshire where we were. As well as adults we saw several young seals, at various stages in their development. And then there were the birds that I spotted. Just by taking my binoculars with me when we went out for walks, I managed to log almost 60 species.
I added four new species to my list (I’ve only been ‘serious’ bird watching for less than two years) which were peregrine, kittiwake, red breasted merganser and little tern. Sitting on the cliff top, binoculars in hand, it was almost as exciting as fishing! I spent ages watching a group of choughs, which are pretty rare birds themselves. In some ways the rough seas were almost a blessing in disguise!
(Originally published October 2005)