A dab hand at Talacre (dab article, entry 385)

If you have been a reader of my Angling Journal for a while (and there are some that have been following it from the beginning) then you will know that whilst I do like my sea fishing, I am an opportunist really when it comes to casting a salt-water line. Living as I do in the middle of England, both time and money restrict me pretty much to holidays. Usually that means our family summer vacation, as per earlier this year when we went to Trearddur Bay on Anglesey. But as our two girls are now young ladies themselves, my wife Debby and I explored the possibility of just the two of us taking a break. And a caravan park that had prices into four figures at the height of the season but dropping significantly outside of school-term times was the first place we checked out. And managing to get somewhere for just £154 we looked no further. And the fact it was at Talacre, right at the start of the Dee estuary, one of my favourite sea fishing venues was just a coincidence. Honest! 

It is the first holiday we have been on alone since our honeymoon almost twenty-four years ago, so it did feel funny just the two of us going away. We didn’t even take Twinkle our Bedlington Terrier, although Paris the ferret played gooseberry. We didn’t arrive till well into evening as Molineux called first, and to be more precise a 2-1 victory over Manchester City. What a way to kick start your holiday eh! I was still on a high on Monday night, but that was because our rivals from across the Black Country lost 1-2 at Blackpool! Anyway less of the euphoria otherwise I might get carried away. Back to the angling and other related things. The place we stayed at was brilliant and the beach was just two minutes walk from the caravan. And straight on to an SSSI as well, so right up my street as a passionate British wildlife lover. But my plans to hit low water on the Sunday morning were scuppered when the local tackle shop was closed and so not only was I unable to pick up the bits and pieces I needed, but more importantly, the bait. So no Sunday fishing this time!

Whenever I fish I invariably set my stall out for a specific species. I find that not only do I fish better that way (as opposed to a ‘chuck it and catch anything that comes along’ approach) but it’s definitely rewarding when you catch your target species. And this time round it was the dab that was the focus of my attention. The venue was the Dee river channel at low water, and as you can see from the photograph left, it was a very long walk across the sand to reach it. With an estimated three-mile round walking trip, no wonder I didn’t see another human being while out there fishing. I did see a single Atlantic grey seal though on three of my four outings. Each time the creature surfaced in my ‘swim’, we observed each other for a few moments, and then it was off again. While fishing I saw five gull species and the occasional oystercatcher and curlew. But during the holiday I spotted sanderling, dunlin, knot, pintail, shelduck, little egret, raven, skylark, linnet, stonechat and many others. It was brilliant. But what about the fishing?

My approach to the venue was to fish two snoods, one above the lead and the other trailing below. I created them from red amnesia, attaching them to the main line via a swivel fixed in place (at least vertically anyway) by two beads. The first few inches of the snood ( a hook length to coarse anglers!) was covered in stiff rig tubing and I started off with size 6 hooks before moving up to size 2 after session one. Dabs are not big fish and so a small piece of lugworm on a tiny hook by sea standards did the trick. Lead weight and style varied from 4-6oz and grip leads to straight bomb, depending on conditions. As I was fishing at low water or thereabouts I didn’t need a massive cast to the horizon. A gentle lob and I was in the deep water of the Dee as it emptied itself into the Irish Sea.

The first day and the conditions were glorious. It was hard to believe that it was November and I was fishing on the coast. I only wore my all-in-one Sundridge as a precaution, the reality was I could have just gone in my Wolves shirt. However, the weather wasn’t so good again during the week and I did find myself battling strong winds and driving rain on occasions. The British weather eh! I only fished for a couple of hours each session, but as we say in coarse angling, an hour at the right time is preferable to all day when things aren’t right. And how much more true that is with sea fishing, with the tide being the major player. I trudged back across the sands with 24 whiting caught, and several of them as double-headers, as you can see right.

The second outing saw the whiting in an even wilder feeding frenzy and I caught 31, but the pride and joy of the session was my first dab, that you can see pictured left. Such a small fish compared to the monster cod, bass, tope etc that most anglers target. But just like my favourite coarse fish (perch) is not one of the biggest then my best-loved sea fish aren’t ones that grow to enormous weights either. Third time out and 21 whiting obliged. No dabs but I caught my first cod of the week: just a baby though. I was beginning to wonder whether my target species would be more or less eluding me, until the final marathon walk over the beach left me a very happy man, as 7 of them were hauled up from the deeps. I managed double figures with the whiting as well, as I caught 11. And my second cod rounded off a very enjoyable week indeed. A total of 87 whiting, 8 dabs and 2 cod succumbed to my piscatorial charms. Better than blanking any day of the week!


The photographs alongside show a whiting and a dab. I caught some nice fish of both species but conditions didn’t allow me to set the camera up for all of them. When you’re coarse fishing you at least have the protection of an umbrella or maybe even a tree as shelter. But out on the exposed coast, you’re on your own. I did take a lot more photographs of course, including the holiday in general. You can view those via my facebook page.

And finally, there is a competition running this month that you can check out on the home page of this website or via the link. It’s free to enter and there’s no catch. All you have to do is ‘like’ on my facebook page. It’s easier than catching whiting!

(Published November 20 2010)

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