Small but perfectly formed (dab article and video, entry 456)

Watch the video   Click images to enlarge   My angling website

If I’m in the north Wales area then a visit to Talacre (photo 1) has to be on the cards. If not my favourite sea mark then it is certainly up there with the best of them. I first fished it many years ago after reading a feature in a sea angling magazine (see, these things do work!) and becoming interested in a species I had not caught at that time, the dab. For some reason I was fascinated with them and really fancied having a go for them, so I set off for this place that on the map was located as Point of Ayr.

Those were the days when you could fill your car with petrol for £20. Long since gone and so my few visits to north Wales, although they yielded my first dabs, came to an end as fuel prices started to go through the roof. But then, in 2010, with our girls grown up my wife and I decided to take a holiday on our own. Our first solo venture, we didn’t want to go too far just in case, so when I found a caravan park at Talacre, our (!) minds were made up. Like all our vacations, my fishing gear goes along as well and with the coast literally on our doorstep, I resumed my love affair with the venue.

We have since been back three times (including this visit) but stayed a little further down the coast in the Kinmel Bay/Towyn area. Each time though, as well as fishing elsewhere, I’ve been on the Talacre trail. We’ll, being so close it would be rude not to pay it a visit wouldn’t it! As you can see from the accompanying video, I also paid Rhyl FC a visit as well. Although I’m a Wolves season ticker holder, Rhyl are my Welsh team, even though I’d never seen them play!

I do follow the fortunes of the club though and when I read a tweet saying they were at home to Buckley Town in the quarter-final of the league cup, I had to go along! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and saw Rhyl win 4-0. Having been round football for years (my first game was at Molineux in 1963 when Stan Cullis was still manager) I have seen it change so much in recent times, particularly the English Premier league. But I do like Welsh football and watch live games on Sgorio every week. Being at Belle Vue was in many ways like stepping back in time, even down to the toilets which are a wall and a channel!

So giving up an evening fishing to watch Rhyl was hardly a sacrifice, but next day it was great to get out to Talacre. And that’s the lighthouse on the beach at dusk (photo 2). It’s the one in the Dulux advert. What a windy day it was as well, which you can see from the video. I make my own sea rigs, which of course you can also watch. The two-hook set-up is my standard sea fishing rig that serves me well. I vary hook lengths, positioning of bottom length, hook sizes and patterns but that basic rig is my starting point. Again, with the bait collecting comments in last week’s article, it works out cheaper to do it yourself. Plus it always brings more satisfaction when you catch on your own stuff.

And catch I did at Talacre, albeit just two dabs (photo 3) and two whiting (photo 4) on the first outing. Talacre is a low water mark that involves a very long walk over the sand before you reach the channel of the River Dee. It’s a great venue but without doubt the walk keeps it fairly free of anglers. Certainly mid-week when I’ve fished it while on vacation, I very rarely see another angler. A gentle chuck and you’re in the deep water of the estuary. Feel your lead down, tighten up, put your rod on the rest and wait for the fish to feed. Nowhere is guaranteed fish but Talacre has always been kind to me and in the conditions I was happy with my catch.

But with the wind dropping from 30mph plus down to a more manageable 11mph, I was back a couple of days later on the Friday to round up the angling part of my holiday. I was hoping to spot a little egret on the salt marsh as I often see them feeding there. But as with the previous visit, none were around. You can’t miss them, even from a distance their colour makes them stand out. A keen birder as well as an angler, I did add 11 new species to my year list during the week: skylark (singing in the field next to our caravan), dunlin, turnstone, redshank, curlew, red-breasted merganser, sanderling (my favourite bird), shelduck, ringed plover, oystercatcher and my top sighting for the week, snow bunting.

So, no little egrets, but would the dabs be more obliging? The answer to that is a resounding yes. From the first cast it was action all the way (photos 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). My rods were never in the tripod very long as no sooner had I positioned them I was bringing in a fish. And with two rods and four baited hooks, it was fish after fish. Never mind my legs getting plenty of exercise with the walk, my arms were put through their paces as well. Combined with the pumping of lugworm (it’s like pumping iron but with a purpose!) I certainly had a good work out. Why spend money in a gym when you can walk to the water instead of on a treadmill going nowhere and collect a bucket of worms instead of posing in front of a mirror with dumbbells!

In just a few short hours I caught 17 whiting, 14 dab and a bonus five bearded rockling (photo 10). I’ve never caught a rockling at Talacre before so it does show that like birding, within reason anything can turn up anywhere. None of the fish were big, hence the title of the piece. But dabs aren’t one of the big sea species anyway which I’m sure is why they don’t have the following that fish like bass and cod do. Just as in coarse angling dace, roach and perch get overlooked by barbel and carp. But as an all-rounder I appreciate all fish. In fact while perch are my favourite coarse species, it is the dab that earns that title from a salt water perspective.

I fished with size 6 hooks on one rod and size 4 on the other. Dab are small-mouthed and that size hook is fine, particularly as they were my target species. I use bigger hooks when chub fishing; in fact my recent excursions to the River Severn saw me fishing with size 2. So the perception that many have that sea angling is crude while coarse fishing is about finesse isn’t necessarily true. It all depends on the venue, what we’re fishing for, the bait etc. Anyway, I really enjoyed my holiday and of course the sea fishing that I’ve written about over the last couple of weeks. Check out my articles on WordPress where they are listed in species. But for now now it’s back to freshwater and next week I write about my carp campaign. (article published April 7 2012)

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