TNS LADIES, WELSH BEACH FISHING, BIRDING (Blog entry 671)

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This week’s blog kicks off – no pun intended – with the final TNS Radio show of the season. Greenhous Meadow, the home of Shrewsbury Town, hosted the Shropshire Cup final that was contested between TNS Ladies and their Shrewsbury Town counterparts. We have already covered the A5 derby in 2015/2016, in the form of a pre-season friendly. There was much more at stake this time round though.

It was a close affair but TNS ran out winners in the end and in the process made it a treble-winning season. The radio show went well and it was great to get on the pitch immediately after the game to do some interviewing. Together with the clips I did pre-match, the current TNS weekly podcast is devoted to the win. Click HERE to listen to it on the TNS website. With my season coming to an end as far as games are concerned, the next day I was off on vacation.

The final game of the TNS Radio season
The final game of the TNS Radio season

Dwi’n mynd i Abermaw is what I wrote on Facebook and Twitter. I’m going to Barmouth – although technically it was just beyond the town boundary. This time last year, my wife and I had a great week in the area, staying at Llwyngwril. This time we moved closer to the main town though, booking into a caravan park at Tal-y-Bont. The first day is always busy, with travelling, settling in, going shopping etc. However, a visit to the local fishing tackle shop is always on the list of priorities, so with fresh ragworm purchased I awaited the incoming tide at the end of the day.

The caravan we stayed in was less than two minutes walk from the beach. Perfect. I did have a walk along it on arrival, with the water’s edge still some distance from the high tide mark. I was looking for features and immediately found my spot in a gulley running alongside a sandbank. The problem with many sea anglers is they cast as far as they can, with the horizon as their preferred target. However, just as in any other angling discipline, watercraft is very important.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

I ended up fishing no more than fifty metres from the beach at high tide. With the baits in the right place I was confident, even though I was there for little more than an hour. That’s the key really – get your bait in the right spot and you’ve got more chance of catching in one hour than fishing all day in the wrong place. I certainly proved that, with three lesser spotted dogfish followed by three flounder. Heading back to the caravan after a good first session, I was a happy camper indeed.

The earlier walk that I mentioned was with my wife, and as always, my Swarovski binoculars hung around my neck. The grass area adjacent to the beach had a healthy skylark population. They’re great birds, I love to watch them. In addition I saw my first sedge warbler and wheatear of the year, taking me to 86 and 87 species respectively for 2016. I’m a keen birder, but not a twitcher, so my year list tends to edge along slowly rather than in the fast lane.

Skylark, pied flycatcher and tree pipit
Skylark, pied flycatcher and tree pipit

Most of my birding during the week was along the same patch of land and in with the aforementioned birds I also saw red kite, stonechat, oystercatcher and linnet, with the latter taking me to 88. With just a narrow strip of sand dune dividing the grass from the beach, the other side I saw ringed plover and a late flock of sanderling. A group of 17, they were mostly in spring plumage and will be on their way to their breeding grounds in the high Arctic very soon.

I did make one birding excursion though, to the Coed Garth Gell woodland just outside Barmouth. It’s RSPB-owned, but without a visitor centre, on-site personnel or even a sign-posted car park it definitely has a natural and wild feel to it. The website has four star species listed – dipper, pied flycatcher, redstart and wood warbler – and they were my target ticks for the visit. Well, I’m happy say that I not only had a full house but also added willow warbler, tree pipit and nuthatch for the year, plus gannet and dunlin off the caravan park beach later on,  pushing the 2016 tick-list to 97.

Male linnet and views from Coed Garth Gell
Male linnet and views from the local area

I’ve still got quite a few common birds to go as well, so a concerted effort over the next week or so should see three-figures passed. The thing about birding is that the one with the most ticks in the year isn’t necessarily the best birder. It just means he’s got the time, inclination and money for travel, that’s all. Some birders don’t like to release their tick-list as it might not be as good as someone else’s.

As I’m not in competition with anyone, I’m more than happy to publish mine. Like angling, I’m not involved in the ‘scene’ so there’s no pressure to look good. Back to the fishing though, the tides at the start of the week were just right for an evening on the beach. With high mark just before dark it was perfect, not to mention very comfortable as well, fishing from the shingle above the sand line. I didn’t blank either, with subsequent evening outings giving me numerous dogfish and two dabs.

Some great sunsets this week
Some great sunsets this week

I then decided to see my angling week out with day-time sessions, all at high water. I knew it was going to be much tougher and that proved to be the case. With several visits I managed just one dogfish at a time, although in my defence all the trips were very short ones. After the fish from the evening outings, I was up for the challenge. Sadly the bass eluded me, but as I didn’t use the headtorch or tip light at all during the week, the many dogfish plus five flatties saw a decent non-night fishing return.

I do enjoy my sea fishing very much and it’s only the fact that I live in the centre of England that prevents me from doing more of it. In years gone by I have travelled all the way to the likes of Talacre and Rhyl just for a day out but with time and petrol these days, it’s just not a good use of resources. However, I did ten sessions this week and so I can’t really complain can I? Some anglers only fish once a week even though they have the sea on their doorstep, so that means I did two-and-a-half months worth of angling in seven days.

One of the rigs, simple but very effective
One of the rigs, simple but very effective

My rig was a simple set-up, with two hooks on one and three on the other. It’s the basic one I use for most of my salt-water angling and it works. With the sea being very gentle all week, plus fishing from the top of the beach, it was very comfortable. That’s what you want when you’re on holiday. If I lived by the coast it would be different but when it’s a flying visit and I just want to fish as much as possible, then the nearest bit of beach is fine. Plus it worked out ok.

We really enjoyed our week away and there’s no doubt that we’ll be back. In fact no sooner had I arrived home, settled down and went on the internet, I was looking at autumn breaks. I’ll have to wait until the Welsh Premier League fixtures are released though, as everything revolved around TNS these days. Not that I’m complaining, it’s not exactly a hardship is it? Having to plan your life around a professional football team isn’t what you’d call a burden. See you next week and why not receive blog updates via email? Check out the top right of this page. (Published May 21 2016)