Earlier in the year I had promised myself to try and get out for more sea fishing and I was lucky that an opportunity arose recently to join the guys in Minehead for another session in the Bristol Channel. After an email let me know a space was available I made a quick reply saying I was up for the trip.
With B & B organised at a local pub, which handily sits a matter of yards from the harbour, it's then a relaxed drive up to Somerset before an early evening stroll along the front helps to work up the appetite. Once I've eaten it's a couple of beers and a read through the paper before getting my head down ready for tomorrow's exertions.
It looked like we were going to be lucky with the weather again, as the forecast was for broken cloud and some sun, and it was certainly a bright start as the guys started arriving, and I said hello to a few of the lads I'd met on the previous trip and was soon introduced to the rest of the lads making up our party. The mickey taking and general banter started straight after that!
Once on board skipper Dave Roberts gets Alykat Too out of the harbour and then heads East along the coast, and after around 20 minutes we're at our first mark.
On my last trip I'd had to borrow some of Dave's tackle but as I'm hoping to sea fish more regularly I'd invested in my own rod and reel set up. Having used, and liked, the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 last time out I went for the same, but after getting advice from the skipper I'd gone with the 20-30lb class version to give me a little more scope when catching, and playing, bigger fish... hopefully!
With a great through action, and sporting it's infamous clear tip, the rod is comfortable to hold with it's long EVA foregrip, which has enough room for both hands if you're really hanging on! For a perfect all-rounder it's very moderately priced.
For the reel I went with a Penn Fathom 20 Level Wind, which is a tough, reliable workhorse that has a low gear ratio for hauling big fish from deep water. The level wind ensures line lay stays even across the spool when that big 'un starts pulling back, and with an effortless, yet powerful clutch it's a great tool. The anti-reverse lever is easily operated when engaging free spool mode and has a satisfying click to let you know you're back in touch with your end gear. I couldn't wait to christen the new tackle.
But the bites aren't that forthcoming, though eventually the first 'doggies' make an appearance and soon after one of the regulars brings in the first proper catch, a reasonable blonde ray. I finally get the chance to play with the new gear when my rod tip starts to twitch and soon I'm connected to something that doesn't want to come up and get it's photo taken. It turns out to be a Bull Huss, and goes about 7-8lbs.
Another hour drifts by and not much gets caught, which prompts our skipper to move us down the coast a bit further. It's becoming clear that it won't be an easy day and all our catches are going to be hard won.
That's not to say we're not landing the odd fish, but they're not of the stamp us, or the skipper, would have hoped for. So one of the better one's to come out was from another of the regulars who has been getting quick takes that he's having trouble hitting, but his perserverance pays off when he finally lands a nice black bream.
We move yet again, in fact we've worked our way past Lynton and Lynmouth and almost up to Ilfracombe, trying different marks as we go. If the fishing is not particularly happening then you have to say the scenery is, with the North Somerset and Exmoor National Park coastline giving us some spectacular views.
At one stage Dave takes us in close to the shoreline and suggests we fish with a short paternoster set-up as opposed to the running ledger rigs most of us have been using. I quickly tie up a rig and drop my bait down and as the boat settles in the calmer water I start to hold my rod and actually begin to touch ledger.
As the sea fishing 'newbie' and predominantly a coarse angler, I'm now coming into my own. I'm feeling for bites which are now coming quite regularly and I start to land some more new species, initially a poor cod, also it seems, known more as a nuisance species. Then it's a small pouting before I get a serious tug and start playing a fish that is determined to stay on the bottom.
The new tackle gets another good workout before the culprit is wrestled to the surface, and it seems I have my first conger eel, but as the skipper gets the net it does a final roll and slips the hook... damn, or words to that affect!
A few more dogfish follow before I get my last surprise of the outing when I land a gurnard. It's a grey, the smallest of the three main types, along with the red, and the tub gurnard.
So I've met a few more new species, a few more sea fishing anglers, and had a thoroughly good day out, think I could get to like this type of fishing!
For charter info on Alykat Too with skipper Dave Roberts try www.charterboats-uk.co.uk/alykat/