I enjoyed another visit to the Bristol Channel recently, and as always I was hoping to land something new.
Skipper Dave Roberts knows I’m still a relative newcomer to sea fishing so keeps in mind what species I haven’t caught, and this trip was no different as after an overnight stay he suggests I get to the boat an hour or so before we’re due to depart.
Not that I minded as while I’m sorting my gear from the car I’m joined by fishing pal Martyn and we eventually stroll down and board our waiting charter Alykat II.
I’d driven up the previous day and had an excellent afternoon exploring the nearby Exmoor National Park with Martyn as my guide. Getting good views of many of the parks residents, from the Exmoor ponies, to their iconic red deer, and some of the hairiest cattle I’ve ever seen, all armed with serious sets of horns, even though Martyn tells me they’re relatively placid… yeah right, after you then mate?
There was also plenty of bird life flitting amongst the grasses and sedges, so when a Redstart posed beautifully on a branch surrounded by the yellow flowering gorse bushes it was the perfect picture, only Martyn hadn’t quite got his camera out when it hopped off never to show itself again!
But back to the boat, and Dave soon has me pulling up a small rope hanging over the side which I soon find is attached to a net, and as I bring it aboard I see there’s half a mackerel and three or four small crabs inside.
So that’s it, we’re catching bait for the trip.
Forty five minutes gone and we’ve caught enough of the little nipping devils, and not long after the rest of the lads start turning up and then we’re soon on our way.
There’s a reasonable breeze blowing so we head along the coast and plot up fairly close in. Dave shows me the best way to pop a crab on the hook, then it’s over the side and wait.
The proverbial dogfish start arriving to some of the lads using mackerel or squid baits but my rod remains still. Then after half an hour I get a knock, and another, I then begin reeling in and realise I’m suddenly connected to a torpedo that soon starts taking back more line, it’s a great fight but I finally get it to the surface as Dave scoops it up in the net.
Yes, it’s a new species for me, a little shark! Well actually it’s a smoothound, a starry smoothound to be exact, with the telltale white spots along its back.
So I’m pleased as punch, and the rest of the guys are happy as they think we’re in for a few fish now. But in the next hour only ‘doggies’ make an appearance, well to most of us except Neil, who’s doing his best to catch absolutely nothing!
We move back along the coast and catches start to improve, with Neil (another one!) pulls in a nice bull huss, and not long after Phil bags our second smoothound of the day.
In the mean time I seem to be stuck catching doggies, but at least I’m catching, as Neil still hasn’t hooked a thing, oh dear!
Another move, and this time we head for deeper water. It seems to work as fish start biting, Martyn brings in a thornback ray, and PJ soon has a bend in his rod… oh no, he’s hooked the anchor chain!
Then the unthinkable happens, Neil gets a bite.
Yes he’s now playing something in the depths, and it looks like it could be a good fish. When he finally brings it in he has a cracking small eyed ray which is big enough to be weighed and goes around 11-12lbs, a true specimen. Well the wait was worth it then Neil!
More ‘thornies’ from PJ, Chris and Phil, and two or three congers from the other lads make it a reasonable day’s fishing. With a friendly contest run by Dave for the most caught and number of species it all adds up to a great outing.
Think I’ll have to come back.