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Catch As Catch Can

January, in the past, has usually treated me ok. This year, it proved very tough going. It seems, generally speaking, the whole autumn and winter period for both salt and freshwater anglers has been difficult everywhere, bar for parts of the south coast. Like many, I’ve racked my brains as to why, but I’m not coming up with much.

January was certainly been mild for the most part, and fairy settled for longer periods. Rainfall was been minimal everywhere overall. I didn’t like the persistent northwest winds we seem to be getting. They are never great for fishing. Sea temperatures have stayed favourable. I checked the read-outs on the 23rd of January with the sea off Rhyl in North Wales sitting at 7.8C, and it was still on 10C off Plymouth. Unless we go sub-arctic with heavy snow and melt water through the whole of February, sea temperatures will not drop much more than where they are currently. Whether it’s a good thing or not remains to be seen. Personally I prefer proper winter, spring, summer and autumn seasons with the appropriate weather. This way, both us, and the fish, know where we are.

I think the lack of proper seasons over the past couple of years has had a major affect on fishing as a whole. It’s changed the in and out migration times of some species. There were mackerel caught off Pwllheli in North Wales New Year week, and they’re still getting them off Devon and Cornwall in dribs and drabs now. The whiting were late arriving in some areas, there seems to be a general lack of dabs around, and even the dreaded dogfish have been somewhat absent in my local waters. All a bit odd!

The long-range weather pattern for February the Met Office are suggesting will be more unsettled with wet and windy weather early on, then maybe a real cold snap in the middle to late month period. I’ll take it day to day, for as you know, my faith in the forecasts is not that great, and over the past few years, with good reason. Mind you, a good blow may just stir the sea up a bit and put some life back in it.

Back to my own fishing…I got the year started with a whiting bash on a local North Wales beach. I was looking for flounder, but there were none around. An early boat trip from Pwllheli, and well offshore, produced next to nothing. It was purely down to the fish just not being there. It certainly was not for the want of trying. I managed a few bits by going down to very light hook traces and small hooks, but is was a very tough day. I followed this up with a carp trip on really cold day when the temperatures never exceeded 4C, and as expected, I saw no carp and had no interest. I consoled myself with the thought that it was a learning curve and as the water warms, it will get better. My lad and I then went up to the Mersey Estuary to fish with Simon Parry aboard Suveran. The fishing has been pretty consistent in the Mersey since October, and we bagged plenty of codling to 3lbs between us. I fished a second rod with either a whole whiting on, or two fair sized squid looking for a double figure fish, but it was not to be.

I’m behind with the fly-tying this winter too. I usually hunker down at the table when the football is on midweek and Saturday afternoon’s and tie up a batch of one specific pattern at a time, but time is flying by at the moment, and though I’ve made a start, I need to get way more trout flies done, and stock up with a few sea trout and salmon flies too. I’ve still got to service my salmon gear, both spinning and fly, and clean and check my fly lines, so plenty to do there.

I’ve been looking to create a saltwater seatbox for boat fishing with just enough gear in for a single day’s trip. This instead of lunking round my big, old, and very heavy boat seat box that has just about everything in it designed for when I’m in Ireland for a week or two and never know, day to day, what I’ll be fishing for. Easier intended than done though, this day box, and after some weeks of thinking it through, I’m still a little undecided how best to work it to cover as many options as possible with minimal tackle. I think I might go over to carrying a few foam rig winders with rigs on as one option. I never got in to these rig winders like so many other anglers did. I carry a heck of a lot of rigs normally to cover a wide variety of possibilities and found the rig winders took up way too much room in my box previously, but for a single days fishing, they might just do the job.

I’ve spent the last few months sorting out my carp gear too, and I’m pretty happy with where it’s at now. There are a few tweaks I need to make having had a couple of trips, but I’m pretty much there. Boilie flavours I’m still playing with. It’s a choice between a popular one that the carp are used to seeing, and an unusual one that might just trick them in to trying something new on what I’m learning is a pretty “hard” water. Recommended flavours that are supposed to be good in winter have, so far, not produced, so I’m learning what I can about boilies and their ingredients to whittle the options down towards something I have more faith in. I’m also going to try rolling some of my own boilies and play with alternative flavours to get that little something different.

I’ll keep you posted as to how it all goes over the coming campaign.