With Christmas and the New Year almost upon us, it’s time to take stock of what the outgoing year has given. To be honest, it’s been pretty good for me.I didn’t get as much fishing in I was hoping, as per usual, due to lots of reasons, but the fishing I did do was very varied and produced some good fish.
First the bad. It has to be said, that from the start of the year right through to September, the weather, generally, was not on my side. I lost a lot of boat trips, plus the amount of flood water here in mid/north Wales was a constant issue. What’s more the bass and mullet were very late arriving in any number, the bream were small and late, the mackerel were few and far between until August, and the crabs never peeled in anything like their usual numbers due to that flood water issue. Basically, from what I’ve gathered, the fishing was way better south of the Bristol Channel, and somewhat mixed further north for the majority of anglers.
The year really got rolling in early April when I went fly-fishing at Lechlade. I wanted a double figure trout, but ended up just shy with a series of big rainbows to 9lb 4oz, but still a new PB. These were on a 5W rod, so the fight was amazing. At some stage, I want to get back to Lechlade and get that double, though there is a water closer to home that produces big fish that I want to investigate too in the coming year.
Late April saw me up in Holyhead aboard My Way fishing with Gethyn Owen. We were targeting spurdog, a fish I rarely get to fish for. The fishing was not easy on the day, but I got a 13lber, which again was a PB.
I’d targeted two new species at the start of the year, one a Corbin’s sandeel. I was out with Malc Jones on Sea Angler 2 from Plymouth in May fishing for bait close to the Eddystone Reef and we were hitting a few sandeel. I’d learnt the differences between the Launce and Corbin’s, and was checking every sandeel I feathered up. The Launce were tight to the seabed, but I hit a sandeel that was higher up in the water, and on checking it confirmed it was indeed, a Corbin’s. Undoubtedly I’ve had them before, but never checked their ID, which as a species hunter is more than a little remiss.
Early June I was back with Gethyn Owen off Holyhead after smoothound. I’d wanted a 20lber for some time and Geth has some of the best big smoothound fishing in the whole UK. The first day produced some good ones with Mike Jr getting a 20lber for the second year running. I had a string of fish to 12lbs 11ozs. I was back up there a few days later. The fishing was not so easy in changeable weather, but right at the death I hit a big fish that stayed deep. The fish fought very hard running up and down tide, and when it broke surface Geth shouted it was 20lb plus, but I couldn’t see it as I’d stepped back to give him room. On the scales it weighed 23lb 3ozs and is a fish I’m unlikely to ever better, but another PB.
Late June, in heavy flood water, I picked up a nice grilse salmon just over 6lbs, and though the rivers I’m fishing are small spate rivers and you’re scrambling through tough undergrowth, its taken me back to my youth and I’m really enjoying it. I was also hitting sea trout as well, but returning everything as their overall numbers are not good nowadays.
July saw a lad’s weekend away in Union Hall, Ireland shark fishing with Tom Collins, a skipper I rate very highly. My lad, and friends Tom Wain and Trevor Phillips had never caught sharks before, but they all quickly put that right with some hard fighting fish to 50lbs. After they’d all caught I couldn’t resist dropping a bait over the side and took a couple of sharks to 50lbs too.
The end of July saw me back in Ireland fishing off Galway with my friend and Fisheries Inspector Kevin Crowley. We were out from Rossaveal on the Brazen Hussy with John Fleming, and in a difficult sea had blue shark to 70lbs. Followed that up with some cracking thornback ray fishing near Letterfrack, then headed down to Fenit with a new species in mind, an undulate ray. I’d been after an undulate for a while, but can only fish a couple of tides a year here at best, and that’s only if I’m passing through, and so far I’d dipped out. After fishing the pier and blanking, a friend, Phil Ord, took me out on his boat and I finally bagged my undulate just east of Fenit. I’d got my two new species for the year and taken my overall total to 113.
As August was about spent, I decided to target a new species for me in the UK, a freshwater catfish. I chose Llyn-y-Gors fishery in North Wales and booked two nights. The first night I completely blanked with no indication at all. The second night I snugged up in my sleeping bag about midnight thinking I was going to miss out. I woke up to a shrill alarm going off at 1.40am and had a tug of war with a fish that was obviously a cat that had every intention of heading for some heavy snags. It failed, and we netted a 21lber that took chicken liver bait. Species 114!
Being as I was on a roll with Lady Luck favouring me, I’d been keeping tabs on a fishery that put the odd brook trout in. I got the nod that a few were being stocked, so booked a day. It was hard fishing, though I had a series of rainbows to keep me interested. It was close to 5pm and the sun was starting to angle down nicely in the sky. I went for the deeper, darker water that brook trout prefer on the east side of the lake and saw a bank of clay or mud that disappeared in to the blackness. I figured this might be just the place for a brookie to linger, and a few casts later hit a fish, small, but with a different fight characteristic, that I just knew was my brook trout. So it proved, under a pound in weight, but my 115th UK species.
I finished the year with some nice double figure wreck pollack aboard the Judy B with Dave Carey off Pwllheli. Had some consistent sport with flounder on my local beaches, beached a single shore codling, and got myself in to carp fishing buying a winter ticket to learn the water a little ready for next summer.
2016 gave me four new species and six PB’s, far more than I could have hoped for given the limited time I had to fish. If I’m honest, I had low expectations early on as I knew the weather was going to play up, just like it did the previous year, but it just shows, as an angler, we should never give in, but keep trying as one bite can transform the whole year in to a special one.
I’m formulating plans for 2017 as I write. I’m still not sure what new species to go for. I have two freshwater ones in mind, a bitterling and a silver bream. Sea wise, if I venture to the west of Ireland, I’ll target another one of my nemesis, a megrim, and I still need a thin-lipped mullet, so might be heading south at some stage. I’ll also be doing a bit more carp fishing, plus want to up my PB catfish targeting a 30lb plus fish. I still have that double figure trout to achieve too.
With all good intentions, inevitably plans will get changed and other opportunities present themselves. I’ve learnt over the years that specific plans are important, as are setting personal targets. It keeps you fresh and thinking. Equally, we also need to be realistic and be adaptable, ever willing to switch targets to what is the most feasible.
I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and I hope, for each and everyone of you, that 2017 proves to be a prosperous, happy and healthy year, and that the fishing is good wherever you are.