I don’t think there will ever be a time when I don’t look forward to a guided session and with the weather we have been blessed with here on the Bristol Channel coast, at least for the most part this summer, it makes those hours spent by the water all the more enjoyable.
David and Peter first contacted me back in the spring, having found a couple of my YouTube videos and realising I offer a guided shore fishing service here. As is the case with many of my clients, David had long been interested in placing some baits within this infamous water-way and although Peter had originally lived near the coast here, he had struggled to find the fish.
Having studied at university together, Peter now resides in Bristol and David in Newcastle, incidentally making him the client who has travelled the longest distance to fish with me.
Our session was booked for mid August and both anglers were especially keen to try their luck with the resident smoothhound population. The tide was perfect, but whether the fish would be obliging on the day and indeed, if the weather would play ball and present us with favourable conditions was yet to be seen. Smoothhound fishing here is feast or famine stuff and even the most seasoned of local anglers endure a healthy (or unhealthy) number of blanks along the way to those bumper bags that make the news.
The planned date was soon upon us and the indifferent yet not unpleasant weather conditions that were forecast would at least rule out the session being a no-go from the off.
As it transpired, I found myself sat in ridiculously heavy motorway traffic on my way to the mark, my frustrations added to by a phone call confirming that both anglers were already in situ on the mark, well ahead of our planned meet time.
There really cannot be a more polar difference than that of being held up in traffic that isn’t moving and being out on the open coast with the sun on your skin and an onshore breeze in your hair.
Our plan was to fish over the low water period, but keen to get get a look at the venue of choice, David and Peter had decided on a high water session on the beach adjacent to the reef mark that we would ultimately be fishing. I explained to David that there was a chance of a fish at this stage of the tide, but at this particular mark a spring tide would likely be more productive. Still, both anglers would have a better chance of catching a fish than I would, sat in stationary traffic imagining just how pleasant that beach would be right now.
Eventually, the start-stop turned to a steady crawl and I was soon on my way, actually making good time as it transpired and arriving well before our predetermined time.
Donning a set of chest waders that I just knew would be hellish in the heat that hadn’t been forecast, I heaved my Bergen on to my back and was off along the beach where I could just make out two figures, complete with rods and other fishing paraphernalia in the distance.
With the tide still well up on the beach, there was plenty of time for the meet and greet that has become oh-so familiar to me these last few months. We talked of rods, of reels and of pretty much everything else which is of interest to anglers before finally, the spiky reefs that lay before began to emerge from the receding waters. David and I could negotiate the watery channels with ease, but we held back a little to allow Peter, who had opted for wellies, to catch up with us.
As is often the case, a substantial wait during the in-between stage of tide is the price to pay for wetting a line during a high water session ahead of a low water one and as the water had only just left the beach, I informed both anglers that although we probably could get a bait out ahead of time, we would be casting across the main reef which could result in some nasty tackle loss.
Needless to say, both anglers were willing to take the risk and baits were soon resting some way out in the ebbing tide, their fate yet to be revealed. David, being a very capable pendulum caster, was able to send his bait a little further than Peter and it crossed my mind that it was good to have two baits at different ranges. We stood and marvelled at shoals of mullet, only revealing themselves by creating bow waves as they cruised the pools of water, trapped, for now at least, as the dropping tide held them in their aquatic prison.
But we didn’t have long to wait before the presence of a fish revealed itself on Peter’s rod tip.
A couple of sharp, fast jabs were identified before the mainline fell slack and I prompted Peter to hurriedly winch up the slack line to make contact with his fish. It was a positive connection and I urged Peter to wind for all he was worth in order to keep the fish up in the water and away from the tackle hungry bottom. As luck would have it, he succeeded and I was soon hand-balling our first fish of the session from the shallows. Peter was chuffed with his catch and it was definitely something to build on.
Meanwhile, David’s rod was also receiving some attention and we looked on as the tip gave a few steady pulls. This was clearly another eel, but for whatever reason David failed to connect and the fish was gone. To make matters worse, his mainline had made contact with the reef, rubbed off and we were one set of end tackle down.
By this time, the water level had dropped considerably and we were soon able to access the reef proper. David tackled up again, wet a line on a fresh reel and soon had a bait resting a very respectable distance out in the tide.
The extra casting distance seemed to be working for David and as we marvelled at our surroundings (even after all of this time, I still feel a true sense of appreciation of such places) I spotted the tip on David’s rod rise a few inches. I hurriedly brought this to his attention and ushered him to hold the rod. We looked on as the tip slowly puled over in his grasp as the fish made off with the bait. A little bit of pump and wind ensued before the fish broke surface some sixty or so yards out. It was immediately identifiable as a ray and soon welcomed to a photo shoot upon our comfy rock plateau. More fiddly bites followed, but the fish were feeding in the same lazy manner that the weather was now presenting itself.
The wind had dropped away to nothing, the heat of the sun was intense and as the tide began to ease, we sought shelter.
Of course, at such a place no such shelter is available, but we did find solace in the form of the large rockpool we had earlier crossed. The tide was now entirely slack and myself and David ventured behind the reef with a view to cooling at least our bottom halves in the welcoming pool and to take a closer look at the mullet that were present there whilst Peter tended the rods.
As we quietly waded through the calm waters, we witnessed many cruising fish. My thoughts turned to freshwater tackle and just how feasible it might be to make an attempt on one of these captive fish. Conditions would have to absolutely perfect, much like they were in fact, otherwise it would be difficult to even spot a fish. But lost in our admiration of landlocked mullet, we could have been forgiven for missing the frantic shouts from back across the reef….
We ran back to the rods only to find Peter full of tales of a huge slack line bite that came from nowhere and went away just as fast. My immediate thoughts turned to bass and I requested that both anglers wind in and re-place their baits at shorter range, at least until the flood tide got underway.
Very little time had passed when once again Peter’s rod was getting in on the action, this time buckling over in the rest. He grabbed the rod and it was immediately obvious that this was a more spirited fish. After some puffing and panting, I was able to access the waters edge and retrieve Peter’s prize- a fine smoothhound. Considering the flood tide was still some way off, it was incredibly inspiring to see a fish feeding over slack water and it was with much anticipation that we awaited that first trickle of the new tide.
Both Peter and David had opted for crab baits as the flood eventually greeted us and I was confident that once those casts had been made and the rod tips reflected at least a trickle, we would be in with a fighting chance of more and hopefully bigger smoothhounds.
I explained to both anglers that the fish that took Peter’s bait over low water was more than likely not alone. The take was an aggressive one and a sure sign of competitive feeding.
But the this is not always the case and when bigger fish are on the cards, the take can be delicate to say the least.
An hour had passed and the flow was rapidly increasing when Davids rod tip lifted just a few inches. As we looked on, it settled back before rising again. A little more time was offered….
Finally, David made contact, the rod hooped over and a better fish was kiting in the tide. As it came alongside the reef, I was able to reach out for it and was soon cradling her to her captor.
This was a decent double figure fish and exactly what both anglers had to traveled to Somerset for. Further fish did allude us that day, but the time has passed really rather too quickly, much like the best of times often do.
Ever keen to maximise on a fishing window, both anglers opted to fish on beyond our planned session and once again David was rewarded with a smoothhond, this one taken from the high water mark he had already fished earlier that day.
The enthusiasm of both anglers, the weather and the fish that presented themselves made for one very enjoyable session.
It’s little wonder I enjoy this guided fishing lark as much as I do… It really is an absolute blast!