Cast your mind back to the beginning of Covid, if you dare, when slowly but surely everything went into lockdown. For me, someone who frequently visited one of the many south west trout fisheries, lockdown meant no fishing for a good while. Luckily for us anglers the Angling Trust stepped up to keep fishing open whilst we watched people being arrested for drinking coffee in city parks.

Many people on social networks wrestled with the conundrum of ”local travel” and took it to its limits. With my local fisheries very much closed, I needed to do something else to feed my fishing addiction. Now to be honest, I was starting to lose the love for fishing for trout in reservoirs, especially since it meant fishing for stocked fish and that was starting to feel slightly artificial. I know there are more wild options for the fly fisherman such as rivers and even the beach, but I wanted to try something different.

Paul's prior experience was on the fly for trout

At the start of my trout jollies, catching a fish every visit wasn’t unusual and did keep me interested as I dug deeper into fly fishing and entomology to begin tying my own flies, or try. Okay, my early attempts failed to look like anything natural, but they still caught fish. Sometimes I would catch large numbers of trout in a short period of time, yet other visits, I could only bag one! Eventually I reached the conclusion (whether right or wrong) that the random introduction of hungry fish affected the fishing in unpredictable ways! My own unscientific opinion was that this resulted in days where you literally could not do anything wrong and others where you couldn’t do anything right. Time to try something else. Hence my natural progression to bass fishing. 

I read many books about the predatory instinct of the bass, and that really grabbed my attention. I know I could have tried fly fishing for bass and probably will one day, but once you have picked up a shiny lure they’re difficult to put down, especially if you hook yourself.

Such works of art and more tactile than a fly, as long as you keep clear of the sharp pointy bits. Unfortunately my timing was right off! Covid strikes again and my intentions were not strictly “local” and had to be adjusted, and that meant fishing the Bristol Channel. Now I know what you’re thinking, “lure fishing in the Bristol Channel?” and yes you’re absolutely right, it’s simply not the best route to success. A fish wasn’t going to take a lure in the zero visibility waters of the murky Channel. So I started searching the internet, watching YouTube to learn about sea fishing with bait. To my surprise, anglers were catching bass on my doorstep. Amazing, local bass. Only snag was that all I heard about the Bristol Channel was dramatic stories of holiday makers getting stuck in mud with the emergency services racing against the world’s second biggest tidal flow. If I’m going to fish in the Channel, I need to know how to do it safely.

A switch to lure fishing for bass was a natural progression

I had read books on lure fishing for bass, usually in crystal clear water with small tides and knew nothing about beach fishing with bait and the rigs required for such snaggy rough ground. To be honest, I didn’t like the idea of fishing in the Channel for said reasons, especially with my curious and enthusiastic nine year old son. I have an older son too who has tried fishing but simply doesn’t enjoy it. My youngest however will fish for as long as it takes to catch a fish no matter how big or small. He has fly rods and lure rods just like me. Whenever I go fishing I always ask myself “is this place safe for children? ”. With Covid still an issue, I started to think about how I might learn to fish the Bristol Channel.

I bought a few more books to add to the many I already have, browsed the internet for advice on local venues, watched numerous YouTube videos and one channel in particular caught my eye! The Gambling Angler. A local Bristol Channel angler, not too far, meeting the Covid definition of “local”. Jansen Teakle publishes quality content on YouTube catching a good stamp of bass, speaking with confidence that can only be gained through years of experience, experience of fishing the many marks of the Channel, most of which I see from my window. So in and out of lockdowns I reached out and booked a session with Jansen. At this point I had absolutely no gear and no idea, but that wasn’t an issue for The Gambling Angler.

It didn't take long to get in and amogst some of the local fish, thanks to the advice offered by Jansen

Meeting Jansen at a local venue we took a pleasant stroll to a place that I often looked across to, again worried about sinking in mud to keep my curiosity at bay. The beach near to where I live is littered with signs saying “danger, sinking mud” with a picture of a man drowning. Add that to the many rescue stories you hear and the message is clear, the Bristol Channel does not entertain the ignorant. We arrive at the mark and the ground was solid, what a pleasant surprise. If you know where to put your feet you’re fine, not sinking, not drowning. Jansen knows exactly where to be as the tide floods in and I’m still fine.

Of course with the benefit of local guidance, the hazards are respectively countered. With safety first, learning how to catch a fish second, Jansen takes me through his setup, the bait, where to cast, when to cast, when to move. He reads the channel perfectly to give me a head start in building my own knowledge of these local fishing opportunities.

Since that day, I have caught bass, congers, whiting, thornback rays and even codling. All in the space of 6 months and I have even been out fished by my nine year old son too. 

A plump Channel codling
My 9yr old son has enjoyed joining in too

For me, casting is taking a while to learn and when you’re used to casting a fly line with a single feathered hook, the action of the beach caster feels like I’m trying to launch my bookcase over my shoulder. Not a bad comparison since I’m throwing all of my knowledge at the sea to catch a fish of a lifetime. To think of all the literature, and internet articles I have read since the whole Covid thing began, not forgetting the great start Jansen provided, including much welcomed local advice from the many great and fun tackle shops I frequent and of course, YouTubers providing some great short fishing movies.

So in a strange way, Covid did bring me to the Bristol Channel which is something that I’m grateful for. Unfortunately it also kept me from fishing since the Omicron variant eventually caught up with me but then again, at least I found time to write this article. So what are you waiting for? Go out and enjoy the Bristol Channel, safely of course but do enjoy it. Since learning to fish it I have found so many beautiful places that I never knew existed with one or two fish on the way. Tight lines everyone.

Just like casting a bookshelf...
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