With the tides starting to increase in size and the endless run of easterly winds finally disappearing, a light southerly breeze was forecast and I had decided to leave the heavy T1000’s and mackerel baits at home and to do some local hound fishing. My most recent tope fishing sessions had only produced dogfish and the spider crabs are beyond a nightmare at this time of year.

With this in mind and an urge to fish locally, my venue of choice was east Aberthaw. The plan was to fish three hours down to low water and two hours of the flood. Deciding in my shed, do I take ten crabs, thinking it’s going to be a quiet session, or twenty as it’s going to be a busy one, “I’m taking twenty”, I said to myself, as I’m convinced the dogfish will keep me busy if nothing else.

Dean pays particular attention to preparing his hound baits, with the upper hook clear of the crab.

After taking my son to school I made the thirty minute journey back to my home town of Aberthaw and after a routine fifteen minute walk in the heat I was on the mark. The car dashboard display was telling me it was 26 degrees and as I walked to the mark in very little wind, it crossed my mind that I could be in for a few hot hours. Quickly putting together my Eliminator T900, my preferred rod for most things other than tope and really heavy ground work, I screwed a Fathom CS to the seat.

The reel was loaded with 20lb Varivas Yellow Sport, leader and a quick change link ready to attach the rig to. Tackle is very important to me and this is the set up that I am currently happiest using. It’s always a keen rush to get the rod in the water, but I’d soon armed the rig with a nice Devon crab. I wanted my first cast to really get out there, seeing as I would be chasing the tide out for the next two hours and a bit more water around the bait would be useful. 

That free upper hook is nearly always the one to hook the fish.

Not a lot of time had passed and by the time I had just about finished baiting up my second rig, I heard that sound that we all want to hear when we’re smoothhound fishing. It was the sound of the reel’s ratchet screaming away and I thought, “Yes, they are here!”. After picking the rod up I knew this was a serious fish possibly even a really big one or maybe a foul hooked smaller fish. It didn’t feel like I’d stop it and as I began to feel the line grating over the reefs, it savagely gave way and the fish was gone.

It was a devastating moment and not the start I had wanted. With time limited, I didn’t hang around and put a fresh reel on to the rod, clipped on the next rig and put it back out there. I cast a little bit shorter this time as I didn’t want the same thing to happen again. 

When the packs are in, one rod is more than enough.

With this one, in no time at all I watched the line fall to floor as a fish picked up the bait and dislodged the lead. After a quick battle I beached my first hound of the session. It was only about six or seven pound, but to me it was a consolation prize that i was happy with to kick the session off with. A quick picture and she was off, cruising out in to the flat calm waters of the Bristol Channel. My third cast flew out there and once again, the reel was soon screaming as a fish took off with my bait.

It was a fish of similar size and this ended up setting the tone for the remainder of the session. It was one of those trips that goes by like a blur and by the time the flood tide was underway and it was time to pack up, I ended up with eleven fish. I remember going back ten years ago that if you were to catch eleven hounds in a session, at least half of them would be low to mid-doubles. How times change! 

The Century T900, just the rod to handle the tough South Wales terrain when hound fishing.

On the way home, a few mates called asking how I had got on and I told them all it was electric fishing, but one of my mates, Lee Byrne asked if I’m going again tomorrow and would I like some company. I didn’t need to be asked twice. Giving me some food for thought, another mate, John Austin, was only recently reminding me of the old saying about going back to the same spot the following day.

The two of us have been fishing these marks together for over twenty years and we’ve always said that it often ends in tears to expect the same thing on the second day, but regardless of knowing that two tides are never the same, I felt confident that the fish would still be there. 

Dean opts to pair his rod with a Penn Fathom CS

The following day, the westerly wind brought a welcome drop in temperature with it and a little chop to the water. After meeting Lee after the school run to Cardiff, we ventured through the woods down to the mark full of high hopes of a repeat of yesterday’s catch and, oh boy, were we to be disappointed, I was using exactly the same tactics and Lee was using a very similar set up and approach. Not identical but, pretty much the same anyway. 

Our first couple of casts resulted in strap congers, codling and dogfish and we both looked on at each other as we wound these by-catch fish in, laughing and questioning our venue of choice. My third cast yielded a better bite and line was soon singing from the ratchet as line was pulled from the reel and the tip was yanked over.

Lee Byrne joined for the second days fishing, and whilst it took a while, landed some nice hounds.

I had soon played a hound in to the shallows and we realised this was a fish of similar size to the ones I had landed the day before. Keen to get a piece of the action, Lee wound in, clipped on a fresh bait and sent it out a long way. I’ve seen some big casts with bait, but this one really flew and landed right out there in the main run of tide. 

Sure enough, it didn’t take long for Lee’s rod to do the same as mine had just done and as he wound down to connect with the fish, it did seem to catch him a little off-guard. I tailed his catch before cradling it up on to the rocks and we both said how these fish all seemed to be from the same mould. 

The average stamp of hound is not what it has been in past years.

By now, low water was fast approaching and I knew I could only fish an hour maximum of the flooding tide before heading back for the school run. This should have been a hot time, but for whatever reason, I could only find yet more dogfish, strap eels and codling. Lee went on to land two more hounds, but the general size of the fish was disappointing to say the least, as was the much lower number of fish we managed to pull out on the day. 

This year has been a struggle when it comes to smoothhound fishing.

Marks that used to produce specimen size fish now seldom do, but pinpointing any fish at all seems be getting increasingly difficult. It probably is a case of being in the right place at the right time and getting a bit lucky maybe, but then that could be said of any fishing trip for any species.

As soon as the tides pick up again, I’ll be back to do it all over again. Who knows what might happen on the next try! 

Lee Byrne with a typically sized South Wales hound

Now check out how Dean Booker builds his smoothhound rigs in the following video.

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