Festive Frolics

As you’ll see by the snugness of my smock in some of these photos, I was making rather merry over the festive period, so haven’t really had the time to keep the blog updated regarding any exploits, so I’ve lumped the two sessions I did manage into one post to bookend Christmas and New Year.

Venue: Porthcawl Wall. Friday 20th December 2019.

Weather: winds 11 mph south-easterly, pressure 982mb, temp app. 7 degrees.

Tide: High of 8.3m at 1.27 a.m. on a 7.2m tide – lowest tide of the cycle.

Moon phase: waning crescent – 35% visible.

Fishing time: 9.40 p.m. – 1.20 a.m.

Method: Pulley / Up and over rig at longer range, two hook clipped paternoster fished at 20-60 yards from the wall.

Baits: squid, sandeels, frozen razor clams, mackerel, frozen prawns, frozen peeler crabs.

I couldn’t help but breathe a huge sigh of relief as the last moments of the school year, indeed, the school decade, ticked down and the bell trilled into life. My health, my sanity and my credibility as a human being had been stretched to the limit over what felt like the longest term of my life.

Temporally, they don’t get much longer – an eight week half-term followed by a seven weeker – with an inspection thrown in for good measure. By the time December rolled around, the kids were already mentally switched off for the holidays and so were the staff. I was just looking forward to some fishing.

I’m a big kid at times, particularly Christmas, and I’m certainly one of these people that believes that festivities should begin in the run-up to December, meaning that the stock of wine we bought for Christmas had been cleared out and replaced, and the goodies had been cracked open long before Santa pulled on his sparkly pants for the big day. This meant that I felt as light as a bloody feather skipping down the corridor as the clock hit three and that bell shrieked out on the last day , even though my already considerable bulk had been enhanced by the extra timber packed on in the run-up to the hols.

I was ready for this one in advance. Tide and weather weren’t ideal so we were limited with our choice of venue, opting to plump for the easy spot of Porthcawl wall for our last session before Christmas. Because of these circumstances, and because Dai cooked last time, I went shopping in advance, bringing a disposable barbecue and enough food to kill a hippo with cholesterol.

It’s a bloody good job too, really, because, keen as I was, we met at around 7 when there wouldn’t be water in front of us for two and a half hours! Not a problem though, as it allowed us to get base camp set up before the rain arrived

and to get the cook-up on the go after we had tackled up and had a quick catch-up. We also exchanged Christmas presents as always at this time of year, and the next part of my devious plan to transform Dai from the utter fishing shambles that he is was implemented with one of his most recent gifts – a rod sling. Honestly, I love the bloke, but he’s an utter shambles on the beach; it looks like a skip has spewed up a load of tackle and luggage when he’s out fishing, which sets my OCD off horrendously. I remain hopeful but, as I commented to Dai, getting him organised is like trying to teach a whiting to ride a bike. I’ll wait until he’s not looking in a future session and will take a phot of his ‘set-up’. It’s unique to say the least!

Disaster nearly struck when the bloody barbecue went on strike. Luckily, Dai had his cook kit in the box, so we fired up his little gas stove, got ourselves fed on burgers and bacon rolls and waited for the tide. It was a bloody long wait, but it was punctuated by a slow but steady stream of Black Friday pissheads staggering from pub to pub nearby, approaching us in various states of drunkenness.

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, we had baits in the water. Huzzah! After all that waiting, it seemed only fair that we should be rewarded with instant fish, but it wasn’t to be. My first fish didn’t arrive until an hour after the first cast – a small whiting.

Then it was over another hour until the next fish, another whiting. To be fair, this session was never going to be about huge numbers of fish (which is most definitely a good thing due to my all-round porky slowness and sluggish approach).

The one interesting thing happened when I hit a snag at the base of the wall, gave the rod a gentle pull and my five ounce impact lead sprung back up and smacked my between the eyes. It left a bump but nothing else, thankfully. Joking aside, that could have done real damage, so I mentally kicked my own arse and told myself not to be so fecking stupid in future.

The session continued like this until around one o’clock, when we’d both had enough. I don’t think Dai managed anything other than a huge calorie boost in this session, and it was pretty slim pickings for me too, with just three whiting and two dogfish for my efforts to finish the year on something of a whimper rather than a bang.

9.40 – first cast
10.40 – whiting on bottom hook of flapper, sandeel.
11.55 – whiting on bottom hook of flapper, sandeel and squid tip. 12.10 – as above, but a better whiting. 12.25 – small dogfish taken on razor clam on up and over rod. 12.45 – dogfish taken on flapper on sandeel and squid tip.

Number of fish – 51 ( 26 dogfish, 5 pouting, 4 turbot, 5 whiting, 1 flounder, 1 smoothhound, 6 small-eyed rays, 2 conger eels, 1 bass)
Number of species – 9

Venue: Aberavon beach (near Naval club). Saturday 4th January 2020.

Weather: winds 10 mph south-westerly, pressure 1036mb, temp app. 6 degrees.

Tide: Low of 8.3m at 6.46 p.m. – jointlowest tide of the cycle.

Moon phase: waxing gibbous – 62% visible.

Fishing time: 4.10 p.m. – 9.15 a.m.

Method: Clipped down pulley rig at longer range, two hook paternoster fished at varying distances.

Baits: squid, sandeels, frozen razor clams, frozen prawns, mackerel, king ragworms.

Now I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions as I don’t think they work. In many cases, people set unrealistic targets that, ultimately, fail somewhere in mid-January, leaving the hapless and previously enthusiastic victim feeling a pathetic flop.

However, this year, I have looked at a few ‘tweaks and targets’ that I’m going to be looking at a little more closely, and one of those is to get my fishing-self back into shape. After the previous session, I took stock and realised that I’d become a very lazy angler. I always used to be full of energy, enthusiasm and ideas, but over time I’d slipped into something of a rut, losing any direction and approaching my sessions lackadaisically. For example, in years gone by, if I wasn’t catching I’d be in the rig wallet trying something new, mixing up baits etc. Over the last couple of years I’ve just sat on the beach, watched a motionless rod tip and let the session pass me by. No more! This had to bloody well stop!

In the period between Christmas and New Year, my good lady had a run of three shifts, so I started by spending a chunk of each of those three days in the man-cave, getting my shit well and truly together. First up was a reorganisation of the tackle shed itself, leaving me feeling organised and far more together.

Then came the tackle tinkering itself. I serviced the reels, spooled them with line and retied any rigs that needed replacing.

Finally, I finished modding my seat box, adding a few personal touches to make me more efficient and organised on the beach.

By the end of those three days I was raring to go. Dai couldn’t make this one due to his boy going back to uni the following day, so I would be quiet, focused and really going for it.

I arrived on the beach really early so I could get set up and fishing before last light.

I wasn’t messing around, and really intended to hit the beach hard. Over the last couple of years I’d been happy to winkle out a few fish each session and go home, but I was going to go into full “match” mode in this session, double-patting my rigs to maximise fishing time.

The up and over rig with 3/0 hooks would be fished at longer range to see if there was anything more decent lurking behind the breakers. On the other rod I would be fishing a two-hook clipped down paternoster, allowing me to go looking for the smaller stuff across varying distances until I found the bites.

My hard-and-fast approach paid off very quickly, with a whiting to the searcher rod about fifteen minutes after the first cast,

followed by a dab on the same rod fifteen minutes later.

The longer range rod claimed its first victim only five minutes after this, with a whiting managing to get the 3/0 pennell setup into its gob. I was really into the groove now, baiting up the spare rigs with all sorts of cocktails, casting, unhooking, and hitting the fish regularly on the searcher rod. It seemed that I had very quickly found where the fish were feeding (around 40-50 yards out), but I persevered with the longer rod too in case there were any codling or dogs around.

After about an hour I had an inexplicable crack-off on the searcher rod. Disaster! Had my luck started to turn? Would these be the beginning of a downturn? Nah. I just whipped on a spare spool, chucked out the double-patted rig and set up a new rig on the tripod. Told you I meant business. I think it was Gary Player who said something like “The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get”, and this was borne out a few minutes later when I reeled in a double shot of whiting on the searcher rod, followed by another whoting and… my lost rig! A year or two back that crack-off would have really soured my mood and put a dampener on the session, but I had just fished through it and was reaping the benefits.

The session ticked over nicely with a mix of single fish and double shots. Dai was messaging to see how I was getting on, but I could only reply in brief snatches as I ploughed on, even when the weather took a turn and I had to hunker down and fish through regular patches of mizzle that drifted through.

I had only taken that solitary dab, so decided to try to find them again. Idropped the two hook rig short, from 10 to 30 yards, but there were no bites. It seemed that the dab weren’t around in numbers. As soon as I got back into the “sweet spot” I started hitting the fish again, so stuck with it.


aving planned to fish until ten, I had to pack up early as my bait ran out, meaning that my first session of the new year had been a roaring success! Does this suddenly make me an angling guru? No – the whiting were out in force and they were on the feed, but I do think that I would have caught six or seven less fish had I not worked so hard.

When I finally stopped and had time to look up, I totted up the tally – one dab and twenty whiting, around 14 of which were sizeable so, had I fancied it, I could have had a good feed out of the session too.

Great stuff. Don’t get me wrong – I know that any half-decent matchman would have taken me to the cleaners, but I was happy with my efforts and felt, for the first time in ages, that I had got my mojo back. In one session, I caught nearly half as many fish as I did in the entirety of 2019. Long may it continue!

4.10 – first cast

4.25 – whiting on top hook of searcher, sandeel tipped with squid at 40 yards.

4.40 – dab taken on top hook of searcher on razor clam and squid combo

4.45 – whiting taken at range on sandeel and ragworm combo

5.10 – whiting on top hook of searcher, taken on mackerel

5.45 – whiting taken on bottom hook of searcher on ragworm and mackerel combo

5.55 – double shot of whiting on searcher rod, one on prawn and mackerel combo, one on squid and razor clam combo 6.15 – whiting on top hook of searcher on ragworm

6.35 – double shot of whiting on the searcher rod – one on straight mackerel and one on straight squid 6.55 – whiting on top hook of searcher on straight sandeel

7.05 – whiting taken at range on ragworm and squid combo

7.10 – whiting taken on top hook of searcher on razor clam

7.35 – whiting taken on top hook of searcher rig razor clam and mackerel combo

7.50 – whiting on top hook of searcher on straight mackerel

8.05 – whiting on top hook of searcher on ragworm

8.15 – whiting taken on range rod on double sandeel

8.25 – double shot of whiting on searcher rig – one on mackerel, the other on squid

8.55 – whiting on bottom hook of searcher on straight ragworm

9.05 – whiting taken on bottom hook of searcher on straight prawn

9.20 – session ended.

Number of fish – 21 ( 20 whiting, 1 dab)
Number of species – 2

About simon smith

Teacher, husband, father, angler and author based in South Wales.
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