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After some diminishing returns over the previous week’s 3 bait sessions, I was hoping for better luck last week and with calm weather forecast, I decided to get started as soon as possible. I really should be going all out after Congerzilla this winter, but it seemed a shame not to take advantage of the settled weather to head for the west coast of the island on a ray hunt, while I still could. I hadn’t completely forgotten about the eels and this particular venue does produce the occasional monster, along with some nice huss, but my main target was definitely the rays.

The journey was without incident and I arrived at the parking spot to find that I was the only one there, so things were looking good. I quickly got suited and booted and made my way to my chosen ledge but I couldn’t believe it when I arrived to find that there were already 2 lads fishing there 😟. I shouted down to see if they had caught anything, and I was at least encouraged to hear that they had indeed caught a couple of rays, so I wished them well and set off to find another spot to fish.

It was highly unlikely that there was anyone else around, so rather than head straight for my usual back up mark, I decided to have a scout around for somewhere new first. That turned out to be easier said than done, and after scrambling around for a good 20 minutes without success, I reluctantly decided to stick with a ledge I’ve fished before, though without much success on the ray front. Sadly, my luck wasn't about to improve just yet and as I made my way down to the lower rocks, I heard a tearing sound 😮. It turned out that the stitching down one side of the pocket on the outside of my rod holdall, which holds the end of the rod rest in place, had come undone 😥. Thankfully there was still enough of the pocket in place to hold the tripod, but I would have to be very careful.

I was almost at the ledge by now, but the fishing gods still weren’t done with me and while I descended the final steps down to my camp for the evening, I placed my cool box containing my bait on the rocks. Unbelievably though, the rock wasn’t as level as I thought and almost in slow motion I watched helplessly as it slid down a sloping rock face, before it flipped over, opened up and landed upside down in a rock pool! 😱 I was seriously p’d off by now but at least I was finally down at the water’s edge, so I set about getting my gear ready.

Now this time I meant business and hoping to do a lot better than last week, I planned to fish 3 rods. The first was rigged up with a pulley dropper and baited up with a squid and sandeel cocktail, mainly in the hope of a ray, while the second rod was rigged with a 2-hook flapper aimed first at catching some whiting for bait, before it would then also be used for rays. The third rod would be cast out onto a gulley to my right, where a large bait would be left to soak in the hope of a conger or huss, or both. As it happened, this third rod would have to wait, as the fish were onto the first 2 rods like tramps on chips 😄. Being the first rod out, I reeled in the pulley dropper first and after missing so many bites on Sunday I was relieved to feel a decent weight on the line, most likely a doggie. My luck was still out though and only a few meters out from the shore, the weight suddenly vanished as the culprit let go 👎. At least the story was more positive on the second rod and exactly as planned, I soon reeled in a double header of small but nicely bait sized whiting .

Both rods were soon re-baited and cast out again, giving me time to set up the conger rod then finally a half mackerel bait on an 8/0 was consigned to the depths. Soon after this, the first 2 rods were busy again and this time the dropper accounted for the first dog of the evening, while the flapper produced another whiting. With 3 whiting now safely in a rock pool I decided it was time to put the next phase of my plan into action, so the first volunteer was dispatched and then mounted on pennel 4/0s, before the dropper was cast out to maximum range.

For the time being I continued to fish for whiting on the flapper, and though things weren’t as hectic as they had been, I still caught the odd one to top up my bait supply. While the whiting went off the feed slightly, it was now that I noticed the first bit of movement on the dropper rod. It started off as a few small rattles, but it developed quickly and within a minute or two the rod tip was bouncing all over the place. This was followed by a long hard pull down, as the culprit swam off with the bait in its mouth. I quickly picked up the rod and leant back to set the hooks, then the rod took on a very satisfying curve 😊. With the rod tip held high, I carefully reeled the fish to shore and after a minute or two I had a nice huss of around 8lb beaten on the surface. While I was reeling the fish in, I had spotted a nice gulley to my left, which looked an ideal place to land my prize but agonizingly, I didn’t get the chance as I was just leading it towards the spot, when it spat the hooks out! 😲 I was gutted to have come so close, but there was nothing I could do but watch the fish as it swam back out to sea, illuminated by the beam from my headlamp 😭.

After a few moments to contemplate what might have been, I got back to the fishing and a fresh whiting was cast out in the hope that there might be more huss about. The one I lost must have been a loner though and for the next 3 hours the bigger baits, both out on the sand and in the rough ground closer in, remained completely untouched.

After catching another couple of whiting on it, the flapper rig was duly swapped for another pulley dropper, so I now had 3 bigger baits out but alas, my big fish hunt was in vain. I did catch 3 dogs on the bigger baits, along with a greedy dab which managed somehow to foul-hook itself on a 5/0
Sole Flatfish Flounder Halibut Fish


but the rays, huss and conger were all conspicuous by their absence 👎.

I eventually called it quits just after midnight and made my way back up off the rocks, but just to add insult to injury there was a loud crash halfway up, as the stitching on the side pocket of my rod holdall finally gave up completely, leaving me to struggle back to the car with an armful of rod rests.



After the disappointment of Tuesday evening, I wasn’t sure if I could be bothered heading out again on Thursday but with storm Arwen approaching, it seemed a shame not to make the effort. With low water at between 20:30 & 21:00, option 1 was a session on my local beach, where I might be in with a chance of a bass or perhaps a ray, though I would most likely just catch dogs & whiting. Option 2 was a trip to the Straits, where I might be in with a chance of a bass or a cod, again though I would most likely just catch dogs & whiting 😅. It pretty much boiled down to whether I preferred to get covered in sand or mud 😂. In the end, the thought of some shelter from the increasing winds won me over, along with the increased likelihood of a conger there, so I chose to head for the Straits.

My chosen mark was one which had been suggested to me by a mate, but where I’ve never actually fished before. I have fished close by many times but it would be nice to try somewhere different. I arrived to find conditions were a lot better than I expected, so I set off on the 10 minute walk along the shore feeling very optimistic of some decent sport. Once there I set up 2 rods as usual, a 2 hook flapper baited with lug and squid on 1 hook with sandeel on the other, and a second rod rigged with a pennel pulley dropper and baited with a mackerel fillet.

The water was shallower than I expected but I had it on good authority that there were plenty of fish to be had there, including bass, cod, smoothhound, huss and conger, depending on the season. It didn’t have to wait too long for a bite and within a few minutes both rods were bouncing away 😊. As I predicted the bites looked like doggies to me, but anything was better than blanking. Unfortunately, hooking them wasn’t as easy as I thought and even getting my gear back was hard work. Though the ground further out was clean sand I had to drag everything back over some pretty gnarly ground, I wasn’t helped by the lack of depth either and it proved impossible to get the gear up and over the snags. I persevered though and after a couple of lost or straightened hooks, I final beat the blank with the first dog of the night.
Plant Organism Terrestrial plant Grass Terrestrial animal


The next cast resulted in more bouncing bites, yet somehow the fish managed to strip the baits without betting hooked 🤔, but the next cast after this was a different story. It started off with another typical doggy bite on the flapper, but with 2 baits in the water I left it alone while I baited another rig, in the hope of a double header. A minute or two later I happened to glance up at the rod just in time to see it pull hard over, as something a whole lot bigger than a dog took off with my bait 😮. I immediately grabbed the rod out of the tripod and felt a series of heavy pulls on the end of the line, so holding the rod tip high, I allowed the rod to cushion these pulls, then once the pulls eased off I began to pump the fish towards the shore. The next couple of minutes was a battle of wills, as the unseen beast tried to get away but I gradually pulled it closer to the shore. Things were gradually going my way, until disaster struck and everything stopped dead as my gear snagged up 😠. First off I tried brute strength to free it, but despite pulling until the rod was almost bent double, it remained stuck fast. Next off I tried giving some line, in the hope that the fish would swim away from the snag and free it, but that didn’t work either. I was then left with no choice but to point the rod at the snag, tighten the drag down and to walk away from the water until something gave. After a moment of pulling, my gear did indeed come free but sadly most of the weight was gone 😢. I reeled in the rest of the way, and duly landed a doggie sized huss but the beast, most likely a second much bigger huss was gone, leaving only a straightened hook 😭.
Water Organism Underwater Fish Marine biology


I was of course gutted to lose 2 decent huss in 2 sessions, but where there was one, I hoped there might be another, and I fished on.

The next cast resulted in the second huss of the night and though it was bigger than the first at around 2 or 3lb and beautifully marked, it was no consolation for losing a biggie.
Underwater Terrestrial animal Snout Pattern Wildlife


The next hour was steady and though I had quite a few more bites, I lost at least 3 dogs in the snags while reeling them in 😫, so 2 hours after low water I decided to move along the shore for the last hour or so of the evening, to the spot along the shore where I usually fish.

Now the water was deeper at this second mark, which gave my confidence a boost, but surprisingly sport was quieter and it took over 20 minutes before I had the first bite. When it came though it was a good one, and I did wonder if it might be another decent huss. I gave it a few minutes before reeling in, and after a short scrap I was pleasantly surprised when this little beastie surfaced. At between 2 and 3lb it was absolutely nowhere near my target weight, but it was still my first conger of the 2021/22 season 😊.
Plant Natural material Pipe Soil Tree


With one conger on the shore, I hoped there might be something a little bigger about but it wasn’t to be and as the rain began to fall I called it quits and headed for home.
So my conger hunt has been a little bit half-hearted so far, but with winter now getting into full swing it will soon be time to get into it properly, when hopefully Congerzilla will have put on a little more weight 😉.
 

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Superb report as always👍👍
 
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