UK Fishing – Bristol Channel

Previously my longest trip on the water was around eight hours, on Monday I somehow managed twelve hours on the water. Trust me that’s a long time and I’m still having trouble sitting comfortably two days later. As the Queen might say, One’s behind is somewhat delicate!!. It was definitely too long, the occasional leg cramps I could happily deal with, though it effectively resulted in a recovery period of 48-72 hours.

The cunning plan was to launch around three hours before low water, to fish the whole flood and return on the ebb tide. The problem was fresh bait, I always keep plentiful supply of frozen bait, though for Cod some live worm is advantageous. I needed to be on the water by 0930 and the tackle shop didn’t open until 0900. That left too little time to travel to my launch site, rig up and launch, it was likely that I’d miss the launch window. There was another tackle shop a few miles west that opened at 0800, allegedly. I was awake at six and sat in the car with a packed lunch and a hot flask of coffee by 0630. By 0745 I was sat outside the tackle shop in Minehead.

The sun was coming up and the view over the harbour was quite spectacular. There were a couple of shore anglers setting up next to my car. A few minutes later I realised that they were in fact packing up!. I asked if they had any worm they were prepared to sell, a moment later I was driving away with a pound of beautiful ragworm for the cheeky price of £5.

A short while later I was parked up at the Blue Anchor seafront rigging up my kayak. I was a little slower than usual as it was my first field test of the GearTrac and the PanFish camera mounts. It was also my first real test of my PS200 drysuit and Weezel Extreme undersuit.

I launched around 0900, the weather conditions were almost perfect with a light westerly breeze rippling the surface of the sea. I’ve not fished this area around low water before so I paddled out about half a mile into around 6m of water. The fishing was quite slow with whiting providing the majority of the sport. Water temperature was  8?C (46?F), air temperature was approximately the same. The tide was around the top of the springs, predicted water movement was over 11m.

Periodically the clouds over the hills would darken and this was accompanied by strong winds. The sea was quickly whipped up and I’d be sat there surrounded by white caps, twenty minutes later it’d blow itself out and calm would return once more. This cycle repeated itself another 3-4 times before the tide started to flood, a point at which I chose to pull anchor and paddle east to my favoured grounds.

It was just under two miles to the mark, the tide was barely moving so tide assistance was minimal. I paddled along steadily at around 3.5mph and eventually dropped anchor in just over 6m of water. In around six hours time I’d be fishing in over 17m of water!. As the tide began to flood the fishing picked up and I was soon bringing a string of codling to the kayak. Most were small at around 2lb and the majority were returned.

The larger conger eel were noticeable by their absence with only a couple of very small eels coming being caught. Eventually one rod nodded over hard and I found myself tussling with a good sized thornback ray, the first of four that day. Whilst unhooking the fish the other rod bent hard over!. I left the ray on my lap and reeled in a nice plump cod… two good sized fish were sat on the kayak, result!. Excuse the quality of the photos below, they’re actually video images.

It was not long after this that the weather went down the toilet. The wind picked up to a strong north westerly, the swell grew quickly and was soon breaking. I sat it out hoping it would pass, though it continued to deteriorate. The strong flood tide was keeping me pointed in a easterly direction and the swells from the northwest were constantly breaking over the the side of the kayak. I was far from comfortable and I was soon ignoring bites, happier to sit tight and ride things out.

The situation showed no signs of improving so I decided to get out of it. I didn’t fancy swinging across the tide/swell whilst recovering the anchor, so I chose to unclip, paddling hard back uptide to pick up the buoy. The first couple of pickups weren’t good, the swell causing the warp to jump off the cleat, the kayak swinging side across the tide. With the warp released I tried again. I probably should have left it until later, though the third attempt was successful and I had my anchor back on board.

I made for Watchet harbour where I intended to sit out the weather, however the the harbour is tidal and had yet to flood out. The waves were breaking across the harbour mouth, the muddy harbour floor clearly visible beyond. That left plan B, recover to the adjacent beach. I stood around for twenty minutes before the wind eased once more. Whatever happened to the forecasted of a light breeze all day?. It was still quite lumpy so I fished a little closer inshore. I took the opportunity throughout the trip to play with the DogBone camera mount from YakAttack. It’s exceptionally versatile and rock steady. I found myself using it to get angles close to the water, looking aft, from the side, etc. It’s a great piece of kit which I’ll continue to evaluate over the next few trips

There was a heavy pull on one rod and I was soon into a good sized fish. It was clearly a cod judging by it’s steady ‘nodding’ action during the retrieve. As the leader broke the surface everything went slack, the fish had slipped the hook and as a result I was quite gutted!. Twenty minutes later I experienced exactly the same, I suffered a slight sense of humour failure at this point. To that end I won’t elaborate on the third good sized fish that slipped the hook.

I would have been more than happy to call it a day at this point, though I was three miles east of the launch site and I had the wind, waves and tide against me. I wasn’t going anywhere so I continued to fish into the night.

Once the tide slackened and high water was only thirty minutes away I pulled anchor once more and began to paddle west. Initially I was averaging around 2.5mph, though once the tide began to ebb I was picking up towards 3.5mph. The wind picked up once more and I was soon paddling face on into a firm westerly wind with an ever increasing swell, it just wasn’t my day. With about a mile to go the wind increased to a strong blow, though bizarrely the swell was now pushing down from the north. The was a little concerning and I could now hear the surf crumping onto the beach and cliffs.

As I closed into the beach I flashed up my Apex headlamp and switched it to main beam to pick out the slipway. My heart sank, the slipway was getting hammered, the surf running 20-25’ up the slipway (past the white railings for those who know the spot). The slipway runs parallel to the sea with a large concrete wall running down the inside, needless to say it didn’t look good!. My options were limited, either risk the slipway or paddle another mile further down the bay to recover to quieter waters, knowing I’d have to then trolley the kayak all the way back to the car. I chose the exciting option and positioned myself several metres from the slipway, holding my position. I chose what I considered a quiet moment to make a dash for it, yup, I got it somewhat wrong!. I was duly launched up the slipway at a great rate of knots, legs out easing the impact against the wall. It actually ended very well and I hopped off dragging the kayak clear of the next swell as it rushed up the slipway.

I took the opportunity to clean my catch and rehydrate before returning to the car to de-rig and head home.

It was 2100 when I recovered back to the slipway, bar twenty minutes stood on a beach it’d been twelve hours on the water, not something I ever intend to repeat. I reckon seven to eight hours is sufficiently long. I clocked up just under ten miles which is another record for this venue, normally I’d only manage half of that at best.

Below is a link to some video taken during the session. It’s not the best, I spent a lot of time experimenting with the new camera mounts so not all footage was useable. That said, it’s not too bad. I apologise for looking so grumpy and swearing on the odd occasion!

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