Rays on the ram­page

Four an­glers en­joy a ses­sion of a life­time with big blon­des on the Bris­tol Chan­nel coast

Sea Angler (UK) - - Con­tents - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by Jansen Teakle

Four an­glers savour a ses­sion of a life­time.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, some­thing oc­curs in fish­ing where a com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent fac­tors comes into play that turns a pleas­ant day on the coast into a truly mem­o­rable one.

If we were to be­lieve half of the sto­ries re­gard­ing the de­cline of fish stocks that we read in the news­pa­pers or see on the tele­vi­sion, chances are that we would be­gin to lose our love of angling and all it brings us. Sure, a lot of the in­for­ma­tion we re­ceive through the me­dia is based on scientific fact,

but oc­ca­sion­ally, some­thing hap­pens that is be­yond ex­pla­na­tion, in angling terms any­way.

Mag­i­cal red-let­ter days with rod and line are re­garded as me­mories to trea­sure by those who have been in the fish­ing game for decades, but amid this pop­u­lar mod­ern­day por­trayal of doom and gloom, there are pin­na­cle mo­ments that come along and will be re­mem­bered for years to come. This is a tale of one such day.

PIECE OF THE AC­TION

In late De­cem­ber 2016, news be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing of some mod­est catches of rays from the shore at Mine­head, which is on Som­er­set side of the Bris­tol Chan­nel. This is cer­tainly not un­heard of around that time of year, but be­fore too long it seemed ev­ery­one with a so­cial me­dia ac­count had been down and had a piece of the ac­tion.

Work and fam­ily com­mit­ments made it dif­fi­cult for me to go, but as more and more fish pic­tures were thrust upon me, some­thing had to be done. Shuf­fling a few things around meant that I man­aged to free up the best part of a day, and af­ter a long phone call to my pal Dar­ren Bell, a plan was formed.

Our big­gest con­cern was that, as keen as we were to jump on this par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar mark, it was a fore­gone con­clu­sion that we would not be alone. In all hon­esty, nei­ther of us like fish­ing in a crowd, not be­cause we are anti-so­cial as such, more a case of recog­nis­ing that num­bers of fish spread be­tween sev­eral an­glers along a small stretch of coast can be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

Af­ter some fur­ther dis­cus­sions, we opted for a mark a lit­tle fur­ther down chan­nel that had, as yet, to yield any fish – or at least none that had made its way on to Face­book.

It was a slightly over­cast, still morn­ing, much as you’d ex­pect for the end of De­cem­ber, as we made our way along a boul­der-strewn beach that trailed off into the dis­tance.

Trav­el­ling light is the name of the game here, but af­ter half-an-hour or so, we stopped for a quick drink. As much as he would hate to ad­mit it, Dar­ren is not as young as he once was, and I’m sure he ap­pre­ci­ated the pit­stop. Pick­ing up the trail, we con­tin­ued to walk for a fur­ther 20 min­utes un­til we came upon Dar­ren’s pre­ferred ‘rock’ among the thou­sands that make up the shore­line here.

TACK­LING UP

We be­gan tack­ling up but, re­al­is­ing that the tide still had a long way to drop out be­fore low wa­ter, I was in no great hurry. The rest had ob­vi­ously done Dar­ren the world of good be­cause within a few min­utes he had whipped a frozen sandeel to his trace and sent it out sea­ward.

My plan was to as­sess how long his bait would last be­fore a dog­fish grabbed hold of it, but, be­fore too long, I was dis­tracted by two other an­glers mak­ing their way along the beach towards us. As they neared our po­si­tion, I recog­nised them as Jon Pat­ten and Tar­rant Wot­ton, both keen mem­bers of the North Devon club, Combe Martin SAC. They were as sur­prised to see us as we were to see them, but we wished each other well for the ses­sion and made our way back to our cho­sen fish­ing lo­ca­tions.

It had been the best part of 15 min­utes since Dar­ren had cast his first bait and, soon enough, my rod joined his in the stand on its first cast of the day. As we looked on, Dar­ren’s rod tip lifted a few inches and some line dropped slack. He tight­ened it up and I joked that the dog­fish had ar­rived. Then the tip pulled over be­fore sev­eral me­tres of line dropped through the air and the tip be­came poker straight.

Dar­ren made a grab for the rod and wound like fury, re­sult­ing in the tip tak­ing on a very pleas­ing curve, seem­ingly be­yond that ca­pa­ble of the re­sis­tance of a small fish. Sud­denly, the wa­ter erupted some 60yds out in front as a large ray sur­faced. A few pumps later and Dar­ren’s prize was at our feet, but while this drama was tak­ing place, an­other was un­fold­ing along the beach.

DOU­BLE-FIG­URE FISH

Jon and Tar­rant were hooked into rays, both clearly vis­i­ble on the sur­face some way out. I then glanced at my own rod, and it was al­most get­ting pulled from the stand.

Blonde rays for Dar­ren Bell, Tar­rant Wot­ton and Jon Pat­ten

A su­perb brace of blon­des for Jon Pat­ten

An­other bait is sent out to the

wait­ing fish

Jansen Teakle fi­nally got among the fish

Best bait is a frozen sandeel

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