Rays on the rampage
Four anglers enjoy a session of a lifetime with big blondes on the Bristol Channel coast
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.
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.
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
Jansen Teakle finally got among the fish
Best bait is a frozen sandeel