Light the fuse
A visit to a fish-rich venue in South Wales.
Stand on the high cliffs flanking this stretch of coastline when the tide is out and you’ll see an area of shallow, undulating ledges, gullies and countless rock pools, punctuated by pockets of clean sand that screams fish.
Located on the Vale of Glamorgan coastline between Witches Point and Monknash beach, Wick undoubtedly ranks as one of the best shore venues in South Wales.
The very best ledge at Wick is only available for an all-too-brief period, consisting of a couple of hours either side of low water on the biggest tides. You can fish here on smaller tides and catch fish, but those who know the area well generally focus on the spring tides, agreeing that the larger the tide, the better the fishing. This is one venue where the ability to be able to punch a decent-sized bait out as far as possible can be a distinct advantage.
Few anglers I have met over the years can launch a big bait further than my old pal Roy Tapper, so he was the obvious choice to accompany me on my latest visit to Wick. We were joined by rising match star Daniel Crump and Belgian angler Peter Van Lierde, who regularly crosses the channel to fish in the UK.
Although meeting Dan for the first time, I had heard that he was an exceptional caster; in fact, he’s an outstanding caster. What really impressed me about Dan’s casting was that he uses a hefty 7oz lead, which he explained helps him to punch the baited rig into wind. Fair comment, I thought, but only if your casting technique is good enough to generate the incredible amount of line speed required to launch 7oz of lead.
Watching in awe as Dan cast, Roy and I both estimated his rig finally splashed down somewhere in the region of 180 yards out. I really don’t think I have seen anyone wind up a poker-stiff beach rod and cast out a big bait as far as Dan, with one exception – Ray Christoforato, who happens to be Dan’s boss at Holton Road Angling in Barry.
Dan, who is 27, left school and started a three-year apprenticeship as a mechanic, a career that he pursued for seven years. Then an opportunity came up for him to work at Holton Road Angling, which he seized.
“It meant I wouldn’t be earning as much as I could as a mechanic, but, for me, this was my dream job,” he said. “I’ve been fishing for 18 years and always wanted to be involved in the tackle business, and this would be the opportunity I was looking for.”
Some of his personal-best shore-caught fish include tope to 48lb, a 22lb 3oz cod, smoothhounds to 16lb, thornback rays to 10lb 8oz, bass to 8lb, a small-eyed ray of 11lb 14oz and an 18lb 9oz blonde ray.
A highly successful specimen angler, recently Dan started to fish competitively, and already he is a regular visitor to the prize table. This year he won the Channel Angling Open held at Porlock and Bossington, and is a frontrunner in the Samalite League fished on Chesil Beach. Clearly here is an angler we are all going to hear a lot more about.
Weather conditions were perfect for our session, with bright sunshine and a lightto-moderate easterly breeze. I am no fan of fishing when the wind is in the east, but Roy assured me that it was not a problem at this venue. As always, he was right, settling any doubts I might have had by beaching
a very nice smoothhound on his first cast.
Due to the relatively short window of opportunity available on the main low-water ledge at Wick, most anglers arrive a couple of hours earlier than necessary and fish the other ledges to either side, which are where you fish on smaller tides. On previous visits, I have experienced great smoothhound fishing doing this, and this was exactly the case this day.
While waiting for the tide to drop back far enough to be able to wade across the gully on to the best ledge, we caught several hounds, but the fish of the session was a stunning 9lb 10oz bull huss caught by Roy. West of Swansea Bay, such fish and others much bigger are regularly caught from the rocks, but fish of this size are rarely caught from the shore further east.
In recent years, big bull huss have featured increasingly in catches offshore, so possibly
“We caught several hounds, but the fish of the session was a stunning 9lb 10oz bull huss”
this is an encouraging sign of things to come.
Finally, when we started fishing from the main low-water ledge, we were expecting to catch both small-eyed and spotted rays that are usually abundant here. Fishing two rods each with baits consisting of sandeel and squid cocktails to target the rays, and fresh peeler crabs for more smoothhounds, soon enough the crabs had worked their magic at seducing yet another hound.
Fish baits soon produced the first of what resulted in a constant succession of dogfish, which are often a problem when fishing in this area, but this year everyone I have spoken to has confirmed that never have they seen so many. Within minutes of each cast a delicate tap, tap, tapping on the rod tip confirmed that, once again, a dogfish had taken the bait.
Clearly, any ray was going to have a tough job in getting to the bait first, and, on the day, we failed to catch one.
Most anglers who fish at Wick use the Pennell pulley rig, which is perfect for catching large fish at long range over relatively shallow rough ground. Obviously, when fishing here, some tackle losses are inevitable. These can be kept at a minimum by using some sort of rotten bottom to carry the lead weight, but many anglers do not bother.
A 9lb 10oz bull huss for Roy Tapper
Low tide reveals the numerous ledges and gullies
Daniel Crump (left) and Roy with a smoothhound
Lower hook fits on clip for casting Two hooks rigged as a Pennell set-up Bead above swivel to the hooklength The rig body runs through the pulley bead PENNELL PULLEY
...clipped down and ready to cast Crab on a Pennell...
Sandeel and squid meant for rays