It was meant to be all about catch­ing spec­i­men thorn­back rays, but the fish had other ideas…

Sea Angler (UK) - - SEA ANGLER | CONTENTS -

Andy Webb checks out Brean Down.

With tides drop­ping down from the springs to neaps I de­cided to head to the Bris­tol Chan­nel with Sea Angling Ad­ven­tures’ light-line ex­pert Lee Treeby to tar­get a few thorn­back rays.

Hav­ing the sec­ond-fastest tidal flow in the world, this wa­ter­way, once famed for its cod fish­ing, can pro­duce some fan­tas­tic sea angling.

Our cho­sen venue was Brean Down, in Som­er­set. Lo­cated on the south side of We­ston-su­per-Mare, it is a large head­land and in­volves a long climb up some 200 steps, after which you can ven­ture out along the main paths to the fort. Built in the 1860s, the fort is now owned by the Na­tional Trust and is open to the pub­lic.

Fish­ing on the front of the head­land is very steep and there are rocks lead­ing on to rough ground. Fish from the plat­forms ei­ther side of the head­land and you will find clean ground. I would ad­vise wear­ing good footwear when fish­ing the rock plat­forms or grass banks. Here you can tar­get thorn­back rays, bass, con­gers and

smooth­hounds in the sum­mer. Brean Down is also a good venue for catch­ing cod in win­ter.


Upon reach­ing the car park, we swung the ruck­sacks on our backs and took the long walk up to the head­land. Be warned, on a hot sum­mer’s day, this can take its toll. Within a few min­utes we were at the top of the stair­case and walk­ing along the foot­path to the front of the head­land.

The weather and con­di­tions were per­fect, with very lit­tle breeze and, with two hours un­til high wa­ter, we both looked for­ward to get­ting a line out. This was Lee’s first out­ing to this part of the chan­nel, and you could see the ex­cite­ment in his eyes.

My set-up was a pair of Zzi­plex M427 SU rods matched with a pair of Penn Fathom 15 reels. Both were loaded with 20lb Asso Bul­let Proof line and an 80lb shock­leader. Lee had a pair of Cen­tury WR300 rods, again matched with Fathom 15 reels but loaded with 20lb Asso Ul­tra Cast and an 80lb shock­leader.

We chose pulley-drop­per rigs armed with a size 4/0 Cox & Rawle Spec­i­men Ex­tra and a size 4/0 Oc­to­pus Pen­nell hook, which we at­tached to the top of the bait.

We had two dozen fresh peeler crabs, pur­chased from Seav­iew Angling in Ply­mouth, and a pack of Bluey and a box of squid from Hook­ers Baits. My first rig, loaded with crab, was cast out, and then I started to bait up a Bluey and squid bait. Be­fore I could fin­ish, my reel started to give line. I started to reel in and could feel some­thing on the end. It was not a ray, but a small strap con­ger of about 2lb.

Lee un­hooked and re­turned the small eel, while I baited up again and cast out an­other fresh crab, be­fore fin­ish­ing off the Bluey and squid bait and cast­ing it to­wards the hori­zon.

Bites were very slow as high wa­ter ap­proached, but once the tide changed, the fish­ing im­proved.

Our rod tips started to bounce – a clear sign that small fish were at­tached to our hooks. We knew they would be small strap con­gers. They were landed and re­leased.


I had a feel­ing that we were go­ing to get plagued by th­ese gate­crash­ing eels, so I sug­gested to Lee that we moved fur­ther along to the lower rock ledges and fish down over low wa­ter. Lee was not keen on the idea at first, but I sug­gested the deeper wa­ter might mean larger con­gers, or even a bass. That was a game-changer for him.

We headed back to the foot­path, which would take us to­wards our sec­ond low-wa­ter venue. After a few min­utes, we were at the wa­ter’s edge. Soon we were send­ing new baits back out to the hori­zon. After a few hours lead­ing us down to low wa­ter, the fish­ing was still slow. Lee de­cided to stick a bait in close for a bass, just as my rod tip pulled down and line started to speed away from my mul­ti­plier. Straight on my feet, I en­gaged the reel and lifted into the fish.

I knew I had ac­com­plished my quest for a thorn­back ray. Lee waited for it to sur­face and, mo­ments later, a fish of around 4lb broke the sur­face and Lee lifted it up out of the wa­ter. It was not a big­gie, but a pleas­ant ad­di­tion to the ses­sion.

Keen to get a ray too, Lee reeled in and started to ap­ply a fresh Bluey and squid bait to his hooks and cast the bait around 80 yards. Next, he ap­plied the ratchet and ad­justed the drag to al­low the fish to be able to take line.

By now it was around low wa­ter, and Lee was the next to strike it lucky as his rod pulled down a cou­ple of times and his reel started to give line. Fish on!

I made my way down to the wa­ter’s edge to be greeted by a con­ger eel of around 8lb. After a few pho­to­graphs the fish was re­turned and we both headed back to our tripods. As we de­cided to fish the tide back an hour or so, Lee took great de­light in flaunt­ing his brag­ging

rights for catch­ing the big­gest fish of the trip – all good friendly ban­ter among friends.


I had an hour to catch a big­ger fish, so I de­cided to try two whole squid baits close in for a con­ger eel, or even a bass. Mean­while, Lee had both his rods out at range in the hope of a thorn­back. As the tide started to push us back, we moved the tripods and started to pack away our gear.

Just as I was about to re­move my reel on one rod, my other rod crashed over and was straight into a slack line bite. I grabbed my rod and started to re­trieve the rig like a mad­man to keep the line ten­sion on the fish.

I could feel the fish pulling back, but I gained line and soon the cul­prit was on the seaweed in front of the rocks. Lee grabbed the fish, a bass of just un­der 5lb. We took a cou­ple of pho­to­graphs and the crack­ing sil­ver bar was re­turned to fight an­other day. Now that’s the sort of gate-crasher I’m happy to catch!

What a great end to the ses­sion. Yes, we had ven­tured out to tar­get a spec­i­men thorn­back, but still had a great day’s ad­ven­ture. The Bris­tol Chan­nel can give some fan­tas­tic angling, but it can also be a dan­ger­ous place to fish, so al­ways do your re­search and, if pos­si­ble, fish it with an­glers who know the area. ■

Right: Lee Treeby with an 8lb con­ger

A lovely bass of just un­der 5lb

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