Path­way to huss

How to tackle dou­ble-fig­ure fish from the shore… us­ing to the coastal rope trick

Sea Angler (UK) - - SHORE ANGLER - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by DAVE LEWIS

When one of the first items of equip­ment out of the back of the car at the start of a shore fish­ing ses­sion is a stout length of rope, you can be sure that you are set­ting off on an ex­pe­ri­ence likely to be a tad dif­fer­ent to the norm.

This was the case one af­ter­noon to­wards the end of No­vem­ber when Martin Thomp­son hoisted his tackle ruck­sack on to his back and, with one hand, grabbed his rods and rod-rest, along with a sub­stan­tial coil of rope with the other. Next, he took us down a nar­row track that even­tu­ally led us the Pem­brokeshire Coast Path.

Through­out the week Martin and San­dra Thomp­son run their busy tackle and bait shop, An­glers Cor­ner, in Mil­ford Haven, but on Sun­day af­ter­noons, and oc­ca­sion­ally af­ter work dur­ing the week, they go fish­ing. I’ve fished with Martin and San­dra on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, mostly dur­ing the sum­mer when we have tar­geted species such as pol­lack and wrasse. Dur­ing these trips Martin has of­ten told me about the won­der­ful fish­ing that is avail­able through­out the dark­est and cold­est months of win­ter in the same area, and fi­nally this win­ter an op­por­tu­nity came along to join them on a ses­sion.

I met up with Martin and San­dra and two friends, Dan James and Martin Roberts, just out­side St David’s, from where a short drive took us to a barely driv­able track that pro­vided con­ve­nient ac­cess to the Pem­brokeshire Coastal Path. The path flanks the coast through­out the en­tire prin­ci­pal­ity, and in the south-west cor­ner of Wales pro­vides an­glers with su­perb, though not al­ways easy, ac­cess to many pro­duc­tive marks.

Fol­low­ing a 20-minute trek along the cliff tops, we ar­rived at a spot sev­eral hun­dred feet above a se­ries of com­fort­able rock ledges. The rope was se­curely tied off to a steel spike Martin had se­cured into the ground here many years ago, and the tail was thrown down the slope. It was a bit of a scram­ble, although not an es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult de­scent down to the water’s edge, from where you could see you had ar­rived at one of those marks that you just knew of­fered good fish­ing. Get­ting back to the cliff top path at the end of the ses­sion would be a dif­fer­ent story.


Dur­ing the win­ter the area is noted for pro­duc­ing lots of spec­i­men bull huss, along with con­ger eels and even tope and shore­caught rar­i­ties such as ling.

In the past Martin has landed tope here to over 40lb, and his biggest was caught in Jan­uary. He was ex­tremely con­fi­dent we would catch huss and con­gers, ad­mit­ting tope are, at best, hit or miss.

The op­ti­mum time to fish from the rocks in this area is a cou­ple of hours ei­ther side of low water, on al­most any size of tide, es­pe­cially dur­ing dark­ness. The key time for huss and most other species was, said Martin, low-water slack and dur­ing the first push of flood.

We had ar­rived in day­light in or­der to

safely ac­cess the cho­sen mark, and get set­tled into the fish­ing be­fore the an­tic­i­pated prime time that we had cal­cu­lated would be about an hour af­ter sun­set.

Many, if not most, of the marks in this area are only ac­cessed fol­low­ing a steep de­scent from the cliff tops, and it is not a good idea to at­tempt this dur­ing dark­ness, es­pe­cially if it is your first visit to a par­tic­u­lar spot. Never fish here alone, and con­sider wear­ing a life jacket or flota­tion suit. We didn’t, we should have!

The three lads baited up Pen­nell pul­ley rigs with cuts of ei­ther mack­erel or squid, or her­ring freshly caught from nearby Mil­ford Haven. These baits were cast a rel­a­tively short dis­tance out into the deep water di­rectly in front of us. Clearly, this is mostly rough ground, so lead weights at­tached via a rot­ten-bot­tom rig are es­sen­tial. San­dra opted for a more gen­eral ap­proach by fish­ing a twohook pa­ter­nos­ter rig baited with rag­worms and squid, and within no time at all she was hold­ing a plump pout­ing in front of my cam­era. She quickly fol­lowed this with the first of sev­eral dog­fish and a strap con­ger.

Martin Roberts hooked the first size­able fish of the ses­sion – a solid dou­ble-fig­ure huss that spat the hook, as this species is so prone to do­ing, just as Martin was pre­par­ing to grab the leader and lift it ashore. I think I was as dis­ap­pointed as he was when that first big fish came off, a lost photo op­por­tu­nity, but Martin re­as­sured me we would catch more, and of course he was right.


Half-an-hour later, fol­low­ing a brief pe­riod of slack tide over low water, the flood­ing tide started to push along the coast. It was the prime bite time for huss. Barely 10 min­utes later, the tip of Dan James’s rod nod­ded once or twice then steadily bent over as what clearly was a size­able fish moved off with his bait. Dan grabbed the rod, reeled the line tight, and firmly set the hook by lift­ing the rod. Once again Martin climbed down to land the fish, which this time re­mained hooked, a solid, near dou­ble-fig­ure bull huss.

Next to land a huss was Martin Thomp­son, a stun­ning dou­ble-fig­ure bull huss. Caught from a boat, bull huss can hardly be de­scribed in any way as be­ing a sport­ing species of fish, but when hooked from the shore, well, that is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. Cer­tainly, they’re a wor­thy tar­get species for any an­gler look­ing to catch a dou­ble-fig­ure fish from the rocks and, let’s be hon­est, there are not too many size­able species that UK-based shore an­glers can tar­get with such a high prob­a­bil­ity of suc­cess.

Dur­ing the next hour or so we landed three more huss, all big fish weigh­ing be­tween 8-12lb.

Va­ri­ety came with the ad­di­tion of more strap con­gers and, of course, dog­fish en­sured that every­one was kept on their toes.

That night the tope failed to show, but sev­eral an­glers Martin knows had re­ported catch­ing fish in the 30-40lb range dur­ing the days lead­ing up to our trip.

I guess it’ll only be a mat­ter of time be­fore, once again, I am slid­ing down a length of rope off the coast of Pem­brokeshire. ■

Martin Roberts (left) and Dan James sur­vey the sit­u­a­tion

San­dra Thomp­son holds aloft her plump pout­ing

Dan James with his near dou­ble­fig­ure bull huss

San­dra bagged this strap con­ger...

... us­ing a twohook pa­ter­nos­ter rig baited with rag­worms and squid

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