Sunday 13 July 2014

...And Now For Something Completely Different.

Wednesday was my wedding anniversary, not an important one, not one that divides by 5, or by 10, so not even one that would have precipitated my death had I forgotten it. Last year was one of those significant numbers, and I am sure we must have done something to celebrate it, but it now escapes me, exactly what we did.  So with a memory like that, it was surprising that we went anywhere this year. But we did, we went to Wales,  Welsh Wales.  

Now I know that a lot of you anglers out there, would have booked the hotel, and then, within minutes, you would be looking around for some nearby fishing.  I can assure you all that I did not behave in such an utterly disgraceful and despicable way.  What a way to treat the wife on her anniversary.  Nope, I would never have done such a thing myself.     If nothing else, it is so inefficient,  it is far better to choose a fishing spot, and only then to find a nearby hotel, only then deciding on where to spend the short vacation.   

There was a big argument somewhere south of Shrewsbury.  I knew that we were still on the right road, but she was obviously lost, and telling me where to go.   Before I knew it she had disappeared into the middle of a nearby field.  Gone for a good ten minutes.   I have never known a SatNav lady to get lost before.  This one did, and for a good while she was to be seen, on screen, in the middle of a field.  Meanwhile I remained on a well known road.   But it would seem that even SatNav ladies may need comfort breaks.  She rejoined us a while later, saying nothing about her little trip into the fields.    

"Are we nearly there yet?" I hear you ask.   Well no:

It was a long while before we actually reached Wales, an event that was marked mainly by the place names changing.    Welsh place names are all constructed from those letters remaining at the end of a Scrabble game.  After playing your game, arrange them at random, and they are sure to spell out the name of a Welsh town or village.  It is a well known fact that, in Wales, there are two sheep for every man, woman and child.   It is a less well known fact that there are enough roundabouts in South Wales alone, to give every one of those sheep its own traffic island.  It is impossible to move any distance in Wales without getting terminally dizzy.  And having to drive around so many circumferences, greatly adds to the journey time and distance. So be patient, there are reasons we are not there yet.

In between all those roundabouts are the speed cameras.   I don't like speed cameras.  Three times they have issued me a ticket, and three times I have taken them on and won.  But to continue to do so is a risk, and so I do try not to get booked a 4th time.    The problem is that driving then becomes a state of constant paranoia.   The most safe way to drive is to take each road, each incident on its merits.  The safe driver will automatically KNOW at what speed he will be safe.    Once the driver has to monitor the road for speed cameras, or to blindly follow every single speed sign, then I believe he is no longer concentrating all his efforts on driving safely.  It can become almost soporific, being told exactly how fast to drive, especially if that speed is mind-numbingly slow.  Far better to allow the driver's experience to shine through.   It does mean edging over that 30, or 40 limit at times, but always in a safe manner. I don't think I triggered any speed camera,  time alone will tell.  I did a little research whilst writing that, and it would appear that the Welsh have yet to invent the major road junction.   That is real the reason there are so many roundabouts, it is nothing to do with having to keep all those sheep fed and nourished. 

So, you are no doubt wondering, did I get to cast a line or two?   

Not yet, the cameras and the circular diversions meant that we reached the hotel rather late in the day.  A seafront establishment, it looked quite downmarket.  Some workman was painting the outside of it in a pale green colour.  That green which only comes in tubs of choc chip mint ice-cream.  You know the colour.   Quite tolerable on your teaspoon, but on a way!    I rang the bell: no answer.  Moments later the workman  squeezed past me and opened the door.   He was the hotel proprietor, as well as the chef, painter and decorator, probably the cleaner too.   Inside the hotel were more "wet paint" signs on the woodwork of the steep staircases.   The same colour paint adorned the stair rails, the skirting boards and all other wood.  The wallpaper was the same shade too.   I am sure the owner must have picked up a job lot of paint left over from painting seafront toilet blocks.  The bedroom, and the en-suite, which I am fairly sure used to be a built in wardrobe, were all painted in exactly the same shade.  And looked as if the latest 7 or 8 coats were similar.  The green tide had sealed up the window too.  We were unable to open it, on one of the hottest days of the year. The back fence of the hotel back yard( no sea view for us) was adorned with a line of nailed up loo seats. Most odd.  Some relief from the green was to be found in the considerable number of pipes and cables which ran through the room, up and across the walls to provide power and water to other rooms in the house.      The relief was only partial, as the pipes and cables had also been daubed with exactly the same colour of paint.

And the fishing?  No time to go fishing before breakfast.

All the guests breakfasted early.  The road outside was the car parking space, and the council notices stated that cars still parked after 8am, would be towed away, ensured that we joined the other residents for early toast and marmalade. The chef / hotel manager / plumber / barman had no time to clear any dishes, and so the only two vacant tables were already half used.  His chef's uniform suggested he also worked part time down at the local soup kitchen.  But enough of the hotel, except that when we left, after TWO days of hell, I left a comment in the guest book which simply said:

In the words of Thumper  "         ".

My wife was amused, but not pleased by the entry.  So we did a bit of the tourist bit, before accidentally ending up on an estuary a couple of hours before high tide.  Odd what you find in a car boot: some Warburton's bread and a light barbel rod, isn't it Boyo?   A fish swirled 15 yards away, and it would seem my natural ability to find fish is not confined to freshwater.  The spot was right next to the car no additional skills were actually employed.  I fished unsuccessfully, and although a few fish were seen jumping and swirling, I did not know what they were, and I had no bites. An angler fishing further downstream said that he had lost a bass of about five pounds.

We accidentally ended up at the same spot, high tide the next day too.  Some five yards out, soon after we arrived, a tail wagged out above the water, just a few feet from the bank.  It had to be a grey mullet.    The wind was still quite strong and fully in my face.  I realized that a somewhat stronger rod would have been better, and maybe a second one to target the bass too.   But that might have been a little too obvious  a tactic to the wife.  As the ride flowed upriver, a two ounce lead, with a couple of hooks loaded with breadflake seemed to be the way to go.  After an hour, I was playing a fish of about two pounds.   Six inches from the bank, as I reached down to pick it up, it shed the hook.   Soft mouths I am told.  At about peak flow of the upstream  tide, a good sized fish jumped clear of the water very near to my baits.   The fish was probably 5 to 7 pounds.   Do mullet jump?   No idea, but thirty seconds later I had a huge drop-back bite.  The strike made contact with something closely related to a rocket.  Unfortunately it swam almost immediately right behind a submerged rock, and the line parted company from the fish as it was abraded by the stone.
My First Ever Grey Mullet
 Disappointment, for that was a good fish.
Thick Lipped, I am Informed.
A whole hour later, as the tide started to ebb back downstream, a third bite, and a mullet hooked.  This fish would not give up at all.  Once in the shallows near to me it made short run after short run, until I was almost bored with it.   It finally allowed me to pick it up, and was a mullet of about two and a quarter pounds.   The local anglers said it was a thick lipped variety, and scolded me for returning "one of the best tasting fish anywhere".  The species is a very clean, precise looking sort of fish.  A secondary dorsal and the anal fin are set well back, which, assisted by the large tail and muscular body, probably account for that rapid burst of speed I had seen with the second fish.   The pectoral fins are set very high on the body,  and I can only speculate that they help to point the fish nose down into its grazing attitude.   
I stopped fishing soon after the capture, the ebbing of the tide, assisted by the flow of the river meant that I could no longer hold station with my bait for more than a few moments.  Masses of floating green seaweed grabbed hold of my line, and aided by the current whisked my lead downstream at a rate of knots.   There was one amusing moment as the tide first started to flow upstream.   I was dozing, rod in hand, (by far the best way to touch leger), when suddenly a huge triangular black fin
appeared out of the water, a few yards away from me.  My emotional, half asleep response was to think a shark had surfaced nearby.   In a foot of water...yeah, sure!    
 What had happened was that there was a piece of old board, or maybe stiff carpet that normally lay submerged, and partially buried by muddy sediment.  But as the upstream component of the tide increased, so it tucked under the board, and, all of a sudden, I was staring at a "shark's fin". Out of the corner of my eye, it was momentarily quite realistic.

My first mullet had come to the rod far easier than I had expected.  Was I just lucky, finding them on an ideal day?  Or are they perhaps not such incredibly difficult beasts to catch as many like to make out.  I feel I must have another go for them soon.  I would like to experience the scrap of a larger fish, and maybe, whilst down there, try to add a bass to my species list.  Two rods, somewhat more powerful, and a landing net will be needed this time.

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