Mission accomplished…first salmon!

I set the challenge for myself to catch my first Welsh Salmon and Sewin this year! 

Not an easy quest by anyone’s standards but they’re fish that I find fascinating both for their impressive migrations and their stunning looks. 

I’ve put quite a bit of time into getting to know some small stretches of a local river and with some helpful guidance and pointers from experienced locals (I am indebted to your kindly shared advice) have been able to get a few trout on the fly under my belt…however it was their silver ocean going relatives that I was really immersed in catching. 

With a week of torrential rain during June my attention was firmly set on ticking one of these mysterious travellers off my list. In high flood water it was time to get the spinning rod out…rapalas and flying c’s were the order of the day and filled my box in a variety of colours and weights. 

I put a fair amount of solid effort into my quest, fishing in everything from horizontal rain managing to find its way through every conseivable cuff and zip in my jacket, to warm humid evenings and eery calm before the storm mornings. 

However it was a still peaceful morning as the river was falling that saw the first of my ambitions hooked, I had woken up early before work joined by a colleague to try our luck at a fresh run Salmon. Rumours had hinted a few had been caught the day previous so hopes were high, despite our efforts nothing had shown in the almost perfect looking water. I was determined though and promised myself I would have a few final casts in a pool that I had a good feeling about before racing off to work…perhaps my confident approach to the pool made the difference, within a few casts my lure swang with the current over a depression I felt a sudden slam before my rod arched over and an iridescent indigo shimmering salmon thrashed on the surface out in the current. Heart in mouth as I played the fish in while in compete awe at its beauty! 


Not the largest salmon the river has ever seen but my first Salmon in Welsh waters and suddenly all the blanks and groussome weather needn’t matter as I gripped the fish by its forked tail and held it up for a photo before allowing it to recover and swim away strong. Onwards to continue its incredible migration and provide stock for years to come. 


After this fish I felt confident in my approach. People will tell you “you learn more when you blank” to me that’s not quite true. Yes blanking teaches you when not to go, what doesn’t work and on occasions can be pretty humbling, for me though it’s catching after putting in the work and reaping the rewards when you really start to learn. 

Learn what? Learn what the fish react to, when you should focus your time on that particular species and most importantly where they hold. The areas where that fish and no doubt other fish will be found in future. It’s a process you cannot get to alone without the blanks but to learn and become better success must be repeated. This is something I’ve always been pretty determined to do, not to count sucesss as a fluke, but to repeat it, do it again and if possible better. 

I missed out on two occasions when the river would have been in perfect condition due to work and other commitments. However once I had the opportunity to get out on the river again I was determined to seek success. I had thought through in my head the areas the fish could be holding, how could I present my lure to them and when would give me the best opportunity of success. 

An early morning plan was hatched and upon arrival at the pool I had in mind it was only a couple of casts in when I felt a sudden tightening before a fresh silver slab thrashed at the surface followed by a thrilling powerful bolt up and across the pool. After an awesome display of the strength and power of these fish it was landed and a few quick snaps taken before allowing the fish to recover prior to release! 


This fish was far superior to the previous, fresh off the tide it could have only been in the river a couple of hours, its tail and underside still caressed by sea lice along with its shimmering lilac tinted latteral line. It was fair to say I was in complete awe at the beauty of the fish and a memory that will stay with me for many years to come. 
No doubt I will continue to spend plenty of time out bassing over the next few months but I can’t help but suspect that these migrational beauties will have me sidetracked and distracted a little…can you blame me??

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The year so far…

So 2017 is here, I’ve been fishing and surfing plenty while balancing work and my university studies.

January was a blique cold month with poor surf and over run with exams, spirits were only raised with a bit of fly fishing at the superb Stillwater that is Garnffrwd.

February saw a much needed surf trip to Fuerterventura with Swansea University Surf Club. We were lucky with some warm weather and consistent waves. Nothing exceptional but I’ll take warm water, sun and surf (along with typical uni nights out) in February without being too fussy.

Here’s a few shots from the trip. Lobos was definitely a wave I will be traveling back to surf again for sure. Heading over there at first light in a rib armed with your board and wetsuit to be dropped off in the lineup is an awesome buzz and as close as I’ve felt to being a Navy SEAL.


After returning from Fuerterventura I managed a day out Pike fishing which resulted in a new PB. We had no scales on us and pike can be tricky to guesstimate so not putting a weight to it but it’s not far off how big the pike get at the particular venue and I was undoubtedly over the moon with it. Seeing the take was just the icing on the cake! 

March arrived with some kindly mild weather, which in turn saw the first peel of the crabs and a few Bass that capitalised on the opportunity of some early grub. I didn’t manage much to write home about with the biggest of the month approaching 4lb but there was some good fish showing. Below is a shot of hugely committed angler and good friend Jeremy Evans with a cracking Bass. This shot sums up bassing for me, just look at the excitement in his face! 

April saw me opening my lure account and once the ball was rolling the Bass kept coming. The only limitation has been university studies and work, this has continued into May but on days off and revision breaks I’ve had some good Bass fishing on the lures. 
Something I have noticed for three years running now is that once the below coastal flowers come out, the bass fishing on lures really kicks off, I’d love to know more as to why this is but it’s something I’ve noticed and share with others I meet. Just one of natures little signs! 

Aside from the Bass fishing I’ve been spending quite a bit of time working on my fly fishing targeting Brown Trout on the rivers of South Wales, this hasn’t been easy and a steep learning curve but something I’m really enjoying and feel is another string to my bow. 

I took the opportunity of a guided day out with Kim Tribe from Fly Fishing Wales fishing a stretch of the Usk and I am very glad I did so, not only did we have a great day out but I came away from the day with plenty to work on and new skills learnt and will no doubt become a better angler as a result. 

With June just around the corner I hope to experience some awesome Bass fishing at home along with Summer swells and get surfing in a summer wetsuit. Sea Trout are high on my priorities also and as long as I get the time and conditions to do so I hope to manage my first Welsh Sewin, a real ambition of mine. In other news I would like to thank the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society for giving me the opportunity to write another piece for them in Sea Angler which should be out later this summer.

Thanks for taking the time to read and I promise the blog will gain some more consistency now University has finished for the year.
Nathaniel. 

Major Craft Skyroad 902 ML Review

Major Craft are a Japanese brand famed with making some of the finest yet value for money lure rods on the Japanese Market. They are widely available in the UK from most tackle shops that specialise in Lure fishing.

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Modern lure rods are a world away from the original british spinning rods and japan has lead the way for the slimmest, lightest blanks and a true inspiration for the UK market that is dominated by supremely light fast action spinning rods, the majority of which are Japanese.

My first taste of these light Japanese rods was with a Major Craft Solpara. A stunning rod for under £100, a bit of a steal if you ask me…

In the back of my head though I had always fancied a skyroad, but I had the Solpara and it suited me well. It was light, the action suited my casting and the butt handle felt the right kind of length. The temptation was avoided even with most the guys I fish with back home using and praising them. 

All that changed though when I headed to Kerry, Ireland last year on a co-guided trip with Henry Gilbey and John Quinlan. Henry had bought with him 2 Major Craft Skyroads, the 8’6 and the 9’ for us, the clients to use if we wished. As you’d expect I couldn’t resist getting my hands on them to give a thrashing it’s great that Henry can provide rods of such quality high quality for customers on the trip to use! (and you can see yourself putting a nice bend in them once the camera comes out) 

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Putting the 902ML Skyroad through it’s paces punching a lure into a strong headwind © Henry Gilbey

The first I tried was the 8’6, this length has always been my sweet spot. Not too long, not too short. A fairly fast action that loads up very quickly but there’s no sweet spot to have to find, it just wants to be cast and it’s easy. First session out with it was some topwater fishing for Bass in a shallow rocky bay, this rod just suits topwater lures down to a tee, the lure responded to every little twitch “walking the dog” instantly due to the tips fast recovery, it’s a wand that makes animating your lures truly magical. I then used it the following day on a morning Bass fishing where once again Bass were happy to take lure off the top resulting in 3 fish landed on the infamous IMA Salt Skimmer, this 8’6 really is a joy for surface fishing, it feels great in the hand very light, quality fittings, comfortable handle and a fast action that really punches lure out with ease.

The rod also makes a very very good boat lure rod as I found out later on that afternoon when John took us out on his boat to fish some inshore reefs for Pollock in less than 50 feet of water…

What an afternoon we had with easily over hundred Pollock caught. In the shallow water (for pollocking at least) the fish didn’t blow their swim bladders as is often the case when fishing for pollock over wrecks and offshore reefs, and all fish were easily returned especially with the barbless hooks and the sport they provided was far superior to that of standard “Boat Fishing for Pollock” with the fish not giving up the ghost easily and following up to take the lures within sight just under the surface.

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No mercy was shown to the Skyroads on the boat this day. Double hook up!                                © – Henry Gilbey 

It was the 9ft that I really connected with though and although I originally thought the 8’6 would be the rod for me, the 9ft was just that little bit more perfect (to me). It has a slightly softer feeling tip that gives that extra feel with soft plastics, both weightless and jig heads, with it being extremely nice for the touch and feel of bouncing soft plastics. To me casting felt that bit better with this 9ft and the handle length everything felt right. After 2 days fishing with it I had one on order from Cian at Absolute Fishing ready for fishing with back home.

As with all carbon rods though there is every possibility of getting a flaw in the carbon and it snapping. Unfortunately this is what happened to me first session out with the new rod. I was casting a 4” TT Shad rigged on a 3g weedless hook (total of 18g i believe) and the rod snapped clean above the second eye from the tip. This was replaced free of charge with zero hassle, and it must’ve just been a dodgy blank that slipped quality control. I have before snapped rods due to my own error, tip tangles, over loading and through transport but they have all spliced as such, whereas this was a clean snap and only a few casts into the session.

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Since this replacement though, I have had no issues at all with the rod and it is still an absolute joy to fish with. It’s had plenty of use and landed enough fish for any faults since to have been found, so feel confident saying there is no fault in the model itself, just that I got unlucky, but there could well be a few going round that were from this same dodgy batch I had. Luckily it was replaced so smoothly and no issues have come since. It can happen with all carbon rods and no grudges held.

If you want to get a taste of the modern lure rods and are looking for upmost quality in terms of fittings, blank and weight then you really won’t go wrong with the Skyroad with the length depending on your personal preference. There’s even a 9’6 which is pretty tempting! 

Good Luck To My Aussie Expats

Two of my best mates; Connor Griffiths and Josh Hocking, are over in Australia at the moment, surfing, cruising round and having an all round great time. This week they’re competing in the Noosa Festival of Surfing.

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Connor cross stepping to the nose – Sophie Cartwright

So while I’m putting on a hooded 5mm wetsuit and boots to jump into icy water and onshore waves, they’ve been chucking on boardshorts and a teeshirt (maybe even a little suncream) and surfing some great Aussie longboarding waves.Jealous?? …Of course not!

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Josh perched on the nose – Sophie Cartwright

Connor in particular has been very focused on this comp and I remember nearly 2 years ago now when he first told me that he was determined to get over there and enter the comp as soon as he can, well with a bit of hard work, saving and some superb surfing…he’s made it there.

He blitzed his first heat in the Mens Open coming out first and is through to round 3 which will be held tomorrow. Check out this footage of his first round heat. Yes all those waves were in 20 mins under a lot of pressure…Good on you Con keep up the good work!!

What does lure fishing do for me? – Lure of Attraction

IMG_1714For me, in the sea is where my fishing started, I needed something to do over the summer holidays when the surf was flat. So what better way to spend a boring day than dig lugworm in front my house then cycle or nag for a lift to my nearest pier to try for whatever was there? Needless to say, these trips were never that successful…and since I’ve put a lot more thought into my fishing. As much as I do enjoy my bait fishing, there is something unique and exciting about lure fishing. I feel more connected to the fish I’m targeting with a lure, a higher sense of interaction and achievement. Call it poxy, but it’s a feeling I cannot describe but thoroughly enjoy.

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Prime crab baits were soon swapped for lures once success was found

Now there’s one thing that no matter what it is in life that I’ve always enjoyed, and become mentally over ruled by, and that is; A challenge! I love learning, thinking and figuring out how to make things work. Lure fishing gives me my fix of this!
I suppose my first taste of fooling a fish you could say was casting out a set of feathers for mackerel. Probably the most crude form of, if I could even call it lure fishing…but hear me out on this! This was the first time that I had imagined what was happening underwater, how the string of feathers lifted and dropped through the water, where the mackerel would be and how would they react to how much feathers were acting, did they look right? This captured me like no form of fishing I had done before, there was a third eye active in my mind which previously had not been activated outside of Surfing where I would mind surf how I would perform each turn, daydreaming watching waves roll in at my local beach.
I quickly decided that Bass would be my quarrel, they were the elusive predator and I would regularly see photos of my Surfing peers with what to me looked like monster Bass. I had to cut my teeth on this. I spent a few sorry evenings spinning with metals and rubber eels on rock marks round Mumbles, attempting to hook the Bass that “must’ve been there”. This led me to bait fishing, which I spent a few years learning.
It wasn’t until I was 16 that I attempted the lures again when I headed down to a mark show to me by a very experienced Bass fisherman during my time solely bait fishing. Conditions were completely the opposite to what at the time, I would have chosen for lures. It was a dreary, drab, dismal day, a strong SW blowing had coloured up the water and there were waves to contend with. I had just invested in a new lure that looked too good not to work (we’ve all heard that before) a Fiiish Black Minnow…After a few casts I headed for a deep hole at the end of a gully and it could have only been my second cast here when I was hit, right in the “fizzing” water. I couldn’t believe it, tunnel vision set in, my world turned a joyful tangerine tainted gold as I slid a bar of silver in with the waves! That was my first Lure caught Bass from the shore and one that became a true milestone for me.

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My first purchase of Black Minnows – there is something very special about these

I’ve since devoted hours upon days that have turned to into many months and moons to the art of Lure fishing for Bass around my beloved Gower coastline. No form of fishing had got me excited in the same way as this, it was mobile, I could go when I wanted, it had no fixed rules, anything could work and it completely captured my overactive imagination.
The love of interacting with the fish I catch has since expanded, I cannot Bass fish year round on my coastline, and even the “off-days” during the season drive me mad.
So the only option was to diversify, find something else that could satisfy me. I’ve been very lucky that my best friend has two lakes on his land and even better is that these are full of Perch, they were far from the stamp of Bass that I was used to pursuing round Gower – now by no means am I saying the Bass I have dedicated myself to are huge, but a lot of these Perch are what get nicknamed “wasps” – small aggressive and stripy. BUT…I could target them on an ultra light lure set up! Presenting a lure to these aggressive buggers often required a certain amount of thought, would they be high or low in the water? Are they feeding on fry or hitting out of aggression? Do they want to chase or be enticed?

 

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One of the many Perch that lurk in my mates lake

It really became finesse fishing and although there wasn’t huge fish, a few hitting a pound and the occasional one and a half pounder along with a very special two and a half on my first session (beginners luck or what!), I feel this fishing has taught me a lot, especially how results from tweaks and changes could be directly assessed as the fish were always present it was just a case of doing what appealed to them.
The love for this ultra light fishing took me into LRF fishing, targeting Gobies, school Bass, micro Wrasse and one of my most exciting captures, Flounders. It required the same finesse as my Perch work but a wider variety of species in a whole manner of locations. Needless to say the scent of Isome was something I became very familiar with.
There are two catches that stand out in my mind in my LRF fishing, starting with my first flounder on the gear of close to two pound that really fought well, the undulating body of a Flounder in a bid for freedom is something that really must be experienced on UL gear it was a real eye opener to a fish I once hauled in on a beach caster. The second was a three and a half pound Bass, fishing a 70mm Black Minnow, this really got the heart going in a rod bending, drag screaming battle, that was nearly robbed from me by a Seal…which even waited around for the fish to be returned, to prevent him getting too much of an appetite for Bass it was kept, now a rarity for my shore caught Bass.
But this year is when the Bass lure fishing really got serious for me. When I properly got on a mission and thrashed my local water. Having a constant eye on conditions was essential. I cannot stress that enough! When the conditions come together the South Wales coast really does produce some phenomenal Bass fishing and when the window was right I would often fish two tides a day. First and last light where possible!

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First light on the rocks with just rod and a bag of lure is pure freedom

I spent a huge amount of time during July getting to know a local mark, that when the fish were there was electrifying, a spooky wade out to a channel that drops off sharply sees you casting into a raging flow of water. Casting soft plastics up this and bringing them round in the flow proved lethal and although there were many blanks between superb sessions, perseverance often paid off…

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This Summer had an evening I will never forget, let me share it with you!
It was a still evening, after a warm day it had clouded over. I had rushed down to my mark from work in order to catch the “golden hours” when the fish pass through. There were already a few anglers there, two of whom are very good Bass anglers and have passed a lot of invaluable knowledge on to me – Stan and Richard. There was also a few other anglers present about the place, but after the first hour of “prime time” had passed and no fish shown, one by one the anglers started to leave.
This left myself, Stan and Richard wading up to our chests in water flinging lures into the current. It had hit slack water and the tidal flow was dying so I moved along to a slightly deeper drop off when first cast here after just a few turns of the handle something absolutely inhaled my lure that put a full power curve in my rod to the butt. After a few authoritative head shakes the fish came up to the surface where i saw a head splash followed by a tail a fair distance apart. Rich was first to say it, but it looked a very good fish. Suddenly it got its head down and turned down flow in a bid for freedom, “keep your rod high” was the guidance from Stan and Rich as they looked at the curve in the rod and the reel that had started to let a drag to the fish.
Keeping the rod high and pressure on I was able to stop the fish heading towards the channel and gaining confidence in the current, which judging by the tail we had seen would’ve been a one-way story. The fish was soon out tidal run, as I walked backwards towards the shore gaining a few turns of line on the reel as I did. Once in the shallows I could see the fish, my heart stopped, there was a lump in my throat and as I wound down to apply some pressure preventing the head down run I feared it may be about to take, I looked at Stan who had his Boga grip out ready for securing and unhooking the fish and he said the words that I had been whispering in my mind for the last minute. “I think she’s a double…”

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The fish then quickly thrashed on the surface and I lowered my rod to prevent pulling the hook as it shot off to my right before I put pressure on to stop it. The fish was then head up with its cavernous mouth waking on the surface as I continued to walk back (only now a little more “trembly”) until Stan swooped in, and got the fish grip on the lips to secure the fish , but just as the grip was secured…out fell my lure, a moment slack and the lure that was so lightly in the corner of the fish’s mouth would have fallen and the fish of a lifetime gone. With the fish landed, supporting the belly Stan lifted it up out the water and passed it to me. It was quickly weighed which saw the scales read bang on 12lb. My legs wobbled, something felt very molten inside of me, as I took the fish back into the water where I held it, admiring its beauty letting it get some water over its gills before having a photo with it. A few quick snaps courtesy of Richard and the fish was back in the water, and with a flick of its tail..gone!
It was a moment I will always remember and may not ever experience again, and to have shared that moment with two great anglers, whom without I may not have landed the fish and definitely wouldn’t have had photos was extremely special and something I am eternally grateful for.

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I write this suffering badly from cabin fever (writing this almost made it worse), I haven’t been out on the Bass with the lures since October due to poor conditions once November arrived and although I’ve been out chasing Perch, Trout,and Pike in Freshwater. My fishing needs that can only be completely satisfied by Bass have not been met and I count down the days until we get the first days of Spring when the water warms, the seas calm down and baitfish shoal up…with this the Bass return with vengeance and my lures get salty again.