Dim Pysgod yng Nghymru (No Fish in Wales)

I do like Wales. Within a three hour drive of West Devon you can be absorbed into a world of mighty hills and wooded valleys. Oh, and a barrage of confusing Welsh road signs. If you don’t know where you are going, or have forgotten Tomtom, there is a good chance you will have driven past the sign before you have deciphered any worthwhile information from it, as the Welsh version of even common names tend to be on the lengthy side.

But the upside of this is that there are some great signposts.Wouldn’t it be great to tell people you lived in the village of Plwmp?:

Plwmp and somewhere else

I was itching to have a crack at kayaking along some of the scenic Pembrokeshire coast after I dropped my son Tim off at Aberystwyth Uni. His flat however was designed for hobbits and I split the top of my head open while taking his bean bag upstairs. Fortunately I wasn’t intending to meet anyone in the next 24 hours so they couldn’t laugh at the great scab on my scalp.

I parked up at Pwllgwaelod on the west side of the neck of Dinas Island and before settling into the comfort of the back of my car for the night, I went to the tip of the headland to watch the sun go down. I am going through a dolphin phase at the minute so was thrilled to see a bottlenose dolphin leaping about in front of the orange sunset glow, and then a few more quite close in. A good omen for tomorrow.

Strumble head sunset

I was on the water pre -sunrise but despite comprehensive quartering of the water I had been observing last night  I encountered no dolphins. And the end of Dinas Head was a bit lumpy. Tide race and a bit of a wind let to a confused surface so I was glad I was in my superstable Tarpon 160.

I crossed the more sheltered waters of Newport Bay, still expecting a cetacean encounter, but the sea was empty. And despite switching from Rapala plug to trolled feathers, I caught no fish at all. Surely more luck as I coast hugged on the way back….must be a bass or two around.

My interests went retro as I was entertained by the healthy variety of Welsh coastal birds. I’ve been a bird nerd since before I could walk. It’s a useful hobby to have up your sleeve in case the fishing is poor and keeps you paddling when otherwise you might give up and go to the tea shop.

First of all a pair of kites were hanging about over a hilltop.

Red kite plus crow escort

And then a peregrine falcon was very agitated and plunging at a pair of ravens that were snooping about too close to its patch of cliff for comfort. It did a complete loop the loop ….never seen that before. Legs on the outside so at the top of the loop it was upside down.

Peregrine-avoid if you are a snack-sized bird

Back around Dinas head I forced my aching arms for a bit further exploration of the coast, into a stiff headwind, towards Fishguard. Nice dramatic rock formation:

Dinas Head and Needle rock

and a waterlevel view if the departing ferry to Rosslare.

Fishguard ferry

Although I was trolling all day I was absolutely gob-smacked I didn’t get a single bite all day. A fishing disaster. But still good fun. Well, fairly.

But September hasn’t been completely devoid of fish. A half-hearted attempt at tope- fishing on the Exmoor coast was thwarted by an unexpectedly strong wind so I was forced into hugging the shore and plugging for bass. Three fish, one about three pounds. All put back.

Exmoor bass

My heart leapt in my mouth as I nearly ran over a basking sunfish off Headon’s mouth and it splashed into a crash-dive, although I suspect its pulse rate  peaked higher than mine given the relative sizes of the creatures involved. A lot of sunfish around this year.

Evasive sunfish

Once again highlight of the day was non-fishy, and quite unexpected. I was having time out on a tiny sandy cove when the Waverley paddle steamer sploshed past, took a swoop around Combe Martin bay, and carried on up the coast. An excellent spectacle  of an ancient vessel. (oh blimey, just had a google at when it was built and it’s only thirteen years older than me…cripes!)

Waverley and Exmoor coast

Combe Martin beachside carpark is very expensive , presumably because they have  a very plush lavatory block and a shower. However I would have expected a bit of discount because of the threat of electrocution:

Autumn is moving in. Starting to get a bit panicky about continuing crummy weather and lack of kayak fishing opportunity. But Saturday is looking promising, and there are reports of a lot of basking sharks  at Land’s End. Looks like there’s the tricky choice of mowing the lawn or driving down to Sennen for some high octane thrills with the biggest fish of them all , or ‘ y pysgodyn mwyaf ohonynt i gyd’, as the welsh would say.

Land’s End

Sennen cove is a stunning spot. We opted to paddle around the jaw dropping headlands and coves to Land’s End proper, through waters rarely quiet enough for a recreational double sit-on-top. Beneath the arch at Enys Dodman we had a close encounter with a young seal who just bawled it’s indignance at us from close range and didn’t move.

Just as we turned to go back as the wind was starting to pick up we noticed the sun glinting off a triangular shape about half a mile offshore. It was a basking shark, and it was a whopper. My wife has never encountered such a beast before and as we sprinted to get a bit ahead of it so it would cruise directly past us she started to doubt. We sat and gaped as it torpedoed past a few feet from us. The shark gaped back.

…..gulp….

On showing Becky this image later, she quietly contemplated the fact that we were half a mile offshore in the most exposed location in the whole of SW England, with a multi-ton creature a lot longer and a lot wider than our kayak lurking about beneath us. Her eventual comment was ‘I’m not happy about my hair’

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