Stunning summer ‘smoothies’ from a wonderful Welsh beach
A 200-mile round trip proves to be well worth it – with hectic action from the start and PB’s all-round.
Words and photography Chris Ponsford
Every trip should be an adventure. At least that’s my philosophy. A day to savour, remember and look back on with fondness and a desire to repeat if possible – especially if things have gone to plan. Of course, the anticipation, the planning beforehand is so much a part of it and in my experience great trips are rarely an accident, so much can go wrong either before or during, but when it comes off it is so special.
Living as I do at least 80 miles from the first fishable coastline, namely the Bristol Channel, which itself has the second highest tidal range in the world, fast tidal rips and very challenging conditions, particularly if it’s windy and full of weed.
However, fish seem to like it and if you know where to go, at the right time ,great catches are possible, but this is the nub, local knowledge is needed, gained by experience and fishing with others who have learned that tide and tide wait for no man, and low water reef marks, although productive swiftly cover, often in gulleys behind, so when its time to go, no fish is worth waiting on for, as plenty of folk have found to there cost .
One mark I enjoy, and relatively safely, is the mighty Morfa beach, situated between Porthcawl and Port Talbot. This is a huge sandy beach, with vast sand dunes behind, which are part of the Pyle and Kenfig Country Park .
There is no easy way to access it. All routes involve a decent walk across the dunes from the car park, so as a result and given its sheer size, there is no shortage of beach to fish. It runs for about 7 miles between Sker Rocks at its eastern end to Port Talbot steel works at the western end.
It can produce a myriad of species and fishes best at low water as casts land in sandy gullies holding plenty of worm, mussel beds and small fish.
Prevalent species are bass, ray, mullet, conger, the odd codling, dogfish, smoothhound and it is the latter that we target every summer, between May and August.
They are a baby shark species, growing to about 30lb. Usually the average size is 4 to 8lb – with the occasional double-figure fish. Anything 14lb plus is a real specimen to be proud of.
Boat anglers often catch the biggest ones, with the starry smoothound the prettiest, however shore fishing can be fantastic as the come into the shallower water to breed or look for crab and prawns to eat. They can be caught all round our coastline and are now very popular amongst sea anglers, mostly in the summer.
Best bait is crab in various forms. Peeler crab is king, but we do very well with king prawns, shell still on and uncooked, often wrapping half a prawn in squid, or even fishing a whole squid, which they will often pick up .
Simple pulley rigs do the job, about 18 inches long, a pair of 3.0 or 4.0 hooks on a 40lb snood, with the bait secured by whipping elastic around it and the hooks.
Tackle-wise, any normal beach set up will work. A fixed spool or multiplier reel, and the ability to cast well is a distinct advantage, more so on a fast ebbing tide on a shallow sandy beach like Morfa. Many anglers do better on the flood tide as they retreat back up the beach letting out line and the bait is further out and in deeper water.
My favourite tides for a beach like Morfa is a medium neap tide, which allows an easier day as it doesn’t retreat so far, and you have more depth at low water, and the lateral tidal pull is not so strong, grip leads are the norm, usually 5oz but I have used 7oz.
A tip for Morfa I was told by Welsh Legend, Dai Llewellyn, the master rod builder and fisherman is to move a 100 yards along the beach till you find fish or start getting bites. The fish hunt in packs and action can be manic, which was the case on this trip, the fresh flood tide was crazy, we could get baits in the water quick enough as fish after fish attacked the baits.
So, a quick resume of our trip and a few salient points… We arrived at the car park and allowed for a 40 minute walk to the part of the beach we wanted to fish with the idea being that we were setting up three hours before low water on a fast ebbing tide.
One rod each, normal beachcasters with mine being a 40 year-old, 12ft Daiwa Whisker Kevlar, my old Tournament rod and an ABU 6500 CT multiplier reel loaded with 15lb mono and clear Asso tapered shockleader, 18-70 lb, with an 80lb swivel on the end. To that I attached the 18 inch pulley rig on a clip baited with prawn and squid wrap, or fresh peeler crap bound on with shearing elastic using a baiting needle. We also took one box for the gear and a rucksack of drink and a sandwich and terminal tackle with pre-tied rigs. We each carried half a dozen spiked leads up to 6oz.
Jim Smith, my compadre, used a Zziplex Profile GT 13ft and a Penn Mag 3 multiplier with the same rig and shockleader set-up.
Bait was stored in cool bag with ice blocks – its very important to keep them in good condition in hot weather – just like this day was.
There were odd swimmers, dog walkers, horses and riders, but everyone was fine as its remote beach and only keen folk do the walk. That said, it is really beautiful and well worth the effort required, though the return walk is not so easy, at least for old codgers like me!
The action started fast as we caught from the off, but it slowed up towards low water, so we moved a 100 yards or so and as soon as the tide turned, the fish hit on us ravenously!Hound after hound, with both of us catching PB’s – myself a 16lb 8oz fish – a true whopper! Jim had a lovely 11lb-er from memory.
We really couldn’t bait up fast enough, take photos and return fish, all the time moving the gear back on the fast flooding tide.
About two and half hours into the flood we were exhausted, knowing full well we had a long walk back and a mere 100 mile drive back in heavy traffic. It truly was an epic day, a real great memory, PB’s and lots of rod bending action. Such days don’t happen often very often, so please treasure them.