South Wales – Return to boyhood haunts (Sept. 2014)

I had to return to the UK for 2 weeks to sort out a few things with my house in London and to get my son settled into his new school. After 4 days in London, we headed down to South Wales for 10 days. Now, I’d been reading a few things online and it seemed that a few things had changed in the SouthWales fishing scene – fish were being caught on lures in Barry Docks (…!!), bass were also being caught there (….wtf!!) and smooth-hounds were being caught with regularity from the beaches of Aberthaw and Rhoose!!

With all this in mind, I’d packed a few telescopic travel rods and some light reels. My plan was (depending on time commitments) to try floating bread for mullet and lure fishing for bass / pollack in the Docks and also to try spinning for bass at the Aberthaw power station warm water outfalls.

Barry Dock Layout & fishing locationsBarry Docks layout & fishing locations


Barry Docks Session #1 (05.09.14)

After a scouting session where we chummed bread from the different pontoons in the Morrison’s supermarket area of the Dock water-front (Dock No.1), my son and I came down for an evening session fishing primarily for mullet but also with a rod set up spinning wobble tailed jelly lures on jig heads. We’d seen a lot of  smelts during the chumming session. And they were there in great numbers – very annoying, it was impossible to avoid them attacking the bread bait – this was a major difference since I last fished here some 35 years ago! We had no luck with the mullet but did hook some smelts, and Sion even managed a tiny fingerling bass on bread. This  was an interesting catch though – it seems like the bass are breeding in the Docks.

 (2)_Barry Docks (05.09.14)Sion with a smelt

(3)_Barry Docks (05.09.14)

(4)_Barry Docks (05.09.14)Juvenile bass taken on bread!


Barry Docks Session #2 (07.09.14)

We left it for a few days and then decided to have a look in the old Number 2 dock (opposite Ranks Mill) – I was interested in this place as I’ d never actually fished here before. We walked out on a pontoon and I immediately saw a huge mullet, around 5 or 6 lbs grazing through the mussels beds that were encrusting the pontoon walls and old chains. Infact, there were mussels every where – this was another significant change sine my boyhood times. The sight of this mullet really fired me and Sion up. We dashed back home, grabbed the tackle, bought a loaf of white bread and returned back. But, once again, we couldn’t get the mullet biting. It was another smelt frenzy!! And, with nothing on lures, it was another blank (apart from scad). Hmmmm, quite a few changes in the past 35 years ……!!


Aberthaw – spinning for bass (09.09.14)

When packing my travel rods, spinning for bass at the Aberthaw Power Station warm water outlets (a bass nursey and local fishing hotspot) was my main fishing objective on this trip. Me and Sion scouted out this location the previous weekend –  there were a few people spinning redgill eel lures, although we didn’t see anyone catching. I had a chat with one of the anglers who’d informed me that he’d had 3 and 7 fish on two previous sessions. We stayed for half an hour or so to watch them fish. They were using a drilled golf ball as a casting weight with a long trace to a soft plastic lure (the golf balls gave casting weight, were slow sinking and were supposed to bounce off the rock ledges – this was a change since my boyhood, when we used to use jiff lemon bottles filled with water as floats). Despite the tackle innovations, they were all getting snagged pretty frequently.

(6)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)

(23)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)Aberthaw Power Station

I decided to return later in the week, when the tides were more favourable, but I had no motivation to make golf ball rigs and didn’t want to get snagged up every few casts. A visit to a local tackle shop gave me the solution – castable bomb floats, in 20 & 30 gram weights. Perfect! Armed and loaded, I returned to Aberthaw, on a beautiful clear day. Well, I fished the falling tide from just as the outfalls got uncovered all the way down to low tide – the good news was that my tackle set up worked perfectly. The bad news was that I caught nothing, not even a strike, nada. No one else, including anglers float fishing baits, seemed to catch anything either.

(1)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)

(5)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)Aberthaw warm water outfalls – Bass hotspot

(3)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)Rigged for bass spinning – note the bomb float

(9)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)Spinning for Bass

Whilst I was unpacking my car, I was chatting with two anglers who were off targeting smooth hounds. Now, as part of my research into the fishing options in the area, I’d noticed that smoothhounds were being caught in good numbers, and to good size in the Aberthaw and adjacent Rhoose beaches:

As things were slow, I decided to walk along the beach and see how the boys had got on with the smooth-hounds. I was particularly interested because, as a boy, I’d hooked one of these fishing further west at Marcross beach – the thing had bent my rod double and I’d gotten it right to the shore before it snapped my line (I’d had the drag locked down – no experience at all with big, strong fighting fish in those days). They had already caught one fish, of c.8lbs. I stayed chatting fishing with them for a good hour and a half, both lads were from my home town of Barry, and they showed me their rigs, how they baited the peeler crab, etc. Whilst there, one of them hooked a small conger eel, but my to my (and their) disappointment, there was no further action with the hounds.

(13)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)

(14)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)Aberthaw Power Station structures

(18)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)Bootstrap conger eel

After this, I returned to the outfalls to fish the incoming tide, but again, drew a complete blank. Frustrating – it seems that bass numbers are down but (talking to other anglers), sizes are up!

(10)_Aberthaw (09.09.14)High noon! Return to the outfalls

Barry Docks Session #3 (12.09.14) 

I though that was it with the fishing. but, after dropping my son to the train station to go to school, I passed by Dock No.2 again to see if any mullet were about. There was nothing to be seen, but there were two local blokes bait fishing with rag worm for bass. I stopped and had a long chat with them – one of them was very knowledgeable about the local fishing, having fished the Docks for 35 years. Basically, there was a molasses spill in the Docks over 20 years ago that wiped out all marine life in the Docks – there were some huge fish seen floating at the surface. since then, the company that was responsible restocked the docks, but with bass (as this was one of the farmed fish readily available). Since then, the Docks have become derelict as far as shipping activity, and the waters have cleaned up and bass have apparently thrived, reproducing and growing to a large – fish over 5lb are regularly taken, with fish up to 14lb having been caught. On the other hand, the small pouting have all but disappeared, and the once abundant green eels are also scarce. On the one hand the fishing is slow, but the plus side is that there are some large fish to be caught. Whilst I was talking to them, they had a bite and pulled in a small bass (I was happy to see them release the fish – another change from years ago, when almost everything was killed):

(3)_Barry No.2 Dock (11.09.14)Small bass taken on ragworm

After seeing this fish taken, and observing their tactics, I decided to give it a go. I returned the next day with some excellent ragworm bait and emulated the technique:

(12)_Barry Docks (12.09.14)Ragworm rigged to keep lively

Despite soaking baits on two rods for 3 hours or so, I got no bites. another blank! It seems like I’ve got a lot of re-learning to do.

(1)_Barry Docks (12.09.14)

(6)_Barry Docks (12.09.14)Soaking baits

(4)_Barry Docks (12.09.14)Barry Island in the background

(9)_Barry Docks (12.09.14)Dockside plant life

(2)_Barry No.2 Dock (11.09.14)

(3)_Barry Docks (12.09.14)Industrial Activity

This entry was posted in (7) Wales, UK, Bass, Grey Mullet, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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