Autumn Night Fishing at Gimblet Rock, Pwllheli

Author: Tom Hughes Date: 13-10-2003

I can vividly remember while growing up in Pwllheli, the autumn and winter night fishing from Gimblet Rock for the prolific numbers of Whiting that were to be had there. And always hoping for the odd Bass. In those days, small Bass were always about and you'd hear the odd story of a six or eight pounder begin caught. I'd caught a few small ones in my time, but having never specifically targeted them, they were few and far between.

But that was twenty years ago. In the mean time, I'd moved away, got a degree and had a career in software engineering. During that period I'd hardly fished at all until I took up fly fishing for trout at Gailey Trout Fishery in Staffordshire about two years ago.

Having family in Pwllheli and having kept in contact with many of my old school friends, I was hearing more and more reports of large Bass being caught. The numbers of these fish have increased tremendously in the last few years and a six pounder is no longer news.

So it was that on planning a visit to Pwllheli, I contacted an old friend, Pwllheli angler Steve (Hammer) Hughes, who had visited me recently for some fly fishing at Gailey Reservoir. Steve had had a frustating day, only landing one fish but losing many more. Made even worse by my landing seven trout. But that is another story. On the phone, Steve told me that he thought there was a good chance of some Bass if we fished either side of the high tide from Gimblet Rock. I planned to arrive in Pwllheli on Monday and the high tide was at 11pm, the weather forecast was reasonable and the date was set.

We arrived at Gimblet Rock at 8pm the tide was in full flow, the weather mild, a light easterly wind, cloudy and with the chance of some rain. Steve, full of stories about his first ever Bass - an 8 pounder from here, was armed with two beach rods to my one. The first he whacked out with a two hook rig looking for any Whiting that may be around. Before I'd even started to tackle up, his rod was twitching with the characteristic rattle of a Dogfish. The first fish of the session.

Steve lands a Dogfish While Steve dealt with his catch, I finished tackling up a simple sliding pennel rig using two 6/0 Aberdeens and a 3oz Breakaway lead. This I baited with a whole side of Mackerel as Steve set up a similar rig on his other rod. Taking Steve's advice, I lobbed the bait about 30 yards Eastwards, tight along the shore from the rock, into an area strewn with boulders which can be seen at low tide. Steve did the same, we set the clutch low on the reels and sat down to wait for the rods to bend over and the ratchet on the reels to start screaming.

A full house for Steve It wasn't long before Steve's first rod was in the action again. This time a full house, one Dogfish and an early Whiting! As we settled down again, head torches trained on the Bass rods it started to rain. Not heavily, but enough to make the rocks very slippery and we knew care would have to be taken when moving about.

Then it happened. With no prior warning, Steve's Bass rod bent over and the clutch on his reel started screaming. I moved out of his way, almost coming a cropper on the slippery rocks. He lifted his rod, but did not strike straight away. I vaguely remembered that you should let these fish run a little before you tighten into them. He lifted the rod and was into a Bass. Not a huge fish, but a keeper. Even so, encouraged by a good start he returned the fish unharmed and baited up again to catch his big brother.

The fishing remained quite for me. I'd had a Dogfish rattle my bait on the first cast, but missed it. And that was all I'd had all night. In the hour since Steve landed the first Bass, he had another full house on his other rod. Again a Dogfish and a Whiting. But deciding that was enough of that, he put that rod away to concentrate on the Bass. The tide was high now. The rain which had been coming down for the last two hours had stopped, but had left the rocks in a treacherous state underfoot.

It was about midnight and the tide was just starting to ebb, the light breeze was doing little to dry the rocks and so it was a very careful Steve who Steve with his best Bass of the night picked up his rod and stumbled to the waters edge as his reel screamed again in protest at the Bass that was on his bait. A better fish this time and he struggled to get it out of the water. Eventually taking the rod tip to the fish, he managed to lift it onto the rock with his light Bass rod. A hard fighting three pounder and well worth the wait in the rain.

Both Steve's Bass had come to a large Mackerel bait, the same as I'd been fishing all night without success. Even so, I decided on a change of tactics and went for a whole squid in the hope that it would change my luck. For the next hour we sat watching the rods but nothing happened. It was getting late, we were almost out of bait and the fishing had gone quite. So, for the last cast of the night, I switched back to a side of Mackerel. This time I cast it a little further off shore to where the edge of the boulders gives way to a clean sandy bottom and sat down to wait. Me with my only fish

For a moment, we were busy chatting away not paying attention to the rods. Suddenly, I heard a reel screaming again. Thinking this must be a third Bass for Steve I looked up to see my rod pointing towards Harlech with line stripping off the reel. My first thought was, 'Oh no, now I've got to move about on this wet rock.' I stumbled to my rod and picked it up. The fish was still running. I staggered to a level piece of ground near the waters edge and the fish was still running! I got a good footing and when I was sure I wasn't going to slip, I put my thumb on the spool of my multiplier and lifted the rod. There was a solid resistance and I was into a fish. I could feel it fighting all the way in to the edge of the rock. As I brought it in close it really started to scrap, thrashing on the surface and diving again and again making it difficult for me to keep my footing. All the time I was thinking about Steve's story of his first ever Bass. He'd fallen in from this very spot while trying to land it and miraculously managed to get himself, his rod and the fine 8lb fish to the shore! I didn't want to be telling the same story in the morning! But as luck would have it, I managed to keep my footing, stay on the rock and land the fish. Another three pounder, my first Bass for well over 20 years and my biggest ever.

Remembering our recent trout fly fishing session and with Steve's seven fish of the night to my one, honours were again even. A memorable night for both of us, no huge fish, but typical of the fine fishing at this time of year in Pwllheli.

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