Tag Archives: uptide fishing

Book a boat part 2- Channel Explorer, Portishead

Chris Buxton, skipper of Portishead based vessel Channel Explorer tells us about the kind of fishing we might expect to see out of the coastal Bristol Channel town of Portishead, in part 2 of our ‘book a boat’ series…

As a keen angler I was very lucky to have grown up right on the coast of the fast flowing waters of the Bristol Channel in the small Somerset town of Clevedon. I learned my trade on the rich fish filled waters of the upper channel around Clevedon for nearly 30 years before taking the plunge and running my first Charter boat- Channel Explorer. 

Plenty of deck space equals comfortable fishing

I’ve been privileged to have received some help along the way, particularly from Daniel Hawkins who runs ReelDeal charters from Ilfracombe-  Dan is a great guy and highly respected skipper. 

I now own Dan’s original boat, a 10 meter Colne Catamaran twinned with 150hp mercury’s on the back that can get us going to speeds of up to 42knots, so getting to the marks takes next to no time. We have some very good fishing from the beautiful marina at Portishead which is 3 miles up the coast from Clevedon or junction 19 of the M5. All our fishing is done at anchor with the majority of anglers opting to uptide in the fast waters. Winter fishing can be excellent and we are very lucky to still get a decent cod run in the Channel. From September to May is when these fish run with bags of up to 84 sizeable fish having been taken so far this 2019-20 season. 

A typical bag of cod aboard Channel Explorer

We also catch plenty of Rays ,Congers ,Whiting and odd dogs amongst the massive Cod shoals. 

May through to September is a time we can pretty much target anything with all the ray species available, hounds in excess of 20lb, tope, bass more cod and my favourite- the Dover sole. 

The sole fishing is something I’d like to think we specialise in as they are large fish with 90% of fish landed over the 2lb mark and up to a few ounces short of 4lb. 

I’m after a 6lb fish and pretty certain they are down there in the murky depths. 

Channel Explorer runs pretty much everyday weather permitting and can take 10 Anglers with plenty of space, so when we can get back out on the water why not book a trip with us and I’ll doe my best to put you on the fish.

Contact Chris on 07804 241017 to discuss your booking

Cod galore- A Bristol Channel season to remember!

The Bristol Channel once held a reputation as one of the best cod fisheries in the UK and until recently, many were convinced that that we’d had the best of it. Perhaps we have, but then the 2019-2020 season is not one to be sniffed at as, for whatever reason, numbers of codling have once again returned to the inshore waters of the channel. The majority of fish have been in the 2-4lb bracket, but occasional cod nudging double figures in weight have kept things interesting. 

Many anglers believe that a four year cycle plays a part in the cod fishing here and with the last season of note occurring in 2015-2016, this makes perfect sense. 

As codling return to the Bristol Channel year on year, growing in size but reducing in number owing to commercial pressure in the channel approaches during the summer, it’s great to see fish of this stamp figuring in catches having successfully run the netters gauntlet.

As usual, it was those tackling the upper reaches of the channel who were first in to the season’s fish, with boats such as Channel Explorer operating out of Portishead and skippered by Chris Buxton, making some bumper catches. Uptide tactics, as ever, account for the lion’s share of the fish here.

A fine early season cod landed aboard Channel Explorer

Shore anglers also got in on the action early on, again from the upper channel marks around Clevedon and Portishead. 

Venues such as Battery Point, Walton Bay and Ladye Bay produced some excellent codling sport and together with plenty of thornbacks and conger there was no reason for the rod tips not to be knocking.

The pulley rig has long been a favourite rig here, having been brought to the channel by visiting East coast anglers in the 1980’s, it was soon recognised as the perfect set up for tackling the reefs and associated broken ground found within casting range on many of the marks here, it’s very concept ensuring a hooked fish trails behind the lead that travels up in the water and away from potential snags. 

Pulley rigs work great on cleaner venues too!

Other productive venues that generally begin to produce the goods by December include Sandpoint and Brean Down and both have been on good form . The beauty of these marks is that there are cleaner options, with both sand and mud within easy casting range. 

Local angler John Drury with a typical Sandpoint codling

This season has been no exception and typically anglers have gone away from these marks with bags of six fish or more this winter. 

The recent storms and excessive rain fall have undoubtedly slowed things down a little, not so much because of the freshwater in the estuary, but more than likely the level of chemicals and other deposits that make their way in to the many tributaries that feed the channel. 

But with March now underway, it’s highly likely that we are in for a treat with a spring run on the cards any time soon. 

Any of the marks listed above will produce the goods, but the main focus should be on bait.

Peeler crab is not cheap, but it is a highly effective bait at this time of year and will out fish the worm baits associated with pre-Christmas cod fishing more often than not. Presented on a wide gape hook, such as the Varivas Big Mouth, a 4/0 is perfect for both the size of bait and a codling’s accommodating mouth.

Look for neap tides which open up many venues that are unfishable when the tidal pull is at its strongest. Mild, overcast weather is often a winner with a southerly wind a particularly fishy one. 

East winds can cause the fishing to slow up. Avoid shallow venues, particularly first thing in the morning if the weather has been especially cold as most fish, with perhaps the exception of flounder, being reluctant to feed. The weather really is critical for successful fishing, take a look at XC Weather for a detailed forecast that will help you plan your next trip.

The deeper marks with rough ground at close range can often fish as well at 40 yards as they can at 100, so if fishing two rods, it often pays to drop a bait in close. You’d be surprised just how productive it can be when fishing practically under the rod tips. 

Can you uptide using braid?

A recent debate on social media regarding the use of a braided mainline for uptide fishing sparked much discussion. Seasoned boat angler, Scott Smy, guests on today’s VMO blog to offer his thoughts on the subject…

A recent post on everyone’s favourite media channel Facebook posed the question…..’Can you use braid for Uptiding’? Considering the number of differing views this post generated I thought it would be useful to run through some of the pros and cons of using braid for uptiding, using the Bristol Channel as a casing point.

I guess the simple answer to the question from my and many other anglers perspective is ‘yes’; you can use braid effectively when uptiding. Having spent almost the best part of almost 30 years fishing from boats in the Bristol Channel (both on charters and my own craft) I would like to think I know a thing or two about uptiding in these generally shallow fast-running waters. I have to say for the majority of that time I had been using mono lines in 15-20lb breaking strain along with a 40-50lb leader. However, in the past couple of years my attention has turned to using braid and to be brutally honest I find it a complete joy to use when compared to mono.

Loaded up and ready to go. With braid!

Loaded up and ready to go. With braid!

The first thing you will discover using braid is that the bite detection is second to none and you can spot the first enquiry on the rod tip long before the fish picks up the bait properly and steams off downtide, which personally has resulted in a greater percentage of positive hook-ups compared to mono. However it is essential that rods are securely fastened down to the boat rail if left unattended as the take from a large smoothhound or ray can be savage to say the least and could lead to rods and reels disappearing over the side, never to be seen again. Also, once hooked the sensitivity of the braid makes playing the fish so much more enjoyable as you can feel every head shake, although this does mean that you have to be careful not to bully the fish too much.

I also find that fishing with braid allows the grip weight to hold much more affectively when fishing in strong currents. On a recent charter trip out of Minehead fishing an offshore sandbank for rays where the tide was steaming through it was noticeable that those uptiding with braid were able to find and hold bottom whilst those using mono struggled to hold until the tide had eased off. The one problem I have found with braid is that occasionally it allows the lead to dig into the seabed a bit too well and has resulted in having to try to pull for a break (trying to break out 30lb braid is not easy and should be left to the skipper).

A beautiful blonde taken on a braid uptide outfit

A beautiful blonde taken on a braid uptide outfit

I have heard of instances where anglers using braid have been cut-off when using it over shallow water reef/coral marks due to the amount of line you need to feed out. This can be a downside to using braid and whilst tying on a leader of 20ft of 40-50lb mono can help reduce tackle losses and make it easier for the skipper when bringing fish to the waiting net, there will be times when you just have to revert back to mono. However the majority of the time this isn’t an issue for the areas I am uptiding which would be considered to be at the lower end of the Channel which are generally a bit deeper and less snaggy than the upper reaches. I guess it’s a case of horses for courses.

A further downside to the use of braid uptiding is the problem of you fishing next to your mate who is still using mono. If you are all using braid on the boat then no problem. However, if some of your fellow anglers are using mono then tangles can become a problem and worst still braid has a tendency to cut through mono when it is under tension. Your mate fishing next to you certainly isn’t going to thank you when your braid slices through his mainline as a 20lb Cod hits the surface just behind the boat!

12lb Bullhuss


Fixed spools are becoming increasingly popular on charter boats these days and they are ideal for uptiding when trying to cast from a moving deck. Having initially brought them for use on continental rods for shore fishing, I have been using the Penn Surfblaster 8000 reels for uptiding and have found it to be more than adequate. Apart from the ability to ‘pick-up’ the slack line very quickly (one of the main advantages of a fixed spool), it has a great drag system for when fish get close to the boat. Also being a reel from the Penn stable it is well-built and will certainly handle the pressure put upon it by a large ray or conger hanging in the tide.

A relatively soft action uptider is essential when using braid. I am a big fan of Daiwa boat rods and use the TDX 4-10oz which is probably one of the best uptide rods ever made.

In terms of terminal tackle I have found that using an uptide boom locked between 2 swivels is far more effective than having a sliding boom as this acts like a bolt-rig and results in more hook-ups, especially for fish such as hounds which have a tendency to tear off with the bait. Hook sizes vary according to bait but I rarely find you need anything larger than a 6/0 uptiding out of ports such as Watchet, Minehead etc. Hooks are always Varivas Big Mouth Extra’s which are proven and have never let me down.

uptide boat fishing rig

Simple uptide tackle. Note the nail in the lead to hold the hook for casting