5 June 2009 PORTHGWARRA TO SENNEN AND BACK
The rare combination of a day off,little wind and little swell lured me down to Land’s End for the next installment of my round-the-southwest-paddle. I was just a bit excited as I was about to tackle the most stunning paddle in the U.K. (if not the world) and I was about to have some legendary fishing and wildlife encounters…..
I started to let out a rubber sandeel to troll and immediately caught a pollack about 1lb. Pollack really are quite dim. They give absolutely no thought to what they might be consuming and wolf it down so that often the hook doesn’t engage till it is deep into their stomach. Then when you are trying your best to delicately remove the hook they regurgitate a load of half-digested sandeels all over your trousers that smell worse than an unidentifiable portion of food that has been at the back of your fridge for a couple of months.
I let the fish go but it lay at the surface regaining its composure for a second too long. A Great Black-backed Gull appeared out of nowhere and downed it whole. There’s something sinister about these very large and aggressive gulls. They sit on every headland and watch you go past. You feel that if you show the slightest hint of weakness or vulnerability they will have your eyeballs out. I tried to sit up straighter and paddle harder although I was indeed feeling a bit small in BIG scenery and lumpy conditions.(This is rated a Grade C paddle-the most challenging).
Off Carn Boel I hooked a whopping fish in the middle of a surging tide race.By the time I had struggled it aboard I had been swept back and had to battle through the race all over again.
This could have been my biggest fish ever-I would guess about 7lbs. I put it back to fight another day.
On the final run in to Land’s end I caught loads more pollack around every dramatic headland with it’s surging race. The last was the ridiculously named Dr. Syntax’s head. Hang on a minute, wasn’t he the guy who wrote the children’s book called Rotting Spam and Ham, or something.
I was suddenly into a different world of flat calm seas and no swell and caught my first bass of the season only a few yards away from Land’s End proper.
On the last headland before Sennen Cove I gawped at the rockclimbers and tombstoners and they gawped at me. I moped about offshore soaking up the sun in Whitsand Bay, landed another (smaller) bass then headed for home.
I headed for the great swirling current on the seaward side of the jagged island with the very satisfactory name of ‘Armed Knight’ and I waited in anticipation for something to grab my sandeel in the most dramatic location and one of the biggest tide races around. Right on cue my reel buzzed out and my rod bent over in a very impressive manner and for the first time I almost felt like a real fisherman. This was a serious fish in a serious place and needless to say it got off.
So I caught a snivvling mackerel instead.
Back around Carn Boel I hooked so many pollack I had to pull my lure in , as every time I got swept back around the point and had to start again.
Yes, you guessed right, somehow the current had changed direction and I was battling into the teeth of the waves, just as I was only an hour beforehand , only the other way. Bad planning, you might think. Well, no actually-this just exemplifies everything I find irritating about smuggy pleased-with-themselves nautical know-alls and the books they produce.
I have spent dozens of hours working out the best time to do this trip using chart datum from a nautical almanac. (even that stupid jargon grates on me). For a start you have to use tides at DOVER for reference.What a load of bunk. Dover is three hundred miles away. Why not use Penzance which is just around the corner, then at least you’d have a feel for whether the tide is high, low or somewhere in between.
And then they slink about in those daft blue deck shoes with white rims.No-one wears deck shoes in Holsworthy. We wear dealer boots. You can’t leg it after an escaped bullock wearing a pair of deck shoes.
Anyway, I was just about to call it a day after a sensational four hour twelve mile trip when things got even better. Over half a mile offshore did I catch a glimpse of a dolphin’s fin?. I headed out to investigate and was soon beside myself with excitement……
I sneaked up on the classic triangular dorsal fin of a big basker-its tail fin was a good eight foot behind. It dived and while I was looking around for it heard a splash behind me and the vast beast passed right underneath my flimsy and insubstantial craft touching with its back. Yikes. I was the best part of a mile offshore.
Thrills over, or so I thought , I headed for shore but encountered another shark on the way in and tried out my hand at underwater photography. The trouble was the subject is so huge I couldn’t fit it in!
This shark, like the first seemed to find me , or hopefully just my kayak, attractive, and came round to investigate………..
Time to pack it in as it was starting to get dark and the tide was fast drifting me towards Nantucket. But I met up with one more big fish on the way in and had the chance to get a pic of the legendary cavernous gape….
FOOTNOTE: If I make the grade for reincarnation I will NOT be volunteering to return as a sandeel……look at how shredded my rubber eel got after only an hour!