KAYAK FISHING ISLES OF SCILLY – Bude Old Gits Scilly Summer Vacation

The scene was nicely set as our rag tag bunch of ageing motley macho males excitedly boarded the Scillonian III at Penzance. Only one thing was different to usual…the weather forecast for the next few days was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.

While others opted for the full breakfast in the galley I refrained until I could look at the Chelsea buns in the lttle glass display cabinet no longer, and selected the one which had a double cherry on top (the other ,inexplicably,didn’t have any cherry at all). This was a seriously bad act of gluttony which I was to soon regret,and it tasted of cardboard anyway.

We watched nervously as our kayaks were unloaded like a consignment of drainage pipes upon arrival at St Mary’s.

Why does mine have to be at the bottom?

And so we shoe-horned all our clobber required for four nights camping into our kayaks and headed off towards the dream campsite at St. Martins, but progress was slow as we hooked a load of Pollack around the top end of St. Marys, Austen with his trusty Husky Jerk catching fish of the day at about four pounds and then a load more so he got left way behind.

Hugh Town Hellraisers-Keith, Austen,Jeremy,Derrick,Joel,Steve

We diverted for a snoop round the Eastern Isles partly to get shelter from the nagging north wind. And it was when we got out for a leg stretch on the idyllic island of Little Arthur my act of gluttony with the double cherry savoury wreaked its revenge in the most unpleasant manner. If you are planning a trip to this uninhabited isle I would recommend leaving it for a few months.

We encamped at St Martins and I managed to lurch to the Seven Stones Inn where I improved significantlywith my own patented form of nutritional electrolyte repalacement diet (N.E.R.D)……Guiness and a packet of mini cheddars.

Austen was pollack barbeque king and there was enough left over to feed many of our campsite neighbours including three Dutch sea kayakers, and the local cat.

Austen-barbeque king

Day 2 dawned stunning and sunny. In return for the great slab of pollack the cat had dumped a dead shrew beside our teabags. But not just any shrew…a Scilly shrew,endemic to these Isles. Amazing because the last time I had visited the Scillies, in 1976, was on a travel scholarship to study the Scilly shrew and saw neither hide nor hair of one for the whole time.

We loaded our kit for our days paddle on St Martin’s white beach under deep blue skies. Perfection.

St Martin's beach

We explored the sheltered and gin clear waters around Tean and St.Helens before venturing into the more exposed and lumpy seas for a circumnavigation of Round Island.

Derrick leads by a short toggle

The north side of Round island received full swell and north wind so was quite entertaining. As usual in such an extreme place a peregrine put in an appearance-it was nesting on the very top of the lighthouse.

you'll be pleased with this one Derrick. Epic adventurer stuff.

We had a bit of a leg stretch on St. Helens where those with functional limbs took a hike to the top of the hill and watched a gull’s egg hatch in front of their eyes.

Nice cooling hot cup of coffee for Austen, Derrick,Jeremy

Then it was back to the boats and a tour round Menavaur with quite a few puffins, several decent pollack on my big Rapala lure , and then into the cosy sheltered comfort of another world in Grimsby sound between Tresco and Bryher.

More pollack for supper

The pub in Tresco was absolutely buzzing with a raucous live band that I would love to say were completely out of character with the peaceful sleepy setting but were actually quite good. They even got the pauses right in that Steve Harley song. It was a short hop across the sound to Bryher’s pub( with the naff name of Fraggle Rock) where Austen sported a new style of hat:


A quick circuit of Samson and yet more white beaches and Turquoise water and back to St Martins.

The longest day of the year dawned sunny and stayed that way. And there was no wind. Campers were sleepy:

Early morning snoring

It was going to be a true five star rated day of paddling and as we paddled past Tresco en route for refuelling at St Mary’s it was a struggle to believe we were in England and not a Maldive type place.

This CANNOT be blighty

I had gone on ahead to go for a prowl around the anchorage at St.Mary’s to meet up with Cushing who had boldly sailed solo from Newlyn the previous day to rendez vous with our motley bunch. I found him pootling in his tender.

It would have been REALLY impressive if he had come from Newlyn in that.

We crossed the fairly stiff tidal current of St.Mary’s sound and skirted the rocky north shore of St.Agnes around to the beach in front of Troytown campsite. This is easily the most dramatic location for a camp ground I have ever seen in UK and surely the best. A single low wall between it and the sea, and then a waterscape of jagged granite teeth sticking above the waves which 99 days out of a hundred would appear ferociously hostile and pounded by wind and swell (and indeed claiming many an unfortunate ship), but today, the day WE happened to turn up, was as smooth as a BP slick. And in the far distance Bishop Rock lighthouse marked the western edge of the rocks, beckoning us to visit. So off we went.

We dumped our stuff at the campsite first.

St Agnes campsite beach

The paddle to the Bishop rock lighthouse encapsulates everything I love about sea kayaking.It is a wilderness experience in a vista unchanged for millenia (apart from the lighthouse and transient wrecks on rocks). No near sign of  human existence. Just you and the sea and the things in and on it. We took a tour round the western rocks which even on this benignest of days were creepily unwelcoming. A fairly stiff tide race sucked through them and on the other side was a slurping swell.

Steve en route to meet the Bishop

We loitered briefly and then headed back behind the shelter of the western rocks for our first proper bottom fishing session so far.

Puffins nesting on Rosevear kept nipping past and seals came close see what was going on. My rod fairly curved when I hooked 10lbs of Pollack-but unfortunately not all one fish!….

Looks like pollack for tea.....again

Austen and I spent a memorable hour or two in this extreme location and although my hit rate fizzled out, his husky jerk kept producing the goods.

Loads more pollack and a tropical-style cuckoo wrasse:

and I managed to drag up a completely orange ballan wrasse on feathers.

Following another nutritionally sound and healthy but maybe a bit too pollacky meal we retired to the Turks Head for a very entertaining evening and autopsy on the best tales of the day. Joel was so excited about getting to the Bishop rock he paddled round it twice!

Another perfect morning at Troytown.

Tremendous Troytown

A spin off from the testosterone laden talk in the Turks head was the idea we should paddle back to the mainland tomorrow. This has long been my number one ambition but sea conditions are rarely suitable. Tomorrow however looked about as good as it could get, and there was always the niggle that the other two groups of sea kayakers we had met had both made the crossing (the Dutch in BOTH directions). So myself and Austen and Keith were starting to sort of be committed, maybe.

We began our day with a circumnavigation of Annet and yet more pollack. Jeremy caught a cracker and Austen kept the interest up with a nice spotty wrasse on his trusty husky jerk .

Alas our last lunch in the Turks Head heralded the start of the disintegration of our group as we prepared to depart tomorrow.

Tipple at Turks Head

Jeremy had to meet Jane off the plane at St marys and paddled off through the turquoise water.

We said farewell to Cush on his yacht and then Derrick ,Steve and Joel who were going to spend another night camping before taking the Scillonian home…..and maybe the Turks Head again,eh?

Parting Portraits:

Pagey, Derrick and Duracell Joel
Steve Davenport

So Austen and Keith and I paddled north again towards St Martins and its green blue water and stocked up on provisions in preparation for the big crossing back to Cornwall tomorrow. We past possibly the most Caribbean-like beach yet on the top end of St. Mary’s.

What a stunning four day adventure. The weather could never be that good again. Not a cloud from Day 2 onwards. Where do we go from here for next year?

The only  glitch from a kayak fishing point of view is that there are, apparently, no bass in the Scillies. Why didn’t somebody say and I wouldn’t have taken a load of sandeels.Clearly in the world of positive spin in which we currently lurk, stating such a negative in a tourism brochure or advert would be contrary to procedure. But we’ll let you off this time because EVERYTHING else was top.

p.s. separate post on the scilly crossing back to Cornwall coming soon.


8 thoughts on “KAYAK FISHING ISLES OF SCILLY – Bude Old Gits Scilly Summer Vacation

  1. Congratulations are in order.To get out to the “Bish” is no mean feat,I have been twice July 05 and 07,and we didn’t have a hope of getting there,and this was on the dive boat “Moonshadow” run very efficiently by the very capable Jo(sephine)She told us how few the days are when conditions suffice,to allow a boat trip out there,let alone dive it – You all were blessed!Doesn’t that make it better? the two occasions I was there we had the lot weatherwise,short of hail and snow,horizontal rain,flat calm,brilliant blue sky,horrendous swell – all in a peak season week.As a matter of interest the diving is absolutely superb,as you would probably expect,and if you get blown out,the museum in S.t Marys is not the worst thing you could do.

    1. Jasper, great to hear from you. We ate so much pollack we grew gills. You guys inspired us to paddle back to the mainland. Thanks….a very memorable trip. Weather could NEVER be as good again! Rupert

  2. Glad you enjoyed my blog. The two campsites we stayed at on the Scillies were amazing, especially the one on St Agnes whiich was ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. Hope you are as lucky with the weather as we were.

  3. I must visit the Isles of Scilly! I live in Mobile Alabama and kayak in the Gulf of Mexico but I have never seen a fish as cool as a wrasse.
    Thank you for a great story.

    1. Yes, Dan. Most fish in UK waters tend to be on the dingy side , but a few, like the wrasse family, never cease to amaze with their bright colours. Very tropical(unlike the UK weather at the minute). Thanks for kind comments

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