Escape the worst UK summer in living memory and head off to the Costa del Sol. Nine days in a pair of swimming shorts. Villa with a pool. Baking hot. With all the family and a few chums. And right by the sea. Bliss.
But the sea is full of small brown jellyfish. Hopefully they don’t sting. Ouch, yes they do. And one or two whopping Barrel jellyfish as well, two foot wide. Lazily swimming along complete with entourage of little fish.
Loads of jellyfish means an increased chance of encountering jellyfish-eaters, and that’s precisely what happened while out on the kayaks with eldest son Henry. A thumping great Ocean Sunfish over a metre across and just lolling about on its side at the surface. Eyeing us with its big eyeball and intermittently squirting water out of its mouth.
It only sprang to life when it bumped into Henry’s kayak and casually swam down into the depths. Really weird creatures.
Trolling a lure behind the kayaks seemed to be the only hope of catching fish here, as the water was crystal clear with a sea bed of mainly sand, so a lot of ground needed to be covered to ensure a fishy encounter.
I did try a bit of bottom fishing using mackerel-spiced feathers but only hooked a tiny Comber and then got bored….back to the trolling.
Pest fish of the holiday were Greater weavers, which I thought were designed to lurk on the bottom amd terrorise bare footed tourists with their poisonous spikes. We caught them both in shallow and deep water and using small plugs and big…some very big. It has to be a very bold fish to try to eat a lure almost bigger than itself…..
But with spikes like that on its back it can afford to take risks. I know because one ‘got’ me while unhooking it. Not pleasant but it took my mind off the jellyfish sting .
Fish were thin on the ground as there was a lot of competition with trawlers and the incessant drone from these ploughing around offshore only went quiet at the weekends. But just when we were about to give up we ran into a shoal of triggerfish which provided a brief bit of sport. As we reeled this one in a couple of its chums came to the surface with it.
I was out at dawn every morning although it got progressively more difficult to turf out of bed as the St. Miguel took its toll and the prospect of catching a decent fish decreased, as I was covering the same ground day after day. Just weavers, a few chum mackerel, and a scad.
I set the drag as loose as I could so that I could hear the satisfactory sound of line being clicked out as a fish bites. But the fish were so small it didn’t happen. And then, just when I was starting to get despondent, my line absolutely fizzed out. Brilliant. At blooming last. But what on earth was on the end of the line, half a mile offshore?
I wound in carefully and the fish tore off again just when it became visible….typical bass behaviour. Sure enough my biggest bass ever was soon in the kayak- it was big-headed and thin-bodied so theoretically was a lot heavier. Sorry bass, you are going to end up as supper (and anyway you are probably a ‘spent fish’).
No scales, so it was down to a high tech GCSE Physics-style experiment to calculate the weight of the fish. Six and a half pounds. Could have been more.
Not a scrap of bass was left after the evening feast.
Next day the sea was absolute glass at dawn so I thought I would try something different and do the ‘tuna run’ (my own title…never caught one yet though) ….paddling straight out to sea for two and a half miles. I had no bites at all but was completely absorbed in watching the big Cory’s Shearwaters cruising around my kayak and zipping past my earholes.
And then the trawler about half a mile away from me got swallowed up in a wall of thick fog. AAARGH. Total panic. I wound in and paddled as fast as I could for the beach. Absolutely flat out. And my mouth went dry. The mist closed in and the coast towards Gibraltar was swallowed up. What an idiot, but who ever heard of a sea fog on the Costa del Sol? The wall of cloud followed me in but I managed to outrun it, just. A few boats were fishing close to the shore but I could have told them they wouldn’t catch anything there, but was too exhausted (and dry-mouthed) to speak. And my Spanish is a bit dodgy anyway.
Time to break out of the mould and try a different lure. Why not my artificial squid that I have had for about ten years and never used? It looks the business:
It dived deeper than I expected and was bumping along the bottom when suddenly it went very heavy. I thought I had hooked a big blob of brown weed but hauled in the weirdest fish I have ever caught. A flabby round disc of leopardskin spots with a bit of a tail. And as I reached down to get the hook out…ZAP! A shock like touching an electric fence. You’ve got to be kidding! but then KAPOW! another one and then a lot more until the flabby electric-pulsing swimming blob was put back in the water.
The only ray I have ever caught and it has to be a Marbled Electric Ray. What on earth is it doing with an electric current underwater? How can that possibly work? And apparently it is nocturnal, but I caught it at midday in bright sunlight. I suspect it was having a siesta when my squiddy lure came bumping along over its head and it just couldn’t resist a smash and grab (and zap) raid.
It must be tough being a James Bond wannabee in 40 degrees heat. Come over to Devon. It’s a lot cooler. And there’s a lot more fish.