Archive for June, 2013

Sharks

June 27, 2013

The (BIG) one that got away

The (BIG) one that got away

Dreamy blue jellyfish

Dreamy blue jellyfish

Boscastle dogfish

Boscastle dogfish

P1060373
50lb Boscastle Tope

50lb Boscastle Tope

I had been keeping an eye on the sea conditions at Boscastle for a month. I wanted to coincide a day off with little or no wind, and ideally not a lot of swell, to make the experience more relaxing and enjoyable.

And the tides had to be just right to allow me to catch the ebb down to Tintagel Head,catch a few mackerel on the way, and then just sit tight and drift four miles back up the coast as the flow came back in again, with juicy lures of fresh whole mackerel or mackerel fillet legered down to the bottom and leaving an oily smelly mackerelly trail in their wake which any self-respecting fishy predator would find hard to resist.

I had tried this technique in exactly these conditions last year and had lost two BIG fish beacause I was not using wire traces and they had bitten/rubbed through the line.

The stage was set again. Sea pretty calm. Tides perfect. Overcast sky should help, sea fishing never seems so productive in bright sun, although the experience of bobbing about on the sea is more enjoyable.

And Boscastle always lures me back. Is it the fishing, is it the guillemot colony and puffins, is it the chance of an encounter with dolphins, sunfish, seals or basking sharks, or is it the Museum of Witchcraft?

Boscastle Museum of witchcraft

Boscastle Museum of witchcraft

All went smoothly and I was sitting off Tintagel head at the turn of the tide. But I hadn’t caught any mackerel, just one snivvling pollack that I put back.

The tide hadn’t kicked in and there were no bites on the feathers. Looks like it would be another day of watching the auks and shearwaters zip past and listening to kittiwakes screaming ‘kit-ee-wake’.

Phew….I hauled up two mackerel and they were soon filleted, hooked up to my ‘Tronixpro’ wire Tope traces and dropped to the bottom. And I waited. And the tide got going and ruffled things up a bit. And after an hour I was convinced I was not going to catch. But I resisted the temptation to change back to feathers to liven up the action (for the first time ever). I was going to keep fresh mackerel on both lines to maximise the scent trail, and sit out the boredom. Mind you, if there’s one place you are not going to get bored, it is Boscastle. Great scenery.

Boscastle scene

Boscastle scene

Even so, I had eaten my lunch and afternoon snack and drunk the contents of both thermoses by 2.30pm, so it must have been verging on tedious.

Then my the tip of my rod dipped a couple of times, and the reel ticked, just a bit. I grabbed it just as it bent over and line poured out of the reel. I was hurled from total torpor to max-out adrenaline rush in about 0.3 seconds.

The line slackened I reeled in the great dead weight a bit, then it tore off again with more line. Surely a Tope. I peered over the edge into the depths as I was sure I was eventually winning the fight and would soon see my opponent, when the line went completely slack. Groan. Inspection of the broken end showed it had been ‘rubbed’ through…serves me right for having only 35lb line, even though it was connected to a metre of wire trace.

Back to the waiting game as I drifted past Bossiney. Another couple of twitches on my short rod and it exploded into action with line being ripped out.I couldn’t help putting my thumb on the reel to slow it down as I was worried about running out of line, but it slowed down and I tightened up the drag, swung the rod over the front of the kayak and allowed the fish to pull me along. It did so at quite an impressive speed before stopping an proving very reluctant to pull up from the depths. I was in no hurry and took it steady. I knew this was a big fish (no…really…durr).

Then something really weird happened. A commotion on the surface about twenty yards away caught my eye and I saw a great narrow angular fin break the surface for a split second. Oh blimey, I hope I havn’t caught that beast because I’m pretty sure that was a Thresher Shark. But no, my line was still angled straight down not along the surface. (would have been a bit of sport though).

After about twenty minutes and another couple of blistering runs I saw my fish emerge from the depths….the pale shape of a pretty hefty tope, foul-hooked behind the gills. I eased it into the kayak and got the hook out with no problem, took a couple of pics, and let it go.

As my pulse rate dropped back down below that of a shrew on a bike, I realised that it really was a big tope, about six foot long and so at least 50lbs. And what about that other shark? Perhaps the commotion of the hooked tope kicked off a sort of frenzy. Lucky they didn’t all develop an appetite for a sixteen foot long slab of rotomoulded plastic, plus contents (albeit a bit sinewy and bald).

Back to the waiting game and I was soon running out of mackerel as another big bite followed by big fight ended when my (factory-made) TronixPro hook pulled out from the crimp which attached it to the wire. Gnash, chomp,annoyance,expletive.

I ran into a short run of dogfish and then another mighty tussle ended with me pulling up only half a mackerel…..if only I had threaded the hook a bit further down the body……..

Time to go home.

Four big bites in four hours of drifting on the incoming tide.Happy with that, although would have been happier if I had landed all the fish. Was one the Thresher????

Maybe next time.

Skomer and Skokholm

June 9, 2013

I had planned a bit of kayaking in Pembrokeshire before I picked son no.2 up from Aberystwyth University and the weather forecast was……stunning. Big excitement and big plans. It may be even calm enough for a circumnavigation of Skomer and Skokholm.

Skokholm Island

Skokholm Island

Should I take my Paddleyak Swift to eat up the distance or stick with my Tarpon 160 fishing kayak to provide a superstable and supercomfortable viewing platform for the many puffins I hoped to see? Serious sea kayakers may also consider it to be a supertanker.

Supertanker (on the roof)

Supertanker (on the roof)

I had an afternoon, a full day, and a morning to play with. The north wind was still blowing for day one so I opted for a ‘warm-up’ paddle in the shelter of the south Pembrokeshire coast between Freshwater East and Stackpole Head. I had my eye on Barafundle Bay, much hyped as one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the country.And what an excellent name. Good place to stop for lunch hopefully.

Bootiful Barafundle

Bootiful Barafundle

Of course I trolled a plug-type lure behind as I cruised along, hopeful of catching a bass. It didn’t look good however as the water was gin clear and there was very little wave action or tidal movement (apart from the headlands). Not alot to get a bass excited.

P1070481I think it’s pretty important for kayak fishermen to have a few different tricks up their sleeve.Putting all your eggs into one basket and going all out to catch fish can lead to disappointment during weekends like this, epecially as bright sunshine never seems to be much good for catching fish. It really helps to have other kayak-based interests, such as an appreciation of coastal scenery, a passion for marine wildlife, or getting a kick out of clocking up the miles.

Barafundle bay lured me in from many miles away as the sun made it stand out like a jewel in a gap in the cliffs. But just as I arrived, salivating with anticipation of my stale and warm cheese and pickle sandwiches, the sun went in and the beach starting heaving with people so I aborted and went to find a deserted kayak only (but rather grotty and pebbly) beach to myself.

No fish.

That evening I camped in the carpark at Martin’s Haven and was very excited about my planned visit to the waters of Skomer and Skokholm. These are legendary places to seabird enthusiasts and I had never been before. I was ready to go before 6am and couldn’t believe the National Trust carpark attendant was already on site  as I trolleyed my kayak past. He was of course full of disaster stories of kayakers coming a cropper in the local tide races. Thanks alot (but he was a nice chap).

Martin's Haven

Martin’s Haven

It was as good a morning as I could have hoped. Blue sky, light north wind, minimal swell. Neap tides as well so the tide rips shouldn’t be too bad. But crikey, they were like a river. Just for a lark I paddled as hard as I could against the flow in Jack Sound and remained exactly stationary. Fortunately it was an easy and short ferry glide across to Skomer and I was soon back in calm water and absorbed by looking at puffins. Loads of them.

Puffin hoard

Puffin hoard

About a hundred photos later I was heading south across the three mile stretch of open water to Skokholm, to arrive in time to meet the incoming tide. Loads more puffins. I loafed around the north coast of Skokholm and devoured my five weetabix breakfast while surrounded by cackling Guillemots (including a couple with ‘bridles’), Razorbills and a lot more puffins.

Breakfast at sea

Breakfast at sea

The water was glassy along the south coast and the birdlife was complemented by a few seals that ‘exploded’  with a big splosh behind me .

This one, however, is fast asleep

This one, however, is fast asleep

The west coast was rather more hostile looking, essentially bare rock that looked like it spent most of the time being pounded by wind and swell. And a lighthouse.

As usual I was early for the tide change so had to paddle against the whitecaps of the outgoing tide race, but to compensate I saw a porpoise surface a couple of times in a typical unshowy manner. Another race two hundred yards further on flowed in the opposite direction. Uh? 

P1070691During the paddle back to Skomer my gaze was drawn to the west where Grassholm sat low on the horizon, and even at the range of seven or eight miles I could see half of it completely white with gannets.

Grassholm (and another supertanker)

Grassholm (and another supertanker)

I was already puffined out, but it hadn’t even started. In the bay there sat thousands of them. With hundreds more commuting overhead to their nesting burrows on the island. I loafed about enjoying the amazing natural scene and soaked up the sun. A lot of walkers on the island looked down with envious eyes.

.....wish I had a kayak.

…..wish I had a kayak.

Skomer’s west coast was about as impressive as anywhere in western cornwall with stacks,caves and islands, and as usual a tide race which seemed to be running in the opposite way to expected. And to finish it off the big bay of  North Haven was full of even more puffins than before. Skomer is supposed to have ten thousand of them and I reckon I saw every single one. Twice.

Flattering puffin pic

Flattering puffin pic

Not so flattering puffin pic

I was projected north at some speed by the tiderace of Little Sound and was accompanied back to Martin’s Haven by a tourist boat. Watching marine wildlife from a boat has never rung my bell as the other passengers always seem to be a lot more interested in what pies are available in the restaurant or who has just texted them to tell them what time ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ is on. Kayaking has got to be the way to do it (until I get too creaky).

16.4 miles, 7 hours in the seat without getting out. No records broken, apart from number of photos taken.

Back on shore I loafed about on a clifftop in the sun amongst the sea pink and kidney vetch and watch the world go by. Kestrels hovered, choughs buzzed, peregrines carved.The Pembroke ferry slunk out.

Ferry and Mew Stone, Skomer

Ferry and Mew Stone, Skomer

And then suddenly I got the urge to go and find some dolphins so hopped in the car and headed north. I was gripped by a sense of urgency (as usual) as I arrived at superquaint Cymtydu beach and, as I stepped out of the car and glanced seaward, a bottlenose dolphin surfaced! Needless to say no-one else on the beach noticed (maybe pies and Kardashians were involved again).

I was on the water in a matter of seconds and tearing off around the corner in pursuit. I got a distant glimpse as it jumped once more and that was it. It was a dolphin on a mission and no way was I going to keep up. So a bit of bottom fishing instead in the evening sun.No joy.

However I was fired up and was back on the water before 6am paddling north to New Quay which has a reputation for dolphin sightings, and it was flat calm. I would normally have got very excited about the big Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake colony at Bird’s Rock but after yesterday it was a bit trivial.

Around into New Quay bay and the stage was set. Glassy sea, and from half a mile out I could hear the lambs bleating and blackbirds singing. And there they were , a couple of bottle-nose dolphins surfacing time and again in the same spot. I sidled closer and watched (and shot off a load more pics). Fantastic. The display continued as I ate my Weetabix. After an hour I left them to it but then had an even better encounter with a singleton dolphin in the tide race off  New Quay Head. Sensational.P1080021

P1080172P1080165I tore back to Cymtydu, passing yet another dolphin, caught nothing as I trolled a lure behind (surprise, surprise), and it was back to the roads and the traffic, and civilisation, unfortunately.