Bedruthan Bass

sunny Newquay
sunny Newquay

A fairly steady offshore wind on the North Cornish coast made me change my plans from a loafing about bottom fishing sort of a day, into a touring close in to the shore doing a bit of sightseeing as well as fishing sort of a day.

I’m going through a phase of stripping everything back to the basics to keep things as simple as possible. Even more so than usual. So I took only one fishing rod with a rubber sandeel on the end of the line. That was it.

Trolling a sandeel is a great way to catch bass. Plugs are also good but they do tend to get snagged on weeds and rocks. A trolled sandeel runs along only an inch or so below the surface as you paddle along, enabling you to get really close in amongst the rocks , which of course is where the bass are hunting as the tide comes in.

I paddled south from Treyarnon Bay.Lovely spot, but I won’t be going there again. The car park meter doesn’t start issuing tickets till eight o’clock. I arrived at seven thirty and had to wait around for half-an-hour. Pretty annoying.

I’ve only paddled this stretch once before. It’s very absorbing, with loads of rocky islets to dodge between and the great treasure of Bedruthan steps waiting to be investigated round Park Head.

I caught my first bass just before Bedruthan. A two pounder.Put back. Then another similar size in Watergate Bay. Watergate Bay was already buzzing with surfers. And also the buzzing noise of a pair of Choughs.

Watergate Bay
Watergate Bay

I paddled on down to Newquay and was pleasantly surprised that most of the town is not visible from close in to the shore as it is largely on top of a cliff. In fact it was looking at it’s best on such a warm and sunny September day so I thought I would join in with the holiday atmosphere and went to hunt for an ice cream at Town Beach. Toffee fudge flavour. Yum.

Newquay
Newquay

And so the ten mile paddle back to Treyarnon. The tide was high so I would be able to paddle around the rocky islands at Bedruthan steps and hopefully catch a bigger bass. Bingo. My line sung out as I was going round the back of the first island. A big slow tugging fish on the end…my biggest bass for several years.

I was careful not to lose it and was expecting its final dash for freedom which always occurs when you lock eyeballs with it as it approaches the kayak. I think if I was being dragged up from the depths and saw me peering over the edge of a kayak I too would make a desperate escape plunge.

Bedruthan Bass
Bedruthan Bass

It was on my lap, a fish of about four pounds. I sprinted ashore to a sandy beach for a photo and then suddenly decided not to take it home for tea and to let it go. I held it in the water and it swam off happily. Very happily, I would guess.

Only one more fish after that, a garfish. I never cease to be amazed by their unusual design.

Garfish
Garfish

I have done a couple of other non-fishing kayak trips recently, but both with five-star wildlife encounters.

The first was going for an early morning blast up the Torridge estuary to ‘clear out the cobwebs’. I approached a roe deer grazing near the shore. It had two escape options: either slink off into the dense oakwood about three feet to its left, where it could instantly get lost and not be found for a hundred years, or it could hurl itself into the tidal estuary and swim fifty yards through the brackish water to the other side ,only a few feet in front of my kayak.

Inexplicably it chose the second option.

It shook off the water like a dog on the far bank, looked back at me briefly, and sauntered off.P1060186

P1060230_01

swimming roe deer
swimming roe deer

The second encounter was on the south coast in Gerrans Bay near Dodman point. I deliberately swung offshore a bit in the hope of seeing an offshore-type creature. A flurry of fins in front of me heralded the approach of half a dozen common dolphins.P1060423

Common Dolphins
Common Dolphins

As usual they weren’t particular nosy or sociable. But they did keep stopping to hunt and I got pretty close. My first common dolphins of the year.Fantastic.

Vault Beach
Vault Beach

 

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Two Tintagel Tope

First big fishing day of the year! Perfect weather….blue skies, light wind, warm enough to paddle in a vest. It was destined to be a great day.

Boscastle
Boscastle

The venue had to be Boscastle and Tintagel. It’s not very often you can venture out onto this bit of the North Cornwall coast and lounge about on your kayak as if you were in the Mediterranean.

My plan was to hitch a ride on the big Spring tides and stock up on a load of mackerel as bait as I drifted with the ebb tide down past Tintagel, then get all geared up for a bit of shark fishing as I drifted all the way back again on the flood tide.

I always think it’s a good move to clock up a few miles when out for a day’s fishing, as if you don’t catch anything at least you’ve seen a bit of coast and done a bit of paddling. Although today was mainly drifting.

Boscastle coast
Boscastle coast

My plan failed straightaway. After two hours of trolling a set of feathers for five miles I had only caught two small pollack. Maybe I was a bit fishing rusty. I continued on south to take a swing round Gull rock off Trebarwith Strand.

Gull rock
Gull rock

Maybe conditions were TOO benign. More or less calm and gin clear water. But at last a fish which shook the rod tip in a maniacal manner.It was a mackerel. No hang on, it’s not, it’s something weird.

My first Bonito in the UK. (it IS actually a type of mackerel, incidentally)

Bonito mackerel
Bonito mackerel

I turned back up the coast close to the big cliffs and at last started to haul in a selection of mackerel that would surely make the average shark salivate.

Tintagel island
Tintagel island

I stopped for lunch (two peanut butter sandwiches followed by a big cup of tea from the Jetboil) on a tiny beach exposed by the low tide in the armpit of Tintagel island. A great crocodile of tourists wound their way up the path to the top of the island, no doubt muttering about Arthur and Merlin. Don’t suppose any knights of the round table went fishing for sharks in a kayak.P1060316

I was so excited I couldn’t wait for the tide to turn. I paddled directly offshore from Tintagel island for about a mile. A sunfish was wallowing at the surface doing what sunfish do best i.e. loafing about and looking half dead. This was quite a big one….about a metre across.P1060320

Ocean sunfish
Ocean sunfish

This was it. I ledgered a mackerel on the end of a wire trace down to the bottom on one rod, and then attached a float to another and let it drift away just beneath the surface. This is the technique to catch a Blue Shark. Don’t think anyone’s ever caught one of these from a kayak before in UK. They’re not supposed to come close to land but I don’t see why not. It’s got to be worth a try.

Normally I wouldn’t dream of sitting about on the sea in such a hostile place. It is hardly ever without swell or wind chop. But today was flat AND I was perched on my superstable Tarpon 160 supertanker. Totally and utterly safe. And surprisingly fast. But horrifically heavy.

So I waited. Not for long. My eyes popped out on stalks when I was absent-mindedly watching the float and it dipped below the water. And the rod bent right over. Good grief. It’s got to be a Blue. The next five minutes were a blurr as my brain blew several fuses. A very big tuggy beast was on the end of the line. Then suddenly it wasn’t. The blooming hook had pulled out of the crimp.I hope the spirit of Sir Lancelot didn’t hear my expletive.Blooming heck (that wasn’t it, by the way).

I rigged up another trace and waited another 10 mins. This time the rod with the line at the bottom exploded into action and I battled with another hefty beast, which also got off before I eyeballed it. More expletives, more blown fuses.Perhaps I should upgrade to five amp or even a short section of coat-hanger(like we used to use at school to fix a dodgy plug).

A third bite at last produced a fish from the depths and I peered over the edge to see a pretty good sized Tope on the way up. I didn’t put up that much of a fight for a 40lb fish, until I got it onboard and it had a new lease of life.

Tope number one
Tope number one

Hook out. Photo taken. Fish put back safely.

And then another Tope, this one slightly bigger than the last, I would guess 50lbs.

Tope number two
Tope number two

And that was it. All the action in about 90 mins just after low tide.

I sat and watched the coast roll past for the next four hours until I was just about back level with Boscastle. Not another bite.The bait mackerel were completely un-nibbled. Inexplicable. But all part of the fun and unpredictability of fishing I suppose.

Blue Shark next time maybe.