Risso’s and Jelly

Charlie and Jelly
Charlie and Jelly

Where on earth do Barrel Jellyfish think they are going? And where on earth have they come from? And why on earth do they like to congregate off headlands where their unbelievably weak and slow swimming action is even less effective at getting them where they want to go because headlands are always the places where tidal currents are strongest. They will end up going with the flow whether they like it or not.

Barrel Jelly
Barrel Jelly

But however casual and frilly their approach to life, they seem to have hit upon a winning formula as this Spring they are around the coast in vast numbers.Maybe they do know what they are doing despite apparent frailty and vulnerability. They are big (3ft long) and a bit ghostly and very weird. And great to see as you cruise silently above in your kayak.

P1010196

And how excellent is it that the most successful creature around at the minute does not even have a brain. It confirms that life is sustainable without an i-phone (and having a casual and frilly approach to life is not necessarily a bad thing).

In Mount’s Bay the other day just beyond St. Michael’s Mount there was a swarm of Barrel Jellyfish.Many hundreds of them. Taking random photos underwater from the edge of my kayak would show up to five jellies on screen at any one time. Amazing. I wonder if it means that the sea creatures that feast on jellyfish, Sunfish and Leatherback turtles, will also put in a big appearance this year.Hopefully.

Jelly Trio
Jelly Trio

May’s weather has, as usual, been a bit catchy especially, as usual, down here in the South west with strong winds making the sea out of bounds to kayaks for much of the time.

But being forced to head inland for a bit of kayaking action is not necessarily a bad thing. The Tamar estuary upstream of Calstock is always a favourite.

Kayaking the Tamar near Gunnislake
Kayaking the Tamar near Gunnislake

And a two -day trip to the Upper Thames provides an unexpected ribbon of wilderness within a shout of Swindon. Trilling Curlews, cuckoos , screaming swifts and bushes full of a variety of singing warblers. And  as many ducklings, goslings and cygnets as you would care to see.P1080015

P1080032Locks and lockkeepers cottages remained unchanged for centuries.P1080004

The canoe pass at Radcot lock is inspirational. More please.

Radcot lock canoe pass
Radcot lock canoe pass

Only one thing split the sound of nature, and it kept going round and round as it practised landing at RAF Fairford.About as unfeasible as a Barrel Jellyfish.

Globemaster transport
Globemaster transport

Nice camp spot with a decent view along the river:

Tent window with a view
Tent window with a view

I have ventured out for one brief fishing session off the south coast during a window of quieter weather. My first mackerel of the season was followed by half a dozen pollack, a couple of whiting and a grey gurnard. All caught on a string of silver foil feathers. All small. All put back. While in fishing mode I took a spin round Newlyn harbour to see how the ‘big boys’ do it.

Grey Gurnard
Grey Gurnard
Busy Newlyn Harbour
Busy Newlyn Harbour

My most recent visit to Penzance provided BIG excitement. Not just for the vast numbers of jellyfish and the scenic backdrop of St. Michael’s Mount jutting out into the middle of the bay.

St.Michael's Mount
St.Michael’s Mount

Launching from Marazion I ventured out offshore in the hope of encountering some sea creatures. I soon saw a big fin at the surface, but too sickle-shaped for a shark and too big for a common dolphin. In fact too big for a bottle-nose dolphin as well, I thought. I got my camera ready and of course did not see it again. For a while anyway.

Ten minutes later a different big fin surfaced quite close beside me and I floundered to get my camera poised in the choppy conditions. It surfaced briefly four times then once again was gone. I was pretty sure this was a Risso’s dolphin considering the size and shape of the fin but was keen to get a better view.

Risso's dolphin
Risso’s dolphin

Over the next few hours I saw the big fins about ten more times. Usually a single, big, dolphin but also one or two small groups. And in the far distance beyond St. Michaels’s mount a wild splashing that must have been of dolphin origin. I paddled over to have a look, saw nothing, paddled a mile back to the middle of the bay, and glanced back to see the exact splashing again where I had just been. So I paddled back,waited around for half an hour, nothing appeared, so I paddled back to the middle of the bay again, and unbelievably the splashing once again appeared in the far distance, in the same place. Maybe they just didn’t like me.

As I pondered over a ham sandwich (with lettuce and coleslaw), another big fin sliced the water in front of me, this one looking very bleached..surely a Risso’s. As I was waiting for it to resurface a school of very active but not particularly friendly common dolphins appeared and surged all around. Very much smaller than the Risso’s and much more dashing. Impossible to photograph. I suspect the wildlife watchers on Shearwater II had a better and more stable view than I had.

Wildlife watchers on shearwater II
Wildlife watchers on shearwater II

Before I headed for home I caught two very brief glimpses of Risso’s dolphins breaching. One had a lot of white on it and the other was greyer but showed the characteristic blunt head. I didn’t get to see the ‘classic’ scarring marks that Risso’s are supposed to have on their bodies. They didn’t seem to be inquisitive like bottle-nose dolphins and were intent on feeding, apparently on cuttlefish.

The local gulls were very pleased to clear up the pieces. This Greater Black-back puffed himself (herself) up to look even bigger and even more threatening than normal.

Greedy Gull
Greedy Gull

So very pleased with a new dolphin species seen from kayak. Just got to see that whale now!

Another Risso's fin
Another Risso’s fin

 

 

BIG SKY

Blasted away a few wintry cobwebs with a twelve mile circuit of Penzance Bay around St.Michael’s Mount and for a nose into bustling Newlyn docks.Actually it wasn’t bustling at all because it was dawn on a Sunday in the middle of winter, but the two words ‘bustling’ and ‘docks’ go hand in hand and I don’t want to mess things up.I launched from the slipway in Penzance harbour and cunningly arrived at the Mount as the sun peeped up:

St Michael's Daybreak

I’m definitely a sunrise person as opposed to a sunset one. No idea why. Also I can’t explain why I suddenly noticed the sky today. I’m sure it’s been there in all the other kayaking trips I’ve done but more as a sort of backdrop. Today it was right there in my face all the time.

Bit of sky with nice coloured bits in

Oh, of course, I know why. St. Ives is only just over the hill and the arty types there are forever going on about how special the light and sky is over there. I reckon that their bit of sky has just nipped down here for a day out and after doing all sorts of fancy stuff like spectacular sunrises and rainbows, it might have a bit of a sulk and go all thundery…….

Moody Michael

before cheering right up and then going back to St. Ives leaving a more typical and less intrusive skyscape overhead and allowing me to keep my eyes at sea level and do a bit of bird spotting.There’s supposed to be a rare Pacific diver offshore at Marazion but although I passed six or seven Divers (loons) I only got close enough to identify a couple as Great-Northern Divers (Common Loons). Rather depressingly one seemed to have some fishing line caught in its beak.

Common Loons

I was shadowed out of Newlyn by a beam trawler setting off to pulverise a few more acres of seabed. It was old and rusty and spooky.

Newlyn Beamer

Loads of my favourite Purple Sandpipers snoozing on the wave-splashed rocks at the Jubilee pool at Penzance. Had to jostle for position on the slipway amongst a horde of gig-boats.

Excellent paddle for mid-winter…..makes a change from cowering up a creek.

Kayak fishing Cornwall:Mousehole-Porthgwarra

Logan Rock
Logan Rock

As the next section of my circumnavigation of the south west in a fishing kayak I was very keen to get to Lands End. On the plus side the weather was fair and the winds light;on the minus side I ventured out on one of the biggest spring tides of the year into the jaws of one of the biggest tide races in the south of England.

Mousehole
Mousehole

I paddled out from Mousehole as dawn broke trolling behind me a new Rapala jointed mini plug (3 inches long) which I find is excellent for catching a range of species as its treble hooks aren’t too big. Even before I had got into the swing of paddling my reel buzzed out and I felt a big fish tugging. Big,but also crafty as it crash dived into the kelp and I had lost my new lure within five minutes of its maiden voyage!. I guess  the ‘beast’ was a pollack as I caught half a dozen more on a slightly bigger plug,including a couple of about 3lbs.

3lb Pollack
3lb Pollack

The coast became steadily more impressive around each successive headland as it was exposed to ever more westerly swell. I passed the shelter of Lamorna Cove but stopped for breakfast on the stone slipway of Penberth cove where the tiny fishing boats are still hauled up the beach with a capstan. I was eagerly anticipating the next part of the trip as I rounded the desperately craggy headland of Logan Rock into the azure waters of Porthcurno Bay. 

Porthcurno and Minack theatre
Porthcurno and Minack theatre

I landed a couple of decent sized mackerel as I headed towards the Minack theatre perched half way up the rocky cliff. Mackerel always fight impressively when on a free line.

I was wary of more and more ebbing tidal current as I progressed, and as I reached slacker water after one swirly bit my line really sung out. I grabbed the rod and felt some really slow steady powerful tugs-this was one of my biggest fish ever. The reel in was easy  so I suspected a bass which wait until they see the kayak before they really turn on their heels and run. This fish was no exception and gave me a bit of sport. At last I got it alongside- 5lbs at least. I got its mouth out of the water and then the hook came free and it just hovered in the water for a few seconds before cruising away,seemingly unconcerned. I uttered some expletives suitable for a late night  X-certificate performance at the Minack. Groan.

I took a breather (and a quiet weep) at Porthgwarra and then tentatively ventured out into the tide race of Gwennap head….my GPS recorded  almost 4 mph so I bravely decided to head back for calmer waters.

I caught three more bass (one big enough to keep) in fairly quick succession right in front of the Minack then no more-there is no question they like the more disturbed water.

My second plug lure of the day also fell victim to the kelp so I attached my last resort-a toby. This quickly paid dividends in the form of a manicly fighting  Garfish.

Garfish
Garfish

Embarassingly this lure too was soon lost to the deep forever so I finished off the day with a quick sprint around the coast towards Newlyn Harbour before returning to Mousehole.

I loaded the kayak on to the car and drove along the coast road back to Penzance. I could hardly believe my eyeballs ( and my bad luck) when I stopped to watch a school of bottlenose dolphins cruising past at a leisurely pace past Penlee point EXACTLY where I had been paddling ten minutes before. No other boats about- I could have got a great view from the kayak. There were five or six including one with a whitish tipped dorsal fin and one surprisingly small baby. Oh well, there’s always next time.

Newlyn
Newlyn