This winter has brought awful weather. So much so that when the wind was forecast for 15-20mph on Sunday i saw this as a good enough break in the weather to hit the water. It would be cold though. It has been a long time since i have planned a session on the water. I had been out for a short session in February on the Lizard with Chris of the Canoes Shop Group, but this was mainly to get a few images for the CSG shops websites.
I really enjoy catching Ray from the kayak. I have had plenty of Blonde Ray, a few Small Eyeds and an Undulate last year at Swanage, but there was one obvious one that i still had not targeted - the Thornback. This is a prolific species in some parts of the country but they are not so widespread in Cornwall, being mainly found in tidal estuaries and rivers such as the River Fal, the River Helford and within the Tamar Estuary. I don't often kayak fish the estuaries and rivers as i much prefer being out on the open coast, but there aren't many open coast marks that regularly produce Thornbacks where you could target them with a reasonable chance of catching one. With the fairly bleak weather forecast it was a good a time as any to tuck away within an estuary and try to catch my first kayak Thornback Ray.
Andrew from Cornwall Canoes, and my brother were also keen to get out on the water. I had scoped out a nice little launch venue to try out too, so it was off to the Fal estuary to fish the rising tide. Andrew was taking his new Feelfree Moken 12.5 out for the first time so we spent a while messing around in close on each others kayaks...
I had a quick paddle of it too. Its a very stable kayak....
It paddled reasonably well on flat water too for a wide fishing kayak. Its not a kayak for me but then i am used to my Tempo and thats a different kayak all together. I can see the Moken's appeal for newcomers to kayak fishing who want a really stable platform over performance. Anyhow, back to paddling the Tempo!
Andrew had a quick go too. Despite maxing out the Tempos capacity he managed to get on well paddling it on the calm water.
Enough messing around. The tide was flooding and it was time to paddle out to the mark. The plan was to anchor up on the drop off to the deep channel in the middle of the Fal. Kieren was anchoring on his own and Andrew would be tethered off my bow. Anchors down and we started fishing. Something wasn't quite right and the baits were dragging on the bottom. Either the anchor was slipping or the weak link had snapped. Bugger it, lets slow drift for a while. The wind was freezing and the hands soon went numb. Andrew had a good idea....
Phil popped over on his way out offshore to search for some Mackerel and Pollack, in his new Smartliner 17. I fitted a Raymarine Dragonfly 6 to it for him a few weeks back and it all seemed to be working well. I had a trip out with him a few weeks back and we hit a massive Mackerel shoal which was fun and a good sign for February.
After half an hour or so we were in 30m of water in the deep channel and quite a way off the mark i wanted to be on. Up the anchor comes and the weak link had broken - mishap no.1, well more of an inconvenience more than anything. Its the first time I've had one trip on me too and i quite regularly anchor two kayaks off the one anchor. We started to paddle back too the mark. Take a good look at this photo - note that the paddle has two blades.....
Shortly after this photo Andrew shouted some expletives. He had managed to snap one of the blades off the paddle....bugger! Mishap No.2 but not the end of the world, we were in reasonably calm conditions, were well equipped to carry out a tow back to the launch and Andrew could J-stroke with the one blade to paddle the short distance back to the anchoring spot.
Back on the mark and we sat waiting for something to find the bait. The finest strips of mackerel or Sandeel/mackerel cocktails were sitting on the bottom waiting for the Thornbacks to find. That bloody wind though - my hands were seizing up and my feet were numb. About an hour passed without a bite but then Kieren had an enquiry. He was soon latched into it and after a short tussle a Thornback arrived at the surface - his first from the kayak.
I had a small bite not long after, struck and Mishap No.3 occurred - the reel handle snapped on my Abu 6500! Luckily i had not connected with the fish. The reel had not done bad though, i brought it second hand in 2010 and it has been used solely on the kayak the last 4 years. A simple fix though as a new handle is less than a tenner. The reel was still just useable as i could twist the remaining section of handle without too much difficulty so back out went the bait.
We were all starting to get a bit too cold and the rain was threatening to fall. Another bite....typically on the rod with the broken reel. The classic ray bite soon turned into a bent rod as i slowly reeled it towards the surface. My first Thornback Ray from the kayak was soon on the Tempo!
Target achieved, that was me happy. A well-marked female and only a small one but that didn't matter. A few quick photos later and it was making its way back to the seabed below.....
The cold had now become too much and it was raining. It was near impossible to put bait on with seized up hands. Andrew borrowed my paddle to go for a spin to warm up whilst i retrieved the anchor. We set up the towline and started to make our way back in, Andrew using his one blade to take some of the load off the tow.... well until he snapped the other blade!! Unbelievable! He was going full throttle on one blade though! I was cruising along at a steady 2-2.5 knots against the wind and rain and we soon made it back in. Im glad i was on the Tempo.
An interesting day but the target was achieved. Just one more Ray species to catch which i hope to do this year - the Spotted Ray. There are several other ray species but most are rare in inshore waters. The only one i have a slim chance of catching is the Cuckoo Ray - that one may take a few years to find, but not impossible. Fingers crossed for a proper break in the weather so i can get out to some open coast marks.
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