Conditions were not ideal. This is often typical of the North coast of Cornwall which gets the brunt of any prevailing wind and swell coming from the Atlantic. There are only a handful of days a year when the north coast is what i would describe as calm. Today was not one of those days. Today was on the uncomfortable edge of being fishable. We launched into very lively water. 3-4 foot swell was charged with a breezy onshore wind. This caused a really choppy bumpy mess that constantly throws you around on the kayak. Paddle on we did....
We paddled offshore and settled upon some clean ground to start a drift. I was geared up with a 12-20lb Ugly Stik and Abu 6500 loaded with 30lb braid. This gear provides plenty of fun with an angry Tope but has the power to put the brakes on a bigger fish. We feathered for some fresh mackerel which proved to be thin on the ground. Eventually a few showed up so down went a fresh mackerel flapper on a Tope trace.
Not much occurred on the first drift so we paddled back offshore to try again over some different ground. Half way through the drift something nailed my bait with the rod tip nodding sharply. As it powered off with the bait i set the hook and let all hell break loose! I haven't hooked a Tope in a while so after 80 yards or so of line disappeared off the reel i was beginning to wonder if it was a Tope. I put the brakes on and let the rod soak up the pressure eventually turning the fish. Gary came over to watch the fight so he would know what to expect if one found his bait. 10 minutes of rod bending later and it was swimming around beneath the kayak. One look at the surface and off it powered back to the bottom. It is quite exhilarating when a Tope runs off at speed forcing your rod tip underwater!!
A couple more minutes and a nice Tope was beside the kayak ready to be brought on board for unhooking. I talked Gary through the process and swiftly brought the fish on to my lap. There is not much room for error at this point, lose control of the fish and you could easily get bitten on the leg! This could become quite a dangerous situation so confidence is key when handling these fish.... more easily said than done when your kayak is getting thrown about in the choppy water.
Unhooked, photographed with length and girth measurements taken, the Tope was soon released back to the depths. I take the length and girth measurements so that i can calculate an approximate weight using a formula used by shark charter boats and angling clubs for catch and release fishing. Length (inches) x Girth (inches) x Girth (inches) / 800 will give a weight in pounds. This Tope measured 55in in length and 21inches in girth, so using the formula this gives a weight of 30lbs.
By the time i had sorted the fish and looked up to paddle back out things weren't feeling quite right....a deep unsettling feeling of motion sickness was taking hold. A few deep breaths and i began paddling (this often takes the feeling away). Gary was also feeling queasy in the lumpy swell. Persist we did. The Rytmo was loving the chop and punching its way through the conditions well. The bow was poking right over the choppy peaks and smashing back down which was great fun! I paddled hard through a few steep water walls, cutting the bow through and taking a lap full of water which was brilliant! It was performing similarly to the Tempo in these conditions.
I managed to catch a string of mackerel so put a live bait down on the hook to see if i could tempt another Tope. It didn't take long before the mackerel was intercepted by a toothy predator. The rod tip hooped over and Tope number 2 was on and running away! It was shooting about all over the place and picked up Garys line before he could reel it in which made things interesting. It came up after a few good runs and then went bezerk on the surface tangling itself in both our rigs and causing havoc. I pulled it onboard at the first opportunity before it caused more trouble and began untangling the mess. This wasn't good for the stomach and looking down for so long had me feeling very rough! Anyhow, a Tope of around 20lb was a welcome sight.
We were struggling to fish comfortably and knew we wouldn't last much longer before either one of us was sick or we run out of energy to paddle. Motion sickness really does zap everything out of you. Gary was next to get a bite but failed to hook up properly. He wound in to find the fish following his bait to the surface before grabbing it and running off again! Again it wasn't hooked and was just grabbing the bait which was a shame. Despite the fish being there and Gary really wanting to catch one, the conditions had got the better of us and we had to call it a day. We had only been out for a couple of hours. Gary headed in sharpish before me as he was not feeling good at all. Just as he was paddling off my rod tip bent over hard.... snag? We had found a few snags already today. Line began to peel from the reel.... not a snag then! I was on my own with this fish as Gary was too far away to come back.
I was playing this fish hard as i didn't really want to spend any longer in the washing machine of chop and swell. It gave me a good sleigh ride and by the time i had got it beside the kayak i had been taken a fair way down the coast with the wind. Tope number 3 was on board and around the 25lb-30lb mark. A few quick photos and it was powering off to the bottom again.
Time to head in. Yet again looking down to sort the fish out had unsettled me and zapped my energy. A slow paddle to regain some feeling of normality before i could really put power into getting back to shore and solid non-moving ground! Paddling along with the swell and chop coming on sideways was not helping the cause! Luckily there was a sheltered corner of the cove to land the kayak as most of the beach had sizeable surf, which would have been particularly interesting (and wet!) to land in. Gary was waiting ashore and explained what took me so long! It was a real shame he didn't get his Tope but there is always next time....and next time will be a calm day!
It was the sort of day when looking back, we really shouldn't have launched but despite it being really uncomfortable to fish in the effort did pay off, for me at least. Poor old Gary is just saving up his fish points for a big one next time!
A productive day with with some rod bending fish and great company as usual. 3 bites and 3 fish. Bring on next time!
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