What do you call a competition that isn’t? A good excuse for a holiday anyway. That was my feeling as I arrived at Penzance at eight on the Tuesday night to discover that the weekend’s competition was probably off, after spending all day in the car with my wife and kids bar a couple of stops and a wander around Oxford en-route. I was happy anyway and having not had a holiday together for many years, having fine weather at the site and seeing Si, Juliette and Amy also there with the knowledge that we had a bit of time things were fine. We pitched camp, got the beers open and the barbie going and relaxed … Si’s kayak was on the ground, it was Cam’s one, used briefly and now with his good mate. I gave Si an open beer; we did the cheers bit and then the same to our absent friend with a splash onto the yak. Funny thing, but we had a two-second shower straight after …
Thursday morning dawned fine and dandy, hot as Hades and cloudless. Facebook notification was that I had been spotted in Hayle, black Tempo atop the car!!! And I thought Suffolk was inbred. We moved the tents away from the uphill acceleration part of the A30 and headed off for Land’s End after bacon and coffee. Now I’ve been to Cornwall before, briefly, but it’s largely unknown to me and visiting Land’s End was a must; I live by and fish England’s most easterly point so to visit the most westerly was a must. To be honest I expected a rip-off and tackiness but instead any of that was easy to filter out and ignore as it was just such a stunning bit of geography. Well, our side has a wind turbine and a gasometer and lumps of jumbled rock … but this place, like home, also said bass to me …
That evening Liam popped over. The first person I invited to join the RTM fishing team (so impressed by what I saw on his blog) we’d still not met in the flesh and between he, Si and I we bored the girls into leaving us in peace as we talked fish and hatched our plan. Liam had organised the now-postponed comp but was off anyway and up for taking us fishing. His idea of Sennen Cove, where I’d briefly been that day was ideal as Si and I had made our minds up that if we were only to get out once it’d be Land’s End. No matter if it was good or bad to fish it was an icon. Liam was up for that too as was Richi, who was travelling down and Steve who’d meet us there. We talked into the night over beer and barbecue and then got our heads down.
Next morning Richi and Liam arrived to fetch us (leaving the cars for the ladies) and we headed off to the car park. Another beautiful day with hardly any wind. Twenty minutes and we were at Sennen and ready to unload. Well, Liam and I were, God knows where Richi and Si ended up…Steve was here already and had been for hours. We dumped our kit in the car park at the top of the slope.
Then hung about while they did the same eventually. It was pretty quiet right now…
What really struck me though was the water clarity – this was better than my aquarium and totally different to what I was snorkelling in the night before at Penzance, after which I found a tuppence in the stream we walked up back to the campsite, the lucky tuppence safely stowed in my front hatch!. And when I think of the soup at home…
And they’re off; I was first afloat but the rest headed out quicker as I was trolling, a lure on one rod and a wedge with tinsels on the other so going a lot slower, in hope of a fluke fish. It came to nothing but it’s always a possibility.
I got close to the reef of the end of the breakwater, which was fun, but not a sniff. Like a fool I’d left the top section of my Nano 10-20lb rod in the tent so had to rely purely on my 7-25g Nano rods…could they stand this sort of fishing? They needed a test; as ever they were matched to the LP Magnet baitcasters I love so much – I have to say that baitcasters are my favourite reels and have been for many years. I don’t think they’re suited to my winter baited codding but I should try them I suppose. The thing with baitcasters is the low profile, absolutely ideal for a kayak where space is a premium, and being able to flick out lures or pirks or leads makes them so appealing…but cranking cod up mid-flow in tide?
I digress; Si was first in once we got out into the deeper water with a mackerel. I was starting to panic, I’d been here over ten minutes now without a fish – in Cornwall! The promised land! Gulf Stream, Atlantic/Channel mixing, clear water, rough and sand … Then, what’s this? I was over the moon. Liam had said they were here and I’ve never had one. It was a good one too; wrasse species number four was the beautiful cuckoo. Liam did the honours with a photo:
He was still nearby when I hooped the rod over again! This was a good scrap but what the hell was it? I could barely believe it. Years ago some of the Welsh fellas were telling me they envied my cod fishing as they didn’t get them there – yet all I caught in the Oxwich Comp that year were cod. Now, in Cornwall where Liam said they didn’t get cod I caught, under his very nose and on a hot August day, two of them and both in size too! Liam really couldn’t believe it … until his rod hooped over! Another cod ...
All of these were sizeable, Liam’s being 42 cm I think. He kept it as he’d promised it to someone but I slipped mine back as it was too early to start keeping anything for me – Barbie-fodder would come later. I hoped. I dropped a set of hokkais down with a Fladen Portland Eel on a flowing trace, I wanted some bait amongst whatever was down there and while Si had a cod of his own I pulled up one on the eel with a launce on the top!
First of the year, can’t be bad! Teaching an old dog new tricks? The cod was caught Runswick style, drop, wind up a few turns then drop again. Learnt everywhere I’ve been this year. Anyway, I dropped down again further inshore a bit later, wound up…and a pollack hit the hokkais.
I love pollack. They look good, fight great and taste sublime … but still too early. I was on four species and ahead of the others for now. Si was still on two.
I asked if he had stopped grinning yet as I hadn’t; course not. We paddled out with Liam into deeper water in the hope of a haddock, another on my never-caught hit list! Chatting away I dropped down and the rod banged immediately it touched bottom; full string of mackerel on the first drop of my beloved Fladen coloured feathers – I’ve been using these as my principal feather rigs since 2006 when I bought twenty packs cheap. If you watch them in the water you can see why they work. Cheap as chips too.
Well we’re sitting there enjoying ourselves. I’ve got bits of mackerel on and miss every bite while Liam gets a tub gurnard, which I really want and Si gets a grey which I love but had at Runswick. I’ll be happy with either but really want a red gurnard. But no, straight after the others I get a dogfish as well.
Richi arrives back from having a quick pastrami bagel in New York and we all happily drift around. Soon Liam and I are kind of paired off, the others having drifted away a bit; Liam calls out something…he points…Dolphins! This is a first for me from the kayak. I see porpoises often enough and have seen dolphins from my aunt’s boats abroad but British dolphins no…and here they come, towards me, and they’re fantastic! Bottlenoses playing as they pass. Liam catches one at the right time and I get my shot on the hoof as it comes out – perfect!
Oh man, that was special! Then Liam catches a red gurnard and a cuckoo wrasse while I’m still stuck on the dog from a while back. A bit of excitement occurs when I hear a splash being and to my right, Liam says mackerel and I flick out some hokkais and a lead with a piece of mackerel still attached to the bottom hook…I let it sink then start reeling, stopping and starting and then, not too far away but down in the water I spot a shark following it; small and probably tope but it turns away when I stop the retrieve in the hope it’ll take. Damn! Oh well, we’re starting to head away from Land’s End though so I call over that I think we should head there now and we all head off.
Well I fished and paddled and fished and paddled and couldn’t get a fish in here but I was with good friends, it was special! Then the lifeboat turned up…I thought it was to check on us but they were practicing and putting on a display – a great idea that may have got a few quid donated up top. I kept thinking we’d be asked to leave but they just ignored us and carried on doing what they were doing, happy to share the water with us. We watched the show too of course.
Anyway, the others had gone and the SAR guys had gone so off we went. The flow was strong here now anyway, it was a battle to stay in one place so we went back towards the cove. Of course Richi saw some fun stuff and had to go through it. I saw it as a shortcut so had to go through it too. Dr Syntax’s Head is kind of the last bit and we cut the corner on the way back! I wondered why Richi was going so slow through it but realised once I went – the confusion of the eddies, swells, rebounds and overfalls coupled with depths and rocks were quite something and speed just wasn’t possible. Quite moist it got. Still, needs must.
So, we get through, catch up with the others straight out from the remains of RMS Mulheim and start to drift fish; Richi and I with drogues out. The others keep heading back uptide and drifting down and eventually disappear for slower water. However, the drogue isn’t deployed until after I’ve raced over to Richi who has shouted over that he’s spotted sunfish! Wow! This I had to see…but it dived before I got there. I stuck the drogue out, baited some hokkais and dropped straight onto that much desired Red Gurnard!
It made up for it.
We fished a bit longer, no new species and then started to head in. I stopped here and there for a quick drift to no avail and then … flip-flap, flip-flap…there was another sunfish! I scooted around with the camera for a good few minutes and it was quite happy. I couldn’t catch it underwater though sadly.
I was well happy! On the way back I landed a nice pollack that was kept for dinner with my remaining mackerel during one of my jigging stops and then I began the paddle in again and approached the reef where Si, Liam and Steve were fishing near; unable to see them I came in to land a few minutes behind Richi to find they were still out. A quick call on the radio followed and we spotted them but elected to take the kayaks up top anyway and start getting things sorted.
We load up, chat, laugh and tell our stories of the day, commenting on this and that and then head back to the campsite where I’m on cooking duty. The barbecue gets fired up for the mackerel first of all, the surplus given away to another camper …
… and then it’s onto the pollack. This receives the full filleting treatment and I heat up a large lump of butter on the gas stove. This will be panned with lemon pepper, bought from Tesco, and a glug or two of San Miguel to stop the butter burning and keep some moisture in. Nice and simple. We sit down to eat. The verdict? Ain’t no cat getting pollack from us again!