I have just had the most wonderful afternoon’s fishing with my son Fraser and his pal Ben. We only caught three fish and we lost three more. But what fish!
And not only were the fish special where we caught them was spectacular, and how we caught them was exhilarating. It all made for a most memorable day and I know that the boys were even more excited than me (ok, maybe just as excited as me there’s nothing better than a good bit of fishing to bring out my boyish enthusiasm).
On reflecting on what had made the fishing just so satisfying, I have concluded it was the fact that we never felt fully in control of the fight that made their capture so unforgettable. This meant we were on the edge of our collective seat, so to speak, right until our hands were on the fish. This got me thinking about my previousmemorable captures and indeed, they all share this aspect. A fish, no matter how big, that you feel in control of from the moment hooked until the moment landed has nothing of the raw excitement of a fish that seems to be on level terms with you until it slips into your grasp.
A quick flick through the pages of my angling memory bank confirms this; my 14lb salmon from the South Esk that threatened to go down a waterfall and gain its freedom, my 110lb nile perch played out while we were regaining the snagged tackle of my boat partner, the 4lb brown trout from the River Wissey that was a fraction from the reeds throughout the fight, the tail-walking antics of the 7lb pike caught on the Trent on my tiny ultra-light spinning rod whilst out for perch and to this non-exhaustive list I can now add the 3 large shore caught pollock, caught within sight of the most westerly point of the British Mainland, in the surf, on very light tackle.
I have offered this truism before. It’s not what you catch but where and how you catch that is the essence of angling as opposed to fishing.
So into the mix of this most recent chapter in my angling diary I put one dad, two boys (one of whom had never fished before), a sunny day in Ardnamurchan, very light spinning gear (including the ultra-light spinning rod of Trent pike fame known to my family a the tooth-pick) and being in the right place at the right time. The boys and I had just been out to Kilchoan helping in the clear-up following the annual West-Ardnamurchan Regatta and were on our way back to Portuairk when I decided a short detour by way of some rock fishing near the lighthouse would be in order.
Fraser and I had fished this mark before (one of my favourites to fish with fly tackle in an offshore breeze but alas, a strong westerly was blowing on this occasion). After some rock-hopping to get to our spot, no sooner was I showing Ben how to cast with spinning tackle, than Fraser was bent into a clearly decent pollock whilst using the toothpick. The poor rod was nearly bent into a circle and the fish was taking line in the crash-diving way of pollock but Fraser was prevailing (just)! Now the difficult bit given our somewhat lofty fishing perch, landing anything was always going to be interesting, so having played out the fish to the best of his ability Fraser handed the rod to his rock-monkey (me) and some decidedly exhilarating rock-hopping-with-angry-fish-attached ensued until I could stand in the surf and allow the crashing waves to land our large pollock onto the rocks. Success was ours! Our best ever shore caught pollock was Fraser’s and landed on a rod that makes the fight of a Â¼ lb fish seem fun fantastic!
The next hour saw us lose three other fish to the other spinning rod (two who broke the line like cotton) we had retired the toothpick as it simply was too light for the job and risked either breaking or allowing fish to reach the safety of the kelp too easily. We landed two further fish, one to me then one to Ben, both of which required the same high-risk-of-losing-the-fish landing technique. This allowed us to retire with full honour intact and with fish still in residence at the mark for another day which in my opinion is how it should be.
Sure, there have been many bigger and better fish taken in this part of the world, but the sight of Fraser and Ben standing, attached to very angry fish with their rods bent like willows, the memory of the precarious landings, lost fish and the elation of the successful captures all against the odds will stay with me for years.
Sometimes it is worth losing control.
There is a disappointing postscript to this article. I returned two days later with my fly-rod when there was an offshore wind. The good news is that I hooked another cracking Pollock on a home-tied epoxy-headed fish-imitating fly. The bad news is that it was such a cracking
fish that in applying maximum pressure to keep it (unsuccessfully) out of the kelp, my rod lost to the fish and is now in more bits than it should be!Success in the surf.