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Life on the rock

Life on the rock

Written by Tim Albright

5 am alarm. Knees complaining, body aches. Dressed, stumble upstairs. Rob has kettle on, already on his phone checking weather and swell updates.. Priorities. Check wind, direction, strength. Bit more northerly Rob? Yes mate, backed overnight. Open water in sight of the apartment. Check swell. Some white horses, not too bad. HW is 6.00 am. Where to go? Tubes? No says Rob, too dodgy. Knuckle rock? Yes. Caffeine and nicotine for breakfast, fill water bottle, slap on factor 30, grab my lure rod and out. 5 minute walk to the mark.

Headland rocks

Everyone's quiet, the fishing is tough and Rob is feeling the pressure. Rob is right, the rocks at the end of the headland are awash with rolling swell. Headlight on, down onto the rocks. Watch the black ones, slippery. Better once onto the barnacles, grippy. Test the hook point on the ball of my thumb. Sharp. Bounce the join between the thick fluoro leader and the nanofil. Strong. Look. Sam ten yards to my left, closer to the point of the headland. He’ll be casting out into the race where the tide is compressed around the headland. I will be poaching into his water, casting left and slightly longer to get my lure into the fast water too. He won't mind, much. First cast into the darkness. Just a gentle loosener to get the line wet. The wind whips the nanofil into a huge arc as the eel lands perhaps 30 yards out. Retrieve, careful not to let the lure catch on the rock shelf beneath my position. Head up, punch the next one. Good distance, let it sink 10 seconds, retrieve. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. Half an hour in and it's still dark. If anything the wind has increased, but it's ok, we’re casting downwind and the lures are fishing round well. I've already been through my limited playbook of options. Varied the sink time before retrieving, varied the retrieve rate slightly, quartered the ground in front of me. Nothing , no takes. I've seen Sam strike a few times, but I know he's just straightening a lure that has wrapped its tail under the hook bend on the cast. If he had a take he'd tell me.

The next cast hurts. A thousand casts over the past few days have opened a cut on the pad of my index finger, the nanofil lodges in there and cuts deeper. Pause, let it sink, retrieve, stow the rod and stick a waterproof plaster over the cut. Better. An hour in and dawn is with us. I'd love to say how beautiful it was, but to be honest all I can feel is the pain in my shoulder. We’re using heavy gear, 12 foot light beachcasters and very solid Penn fixed spools. I love the reel, but frankly I'm hating the rod. It's too long, too heavy and just not the right tool for the job, unless you have the muscles built up from fishing every day. For a desk jockey like me, it's torture. Every cast, every retrieve is hurting. Mentally I get a grip. I'm tired, and falling into the trap of looking for excuses and blaming others. I give myself a bollocking, and carry on. Effort, effort. Cast, countdown, retrieve, cast, countdown, retreive, repeat, repeat. Sun is over the ocean horizon now, and despite my aches, it is very beautiful. Oranges and golds polish the sky between the clouds. I stop, ask Sam for his phone, and take a few shots of him silhouetted against the sunrise. Considering I couldn't see the bloody screen, they came out ok. Drink, keep the water going in, it's going to be a long hot day in this wind. Ebb is running now. As soon as the retrieve takes the slack out of the cast I feel the strum of the paddle tail working against the tide. Then, as the eel clear the tide stream, it feels lighter and gentler. Good, the ebb should sweep baitfish around the point into the zone we are targeting. I hope the big toothy fish are there too. Bait. That’s the key, and it's thin on the ground. We've seen almost no baitfish since we’ve been here. The unusual winter storms have disrupted the normal cycles, and the sardine fry just ain't here. If they aren't here, then the bonitos won't be, in which case I'm wasting my time, and my shoulder still hurts, and life isn't fair… Bollocks. My lottery number already came up earlier this week with a Bonito on my second day, the first in six weeks of effort by far better anglers than me.

Lightening strikes!

Get a grip Tim, you big girls blouse. Keep the pressure on. Cast, countdown, retreive, repeat…. Water roar from my left, I see Sam skip back to let a big swell pass, and he shouts to me to warn me of ‘a wet one’. I step back, let it pass. Lure is caught on the ledge, bounce it free, check point, damn, blunt. Change it immediately.

Sun is warm now, ebb still pulling hard. The warmth is good, that wind was cold in the dark. Sam gets hit, bang, bang, twice, but doesn't hook up. Fierce take, high in the water, 90 % chance a Bonito or Bluefish. Pain forgotten, cast , sod the countdown, retrieve quicker, rip the lure out, cast, race it back, cast, cast, cast, vicarious adrenaline from Sam’s take, this could be it. A shimmer in the water surface, 20 yards out on the seam of the tide rip. Looks like it's raining on a patch the size of a pool table. Bait, stressed bait. Cast, cast, cast. Now to my right, same shoal, still getting hit from underneath. Cast, cast, Sam casting across me, no worries, we’re a team… Cast, cast. Quiet again. No takes. Bugger. That goes in the scorebook as a missed chance. Forgotten pains come back, heart rate stabilises. Sam and look at each other and smile. F*** it, we’re not catching, but we are loving this. Whilst the tourists on the island are farting away their cheap paellas and lager, we’re seeing things other people don't see. And we’re fishing blue water for big pelagic toothy bastard predators. Life is good.

I put the earbuds in and listen to some guilty pleasures. Eminem and Dr Dre. I know I'm 47 tomorrow, but the beat keeps the retrieve rate up. Robin hates me having the music on, he worries that I won't hear a big swell coming. He is right , as usual, but hey it's my life. Sam and I start doing the Bonito dance on the rocks. Sam looks like a young fit 12 stone nutter. Me? Well imagine a bald hippo bouncing to Beyoncé. As for the Bonito dance itself, well, you have to be there.

I notice the nanofil across my finger is rough. That's the trigger section, that 12 inch piece of line that gets trapped by your finger every cast, and it gets worn. No problem, it's not too bad. I cut it off and retied the leader last night, like every night. If I hook up, I'm not losing it through laziness in hook points or knots. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve. Sam is bored now. He's started letting his lure sink deep, and jigging it for lizard fish. I keep on the top water retrieve through stubbornness. Sun is hot. Stop, beanie off, cap and sunglasses on. Later I will discover my sun cream has melted my genuine 5 euro Ray Bans. Top it all off with a pretty cotton scarf to protect my neck and ears. Call me Susan...

Pain in shoulder is bad now, stop for a break. Arch backwards to stretch my spine, I've been bent forwards winding that reel for too long. Should learn to stand up straight, but the excitement of catching nothing always gets the better of me. Sam is still banging that lure out into the ebb. Just downtide of the headland is a streak of pale blue water, aerated by the turbulence passing over the reef. According to locals, this is the favoured zone for bluefish as their colour gives them the edge in that environment. The reason sounds iffy to me, but only a fool ignores local knowledge. Keep going Tim , keep grinding. It could be the next cast. Effort, effort. Switch the music to Neil Diamond. Used to listen to the vinyl when my parents went out, on that 80s turntable. Cracklin Rosie makes me smile. Sun is higher though now, and confidence is ebbing with the tide. That fishy half light is off, and the real day is with us. Tourists are appearing, the fitties jogging along the coast, the fatties plodding off to a full English fry up. It's over. Rob reckons they have cudas through the heat of the day sometimes, but realistically, it's time to stop. Sam looks at me, and I draw my finger across my throat. He nods, and we wrap. It's 8.30 am. We have a whole day of fishing, good food, the odd beer and piss staking ahead of us. P.S. Later that week lightening struck twice, and I hooked up to another Bonito.

Lightening strikes twice!

Robin, I take it all back about the rod. You need the power and the length. You were right again, you smug git.

Happy birthday to the bonito catcher

Pollack on the fly

I know  good place...where the rocks are gradually exposed on the ebbing tide and it's possible to hop from rock to rock until you are able to get far enough from the shore to cast a fly into water beween twelve and twenty feet deep even at low tide. There's location in particular where there are two jagged fingers of barnacle encrusted rock that rise up steeply from the crystal clear water and the fronds of kelp growing over the submerged reef.Between these two outcrops lies a bay where pollack heard together shoals of bait fish and they set about them with great ferocity as dusk begins to fall. This, of course, is a great time to be casting a fly or using a light spinning rod.

In other places within this cove they lie in ambush on the down tide edge of the rocks waiting to pick off the small fish as they are swept along with the tide. Pollack will very often sweep upwards through a shoal of bait fish, taking as many as possible before crash diving back to the bottom.

If a fly or lure is fished too high in the water they will totally ignore it so you have to be prepared to risk losing tackle by fishing as close to the kelp as possible. But as the light fades they move closer to the surface and this presents the best opportunity for some exciting action.

When a pollack hits your fly it will dive for the bottom at speed

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