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The Matchman Letters #5

Written by Tony Geal

49th Conger Club Champs at Brixham 28/6/2011
Friday lunchtime, the car is packed (except my butt pad), the chalet is booked (clever Donna will do this again in the future if poss) and we are off to Brixham to defend my title.

On arrival I booked in at the Brixham Sea Anglers Headquarters (they have the 133lb record Conger caught by Vic Evans on show - what a beastie) and sell some fine looking Cider, promised myself some of that before I leave Brixham. Off from there to have some food and then early to bed.

6am the next morning had me looking at the trees being blown about in the wind. I check my smart phone:
Force 6 wind, west south west, dropping force 5 later, moderate seas, poor visibility, rain with a strong wind warning forecast in operation:
"Whoopee! Ideal!"

Down at the Harbour I am fully expecting to be shortly back in my bed when I am told we are going...'ello Becky Marie.

A short while later found us filling a box of fine fresh Mackerel under Berry Head with the shore anglers enviously watching us.

As we steamed off out I notice the further offshore we got the rougher it became, until about ten miles out when the full force of weeks of winds pushed by a force 6 westerly began to make itself felt.

I cannot remember when I last had trouble with the Mal De Mer but I began to feel it seriously now.
On we pushed and the sea really began to build. So much so it was madness. I could not go into the cabin as I would have probably left the contents of my stomach there so I had to brave it out outside. This nearly made my wife a very happy wealthy woman, one wave caught the boat broadside, propelling me off the engine box. One second I'm sitting down getting soaked, the next in the air! I managed to grab the hand rail and stop myself going over. I said to the Skipper,
"Hang on old chap it is a little bumpy out here," or words to that effect.
Finally we reach the wreck. You did not have to be a genius to know that this was going to be crap! With a force 6 wind and a rough sea, anchoring took ages.

For the first hour I just watched fellow anglers stagger about the deck with sharp knivesI just watched fellow anglers stagger about the deck with sharp knives trying to flapper their Mackerel baits thinking of a thousand places I would rather be.
Finally the sea seemed to subside a little so it was out with the ugly stik and down with the flapper. Amost a bite straight away! EeL on, fighting hard (move over Victor's eel). The skipper dropped it on the deck,
"High thirties," he said as he unhooked it and put it back.

Back down again and another bite and another Eel on. Straight away the Skipper arrived with a spare butt pad and put it on around my waist but while moving the rod butt to the butt pad the Eel was gone!

That was it for the rest of the day, the anchor tripped and by the time we re-anchored, I suspect not too close to the wreck, it was just a case of time-watching, surviving and feeling very miserable until we steamed back.

On the pontoon I was met by my daughter, son and grandson, so hungry and needing a sugar boost I felt quite ill. A  good hot bath and a very large meal had grandad back almost to normal, and having a high noon (finger) gun fight in the street with one's grand child.

Next Day I woke up at 4am aching all over not wanting to get out of bed. No wind? The forecast was 3 to 4 Easterly, fog patches, sea state was slight to moderate.

On My Joel a different attitude all together. Again a visit to Berry Head. A drift over an inshore wreck supplied us with enough Mackerel for the day. Slower, chatting, drinking tea, we arrived at the first of two wrecks we fished that day.

It was as if someone 'up there' had ironed out the Sea.

A very pleasant day but Eel-less for me. I had probably the biggest Whiting I have ever caught and I did feather up a huge Shad. The only Eel I contacted with, out-thought me. We must have been very close to the wreckage as that's where she went.

Only eight Eels on the boat that day. The skipper said he'd had eighteen the previous day. I mentioned about the day before,

"I know what wreck he went to, gone there today, lots of big Eels on that wreck, we other boats stayed out of the weather".

Later Stuart, a blind angler, with his wife in attendance had a cracking Eel of 71lb which everybody thought had won this years conger comp. We waited for Becky Marie to arrive back. When she did she had a trolley full of big Eels, one of which was a pound bigger than Stuart's (she had the biggest Eel on both days).

We waited for the prize giving and noticed many of the same faces I first saw 20 years ago, but 20 years older, the pre-video game generation, not many young anglers coming into boat angling to-day (probably the cost).

Back to the campsite, another good meal and early to bed. We had to leave Brixham early the next day, Donna had to work in the afternoon.

I had the right boats but on the wrong days. Leaving Brixham in the car the next morning, a sudden loss of power and on pops the engine management light - wonderful. I can hear the mechanic's sharp intake of breath and visualise the tutting and head shaking.

Next year's Conger Comp is back at Plymouth. All being well, I will attend as it is the 50th and I've not missed any since I joined.

Never did have any of that cider.

Hound beach fishing on Wednesday night, anybody got any crabs?

A couple of weeks time fishing/camping weekend at Burton Bradstock. Please let the weather be hot and sunny.




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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