There are places that have a deep hold upon us as a result of life’s journey. Looe in South Cornwall is such a place for me as I spent many happy hours there during my childhood where fishing seeped into my soul and has never left. Pauline and often return to this vibrant seaside town for short breaks often combined as on this occasion with a fishing excursion.
The evening before the trip saw us walking familiar paths along the riverside and out onto the unique Banjo pier where I fished many times with my father half a century before. As the light faded we searched the horizon for the flashing beacon of the Eddystone light far out in the English Channel.
As we strolled back we paused to listen as the Pelynt male voice choir and guests sang in the RNLI station. Above hundreds of seagulls were flying out to sea their cry’s echoing through the air. I sensed a perspective of perpetual motion with this migration as if time had stood still since I stood here fifty years before. Where do the birds go as the night descends? Do they sleep upon the water or do they fly until the dawn to feast upon natural prey. We tend to think of the seagulls as scavengers who survive on our waste but before man they survived on natures larder. Perhaps we pay the cost of depleting the larder when these birds swoop down to steal a meal from the unwary tourist.
After a full English breakfast I set off to embark on an adventure aboard Mystique 2 with Mark Everard, Steve Hart and David Hawkins. Prospects were good with mirror calm conditions in the harbour reflecting the town and sky. On this occasion I knew that even twenty miles out the sea would be relatively calm unlike last year when we knew conditions past the island would be far from calm.
One of the joys of boat fishing is the opportunity to meet up with fellow anglers and share stories and perspectives. The fifteen mile plus cruise to the sharking grounds was on this occasion an enlightening one as Mark Everard and I chatted about a very diverse range of fishing related topics including writing, conservation, social media, ethics, travel and anglers.
There is always a primeval sense if anticipation in shark fishing as the engine falls silent, the rubby dubby bags are lowered into the water. The slick of fish oil spreads calming the surface, mackerel and waiting baits are impaled on large hooks. The floats bob on the surface as line is paid out each bait suspended at a different depth. Eventually four floats bob optimistically upon the sea. Lots are drawn to determine who gets first run; the stage is set.
Coffees and teas all round. The drift begins, storm petrels swoop low over the water. The ever present seagulls and fulmars drift in the oily slick. Gannets glide past and occasionally dive into the blue-green sea. Mesmerized I gaze at the floats and wonder what lies beneath. Idle chat and banter as we wait. Then the seagulls take off, do they sense a danger beneath?
Steve Hart hooks the biggest shark of the day a beauty estimated at 90lb. I boat a couple of small shark of 25lb to 30lb that are brought to the boat easily on the heavy tackle provided. By the time Dave calls time we had shared a catch of six shark nothing compared to the catches regularly made further West but there is still something special about a day sharking out of Looe once the capital of shark fishing in the UK and still home of the prestigious Shark Angling Club of Great Britain.
As we head back towards Looe it’s time to savour the scene. The Eddystone standing tall several miles to the East. Gannetts, a skua harassing seagulls, porpoise and dolphin head and tailing. It’s about far more than just catching fish.
I strike up a conservation with fellow angler Steve Hart. ” Whats your day job then Steve?” ” I’m a location manager “. “What’s that involve then? ” Ever seen ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ The Night Manager or Robin Hood ? Tales of film sets entertain on the Journey back to Looe.
We cruise into the harbour the tide ebbs. The quayside is lined with tourists tempting crabs lifting them from the water in a fun game that has been played by generations.
We all wave cheery goodbyes and vow to do it all again. I walk back with Mark to obtain a signed copy of his latest book. Riverwatch – The waterside diaries of a naturalist angler.