Chasing monsters

A few weeks back I was lucky enough to try a spectacular, but locally infamous fishing spot, one that is not for the fainthearted or the foolish. Only fishable during a certain set of conditions, unless you fancy your last swim in the sea. Catch reports of Pollock, Wrasse, Dogfish and Bull Huss provided plenty of options but it was the stories of 6ft plus Conger Eel hiding in deep holes off the edge that got me truly excited.

Take heed, the sign is there for a reason.

After a long walk across fields and a clamber across the rocky headland, we made our way on to the mark. Greeted with breath-taking views across the truly wild Atlantic, it’s immense power and deep swirling swells crashing against the rocks were truly humbling. Wearing my little self-inflating life vest felt somewhat futile… If you were unlucky enough to fall off or worse, washed off… I am not sure you would fare too well. All of this was on an extremely calm day, with the wind on our backs and the swell minimal, so I can see why this mark has taken a fair few lives.

The view we were greeted with on our way to the mark

I had decided to approach this mark with two specific set-ups to best cover all of the available species. On one rod, I opted for a three hook flapper with lug and squid in the hope of hooking into a Wrasse or better still, one of the Cod that were apparently still around, and on the other, I aimed for one of those mythical monster Congers hiding in holes at the foot of the cliff, so went with a single 10/0 meat hook pulley rig with a whole mackerel head to try and tempt out the beasts.

The fishing was extremely quiet to begin with, until one of my friends pulled out a decent sized Pollock. Then I had a rattle on the rod with my flapper, lifting up into the bite, the fish dived and swam towards the reef to the side of where I had cast. Snagging me almost straight away, it got free but my line was stuck. After spending a good 30 minutes trying to retrieve my line and save my rig and lead from the abyss, it wasn’t to be… and my line snapped.

The Pollock that we managed to catch early on.

It was at this point, with only a single rod still in the water, I thought I would take the opportunity to try my spinning rod again. The shiny new rod and reel that I had brought all the way from London in the hopes of catching a fish had been collecting dust in my rod case since I had picked up my beach casting set ups. Now seemed a great opportunity to fish the deep waters off the mark. A few casts… and nothing, but as always I kept going… trying to alter my retrieve each time. Then, all of a sudden there was a gentle tap on the lure, continuing my retrieve there was another little tap and then all of a sudden there was the unmistakable pull of a fish! Watching the rod bend and feeling the pull of what felt like a decent fish, I began reeling in. Fighting against the pull, keeping tension in the line… surely the fish wasn’t far now? when the line went slack… the fish was off. After reeling all the way back in, judging by the huge bite marks on the lure and way the fish had fought so hard to get deep, it must have been a Wrasse that I had lost. Determined to try and catch it, I recast and began my retrieve again.

Fishing off the edge of the world.

It was at this point that the monsters of the deep had roused from their lairs in the cliff face, and with an almighty rattle and pull my entire rod rest tumbled over towards the edge of the cliff. A friend managed to grab the rod to stop it being pulled out to sea, while I climbed up from the casting platform that I was spinning on below and ran over to try and reel the beast in. The weight was unbelievable! I could feel the fish pulling away from where I wanted it and slowly creeping back in towards the cliff. Snagged! I had been pulled back into the monster’s lair, line snapped and rig lost, I quickly ran over to my tackle box and re-attached a new rig, lead and mackerel head. Dropping it back down the side of the cliff again, this time a little further out to try and give me more of a window to pull the beast to the surface before it could retreat into it’s cliff hole. My lovely soft-tipped beach rods which are great for spotting the tiniest of bites were no match for these huge weights, the bend in the rod was far too forgiving for the fish and didn’t allow me to control the fight.

Big baits for big beasts.

Waiting tentatively for the rod tip to start rattling again, staring… waiting. When after five minutes it slowly started to pull again, I paused giving the fish time to eat the bait and find the hook. When the rod gave the almighty pull again, this time I walked around to the side to try and get a better angle to keep the fish from retreating back but to no avail. Snap! the line and lead had gone again. With no ready made rigs left, I scrambled through my box, quickly tying up another 10/0 pulley rig to get right back down there. So the wait began again…

Again, a few minutes later the rod started to pull. Lifting into the fish, I once again felt that I had been pulled back into the submerged cliff face. Rather than pull too hard now to try and pull the fish out again, I figured I would wait… throwing some loose chunks of Mackerel in front of the hole to see if I could tempt it out again, whilst still hooked this time. A good 20 mins had passed and I could still feel the fish on the end of the line but it was most certainly hiding. I then started to pull again and to see if we could get this monster to the surface. When again… the line snapped.

The power of the swell crashing over the rocks below.

Refusing to lose another rig and lead weight, I sat down and took in the magnificence of the mark, enjoying my flask of coffee as some sort of consolation prize. The sun was beginning to set , and with the exception of the Conger that I played cat and mouse with all afternoon, it had been frustratingly quiet for everyone, so we made the decision to pack up and head off to try another spot on the way home to remove the blank for the day.

The locals were looking bemused as to what we were up to.

We finished up the night at a small pier in a fairly sheltered bay, each pulling in a few different species, with even a small Cod being pulled out. It was great to remove the blank for the day and whilst it’s always great to catch fish, it was shame we didn’t fair too well at the mark that had held so much promise at the start of the day. I am determined to go back and pull that huge Conger out, so when the weather permits and it is safe to do so… I’ll be back at the mark chasing the monster!

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