1st Tope trip of the year

I can’t remember such a run a bad weather, the whole of April has basically been a write off. Sure, there was the odd short weather window, often measured in hours, though work and family commitments failed to coincide with these rare opportunities.

It was pleasantly surprising when an improvement in the weather was forecast over the forthcoming weekend. Plans were hatched to travel to Wales in the hope of catching a Tope. I’d considered travelling up late on Friday evening, though it would have been a rush job, so the decision was made to leave early on Saturday morning. I’m not sure if I’d been off the water for too long (more than 2 weeks is an eternity) though I seemed to have lost quite some motivation. When the alarm sounded at 4am I hit ‘snooze’ several times as thirty minutes rolled by. I cursed myself and jumped out of bed, gathering together a few items before heading out to a pre-packed car.

It was drizzling, a tad windy, I asked myself what on earth was I doing!. It was a long way to drive (250 miles) for the weather to prevent a launch. I lost heart a little and made a cuppa before checking the weather forecast. Despite the weather outside my front door, the forecast for west Wales was quite good, certainly fishable. Doubts were cast aside, the kayak was loaded and I was soon on the road, albeit, an hour later than planned!

 

It was around 5am and the roads were clear, progress was brisk!. Despite some heavy rain early on, the low cloud base gradually broke up and glorious sunshine illuminated the landscape, things were looking up!

I really enjoy the last hour of this drive, the scenery is stunning, to think I’d very nearly cancelled the trip twice that morning. The local tackle shop in Tywyn had opened a few minutes early, so stocked with several packets of frozen mackerel I headed off to the launch site. On arrival there were already 2-3 kayaks rigged and up ready to go, for a change I’d have some company whilst afloat.

It was somewhat overcast, a little blustery at times, though it was very fishable. I was last to launch and paddled out to where the group had loosely assembled. It was about a quarter of a mile further out than my preferred mark, but it was all good.

As I neared the group, one of the guys was playing a Tope which was a good sign. I was soon anchored up and fishing, it felt great to be out there, I was buzzing with anticipation. I didn’t have to wait too long to land my first fish of the day. It was a good sized Bullhuss, the first of several taken throughout that session. Ok, they’re not the most pleasant fish, though I certainly prefer catching them to Dogfish. As the ebb tide slackened the fishing pretty much died off. A few of the other kayak anglers headed in for the day. Half an hour later I pulled anchor and paddled landward with a view to finishing for the day also, however, I paddled over my old fishing mark and could resist dropping anchor once more!

The Tope rig was a simple running ledger, an 8/0 bronzed hook attached to a 12” length of 80lb wire. This in turn was attached, via a swivel, to 3’ of 80lb nylon. A swivel at the top finished of the trace. Baits were mackerel, generally frozen, though I later caught some fresh which were quickly dropped down as live bait.

 

                    Rigged dead bait                              Rigged live bait

I’d only been there for twenty minutes when I had a steady run, there was no doubting, it was a Tope!. I tightened up, setting the hook, things went tight for a second then the fish screamed off!. I’ve never experienced such a long run from the kayak, probably 80-90 yards, then it went again!. Whilst this was happening I reeled in my feathering rod and stowed it aft.

It was a great fight, the fish approached and departed from the kayak several times, often requiring quite some pressure to bring it up from its continual deep dives. I knew it was a good size, though I was still very surprised when I set eyes on the fish for the first time!. I had slight concerns about what to do with it once alongside, though as it turned out that was to be quite some time away!

Below are a couple of frames taken from some video footage taken with a GoPro HD cam mounted in YakAttack’s DogBone camera mount.

It seemed to be caught under the kayak at one point and I had a few tense moments before I manoeuvred it alongside the kayak. In the end, once I managed to grab a pelvic fin, it pulled aboard without an issue.

I had another GoPro cam mounted up front on a PanFish Portrait camera mount, again courtesy of YakAttack. The camera was set to take photos every second, though shortly after the Tope came aboard, the camera took a hit from the shark’s tail. I re-positioned the camera, though the following photos were badly over-exposed. I’m not sure why, perhaps I’d inadvertently pointed it directly at the sun. Typically it worked just fine once the Tope was returned!!

The Tope was quickly unhooked and released to fight another day. Was a buzz!!!

Fifteen minutes later another Tope took the bait and started to run, sadly it was only on for a few moments. Another run took place sometime later, though I failed to connect at all. The weather was deteriorating quite quickly and I’d noticed the remaining kayak anglers return ashore sometime earlier. I’d had a great day and there was little to be gained by staying out any longer.

I’d planned to pitch my tent that night, though after a few beverages whilst chatting with the other kayak fisherman I resorted to Plan B. The decision was made to sleep in the car overnight, not as uncomfortable as it might sound. With the rear seats down I can happily lie flat, with a self inflating mattress it actually promised to be quite comfortable. However, it was about 2am when I realised the impact of not bringing my Artic sleeping bag!!!. The outside temperature had plummeted towards freezing, I was rather cold to say the least. Putting on an extra layer of clothing improved things somewhat, though it was still a long way from being pleasant.

The morning provided us with lights winds and glorious sunshine, what more can you ask for!. I was almost last to launch again, it was actually quite comfortable in the car once I’d warmed up a little, I’d not been in a rush to vacate my sleeping bag.

Despite perfect conditions, the second day of fishing was proving to be very slow indeed. I think there were six kayak fisherman out there with only a couple of Tope being taken. Even the Bullhuss were thin on the ground, for me at least. I resorted to deploying some baited feathers and managed to pick up some mackerel, a Dab and a Garfish.

 

I took the opportunity to try out my new Extendable Cam Mount. It works extremely well, capturing some great angles. GoPro are soon to release a wireless remote control and I’ll certainly be investing in them as it’ll make filming aboard the kayak with multiple cameras so much easier.

 

I fished until mid-afternoon before calling it a day. I paddled around a large seal for a while, trying to get up close, though he was having absolutely none of it!. There’s a short stretch of river to drag the kayak up prior to recovering back to the launch site. I hear a lot of folk complain about this, sure it’s a little arduous, though it’s all part of the experience!

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. The fishing was good, I’d bagged a new personal best Tope, enjoyed some good company with fellow kayak fishermen… all in all, a great weekend!. I’ve just finished compiling a video clip from the weekend. It’s best viewed full screen at 720HD resolution. Hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you thought.

Tope fishing in west Wales

9 comments:

Andy Phillips said...

Fantastic Rob - that's a cracking tope! The video is excellent too - those GoPro's really are the dog's danglies!

Rob Appleby said...

Cheers Andy, the video took some editing!.

Sammy Lancaster said...

Awesome!

Daytona Beach Fishing said...

Good and useful things here.

anincorrigible said...

Excellent and a great read. I would love to have seen the tope clip without the background music though - but maybe that's just me

Rob Appleby said...

Yup, just you :). Seriously though, the soundtrack from a GoPro in its underwater housing is rather poor. That's the main reason that I replace the original sound with a few tunes.

Mark said...

Rob always a great read and photos! Keep up the great work!

cornwallkayaker said...

Entertaining and expertly spliced! Congrats on your 'personal best', it must've made the miles on the journey back fly by.

Rob Appleby said...

Cheers, yup, it was certainly a worthwhile trip!. It'd be nice to get back, was supposed to up there this weekend though car problems prevented any trip. Still time!