It has been just over a month since I last cast a line in saltwater and I was getting the urge again. Some apparently unseasonal weather was forecast for Friday; it seemed like a good day! I find that not fishing regularly often results in some important items being forgotten such as weights, hooks and traces……. Car loaded and off we go. A quick stop for grub, diesel, a mix of fresh and frozen bait and the word was that there were no mackerel about the bay, not very encouraging news. My first choice mark was passed over as there was no surf on the beach which is very shallow at the best of times. Second choice was a steeper beach which was unfishable due to masses of weed last time I tried but this time it was as clean as a whistle. An hour and a half down to low tide showed that it was devoid of fish as well as weed so hopefully it would be third time lucky at the next location. Half an hour later and the first fish of the day weighed in, a small dab; a start. It took only another two hours for the next bite, this time a dogfish. I say “only “ two hours, I had a three hour wait for the next bit of action. A couple of tugs and that lovely sound of the ratchet as the reel yields some line and soon a nice spotty ray is coming ashore, 3lb 8oz and as spotty as any trout from the last few weeks. It was released quickly but to my disappointment it sank to the bottom and lay there, belly up, brilliant white against the kelp and rock below. By now the tide was well in and I had started amusing myself by dropping bits of mackerel in at my feet to see what might turn up. Occasionally a pollack or two would appear so I set up a float rod baited with mack strip. Once or twice, a pollack swam right up to the bait and refused to take it though the free samples were all accepted, those fish are choosier than we like to think! The pollack moved off and the last handful of mack pieces sank into the kelp. A short while later I saw something ghostly grey emerge from the kelp, a conger of about 5-6lbs. He was joined shortly by a second much bigger one, and then a third about 5ft in length. I set up another rod with heavier mainline and took a plastic bag labelled “Conger Trace” out of the rig wallet, it was empty! I find that not fishing regularly often results in some important items being forgotten such as weights, hooks and traces……..All I had was 60lb shockleader so I used a short length fitted with a 4/0 hook, the biggest I had. A good sized fillet of mackerel was added and this was lowered down almost at my feet. The small conger had gone but the two big ones were heads down, rooting around in the kelp looking for the small bits from earlier. At last one of them chomped on my fillet and I hit him quickly and using the full length of the 15ft rod, hauled him up and away from the kelp before he realised anything was wrong. A couple of minutes thrashing around at the surface and he was ready to land. The conger was right at my feet giving me the “Evil Eye of Balor” and just as I was starting to slide him out of the water onto terra firma, he sliced through the 60lb line with ease and swam off slowly like he hadn’t a care in the world. Just as he faded from view I noticed something else swimming away, the spotty ray from earlier had recovered. Like General McArthur, “I will return” (but next time I’ll have 100lb+ traces at the ready!).
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