Sunday, 28 July 2013

26-27/7/13 North Devon Porbeagle

I was disappointed not to be able to sample the North Devon sharking on my visit to Ilfracombe in June. The winds didn't play ball and I was unable to get out, but at least I had some fun with the Falmouth blues on the same trip. In a way, it was probably better to 'cut my teeth' on blues, especially as I hadn't ,at that time, caught a shark from my own boat.
Wayne had been carefully studying the weather reports, which would coincide with some practicable launches from Boscastle for the week-end. It looked good, so he gave me the call, and a couple of days later on the Thursday evening ,we were on our way with his 17ft Wilson Flyer 'Taryn' hooked up to the back of my VW camper, arriving at the village car park, our 'camp site' for the trip, in the early hours of the morning.
The slipway at Boscastle, if you can call it that, is not really suitable for my Warrior.The surface is broken and very uneven, the launch window, about an hour either side of HW is narrow, as is the slip itself, and it's necessary to detach the trailer from the tow vehicle to gain enough depth of water to float the boat off successfully.
'Jupiter' would quite simply be too heavy, not withstanding the fact that she is also too wide on her trailer to easily manoeuvre down the 'tight' approach road . Wayne's Wilson was ideal. Light and easy to push around we had her on the water after just a few hours sleep, and began our adventure.
Weaving our way out of the narrow, and indeed almost invisible, from the sea, harbour entrance , we were soon on our way to our chosen mark passing 'The Meachard', a  rock island that guards the harbour, and is the sole refuge from the weather should it misbehave in the  ten hour 'lock out ' period.
The huge, though docile Atlantic swells were immediately noticeable as were the extensive swarms of jellyfish in the water, possibly due to the  high temperatures we've been experiencing recently.
We soon arrived at our chosen reef -the scene of Wayne's 'monster' porbeagle capture of Spring last year and, with the pre mixed chum in the water, we began our drift in depths around 80ft.
Three whole mackerel baits were suspended under our adapted catfish, and water -ski floats, set at progressively increasing depths, relative to their distance from the boat, and a fourth mackerel was dropped directly under the hull.
It  soon became apparent that drift speeds were not what we were accustomed to on our home turf, being much slower and, as we were later to discover,  we'd chosen to fish in an area of relatively 'dead' water.
Reasoning that it would be unwise to break our chum trail, we drifted the area throughout the whole tide, still covering a distance of couple of miles, but with no sign of a shark.
A 5lb Pollack gave us a heart stopping moment by taking a shine to one of our suspended baits and several more, some put to use as hook bait,fell to our mackerel rigs but, once again, thank goodness we didn't have to rely on the 'stripey speedsters' for chum. There just weren't enough mackerel coming up.
Attempting to find the harbour entrance on the return journey was indeed interesting. It is entirely concealed from the sea and we relied heavily on the plotter trail to gain safe passage, and knowledge for the following day's run.
I think we were both quite relieved to see the boat safely back on it's trailer and securely attached to the VW, as it hadn't been that easy a retrieval. Swells in the harbour can be extremely hazardous having fetched all the way across the Atlantic ocean then suddenly being bottle necked through the narrow gap in the rocky coastline that serves as the harbour, making holding on to a boat quite difficult.
Both completely knackered, we hit our sacks at about 2200 hrs having consumed a  welcome burger and chips from the  Boscastle chippy. They'd run out of fish!
Back at the car park, I had the luxury of sleeping in my my camper but Wayne was consigned to Taryn's cabin and suffered a virtually sleepless night not helped by the fact that we'd left the boat hitched up to the van and I'm quite a fidget.
Every time I moved, the boat rocked!! I slept like a log.
Day two dawned, and a change of tactics was required.
 Wayne gave Graeme a call and he suggested we try a drift some considerable distance further up the coast where tide speeds would be faster, and therefore more favourable. He also advised us not to worry too much about breaking our chum trail but to continually drift and re-drift a reef of about a mile or two in length, much as I would do locally for bass.
 Porbeagles, unlike blue sharks, tend to be localised and, in this case , reef dwellers that are present because of the abundant food source.
It turned out to be sound advice because shortly after setting our chum trail, and commencing our first drift, Wayne had a positive take on the free lined bait fished directly under the boat.
Almost simultaneously, the clicker on one of my Penn Senators also indicated something interested in my own bait, a huge mackerel, set at about 40ft and 40 yards down tide of the boat.
Wayne momentarily connected with his fish and it was judged to be sizable but, no sooner had the battle begun, than  the line went slack.The hook had either slipped, or the fish had just dropped the bait. Of course, we'll never know which.
Back to my rod and it was evident that something was still playing tentatively with the bait. Remembering Graeme's advice on how finicky these porbeagles can be, I immediately switched the clicker off and knocked the reel out of gear, gently resting my thumb on the spool to prevent an over run and hopefully,feel the take develop.
 After what seemed like an age, but was in fact probably merely a few seconds, line was steadily pouring off the reel at a rate of knots and it was time to tighten down on the culprit.
Following a firm strike, Initially the resistance felt suggested the presence of a tope on the other end, and I remember clearly telling Wayne the same but suddenly, the fish took a strong dive and gave away it's true identity, the  U.K 50lb class rod taking on quite an impressive fighting curve.
To me as a sharking tyro , whatever was on the other end  felt BIG. No, I'll rephrase that, it felt REALLY BIG. Certainly bigger than the Falmouth blue sharks and much, much stronger.

I can only describe the fight as 'dogged'. Not a fast moving creature but ,I got the impression that this fish really did not want to submit and indeed, during the battle which lasted about 45 minutes I had the wind on leader on the reel, and the shark up to the boat on three separate occasions before she was even showing the first signs of tiring.
 Each dive was a battle of wills, with me applying as much pressure as I dare and,  my back, would take.
Eventually I persuaded her to the surface, but the dual was far from over.
 She simply could not, in typical female fashion, decide which side of the boat she preferred,  taking me under the hull and nail bitingly close to the outboard prop on several occasions, until we eventually decided to lift the engine to prevent a catastrophe occurring.
Finally she tired enough for Wayne to be able to safely grab the trace with gloved hand , restrain her for a few seconds on the surface with film camera running, whilst I slackened off the clutch, just in case , and feast my eyes on the fish.
 In stark contrast to the 'pretty' and sleek blue shark, what confronted me was an  aggressive looking creature with a portly body, and a short stumpy snout incorporating a huge inky jet black seemingly staring eye, and a ragged set of teeth to match.
 A real powerhouse  of a fish clearly, a close relative of the infamous 'great white' shark. She was quite literally, breath taking and sadly, the pictures do her no favours.
There was absolutely no way this one was coming on board and, with the hook clearly inside the mouth, once she was judged to be recovered, it was decided to snip the trace cleanly with wire cutters and set her free.

Watching her kick her tail strongly, and disappear safely to the depths in the gin clear water is an image that will remain permanently engraved in my minds eye- a fantastic fishing moment indeed.
I've caught bigger (bronze whaler) shark from a Namibian beach but, as with the blue shark in June, this porbeagle meant so much more. All the research, preparation and effort that Wayne and me have put in to these trips with our own boats came to fruition once again.
Estimated at 150lb, in the grand scheme of things not a particularly big shark but, It was plenty big enough to give me a run for my money. I beat it, but it beat me up a bit in the process.
 Quite how Wayne coped with last spring's porbeagle of at least three times the size , I'll never know. All I can say is; 'the man's a hero'.
For the rest of that day we continued to drift the mark and must have completed a dozen or so runs. Although I didn't admit it to Wayne at the time, I was desperate for him to get his own shark but it just wasn't to be.
 The only other shark encounter we had was when a porbeagle followed and grabbed a hooked tope of about 20lb on Wayne's rod only letting go about 20ft below the surface.
The tope did indeed, prove to be a nuisance and we lost count of how many we caught and they weren't all pack fish. Wayne caught one of about 30lb, a decent fish back home, but not what we'd come for.
As the day progressed, our precious supplies of pre -made chum thawed , and dispersed too quickly out of the bucket for our liking. We tried hard to supplement the mix with chopped mackerel, but they proved more than difficult to locate and catch and, by late afternoon ,we'd run out completely and our chances of seeing another shark were severely curtailed.
Nearly ten hours after catching that porbeagle, it was time to head for home, the Flyer living up to it's name by skimming effortlessly across a flat calm sea punctuated by the gentle rolling swells, and the odd porpoise with calf in tow. What an atmosphere.
Having become experts over night, the approach to the harbour, and recovery of the boat were successfully negotiated without incident this time around, and we set off for the 200 plus mile drive home into the small hours of the night ,armed with a great deal more knowledge that we'd had 48 hours previously.
We will be back....and, we don't need a bigger boat!




  1. Can't wait to read the remainder of the storey, come on Jeff, a further details please. How many drifts? how long a day? A taste of the thrill of the bite!


  2. Done Roger. The video film is being edited and will also be loaded in due course.

  3. I'm knackered just reading the article.

    Channel whiting will never be the same!