Monday, 16 February 2015

12/2/15 Ray!

Took Dave down to one of my favourite banks in search of blonde ray-a specie I've had so much success with in the past at this time of year. Well....................not today I'm afraid. Apart from the ubiquitous doggies and Dave getting this small 'thornie' the blondes were conspicuous by their absence.
However, all was not lost. I did see one blonde ray caught by marina buddy Kim who also turned up to fish the mark briefly. He didn't stay long and reported later than the water temperatures were a bit on the low side for the blondes.
Every day's a school day!

9/2/15 Birthday Piking

Back in 'blighty' now and  a stark contrast ,weather wise, to what I was experiencing just a few days ago in Mexico. Shorts and t shirt have been traded for woolen hat, and all weather suit and now might be a good time to mention 'that' winter two piece that has served me so well for nearly ten years of hard winter piking use.
It's a breathable Sundridge Minus Ten. O.K the bib and brace might be the second set but I've only just thrown away the original which despite being torn and tattered through rough use on muddy tidal river banks was still very warm and fairly water resistant. The Jacket, however , is the original, is still warm,  waterproof  and shows no sign of giving up the ghost yet. I reckon I might even get another ten years out of it. 'Buy the best, forget the rest' and ten years ago it was about the best available on the market.
I don't know whether its still in production but having also purchased a Sundridge floatation suit for use in my boat, I can highly recommend their products-they're certainly built to last.
So anyway, its my birthday and really, what else is there to do but go fishing.
The non -tidal reaches of my favourite river are not in bad condition , for a change, so I decided to give a stretch a try for 'old esox'.
I found the upper single pictured above just below a tree but that was the only pike I landed today. I did venture upstream to an area where Dave had nabbed a 'twenty' last season but it proved to be fruitless.
A short move downstream did produce a take to my rudd bait but unfortunately, I snagged on something gnarly and rock solid on the river bed and actually got 'snapped up'-the first time this has happened to me in several years. Thankfully the offending pike must have broken free because I felt very little on the end of the line after a short while.
The river season is, once again , drawing to a close and I still haven't seen a really decent pike this time around......such is life.

Jan -Feb 2015 Mexico and Marlin

 Mahi mahi

Striped Marlin

Mick's maui maui

Neil's splendid roosterfish

A ten day adventure to Cabo San Lucas which is situated at the tip of the Baja Peninsula in Pacific Mexico and my first ever taste of true big game fishing joining my good friends the 'Spirit Of Arun ' crew Neil French and Mick Mahoney, along with one of their regular clients Keith Palmer.
Cabo is a vibrant 'party' town which relies heavily on fishing and tourism for its economy. Like virtually everywhere else in the world the fishing has declined drastically in recent decades in this case, due to a combination of  commercial exploitation and corruption within the government. However, as we were to find out, there are still some spectacular fish to be caught and judging by the sheer size of the angling fleet in the town's huge marina both private and commercial, 'business' is thriving.
We divided our fishing into two different types of craft remaining as a team of four on a  'big' boat and pairing up on alternate days to hit the inshore species on smaller outboard powered 'pangas'.
The rather aptly named 'Blue Marlin' is a fifty year old, thirty one foot 'Bertram' which displays those classic rakish lines one  always associates with a true 'Big Game' vessel. It just looked exactly as I imagined it would complete with fly bridge , huge outriggers and fighting chairs. Despite its age, the craft was in truly pristine shape, helped no doubt by the 'kind' climate, and the 'brutish' twin 'Cummins' diesels gave it a very impressive turn of speed.
Our host was Captain Luis Hernandez. A quiet, reserved man with an air of confidence gained through years of fishing experience who would spend most of the time scanning the ocean for signs of our prey and display some superb boat handling skills when fish were hooked.
 His young crew mate was Salvador Benitez - a very capable, athletic fellah who would often leap around the deck like a demented monkey if not displaying his excellent angling skills, or recounting animated tales of huge marlin both captured, and lost.
The fishing aboard the 'Marlin' was generally fast trolling with outsize skirted surface lures in a 'spread' of usually four baits sometimes supplemented by a string of teasers to attract fish to the boat. I was extremely surprised at how close the baits were set to the boat often riding in the wash but the technique worked.
Whilst this was taking place we were all instructed to keep our eyes 'peeled', constantly scanning the sea for signs of marlin which would be 'sunning' themselves on the surface. I found this all very exciting and thoroughly enjoyed the 'watching' aspect especially as we were regularly treated to some spectacular sightings of humpback whales and porpoise often breaching completely clear of the surface. At one time a huge humpback surfaced right alongside us and ,from my high perch next to the skipper, I got a stunning view looking right down on top of this overwhelmingly majestic creature.  Truly breath taking stuff.
Occasionally a reel ratchet would scream like a mad thing, and simultaneously Luis would 'gun' his engines to set the hook whilst Salvador leaped from the fly bridge to grab the 'offending' rod and make the strike.
 Usually this resulted in the capture of a mahi mahi, also known as dorado or dolphin fish - a fantastically colourful character with a huge 'forehead' which would prove to make truly excellent eating , either as sashimi (sushi) or cooked in various ways by the local restaurants. I have to say it was extremely satisfying to eat a fish that you'd caught on the boat that day although I did feel somewhat self-concious walking from the quay to the restaurant with a huge dead fish slung over my shoulder attracting glances and comments from the 'tourists'.
Occasionally one of us, usually Luis, would spot a marlin on the surface and once again the engines were raced to get within  range  whereupon Salvador would hook up a live fish from the bait tank and cast, sometimes with incredible accuracy, in an attempt to lure the fish. This did not always work and more often than not the marlin simply would not be in feeding mode choosing to ignore the offering completely however, on three occasions the bait was taken and the rod was handed over to one of us to enjoy the battle.
 Striped marlin whilst not huge, ours averaged about 100lb and we all got to play one each, are lively fighters and it was very exciting watching them leap clear of the surface and make some extremely fast runs. The fish that I played decided that it wanted to motor off 'upstream' of the boat and I have this enduring memory of watching the line scythe through the water like cheese wire-priceless.
Highlight  for me however, was watching Neil play his 'striper' to the boat whereupon Salvador held it firmly by the bill so we could all get a good eyefull before handing the fish back to Neil. Watching the 'release'  and see it swimming down into the clear blue wat
er, again from my favourite lofty perch, is a sight that will stay with me forever and even as |I type this, I'm visualising that moment in my mind's eye.
Another highlight of the trip for me, being a bit of a shark fan, was the sighting ,on the surface, of a shortfin mako-possibly the only time in my life I'll ever get to see one. Salvador tried desperately to entice the predator to take but it was having none of it, although there were some really tense moments as we watched the iconic dorsal fin turn lazily in the direction of our bait.
The 'panga' fishing proved to be much more of a 'hands on' affair slow trolling live baits and no less enjoyable than days in the 'big' boat. Our target was the aptly named 'rooster fish' so called I suspect because of the nature of its dorsal fin. Although I caught mahi mahi and bonito and did actually get to play a rooster , Neil had an exceptional morning on these fish with several good specimens one of which is pictured above.
On every return to the harbour, especially when in the Bertram, we were entertained by brown pelicans and frigate birds that would all but take the bait fish offered from your hand and indeed land so close you could touch them ,on the boat's transom. Stars of the show, however were a pair of huge California sea lions that would suddenly leap on to the boat's bathing platform, and bury their head right into the bait well in an attempt steal a free meal. A priceless sight indeed.
I think the reader can tell that I thoroughly enjoyed this Mexican adventure and took home many wonderful images and memories. I have many ambitions with regards to foreign fishing but hope one day to return and have another crack at the marlin, and in particular the rooster fishing.
A 'Big Game' trip like this is always going to cost however, Mexico is very reasonably priced and you get a lot for your dollar' so I'd say it gives exceptional value for money on this score.
Thanks to Mick, who did an absolutely superb job organising our trip, we managed to save a packet by booking flights, fishing and lodging direct and avoiding the surcharges that often go with so called 'specialist angling' package companies.
 Our accommodation which I can highly recommend-  'The Mexican Inn' situated in a quiet back street was perfect for the purpose and the local restaurant food that we sampled was generally excellent and VERY reasonably priced.
I found the local people to be extremely friendly and although they are constantly trying to 'do business' with you, competition for trade, as I found out, is fierce so I don't blame them in the least. Usually a polite refusal was enough to stop them pursuing you further often with a good natured smile in return which is a much better state of affairs than some other countries I've travelled in. At the end of the day, these people have got to make a living which is not an easy thing to do out there. 
 The service provided by Luis and Salvador on 'The Blue Marlin' was faultless and I really felt that they tried their utmost to get us on the fish ,which they did indeed succeed in doing. Big game fishing is not easy-the oceans are not brimming with these fantastic fish any more and these guys work extremely hard for their quarry. I take my hat off to them and hope, one day, to fish alongside them again.

Finally, a massive thanks to Mick and Neil for inviting me along, and in particular to Mick for her unsurpassed organising skills and for keeping us boys in check. Here's a picture of her with her lure of choice which happened to be rather successful.

.......and another of Mick enticing the pelicans and frigates.
........and here's 'Pancho'......the greedy Californian  sea lion.