I chose to study Fish Farming and Fisheries Management
As a youngster, just into double figures in years, my first experience of sea fishing was catching sprats and the odd mackerel on feathers down in the West Country. The mackerel seemed massive back then so were very exciting and an added bonus they all tasted amazing too. That started a thirst for the sport but living 25 miles from the coast my desire to be catching lured me down the route of fishing local ponds and rivers as my poor mother could drop me at the lake or pond and be home within 15 minutes. Several years of match fishing on lakes and canals followed and the hobby was to become a lifestyle as I chose to study Fish Farming and Fisheries Management at college. Along with running fisheries, lecturing about fisheries management and now being a director of the UKs largest carp farm my angling time must seem somewhat of a bus mans’ holiday but it saw me chasing carp and catfish along with dabbling for various other species. Sprinkled amongst my freshwater exploits were the odd trips out on the salty stuff chasing Tope in Clovelly but it was in 2013 that the love of the sea was rediscovered.
The power of Facebook saw me get back in contact with an old friend Rob Thompson, who was now running a successful charter boat out of Lymington. “Come out for a day” he said and the invite was duly accepted but I admit I was rather lost when it came to getting tackle sorted for the trip. A few quick purchases and we were soon out on the waves and caught a very healthy catch of Pollock on Eddystone eels and this totally new to me speed jigging method! Having always liked to fish light for fish and enjoy almost feeling like I am on the edge of my tackles limit, the new era of lighter rods and braid fishing at sea appealed to me hugely.
On the way home
Whilst chewing the proverbial cud on the way back in Rob mentioned that he also had a commercial rod and line bass business and if I fancied a day out he would put me through my paces and see if I had ‘it’ whatever that may be! The following week after the first bassing trip saw me coming home with my tail between my legs, scratching my head and thinking I definitely did not have ‘it’ as there were 40 bass caught and not one by yours truly. Drifting with sandeels and Portland rigs seemed almost as alien as winning the lottery on that first day and it just didn’t click. I guess I had done something right though, whether that was tying good knots or scrubbing the decks well, as somehow I got another invite out to do battle with the mighty bass.
Perhaps it was the competitive side of me from playing sports as a youngster or my days match fishing that made me determined to crack this drifting lark and amazingly on the second drift I realised how a bite felt, landed a 6lber and the rest they say is history! The summer saw me enjoy the thrill of bassing and culminated in a day where I managed 30 fish including two doubles and one of 8lbs in a 10 minute frenzy. Mixed in with this saw trips chasing black bream, turbot and plaice on the boats plus a few trips to the shingle trying to catch hounds off the West Sussex beaches so you could say the bug had bitten me quite hard! It was one day in the late summer heading back to port that Rob mentioned about his recent trip to this crazy place called Sandland Brygge in Norway. The lure of huge halibut, crazy coalfish and colossal cod was too much to handle and I was soon signing on the dotted line for his next trip the Arctic Circle in August 2014.
Sandland Brygge - Norway
The next year was spent bending Robs’ ear, watching videos, googling and chatting to anyone that had even flown over Norway and knew what a fish looked like to get an idea on what I needed to take with me. Big Bobs, Cutbait Herrings, Flatt Matts, pirks and sparkly 5oz sandeels seemed like a whole new world but after all there is no better fun then buying new tackle for a new adventure is there?
As the day of departure neared packing became an art in juggling baggage weights and how on earth could I fit the kitchen sink in alongside a tackle shop sized selection of huge lures that averaged over a pound in weight each! Sacrificing a few T shirts and fleeces the scales finally swung in my favour and we were off to Heathrow to catch a midday flight to Oslo. Three flights, some delays, a lost rod tube, a 2 hour taxi ride, 2 hours on the ferry plus plenty of banter saw us arriving at the camp at around 3am in the morning in daylight.
Many of the group decided to get their head down but a couple of us were too excited and had to catch a fish. So the standard Norway tackle was assembled, and then duly left in the lodge, as we decided to walk down to the harbour pontoons with the LRF gear to start the 7 days of fishing ahead of us. Within an hour we had managed to land several Dabs, small coalfish, scorpion fish and a miniature Halibut for a total weight of no more than 10lbs but no matter we were off and running and the adventure had begun. On this occasion the deadly method was a tiny size 8 jig head baited with cod belly strips from the filleting room waste…not your typical Norway set up.
Once the others had woken and we had settled into our accommodation it was decided to do a few hours exploring to get a feel for the boats and also investigate the various fjords we would be fishing over the coming days. Sandland is a truly stunning camp with self-drive boats so I was one of the three in the group to skipper a boat and we were soon steaming out to find the first serious fish of the trip. The first thing to strike me was the sheer beauty and scale of the surroundings. Telegraph poles looked like matchsticks on the sides of the fjords. Within about 20 minutes the big Royber lure, that weighs over 500g, fishing in about 40ft of water was smashed into by my first Norway cod…..all 12oz of it! Had I really come all this way to catch codling was my first thought. The rest of the day saw the group land a 20lb Halibut, several cod to mid doubles plus some of the very angry looking Wolf fish that tended to make rather a mess of the rubber lures we were using.
Me and a Cod
We headed back to the flat at around 10pm in virtually perfect daylight as we were all feeling the effects of 36 hrs of no sleep by now and tucked into the biggest portions of fish goujons you can imagine along with a heap of Tartare and Tomato sauces. From the sea to the plate in two hours…. Is there anything finer?
Next time in Part 2 we get amongst them...