My 2011 sharking season started with a trip on the 31st May. After the blustery weather we all experienced for too much of the month, the window of weather that appeared on bank holiday Monday was a welcome relief for many of us. Having been at sea (inshore at Runswick) on the bank holiday Monday, I was confident that everything should be fine for an offshore trip the next day. The call to the skipper, Rich Ward, confirmed my thoughts. We agreed to leave the harbour and catch the swing bridge at 6am. By the time I had my truck loaded up, it was fast approaching midnight. I donâ€™t know whether anyone else suffers pre-trip insomnia, but my mind was a total whirr. Itâ€™s so easy to worry about forgetting some vital item of gear. A mental checklist kept running through my head, together with anticipation as to what the first trip of the year might yield, and concern about when I last changed the battery on the alarm clock. This combination of thoughts is not conducive to a good nights sleep! Early the next morning, I was up and away, passing the cross roads near Castle Howard just after 4.30am. This iconic view of the Stately Home looked stunning that morning, so I stopped for a quick snap, as the mist hung just above the lake. Imagine the bream and tench bubbling away in the water beneath â€“ a classic coarse fisherâ€™s dawn accompanied by cooing wood pigeons.â€¦..Anyway, back to the mission in hand! On to Malton by 5.00am, and there I met with John Farrow (SOMG on this forum). Preparation is key to the success of these trips â€“ so Iâ€™d brought 15+ stone of mackerel, caught the previous year, as to date Rich hadnâ€™t had a single one aboard Shy Torque in 2011! On our way out of the harbour, we tried the pier end and bell buoy to no avail, but thankfully pulled a handful of fresh mackerel out for hookbaits, on the 20 mile mark. Once we got offshore, anchoring the boat proved problematical. The wind was blowing quite forcefully and the anchor tripped and failed to bite. The anchor was hauled and re-deployed, with four hefty cable ties as the breakaway. Second time round, it bit securely. The wind against tide situation meant the boat was moving from side to side, dependant on the gusts. The wind was stronger than the tide, so this meant the bow of the boat was being pushed up to the anchor buoy and warp. In these conditions, baits couldnâ€™t be trotted away from the boat under a float, so I made do with just two shark rods, with 8oz leads set at 10 and 20 metres beneath the boat. One was baited with fresh mackerel caught on the way out, and the other with a bigger 3lb live coalfish, caught a few moments earlier. The swaying boat meant I had to regularly move the shark rods from one side of the boat to the other, to prevent the lines rubbing on the underside of the boat. Iâ€™d just lowered the coalfish over the side, when it started to feel much stronger, and line peeled purposefully off the reel. Hang on â€“ itâ€™s a take! Two seconds later, Zzzzzzzzzzz the other rod was away. Is this a tangle, or a double hook up???? Within another 20 seconds, the answer was clear. My rod went light and the reel on the second rod fell silent. What had happened was the shark had taken the coalfish bait, swum under the boat, then swum round the other line and taken that second line over the anchor warp, which snapped the 400lb mono rubbing leader like cotton. The sudden tension had made shark eject the coalfish. I was worried that the shark might have escaped with a hook in it, but thankfully on winding in, all tackle was recovered, including both hooks and the ends of the snapped rubbing leader. All of this excitement happened in the blink of an eye. It was yet another example of how â€˜bomb proofâ€™ tackle, always has a weak link. It was really encouraging to see some action so early in the day, and with the shark not being actually hooked, we reasoned that it might come back again? This was not to be, sadly. Rich was confident that on turn of tide in the afternoon, the rolling sea would drop away, and his boat would sit nicely at anchor. Until this time however, Iâ€™d decided that two shark rods were the maximum that could be fished, to try and minimise tangles. The next run came a good hour later, shortly after Iâ€™d put a pan of sausages on to fry! Iâ€™d just joked to Rich, that the frying pan often brings on a run when piking, and was proved true for sharking too! Due to the anchor warp being so close, and the problems this had caused earlier, I decided that it would be safest to buoy it off when playing a shark. We could then drift away and motor back to the tethered buoy afterwards. Although this broke our scent trail, it meant that there was no danger of the shark getting fast around the warp. The shark was playing deep and wasnâ€™t near the warp at this stage of events, but it was felt better to play safe, than sorry. After a 20 minute spirited tussle, my first porbeagle of 2011 lay on the deck â€“ a fine fish of around 225lb. Note the bent hook afterwards! http://i305.photobucket.com/albums/nn219/rupert444/WhitbysharkMay2011022.jp g We motored back and re-tied to the buoy and reheated our bangers! During the morning, the rest of the guys on board, Rich, John Farrow and John Wilcock had mackerel feather on trying to secure more fresh bait. A few mackerel were caught, but when the feathers reached the seabed, they were snaffled by some nice codling! Itâ€™s amazing how small a lure a cod will take â€“ these guys were catching really good codling two and three at a time on Mustad tinsel feathers! John Farrow also bagged a few more on bait. Just before midday, I was standing next to Rich, having a natter, whilst he feathered near the stern. He wound in the feathers ready to try another drop and just as he pulled the empty tinsel feathers out of the sea, a porbeagle breached in that exact spot, with its nose breaking surface right in front of our very eyes! The shark had followed the retrieved feathers to the top, even with no mackerel on the line! Of course, neither of us swore! Rich thought it wasnâ€™t a terribly big shark, but my eyes were still glazed and out on stalks, so I wasnâ€™t really in a position to focus, or comment! Moments later, the reel on the opposite side of the boat sounded â€“ the mackerel flapper had been taken! I could tell by the feel of things, that the fish had already hooked itself, so without further delay slid the lever drag forward, into the strike position. Everything pulled tight â€“ let battle commence once again! Rich got me fitted up with a butt pad, whilst John Wilcock buoyed the anchor off for the second time. The time was exactly midday. The decision to buoy the anchor paid off, as shortly afterwards I did my first lap of the boat taking care not to put my feet in the pee bucket at the bow, which I noted someone had already christened! After 10 minutes, the fish came close to stern and Rich and John Wilcock got a brief glimpse as it rolled. Rich let it be known, that by the size of the white flash he had just seen, this was definitely a rather substantial shark. - Not those exact words, but Iâ€™m sure you get the gist! He certainly didnâ€™t think it was the same fish that had come for the feathers moments earlier. The sharkâ€™s surface roll was the precursor to the next run, and off it set. My Shimano Tiagra reel had all the line I would need, so I wasnâ€™t too concerned when Iâ€™d lost at least 150 metres in one steady, unstoppable run. Once it simmered, some headway was made, but this involved another full lap around Richâ€™s boat and finished up of the port side, close to the stern. By this time the line was not too far off the vertical, but the shark was clearly hugging bottom. Before we knew it Â¾ hour had passed and no progress had really been made. Rich reminded us all about Dave Brownâ€™s shark last year that he played for 1Â¼ hours. Unlike Dave, I made a special effort to keep the rod off the boat rail â€“ so as not to attract any further insults! (Interestingly, this same move would have disqualified you for claiming a Tunny Club trophy all those years ago!). The rod was arched over into its full battle curve and it was a complete stalemate for what felt like an eternity, with neither me gaining, nor the shark taking any line. When you are in this position fatigue slowly starts to creep in. The small of your back starts to ache, followed by your forearms burning and the grip of your hands makes your fingers tingle. Changing position slightly, offers only momentary relief. 1 hour had now passed, which then became 1Â¼. Half a tin of cola helped wet my whistle, but in truth, I now wanted this over. Itâ€™s tempting to think you can pull that little bit harder, but the rod was at full stretch already. To put this in context, Iâ€™ve had skate to nearly 200lbs into the boat in well under 25 minutes, - but this fish was really testing me. Thus far Iâ€™d soldiered on without a kidney harness, but the comfort this would offer was sorely tempting. The rod stayed buckled and still the stalemate ensued. Movement could still be felt from the sharks end, but it wasnâ€™t for budging. Eventually, by putting the reel in low box, a half turn was put on the reel and a short while later Rich laughed and said â€œwowâ€ - I had gained a two full turns! My smugness was short lived. With the mono line being stretched so taut, all we could hear was a tingâ€¦.tingâ€¦..tingâ€¦.tingâ€¦.tingâ€¦.tingâ€¦.tingâ€¦.as the hard won line was lost off the preset drag once again. This repeated itself, several times, taking me â€˜back to the drawing boardâ€™ each time. Helpful comments like â€œWhoâ€™s playing whoâ€ were treated with the contempt they deserved. Although I use really strong tackle, 10/0 sea demon hook, 400lb wire, 500lb swivels, 400lb mono rubbing leader, 80lb mono mainline and a 50lb test rod, experience has shown there is always a weak link. Playing an immovable fish, gives you all the time in the world to consider and fret about what may eventually bust. I was worried most about the rod, because if that smashed, the line would likely be severed instantly. All I could do was press on. The bent hook from the previous shark also played on my mind. The 1Â½ hour mark was a landmark. Not only was it the longest any of us had played a shark, but it was my mental checkpoint, to reconsider the assistance of my kidney harness. A further turn of the reel in my favour made my mind up. No, this was personal now â€“ a battle between me and the shark! I resolved to tough it out to the end, without the harness. Bit by bit, I eventually started to make a little progress. Nothing happened quickly â€“ just like hauling a big common skate up from the depths. A check of the line level on the reel might give a clue of how much further is left to go, but the mono was so tightly compressed, itâ€™s was just too vague to really tell. Finally, the bimini twist knot showed, followed by the black hollow braid of my wind on leader. A couple of turns of the 400lb mono on the reel are comforting, but thereâ€™s still time for disaster at boat side yet. The colour on the shark started to show, and as with Dave Brownâ€™s shark last year, we all saw that this one had spun and tangled the rubbing leader around its tail â€“ hence the protracted scrap! My watched showed 1.45pm, when Rich finally touched the wire biting trace. The scrap had lasted exactly 1Â¾ hours. This is my longest battle with a fish, ever! As soon as I put the rod down against the stern, with the pressure off, my arms floated, just like they were inflated with helium. We estimated this fish at 300lb plus. The low level shots give a better indication of how deep the shark was. With two fish boated â€“ I was really delighted with all we had achieved. I thought that there was a chance of another, as we still had a couple of hours left at sea before we had to return. By way of an experiment, I removed the â€˜Jâ€™ hooks and changed to big circles for the final stint. I know others have successfully used circles for shark, but when I tried last year, all they did was loose me fish. Maybe today, they would prove different? As Rich had predicted, his boat laid nicely at anchor in the afternoon and this enabled me to trot a third bait out, under a float. The bait had been in position for nearly an hour before the reel spoke to us, and brought me to my senses. Because it was a circle hook, I could afford to give the fish a little more time, before engaging the drag. Once the line pulled tight, the tension came briefly onto the rod, before everything fell slack. I retrieved an empty hookâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.. Another flapper was smartly bridle rigged and dropped off the stern. 7 metres of line were measured off, before the snap float was rigged and dropped over board. The float hadnâ€™t drifted out more than 5 metres from the stern before it bobbed and submerged. The missed shark had likely carried on up the scent trail to us! This time I left it longer still, before engaging the reel. The hook pulled home, and battle three of the day got underway. Sadly, it was short lived. After 3 minutes or so, this hook pulled out!! That was it â€“ these bloomin circle hooks can definitely stay in my tackle box from now on! So there you have it â€“ the third shark was not to be. I was shattered as it was, so wasnâ€™t too disappointed, as weâ€™d had a cracking day. A long snooze for me in the cabin on the way back, rounded off another awesome days fishing in the North Sea. A new p.b. shark, entertaining company, and some very tired aching muscles. What better way to finish off the day, than with a celebratory pint with the skipper at the Fleece!