On Fishing, Forums, Friends and Filming………………… Three things have completely transformed my sea fishing in recent years. My first porbeagle shark, made me realise that Yorkshire charter boat fishing had considerably more to offer. I remember being so elated afterwards, I simply couldn’t think about anything else for weeks! As well as exiting me, it quickly set the local grapevine talking. I was subsequently interviewed by the BBC, but decided against appearing on the North East TV programme, “Inside Out”. With hindsight, I should have run with the Beeb, as even a short feature might have been the start of opening other doors? Now, I’ll never know. Perhaps I could have rivalled Robson Green as being the North East’s most irritating presenter? That second was realising how much fun fishing from a small boat could be. For several years, I fished aboard an Orkney 5.2 owned by a good friend of mine. We never ventured far from shore, but enjoyed epic sport with bass, pollock, thornback rays and tope. The opportunity came to buy my own boat in 2012 and I’ve never looked back, or regretted it for a moment. A lot of you will have experienced very similar sport on your kayaks. The third area - and probably the most influential one for me, has been the advent of fishing forums; particularly this one. There have been some magical reports over the years, illustrating how and what can be caught both locally and further afield. Believe it or not, I had no idea that bass and tope were realistic Yorkshire target species, until I joined the Whitby Sea Anglers Forum in 2008 and made contact with the late and great Dave Brown (Topecatcher). This forum really has been the conduit for me to find out what is there to be caught, as well as giving an insight into best tactics to use. Sometimes the information has been gleaned through reading a report, but perhaps more so from contacts made through this website. Several posters have been very generous with their advice and where I have been able, I have endeavoured to reciprocate. I don’t want to embarrass you guys by naming you individually, but those who have taken the trouble to help me, know who you are so may I take this opportunity to thank you all! Sharing your knowledge with me has been much appreciated. All of this has provided me with better and far more relevant boat fishing information than anything I could have read in the popular Sea Fishing magazines - and at all at nil cost! Over recent years, I have had a few forum message requests to see if I could take people fishing. One was from Keith (Stickman), who lives near me, asking if there might be an opportunity to take him out on my boat to catch his first tope. Earlier this year in July, I rang him to invite him on a trip to Hornsea. He was thrilled to be asked – all we needed was better luck than the previous year, when I failed to catch a single tope! The one downside to Hornsea as a venue, is that if the tope aren’t playing ball, the rest of the fishing in the area is not that exciting, unless you’re prepared to put some nautical miles in. But even before you can target the tope, you need fresh mackerel for bait and that can be the tricky bit. (For me anyway!) Dave (Spawneybass) and Marion Adamson were also out that same day and suggested trying a nearby wreck mark for bait. Whilst motoring to the mark, Keith noticed something ahead of us floundering in the water on the starboard side of my boat. We could see a black shape with what looked like a narrow flapping wing. My first thought was that it was an injured cormorant. Then Keith recognised what it was – a sunfish! It was laid on its side, gracefully waving its pectoral fin in the air. I radioed Dave and Marion, as I was sure they would like to see it too. Both boats turned back and I cut the engine 40 yards away from the Sunfish, so we could approach it silently. Keith was just getting his camera ready, when Dave, who didn’t kill his engine, steamed in. With that, the sunfish was spooked, righted itself and swam away out of sight. Whilst it was lying on the surface in its torpid state, I reckon I there might have been a possibility of scooping it up in my boat landing net. Size wise, it looked about 3’ long and deep. It was certainly quite a bizarre spectacle for the North Sea and the first I’d ever seen. Anyway, on to Tope! Once we’d got enough bait, we motored to the mark ready to anchor. My modified rat trap was filled and deployed on the anchor chain for added scent. You need some sort of wire cage, because onion sacks soon get trashed by crabs and lobsters in no time. We hadn’t been fishing that long, maybe 10 minutes or so, before I got our first run. Frustratingly, the tope dropped the bait. We had no end of these dropped runs and the briefest of hook ups throughout the day. When the tope are ‘on’ they often hook themselves, or run with the bait until the hook is driven home. I’d never had such a poor conversion rate of runs to hook ups! Today, they were dropping the bait almost as soon as picking it up. For this reason, I thought it best to grab the rod as soon as possible and tighten up at the first opportunity. When tope are ‘on’ you normally have plenty of time to let a crewmate grab the rod and strike themselves, but today it looked like we needed to be sharper on the draw. A mid-morning highlight occurred when Keith was bait gathering. He briefly hooked a mackerel on feathers, which was immediately taken by something else! It was most likely a tope, but whilst exciting, predictably was a brief encounter on his light mono feather trace! I can’t remember how many missed chances we’d had in all, but interestingly, most of the runs were coming to my rod with my new Savage Gear Waterwolf underwater HD camera on. I couldn’t wait to see the underwater footage to see how and why the tope taking and dropping the baits. Yet another run developed on this rod, which I pounced on as quickly as I could. Finally, a tope was properly hooked! I immediately passed the rod to Keith and he found himself attached to his first ever Tope and his biggest fish to date. We had a few more enquiries which didn’t stick and had to call it a day just before 4.30 pm as the Hornsea Launch wanted us back on the beach for 5pm. A couple of weeks later, Keith kindly invited me flyfishing on the river Rye and said he had a gift for me. He presented me one of his own hand made beautiful sticks. He’d taken his photograph of me and my boat and incorporated in a window in the staghorn! It was a very nice thank you indeed for his day at sea! My next tope trip was on a bigger tide and this time I was joined by Joel from the forum. Joel had in fact caught tope previously, but in Scotland. What we needed was a Yorkshire tope for him! We fished pretty much the same mark, the only difference being I used blocks of frozen chum dispensed over the stern of the boat, in the same way as when I’m targeting porbeagle shark offshore. The ‘rat trap’ method used on the previous trip is fine, when the boat lies immediately downtide of the anchor, but I am always concerned that when the boat is blown sideways by the wind, that the scent lane works against you. I suspect it was the bigger tide, rather than frozen chum, that gave us a busier day, but whilst we had fewer runs overall, most of the tope stuck and we had a great day, boating five seven tope. Some gave a great account of themselves with long, long runs making our braid sing like an overstretched fiddle string. Joel’s first Yorkshire Tope More were to follow! Tope for me too! Tope mission number three, was in Mid August and I took two guys who I work with. Michael had done quite a lot of freshwater fishing, but had only been on one charter boat trip before. Luke had never been to sea before – and by the time our day was over, never ever wanted to go near a boat ever again! I won’t embarrass him by publishing photos on a public forum, but the poor lad turned green as soon as I anchored up. He supplemented the chum trail all day and I’ve never seen anyone so glad to return to dry land. I get tremendous satisfaction helping people catch their first, biggest or whatever target fish has been achieved and Michael’s grin speaks volumes. We managed three tope to the boat, including one on the float for me and another near miss, and another near miss, and yet another near miss, more of which later will come very clear later………………!! Will You KEEP STILL! Thank you……………. Having started this report with the three things that have transformed my sea fishing, I think I may now be on the road to discovering my fourth. It’s something I’m really quite excited about! What I’m referring to is the purchase of a Waterwolf underwater camera. These cost about £120, so you don’t want to be losing them. It was with some trepidation that I lowered it into Davy Jones’s locker. Would I ever see it again? The answer on the first day, was ‘yes’. Unfortunately however, the camera wouldn’t let me see any of its film footage! My first lesson with these devices was learnt. The micro SD card needs to be pushed right in. Whilst setting it up at home, I had pushed the card until it clicked, but that was obviously not far enough. I was rather miffed, because on the day with Keith when we experienced so many dropped runs, on the ‘camera’ rod (as well as our only capture too), I was hopeful of some great footage. On the second trip with Joel, the camera worked! Lesson number two, was how weedy the pebble covered sea bed was. I got some fascinating underwater footage, with the camera fixed about 4’ away from the mackerel bait. Annoyingly, the weed obscured the view of the bait, so whilst I got some fascinating close up detailed footage of crabs, lobsters, butterfish, whiting, mackerel - and tope being played, I couldn’t see anything actually take the bait. As you will see, the camera needs to be positioned 6” off the sea bed for the optimum filming perspective. The next clip is quite interesting and shows a tope after it has picked up a bottom bait. I was amazed just how much the tope spins when first hooked. That would explain the ‘jags’ you feel on your line as the line pops off a fin. It also emphasises the need for a sound length of rubbing leader after the wire trace. On the subject of wire traces, this clip shows how easily a wire trace could be kinked – and then fail. All this information to be retained in my memory bank for future quests! On the next trip with Michael and Luke, I experimented further by putting the camera on my float fished bait. The result is shown on the clip below and to me, is the most interesting of all of them. Although there wasn’t a massive chop on the water, the float gave the mackerel bait quite an alluring movement in the water. What fascinated me was that the first two times the tope was ‘hooked’ I was completely unaware. The bait had been trotted about 50 metres away from the boat and I though the float may have bobbed, I’d missed it. The first I knew of a tope being on was when I retrieved the bait. Even then I see I missed it another two times! I’ve discussed this with Rodney (RDNGD) and second flying/pennel hook would likely have hooked the tope first time. I’m not really comfortable using two hook rigs on shark, but what the film does illustrate is the advantage of a hook at the rear of the bait rather the front. I think I can thread the hook through the bait and tie its mouth up, and achieve the same result that way. I have a sneaky feeling that might have resulted in many more fish on the first day out with Keith too, when we had so many pernickety bites. The editing of the footage is relatively easy, if you follow the information on the camera website. http://www.waterwolfhd.com The recommended free software is not in a format that loads onto the web easily. I am no computer geek and this is the area I have really struggled with – hence the delay to submitting this report. Sorry, Glenn! Whilst it’s still very early days for me using a Waterwolf camera, I think their potential is massive in increasing my knowledge of fish behaviour/reactions and learning more about the bottom structure in the places I fish. Hopefully, there will be more of my underwater film footage to follow on here in the future. I have plenty of ideas that I want to explore with this camera. I want to fasten it to my rat trap at anchor and see what comes sniffing on different marks. I’m dying to see a porbeagle take a float fished bait. I want to troll some lures and see how many near misses I’ve had! I also want to lower it to a wreck and rough ground (with a weight but no hooks) to see just what’s down there? As they say watch this space………………………and let’s all keep posting on this, our ‘Go to’ fishing forum!