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Pack Attack!

Written by Jake Wadey

It was that time of year where I knew I would start a long blank fishless run, which was going to be painful due to me have an incredible start to the years with many PB's. 11 blanks in and still no target fish, I knew my chances would have to come soon or not for another 12 months.

Saturday came around and with the weather looking good I thought I would have another go. I arrived at the beach by 8pm and had both tope rods in the water by 8:30pm. As darkness was approaching I got the feathers out, with lots of whitebait hitting the surface I knew it wasn’t going to be long, and within 25 minutes I had plenty of bait for the night ahead. As the sun started to set I put on fresh bait and cast them to the horizon and also chucked out a crab to see if the smuts were about on a third rod. I sat back watching the rods and I had a good feeling about tonight. About 30 or so minutes later, I started reeling in one of the tope rods to rebait. As the rig got to the surf and I cleaned the weed off of the shock leader knot, the other tope rod gave a short burst of clicks on the ratchet. At that moment all time stopped. The adrenaline started pumping and I waited for the reel to go into meltdown. Then it happened "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz", the fish was off at a rate of knots, I picked the rod up, turned the ratchet off then bent into the fish. Game on, I thought, but no. With a couple of sharp downward pulls the fish spat the bait, NOOOOO!!!!!!!!!  The chance I had been waiting for the last few months was gone. Still shaking I started reeling the tope rod in and then the smut rod bangs into life. So, I picked the rod up, lock the drag and beasted the fish in which flatted me twice but me being in 'rage' mode and didn't give it any line. I beached the fish and then suddenly realized the size of it, 15lb 7oz a new personal best. I didn’t take any pics of the hound as I was still suffering from the dropped tope run, only 30 seconds earlier. The hound was quickly and safely returned back into the rolling surf. 

By now the tide was pushing in and I was thinking that I had missed the only chance of the nigh., I rebaited both rods but this time I didn’t risk putting a smut rod out so I put a mackerel head on and lobbed it in the surf. 10 minutes later the bass rod pulled down which resulted in nice 3lb 14oz bass. Before casting the bass rod out, I looked at the time, from past year's experience I knew if I was going to get another tope take it would be within the next 20 minutes or so. I rapidly baited up a couple of spare tope rigs and cast them out, but in the back of my mind I knew that getting another take was almost off the cards. This time I put half a mackerel on the bass rod but had to cast it about 30 yards out due to the surf picking up.  Then I sat back on my box and looking up at the rod tips and I saw another shooting star pass behind them, I wished for one more take please, and that the fishing gods were looking kindly on me to give me another chance.

The tope baits were out for no more than 15 minutes, when one of the T900's sprung to life and bent over double with the reel screaming, I knew I had to connect and land this fish as I couldn't take the pain of losing another one. I picked the rod up and let the fish run a bit longer this time, only maybe 5 seconds, then I put my thumb on the spool and bent into the fish. Now I had my first tope few years ago so i knew what was going to happen next and it did. With me firmly setting the hook this time the fish made a 30 or 40y ard run which would have put 'Usain Bolt' to shame. It was a hold and hope moment. The fish slowed down knowing this I had to gain some line. I increased the drag a little bit allowing me to recover some line back on the spool, luckily the fish was more than happy for me to do this as it seemed to be catching its breath after the initial run. By now the fish was about 60 yards out and I was gaining line at a steady rate, the fish made a few short bursts up and down the shoreline which caught me off guard and once again flattening the rod as the fish headed out to deeper water. I looked at my reel I could see all my hard work unraveling off the spool, luckily it was only a short 20 yard run. At this stage my legs and arms are burning and my back knew that this fish was still a long way off from being caught, due to the surf running 10 to 15 yards. With the fish back under control (ish), I tried to guide it through the surf on a number of waves but with no joy. Seeing that the hook hold was not the best I had to make a move sooner rather than later as the surf was not helping things.

I positioned the fish facing directly at the shoreline and the swell helped guided her in, she was at my feet - result.

40lb 9oz tope safely at my feet

The next task was to get the fish to safe ground away from the surf, now with no ghillie (my dad) it was one hell of a struggle with the size of the fish. Cradling both fish and rod in my ruined arms I carried the fish to base camp. Sling, camera and scales at the ready I then noticed how lightly hooked it was, which could have been two lost fish in the same session. Zeroing the scales, I then manoeuvred the fish into the sling. The moment of truth. With shaking arms, I hoisted the fish off the ground and the scales locked at 40lb 9oz. Result! A new Pb and the fourth 40 pound plus fish of the year. With the camera and tripod set up I started to take the first round of multi-shoot pictures on the self-timer.

The expression says it all

40lb 9oz of tope shaped happiness

Smashing my PB

Out of the blue I heard one of the other ratchets go from behind me, as I turned around it stopped, me being me, I went straight to the bass rod and struck into thin air. Thinking I missed a good bass, I reeled in and carried on with the photos. I set the timer off and positioned the fish, two pictures in and the only other rod cast out, came to life "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz". Now with a fish landed and one on the other line making a dash for freedom, I carefully but quickly put the tope down and ran to the other rod. The fish was still running at a steady rate, I set the hooks which made the fish angry and it found the next gear and was off. I looseedn off the clutch and reluctantly put the rod back in the rest, thinking first for the welfare of the other tope. I ran back over and gently picked her up and waded her out, with one strong flick of the tail she was off.

Meanwhile the other rod was still spooling off line, with jelly like legs I clambered up the shingle and bent into the fish. Looking down at my reel I could see there may have only been 70 or so yards of line left on my fathom 15, by now the fish was, thankfully, slowing down but going up tide. This was going to be a mission to retrieve the fish, if I could. For some reason the fish was either confused or worn out from its mega runs, It came in shockingly fast and easy by only applying a little bit of pressure not to spook her too much. I noticed an eye starring back at me on the surface about 40 yards out in my head torch light. At this stage the swell had decreased making my job a bit easier. The fish ran down tide then went and sprinted up tide. I held my ground and made the fish arc around, which was perfectly timed with a wave that helped with beaching the fish. I still had the same problem as before of juggling the tope and rod like the first one. This fish was a lot calmer than the first one and a bit smaller, but still would have been a pb the day before. With scales, sling and camera dotted around the beach, I calmed down and got ready to put the tope on the scales...  34lb 3oz, not bad, two shore caught tope within 20 minutes of each other. After a few pics I held the fish in the surf but this time I could watch her gracefully swim off.

34lb 3oz tope

Two tope in 20 minutes

I went back and sat down on my box reflecting on what had just happened. As I looked round, my gear was everywhere, all over the beach. It must have been a good 5 minutes before I cast back out. Only now was it sinking in just what had actually happened 3 tope takes, 2 tope landed and 2Pb's if you include the hound not a bad night, it makes all the blank sessions worthwhile. And man, my body was in pain from the fights and my face from grinning like a loon. As they say 'no pain, no gain'.

Well I had no more runs that night nor the next 2 nights after that but I can't complain. I'm still buzzing now while writing this and looking at the photos. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did catching such lovely fish. Now, what's the next 40lb target fish?

Pollack on the fly

I know  good place...where the rocks are gradually exposed on the ebbing tide and it's possible to hop from rock to rock until you are able to get far enough from the shore to cast a fly into water beween twelve and twenty feet deep even at low tide. There's location in particular where there are two jagged fingers of barnacle encrusted rock that rise up steeply from the crystal clear water and the fronds of kelp growing over the submerged reef.Between these two outcrops lies a bay where pollack heard together shoals of bait fish and they set about them with great ferocity as dusk begins to fall. This, of course, is a great time to be casting a fly or using a light spinning rod.

In other places within this cove they lie in ambush on the down tide edge of the rocks waiting to pick off the small fish as they are swept along with the tide. Pollack will very often sweep upwards through a shoal of bait fish, taking as many as possible before crash diving back to the bottom.

If a fly or lure is fished too high in the water they will totally ignore it so you have to be prepared to risk losing tackle by fishing as close to the kelp as possible. But as the light fades they move closer to the surface and this presents the best opportunity for some exciting action.

When a pollack hits your fly it will dive for the bottom at speed


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