So what can I say about our afternoon out yesterday? Team Foxons excelled ourselves and any expectations we'd had about trying for Tope off our little rib. There's a funny vibe here in the shop today as the three of us are still buzzing but totally dead on our feet after what can only be described as one brilliantly crazy long afternoons fishing.
We set sail (well motor) at just after 3 o'clock in the afternoon and hoped that the few hours of light we had would bring us this Tope we'd been talking about for so long... and maybe some Bream. It was Shaun and I's first experience at Tope fishing but Rob was captain and had quite a bit of experience playing, landing and handling these fish, turned out this was just as well, it's certainly an all hands on deck job! Robs borrowed little GPS gem counted us down to our exact mark we'd been given by a pro. It was exciting enough just counting down the final few feet untill we'd drop the anchor, it felt like being on a treasure hunt, and boy did we find the treasure! We started off with feathers to see if we'd be able to catch some fresh bait, no problems there, first drop down and we all had a full house, 8 Mackerel flapping about our little boat, the perfect start and a fun way to kick us off! We soon set these mackerel up as Tope baits a mix of flappers, fillets and heads, then immediatley started to get into the Dog fish, they were everywhere and wasting our precious fresh bait (we did have frozen as back up). We even started to get them on our little rods we'd set up for Bream with baited feathers, just when we thought it was going to be a dog day Rob had that Jaws moment, a loud clicking noise coming from his multiplier reel got faster and faster and he had our first Tope run. He let it run with the bait first, then it paused, then it ran again so he struck into it, he'd done it, it was on!! All hell and panic set out on our tiny rib as the three of us tried hurriedly to get all other lines in, get things out of the way, get things in position and to hand ready for the landing of our first Tope. I had the gardening gloves on at the ready (well I am a girl!), as Shaun was busy unhooking another doggy, but when I saw this fish coming up from the depths in the clear water my bottle started to go, and when it finally got to the surface and went bonkers I soon decided this was not a job for me. I took the gloves off passed them to Shaun and put my bosses hat on 'you'll have to do this' I told him. After a bit of dancing around (that's Me and Shaun, not Rob and the Tope) Shaun was in postion to make a grab for the leader and the fish, I can't exactly rememeber how we got this Tope on the boat finally, but I think I ended up with the rod, and both the lads hauled it up - one had the tail the other had the pectoral fin. It was a fantastic euphoric moment and was made even better by the nice hook hold just on the outside of the mouth (somewhere you don't want to be putting your hands), probably due to us using the circle hooks on our rigs. Onced un-hooked and photographed Rob held his Tope along side the boat to recover, this took just a few seconds and he was away swimming back into the depths from where he had come, a magical sight. We'd done it, mission complete, a Tope on our little rib, we were all so happy, little did we know what more would follow! After about half an hour it was my turn, I'd set my fixed spool reel to a slack setting and off it took screaming line off. I quickley wound in my little rod, nearly winding the feathers and lead through the tip ring, then hesitantly took hold of my Tope rod waiting for Robs instructions. I tightened up the drag slowly then hit into it, it was on and screaming line off, but then all of a sudden everything went slack, I'd been bitten off! We couldn't believe it as usually 80lb mono leader is OK for Tope (or so they tell me), luckily we were prepared and had tied up some wire traces just in case something like this happened. Needless to say at this point we all changed over to wire. Soon after that I had another run, but this time managed to get my Tope to the top to take a good look at him, he was lovely, a perfect little size for me to handle and start off with (about 13lb). For once Shauns turn came last, he had a run and landed the best Tope of the day so far (about 25lb), we'd all had one each, things couldn't have gone better - but they would get better! We had a bit of a slack period for about an hour, well slack on the Tope front, but we were all happy still catching a great assortemnt of species on our little feathering rods, still tons of doggies, but we also had a few more Mackerel, Scad, Whiting, 3 very pretty Gurnard and Shaun whittled out a lovely Bullhuss of about 8/9lb. Then at about 8 o'clock everything seemed to go a little bit crazy, I still can't believe it now, it literally was a Tope run every drop down, we had a few double hook ups, we even said at one point that we should all cast out at the same time as whoever was casting out first was getting the run as the bait hit the bottom, or even in some cases on the drop. At one point when Rob was playing a Tope Shaun couldn't bear not to be fishing but knew he needed to have his line out of the way, so he just let his bait freeline mid water and picked one up doing that, just after we'd seen one come right up to the surface, for what I don't know, it was as if they were in some sort of a frenzy!? As we'd esimated, our stocks of fresh Mackerel I tried to catch us some more with my little rod, I jigged it up and down off the bottom a few times then had to wind up straight away as Shaun was into another Tope! As I wound them up from the depths I was amazed to see a Tope coming up behind them and then even more amazed and slightly horrified when it took on of my tiny feathers!! My superlight rod bend double as the fish swam off at a pace, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) this thrill was short lived as it soon bit through my trace and was off, what a fight that would have been! Unbeleievably this had happen to me 3 times by the end of our session, all were short lived runs on this light tackle, but we did retreive one mackerel trace back from a Tope as we landed it again on the bait rods! This catalogue of fishing chaos continued until at about 10.30 when I landed our 20th fiesty Tope of the session and we decided that we'd better call it a night. Our journey home was a mixture of babbling exciting chatter and lulls of quite half asleep dreams of more Tope! We'd totally forgotten that we'd been hoping for any Bream, we'll leave that for another adventure, but maybe not before trying for another bash at these sleek beauties, and one things decided, if we ever get it like that again there will be a fly rod present!