I stare pensively out of my window. The rain, which has not eased in weeks, continues to fall in heavy sheets, filling the gutters and turning my street into a babbling brook. My hopes of following up a recent successful estuary fishing session gurgle down the drain with the heavy downpour. Too much fresh water kills the fishing in my area and makes shore fishing a challenge. Scrolling back through some pictures on my phone I come across the day I took my work colleagues out on a boat trip. Would that trip make a good feature? Well, I certainly hope so…
Fishing is, too my mind a universal language. Meet a fellow angler and there is an instant understanding and recognition between souls sharing the same passion (or affliction perhaps may be more fitting) that transcends even language barriers. These moments are wonderful. There is however another side to that coin. An angler, in amongst those who don’t share their passion will often be met with confusion, apathy, derision or outright hilarity! Dig a little deeper and you will often come across tales of failed childhood attempts that meant fishing was quickly given up in favour of other pursuits. So it was with my work colleges.
I work for (watch out… here comes the plug!) a multi-faceted company called Future Office. We take on full refurbishment works and have a multi skilled workforce, none of whom are regular anglers. Luckily, my own passion must have rubbed off as talk of a fishing trip began to bubble up at brew times. Never one to miss a chance to get out afloat I put a list together and got my thinking cap on……
I regularly organise trips to a number of venues but one particular skipper and venue came to mind. I opted for Fleetwood aboard The Blue Mink with Andy Bradbury.
The Blue Mink is a boat that offers a large stable platform and Andy is a superb skipper with a wealth of knowledge who is willing to help novice and experienced anglers alike. It seemed the best bet for a good day afloat with an inexperienced crew. A call was made to Andy and we formulated a plan. We would have a late morning sail, fish a medium size tide to make the fishing easier and I would not fish myself so I could help the lads make the most of their day. All we needed now was the fish and weather gods to smile upon us.
As the trip approached the banter and excitement among the team began to build. A sweep for the biggest fish would take place and lads who had professed to having no interest in fishing were suddenly coming to me wanting inside info on tactics and baits. I set my mind to rig building and sorting my gear to spread amongst the team along with regular calls to Andy to check the weather forecast. There was strong winds forecast and I was concerned.
Andy however, assured me the harsh weather would pass through and we would get a fine day afloat and so it proved to be. When the day finally arrived, we met up at our office for a quick round of breakfast buns and coffee before heading to Fleetwood. On arrival I was delighted to see a flat calm sea and the sun burning off the morning clouds, giving a fabulous view across the bay to the mountains of the Lake District. It was going to be a great day!
Fleetwood is a seaside town on the North West coast of the Fylde in Lancashire. It sits upon the point of the Fylde Peninsula where the river Wyre completes its journey into the Irish Sea and is a town steeped in fishing heritage. Fleetwood was once a powerhouse of the commercial fishing industry with an impressive fleet. The Icelandic cod wars, along with other social economic issues saw Fleetwood`s fishing fleet fall into decline and the area as a whole suffer like many other Uk fishing ports. There are a number of memorials in the town dedicated to Fleetwood’s fishing past. One of which perfectly sums up the areas pride, strength and community spirit….
“Past this place, the fishermen of Fleetwood have sailed for generations while their families have watched from shore. Their courage and comradeship under hardship is a living legend. This memorial depicting equipment from a trawler, was placed here in recognition of the great contribution which men and women of the fishing community have made to the life of Fleetwood”
On a more upbeat note the area remains the home of the world famous “Fisherman`s Friends” mints and offers some superb fishing from both the boat and shore all year round. For boat anglers The Blue Mink offers excellent fishing potential. Spring means plaice and thornback rays, following through to tope, hounds, huss in the summer and onto the winter cod and whiting. You could potentially book one trip a month all year and be rewarded with fantastic mixed fishing.
Following a meet up on the beach and a swift boarding up the ladder we were finally afloat. I had helped the lads board, gone through the introductions with Andy and we were on our way. The plan was simple, we would head out to a series of banks, drift and feather for mackerel before heading further offshore and putting the anchor down to fish for bigger species. I quickly went through how to operate the various reels the team were using and how to feather and we set about collecting bait. I had packed a freezer box with fish baits just in case we struggled but Andy assured me I would be taking it back unopened. Again he was proved right! In no time the lads were bringing up a steady stream of mackerel, along with other species such as gurnards and whiting. The laughs flowed as fish flew around everywhere and I raced around like a madman, unhooking fish and sorting out tangles. Very quickly the baits buckets were full and we headed off for the main event whilst I, being a good deck hand, set about making mackerel flappers.
The bottom fishing tactics would be very simple. Running ledgers would be used with the hook link changing depending on the targets. With the anchor down and the boat swinging into position we got ready to lower down, whilst like mother hen, I offered last bits of advice on keeping thumbs on spools to avoid tangles and what to do if they got a bite. Andy gave us the nod and down went the baits…. the lads all handled the first drop down fine and I was going around checking drags when Jonathon shouted for my attention from the back of the boat. He didn’t think his bait was on the bottom and it was moving away in the tide. Taking the rod from him I shifted the reel into gear and lifted the rod to feel for the weight. The rod arched over in my hand and line sped from the reel! As casually as I could muster, I handed the rod back and told him to get his fish brought in. He must have landed his bait on its head! The fish gave a series of long powerful runs before turning and running back at us, giving that horrible moments feeling that it had slipped the hook.
Jonathon did superbly for his first ever tope and soon his prize was at the side of the boat. The skipper instructed him to move back, and we got his fish safely onboard. Cheers and shouts went up from the team! It was great to see the awe and excitement from them all. Jonathon was up by the cabin shaking his head in disbelief, he could not believe what he had caught. A quick measure and photo opportunity was taken and away went a superb 36lb tope to fight another day. What a start!
Soon other members of the team began to get signs of interest. A couple of inevitable dogfish came aboard and there were a couple of missed runs before Dave hit into a screaming run that produced a very feisty Tope of 30lbs. A quieter spell followed, and Andy suggested a move to a mark where we would get more tide run. Of course, I agreed, why go with a top skipper and not heed their advice?
On the second mark the sport and excitement really began to pick up. Tope and huss were coming in all around the boat. I was delighted to see our youngest team member Byron catch his first tope quickly followed by a huss. The laughs and craic among the team flowed and the enjoyment built as each person got on the score sheet. One particularly funny moment happened with team member Yass who propped his rod to one side to help untangle two other anglers. A moment later it went overboard. He was devastated. Luckily for him, among the tangled lines was his own! And he was able to pull his rod back to the surface. The team have teased him since that he has so much money, he throws his rod away after each fish he catches and buys another one.
As the day progressed it became apparent that there were a lot of tope around. Some lads had caught two or three and it became a mission to try to get everyone on board at least one. The lads moved around to put those needing a tope at the back of the boat. It was great to see the team spirit. But still with each fish caught, none were bigger than Jonathon`s first fish. Talk of money to money and rich electricians began to fill the air. Finally local boy Frank`s rod arched over and his ratchet screamed into life. His fish made a series of powerful runs and had him all around the boat, we all thought it was something special. When he finally got it to the boat it wasn’t as large as we thought but it was still big enough to take the lead. We all cheered, well all of us apart from Jonathon who demanded a re-count. And still the fish kept coming. With the tide easing some quality thornbacks came aboard to over 10lb and we only had two anglers needing a tope.
Lee soon had his much to his delight and it was soon all about champion rod loser Yass as he was the only one missing out so far. He was moved onto the back of the boat and we were all willing him on. He had a run but the hook pulled. He had another run… which he missed! Then with the end of the trip looming he was in! The pressure was on but he responded brilliantly and landed his tope to the biggest cheer of the day. What a day’s fishing! All eight anglers getting at least one tope and enjoying some fantastic fishing. As Andy pulled in the anchor, I handed Frank his winnings. We all thanked Andy for a momentous day and all his help.
As we steamed into shore one of the lads caught my eye “when we going again Matty lad?”
I’d call that mission accomplished …