Not every fishing trip involves a 2am alarm call but, this one did. Though, not having slept well through sheer excitement, it was rendered completely redundant as I found myself lying wide awake at 1.18am. Sod it, I figured I may as well get up! My good friend George had planned to get to me for 3am but, not surprisingly, he had the same sleep issues that I had and he rocked up outside at 2.30am. 

What destination would require such an early rise, or more to the point be worth it? Being based in West Somerset, we certainly have some amazing boat fishing on our doorstep but, as good as the Bristol Channel’s murky waters are to fish, every now and again we find ourselves wanting to try some clean water species fishing. Thus, on this very early of mornings, we were off to Penzance, a comfortable three hour drive. We had been invited by David Mordecai to join himself, Jason Gillespie and Oban Jones to fish aboard the highly coveted ‘Lo Kie Adventures’, skippered by Kieren Faisey.

Ropes were due off at 7am but we had made great time and completed the journey in 2 hours and 40 minutes, leaving plenty of time to take in the stunning sun rise that was appearing behind St Michael’s Mount. It really was a beautiful morning as we set about getting the kit unloaded while we waited for the guys to arrive. George decided to have a dabble with his LRF kit inside the harbour and nearly ended up having to change his knickers when a huge seal popped up 3ft in front of him! 

Kieren was the first to arrive, followed by the other three, so without wasting anytime we transferred the vast array of tackle, rods and bait onto the boat and we were off. Exiting the harbour, it was evident that we weren’t the only ones on a fishy mission today. The potting boats were out checking their strings along with several kayaks hugging the shoreline. The weather was fantastic so who could blame them?

The boat awaits in the harbour

I visited Penzance last year, though I didn’t get the chance to see the stunning coastline from the sea as we were there on holiday. I’d also managed to break two ribs, so going afloat was out of the question. I was genuinely stunned as we headed south to our first mark. The beautiful beaches and rocky outcrops really were a sight to behold and I got my first glimpse of the Minack Theatre that looked incredible in the morning sun.

The plan for the day was to start by fishing for a few rough ground inhabitants on the edge of a reef system. The main target today was the couch’s bream as Kieren has become somewhat of a pioneer in putting his clients onto this exotic looking species, including many fantastic specimens. We would be doing a few other bits in-between, when the tides dictated so. It didn’t take too long before we were slowing down, and the skipper was expertly trying to get us bang on the mark. He explained that bream tend to swim around the edge of this particular reef, so anchoring on it had to be spot on. Happy that we were in position he gave us the signal to lower down.

Not being familiar with the fishing down here, or the species we were targeting, we squeezed every ounce of information from Kieren who we could tell was desperate for us to get amongst the bream. A standard running ledger with at least 8oz of lead was required. That was coupled with a good strong fluorocarbon leader and a pennel rig consisting of 3 or 4/0 hooks. Simplicity was key, as having such clear water can result in the fish spooking easily. No bling was required but bait presentation had to be on point. They can be quite finicky and will get their heads down on the bait, pick it up and spit it out without even a rattle on the rod tip! 

It took no longer than a couple of minutes for bites to start registering. The bites were not typical of our intended quarry and from my experience I knew that what I was luring towards the boat was a bull huss. I’m pretty sure most of us managed to get amongst the huss, which were beautifully marked specimens, and any other day would have been very welcome, but they seemed to be interfering with our bream fishing slightly! The huss continued to come aboard, along with a few dogfish but, the bream remained elusive.

Plenty of huss, but none of the bream desired

Knowing when to stop flogging a dead horse and try something else, Keiren was keen to get us on the drift for some slow jigging and general lure fishing over some very rough ground close by, so as we lost the tide we up anchored and had a short steam to an area that we would drift. 

Kieren had promised us some quality pollack fishing and, well, he wasn’t wrong! Some of us opted for Portland rigs with shads and sand eel imitations on the end whilst Dave settled on his preferred slow jigs and Oban was utilising his 6-12lb rated ugly stick with a Fiiish Crazy Paddletail as his preferred lure. Within minutes we were all into hard fighting pollack which went very well on the light tackle we had all chosen to use. George was dragging in pollack after pollack on the small Sidewinder Skerries Sandeel that he has had a lot of success on before. In amongst these, he did manage some stunning cuckoo wrasse of both the male and female varieties. This was topped off with a real specimen, a 2lb male, which was probably the most stunningly colourful fish I’ve witnessed in our waters. While this was all going on we had noticed a very large bull seal surface, but he kept his distance and at one point almost nodded in acknowledgement to our catching abilities. Whether he was just scoping us out or not we don’t know, but he kept his distance and the fish kept coming.

With our run of drifts coming to an end over this patch of ground, Keiren was keen to run back up the coast a bit to an area that had produced some serious wrasse for him and his crews in the past. Now there are wrasse and then there are WRASSE and I questioned him about the potential size, asking if we may see a four or perhaps even a five-pound fish. He just laughed at me and proceeded to explain that there are some ‘serious donkeys’ down there. 

With an undulating reef and rocky pinnacles below us, we drifted along when Mr Seal decided to poke his head up but, as before, he kept his distance. Oban was first in on the action where he managed to get smashed up by a good fish and no sooner had that happened than I was into a hard fighting creature. It turned out to be a lovely ballan wrasse of over 3lb that I was more than happy with. With its impeccable red and white mottling, it was a very welcome fish. Next in on the action was Oban, again with a very respectable ballan being gradually wound up from the depths below. He took it slow and steady and we finally caught a glimpse of the fish rising through the gin clear water below. 

A stunning cuckoo wrasse for George

The fish was no more than three foot from the surface when a huge shadow appeared from underneath the boat engulfing Oban’s fish and disappearing with it before quickly dispossessing Oban of his fish and lure. It was one of those moments that genuinely had my heart pounding out of my chest, seeing that shape just appear and not knowing what it was! You’ve guessed it… the seal! He wanted wrasse for lunch so that’s what he got!

Everyone continued to plug away when Jason connected with something that wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Whatever had latched onto his Skerries sandeel lure was giving him the run around, taking long, hard and dogged dives to try and seek sanctuary in the reef below. Slowly but steadily, he coaxed the fish up, all the time being well aware that Mr Seal was probably still in the area. Being on the opposite side of the boat to me I couldn’t see what was happening but, when Kieren went running for the net, we knew it had to be something of size. Their reactions said it all as a huge ballan wrasse was escorted safely over the gunwales. This was a serious fish! It was set to be a new PB for Jason, so the fish was weighed and came in at a stonking 6lb 14oz before being released. We were all in awe at such an awesome specimen. It was a true reef donkey!

Our drifting session had come to an end, so we tried a couple of other marks at anchor for the bream, but they still didn’t want to join the party. Instead, we bagged up on more dogfish and bull huss. Keiren knew that a few of us were keen to get a ling or two so he set us down on an area where he knew that we would stand a good chance. Mackerel baits were sent south and again, within minutes, I had an enquiry which turned out to be a small conger eel. Baits were being checked frantically as none of us wanted to miss the opportunity. First to register a ling was Oban with a small but perfectly formed fish. Next up, it was myself with a slightly better fish showing itself from the depths. It was a nice table sized fish that certainly wouldn’t be going to waste. We were all fixated on the task in hand but unfortunately, they were the only two ling to show. Still, the fishing was pretty hectic with eels, dogfish and bull huss keeping everyone busy.

The day was pressing on and I would be lying if I said my energy levels were as high as they were in the morning. The early start, plus the constant stream of fish, had started to take their toll but we none the less relentlessly fished on. 

6lb 14oz PB ballan for Jason

Our last mark was one that would see us targeting smooth-hounds and tope. Things had quietened slightly on the boat with the onslaught of banter that had been thrown around all day somewhat subsiding. A few members of the party opted for squid baits, whereas others put their faith in trusty peeler crab. I was keen to bag a tope so would use the remaining mackerel on my second rod. Things were quiet on the fishing front which wasn’t a surprise given the fact that conditions had turned a bit sour. My arms were hanging off, but Kieren was full of energy, running around laying into all of us and giving us a right kick up the backside. The final few drops saw more doggies and a couple of huss before he gave us the shout to drag them in. We all enjoyed the steam back to the harbour, taking the sights in once again and reflecting on what a day we had just experienced.

It had been one hell of a day. The scenery, the fishing and the company. It’s a stunning place to fish from. I’m not sure I’ve fished with a skipper who put in so much effort before. We didn’t get to see the couch’s bream we were all desperate for but hey ho, that’s fishing. Kieren honestly didn’t stop all day. Constantly making drinks, running around landing fish and making sure we were having the day that we wanted. I couldn’t speak any more highly of him if I tried. He’s a bloody nice bloke too!

I cant wait for my next foray to Penzance where hopefully we get to see those pesky bream!

Oban with a bonus catch, an octopus!
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