I read somewhere that you cannot lose what you have not had a fact that makes a mockery of losing a fish. Yet any angler will know that to lose a big fish can at that moment seem like a major disaster. Over the years most anglers will have suffered that deflating moment when the line falls slack or all goes solid when the life on the end of the line is gone.
Strangely looking back it is these lost fish that often linger longer in the mind than the big fish that are successfully landed. Losing fish is generally down to bad angling, occasionally down to bad luck.
On a calm November night several years ago I was stood upon an old stone jetty hoping to make contact with a tope. An hour into the flooding tide the rod tip nodded and the ratchet sang out as something headed out to sea with my flounder hook bait.
The rod arched over and line poured from the reel. Never before had I felt such awesome power. Stood leaning into the fish, the rod straining, the line cutting out into the dark waters of the Bristol Channel. A hundred yards or more of line melted from the spool despite the application of as much pressure as possible. Tension mounted as the reels spool began to look decidedly low on line! Eventually the fish stopped far out in the murky waters of the night.
Application of constant pressure persuaded the fish to come my way and line was gradually won back to be lost as the fish surged away making shorter runs as it began to tire. After what seemed an eternity I began to feel that the battle was going my way.
Eventually the angle of the line began to point at a deeper angle into the dark water as the mighty fish weakened. Anticipation grew as we hoped for a glimpse of mighty fish on the end of the line. Suddenly to my dismay all went solid with just twenty yards outside of the top rod ring. I pulled as hard as I dare but this brought no response; slackening the line brought a glimmer of hope as line was pulled seawards and the rod once again surged in the hands. Hope was short lived though as once again all went solid when I attempted to retrieve line. After a few minutes there was no life transmitted through the line.
Twenty minutes later I was forced to pull for a break and hope. The line parted with a crack and I was left with that sinking feeling of loss. I am sure that the fish was a huge tope fifty pounds plus or maybe more. Bad luck or bad angling, to my knowledge there were no serious snags, an old pot rope was I imagine the snag?
If I had put on more pressure perhaps the fish would have been a few vital feet higher in the water?
A couple of years later I was to lift a huge fish from the sea, a record-breaking tope of 66lb 8oz to the rod of my good friend Kevin Legge. I cannot help but wonder how big that fish was I lost that November evening for I have both held the fish of dreams and lost one too.