Illuminated by winter sun – A Cornish Tunny Adventure

The moon was still shining brightly at the cold light of dawn as I climbed aboard the charter boat Sowenna with four fellow anglers. I had met with James Coggan on a previous trip back in the heat of the summer and James and I had conspired to organise a trip after tuna before the seasons end. Previous trips booked in November had been blown off and this trip just three days before the end of season was a last gasp chance.

It was well below freezing and ice lay upon the deck of the boat. James was accompanied by a fellow Fowey chap called Craig and we were joined by Mark and Richard two anglers from the Bristol area both of whom I had met in the Jolly sailor the previous night.

Dan Margetts the Skipper of Sowenna and his deck hand for the day John McMaster greeted us warmly as we all chatted excitedly about the prospects for the day ahead.

The boat was slipped from its moorings and we set off into the bay passing the Banjo Pier as the glow of the morning sun slowly welcomed the day. We had all dressed warmly with only our faces exposed to the bitter cold North East breeze.

As we glided across the calm waters the tuna gear was prepared by John with military precision. Dan and John were undoubtedly well rehearsed and their calm confidence added to our expectations. The sight of big game gear on a UK charter boat is certainly a welcome dimension to UK angling. The CHART program has undoubtedly been a major success and should be appreciated by anglers who have been given a unique opportunity.

In less than an hour the five sets of spreader bars lures and stingers were being trolled across a calm sea. The horizon was scanned with binoculars Dan and John were determined to find any signs of activity that could lead us to our quarry the mighty bluefin tuna.

Flocks of sea birds were seen gathering excitedly with gannets diving frequently into the cold clear water. Dan steered the boat towards promising areas and a tense anticipation hung in the air. We had drawn lots on the way out and I had drawn number five meaning that I was likely to be a spectator for the day. Craig had drawn number one and was undoubtedly slightly apprehensive of what might lay ahead.

This type of fishing is very much a team event with all on board sharing the experience. The vast seascape, the colours as the morning sun illuminates the coast, dolphins breaking the surface a privilege that we all shared over frequent hot drinks supplied by Dan and John.

We noted other boats tuna fishing close-by and expectation grew when a tuna was hooked in close proximity. I had enjoyed a day earlier in the year aboard Reel Deal off the North Devon Coast when we had spent a long and fruitless day searching the waters at the mouth of the Bristol Channel. I had come out today stating that I would be delighted; to just see a tuna caught. My turn will hopefully come one day if I persist.

At close to 11:00 pandemonium broke out as a reel screeched a harsh rasping cry. Craig took his place behind the rod as line disappeared from the reel at an alarming pace.

We all grabbed rods and frantically reeled the remaining lines clear to allow Craig to battle with the denizen of the deep.

            John carefully passed the rod to Craig and ensured all was correctly in place with harness and padding. And so, a brutal battle began as Craig applied pressure and began the task of putting line back on the large capacity reel inch by inch.

            John offered constant advice and assurance. I hovered around with my camera, James Coggan held onto Craigs harness just in case he slipped. Everyone else offered good humoured advice and banter. This banter and encouragement gathered pace as the battle went on and it became obvious that this was a big fish. Line was slowly gained to be lost as the fish made powerful runs testing both tackle and angler to the limit. Eventually the line indicated that the fish was deep below the boat and Craig was heartened when the leader eventually showed above the water. Tension hung in the air for the hook hold could give way at any moment denying us all the view of one of the oceans most magnificent fish.

            The final moments were filled with tension as Craig hung grimly on determined to get his prize to the side of the boat. Sweat covered his brow despite the icy air. We all peered into the sea as the line drew our eyes into the mysterious waters.

            Then it slowly appeared; massive flanks glimpsed in the cold clear waters. The mighty tuna materialised, aqua, sapphire, silver plated jewelled sides illuminated by the bright winter sunshine. The magnificent tuna was carefully gaffed in the lower jaw and held in the water whilst it was tagged. We all admired the massive fish boat side gathering a few images on our cameras none of which could truly capture its awesome beauty. When the fish had fully recovered it was released and disappeared with a powerful flick of its mighty tail. We all watched in awe sharing in one of anglings rich moments. It was after all very much a team effort headed by Captain Dan and John Mc Master.

The fish was carefully measured and estimated at between 450lb and 475lb

            It was soon back to business with Mark ready and waiting for his turn in the pain locker. Hot teas and coffees were keenly devoured as the lures went back out and the quest resumed.


            Flocks of bird wheeled above the sea, dolphins rolled and leapt from the water. Mark watched the lures intently hoping for contact. We looked far out towards the Eddystone and watched a pod of dolphins as they gracefully leapt into the air.

            The day ebbed slowly away, the sun eventually descending beneath the distant western horizon painting the sky in  deep orange glow. Shortly after the sun had set the moon rose to the east peeping out above the hills that had taken on a cold and icy hue.

            The lines were slowly wound back onto the big reels and rods racked before the steam back to port. We enjoyed a last hot drink as we came close to Looe to be greeted by the bright lights of Christmas twinkling in the icy cold air.

            We climbed onto the quay our steamy breath hanging in the air as we said our cheerful goodbyes before heading home across an icy moonlit landscape.

North Devon Angler who Fished for England

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North Devon based Jon Patten Kindly sent this report on his recent trip fishing for England in the World Big Game Championships in South Africa.

The English Big Game fishing Team recently fished the World Big Game Championships in Sodwana Bay South Africa. They secured a marlin early in the competition where 28 of the best teams from around the world were competing. This catapulted the team straight into the  lead position over the 4 days of competing. However a couple hours prior to the end of the competition the Spanish team pushed the English team into silver medal position.  All 7 team members were overjoyed to have gained a silver medal for their country. The next championships will be held in Senegal in approximately 14 -months time where we will be doing battle yet again in the world championships.

Globe Trotting North Devon Anglers

Globe Trotting North Devon anglers Colin Joy and Jon Patten travelled to Tanzania in search of some exotic foreign specimens to test their tackle. They had an unforgettable adventure boating some magnificent fish. Colin sent me these stunning images that shine a little warmth into these dark cold winter months.

(Above) dorado 40lb +

(Above) 30lb ruby snapper

(Above) 85lb swordfish

Anglers Paradise