Dan Hawkins has been operating his charter boat Reel Deal out of Ilfracombe for several years and has built a deserved reputation for putting anglers on the fish especially porbeagle shark. Dan has expanded on the waters fished out of Ilfracombe making the most of the boats capability to explore waters far to the West of Ilfracombe even venturing out into the Celtic deeps to catch blue shark.
Good news for anglers is that the Reel Deal experience has been expanded with Archie Porter joining Dan to skipper sister boat “Predator 2”. Seventeen year old Archie Pike has been assisting as deck hand for close to five years during which time he has undoubtedly been tutored well. I first met Archie as a keen junior angler participating in one of Combe Martin SAC’s popular fun fishing events. It was apparent then that he had a keen interest in sea angling and I am delighted that he has takin this opportunity to help ensure Ilfracombe’s long term future as a charter boat destination.
I was due to join Dan on Reel Deal for a day with my camera capturing a few images for features. As is often the case circumstances dictate a change of plan and the need to fit a new engine into Predator 2 meant that young Archie was to skipper Reel Deal and was lumbered with me for the day.
On arrival at a busy Ilfracombe harbour, I was greeted by Dan and Archie who were chatting with Ilfracombe Sea Safaris the hot topic of the day being an invasion of Twitters eager to reach Lundy and tick off a rare warbler that had been sighted. Ilfracombe harbour is becoming increasingly popular as a destination for Wildlife watching and diving, operating as the stepping stone to Lundy.
Archie was taking myself and a party of anglers from the Weston-Super-Mare area. Chatting with them I found that they ranged from experienced boat anglers to relative newcomers to the sport. Jerry Day, Raymond Galivlins, Igor Fursous, Matt Burns, Alec Hughs and Alec Gelasvili immediately made me very welcome.
As luck would have it the weather forecast was a bit iffy offering strengthening winds later in the day and low cloud. We set out from Ilfracombe and I was impressed as Reel Deal bounced across a moderate sea powered by twin Suzuki 325 engines that can push Reel Deal at a top speed of 45 knots cruising comfortably at 30 knots.
The familiar coastline West of Ilfracombe passed by quickly the cliff tops shrouded in mist. The first mark was a rocky reef close to Baggy Point where pollock and bass were on the wanted list. After several unproductive drifts it was clear that the fish were either absent or not feeding.
I could sense that Archie was frustrated by this lack of action and overheard his enquiries as to conditions further afield. We were soon heading towards Lundy Island where we could drop anchor and target the tope that had been showing in good numbers.
We spent an hour drifting with lures with a few wrasse and small pollock getting the fish count underway. The steep granite cliffs shrouded in mist created an exciting Jurassic park feeling to the vista. Guillemots were abundant along with a few puffins.
As the tide eased towards low water it was time to embark upon the days main event and target the tope. We anchored at the favoured mark with a mixture of sand and broken ground. Large frozen mackerel baits were favoured by most and were sent to the sea bed. The rods set up in holders in anticipation of rod bending tope.
After a few minutes rod tips started to nod as a succession of bull huss and dogfish found the baits. A whiting tempted on baited feathers was attacked on the retrieve by what was undoubtedly the target species. The encounter being all too brief with the whiting showing deep lacerations on its flanks where the topes teeth had cut into the flesh.
As the tide eased towards low water bull huss came frequently each one boasting an impressive pattern of leopard like spots.
By now there were only five anglers participating in the day as one had been struck down by a particularly bad bout of sea sickness.
As the tide began to flood the fish once again went off the feed and we headed closer to the misty cliffs once again for the last session of the day. With a few small pollock added to the tally it was time to steam back to Ilfracombe.
It had been a hard day’s fishing as is sometimes the case. Despite this spirits were surprisingly high as future trips were planned with those on board eager to replicate their previous success on Reel Deal a few weeks prior to this trip when they had found the pollock in a cooperative mood smashing into their lures to result in a bulging fish box to take home for the freezer.
Lets hope my next venture out with the camera coincides with good light and plenty of fish.