Where to begin… Well, kind of one of those “fancy going to Fuerteventura in December” blasé comments from FV veteran Jason that started it all off. “Ok then” I said, because it was August, December seemed a very long way away, and of course, is often a very windy month meaning minimal sailings. BIF1 regular Jon was also ensnared, hooked by reading of the Spring tours that I used to run, which can still be accessed on www.sportingfish.co.uk and hunting down the fishy rob diaries for Feb/March, in 2012 and 2013 if my memory serves me correctly. Which it often doesn’t. A trait I share with my mother, except she has better excuses being aged ninety two.
Perhaps we should have done stuff like research the weather etc. And yet should we have? The least windy weather for Fuerteventura, which has a very separate weather system from the other Canary islands, is reckoned to be autumn and Spring. Yet, my spring tours were often on pause for days, and even weeks, due to swells making lure fishing impossible. And it is the swells more than the wind that make things difficult. To add to the complications, when planning an FV assault, you can have strong winds but small swells, and you can have light, or almost zero winds, and yet swells can be large. Add to that the actual toughness of the fishing conditions, fishing deep holes riddled with extruded, and now happily cooled, magma, means tackle is tested to the max. Fast currents, big fish, rock ledges and sea caves all add to the hazards. Its surprising anybody wishes to fish there at all.
Except, that is, for the fish. They grow big, and they are mean. They are also moody, and occasionally fickle, and often show a dislike for everything for long periods of time. But… when it all comes together, Fuerteventura is awesome for producing blue water fishing on a budget, with Bonito, barracuda and Bluefish perhaps the main attraction for the eager lure angler. On baits, the selection is endless, from the smallest blue damsels and rainbow wrasse to enormous sting rays that weigh over 300lbs. Which is why I mostly lure fish…
We arrived late on the 29th, which left time just for food, and beer, and discovering the home from home, the Dog and Duck, was closed until our last two nights. Wind looked reasonable for the following day, and we all bounced up on our alarms. Jon had elected to hire a studio a short walk from the townhouse Jason had hired for he and I, so we met in the street, and headed out to the mark we wished to begin on. It did feel quite strange, perhaps my first trip back since about 2017. I have spent a lot of time on the island and seeing all the post pandemic changes, I found to be quite a surprise. Slightly unsettling. A lot of businesses have gone, but a lot of what was empty business premises are again lively, so swings and roundabouts for the island economy I guess.
I actually had quite a few bangs and knocks that first morning, but only lizard fish to show from it. Those toothy critters seem happy to feed in any conditions. But little landed. A previous tour veteran, who loved the tock so much he bought a property out here, Andrew, was also out, and also not catching. A bad sign.
Jason decided, after a few hours thrashing the water for nothing, to walk to the nearest supermarket with a fish counter, and buy some bait for bottom fishing. He comes from a sea match fishing background, and was keen to do some fishing for rays et al. A good forty five minute’s walk from the mark we were fishing. And when he got there, without Jon and I supervising, he made his return journey even more tiring, with over ten kg of fishes of various description.
We did breakfast, and then headed out onto the rocks. I fished a bait rod for not very long at all, before tiring of the lack of inactivity and returning to the lure rod. Jason persevered, Jon went for a stroll. Jason’s luck ran good, with a beautiful brown (but looking golden) stingray, likely over 20lb. For me, just lizard fish. We went and did dinner, and then, after dinner, with dusk approaching, I suggested we try Grouper hole. This is a mark which when the wind blew, often offered the only viable lure fishing. And from being forced to constantly fish the spot, by the wind, we got to learn a lot about how it fished. With Dusky grouper being present more often than not. There aren’t many places in my mental notebook, where I can pop to deliberately target a dusky grouper, but this beach is deffo one of them. And again, it was that man Jason that did good, with only a small one, but still amazingly pretty. Lizards for me, and a few pulls and bangs for Jon.
Next day, we again all rose early, and headed out for the morning session. The forecast showed wind and swells increasing significantly for the next couple of days, so we knew we had to make the best of it. Again I got a lot of interest, with too many short pulls. I finally found the answer when a short pull stayed on. Squid. Of course it would be. They seem to be stalking me a little at the moment. But no fishes other than lizard fish for any of us. Breakfast, and then back out on baits. Jon and I endured for perhaps an hour, before retiring the bait rods in favour of lures. Jason, again persevered, when finally, his left hand rod screamed away. He reeled down and tightened into a good fish. Which was the signal for his right hand rod to also scream away.
I tried very hard to get Jon to reel it in, but he fought me on it, claiming to be unable to reel in with a multiplier. Leaving me no choice, but to deal with what was almost certainly another ray. Jasons was really giving him some stick, so I elected to bully my one in, another beautifully golden Brown sting ray, quickly snapped and released, that I could assist Jason landing his. His one, was a stunning butterfly ray, with amazing honeycomb patterning that modern day fashionistas would wish to wear. A really stunning fish.
That evening, back to grouper hole, as the wind had begun to rise. Again, just lizards. Dinner, a few beers, and no rush to get up in the morning. Which was a bonus for me, as I had my friend / Girl Friday Euvgenia arriving from Portugal for a few days break. This rather took me out of the fishing, which was for the best, as the big seas meant it was more a day for pool, sunbathing and feeding Barbary ground squirrels. Or playing with the cat, which doesn’t live at the accommodation we were staying at. Except, nobody told the cat.
Ditto the following day, although Jason and Jon did visit grouper hole, where Jason lost a significantly bigger grouper. Not at all surprising, these grouper are experts at finding holes in rocks, and jamming themselves in them. The following day (4th) was also lost to the weather. 5th, Euvgenia left us at silly o clock in the morning, with the wind dropping off all day. We tried another go on baits and lures, but with still quite big swells, bait rods were quickly snagged, and again only lizards on the lures. Jon also elected to leave early, as a big workload meant that with the very poor fishing, he felt his time would be better served back in the UK.
Monday 7th was a laid back day. Now just Jason and I, we did have a fair crack at it all. However, the wind and waves were still making it a struggle. With no hire car, it left few options but to push through it. So we opted to fish for little things on floats. Jason showed his match fishing prowess, catching white bream, sargo and some dodgy looking sculpins. Best I could manage was a Canarian Damsel fish, and a couple of lizards. But really we were getting excited for the following day, which was due to be a very unseasonal day of very light winds. Settled weather, can often be a trigger on FV.
Remember I mentioned you can have virtually no wind, but big swells? Well, of course this day was to be one of those. It didn’t bother the fish though, who suddenly decided it was going to be a fishy time. Coinciding with the very last sliver of moon, and the big tides that come with the new moon phase, suddenly everything was feeding. I hooked the first bonito of the trip early, before the sun was risen. And it was a serious beastie. It took sixty yards, slowed down just enough that I could tell it was a bonito from the very distinct tail strokes felt through the rod, before it recharged and did another sixty, and all the time sounding deep heading for Morocco. Until, suddenly, the rod pinged back. Close inspection showed the nanofil had been smashed on a rock, as a result of the fish sounding deep over ledges unseen. Absolutely gutted.
After sunrise, it became apparent that the forecast was correct, and there was very little wind, just a very big swell. This made another spot available, that to date had not been as it involved casting into the predominantly North Easterly wind. Jason went to have a look, and came back fast. “Quick… lets go. Spanish guy playing one now and plenty of space”. As we scampered to the spot, the Spanish guy had more luck than I had, and was carrying his prize, a chunker of about 4kg, back to his spot. We began fishing. Three casts later, I hit a bonito for the briefest of moments, and then everything gone. On retrieving, it had snapped on the leader. 20lb leader. Which I really should not have been using for so many reasons. Its just, with so much inactivity all week from big fish, I had scaled down hoping for any fish. I also was not carrying any heavier stuff, as it was back in the apartment in my bait bag. I asked Jason for some. He obliged. Ten casts later, I lost it in a snag. Not wishing to bother Jason again, I retied once more with 20lb.
We went off for breakfast, and then returned, as with it being our penultimate day, and with fish finally around, we wanted to max out. With it being afternoon, we chose a location known more for lizard fish than Bonito. Which is why when I hooked the third one of the day, it was a little surprising. This one, I really thought I had beat. Clearly a big fish, it made some amazing runs. But after ten minutes, I could feel the slower paddle beats of a much tired giant mackerel (Bonito are in fact Mackerel family, not Tuna). When, tragedy. Again, the rod went limp. This time, the extended battle had caused the nanofil to bite through the 20lb line. Absolutely gutted, and again, all on me for not stepping up to the 40lb leader. Which of course I now did immediately, when BANG, once more I was in. This time, it felt very different, and was. A foul hooked puffer fish, caught in the act of chewing more perfect D’s in my lure.
Next cast, and BANG. In AGAIN!! After so much poor fishing, it was getting a bit silly. This one stayed on right to the very end, and my first shad caught Couches Sea Bream. I love these fish. We do get them in the South West of the UK as well, but I believe in quite deep waters. Here, in relative shallow, they put up an amazing account of themselves, although not in the same league as the bonito.
Other than lizards, that was it for Jason and I for the day. We tried the evening patrol, but that was without success, other than a squid that chased my shad, but spotted me and decided against. Everything that swims here is self safety conscious, with the uber clear waters. But with at least eight hours fishing available to us on our final day, and with the seas clearly coming alive, we set the alarms once more, and I returned the 40lb leader to my lure kit.
It started with stronger winds but much reduced swell. Indeed, I really fancied the early morning session, but other than lizards, it wasn’t really happening. One local guy did drop in on the end of us, and managed to land another cracking bonito of around 3kg, so our confidence remained high. Its just, the fish didn’t agree with us.
We went off, did breakfast, and packed down all but lure gear, and then returned. First choice venue was tough, with a side wind, so we relocated to a spot where the wind was directly behind and allowing us to make big casts. But nothing was doing. Then, on an especially strong gust of wind, I pushed my 28gm Axia mighty minnow extra high to take advantage of it, and it sailed as far as I have ever cast a mighty minnow before. I tightened up as best I could, and though I felt something through the big wind loop. I struck, but nothing, so tightened the slack I had just created, to feel another pull. This time, when I struck, there was something. Not just something, but something screaming thirty yards of line off. I let it run, and began to shorten the line as best I could. The mark I was on was one where I have lost many decent fish. A big sea cave beckons hooked fish, and if they go in, then your line is across the top lip of the entrance. I have learned that if they make it in, DO NOT move the rod a centimetre, but keep on pressure, and hope they swim out. That way, there is a chance your mainline might survive. Any rod movement, and you will saw the line in two.
This time, the fish read the script. I could feel it making ever decreasing circles in the cavern beneath, but by keeping it tight, the fish decided that wasnt working and tried for Morocco again. This enable me to shorten the line further, so when it swam back for the cave, it didnt have the depth. Instead this beast rose and swam along to top of the ledge. I pretty much had it beaten. At the same time we realised this was no bonito. Instead, what slid out on the next small swell, and was left flapping on the barnacle encrusted lava flows, lay a white trevally.
These stunning fish have been on my wish list since I first saw a picture of one in the now sadly closed, FV tackle shop "Gone Fishing". And to take one ten minute before our absolute must finish time, is a very Fraggle rock trick to play. My mood, after having lost so many bonito the previous day, had been very low. Even to the point, that I was beginning to wonder if this might be ,my last visit. But that fish, turned everything around. Now I am planning to return, to use up the last bit of my 90 days visa free European travel, first week of March. A very much love hate relationship, the rock and I have. But the rock always manages to get me loving it on the day of exit. Roll on the next trip.