Brighton Inshore Fishing - Escape from Plague Island - 18th December to 24th December 2020
At the time I booked the tickets for this trip, the heading I had in mind was much more, "Escape from Windy Island". How things have changed. Super mutations, the stuff of the Sunday Sport in my childhood, along with the London bus found on the moon. Turns out, the Sunday sport was likely ahead of its time. Im getting a telescope as soon as I get back just in case.
The reality of mid December to mid February the past three years, has been one of pretty much terminal wind. In itself not enough to drive me from the Uk, as I honestly do love the country of my birth. Yet, in these climate warmed times, it is not alone. It comes with rain, with rain comes coloured waters, and with coloured waters comes depression that I can rarely work, either with lure or fly.
So, I go away, and here I am. I would normally invite clients to join in these adventures, and have a large house for such a plan, but sadly, the combination of plague Britain and Brexit, means until COVID rates drop, non-essential travel into the EU from the UK will likely be prohibited until infection rates drop, and I will be back and afloat by then, regardless if customers are allowed to come with me or not. But in the meantime, I am happy for my exit, and, as you cannot be with me in person, these blog updates are dedicated to those who were due to join in.
My lodger Marika dropped me to the airport, on the morning of the 18th. We had driven, through greyness, but surprisingly mild. The excitement in her eyes was clear to see... The whole house almost to herself (plus dog, a cat we do not own, and my nephew, who we kind of do). God knows what I am going to return to... although of course, as I type, Brighton has jumped from pretty relaxed tier 2, to OMG tier 4. Perhaps, a tidy house...
Flight was uneventful. Apart from the fact I had been stressing about it since I had booked. Two places to catch this nasty IMHO. Supermarket, and aeroplanes. The first, easy to avoid. But to get to Portugal... Sometimes, you have to take a chance. The whole plane was masked, and perhaps more anxious. A lot of us were sweating, although I suspect none of us were infected. I was last on, reserved seat at the front, first off... My usual routine but more important I felt this time. Forgot about the bloody toilet though... Considered breaking it, but then perhaps my anxieties were taking things a little far. I decided against that option, and instead sat there trying not to breathe for 2 and a half hours.
On arrival, through an empty airport, and, then, that feeling of warm, that we have all already forgotten. Well, that wasn't there. Instead a chill damp breeze, reminiscent of the grey England I just left. But colder. A bad omen. On to the rental, to pick up my budget Corsa. Well, that didnt happen either. Somehow I walked out with a top of the range Qashquai.. How does that happen... And how does a 1600 deposit tun into 3k on my credit card balance... Maybe I have bought the car... I will work it all out after christmas.
On to my house, which was very much the first good thing to happen. Such a cute pad. Four sun terraces... A wet area for cleaning stuff outside (if I ate the fish, it would be perfect) as well as 3 x double bedrooms and 2 x bathrooms. Perfect for my intended use. Now, I camp in the smallest room....
I contacted my friends that I made in January to say Hi, and that I am here. Straight away my friend Jane pitched up which was just awesome, as she really knows the Argarve well. Especially for a Ukranian national. I actually felt a little tired, so no fishing, just food, and then sleep. Next day, I woke feeling crook again... Uh oh... But then. It was explained to me that the not big night the previous evening had entailed Tequila... a fair few beers, a large bottle of red...
Next day, I woke up fine. The sun was shining, and I went to look for fish. Found some as well. However, just in case of contaminating anyone, I avoided actually fishing, or being close to anyone. Except poor Jane of course. It was already too late for her.
Wether CV19 or simply stress, alcohol, shock climate, combined with general weirdness in the world, I guess without an anti body test we will not know. But of the symptoms, I had one. A bit of hot and cold. Fairly sure that is more a symptom of tequila abuse than covid. And with the ability to dine outside now (the weather recovered two days later... More the winter sun I came for now) I feel very Covid secure here. Which is why yesterday I went fishing in earnest.
Missed the first light fun mind, due to a very healthy meal the evening prior. But made the last light as it happened. And as with bass everywhere, this is the time to see what they might be up to. Fishing into a strong flooding river, I was fairly confident. I noticed another angler lure fisihng on the other side of the river. His reel sounded familiar. A dryness that comes from being really used hard. A reel that sounded,.. like my reel.
Mullet were every active, and as the sun got lower, bursts of prawns were flying up at my feet. But I had already learned from watching, that these were not bass. These were garfish, who seemed to prefer the prawns to the massed fry (sardine??) . It wsnt until the sun has performed a particularly wonderful departure, that things changed. "BOSH BWOASH< SMASSH"... Well, Im not sure if they are completely accurate descriptive, but basically, from the flip, flop of small mullet on the surface, some serious predation was happening. About this time, I heard the reel across the river change tune. The dryness was under pressure. Blow me... He had a fish on.
I continued, running a 2" shad on an HTO 5gm jig head. More predation, I ran shallower, expecting a slam any moment. Meanwhile, the reel across the river was straining again. And "PLOP" ... I watched as he released his 3rd bass (or so I thought) . Finally, a burst on my side of the river. I cast at it, went finger on, and felt the lovely tightening of a fish on. A beautiful little spotted bass. Quickly released, as rhe reel across the river, released his 7th fish. This wasn't normal behaviour for a Portuguese angler, who are fishing mostly for the plate. I messaged my friend Neil. "Your watching Mark, the guide" he suggested. Of course. It couldnt really have been anyone else. Especially when, as the tide changed direction, he promptly vanished, leaving me along to deal with a mass of eel grass and no more fish. This guy knew his spot. His biggest spotted bass that session was 48cm. A cracker.
This inspired me to set the alarm, and I was on the water before the first light. Wow. What a different environment. Fish smashing everywhere. Lots of predation. But pitch black so hard to work out what was what. As it became lighter, a local sat behind, slightly higher up He could see the sand to the west of me. "Friend... Friend... Fish... Fish... " he said... Right, there are fish everywhere, I thought to myself. Then I heard it. Sounded like the lifting of the net of a supertrawler. A mass of smashing water. Surely, a dolphin had become stuck. But no. This time, the proper bass had arrived.
As suddenly, did two locals, also with lure rods. Good to see. I landed one about 8 ounces, released. Local guy had one about 2lb, for the table. I then snapped on the strike on a huge smashing take. So annoying. No idea why. On the clip knot so just a small jig head for the fish to drop. But the take suggested a better fish. And then a guy arrived, and began fishing next. It was the reel that gave it away. "Are you Mark?" I asked. As he banged into his only bass of the morning. One more small schoolie for me before the sun said time for a chinwag over coffee and toasted sandwiches.
And now I have the amazing story of how Marks guided fishing came to be. But Sangres calling, so that will have to wait for another time. I have every intention of being out there again tomorrow morning, suffering to bring fishy themes for your festive delectation. Maybe again tonight. Time will tell. Until then, I wish you all a safe, warm and festive time. I must admit, it has never felt less like Christmas. I guess the theme of 2020.