Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Hound of the Basket Meals

At the base of Hound Tor on Dartmoor is a very upmarket food van called the Hound of the Basket Meals! I had travelled down to West Mersea in Essex hunting a very different hound to the one that reputedly haunts Dartmoor.

I was fishing out of Mersea with Scott Belbin on Galloper. This was to be my first taste of uptiding which was developed in the waters of the blackwater during the 70's. In the shallow water of the blackwater it soon became clear that catches improved when the bait was cast away from the scare zone of the boats hull. Put simply the bait is cast uptide and line let off the reel until it is coming from the tip at right angles to the position the bait was originally cast. This huge bow of line encourages the breakaway lead to grip the sea bed. Bites are indicated by the usual nodding with a decent fish tripping the wires on the lead causing the rodtip to straighten with the line dropping downtide along with the fish. It is no use striking due to the bow in the line, the response is to wind like mad until the weight of the fish is felt before striking.

As only Scott and I were fishing I set up two rods, the first an uptider rod matched to a multiplier filled with 15lb mono. The other rod was a pike rod matched to a baitrunner reel again loaded with 15lb mono. A 6oz breakaway lead was fished running above a four foot 30lb flurocarbon trace with a 4/0 vavivas big mouth hook. Bait was hermit crab the hook being passed through the mouth and then the soft body of the hermit was threaded round the bend.

Our first mark was beyond a wind farm and right from the off we were getting bites. Scott was amused by my request to photograph my first ever Lesser Spotted Dogfish (LSD). Several small smoothounds to 7lb interspersed by LSDs came to the rods. There are two species, the starry and the common smoothound, all the hounds we caught were of the starry variety. As with most creatures  labelled common, common they are not! The power of these hounds is amazing, fish of only 5-7lb taking line.

As Scott's bait bag (and lunch) had been loaded by accident into the wrong charter boat we decided to try and catch some mackerel from our second mark which was along side a wreck. It soon became clear that mackerel were thin on the ground and I was ready to give up when at last I felt the first one take, I jigged the sabiki's a couple more times before reeling in 4 mackerel.

Despite another half hours feathering no more mackerel obliged, however I did catch my first ever cod. Scott managed a slightly larger codling and a pout by baiting his feathers with a tiny slither of mackerel.Mackerel was put out on one rod in the hope of a tope or thornback ray. The pike rod went back to fishing for hounds and the day ended as it began with both of us catching hounds and dogfish.

I bet lunchless Scott would have appreciated the Hound of the Basket Meals!