Attempting to catch fish that are hard to locate is a frustrating game. Not knowing if they are even where you choose to cast your bait is just the start of it, but in the case of the tope, if you are lucky enough to get a hook up there is no telling what might happen. Inexplicable dropped baits, bite off’s and reels emptied at an alarming rate are just a few of the tricks the tope has up his sleeve to leave you in a quivering wreck after your short lived encounter.
Harry has not been fishing for as long as some, but since 2011 he has persevered with attempting to land a tope from the craggy north Devon shoreline. On a quick estimation, Harry has traveled around 10,000 miles in that time, drank over a hundred litres of coffee and made many, many cast’s. But this is par for the course if aiming high and it’s fair to say, you can’t aim much higher than a tope from the open coast.
Saturday night was just a night like any other and having spent the day at VMO, Harry and pal Joe Williamson found themselves on a rock some 75 miles away under a dismal winter sky heavy with drizzle. With high tide in the early hours of Sunday morning, this was to be a long session much like those that had gone before and the rods were duly cast. Both anglers sat back and waited. Only this time, there wasn’t a long wait. Just 15 minutes later, Harry’s line fell slack and he jumped to his feet. Picking up the slack and leaning back into the fish, the rod pulled over hard and it thumped away in his grasp giving the initial impression that it was a conger. But soon the fish came towards the shore, forcing Harry to wind like the devil to keep in touch. By now, thoughts had turned to tope and as the leader appeared and the lead weight hovered above the water, a broad grey back broke the surface and his suspicions were confirmed. Joe had made his way down to water level, large net in hand ready to assist and after the fish had changed direction several times, charging about in the rocks, Joe was able to finally ease it into the net. Both anglers were ecstatic, but there was no time to savour the moment.
Along the rocks from where both anglers were dealing with the fish, Joe’s reel was spewing line off at staggering speed, the ratchet whining out in the night air. Leaving Harry to deal with his fish, Joe sprinted for his rod and soon made contact with another spirited fish. This time it was Harry’s turn to man the net and unbelievably enough a second tope was soon on the rocks. In absolute disbelief, the two anglers looked down at their catch, no doubt mesmerized by the events that unfolded in such a short space of time.
Harry’s tope weighed 30lb 4oz and Joe’s went a little bigger at 32lb 6oz. Wire traces and Varivas Big Mouth Xtra hooks holding squid and mackerel baits did the damage and although both anglers were keen for a ‘double’ photo, it was agreed that it was better to keep the fish out for as little time as possible in order for them to survive.
There are some things that stick with you in angling for many years to come and undoubtedly for Harry and Joe, this will be one of them.