Well the day had finally arrived, I was standing outside Rosslare Europort in Wexford waiting to catch a ferry to Pembroke. Declan Kilgannon was supposed to be traveling with me, who could now not make it due to a family commitment and I was still hoping till the last he would turn up at the terminal.
I was going over to fish with one of the most famous skippers of all time, Andrew Alsop on his boat White Water and I had no idea what lay ahead. Andrews reputation is legendry and to say I was excited doesn’t even come close. His lists of achievements are endless, and he keeps setting the bar higher every year.
The ferry crossing was excellent with a smooth sailing and I passed the time with a breakfast and a pint to start the trip. Soon I could see Wales appearing and It was a reminder of what I was there for, hopefully my very first porbeagle shark.
Andrew had arranged the accomadation and I was going to be staying with Gareth and Trish Hopkins at TY Gunkle, which is a two bed apartment with sitting room, kitchen bathroom and everything you could possibly need and right by the water. It’s only a few minutes from the ferry. Trish very kindly picked me up and I was soon settling into my new home for the next couple of days.
That evening, we went down to the marina and watched as White Water came in. Kevin McKie and the lads from Brigand charters were just leaving after having an excellent two day trip with plenty of porgies to over 200lbs. My mind raced thinking would they still be out there tomorrow!
Andrew cleaned down the boat and soon we were heading back to the apartment. For the next 24 hours I was going to get a glimpse into the life of the busiest charter skipper out there.
By this time Gareth had arrived home and come down to see how the day had went and we sat there talking fishing. The whole time Andrews phone kept buzzing as he took phone call after phone call dealing with bookings. His phone barely stopped all night and I got to see first hand how his job is far from over when he steps off the boat.
Andrew and I went out to an Indian restaurant to get something to eat and I listened intently he told me about the fishing recently over a beer and dinner with his phone still hopping.
Just before going to bed He told me to set my alarm for half five which I duly did and told me to bang on his door in the morning. I barely slept as I wondered would they still be there tomorrow, a lot can change in 24 hours.
The morning came and as I stepped outside with a cup of tea the weather had cleared up and I realised D-day was here.
Now before the day starts for the crew who have booked the boat for the day, Andrew will be up early making two trips to fill the powerful Honda twin engines and making sure the boat is ready for the day. Then it’s time to get the bait loaded up and the frozen dubby blocks onboard. All this fuel and bait must be carried down to the marina and it in itself is quite a lot of work for one man.Finally it was time, and all of this had only added to my anticipation. We were on our way! We slipped out of the marina and headed down the channel towards the open sea. Andrew engaged the autopilot and once we cleared the headlands he opened up on the throttles.
Cruising out at 24kts White Water showed off her sea keeping abilities and you could barely notice how fast we were going. All the while The tunes pumped from the wheelhouse, everything from AC/DC to the Rolling Stones and as land slipped out of view we just had the gannets and dolphins to keep us company apart from the odd trawler.
I went into the wheelhouse and Andrew talked me through the drill. First things first we set about getting the dubby going. Back out on deck, he got together what we needed and once he had it all in the bucket I set about getting it mixed while he went back in to check our location. As if he had it timed, he was slowing down and cutting the engines just as I got all the dubby mixed.
That was then thrown over the stern, and next job was to set the tackle up. He passed me the rods from from the cabin and told me which rod holders to put them each in. I must say by this stage my heart was pounding as I felt if ever I was gonna catch my much dreamed of fish, today was going to be the day, I might never get this chance again!
A trace was attached to the first rod and out went a perfect mackeral bait. I asked Andrew questions about tackle as he set up the next rod. For every piece of tackle used there was a lesson learned through many years pursuing big sharks.
The third rod had just been just baited up and put in the water, and as he started on the final one, unbelievably the first rods ratchet started to scream!!!
Andrew shouted to grab the rod and holy shit this was it. I was finally bent into a porbeagle shark. To be honest I didn’t really have much time to think as this fish started stripping line from the reel and making powerful runs. As we started catching glimpses of it Andrew said it’s just a baby Paddy and started laughing.
Baby or not, here in front of me coming to the side of the boat was the coolest looking shark I have ever seen. Proportionately they are very different to the blues I’m more used to, With their large intelligent looking eyes and serious teeth, and a beautiful metallic sheen to them along their flank. I watched in awe as Andrew pulled the fish aboard, it was still just after ten o clock in the morning and it was mission accomplished what a result!
On the deck the fish was wild, he assured me that the bigger ones are quieter which didn’t give me much comfort now as he told me to hold it up for the pics and just how I should hold it. The strength in this fish was clear to see and I won’t lie I was glad to be putting it back down again after Andrew took some pics. We released the fish and just as it disappeared under the boat, it hit me I could now breathe again.
I noticed my knuckles were now bleeding from the line cutting into the blank. We got a bait back in the water and settled down as I wondered if that’s a baby what will a big one feel like?
We didn’t have to wait long to find out! No sooner than I had a drink and a crisp roll as I forgot the ham, the screaming run of a porgie took off. This fish was obviously bigger and Andrew warned me to pace myself.
This fight was a different class again and pushed me to my limits, to say I was shocked when a fish of an estimated size of 150lb came to the side of the boat after about fifty mins or an hour was an understatement. I was more than happy with my first one so this was the icing on the cake.
I felt absolutely drained but elated. This was what I had dreamt about for all these years. Once again Andrew took plenty of pictures, and you could tell he must have done this a thousand times before as he always knew what would make a good shot. Even just seeing this fish on the deck was majestic. He asked me would I like to hold it? No your ok there Andrew I think i’ll leave this one!!!
With the fish released and me on cloud nine, Andrew took his only break of the day which lasted about two minutes as he ate a yoghurt sitting down at the stern. My hands and arms were left sore from this fish and I could have done with a break so I took the opportunity to sit down and try to recover a bit.
Back on his feet, and he offered to put the kettle on. The thoughts of a cup of tea now seemed like heaven. What happened next I will remember for all my life. As he stood out on the deck waiting for the kettle to boil, He caught sight of a shark, and once again on the nearest rod. I jumped to my feet and I looked but I couldn’t see it. Next of all it came back and I watched in disbelief as it swam around my bait but just wouldn’t take it. It even went under it as if to look up at it. It knew something was out of place and just wouldn’t commit.
Andrew told me exactly what to do as he gave me a masterclass in catching porgies.
Ok Paddy, here’s what I want you to do, put the reel in free spool and let the bait drop down a bit into the dark, and as I did, the shark took off like a missile after it before he said now stop it and leave it there. We waited and it still didn’t take. Ok Paddy now very slowly start bringing it back up……… Then bang it took off like a freight train and all I could do was hang on.
This was the third time for that rod and just my luck it would have to be the 20/30 class because it was set as the closest in. What happened over the next 1 hour forty minutes was all a bit of a blur now. I was already hurting from the first two and even though I had started to get a bit of a rhythm going I was in pain from the start. There were times when although Andrew was talking me through I was so mentally drained I couldn’t take it all in. To take a half an hour or so to get to the boat only for it to take even more line back off me with runs like I have never witnessed was a soul destroyer. You can barely pull off line with your hand from the clutch and here it was trying to empty your reel.
Nearly another half hour passed before it decided to start really going to town on me. I was really starting to doubt would I get this fish in at all. I felt like a runner hitting the wall. Just when I’d be feeling like I can’t do this much longer, Andrew would seem to know and with a pat on the shoulder and a ‘Your doing good Paddy my boy’ would spurn me on. This fight was killing me and by the time we had it ready to come in the boat I could feel my arms and legs burning me.
When the time came to heave her aboard I grabbed the line with Andrew and tried to pull her in. I dont think I was even pulling as he managed to heave her aboard!
Finally seeing her on deck I felt like passing out when Andrew said you’ve got a bigun there mate. This was the best fish I have ever caught but I don’t think I’ll be able to say I enjoyed the fight. I looked at the fish with my jaw open. Andrew said you have a 200lber there Paddy. We got ready for the pictures and got it measured. The final score was to 210lb. My biggest fish ever and one I had dreamt of so many times.
I had blisters on my fingers and my knuckles on my right hand were still bleeding. I had more or less been locked into fish since we arrived and when he said are you ready for another one I got the porgie fear and had to say no. The thoughts of me fighting another one now if it came staight along like the others had me knowing that I would not have been up for it. I’m not ashamed to say I told him I was happy to leave it there and he laughed and said well thats my job done.
On the way back in I tried to take in what had just happened. Sitting in the wheelhouse with Andrew we talked about what an excellent day it had been and he was happy that I had not just caught but far exceded my expectations.
I helped clean down the boat with him and he dropped me back to TY Gunkle before heading off home to Cardiff. Gareth and Trish invited me to sit with them in the garden and we had a drink as the sun went down on a perfest trip.
I would like to thank Andrew for all he has done for me, and letting me get a glimpse of what it takes to be the busiest and most hard working skipper in the UK. Spending 24hrs with him has put me off any thoughts of ever becoming a charter skipper!
I would also like to thank Gareth and Trish for their hospitality and would highly recommend their TY Gunkle as the perfect base for a group of anglers coming over for a trip with Andrew on White Water with its two bedrooms, kitchen and living room. It would also be the perfect getaway for a family as there is so much to do for the kids as well and local attractions in the area such as Pembroke castle and the many beautiful beaches within easy reach which are home to many bass. There is also plenty for the course angler to consider with commercial fisheries and lakes for pike, tench and carp all close nearby. It would also be a perfect place to use as a stopover if doing any long trips in the UK by ferry.
You can contact Gareth at firstname.lastname@example.org
And you can contact Andrew for bookings through his exciting new website http://www.whitewatercharters.co.uk where you will now be able to keep up to date with the latest happenings from White Water and much much more from around the UK.
So thanks again to Andrew, Gareth and Trish for making this my most memorable trip ever thanks guys….