It was despite deteriorating weather that we set off for Donegal. For this trip was after bluefin tuna and together with Irish albacore expert Mike Dennehy, and friends Rob Vaughan and Gary Farrell we made the long drive North.
We arrived at the Kilcar lodge at about nine thirty at night and after checking in we headed out for a few pints with all thoughts on the tuna. Leaving the pub we noticed the trees were blowing sideways so we were doubtful would the trip even still go ahead. We were to meet Irish Bluefin record holder Adrian Molloy in Killybegs at 7.30 am so it was now or never.
After a good night sleep and an excellent breakfast we set off for the harbour where we were met by Adrian. He had brought a stand up outfit for us but with the weather against us he warned us it might be best not to try on a day like this.
On the way out we were met by quite a swell but we made good progress at 17 knots. Once outside the harbour Adrian starting getting the lures ready and attached to outriggers.
It was not long before Adrian started spotting tuna long before we could. We steamed on and sure enough another few minutes later we could see all manner of birds dip feeding the surface. This was to be our first bait ball of the day and we watched in awe as gannets took turn in diving through the tuna that were thrashing the surface to foam.
Getting closer it was jaw dropping to watch these leviathans of the sea demolish the bait ball. There were many loud shouts of excitement as every now and again one would go airborne just a few rod lengths out from the boat. You can see it on telly or look at photos off it but nothing could prepare you for such a spectacle. All too soon the bait ball was all but gone, they had decimated it and the tuna dispersed also. So we went back into bird finding mode to locate the next bait ball.
Adrian’s knowledge of the area is phenomenal, and together with his years of experience he has gained a unique insight into the habits of the bluefin tuna. So off we went again, locating and creeping up on the tuna. In between all the action there were periods of inactivity as well. It was 9.20 when the first out-rigger popped. We barely had time to register what happened before we noticed it had hit the lures but failed to commit.
Adrian brought in the trace and it was mangled from just one hit. He quickly cut it off and attached a new one as he told us that any little chink in the armour so to speak, could result in a lost fish. The same thing happened about an hour later and we were wondering was the sea just a bit too lumpy today. Either way we were happy just watching more fish.
Every now and again Adrian would alert us to fish marking on the sounder sweeping up towards the boat and we would wait on edge, but frustratingly no more takes.
It was about half one in the day and we hadn’t seen any surface activity for about an hour. Mike was in the wheelhouse with Adrian, and Rob, Gary and myself were out on deck talking about cars when suddenly we heard the crack of the outrigger and we had about a nano second to think “what the fuck just happened” before line started peeling from the reel at a speed I have never seen before. I was absolutely frozen just watching it all unfold. With a shout from the lads of fish on I almost went into meltdown as I grabbed the reel. the fish started peeling off line again and I got a glove on my left hand.
Once the fish stopped running it was a struggle getting its head up and trying to gain some line. It was a dogged struggle and and Adrian and Mike reminded me to pace myself and there was the usual banter to keep me going. Even with the glove the line was cutting into my left hand and I prayed it wouldn’t make more runs which of course it did when it seen the boat and realised it was hooked. The fight was to last about forty minutes I think though to me it seemed like an eternity. With a last dive or two we had it in and Adrian took control of reviving the fish. I watched gobsmacked as there was my first bluefin tuna and it looked even more impressive at close quarters with it’s liquid metal cheeks.
The fish was estimated to be 250-300 so I’m going with the 250 and even though we didn’t get to fight one standing up maybe I’m glad I didn’t! A few days later Mike got one of his own boat the Silver Dawn off West Cork and the fight went on for five hours fifteen minutes so I’m still getting shivers thinking about that one!
We kept at it up till the evening but in the end we had to call it a day as the lads had a long long drive back to Cork.
What a day it had been, from thinking we wouldn’t get going, to catching my first bluefin it was a mental day. Adrian’s knowledge of the fishing was a sight to behold and I have definitely never meet someone with the eyesight he has, it was a joy to watch him do his thing. You will be hard pressed to find a harder working skipper.
On the drive home it hit me that after catching the albacore with the lads a couple of weeks earlier I was now the only person in the UK or Ireland to have caught both species in home waters though anyone feel to correct me.
So many many thanks to Adrian, Mike, Rob and Gary and roll on the rest of the Autum…..