When Paul Kimmage the Irish cyclist and journalist wrote his book he called it The Agony and the Ecstacy, and that pretty much describes it when I think of porbeagle fishing.
It was almost exactly a year since I had first fished with legendary UK skipper Andrew Alsop. The last time I had seen him was after waking up in his house after the Whitewater presentation night. Arguably the best skipper of his generation with so many records and high points of his career they would be too many too list here.
Declan Kilgannon one of the most gifted of Irish skippers had just had to cancel at the last minute so on that trip I would be going on my own. It turned out to be one of the most exciting experiences of my life and one I will never forget producing beagles up to 210lb.
So when Andrew told me I could come back over this year for some prime porgie dates I was blown away. The thoughts of seeing these magnificent creatures up close again was all I could think about.
This experience is too good not to share with friends and besides Declan not being there last year, my best mate and near big brother Aidan Cox was able to make it this time. Also accompanying us would be our good friend and mentor Rob and finally legendary piker Dave Horton with Declan and Billy were going out the two days before us.
We arrived at our accommodation by mid afternoon and got the typical warm welcome from Gareth and Trish that comes free with the service.
Later on Dave arrived in town and we went out to meet him.
When Andrew, Declan and Billy got back, there was a sense of anticipation as we asked them a million questions about how they got on.
It turned out they had two beagles and a blue on the first day and one beagle on their second in very testing conditions that Andrew said if they had not have been skippers themselves he would have cancelled.
With a few beers the craic was 90 and Billy had everyone cracking up for most of the night. Billy was joking with Andrew that charter boats go up and down waves not jump four at a time!
Dave later admitted he had no idea what Billy was saying for a lot of it but couldn’t help but laughing when the rest of us did.
With alarms going off on phones, it was time to wake up and the time to joke was over.
We were soon heading out to sea at a considerable rate of knots. Right from the off, Andrew was just like a conductor in an orchestra, and had everyone working as team getting the chum mixed and every bucket had a function on the production line, the Hell’s Kitchen of shark chum.
With expectations and hopes so high, I think we all thought we were going to see a fish immediately. I had three last year and sometimes maybe you shouldn’t have things so easy.
A few hours passed and spirits were high. Then at about two of clock all the gulls took to the wing, obviously no longer comfortable sitting in a chum slick.
It looked like we had a shark incoming. We all waited nearly holding our breath as Andrew spotted a large porbeagle and it was slowly coming towards the closest in bait. Frustratingly it swam past after having inspected the bait.
We were all gutted as that could have been it, until a few minutes later Rob noticed a float was slowly going under and moving off ever so slowly and suddenly it was Battlestations.
The fish moved to the right and as Andrew shouted to clear the right hand line there was a scramble and unfortunately it could not be done quick enough and that was it was all over before it got started. The adrenalin had us all on edge now but despite our best wishes that was to be it for the day.
We gave it a few more hours before it was time to head in and regroup for the next day. We were all kicking ourselves for the chance that had presented itself and to say we were dejected was an understatement. Whitewater charters don’t do blanks and that’s what makes it so successful so to hear that was the first one in seven years only added to the frustration, it would have to be us or that’s how it felt at least!
The next morning saw us back down at the marina and I could tell Andrew was a man on a mission. He is one charter skipper who really cares if you get your dream fish or not we were all quietly confident that this time no punches were being pulled.
I had already decided I would sit this one out to bring up the chances of seeing one of my best mates do battle with these strong fish.
We were going to work effectively as a team and everything came much more naturally today. We worked the chum as if our lives depended on it and I knew the guys could always be depended on when the fishing gets tough. In early shark season the fishing can be slow but that is when the big ones are usually about so with Andrew conducting the orchestra, today was going to be our day.
We were there just a few hours when the fulmars started looking uncomfortable again. We were all keeping our eyes peeled when Dave Horton spotted something and calmly said Gents there is a big shark just looking at me! As we all leapt to see, sure enough there was a big porgie coming slowly past the bow.
Who is first on the rods shouted Andrew and we all said Aidan, and as Aidan took position he was given a masterclass in tempting a beagle to take by Andrew. It seemed interested in the bait but not enough to take it. So listening to Andrew’s instructions Aidan dropped it into free spool and the shark took off after it….. we waited but still nothing.
Gently he started twitching the bait back like Andrew said until boom it took off like a juggernaut. I have fished with Aidan for many years and never before have I seen him so determined to get a fish landed. With Andrew’s new custom rods combined with Fin Nor ma 30 reels and Aidan’s resolve this thing was going no where.
However the fish had other ideas and it turned out to be a dirty fight with it continually trying to get around the props or cut him off under the boat, and this was all in between the powerful runs.
At times I thought Andrew was using some kind of black magic as every twist and turn he predicted accurately but minutes before they happened.
After about forty minutes we had the fish and all played a hand in getting it aboard where Andrew set about taking optimum care to show it The respect it deserved. We stood in awe as there before us was one beast of a fish. Andrew said you got a biggie there boys and when the chief says that you’re inclined to listen.
With measurements done and the fish kept watered constantly, we took a few quick photos and slipped it back where it swam off strongly back where it belonged and with the formula calculated it turned out to be the third biggest ever on Whitewater at 282lb. The agony forgotten and the ecstacy beginning.
We were all on cloud nine after this and the slagging was fierce as we set off making more chum with a work ethic that would make an umpa lumpa proud. After a while Rob noticed a shark which he called as a blue as it came up to inspect a bit of plastic floating in the water. Due to the calm conditions we seen it going for the bait with Dave in position, when it just took off. After a good fight Dave had it under control and the fish was brought aboard. We took some pics and and released the fish.
We gave it a few more hours and despite our best efforts there was to be no more fish and we didn’t give a shit we were all happy.
Back on dry land we said our goodbyes to Andrew and headed off for a night to remember touring the some of the finest and not so finest establishments in town.
We will be back again soon and we couldn’t recommend the experience highly enough for anyone of thinking of doing it, and to Andrew I owe you yet again….