Talking Tope

Having enjoyed some great shore pollack fishing on the fly, as you read in my last blog, as anticipated, the worsening weather brought rain, and I mean rain. It was bouncing off the floor! But undeterred we’d hastily arranged a short evening session aboard Mattie Geraghty’s boat, Fionnuala, working out of Blacksod Bay near Belmullet in Co Mayo. We’d spend three hours heading in to dark looking for a tope.

Fishing with me were Dave Tyrrell a local tope angler who runs Wavesweeper Sea Adventures, plus Bryan Ward, a Fisheries Officer.

The rain was constant and heavy, driving across the bay in sheets and blanketing out the nearby land. We stopped and did a couple of drifts for mackerel, getting a couple of dozen, which was enough for the nights work.

Although disliking heavy mono traces for tope, I set up with a sliding ledger using a swivel tied to the end of my shock leader, then 80lb mono as the main rubbing leader, a short sliding boom and bead running free on this, then tied on another swivel. To this swivel I added 200lbs of heavy mono and a 6/0 hook. The reason I dislike heavy mono is that I’ve seen too many tope cut straight through it, plus being so thick in diameter and springy, it bunches up over and around the bait and can put shy tope off. But many skippers nowadays do not like wire as they feel heavy mono is more gentle on the fish should a fish be lost. I disagree and prefer good old fashioned wire as I never lose fish on it in the first place, so invariably land the fish and can remove the hook leaving the fish fit and well on release. But never wanting to offend anyone, I chose mono on the day.

Tope Fishing

We anchored up on the edge of a narrow channel with a rough ground bottom that carries some tide run. The tope run the channel picking off food fish as they go.

We had to wait about an hour, but then I watched a gentle couple of taps on my rod. I picked it up and had the reel in free spool with my thumb gently resting on it. Line, slowly at first, began peeling off the spool. The fish quickened and fair zipped line off. I eased the drag lever forward and felt the rod tip bend over to the weight of the fish and pull the hook in.

The fish tore off in the tide, hung deep, then bolted back towards me. It ran again, beads of water cascading off the top of the spool as the line sped out. It turned and thumped the rod tip. Pumping the fish towards me it hung deep until the last minute, then came up in the water to splash on the surface.

Easing the tope towards the boat, the crew tried to net it, but it broke the net and swam free. I desperately needed this fish for photos, and agonisingly had to let it run off some line in the tide while the lads tried to fashion a noose out of rope. Back at the boat side we were about to noose the tope, when I watched it throw its head side to side and bite straight through the mono.

Annoyed with myself for using heavy mono in the first place when I should know better, I instantly re rigged with my preferred wire trace. This is the same sliding set up, but with 15-inches of 50/60lb wire crimped to the bottom swivel. This has landed me tope over 80lbs in the past, plus it gives better bait presentation than heavy 200lb mono can.

Less than 30 minutes later I had a fish pick up the bait, run and drop it. Despite moving the bait, which often triggers a suspicious fish to follow up with a second attack, it didn’t come back.

A few minutes sped by, me still holding the rod. It was nearly dark now and getting colder as the rain found openings around my neck and wrists. Suddenly I became aware of a “presence” at the hook end. Nothing really discernible on the rod tip, but I knew something was checking the bait out. This fish was suspicious and not sure. I inched the bait away from it. This got the response I was looking for and the fish grabbed the bait and started to run, whipping line off the spool as it picked up speed.

Tope Fishing

Again I let the drag set the hook and the fish went steaming off downtide. The rain was stinging my face it was coming down that hard and this fish was insistent it wanted to head in to the weather making me do the same. It fought head down, charged off on three ever shorter runs, then hung deep in the tide run. It was just a case of heavy pressure to break the fish’s spirit. It slowly came up and I steered it in to the boat side. It looked bigger than the first. Dave, bless him, decided to hang fully over the side and grab the tail, successfully lifting the fish aboard.

This one was about 35lbs and we got the photo we needed. A very successful three hours fishing in what were awful conditions and worsening all the time.

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