Sunday, 3 January 2016

Knowing What You Know Without Knowing It

 One of the nice things about fishing is renewing acquaintance with areas you have fished in the past. You relearn things that you once knew by heart. And so, I went to Clover Point to fish the run to Brotchie Ledge on Christmas Day, a run I once knew by heart.

The tide and current tables were thus: reversal of ebb for the Race Rocks Current Tables at 11 am; and, low tide at 1 pm for the Victoria waterfront. In other words, good fishing from 11 am to 2:30 pm, the bite occurring after the low tide/current reversal. 

The gear was put out, on the port side, medium anchovy in a pearl teaser, with a glow green flasher, and a Coho Killer Splatterback, Purple Onion flasher on the starboard side. The port rod, most easily seen and adjusted from the captain’s seat, was put to 110 feet, and the other at 100. This way, only one downrigger ball hits bottom at a time, granting time to deal with it, but not two at the same time.

I typically fish this run on the 110 foot contour, erring a bit deeper, meaning aiming for 110 at the shallowest and 120 on the deepest. With braided line, the balls are much closer to counter depth than with thicker stainless cable. The gear was fishing properly at 10:45 am just off Clover Point, giving time to motor to Brotchie, turn and fish with the tide on the change.

Well, the flood had started earlier than expected, and a half hour into good fishing, the boat was still barely making ground on Clover, and wasting time, fishing into the tide. So, the gear was brought in, the boat moved to the breakwater side of Brotchie, and the gear once again put down.

The Brotchie Ledge reef is long and comes out at an angle to the eastward side of perpendicular with the shore. That means going over it shallow and dropping to water of 150 feet before angling in to shore. Before the next bit of structure, Holland Point, a narrow, canyon trough, the port rod popped from the downrigger, on the ebb side of Brotchie. The fish didn’t seem large until the surface, where it turned into a winter beauty of 14 lbs. While I considered filleting and farming out portions to various relatives, friends and hangers-on, the fish slowly came to net.

Head just entering the net, the next-second groaner was the treble getting caught in the web. And for several long, helpless seconds I watched, until the single ripped free, and the fish swam slowly away from my plans. The line was rebaited and put down, while the boat circled to Brotchie, then turned east toward Clover.

A small fish jiggled the port rod and, when retrieved, proved just short of a meal for two, and was jiggled from the hook, also to swim away from human plans. The boat turned and a White Lightning Coho Killer replaced the starboard spoon, its glow white looking very sexy. Then my pearl head decided the wire was too loosely rigged and refused to work, because a bit of tooth pick had become stuck in the front leader hole, until taken home and refashioned.

The bait replacement was a glow green teaser with anchovy, with flasher changed to Purple Onion. Seriously deep for my contour plan, a third fish popped the port rod, and on careful retrieval to the boat proved to be a ‘chunky’ 3- to 4-pound winter. Without using the net, I lifted the leader and fish into the boat, which I do commonly for fish of 8 pounds or less, only to find it slipped the hook, plopped into the water and etc.

The White Lightning spoon was replaced by a four foot leader to a glow-green and yellow teaser and bait. Then the long slide across the Flagpole ‘reef. This is a wide apron of mud, and so a downrigger sliding across it causes no damage, as long as the tackle is 8’ above the ball clip, to account for flasher revolution.

Surprisingly, the starboard rod came free of the release clip on the flood side of Clover, just before the bump for the Outfall. Halfway to the boat, the fish, the fourth bite, also came free, and a lot of expletives got released from my back deck where bait was reassigned and put back to 100 feet.

Several hundred yards to the east of Clover, a bump I had forgotten over the years, read on the depthsounder/GPS and then it was clear trolling across to Trial, where the GPS revealed a good wall a half mile out and perpendicular to the middle of the island. This was the end of the trip, short of the good rock a couple hundred yards to the west of Trial that often gives up a fish, and the boat roared back to the dock its captain empty handed and cheesed.

And of course it was of great amusement to my buddies at the gym the next day that of four bites, all four had been lost, on a day that the gods persecuted the fisher with a little too much bad luck. The good luck was four bites, meaning the gear and fishing strategy had been correct, and on a day when karma swings toward the human, a winter chinook or two may be coming home with him, meaning me.

I also had a chance to fish a couple of the slim spoons that can be so good these days. They are very light and it is not a good idea to lift a fish with the spoon as that bends the spoon and may destroy its fish-catching magic. Also, the hooks are diamond shaped, presumably to grant purchase on a jaw on a hook without a Kirb. On the other hand, these hooks rust, and have to be replaced, the issue being whether a Siwash or Octopus-style hook will leave the spoon unbalanced or not. But that’s a good reason to go out another time and, reacquainted with the run, do it again.

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