Sea fishing: Mackerel proves to be catch of the day

Stewart Calligan sailing his boat around Flamborough Head
Stewart Calligan sailing his boat around Flamborough Head
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I have a confession to make: I’ve been disloyal to the great county of Yorkshire and ventured north of the border.

In between the East Coast boat fishing I managed a trip to the Tay river system near Pitlochry, central Scotland.

Nearly 5,000 salmon had gone through the Pitlochry hydroelectric dam salmon counter. These fish were on their way to spawn up river and expectations were high.

My hardworking friend Alan and his cousin Billy, had taken a break from their daily toil to entice perhaps one or even two of the 5,000.

No need to check tide times, swell, wind, boats or bait, only the salmon flies and the elegant dress code.

Not wishing to put a foot wrong with the latter I emerged from the hotel at 6am in tweed breeks and jacket, tasselled socks, deerstalker and a choice of green wellies or waders. It goes without saying a checked shirt and knitted green tie finished off the ensemble.

As the salmon is The King of fish, with impeccable taste, none would be able to resist my beautifully presented cascade fly.

The three of us met at the hut and began to methodically work the beats. The beats had rapids tinkling over the ancient pebbles into tranquil pools where salmon of up to 10lbs frequently lept clear of the water. Making large splashes these acrobatic fish made me catch my breath and the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

After hours fishing, an aching arm, sunburn and wet feet - leaky waders - there was nothing to show for our endeavours. No salmon, but an inner contentment of being at one with nature and doing our bit for the local economy.

On my return to Yorkshire and it was time to seek out a place where fish were guaranteed; where you can take the fish home and where it does not cost two months’ pension to fish. Yes, back on the Yorkshire coast we had a flat sea, gentle south westerlies and high tide at about 2pm.

The only fly in the ointment was the height of the tide at 6.9 metres which meant the tide carried the boat along at 5mph when it is best at half that speed.

There was only me and Rob crewing, enjoying pushing the boat through Bridlington Bay in excess of 25 knots with rooster’s tails of spray and a big wake of churned water.

Where the tides met at Flamborough Head it became a bit choppy and I noticed I only had 6ft of water under the boat. When these big tides are out it makes it pretty shallow round the head where the rock fingers reach out for hundreds of yards. The ‘Yorkshire Belle’ pleasure boat was giving the Head a wide berth and I followed suit.

Once we’d navigated around it I hugged the coastline near the cliffs looking for diving sea birds which are sure signs of underwater predatory action.

The only birds we saw were groups of gulls gently bobbing along with the occasional squawk.

About one mile north of the Head a commercial fishing boat was anchored about 50 yards from the cliff face and its customers were catching mackerel after mackerel.

We stopped a respectful 200 yards away to the north east, switched off the engine and cast in our pink shrimp mackerel feathers.

About mid-water, 20ft down all hell broke loose. The line and rod went crazy. I had five large mackerel and Rob had four on the first cast.

The next cast brought a few less but there must have been an extremely large shoal under the boat and the fun lasted for a third-of-a-mile drift. We sailed back to where we started for a repeat performance.

With a bucket full of mackerel for friends and family we moved to a proven cod spot, yet after several drifts we found none. This was to be a mackerel day and will keep us stocked up on omega 3 well into winter.