I got a text message from one of Plymouth's best shore anglers this morning, telling me that he had finally gone and done it - last night Rob Yorke landed a 43lb conger eel from the River Tamar, and I know how much this fish means to him. Well done Rob, you deserve this fish, I know how hard you have been chasing a 40lb plus eel. They are a hard fish to come by at that size off the shore.
Conger eels are one of the most powerful fish we can catch off the shore in the UK, and the 40lb mark is a true milestone to get past. Immensely powerful fish that require serious dedication, personally I have never got past 40lb off the shore, and I have spent far too many hours of my life trying. I know how hard it is to land a fish of this size, having lost one over 50lbs on the gaff when I was at university, so my respect for what Rob has done is huge - the monster I lost some years ago gave me nightmares for months afterwards. I also lost a huge eel when we were filming I think it was for my first TV series, but that is another story..............
Below is Rob Yorke with a nice mullet he caught from the tiny Channel Island of Sark a couple of years ago when we were across there in winter. You will have to go a long way to find a nicer guy or more accomplished angler than Rob, so I could not be more pleased for him - it is one thing to set yourself goals in fishing, but to achieve them is another thing entirely. He has had more good fish off the shore than a lot of us put together, and I know how hard he works at it.
I have been asked a lot over the years about the people in fishing that I really admire, and I always answer the same - I have no time for "fishing celebrities or experts", or people like that (the word "expert" is one that I have a particular dislike for in fact). But I do have the utmost respect for fishermen who really know their fishing - the fish, the water, the tides, the feeding patterns and times, weather influences, reading the water, etc. The kinds of things that take years of dedication to accumulate - watercraft, one of the most important and often overlooked things in fishing. These are the kind of anglers that I strive to learn from.
Canon 1D MK11, 24-70 f2.8L lens (at 45mm), ISO 320, f4.5, 1/200
The River Tamar is big fish country - hard to fish unless you know the tides and conditions, and tough because you are going to blank more often than you catch when chasing good fish. But nowhere in the UK has thrown up more big eels over the years, including Martin Larkin's current shore record of just over 68lbs. We all know there are far bigger fish down there, but getting them out is another matter entirely - fish that can swim as fast backwards as they can forwards are somewhat expert at exploiting weaknesses in your gear, and also at getting back into some kind of sanctuary. I hate to think of the number of times these things have smashed me to pieces, with a certain degree of disdain as well !!
The most famous big fish marks in the Tamar are Devil's Point and Mutton Cove - both spots chuck up big conger eels, plus lots of decent thornback rays and some nice cod in winter, plus anything and everything at times. You have to fish these places to realise just how deep and tidal the water is.
Rob said he fished for only two hours last night, with Mark Bryce, and the successful bait was mullet, a known big eel bait. He said he hit the fish and literally held it as hard as he could, to stop it diving back down and breaking him up. It must have been some sight to see that thing coming up in the headlights. Mark helped Rob get the eel out of the water. Well done guys - that is a serious fish.
While those two were out fishing, I was watching one of the most exciting Wimbledon finals I can remember - while I really wanted Federer to get the six titles in a row, I have to say that Nadal deserved his victory. What a match, I could hardly watch for the whole fifth set it was so tense. It must have been amazing to actually have been there and watched it live. It has to have been some of the best men's tennis ever played - you would not find me facing one of those serves, I would be going down fast with a convenient calf injury to get out of the way of those howitzers.
Is that more rain I can see out of my window ? Surely not...............thoughts of emigrating are becoming all the more frequent.