Shark School

About twenty years ago give or take half a decade; I decided to give an ex-girlfriend a Geoff Thomas Fishing Calendar for Christmas. I thought I was the funniest fecker alive and I had finally found an equivalent present to the 3-pack of socks that us lads are often left with. Like socks, the calendar had a practical use in that she could circle off impending dates but there weren’t any topless firemen. She would have to stare at boring pictures of snapper and boring old fishermen. The funny thing is: if I was to receive a Geoff Thomas calendar now, I’d be over the moon.

I’m going to try not to sound like Geoff Thomas here but it’s going to be hard. I have an insight into the minds of these old sea dogs now and I actually really like sea angling – go figure. In these recessionary times, to literally put food on the table for free is a welcome bonus but as any sea angler worth their salt would tell you, there is sport in it too. Some fish put up more of a fight than others and it is those belligerent types that help the angler craft his taller tales.

A Tope - Chalk me down for three...

A Tope – Chalk me down for three…

I caught my first shark the other day; in fact I caught my first three. The Tope or ‘School shark’ is a small shark but can grow to two metres. Of the three I caught, one was particularly feisty. It saw the boat upon surfacing, dove under the boat, tangled another line and then finally got pulled in. For the brief time it was on board it bit holes in the knee of my waders rendering them useless (see ‘The Price of Teeth‘ for an insight into the teeth of a shark) and generally made a nuisance of itself scattering strips of mackerel about the boat. I admired the shark’s spirit but I had to let it go. When I got back in, those six hours of competition fishing felt like five minutes. When you get hooked, you get hooked and those fish that put up a fight create that time lapse.

My wife has often quizzed me after a long day on the boat. ‘What do you talk about? You couldn’t possibly have enough to talk about?’ Back on shore there seems to be this natural urge to fill up every minute with conversation however inane it can be – nattering if you will. But on the boat a quip or joke might suffice for thirty minutes. There is a respectful silence interrupted by a running tally of those caught and released. For me there is an element of meditation to it. I am visualising what’s going on in the deep dark depths. I am thinking about anything and everything and sometimes a simple nod will do the job of a paragraph.

Unfortunately this post won’t contain a picture of me with the largest of the Tope. You see, you can’t teach an old sea dog new tricks and one of those new tricks is how to work a camera on an iPhone. But it just makes me keen to go out and get another. It’s hard to explain to these land-lubbers what makes an angler keep casting the line even when you’ve had a bountiful return. It’s not greed. Greed is for corporations and companies that pillage the ocean on a daily basis. We keep very little. It’s really about searching for that one big surprise of the year – like a calendar in your Christmas stocking.

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