One thing you have to remember when you stare at that photo of that massive cod, is that the captor didn’t simply step off of the plane in Norway, find somewhere that looked fishy, and simply proceed to catch that fish in an instant! Even in Norway, with the all important local knowledge and the right equipment and methods, it’s still a question of putting the hours in.
Yes, by taking a guided fishing holiday you are saving yourself many many fruitless hours and lost tackle because that’s what the guides have done before you even board the plane. They’ve learnt the methods that work for each particular mark, they know when to be there, where to cast, what bait to use, which rig works best and all the other things that combine to make a successful fishing session. But even with all that the fish aren’t constantly on the feed (they’d explode if they did that!!). So you have to put some hours in. At least you’re not fishing blind, you know the marks history and its potential, so you have to accept some hard work to realise this.
But sometimes everything falls into place. Sometimes it seems that being at the right spot at the right time is enough, and every time you send out a bait the rod arches over and the line starts to peel from the reel.
One such occasion was in Saltstraumen a few years ago. I’d studied the sea charts to a specific area for a while, and had concluded that the fish could be holding in an area, just out of the strong currents, so decided to give the mark a try. I arrived mid afternoon in late February, so at this time of year it’s getting dark by 5, with darkness proper by 6pm. I decided to fish short range, just on the edge of the main current, and dropped a bait about 30 yards out. Within 5 minutes the rod gives that tell tale sign that there’s a fish taking an interest in your bait. It gives a slow gentle pull down (often the sign of a better fish), straightens, and then proceeds to bend into a big curve and the ratchet screams into life as the line starts coming off of the reel. I immediately pick up the rod and connect with a decent fish. The ground in front of me is snaggy and has sharp ledges, so I’m using a longer shock leader than normal, about 10m, plus I’m using .45mm line of about 30b breaking strain. My rig is tied with 150b mono, just for longevity and security should something huge come along. Ok, so the fish takes a bit of a dive, but soon comes under control and I bring it in without too much trouble. The pulley rig keeping my lead clear of the snaggy rocks. It’s a cod of about 8lb. What a lovely fish and a great start. I’m pleased to have discovered a new mark and my hours of planning seem to be worth it.
The next cast and it’s the same thing, and the next, and the next. I’m fishing 1 rod only, with a spare rod set up ready to take a rig just incase I lose the leader on the fishing rod.
This catch rate continues into darkness, and I’ve still got 3 hours of tide to fish. I’m up to over 15 fish by now, and the only difference between the fish after darkness and the ones before are that they seem to be getting bigger. I start to catch doubles amongst the 8-9lb fish. And these doubles start pushing towards 20lb. The last fish I catch weighs in at 22lb, and seeing as it’s a “twenty” I use a bit of time to take some photos.
This leads to a 15 minute recovery for the fish, until it swims away strongly. Sadly, this totals 30 minutes of time between casts, the tide has stopped and I don’t get another bits. But counting my tally I’m at 27 fish for well in excess of 300b
I’ve lost no rigs, lost no fish, and every fish has swam away strongly. it’s been an amazing experience and I’m rightly chuffed!!! I return to the mark the following night and I lose 6 rigs and catch nothing over 2lb. The fish are too small to make the pulley work effectively and it’s one of those awful sessions! It clearly demonstrates how it’s a combination of everything that’s needed. I had the right equipment, the right mark, but it wasn’t the right time obviously!
Sometimes it’s not numbers of fish that make the night. Sometimes it’s one fish that does it!!
One example was when a group came over in March 2016. They had a fair bit of shore fishing experience and wanted to have a go at the big cod that sometimes get caught at Saltstraumen. The first day was tough, the winds were terrible to even try most of the favoured marks, so we decided to head a bit further afield. It was a slow day with a handful of cod to about 6lb and a lost halibut. It was hard going so we decided to take a break, have some hot food and then pop down to a mark within Saltstraumen for a short 3 hour session as the winds were easing off enough to make fishing just about bearable. I proceeded to help the lads set up and get baits ready. I explained the mark and where they should cast. With 3 lads all fishing in fast currents it’s important that they all know where each others baits are landing, and what to do should they get a decent fish.
Anyway, within literally 30 seconds of one of the guys getting his lead set we notice his rod start to bend over. At the same instant the wind picks up and a blizzard blows straight at us. We can barely see his rod tip, but his reel tells us that something big has picked up his bait. I help him in the initial stages of the fight, making sure he has a good footing, checking his drag isn’t too tight, and giving him some gentle heckling about how he doesn’t want to lose this fish or we’ll all be laughing at him for the rest of the week! As the fish gets a bit closer I climb down to where they always pop up, ready to grab it. I have a gaff, but prefer to grab the cod by the gill covers as they are normally put back if they’re over 15lb. I can’t even see the line as the blizzard is unrelenting, but eventually a huge cod breaks the surface and I’m perfectly positioned to grab hold of the fish. I ask the angler to release his drag completely incase it slips from my hands, then I climb back up to the 3 wide eyed lads and put the fish at the feet of the captor. It’s weighed on our calibrated scales and at 43lb is his first ever double figured cod from the shore!!
We make a quick video and take a couple of photos and I then climb back down and release the fish. Half expecting a 20 minute recovery, it flares its gills, kicks its tail and swims straight down to where it came from.
The lads are all ecstatic and the next hour passes without another fish, but they don’t care! They decide to cut the session short and head home for some more food and a celebratory beer. What a cracking start to their holiday, all down to one big fish.
We’ve seen lots of big cod since we started running these tours, countless doubles, many many over 20lb, a handful over 30lb, that 43lb monster, and then there was Codzilla itself.
If there was ever a fish where all the stars aligned and lady luck shone on events then it was for that night. The angler, Tom Ascott was about midway through his holiday. Since he’d stepped off of that plane he’d had one intention and one intention only, to catch a big cod. Even when we were at certain marks trying for halibut Tom set out his stall for a big cod, knowing his chances were slim. He wanted to try his hardest so that even if he came away without seeing one, he would at least know that he’d tried his best and not given up and fished for smaller ones. Everything he did he checked meticulously, he listened to all the advice he was given about rigs and lines. He learnt how to fish effectively in very deep and fast moving water, and how to get fish moving when they’re 200 yards from you and they’ve gone to ground. And importantly he also taken onboard how to be pragmatic about his chances of landing the fish. There’s only so much you can do with a really big cod, and if you’re unlucky then you’re unlucky, don’t think about it, enjoy the fight and do your best.
So, Tom and his mate Stu are taken to another local spot and get themselves set up. Tom quickly proceeds to catch a cod of about 11lb, followed on his next cast by one of 15lb. He’s a happy chappy and also he’s really pleased to be using his new found skills to great effect and getting these fish in against the odds. It all just clicks and he realises that with the right methods it’s not such an impossible place to fish.
About an hour later things have gone a bit quiet. Stu and Tom are watching the Northern Lights when suddenly Tom’s rod starts to move. It quickly develops into a major bite, which if he’d of been fishing with a locked drag would of meant a lost rod. His reel screams as line is ripped from the spool. Tom reacts and connects with what is surely a massive fish. It strips 200 yards of line from his reel in one run. Luckily for Tom the fish then stops, turns 180 degrees and swims against the tide till it’s gone past him by another 150 yards. This fish has simultaneously emptied, filled and then emptied his reel within a couple of minutes. Tom’s trying to stay calm, telling himself “what will be will be”, but his mainline is grating around an underwater obstruction. Suddenly his line pings and goes slack. Tom feels gutted, thinking the snag has cut his line. Then bang, he feels the fish and realises it was just the line breaking out of the snag and the fish is still there. He’s elated!!! Eventually the fish breaks the surface about 75 yards away. It’s completely spent so now it’s just a question of carefully bringing her ashore. As he brings her in she just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Stu does the honours and jumps down to grab the fish. What he throws up (with one hand!!) is unbelievable. This thing is off the scale. It is bigger than any cod I’ve ever seen, from both boat or from the shore. It is 1.5m long and weighs 66b 8oz
It’s a new world record cod from the shore, beating the previous record of 44b that had been caught 50 years to the week earlier. Tom is on his knees and in tears, he can’t believe it has happened. Yes he had the luck on his side, but he’d set out on his mission, he’d planned ahead and checked all his tackle constantly and he’d done it. I’m sure if one thing on his tackle was just 1% weaker he’d of lost that fish. It was all those subtle differences again.