I caught my first sea fish at Whitby Harbour. I was a wee Sprat myself around ten years of age. I perched on an old camping chair at the edge of the harbour wielding an old fibreglass float rod which had been obtained for a very reasonable sum at my school car boot sale. The secret to my success lay in securing the kind advice of a learned local, who had taken to tutoring me in the art of angling for tiny harbour Coalfish, or ‘Billets’ as they are affectionally known. Legs swinging beneath the old chair, I whipped rotten mussels on to a hook with elastic and fished them under a bulbous Grayling float.
Throughout a pleasant summer evening, the orange tip of my float trembled before sliding under and I filled a bright plastic bucket with tiny jewels. It was while catching these dappled bronze Coalies, I saw my first ever Salmon. Dusk was rapidly descending over the harbour, the blood orange afterglow cast long shadows, which softened the iron and industry. The pleasure was enhanced by the odour of fish and tar from the smokehouse mingling with leaking diesel and rotting weed, – an exquisite aroma. This serenity was interrupted by a Salmon leaping in the middle of the harbour which, having scented her nursery in the river Esk, was initiating the final leg of her long journey to spawn. Like a submarine surfacing with too much power, the magnificent beasts bow wave radiated through the harbour, lifting the floating weed, cigarette butts and styrofoam cartons, in a perfect sine wave.
I distinctly remember shivering as a blast of adrenaline swept through my veins, and something far deeper stirred my soul. I turned around and asked my tutor what I had witnessed – ‘Salmon, lad’ came the reply through a fog of baccy smoke. The very next cast I made, I aimed towards the apparition, but my instructor cooly observed ‘You won’t catch him, lad’. ‘I will one day’ I said to myself.