Phew. Right now I'm sitting on my sofa in Inkoo, and the Finnish countryside is being ravished by wind and rain. I have to admit that the main thing in my head is "WTF happened ?". Not a negative one but just a bit baffled by the past weeks.
So, were was I, oh yes. After having a good rest and focusing on composing some kind of a strategy from the very few GPS points I had, I felt ready to get going and try to dive well and pull out some congers from their crevices.
My strategy can be summed as the shortest line connecting 5 points. Pertsa described the strategy very well "aika ohkasta" = "pretty thin". I knew he was right but felt that its my time to show that thin is more than nothing.
We went down to the piers on the first days morning and were met by a mess of half naked divers dressing into their combat armour and Croatian sentences and names being bellowed out over a megaphone. I found my happily drunk driver and the boat seemed fine as well. While running out of the harbout to the starting place outside Punta Critsa the engine started to cough and it was ineviatble that we needed to get another boat. Once at the start Pertsa was in his element. Yelling like hell to get a boat with an echo sounder and a few minutes and a lot of shouting later we had changed boats and lost no gear in the process.
At the start we headed straight for my best place with 3 rocks full of holes. All three rocks had a conger in the scouting. I found the first rock immediately. After the locating dives I prepared to dive down for my first fish. Breathe up, dive. at about 12m I look down at the rock and WTF!!! I see the big conger swimming on the bottom at 24m! SHIT. ok, calm, calm kick slow, glide down you can get it no worries, shit its going under the rock there hurry, but careful....the conger had its nose in the rock when I hit it with my 65cm gun. The 4 prong hit well in the neck and the spear was bent to hell by the big worm trying to go under the rock. I pull him out and start going up. Then I realize that the line is tangled in the rubbers and so I can't use the reel. ok. cool. grab the squirming conger and up we go. The conger is a 10kg mama and not comeing willingly. On the way up it pushed my mask of my face and I could barely see the surface with one eye. At the surface Pertsa reacted quickly and we got the gray boa into the boat before it tore loose. YES!
I checked all the other holes but no one home. The wind had ripped up a strong current from the south and diving to 20-24m to check the holes was hard work. Just before leaving, Daniel Gospic zoomed in and dove down to my first rock to get the big guy, who was currently lying lifeless in my boat. Gospic soon left without a fish from that rock.
Next to a hole which had 2 congers in the scouting. The place is at 25m and could have sargos as well. Some small sargos were there, but no snakes. The current was much slower here and diving considerably easier, yet result-less.
My last GPS point was a rock at 21.5m and we found it very well, the led weight of my buoy, was leaning against the rock. The hole I had seen the conger in was empty. I checked most of the rock for more holes, but nothing. The rocks beside were also empty. shit. I was just going to give up, when I thought that the end of the rock where the weight is lying may still have a hole I have not checked. I go down and 20cm from the led weight i see a small opening. I look in and there he is! grinning his conger grin in my face. I slip my gun in the hole and he backs up about half a meter. I give the shot and he slips out easily. After that all easiness ends. The conger suddenly turns and wraps around my hand, bending the spear in its head so that I can see the prongs on the tips of the spear. The fish is breaking loose!
I reach the surface with my arm hurting from the powerful grip of the fish squeezing the spear shaft against my arm. I start yelling for Pertsa in the boat but the fish is breaking loose and I have no grip of the fish, but the fish has gripped me ever so hard. I find no options but to grab the squirming conger by its lower jaw with my teeth. So, here I am, exhausted from the long dive, with a fish wrapped round my arm, biting it in the mouth and screaming Finnish swear words and Pertsas name between my teeth as loud as I can!
We got the fish in the boat and it was free from the arrow! close call, but now i have 2 fish! YES! I continue looking in the good rocks for another hour and find 2 congers, but too small. The Russian boat right next to us got a conger with 3 minutes left of the first day.
The first day is over and we feel fine. At the end line we realize that 2 conger is not so shabby as many have nothing or one fish. Some guys have the same catch as I do. Gospic of course had 10 congers and 2 swimming fish. Or 10 congers and two FISH, as the locals say. Carbonel is second. Joseba had a bad day as 2 congers broke loose and also some overlapping GPS points with Pedro made things more difficult as well...
Pete had a good chance to get some fish, as he found them under big bounders, but could not get his long gun in under the rocks. You live you learn. I shot both my fish with a 65cm gun... Tapsa shot a big dorada but as it was also under a rock and his 110cm gun was fully loaded when he whacked it, the spear broke and the fish was lost. Bad luck! I was happy to be on the 15th place after day 1.
I slept very well during the night and woke up really ready for the days work. If my first days strategy was thin, my second day was even more so. I had 3 GPS points, 2 of which I did not trust. So I headed for the only one I trusted, but was a bit apprehensive about the difficulty of the place. Its a rock the top of which is at 27m and which has a cave in its side at 29m. But I feel fine and not so nervous as the day before, so maybe.
Just as we reach the site on the east side of the island of Unije, the southerly wind dies down and a crazy cold gust comes screaming down the hillsides from the north and whips up big waves and a current. I hear the boat guy say that we cannot stay here. I ignore him and tell Pertsa to stay close.
I'm struggling in the current and the waves break over my back and into my snorkel. I dive to check my position and once more were in the right spot and I can even see the corbs waaaay down there. Ok, coooool down and breeeeeeathe. I moved my self to the calm and sunny lake Heramaajäarjvi in Häme, I visualized diving to the bottom of that 30m deep lake and sitting there smiling for some time before retuning to the sunny Finnish pine forest. My heart rate goes down. I focus on the Croatian Corbs for a few seconds, and down I go. I reach the rock and the fish are a bit nervous. I aim at one outside the cave, but just as I'm going to shoot a bigger head appears from under the rock. I switch target and hit my corb perfectly behind the gills. All I need to do is to go up and reel him in. its a 1.7kg corb (also called brown meager), so beautiful!
I go down again and the fish are really twitchy. I have to be quick and give the next biggest corb a bad hit high in the back, he breaks and darts into the cave. I decide to go down to the cave and shoot him there. I dive to 29m and shine my torch into the cave. I can see the bigger one for a split second and it disappears. Then i see shiny side of a fish an shoot. When I pull the fish out I can see its not big enough and I go up. I fumble and the fish gets away from me. It was not valid, but not a penalty fish so no matter.
After this the corbs remaining had gone down into the cave so deep that I could not see them any more. My conger was not at home and my sargo place at 26m had only one big enough fish, which ran like hell before I could even think about shooting. Just before the end we return to the corbs, only to find Kerejeta there, at the exact rock. We ask if he saw them but no. I give it a couple of dives and now when the wind has calmed I reach the entrance for the cave real easy, but nothing, just as Joseba said.
That's it my competition is over. I wish I had the second corb. I'm exhausted from diving all day between 21 and 29, but happy to have caught something. I wish we had more time to scout and more knowledge about this kind of fishing... I dropped to 23 place, a disappointment for me. We work hard and end up at bad positions, tough, tough, tough! Well, I guess 4 days of scouting can't be considered hard work in these difficult waters, and we learned a lot about fishing, scouting and competing in these waters.
The ceremony was nice and the Croatians made the roof lift when their boys showed their immense catches. Gospic got 10 congers and 6 fish! Boratovich came second with a shitload of fish and Di Silvestri from Italy came third, with considerably less. I had a hard time following the ceremony, because of my exhaustion, both mental and physical. These competitions put strong feelings in me and at the end the mixture of extreme feelings of joy and pain just empty me.
All in all this was a good trip, which clearly showed that we, the Finnish spear fishermen, need to rise our gaze, move our point of focus higher, away from our toes, further into the distance, where our future success awaits us!
The corb-cave was the most beautiful and demanding place I have ever fished. I'm deeply thankful to the goddess of the seas for giving me the chance to dive with those beautiful and mysterious fish of the deep.
Dive safe, over and out!
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