After a busy few weeks with work it was great to know that the opportunity for a session on the kayak was on the cards again.

An acoustic survey of herring stocks in the waters north of Ireland and west of Scotland saw me living on RV Celtic Explorer for three weeks. On the water; yes but the fishing was entirely different to what I would be used to!

Three weeks at sea were followed by a couple of very busy weeks on land and kayak fishing opportunities were scarce due to workloads and weather systems not wanting to collaborate to allow me to leave the shore. I finally knew that there was a stretch of a couple of days last week and with the conditions perfect for the time of year there was only one place that I wanted to go to; back home on the east coast where tope should be patrolling.

Arriving after dark I decided that the best course of action would be to greet friends and family that night so I could free up the following morning to get out first thing. Imagine the next morning - my shock, dismay, anger, frustration and disgust directed towards the radio as it spewed out a warning about microbiological pollution along the stretch of coast that I favour. The microbiological pollutant just happened to be E. coli, seeping out of waste treatment plants that had been overrun by a deluge of rain in the previous couple of days. I wasn’t going paddling through that. Breakfast; ruined!

So the tope were not going to feature on this trip back home. I decided to stock up on tope traces as an alternative to fishing. I make my own wire traces for predator fishing, be it in the salt or for winter pike in freshwater. I like to know that all traces have been made by me, the principle reason being that if it fails I have nobody to blame but myself. While over the years some components of the traces have varied, the hooks have remained a firm favourite; ‘Cox and Rawle Meat Hooks’ are my ‘go to’ pattern for tope fishing. Depending on the size of the bait I make up traces on anything from a 6/0 to a 10/0.

These Meat Hooks are very sharp and incredibly strong. I have joked that you could possibly tow a car using one of these hooks on the end of a tow rope. They really are a quality product and have stood the test of time.

At the other end of the trace I like to use a heavy and reliable swivel. This comes in the form of ‘Cox and Rawle Stainless Steel Crane Swivels’. Like the ‘Meat Hooks’, the swivels are very strong and trustworthy. The move freely and do exactly what they say on the packet very efficiently; swivel!

Another excellent feature of the swivels is their strength to size ratio which makes for a very slim profile in return for a lot of power. The slim profile lets you offer less resistance to the tide and helps to get your bait down faster and hold it on the bottom, very important on the east coast of Ireland with its powerful tides.

Joining both ends together is some plastic coated wire. This ensures that the tope’s sharp teeth will not make short work of your rig. I crimp the hook and swivel and I make sure that the wire passes through the crimp three times to eliminate the possibility of slippage.

Up until very recently what I have described above was exactly how I made up tope traces. This time a change has been made. ‘Cox and Rawle’s Mitsu Circle Extra’ hooks caught my eye a couple of months ago and I have to admit that they intrigued me. I have used ‘Meat Hooks’ for many a year and I am usually of the opinion that if something is not broken then it doesn’t need fixing hence sticking with what I know.

The ‘Mitsu Circle Extra’ hooks look the business. Heavy, forged, sharp and with a good barb it should be a hit for the tope and the shape of the hook will hopefully encourage ‘lip or ‘scissors’ hooking which is good news for ease of unhooking and releasing the fish unharmed.

Some of the traces were made up with the ‘Meat Hooks’, an equal amount were made up with the ‘Mitsu Circle Extra’ hooks. A trial is imminent!

E. coli has kept me off the east coast and now westerly winds are keeping me off the west coast, for the moment. I will not get to go back east for at least a few weeks but the stretch of shoreline that I fish throws up a larger than average tope for unknown reasons. They will be present until early October at least, plenty of time to get amongst them. But until them I shall have to make do with images of past glories. And this just makes me want to get there faster!


Tope 1

Tope 2

Tope 3

Tope 4