10/10/2018 - Mad for it!

This year the boys' trip abroad saw us heading off to Madeira for a change. Once again, the LRF gear and a heavier, multi-purpose outfit was packed in the "toy bag". A bit of research, including a re-read of Scott Hutchison's excellent blog, came up with a list of potential spots not far from where we going to be staying in Calheta on the south of island. It also highlighted the fact Madeira had recently brought in the requirement for a licence for shore fishing. The on-line application process was simple enough so, rather than play the ignorant tourist, just 4 Euros got me a 30 day licence for "pesca apeada" from the Madeiran Regional Directorate for Fisheries.

An early flight from Stanstead saw us installed in the villa by lunchtime. It was only a quick, 5 minute car journey from there down to the beach and the marina, so a trip to the local supermarket was combined with a few cold beers and a recce. Whilst it did not appear that fishing was allowed within the marina itself, the large concrete blocks forming the breakwaters and sea defences provided alternative options. At the far end of the beach a couple of local ladies were float-fishing with what looked like multi-hook rigs baited with bread and one of them duly pulled out a small bream, so things looked promising.

The following day we went for our first walk along one of Madeira's many freshwater channels, or levadas, to the "25 fountains" - along with every other tourist on the island it would seem! The pool below the waterfall at the end of the walk was full of small trout, which greedily attacked any spare morsel of bread from our sandwiches. To try and catch such obviously hungry fish under public scrutiny seemed a bit rude, so I waited until we were off the beaten track before going stalking with a bit of red angleworm on a small jig head. First cast into a tiny, gin-clear pool below an overflow saw a follow and a take from dark, heavily-spotted rainbow trout. I added another one a couple of casts later before the remaining fish in the pool spooked. Didn't bother them any longer as I'd achieved my goal of catching a Madeiran trout and the others were already getting bored, so it was back to the car and down to Calheta.

After a bit more shopping the LRF rod came out again and I headed to the end of one of the breakwaters. Casting a dropshot rig baited with angleworm past the concrete blocks, I was instantly rewarded by a fish, albeit a familiar one, in the shape of an ornate wrasse. I had suffered these in plague proportions in Gran Canaria, so I wasn't surprised when a few more of these followed. However, a longer cast onto the sand eventually resulted in a new species for me, a two-banded sea bream.

Unfortunately, fishing close to the blocks started to become expensive in terms of dropshot leads, so after a few more wrasse we headed back to the villa.

The following day we were up early and drove into the interior again for another walk. The route up to Madeira's "sugar loaf mountain, the Pinaculo, was along a levada cut out of the side of a basalt cliff and was at times vertigo-inducing, but the waterfalls and views along the way were spectacular. After lunch we headed back down through dense cloud to Ribeira Brava. Whilst Rob and Duncan headed off to find a coffee, Stuart and I walked through the tunnel to the working harbour on the other side of the headland.

Walking to end of the harbour wall we were soon dropping our rigs into clear, but incredibly deep water. It was soon obvious that there were loads of ornate wrasse about as shoals of them dashed out to intercept our baits as they dropped down the wall. Casting further out I managed to get a bait on the bottom, where it was snaffled by a colourful Madeiran rockfish. The angleworms we were using periodically came back chopped up like beads on a string, so I wasn't surprised to eventually land a puffer fish, albeit a new species - the Guinean puffer.

At this point we were rudely disturbed by a returning tuna boat, so I clambered down onto a flat concrete platform on the other side of the breakwater. Again, it was difficult to keep the bait away from the wrasse, but I eventually managed to catch a few Canary damselfish , another rockfish and a tiny Macronesian sharpnose puffer.

Stuart hadn't risked climbing down with his dodgy knee and I'd been baking in the sun for long enough so, after losing a few more dropshot leads, I packed up and joined the others, who were also a bit frazzled and in need of a swim. As a dip in the harbour wasn't really on we headed back along the coast to Calheta again. However, rather than join the other son the beach, I decided to head off to where we'd seen some locals fishing. Due to the rocky nature of the bottom I set up a caro rig with a 3" straight worm on a Tict jig head. After I few casts I started getting a few pulls and eventually hooked into a hard-fighting, little derbio.

Moving on to the adjacent beach I followed this up with an Atlantic lizard fish before my thirst got the better of me and I went back and joined the others for a couple of cold beers. 

The next day I was feeling distinctly worse for wear after consuming several more beers, a couple of gins and a bottle of red wine and by the time we had wended our way along the twisting coast road to Porto Moniz on the north coast, I having difficulty holding my breakfast down! After checking out the natural swimming pools we headed down to the working harbour. The predominant catch of the small fishing boats appeared to be small tuna, pole-caught and then butterflied and left out in the sun to dry, and grey triggerfish.

Peering down into the deep water of the harbour I spotted a few fish including a small barracuda and a zebra sea bream. I'd never caught one of these before so, despite my delicate condition, Stuart and I got the rods out while the others went to find a coffee shop. First drop down the side of the harbour my angleworm was taken with a thump. Thought at first it was the barracuda, but it turned out to be a decent diamond lizard fish instead. Had another next drop down into virtually the same spot. However, it was quite slow after that and, whilst we had a few puffers, rockfish, wrasse and damsels between us, it was hard going in the sun. Walked along the wall a bit and dropped down next an obvious piece of debris on the bottom to have the bait taken with a thump again, this time by a female parrot fish.

By the time the others came back I was desperate for a cold bottle of coke, so we packed up and headed home via the supermercado. Thankfully I was feeling much more perky the following day and, after a stunning walk to the source of the Levada Novo with more waterfalls and vertigo-inducing views down into the valley below, we dropped down onto the coast again at Paul Do Mar. Again, a small harbour at one end of the town provided me with another fishing opportunity while the others sat on the beach and swam. However, the harbour itself seemed to pretty featureless and barren, with just a few wrasse and damsels swimming up and down the wall. Casting over the sand in the hope of a flounder or a weever didn't result in anything, so I was soon back with the others for a swim in the natural pool under the gaze of the naked mariner.

Rather frustratingly the swimming pool was full of fish, including mullet, several species of sea bream and a big shoal of salema! 

I had one more session over the last couple of days of the holiday back down at Calheta, but only added one small lizard fish to my tally. However, we did have a little bonus when we dropped into Jardim Do Mar and found the village was having it's Saint's Day. Tucked around by the church we found a "pop up" bar serving ice cold beer, potent local liquor served in thimble-sized glasses and big plates of limpets, or lapas, with lemon and garlic butter for just a few Euros. Tasty and a bargain!

Overall, it's always tricky balancing the needs of a group, so I wasn't too disappointed that I'd not managed a few more sessions, or caught a few more species. We'd only really scratched the surface as well in terms of searching out suitable fishing spots. Plenty to go at next time as I'd certainly go again given the opportunity. Cheers Madeira!

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