got halibut gear," said Mike worriedly.
right, of course you haven't," said Hamish, smiling amicably.
"I can fix
you up," I said firmly. "No problem at all."
is what the anglers like," said Hamish. "They do be getting them in
Scapa Flow. Twenty minutes run, that is all."
"Halibut...." I said, trying to come back, but Hamish was already in
the doghouse. Short of overpowering him and seizing command, there was no way
that I could see of getting out from under the dark cliffs that stood 1,500
feet up from the water and searching for the halibut in the open sea. I was
still saying "halibut" plaintively, after we had cast off and were
under way. Hamish smiled and nodded reassuringly and said something that was
lost in the roar of the diesel. We took a clear course away from the open sea
and into the vast sheltered inlet of Scapa Flow.
The flow is
shallow, 10 or 15 fathoms. Fast tides scour it, and it is a graveyard of ships.
It was here that the German Grand Fleet came to surrender, and it was here in
1919 that battleship after battleship was scuttled to save the final
humiliation. When the water is warm enough in summer scuba divers still salvage
the uncorroded nickel-alloy plates that the Germans built into their
it was less interesting. Enormous skates, small pollack and a repulsive species
of spotted dogfish a couple of feet long made up the population. So once Hamish
had smilingly indicated to us that we had arrived and commenced to anchor,
there was very little choice for Mike and me. I rigged his tackle for him,
50-pound-test line, a running boom to take a two-pound lead and a short wire
leader so that the bait would lie on the bottom. The technique, I told Mike,
was simple. "Let out line till your sinker taps the bottom. Put your rod
down and set the click so that it will give line to a fish but not the tide. If
a skate takes, you'll get a very short run. Do not feel that you have to move
swiftly, because a skate never lets go. Take time to adjust your butt socket
and harness. Then set the hook firmly and settle down for an hour's tombstone
last week," said Hamish lugubriously, "took three hours over his skate.
It took him two hours to get it off the bottom to begin with." Skates have
the engaging habit of using their huge pectoral fins to gain suction on the
sand, and plenty of anglers have broken out of them under the impression that
they have been fouled up on rocks. Alternatively, many anglers have hooked
rocks and have worked for long periods under the impression that they were into
All this was a
new challenge for Mike, and he eagerly tried to get interested. "You
mean," he said,' 'that there's nothing I can do except sit here and wait?
Can't we bring them on somehow?"