Using a line, a hook and bare hands to catch supper can be one of the most rewarding methods of fishing, add the control required to balance your own boat in the swell and you’ve got some real fun on your hands.
But it can’t be claimed hand-lining is a dark art only revealing its secrets after years of dedication. Hand-lining is simple, so simple it’s hard not to feel six years old when doing it. The method reminds me of childhood fishing trips where adults had rods and those too small to see over the side of the boat were given hand lines – a simple bit of equipment looking a little like a reel of yarn with a hook on the end.
The notion of catching supper with bare hands relies on a pinch of theatrical embellishment. Most fishermen, aside those in Hemingway books, wear a pair of sturdy gloves – line cut and shredded hands aren’t a pretty site at the supper table and gloves ensure tight lines give fish no quarter.
The fish being hunted and the depth the species is expected to be found dictates the choice of rig – a few feathered hooks for the shallows and mid waters or some hooked bait for fishing the seabed. If you’re over a reef it can be fruitful to fish the bottom with some baited mackerel or rag worm and the fun is found with feeling every nibble and bite through the line many feet below.
I use a 100 ft long WaayCool kayaking hand-line which is plenty deep enough as I try to avoid wrestling with monster fish if I can.
But, with warming waters, come larger fish and, in October 2013, a monster was indeed caught in the Hebrides just off St Kilda, it was over nine feet long and weighed in at 37 stone. Scotland’s first yellow fin tuna had arrived.
If this fish had taken a hand-line bait from a kayak it would take more than a sturdy pair of gloves to pull it in.