We Are Pirates | Julian Jurkewitz
When you think of pirates, what comes to mind are ships, adventure on the high seas, discovering new places which are not reachable from land, storms on the angry sea, and treasures of pure gold. Have you ever hungered for it? I mean really hungered for the life of the pirates? We have! The desire to live free off the land as pirates has always been in us. We were born in the wrong era.
As a young boy, I watched all the pirate movies, fought the air with my sword for hours, and played as if I was fighting on the high seas. I wore torn and cut jeans, and always had a revolver holstered on my side, along with my sword on the other hip. In my room, hung on the ceiling, fastened on a large wood beam, there was a rope on which I could climb, or more importantly, I could use it to swing onto enemy ships and capture them. My father got me a pirate hat, complete with feathers, from a theatre, and, of course, there was even the eyepatch.
My friend Alex and I are always wild for real adventure. Too often is the word ‘adventure’ used by carp anglers, and it has become something of a fashionable thing. But for only a few does the worth of the word really mean much more than the normal adventures of everyday life at home. Is it really an adventure to fish a worn-out artificial lake in southern France, and soak your baits while you sit with a cool beer with the sun warming your face? For many it seems so, but we wanted more.
Somehow, we were becoming tired out. Carp fishing from the shore on the most well-known waters was just too boring for us. We needed a new challenge, one where carp fishing was just one part of the adventure. We wanted to be like old sea dogs out after the fish, and experience more while facing the unknown dangers to come. A line from the series Sea Wolf, from the year 1971: ‘It excites when life is hanging by only a string. Man is just a player against nature and life is the greatest thing you have to lose. The greater the danger, the more it excites!’ This was the excitement we would come to feel in the first part of our new direction.
A Pirate Needs a Ship
If we were going to make a go of this new direction, then we first needed a boat with which we could discover new paths. A well-known catfish angler, Patrick Gölzer, just happened to be selling a well kitted-out Boston Whaler fibreglass boat with which we could start immediately. The first trip was in May 2015 on the French Moselle. After 48 hours of non-stop rain, we were greeted by quickly rising water levels. Each one of these stumbling blocks was sent to try us, yet they just pushed us further along. They made for more fun, and at the same time provided us with motivation. Without these challenges it would all be boring, right?
We had to give up in the main river because the current was too strong, and too much debris was coming down to fish. We headed into the city of Metz, and anchored our boat alongside the wall of an old church. Years earlier, Max Nollert had written an article about this holy spot. We were thinking that the carp would be making their way out of the main river current and into the quieter water within the city. We were proven correct, as within a few hours we were playing fish after fish.
Another trip was made in June, and we arrived to find that it was spawning time. Even so, with the help of bright pop-ups, we were able to catch one or two carp. Right in the margin under the bushes was where the bream were spawning, and it seemed that the carp had turned into spawn-robbers, and at the same time found our hookbaits.
Our Biggest Adventure to Date Started in the Summer of 2015
We were now used to the boat, and had it all figured out. The ropes flew through the air, the anchor was lifted, the straps were tightened, the fenders were placed. It was clear that we knew what we were doing, and every action was like a well-oiled machine. Between Alex and me there is this special connection, where each of us knows what needs to be done, and we work as a great team. Everything seems to go very smoothly. The trip on the Moselle was good training, but now we were looking at a new challenge.
An undiscovered and massive area awaited us. The only information we could find, after many days of searching French Internet sites, was about carp caught 50 years ago, which were over 30kg. These were caught by the locals using nets. It seemed as though carp anglers had never tried their luck there. Why? In the summer of 2014, during the filming of my first DVD Wild Rivers, I had tried to fish these waters from the shore, but there was no chance. Even back then, I had the feeling that it was a bit too boring. I thought I might try fishing there with an iBoat 400, and who knows, if the boat from Alex hadn’t come along, we might have still tried it.
The planned trip had to be filmed, but I needed a cameraman who was just as ready for adventure as Alex and me. In order to manage the boat properly, there were two people needed, so there was no way that I could film at the same time. After a few phone calls, Luis Niedergassel said he was ready for the mission.
As always, the weeks before the adventure dragged. There was much planning to be done and we had to be ready for any situation. Just to be careful, we packed tents which break down small, in case we were forced to sleep in the bushes on the shore. There wasn’t room for comfortable beds, and everything was kept to a minimum. There wasn’t even enough room for Luis to sleep on the main boat. It was settled before the trip that he would sleep in an iBoat 320. We had two of them on hand as equipment carriers.
The Wild Delta of the Big Rhône in the Camargue
When talking about the big Rhône Delta, it’s really the last few kilometres before it flows into the Mediterranean Sea at Port Saint Louis – a really old fishing village. When we arrived there we had the first problem. Where could we leave the car and trailer while we were on the river, and not have it gone when we returned? We ended up paying a big parking fee (three figures) for a carp park which had video surveillance, in the hope that it would be OK.
We arrived early in the morning, and were immediately greeted by the mosquitoes of the Camargue. Luckily, they are only active from the evening until the morning, but that was bad enough. During the day, it was as if they were swallowed up by the ground. After we got the boat in the water, we headed down to the sea, made a few jumps over the Mediterranean waves, and then back to the ferry stop near Salin-de-Giraud. This was the area we wanted to fish.
The first impressions of the water were incredible; such sights we hadn’t seen up to this point. The area was completely overgrown in some sections, with trees 30m tall just lying there. Everywhere was full of wood, and the water boiled with fish; they jumped everywhere. Wels catfish were chasing prey, and smaller carp were launching themselves out of the water like dolphins. There were so many types of birds; even flamingos flew over us. It was unbelievable and exactly what we were looking for.
We first anchored the boat on the shore in the middle of what was like a mine field. There in the wood there was certainly carp to be found. After we had a good spread on the rods, Luis caught a few mullets for the grill. The first cast was a success, and each one after that. It was fish paradise! The first carp, a small common, came after sunset. Until the morning we had other bites, but it was very difficult to land the fish, and the current we were fishing in wasn’t to be ignored.
We decided to move a bit higher up the Rhône and anchor near a salt factory, where there was a big side bay and no great amount of current. I had to lead the way in the iBoat while Alex followed in the big boat. It was the only way to make it through the sunken forest. Even with all the care we took, there were a few times when the propeller hit wood and we cringed.
The Carp El Dorado
It smelled like fish, and we caught one after the other. Luis had fun because he used a Wels catfish rod and a cage feeder to catch carp right next to the boat, but the problem was the size of the fish. I don’t think that there was a carp over 12kg. There were just too many small fish in the area, so we decided we needed to try for bigger fish on the edge of the fast current. I set out two rods with large breakaway stones on the edge of the current, which dropped to 10m. The next morning, I found out how much power the big Rhône has. Even the large stones were pulled, off and both rods were very much stuck.
The Sinking Ship
The first day we were lucky with the wind, and at that time of the year, it’s very rare that the wind would not be blowing. Most often there was a powerful breeze which blew over the river, and we were about to experience this power of nature. As I awoke in the morning, the anchored boat pitched from side to side and the wind hammered against the tent. We checked the weather and our options. There were storms predicted for the next few days, and we needed to search out a place which offered protection from the wind, as where we were had no shelter at all. The size of the waves was getting bigger and bigger, so we no longer felt safe there.
I manoeuvred Alex out of the bay and into the main river current, and what happened there raised our adrenaline levels to off the chart. Alex set course for the sea, as we wanted to set up behind an island, but two giant waves came over the front of our main boat. We went up and down and were in danger of losing our lives. On the left and right, we had the two iBoat 320s tied off. All three boats were packed with equipment, and the rubber boats were filling with water. The weight slowed us so much that it was as if we had an anchor overboard. It was unbelievable. The huge Mediterranean waves were pushing into the Rhône, and we were right in the middle of it all!
The excitement gave us an unreal adrenaline kick. There was no way we were going to make it to the island in those conditions. The next large wave came, and Alex cranked the wheel in an attempt to take evasive action. The short Mediterranean waves were almost our undoing. The boat was turned 90°, so the next wave came at us from the side and almost flipped us over. I think that the iBoat 320 prevented the worst, and actually kept the boat upright. The bilge pumps were operating at their maximum, and I jumped into the rubber boats and began bailing out water. On the waves we rode the Rhône, but at least we never got swamped. What was Plan B?
The Shipping Canal
The saviour was the shipping canal, which the large steamers use to reach the Mediterranean. There were no waves there, and we attached ourselves to a large metal post so we could take a look at the situation in peace. Joking around, I said: “Boys, here in the canal is where the big Rhône fish live!” And it wasn’t even 5 minutes later when Luis saw a large carp roll near the boat.
We fired the rods out, and not 15 minutes later came the first screamer. The fish shot out with unbelievable power, and the line broke immediately as it ran across a totally rusted metal post. But it didn’t take long before Alex had his second chance. This time he held it with all his power, and we were rewarded with Rhône gold. We were over the moon about the team effort it took to find this treasure. And after all that had happened, it was clear to us that we had all earned a photo with this fish because we all had a hand in the catch.