When it comes to covering a story on fishing, I can certainly take some additional interest in it when it crosses over with my own pursuits. I suppose I was lucky in as much as I was catching my first Blue marlin in my early twenties, and sharks were already being racked up when I was 19.But aside from the UK shark scene, there were comparatively few British anglers about that actually did go foreign fishing. When they did, it was inevitably after sharks, which were their favourite species. For my own part I went the whole range. From chasing line class world records (had three at one stage) to Bonefish and Blackfin Tuna on fly, right through to write the first story on the White Sturgeon of the Fraser River, where so many go for their “big fish fix” today. But after a while you burn out a bit, and my own waning was when I did eight grander Sixgill sharks, with a 1,500 pounder on stand-up 80. I didn’t know where to go after that, as it was almost un-toppable.But meeting Zyg Gregorek down in Devon, it got me revitalised, when I realised he was covering the very same route I had done a quarter of a century ago. It was quite invigorating, as Zyg has not so much approached his Big Game fishing with enthusiasm; he has virtually launched a war-sized assault! If there is a target he wanted to achieve, he kept piling in the trips until he got it, and believe me, I know all about banging in the trips. I once ran seven straight blank days in Mauritius after blue marlin, determined to get one on my favourite lures. But the fish were deep due to commercialling on their prey, the bonito, so I had to resort to a downrigged bonito to break the duck. Blanking is something all big fish anglers take for granted, as there are always less big fish around than smaller ones. It’s almost par for the course, and if you can’t take the blanks, then give up pursuing really big fish, of any species.
Zyg runs an enormous complex of freshwater fishing lakes (now there’s a surprise!) and superb accommodation as his aptly named “Angler’s Paradise” in Devon. A few days after I dropped in to see him, one of his anglers had landed a 52lb Catfish. While he has obviously freshwater fished, it is the draw of the unknown that gets him going.”Big sharks are good fighters, but they don’t have the stamina that big marlin and tuna have “he told me. I couldn’t agree more, and if you got a 30lb Blackfin Tuna in one of Zyg’s lakes it would never be landed by anyone using freshwater gear. One point I did learn from Zyg, was that even though it might mean he has to leave his business in mid-season, then that’s what he will do, in order to be in the right place at the right time. Those places could be off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Trolling the Watamu Banks in Kenya for Pacific Sailfish, or dragging plastic lures alongside the mountainous island of Gomera in the Canaries, searching for a Giant Bluefin Tuna, or big Blue Marlin. It is, I confess, the only way to go. In one respect I would say that Big Game fishing is easy. You just throw money at the best boats and skippers until they catch you what you want. But you still have to be in the right place at the right time. And getting that “right” information can be critical.”I can’t stand being literally taken for a boat ride” said Zyg.” I have been caught a couple of times when the skipper just wanted to use me to fill an out-of-season booking, but they forget I will want to come back with my business every year. If I catch any big fish, and have a straight, honest experience, I’’ll be back. If I get treated wrong I won’t”. I confess to having had that a few times, and these skippers fail to realise that word of a bad experience travels far and wide when talking to other big fish men. A good day’s fishing can work in their favour if they tell the truth. I found one story I wrote on the White Sturgeon of British Columbia’s Fraser River generated over $100,000 worth of business for the guide service, with my group spending $2000 in one evening in the guy’s tackle shop.
Zyg is currently amassing an impressive total of Big Game fish, and this is reflected in his unbelievable bar down at Angler’s Paradise. It is built just like an Africa or Hawaiian thatched bar, and aside from all the drinks available (watch his local wine!), the room is a museum of collectable animal and fishy artefacts, the largest I have ever seen. There is everything from a Rhino head to a Tiger skin, a Hammerhead shark to a Blue marlin coming out of the wall. YellowfinTuna, Dogtooth Tuna, Dorado, Roosterfish, Mahseer, Barracuda, Wahoo, Sailfish, you name it. All the tables in front of the bar are made from wood he had sawn from his own property, and there is a collection of sea shells that the British museum would surely be proud of. Most impressive item for me was the enormous set of Great White jaws behind a glass cabinet. I had seen plenty of them when I fished in South Africa, but it’s not until you get up close and personal that you realise how wide they open. I would think I’m about two-bite size, and I still wonder if it’s wise for me to hope of catching a British version in my tiny 17-foot boat.
Zyg has plenty of his own wine on tap, and I do mean plenty. How about 2000 gallons in his cellar, but watch out, its strong stuff, and all too easy to swallow. As for his complex, it covers an enormous 170 acres, and of that he has acres of fishable lakes. Zyg built this entire complex over the years, constantly reinvesting, until he can now offer anglers 17 lakes to fish in, with carp, catfish and trout fly fishing all available. In one lake there are over 60 carp ranging from mid-doubles to twenty pounders, and if you think that’s good, his specimen lake has 8 thirty pounders, and some nudging 40lbs ! It all makes you wonder why he just doesn’t stay at home and fish in his own lakes. If the fishing is good, don’t be shocked that he doesn’t have a couple of log cabins and a campsite. His idea is to offer anglers a choice of 38 luxurious villas, fully equipped with TV’s, cookers, fridges, microwaves, free night storage heating, and the furnishings are a mixture of antique and modern, including four poster beds. If you get tired from catching all those fish how about the games room with pool table, the tackle and bait shop, the indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi or sauna. I’m actually surprised he doesn’t have Koi carp in the swimming pool! But remember the name….Angler’s Paradise. That’s surely what it must be.
The salt spray still draws him, and although he travels for the big foreign species, his first shark was actually caught off Padstow in 1996,a Blue that weighed 40lbs.This soon gave him a taste for more toothy critters and in 2000 he latched into a Great White off Struiss Bay in South Africa, in the 1,300lb range. Not many anglers can go from 40lbs to 1,300 in just a scant four years. He has now caught nine species of shark listed by the IGFA, ten species of billfish (which really is quite something given the rarity of both Longbill and Shortbill Spearfish), and eight species of Tuna. To catch this coveted 27 he toured around 150,000 miles as far afield as Madeira, Mozambique, Ascension Island, The Galapagos Islands, Mauritius, South Africa and Australia. He has spent over 18 years chasing the big predators, and finished his shopping basket of species with a 200lb Thresher shark caught off San Diego.
As for tackle choices he favours Penn International, especially after he won the Marlin World Cup using 50lb line. The second year he went back he was sponsored with Penn Tackle, 50lb IGFA trolling rods, International 50w reels and Senator Line. For competition work, high points always go to the angler landing on 50lb test, with less points for 80 and 130.When he fishes outside of competitions he favours the big guns of 130 and 80,as targeting really big fish can result in breakoff with 50lb test. He lost his three best marlin lures fishing them for big fish on 50.As for models, he likes the ISLAND lures, with tandem hooks at 90 degrees. The problem since 9-11 is now airport security, and while you might think it’s impossible to hijack a plane with a marlin lure, the powers that be in airport security don’t see it that way. So he now tends to use whatever lures are on the boat. The same goes for excess baggage with rods and reels. It’s such a hassle to get it aboard that he now relies on boat tackle, as long as they have a few sets of the heavy stuff. As for lengthy battles the longest he had was three hours on a 220lb blue marlin on 50lb test. He also had a major 2 ½ hour battle with an 1100lb Tiger shark in Kenya. One of his most memorable battles was on just 30lb tackle with a Swordfish in the Pemba Channel with skipper Simon Hemphill. Unfortunately Zyg lost that fish.
His recent expedition to Kenya saw him latch into superb sport, and in just six days they caught 17 marlin and 10 sailfish, while his daughter Zenia, completed a rare billfish Grand Slam by catching a Black marlin, Striped marlin and Sailfish in the same day. While that is super fishing for the Watamu coastline, the biggest marlin catch in history, I recall, came from a big Game boat up in Magdalena Bay on the Pacific coast, where they landed a staggering 72 Striped marlin in one day!! They were hooking them up four at a go as they located the main migration of Striped marlin heading south for the winter. While several of his catches have come as a sideline to marlin chasing, I did detect he yearns to catch more. His latest expedition is aimed towards the Isles of Scilly, where he intends to go out on continuous day and night chumming trips in an effort to pull up a Great White shark from British waters. While he certainly has the enthusiasm in his favour, it unfortunately works no wonders when it comes to the inconsistencies of the British weather. I try to string just three days in a row together to get to the 3/500lb Porbeagle that we tag each year off Boscastle, but it’s almost impossible. Quite frustrating when you know the fish are there for just about three or four weeks. But the way Zyg approaches it is undoubtedly the way to go. I like to pioneer places myself, and by just investing in a hunch you are more than likely to come up with a blank.
Early this year I had a call from Swansea skipper Rob who wanted some Porbeagle marks. It was early, but I gave him a couple. He steamed two and a half hours from Swansea to North Devon, fished all day, fished all night, and fished all the next day. Not a Mackerel, not a shark to be seen. But just think how he would have felt it he wired up a 400 pounder, or even latched into a White. It is these sorts of trips you have to do. Go the extra mile, and still blank. Zyg obviously doesn’t like blanking, but it’s a price you pay for pioneering your sport. The Isles of Scilly are the furthest point south-west you can get from the UK. Only fifty years ago the French and Spanish were trolling Albacore there, and even a Big eye Tuna was caught in Penzance harbour. If you used St.Mary’s as a base, and then headed out 40 miles, you would be early EIGHTY miles out. Species to catch? I reckon White marlin, Swordfish (definite) Big eye and Albacore (they already catch them off Ireland, and who knows, maybe a Great White. One thing you can be sure of, Zyg Gregorek will be one of the first trying it out, and if this summer gives good weather, come next winter you might be reading some impressive headlines.
BIG FISH WATCH OUT…………..ZYG IS ABOUT!!!!
For more info on Anglers Paradise contact Zyg on: www.anglers-paradise.co.uk or Tel-01409-221559
COPYRIGHT: Graeme Pullen. All rights reserved.