Here’s a brand new clip by Seth Hughes offering an insight into the double life of Newquay based surfer, father and fisherman Adam Griffiths.
I remember an afternoon a few winters ago, several hours into a tireless hunt around the Cornish coastline, standing with Adam as he stared intently down into a cove where choppy waves, cut apart by howling cross-shores, were crumbling onto a patch of boulder-strewn sand.
His wide-ranging quiver and even-keeled enthusiasm mean that he’s almost always just out there. But as we watched the waves dribbling into the bay, it was clear this wasn’t the goose we’d been chasing. He didn’t seem perturbed by the fruitlessness of the detour though. In fact, I’m not even sure he’d noticed the waves at all. Instead, he pointed down to a little cluster of rocks, cheerily muttered something about bass and vowed with a grin that he’d be back in the summer with his rod. Fishing spot found.
He first got the fishing bug about eight years ago he tells me when I catch up with him down on Great Western beach, where he runs a surf school and restaurant during the summer. He was working full time as a surf instructor, spending long days in the shallows, getting buffeted by summer whitewash and hooting kids into waves. “I just couldn’t think of anything worse than putting a wetsuit back on to go for a surf after doing four lessons a day,” he remembers. “But I wanted to be by the sea, so fishing off the rocks became my way to relax.”
As his interest grew, he soon found himself researching knots, lures and shoaling behaviour online. “You spend loads of money and chuck loads of lures in the sea when you’re learning,” he says, “but when you catch your fish it’s such an addictive buzz, it gets me every time.” After a couple of years casting off headlands, he got himself a little boat and set out to explore the potential out beyond the waves.
Over the following years, his life slotted into a schedule in sync with the seasons, with each week’s itinerary bound tightly to the whims of weather and waves. In the winter, he’d spend his days searching for long peelers or hollow tubes along his native coastline, jetting off occasionally to compete on the World Longboard Tour or the Surf Relik, returning home numerous times with a podium finish. On cruisier days at home, he’d go surfing with his wife Holly, herself an excellent longboarder, or hang on the beach with their young daughter while she surfed. Then, as spring beckoned, he’d roll out the foamie racks and fall back into the rhythm of the surf school, sneaking out on the boat whenever time and conditions allowed.
As time went on, he began to develop an intimate understanding of the shallow reefs and rocky outcrops where bass convene just off the coast, combining newly learned fishing lore around moon states and tidal flows with a lifetime of surf knowledge on the effects of wind and swell in every little cranny of the local coastline.
At some point he realised, if he got hold of a license to sell his catch, he could actually make a bit from his more fruitful days out on the water.
While most commercial fishermen take their haul using large nets, strung out to sea or dragged behind a trawler, recent regulation around sea bass aimed at preserving stocks offered much larger catch entitlements to those, like Adam, fishing with a rod and line. Of course, it’s a far more sustainable method, as there’s no bycatch and smaller bass can easily be unhooked and thrown back alive. The shallow water where they feed also offers the chance for smaller boats to catch the best fish. Licenses were restricted to existing fishing boats, so Adam took out a loan and bought one up.
Although the activity now makes up a substantial part of his working life in the summertime, he definitely doesn’t love it any less than in those early days. Of course, there are grim outings, when it’s freezing and you catch almost nothing, but for Adam there are so many experiences that make it all worth it. Like trundling out into the bay in the mirror-flat dawn, with the sun rising at his back, with seagulls feeding on the surface and dolphins and sunfish breaching up ahead. And the moment he arrives at his spot, cuts the engine and casts his first line. “It’s just nice being out there with the silence,” he says, “no engine noise, just the slap of the water and a little rock on the boat.”
Or in the evening, working the lure across the surface, with fish flapping and leaping in the low golden light. “Visually you just can’t beat that,” he says, “then that moment when you hear that sound of the drag and the reel screeching and it takes a bit of line…”
Of course, he’d still rather spend a day snagging six-foot tubes he tells me, but soon it’ll be winter again and no doubt he will.
All Photos @lugarts