September 17, 2010

A Whirlwind in Europe - Ydra (Day 3)

This was a highly anticipated stop on the trip. Not only was it a beautiful island that had retained much of its charms, it was also the top fishing destination on my travel.

Ydra is a relatively small island in the Saronic group. There were only a few motorized land vehicles on the island. I saw on one of them during my stay…a garbage collection truck. Most people depend on their own two feet or donkeys to get around the island. Some people also use boat travel to get to more remote areas.

All the streets were cobble-covered pathways maintaining is old world charm. Most of the streets also travel up slope from the port. It’s not a friendly place for people with walking difficulties.

This island was also a favoured holiday destination for the rich and famous apparently. As such, accommodations came at a premium and prices in general were higher than most Greek islands.

Arriving at the guesthouse, there was only a desk in the lobby with no one around. I waited for 20 minutes and no one returned. There was only one floor of rooms at this guesthouse. There were three rooms with keys hanging on the door. Two of doors had a note with some Greek writing (identical note). The other did not have a note. I took one of the note to the streets and had someone translate it for me. “Room for Mr. Panothrop”…or something like that. It certainly wasn’t my name from what I could tell.

After another 15 minutes wait without any service, it was enough. I had confirmed my reservation with the guesthouse owner that I was arriving so one of the room had to be mine. By simple deduction, I just took the only available room without the note on the door. It has to be mine.

The room was very nicely appointed for a price of 55 euros/night. This was actually the cheapest accommodation available on the island!

The view from the roof top balcony.

I left a note on the desk stating who I was, how long I’ve waited for service, the room I had chosen, and when I was expected to return if there was any issue. That’s as much as I could do.

There was no time to waste at all. There was already 45 minutes of delay to my original schedule so I dropped my luggage and quickly went to explore the island. Luckily, I spent my time rigging up the rods during the long wait for service.

A quick photo of the port of Ydra Town.

Much thought was given at home to research for suitable fishing locations. GoogleMap was not much help since the resolution of the maps were rather poor; however, the pictures people had posted were a lot of help.

I found the swim platform located near one of the seaside cafe. The first look into the water revealed many small damselfish, scattered small school of tiny mullet and some small school of small baitfish.

Presented with that scenario, the first choice was to use the float rig, 4lb fluorocarbon and #20 hook to try add the damselfish and mullet to my fish list.

Chumming with bread brought the fish into a feeding frenzy. The first cast with bread bait quickly resulted in a new species. Although it was not my original target, it was still one of my top targets to catch on this trip.

7” Ornate Wrasse (Thalassoma pavo)

Two more casts later there was another good hit. Yet again, it wasn’t the damselfish...but another new species, one that was apparently a local delicacy even when they were smaller in size. The locals called them gopa.

5” Bogue (Boops boops)

Casts after casts, the bogue took my bait while the damselfish just could not take the hook. I would have caught enough bogue (even at 5-6” size) to make a decent meal…had I knew the local actually eat them at that size.

Finally, the decision was to change tactic to try from some of the predatory species. My friend Eli had advised me the use of dropshot rig with 1oz sinkers. Certainly, that was the rig of choice for fishing the rocky and steep sloping bottom. A #8 baitholder hook was set 12” above the weight. My weight actually consisted of a 1oz sliding sinker with two splitshot crimped above and below the sliding sinker to keep it in place. The line was threaded on the sliding sinker twice to make removing the sliding sinker much more difficult. The benefit of this rig was to allow sacrificing the sinkers if they snagged on bottom. Surprisingly, only 4 sinkers were lost through two fishing sessions.

Shrimp was my most dependable saltwater bait after so many previous experiences. It was the first bait tried and it was only 2 casts later that I caught a 7” painted comber. This picture was actually from a fish caught the next day since the picture of my first comber turned out blurry.

7” Painted Comber (Serranus scriba)

My first painted comber was deeply hooked and bleeding profusely. I did not think it would have a realistic chance of surviving, so I tossed it to my fishing companions.

These fishing companions rule the island. They could be found all over the place hiding among rock, hanging out on the streets of rummaging though garbage. Some of them look so malnourished that I tossed a few fish to feed them. Of course, the one in the picture was one of the larger ones and probably quite well feed.

A couple more painted combers later, another new species was caught.

7” Comber (Serranus cabrilla)

Combers species are territorial fish. After catching a few of them in quick succession, the fishing slowed to a stop. Walking 20 feet away and casting at a different angle resulted in another comber. The next cast in the same area, my bait was hammered and the rod was in full bent! This was certainly a better fish. After a few deep diving runs, the fish finally came in reluctantly. I was pleasantly surprised with my first parrotfish species! FishBase actually listed the common name as Parrotfish.

Parrotfish (Sparisoma cretense)

This parrotfish was 13” long. When reading through the different travel guides, having a fresh fish dinner in Greece was one of the top things to do. With that in mind, this fish was destined for the table. :D

The bites on the dropshot rig were very slow. It was time to revive the float rig and try for damselfish and mullet again. Of course, those little bait thieves managed to miss the hook every time. Soon, light was fading and I couldn’t see the float anymore. I tried fishing the drop shot after dark but there were no night time bite. At 8:30pm, the decision was to return back to the guesthouse to shower, then find a nice little restaurant to experience my fresh fish dinner.

When I returned to the guesthouse, the owner was at the desk. She actually apologized repeatedly for not being at the desk. Apparently, there was a confusion between she and her sister about who was working on the day. Her sister had traveled to Athens thinking it was her day off leaving my host clueless that no one was stationed at the desk. She said I had guessed the correct room and hope that it was fine. I did not trouble her at all.

After that was settled, I took my shower and went looking for a nice restaurant. It was really only 30 seconds away from the guesthouse when a friendly older lady waved me to the little place. They spoke only a little English, but between some gesturing and some broken English, her husband took the parrotfish to the kitchen to put it on the grill. I ordered a Greek salad to make a proper meal. As a note, if you sit down at a Greek restaurant, a generous basket of bread would be served. It would provide enough carbohydrates that you wouldn’t need another carb-rich dish.

Here’s the Greek salad with an awesome slab of cheese…

…and the grilled parrotfish…

What a meal!

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