Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Light game fun in Croatia : Split.

Arriving in Split in the evening we were pretty tired so we ate a huge takeaway pizza in the apartment, drank a few beers and had an early night. With the hire car at our disposal for the duration of our stay in Split I got up early and went fishing in the mornings. Split is surrounded by the sea on its northern, western and southern sides so I wasn't sure where to go but with a fairly strong wind coming from the north on the first morning I headed to a couple of small rocky breakwaters on the south coast of the city. I was hoping to find some predatory species feeding but the sea was pretty calm and there was no sign of any activity on the surface. I tried some small hard lures and metals to see if there were any larger fish hunting deeper down but didn't get any interest at all sadly. Switching to soft plastics on a drop shot rig immeadiately had me catching rainbow wrasse, painted combers, a few types of seabream and some greater weever. 

A saddled seabream. They have quite a strong pungent smell to them. 
The light of the morning sun shimmered nicely on this annular seabream's scales.  
A greater weever. These can be tricky to unhook and I'm probably pushing my luck with the thumb grip. My mate Nick was stung by one when we were on Fuertaventura back in February and months later his finger still hasn't recovered fully. 

In the afternoon on our first full day we headed to Vranjic, a small peninsula to the north of Split, to visit an aquarium there. It was pretty cool and as well as a lot of tanks full of fish it also had some pretty awesome artwork on its walls including a rather wonderful John Dory.

I'd love to catch one of those.

Afterwards, before we had lunch, I had a few casts over a sandy area on the north side of Vranjic and caught lots of juvenile gilthead seabream, black gobies, a couple of peacock blennies and also my second new species of the trip.  

There were large shoals of these juvenile gilthead seabream. Cool little fish.
Peacock blennies are pretty funky. There were lots of them in the spot where I fished and they were very aggressive, fighting with each other over my lure.  
My first ever brown comber. The smallest of the comber species found in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea.

Later in the afternoon we visited the Fortress of Klis that sits up in the hills above Split and then headed west to Kaštela, a region made up of seven small towns on the coast to the north of Split. We had a look around a museum telling the story of the region whose southern wall backs directly onto a small harbour. Before heading back to Split I had a few casts from the end of the harbour's breakwater and caught a few combers. 

The approach to the Fortress of Klis.
The fortress is long and narrow, perched on a long piece of isolated rock in the middle of a pass that runs up into the mountains and is inaccessible on three sides.
The view towards Split from the Fortress of Klis. 
At one time this museum in Kaštel Lukšić was surrounded by the sea with a moat at the front. Now only one side faces into the harbour.
Painted comber don't put up much of a fight but I don't think I'll ever tire of admiring their colourful markings. 
By comparison brown comber are pretty drab. These were much lighter than the others I'd caught perhaps because they were from a much shallower mark. 

For my second early morning session I headed south again but fished from the large boulders at the back of a big marina. The water was pretty deep and I had high hopes but sadly the fishing was pretty poor on the whole. Just before I headed back for breakfast I did catch a rather large and brilliantly coloured male rainbow wrasse but unfortunately it slipped out of my hand and fell back into the water as I got my camera out to take a photo of it. 

In the afternoon we headed west to spend a couple of hours wandering around the Ivan Meštrović Gallery and its lovely gardens to look at the some of the work of late Croatian sculptor .

This was Lillian's favourite sculpture.
This one was pretty impressive too.

In the evening before heading out for dinner I tried a spot at the eastern end of a long rocky sea defence as light began to fade. Surprisingly the fishing was pretty poor though and I only managed a couple of small common pandora. 

The red edge at the top of the rear edge of the gill plate is a good way to identify common pandora.

For my final morning session I headed to a small rocky outcrop to the east of Vranjic. It was a beautiful calm start to the day and the fishing was very good. I caught lots of smaller fish close in and there were also some nice mullet patrolling the shoreline but as I didn't have any bread with me I chose to ignore them. Casting a piece of Angleworm on a drop shot rig into some deeper water further out and slowly working it back towards me I caught some nice gilthead seabream which put up an awesome fight.

These beautiful fish were fantastic sport on light game tackle. 

In the afternoon we went for a walk around Split's old town. We spent several hours wandering about Diocletian's Palace and climbed up to the top of the bell tower. At noon in the main square actors in Roman costumes put on a bit of a show, re-enacting the changing of the guard. To end a pleasant afternoon we had lunch in Buffet Fife, a very popular restaurant that serves traditional Croatian food. We both had meatballs and mashed potatoes which were superb. 

When in Rome...
You can climb up to the very top of the bell tower.
The view from the top of the bell tower to the west.
Very tasty indeed. Very filling too.

Walking around in the sun was pretty tiring so Lillian had a nap when we returned to our apartment. I jumped in the car and headed back to the same spot I'd fished in the morning armed with a small 2.5g float, some bread and a small bucket I borrowed from our apartment to see if I could catch a mullet. Making up some groundbait I soon had them feeding with smaller ones showing up first. Larger fish soon appeared though from deeper down and bullied the little ones away. A patient approach, constant feeding and changing the size of my hookbait to achieve a nice slow sink rate eventually paid off. Most of the fish were nosing the bread on my hook around but when a couple of fish arrived at the same time one of them swallowed it whole and I quickly struck to set my hook. With no net with me I took my time playing the fish out before climbing down the rubble in front of me to lift it out by hand.

It turned out to be a golden grey mullet. The biggest I've ever caught.

After releasing the fish I headed back and in the evening we headed to the old town again for dinner. The following day we had a long drive to reach our final destination of the holiday so we got up early to leave. On the way north we made two stops so I could stretch my legs. Firstly we visited the lovely small town of Novigrad.

Novigrad was in a beautiful location. I'd love to return and spend more time there. 

While I stretched my legs I spotted large shoals of small fish and decided to find out what they were. They were soon attacking a small piece of Angleworm and turned out to be juvenile ocellated wrasse. I've never seen wrasse shoaled up before. When my split shot rig occasionally managed to reach the bottom I caught some peacock blennies too and a solitary five spotted wrasse.

Male peacock blennies have a large crest on their heads and elongated fins. 
This tiny five spotted wrasse managed to beat all the ocellated wrasse to my little piece of Angleworm. 

Back on the road again we stopped further up the coast in Senj for another break and some lunch. Before getting back in the car to complete the day's driving I had a few casts at the end of the harbours outer breakwater. After a few wrasse and combers I switched to a smaller hook and added a Bucchichi's goby and a damselfish to my trip species tally.

A type of sand goby, Bucchichi's goby has fairly distinctive rows of spots along its body. 
Small hooks are required to catch damselfish. I used a #18 to catch this one.  

The second part of our holiday had come to an end and we'd enjoyed our time in Split. Whilst the fishing had been hit and miss I'd caught a new species and enjoyed some great light game action with the gilthead seabream. The last destination on our itinerary was Pula in the Istrian region of the country. We were both looking forward to spending the remainder of our time exploring the area. 

Tight lines, Scott. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Light game fun in Croatia : Cavtat.

My girlfriend Lillian and I fancied heading somewhere new for a two week holiday this year and I suggested we visit Croatia. Rather than book a package holiday we did our own thing and sorted flights, accommodation and a hire car so that we would travel up the coast staying in three different locations on the way. We flew into Dubrovnik airport at the end of last month and soon arrived at the first stop on our journey, the lovely port town of Cavtat. Over the next five days we had a fairly chilled out start to our holiday as we acclimatised to the thirty degrees plus heat, exploring the area on foot and enjoying cold drinks and tasty seafood in the shade. Our apartment was right at the top of a rather big hill above the town centre though and being a lazy bugger in full holiday mode the potential of early morning sessions wasn't quite a big enough draw to get me out of bed. I instead made do with squeezing in a spot of light game fishing here and there as we wandered around the rocky peninsulas either side of the town's main harbour. The crystal clear blue water wasn't particularly deep and I wasn't too surprised that rainbow wrasse and painted combers were the predominant species I caught. A few other species also took a liking to my lures which I fished mainly on a drop shot rig changing occasionally to a Carolina rig just to mix it up a bit.

Cavtat harbour from the eastern side of the bay. 
Finding a quiet spot from the first cast I caught fish.
A painted comber was my first catch of the trip. Aggressive ambush predators that hide amongst rocks close in.
Quite small for a male. Normally rainbow wrasse this size are female. Stunning colours anyway.
Amongst the rainbow wrasse I caught this solitary ocellated wrasse. I've only caught them in the Black Sea before. 
After a couple of days I found a flat rock To fish from that was down below a spot where Lillian could relax in the shade under some trees. Perfect. 
I added a few more species to my tally including this annular seabream. 
This was my only scorpionfish of the trip rather strangely. It's a Madeira rockfish.
Fishing in the sun makes an angler very thirsty. 

Whist staying in Cavtat we took a ferry north to the walled city of Dubrovnik. It was a lovely place but if I'm honest it was a bit too busy for my liking. It was also incredibly hot! Walking all the way around the city's outer wall was the best part for me. It offered an escape from the crowds and great views over the city and beyond.

Dubrovnik from the mountains to the south. 
The rooftops of the city from the top of the wall. 
The wall runs right along the clifftop on the western sea facing side of the city.  
More fortifications to the north.

Exploring the narrow streets of Dubrovnik under the blazing sun and going up and down its narrow alleys off the main streets was a tiring affair. Back in Cavtat in the evening Lillian had a nap so I did a spot of fishing as light faded. Surprisingly it was pretty poor until after dark. Then I caught a few axillary seabream and a few nice saddled seabream which gave a very good account of themselves.

The sun sets on the Adriatic. 
The biggest axillary seabream I've ever caught. This species seems to be much more active after dark. 
These saddled seabream were great fun on my light game gear. 

The day before we left Cavtat we caught another ferry to nearby Plat. It was an extremely hot day and after a walk around and a some lunch Lillian wisely got out of the sun in a shady spot next to the town's small stone pier. While we waited on the boat returning to take us back to Cavtat I braved the afternoon heat and caught a few more rainbow wrasse, painted combers and some East Atlantic peacock wrasse. I also caught a surprise wide eyed flounder and sight fished a rusty blenny from the shallows too before the boat arrived.

Nice colours on this East Atlantic peacock wrasse. They have quite big rubbery mouths for their size. 
Wide eyed flounders are a cool fish. One of my favourite flatfish and I particularly love their beautiful, almost floral markings. 
My first blenny of the trip played hard to get but eventually I tempted it with a tiny piece of good old Angleworm on a simple split shot rig. 

The first leg of our Croatian adventure had soon come to an end and after picking up our hire car we drove north to our next destination. It was an incredible drive along the mountainside coastal route with the blue Adriatic and some of Croatia's many lush islands to our left. On the way we passed through Bosnia and Herzegovina and then once back into Croatian territory we made a brief stop for lunch near Drvenik where the road got down close to the sea. As I'd spotted some small mullet on the way to the restaurant where we ate I was given clearance to fish briefly while Lillian had another ice cold lemonade. 

Right at the end of the small breakwater where I went to fish stood the nice statue. I think it was a fountain but sadly there was no water flowing from it. 

Knowing how finicky mullet can be and with time being limited I resorted to the incredibly crude Mediterranean method of free lining a piece of bread with a few hooks wrapped around it. I opted for only four hooks spaced a couple of centimetres apart but it was still deadly. The first mullet that went near my piece of hot dog roll was almost immediately hooked. It turned out to be my first new species of the trip, a boxlip mullet.

Boxlip mullet have a very odd protrusible mouth and a split bottom lip. They also seem to swim around a lot more frantically than other mullet species but maybe that was just the midday heat!
A nice looking fish and instead of having dark stripes like other mullet species I've caught theirs look almost metallic. 

I was happy to catch something new but the method didn't sit well with me despite it obviously being very effective. It's just not a great approach for a catch and release angler but luckily the fish I had caught had somehow got itself hooked on the end hook. It's not an approach I think I would employ again if I'm honest. Multiple hooks could possibly cause a lot of damage to a mullet's delicate mouth especially if you tied up a hooklength with the amount of hooks I've seen local anglers use. Then again the locals usually don't return their fish. Anyway, the fish was released and we hit the road again. Late that afternoon we arrived at our second stop, the city of Split, for the next part of our holiday. With a hire car at my disposal I was keen to get up early and drive to the coast to see what species I could add to my tally. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Finally!

Over the last few years I've been down to the Mull of Galloway several times and have never had any luck whatsoever when targeting tope in either Luce Bay or the Irish Sea. On Sunday the 24th last month I went down there again with two of my mates to have another go. The forecast looked terrible right up until the day before the trip but luckily it changed in our favour. Heading out of East Tarbet the weather was still pretty poor for the time of year being cloudy and it also rained a few times too but there was hardly any wind and more importantly the fishing was great with several periods of intense action.

Nick was first to catch a tope. His first ever. 
Stewart was next to catch one. Also his first ever. 
Some of them were rather grumpy. Can't blame them I suppose.

A fantastic day's fishing was had and when the time came to head back to dry land we'd had over twenty tope between us and a few more had dropped baits too. I also had a few whiting, grey gurnard and dogfish during quiet spells on a second rod and lost a nice bull Huss at the side of the boat when it spat my bait as they often do. The early start and the seven hour round trip makes it a long day but it always well worth it and it was great to finally catch some tope down there and bust the hoodoo. 

Tight lines, Scott.