Wednesday, October 14, 2020

In before the lock?

I popped down the A1 a couple of times a fortnight ago with two of my workmates. The first trip to St Abbs Head with Callum was all about catching some ballan wrasse and Callum had his heart set on catching "A big one." having already caught a few smaller ballan wrasse on previous outings he'd had. After walking up to the cliffs from the village we started the session by trying a new mark that proved to be a little tricky to access due to the slightly damp underfoot conditions. Clambering about on damp rocks isn't a great idea down there and the new spot turned out to be fairly shallow and hellishly snaggy, so we headed back up to the path and I took Callum to another mark where I've caught a few decent ballan wrasse in the past. After making our way down a grassy slope and hopping down a few rocks, we found a fairly flat ledge, got comfortable and set up our gear. Fishing light tackle was the approach taken with plan A being dropping blow lug down the side at close range on one hook paternoster rigs. I had my bait in the water first and before Callum had even finished getting setting up I was asking him to net the first ballan wrasse of the day, a nice fish just over a couple of pounds.

As well as their colourful markings and eyes, I love their big juicy lips.

I've never really fished for ballan wrasse on the east coast so late in the year so catching one straight away was a most welcome and pleasant surprise, and made me reasonably confident that we'd catch more. About twenty minutes later Callum got an aggressive bite and hooked the culprit. A big fish quickly had his rod bent over, his drag clicker screaming and his heart pounding. After a few spirited runs towards the kelp the fish was beaten and when it came to the surface I was in position with the net to help Callum land a new personal best ballan wrasse. 

"A big one!" We didn't have scales with us but at 46.5 cm Callum's new PB ballan wrasse was probably just over 4lb.
A cracking fish with some beautiful markings. A fantastic capture on a light rod rated 3-18g as well!

Having accomplished my guiding objective for the day I left Callum to target wrasse and turned my attention to scratching around on the bottom using small hooks baited with chunks of raw prawn to see if I could pick up something unusual. All I managed were about a dozen small coalfish however before a pod of dolphins swam by and after that all action, unsurprisingly, ground to a halt. After a couple of hours with nothing further being caught we headed back to the car. On our way back up the road we decided to pop into Torness Power Station's outflow to target bass and mullet, species Callum had never caught before. The water was pretty coloured up however, and sadly we didn't have any joy ledgering lug worm for bass or free lining bread flake for mullet.

The following day I headed to Coldingham Bay, St Abbs Harbour and then Torness Power Station's outflow with another workmate, Ruaridh. To begin with we scratched around using light gear and small hooks baited with raw prawn but at the first two venues things were pretty slow. At Coldingham Bay we didn't catch anything at all but when we visited St Abbs Harbour we did eventually manage to catch a few fish in the shape of some coalfish, a small cod and also Ruaridh's first ever blenny.

Ruaridh patiently fishing away.
Ruaridh's first ever blenny! I remember catching mine and whilst I've caught hundreds since it still seems like it was yesterday.

After trying a few different areas around the various parts of the harbour we switched to working lures along the bottom in an attempt to catch some flounders but this didn't produce any bites. I then decided to scale down and catch some sand gobies using tanago hooks and after catching a few I also caught a couple of tiny plaice as well on the tiny baits I was slowly twitching along the harbour's sandy floor.

The distinctive orange markings of an adult were absent on this tiny juvenile plaice but the bony nodules running along the head were not.

To finish the day we visited Torness Power Station's outflow. The water clarity had improved a lot over the previous twenty-four hours, and we decided to focus our efforts on catching mullet on freelined bread flake. This method was new to Ruaridh along with the frustrations of using it to try to catch our target. Things were made more difficult by the fact that neither of us had a pair of polarized sunglasses with us but eventually I managed to catch two thick lipped mullet that took my bread and pulled my rod tip over as they felt my hook and swam off into the current.

Frustrating and full of fight. Mullet are great fun.

Sadly, despite his perseverance Ruaridh didn't manage to catch one before it started to get dark, so we called it a day. To his credit he took the constant baiting up only for the fish to steal his bread pretty well and is keen to go back again for another attempt at catching his first mullet so a return trip will be made. Last week the weather wasn’t great for that but the mullet are there all year round so hopefully we'll get back down there at some point. That being said I'm not sure what fishing I'll be doing in the weeks ahead. I’ll have to do any fishing "locally" until the end of October due to the recent travel restrictions introduced in Scotland’s central belt but I have a horrible feeling that before too long some stricter travel restrictions may be put in place that will really  limit my opportunities. I really, really hope I’m wrong.

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Trying a new spot for a new two spot.

I think it's fair to say that over the last couple of months I've rediscovered my love for fishing. Obviously lockdown meant fishing wasn't even possible for a long time and this combined with being furloughed for a few months gave me a complete break from fishing altogether. I love my job in the Edinburgh Angling Centre but perhaps working in a tackle shop full time and fishing in my free time had eventually taken its toll and the enforced interruption has definitely been a positive thing. As they say never combine business with pleasure! Anyway, my recent gilthead hunting trips and late night scad sessions down at Torness Power Station as well as other sessions further afield have rekindled my passion and last Wednesday it was a nice day so Lillian and I went for a leisurely drive to the west coast. I got permission to try fishing at a new spot on the shore of Loch Creran, inspired by an underwater photo of a fish with two spots I've never caught before I found online that was taken there.

This is a two spotted clingfish, so named due to having, you've guessed it, two spots. These are located one on either side, to the rear of the fish's pectoral fins. A very small species, its maximum length of 6 cm will obviously make catching one tough but if you don't try...

Fishing into deep water from the end of a small pontoon using #14 hooks baited with tiny pieces of raw prawn, I quickly added a few species to my 2020 tally in the shape of dozens of pin whiting and a few small dabs.

I got comfortable for a couple of hour's fishing while Lillian read a book and took the odd photo of me.
These pin whiting made up the bulk of my catch from the deeper water out in front of the pontoon.

After a while I decided to switch from casting out as far as I could and tried dropping my rig straight down off the end of the pontoon. It's always worth remembering that a lot of the time there are usual fish right at your feet! As soon as my rig touched down on the bottom my rod tip started twitching away to rattling type bites, so I swapped to an even smaller hook to see if I could find out what the culprits were. This worked a treat and I now have a new favourite mark for targetting painted goby. Their size averaged about 4cm long and with mouths perhaps smaller than the two spotted clingfish I was hoping to catch this gave me confidence that my tactics were spot on and might work should I happen to get lucky and put my rig in the vicinity of my target species.

There were plenty of them down there and my little observation tank soon had a few in it.

After a while I decided to ignore my own advice on fishing at my feet and began firing my rig out into deeper water again, trying different distances and directions. A few more whiting, a solitary cod and a lone sand goby were all caught and released. The sand goby again a vindication that small fish at distance in deep water can be successfully caught. Before we left I tied on a small HTO shore jig fitted with a single hook at the rear and had a go for mackerel as I'd had one or two of them follow my lead in when I had been retrieving my bait rig earlier in the session. It didn't take long to catch a few and whilst most were released by shaking them off the hook a couple of slightly bigger ones were kept for my tea the following day. 

It's easy to forget how beautiful the humble mackerel is with its colourful markings and iridescent sheen. They're great sport on very light tackle as well and grilled with a generous splash of Frank's red hot original cayenne pepper sauce they're very tasty into the bargain.

So, yet again a my first ever clingfish had eluded capture but if nothing else I'm persistent, so I might return to the west coast sea lochs to try my luck again if the weather is suitable during the coming weeks. With summer well and truly over now my thoughts are also beginning to turn to my old Scottish pink,red and brown nemesis, the three bearded rockling, so a trip or two down to the Southwest of Scotland for an after dark session targetting those is on the cards too.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Colourful captures.

I drove through to the west coast last Wednesday for a day's fishing, targetting mainly colourful mini species. My workmate Callum joined me, and we headed to a spot in Oban that I know has produced Connemara clingfish in the past. Truth be told it was one of these strange looking little fish that I was hoping to catch.

This small species "clings" to rocks using its fused pelvic fin that acts as a suction cup.

My approach was fairly simple, drop tiny chunks of raw prawn down into nooks and crannies where I thought a clingfish might hide. The mark in question usually produces lots of goldsinny wrasse, poor cod and leopard spotted goby as well as the odd rock cook wrasse. It was one of these small mouthed colourful fish that I happened to catch first.

I love catching rock cook wrasse. Just look at the beautiful violet markings on them.

Callum's experience of fishing in saltwater is relatively limited but it didn't take him long to start pulling out lots of little fish from the crystal clear, relatively shallow water we were fishing in. Between us we caught the main three residents but I also managed a small female cuckoo wrasse and a small ballan wrasse as well. The bulk of my fish were leopard spotted gobies though. They like hiding in cracks too.

We must have had about fifty of these! It's easily the best mark I know of to visit if you want to catch a leopard spotted goby.

Callum concentrates on his rod tip. He didn't have to concentrate too hard however as the bites were frequent. Most of the species he caught were his first too.

Before we knew it the time had come to return to the car as the parking ticket was about to expire. We had a couple of casts each on the way back, over some rocky ground, and Callum caught his first ever corkwing wrasse, completing a wrasse grand slam between the two of us in the process. Lochaline logging pier is the only other place I know where this feat is a reasonable possibility.

A male corkwing, yet another colourful fish.

After some lunch we headed up to Loch Etive to fish from Kelly's Pier. Here we hoped to catch a few grey gurnards on light tackle, fishing raw prawn on a one hook paternoster at range and we eventually did, yet another new species for Callum. We only managed three between us though, so I decided to switch to my micro fishing setup and tried to catch a few gobies from around the legs of the pier using tiny flecks of raw prawn on tanago hooks. After catching a three spined stickleback I fiddled around with my float rig until I got the depth correct and found a pocket of two spotted goby. After catching a few small ones myself I handed the rod over to Callum so that he could have a go. Before too long the tiny chianti float went under and he pulled out this monster.

Possibly the biggest two spotted goby I have ever seen!

After switching back to targetting grey gurnard for a while, but with no further interest in our baits, we decided to pack up and make the three-hour drive home. It had been a great day trip and whilst I didn't get my intended colourful little target we had caught plenty of other just as colourful fish. It was nice to see Callum enjoy trying some of my slightly unorthodox fishing styles and catch quite a few species for the first time in the process.

Tight lines, Scott.