Monday, December 31, 2012

Blank busting blenny bashing bonanza!

I headed out today with my mate Jake to end the year with a session targeting mullet. The wind and the mullet had other ideas though and while we waited on conditions improving Jake fished for bass and I did a spot of blenny bashing. No sign of any bass but the blennies were very obliging to say the least. In no time at all I was into double figures and decided to get a few photos of one particularly feisty little fish.

Looks harmless enough.

After a few photos were taken I picked it up to put it back and it decided to have a chomp on my finger. This is normal for blennies but usually they let go almost straight away and this one didn't want to. This had me in fits of laughter and its grip was so strong that it was still holding on when I went over to show Jake. When it finally decided to let go it had left a little mouth shaped imprint on my finger.

This blenny obviously got out of the wrong side of his rockpool!
I'll live.

After much hilarity Jake then decided to join me and soon had a few blennies taking his small chunks of Gulp! Sandworm. They seemed to be especially aggresive today, fighting over our lures and we soon had caught a load more, obviously exercising caution when handling the bigger ones to prevent losing any digits.

A short while later and with the tide almost fully in we decided to try for mullet again. Despite putting in large quantities of groundbait and seeing one or two very small mullet they just didn't seem to be around in any great numbers or feeding with any great confidence so after a couple of hours we called it a day with the only action coming when a box of jigheads fell out of Jake's pocket and into a deep rockpool. Luckily he managed to reach down and grab it though thankfully.

The humble blenny has saved us from a blank a few times in the past and today was no different. I definitely have a soft spot for them due to their aggressive nature and almost cheeky character and to be honest, whilst I'd have liked a mullet or two today, it was kind of nice for a blenny to be my last fish of 2012. Not sure Jake feels the same way mind you!

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Magiscroft magic.

After yesterday's successful assault on the rudd in Markle Fisheries' bait pond I decided to head out again today to try and get my 15th freshwater species of the year. Another early start, for me anyway, saw me up at 6am to get ready and catch a train to Cumbernauld, home of Magiscroft, Scotland's biggest coarse fishery. With several ponds full of a multitude of species surely even in December I couldn't fail to catch something new?

When I got off the train just after 8am it was rather windy and was raining too. Undeterred I walked the mile or so up to Magiscroft to find the shop open early. After buying a couple of small puddle chucker floats I paid for my permit and asked for some advice. The chap was very helpful and even marked down the pegs that had been fishing well on a map. Armed with half a pint of maggots off I went. Setting up my float rod in the rain wasn't fun but at least the larger of the two "Birch ponds" I elected to fish was fairly well sheltered from the wind. Catapulting out a few free offerings to hopefully get the fish going I cast out towards a small island in front if my peg. I like to start with almost all of my shot bulked around my float so The maggot falls through the water column nice and slowly. This tactic often helps find the fish and almost straight away I started getting small knocks and when the float shot under I quickly lifted into a small fish. As I brought it towards me I saw a silver flash and thought it was a roach. I was very pleasantly surprised when I lifted it up to find it was a nice little bream instead. Mission accomplished first cast.

My first ever bream?

With the pressure off I could now relax and enjoy fishing in the rain. I was curious to see what else I could catch. Steadily feeding a few maggots before every cast I soon had the float bobbing around before hooking a few of the culprits.

A roach this time. The first of a succession.
Some smaller than others.

Over the next couple of hours I caught a further seven roach and then I caught a fish that I thought was a roach when bringing it in but once in my hand, under closer inspection and asking a bailiff his opinion as it had me stumped, it turned out to be my first ever ide.

Identifying silverfish can be a bit if a nightmare to the untrained eye!

He also informed me that my first fish looked like a bream/roach hybrid which I would later confirm via a lateral line scale count when I examined the photos at home. Oh well mission accomplished anyway with the ide! At this point the rain finally stopped and I spotted one or two slightly larger fish cruising around the island further up in the water so I decided to start fishing double maggots a couple of feet under my float. After patiently waiting a while with the float almost vanishing a few times before quickly popping up again it went right under and I struck, hooking a better fish. As it came towards me it stayed quite deep and decided it didn't want to be caught about half way in. Charging off to my right I caught a glimpse of a dark back and a gold flank as I turned it away from some reeds at the waters edge. Then as it came to the surface in front of me I realised it was a small carp. Initially I thought it may be a crucian carp but wasn't too fussy about which carp species it was to be honest as regardless it was still my first ever carp!

Lovely little fish. Bit of a bruiser too.

The bailiff would return later picking litter and when I showed him the picture of the carp he informed me that it was in fact an F1 carp. Vroom vroom! I'd never heard of them before and he told me they are a hybrid of the common and crucian carp or goldfish and are becoming increasingly popular in coarse fisheries because they only grow to an average size of about 5lb and feed well all year round.

Whilst bites on the double maggot were fewer and further apart I was keen to discover what the other larger fish were that I could still see patrolling around the island and after patiently waiting for about half an hour I got a positive bite and hooked one of them. This fish wasn't messing around and as soon as it was hooked it motored off to my right. It was no match for my rod though which soaked up the fight quite easily and after thrashing around on the surface a few times the fish was soon heading towards me. When it opened its huge mouth wide open and kept it open as I unhooked it I thought it was a chub.

My biggest and also my last fish of the session as I ran out of maggots shortly after catching it!
Again a lateral line count when I returned home would reveal that it was in fact a second larger ide. Just one that refused to close its rather large mouth.

Well, having thought I could struggle to catch two new freshwater species before the end of the year I've managed to catch them and an extra one for good measure which was a nice bonus as it puts me on a total of 60 species of fish in 2012! Despite getting thoroughly soaked in the morning and early afternoon I really enjoyed my trip to Magiscroft today and I'll certainly be back there again next year for more coarse fishing. Perhaps in better weather though!

On a side note, I'm reasonable happy that I've now got the identification of the above fish correct. If you disagree please let me know as I'd hate to be wrong!

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ruddy weather!

With time rapidly running out for me to hit my target of 15 freshwater species in 2012 and noting a reasonably mild temp of 11°C forecast for today when I checked the forecast last night, I got up early this morning and headed down to Markle Fisheries near East Linton to target the resident rudd again. I arrived just after sunrise and setup my float rod, the wind making this task a bit of a pain. Thankfully though the spot I planned to fish was slightly more sheltered than the rest of the pond and my maggots were soon falling through the water column. Fishing was quite slow and after a couple of hours or so I started thinking about moving. I turned my head to eye up a new spot and when I turned it back again my float had vanished. I lifted the rod and felt the weight of a fish. I knew straight away it was too big to be a rudd though and a rainbow trout was soon landed, unhooked and returned. Thinking that this visit may well pan out the same as my last, my fears were compounded when a second trout was caught an hour or so later. I then decided to move along a bit and fish my float tight into some overhanging, partially submerged bushes. Casting out and letting the wind slowly carry my float in amongst the branches, carefully paying out line and being careful not to snag it up I was rewarded with my first rudd bite of the day, which I struck and missed. Damn! Repeating the process and waiting patiently I was soon rewarded with another bite however and this time the fish was hooked!

December rudd. Better late than never.
My 14th freshwater species of 2012. A pretty one too.

Quite happy and another step towards my goal I carried on fishing but for whatever reason no more bites were forthcoming until the sun began to dip over the horizon. Then a feeding frenzy began! The rudd were obviously becoming confident as light faded and there was quite a lot of little splashes as they fed high up in the water and on the surface. I adjusted my depth accordingly and this saw me land a further seven rudd and lose a few more, all of them about the same size.

Their upturned mouths make them look a bit grumpy.
Such lovely little fish. Not sure if I prefer rudd or roach.
The blood red fins of rudd might just sway it in their favour.

Happy days and in the end I was glad I took the gamble and went down. Only three days left to catch my 15th freshwater species now and with some horrendous weather forecast I shall have to get my thinking cap on and come up with a cunning plan to give myself a chance of doing it!

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Time to get the skates on.

With two species left to catch to reach my goal of 45 salt water species in 2012 after bagging a couple of dabs the other week and with my mate Ross after his 70th species of 2012, with time running out we discussed a skate trip. Catching one requires a trip to a few specific areas and the Sound of Jura on the west coast of Scotland is one of them so we booked a days fishing aboard the MV North Star out of Crinan harbour with Ross's mates Ad and Ed joining us. Common skate is the largest skate species in the world growing to over 200lb and landing a big one involves quite a physically demanding battle which we were all up for hopefully experiencing. I knew I could also possibly catch black mouthed dogfish, conger eels and thornback rays in the area too so the chances of getting two species to add to my tally were good. The original plan was to stay in Oban for two nights, meeting up there on Wednesday the night before the skate trip followed by a day out of Loch Etive the day after that. As per usual however the weather forecast refused to cooperate and slowly deteriorated as the trip got closer. A couple of days before we arrived a boat trip on the Thursday was out of question due to the gale force winds being forecast so we had to settle for a days shore fishing and hoped that the weather would be ok on Friday so we would be able to get out for the skate fishing.

I wanted to arrive early and squeeze some shore fishing in so I set off on the first train to Oban and arrived just before noon. Ad was driving down from Aberdeen and was due to arrive at about 4pm which gave me time to get some lunch, visit the local tackle shop and grab some bait and make my way to the youth hostel where we were staying. Ad arrived ahead of schedule and we headed to a rock mark north of Oban near Ganavan Sands. With two rods out each and using a variety of baits on both pulley and flapper rigs the fishing was painfully slow with no bites apart from the rhythmic gently rod tip movement of the resident crabs stripping our baits in rapid fashion. Despite being well sheltered and quite comfortable it was a bit of a relief when Ad had a call from Ross to say that he and Ed had arrived from Bangor and were at the hostel which was the cue for Ad and I to pack up and head back to the hostel to meet them.

On Thursday morning we decided to head up to Airds Bay on Loch Etive as we thought it may be sheltered but when we arrived the wind and rain were battering us. Despite this we set up a few rods but after an hour we decided to cut our losses, went back to the coast heading south of Oban along Gallanach Road and found a nice spot near the diving centre. We set up two rods each. Fishing pulley rigs and running ledgers and using a variety of baits I went with a double sandeel/squid wrap on one and a mackerel head on the other. Ross was in first and as if he was doing it on purpose in came a thornback ray. My rod started going just as I went to get my camera to take a photo of it for him and I quickly grabbed it and struck into a decent fish. Was it the thornback ray I wanted though? Obviously a decent fish judging by the nice bend in my rod, I pumped it in and I was pleased to see that it was!

Ross and I with a thornback ray each.
My first thornback ray and saltwater species #44 of 2012!
Me so thornie.
I love their eyes!

After this it was a steady stream of dogfish. Breaking this run up I caught a small codling and Ross had another thornback ray. After a few hours Ed was next to get a thornback ray and now Ad was desperate to join the club after a string of dogfish, some of them quite big. A few pollock were caught on light gear using a small metal whilst we were waiting for bites. I then had a cracking bite and hooked into a decent fish but it was only on briefly before I lost it. We fished into darkness but with an early start the following day we started packing up at about 6pm. Ross and I headed back first but we weren't far away when Ed rang to tell us Ad's persistence had paid off and he had landed a cracking 6lb cuckoo ray.

A nicely marked thornback ray for Ed.
After a succession of dogfish Ad finally caught a ray.
Very unusual markings. But was it a cuckoo ray?

When we all met up back at the hostel Ad thought he had bragging rights over Ross as he has never caught a cuckoo ray before and wound him up a bit. Examining the photos once they had been uploaded from Ed's camera to Ad's laptop however shed some doubt over the identification of the fish as a cuckoo ray due to it not looking quite right. Subsequent examination of the photos again when I got back and checking them against the excellent species fact sheets produced by The Shark Trust settles the matter in my opinion.

Cuckoo ray top and thornback ray bottom.

The strange cuckoo ray like markings on Ad's fish obviously caused the confusion but as you can see above the patterns on a cuckoo ray's spots are very distinctive and those on Ad's ray don't quite match them. In addition the pointed shape of Ad's ray's wings and the fact it has one prominant row of thorns continuing from its tail onto the body instead of two leads me to believe it was in fact an unusually marked thornback ray. Sorry Ad! Still a lovely fish though. Here's a cuckoo ray.

Here's one I caught earlier! Note the short round wings and the two rows of thorns running from tail up onto back.

Friday morning and we were all excited when multiple alarms went off at 6am. It took about an hour to drive down to Crinan where we were met by Archie who was our skipper for the day. After loading our gear and waiting for a bit more daylight we headed out. Soon at the mark and tied up, seven rods were baited up with whole mackerel or coalfish, 4lb of lead was soon making its way down through 540ft of water and the waiting game began.

The view north up the Sound of Jura.

As it turns out we didn't have to wait too long though. Ed's rod went first and he was quickly attached to his rod and a large fish. Applying pressure for what must have seemed like an eternity, the fish came off the bottom only for it to head back there several times. Every time Ed thought he had gained the upper hand the fish showed him who was really playing who.

Throughout the long battle Ed actually made it look quite easy despite all of us teasing him every time the fish took line!

Finally he got it off the bottom and managed to start gaining line and after an energy sapping fight the beast came into sight and was brought up the remaining few feet to the surface before being manoeuvred to the back of the boat and hauled aboard. An absolute monster that the skipper measured before entering his cabin only to return to tell us it was off his chart estimating a weight of a whopping 208lb!

Not bad for Ed's first ever common skate! 2nd best fish boated all year on the MV North Star.

Everyone was obviously excited by this spectacular start to the day and with slack water due when the skate normally become most active we were all anticipating more action. Ross and I also fancied trying our luck for a black mouthed dogfish so we each began fishing smaller baits on lighter gear. Just after we both got our baits down Ad's rod started nodding and he was soon experiencing the pull of his first skate! Applying steady pressure on the fish to get it up from the bottom soon took its toll on his back though and he elected to sit down to ease the pain.

Ad pushes through the pain barrier and steadily gains line.

Taking his time and using the rod to do the work it took Ad a little longer than Ed to finally bring the fish up and as it came into view it was clear that it was another superb specimen. Archie again expertly brought the huge fish on board and measured her before a few photos were taken.

All the pain was worth it. Good things come to those who wait (and sit).

The skate was soon back in the water and slowly slipped back down into the depths. Watching it disappear was a majestic sight. They are such graceful creatures. After Archie consulted his charts Ad was informed that his fish weighed an impressive 150lb. As the tide began to run again the action died down for a bit and when we reeled up to change the baits we found some of them were being eaten from the inside out by lots if small slater like crustaceans.

Some of the baits came up full of these little burrowing critters.
When the seagulls follow the skate boat, it is because they think mackerel, half eaten by crustaceans, will be thrown into the sea.

Fresh baits dropped down and shortly after they hit the bottom two rods began nodding at the same time. Ross and I got harnessed up and he was ready to take the right hand rod whilst I got ready to take the one on the left. As it turned out I got the one with the big fish attached. Applying steady pressure it took a while before I managed to get it up off the bottom.

The power of the fish was incredible.

Each time I thought it was coming up though it just swam back down to the bottom. When it finally did start to move the progress was slow and I knew it was a good fish and in all likelihood I was connected to my first triple figure fish. After about ten minutes of slowly gaining line however everything went slack. The skate had obviously not been hooked very well and had come off or I had tried to bully it too much and had pulled the hook. Either way I was gutted to say the least but with over three hours left I felt Ross and I would still get another chance. Soon afterwards one of the rods went and it obviously wasn't a skate so the rod was passed to me and I began reeling it in. As it came up the line occasionally went slack which the skipper told me was a good indication of a conger eel doing death rolls. As it came up from the depths and into view he was proved to be correct and my first ever conger eel was soon in the boat.

This conger eel saw me achieve my target of 45 saltwater species in 2012 and was some consolation for not landing my skate.

The action dropped off for a while once more so I started fishing my light rod again and soon began getting a few bites. When I hooked the culprit though disaster struck when the lesser spotted dogfish on the end of my line somehow managed to tangle itself up in almost every other line in the water. This took a while to sort out and ate into valuable fishing time. Needless to say that once it was all sorted, the skate rods had been re-baited and dropped back down I put the light rod away! Shortly afterwards Ross hooked a small fish that he was praying was a small skate but it turned out to be a thornback ray. With the end of the trip approaching I knew that with Ross next up should a skate be hooked it wasn't likely that I was going to get another chance and to be honest having got my 45th saltwater species of the year I just wanted to see Ross get the chance of his first common skate and his 70th saltwater species of the year. With about thirty minutes to go four of the rods around the boat all nodded ever so slightly one after the other in an anticlockwise direction before the fifth rod started bouncing properly. Ross was going to get his chance and potentially the final battle of the day commenced. Compared to the previous three skate it didn't take him that long to get the fish off the bottom and shortly afterwards he felt a couple of jolts with the line going slack but to his relief the fish was still on. He thought that perhaps the line had been wrapped around it's body and had come free suddenly.

Cranking the fish up Ross describes the jolts he just felt to skipper Archie.

After that the fight was relatively short which had us thinking that the fish was a lot smaller than the others but we were all pleasantly surprised to see another huge skate appearing from beneath the boat! As it came closer it became apparent that it was barely hooked with just the point of the hook in the hard plate in the roof of its mouth! After a very nervous moment or two the skipper did a great job quickly securing the fish and as soon as he did the hook fell out! It also became apparent that all the lead had somehow come off of the boom which may have explained the jolts Ross had felt. Ross was obviously very relieved and over the moon not only as he had caught his first common skate, another cracker at 181lb, but most of all because it was his 70th saltwater species of 2012!

Just reward for a dedicated species hunter.

After it went back and slipped slowly back into the depths we watched the remaining rods in the hope that I would get a second bite at the cherry but it wasn't to be and when we reeled them up most of the baits were gone. Probably taken by Ross's fish as it worked it's way round the rods stealing them before being hooked we surmised!

So the trip was over and we headed back to port. I had caught the two new species I needed to achieve my saltwater species hunt goal for the year. Ross had achieved his too in spectacular style and Ed and Ad had both caught their first common skate and huge specimens at that. I won't lie though, losing my skate was a sore one to take but on reflection if I had been given the option of getting the two species I needed but no skate or just catching a skate and that being the only new species I would have taken the two species at the outset so I can't complain too much! It was great fishing with the lads, we had a great laugh so all in all it was a successful trip by any standards and I'll just have to go back for another crack at common skate which isn't a bad thing really!

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mullet, mullet, mullet! What's all the fuss about?!

My mate Jake's been catching a few mullet recently. He had a session catching them whilst I was away down south getting soaked and freezing my ass off with fellow fishing addict Martin Allison catching our first Zander and after a second successful session he'd had I just had to get myself into a few mullet too so I could see if they were as much fun as Jake's raving accounts made them out to be! I've caught them before but the methods employed to catch and then lift one up a 50ft Portuguese cliff don't really allow you to experience how they fight so armed with feeder rods, floats, bread and a few cans of sardines off Jake and I went. We arrived at the mark and after making up some groundbait and throwing it in the mullet soon started appearing and worked themselves up into a feeding frenzy. It didn't take long at all for them to start bashing our bread flake hook baits around and after a bit of movement on my stick float I soon had one hooked after resisting the temptation to strike until my float had gone under for a second or two. Drag set very lightly the little fish had us both laughing as it put up a very spirited fight and made run after run only stopping to thrash about wildly. Letting the rod tip and drag do all the work I played it out a bit before guiding it into a gully and using a wave to land it.

My first ever golden grey mullet. Lovely looking fish and put up a great scrap for its size.
Golden markings on the gill plate give this species its name.

Shortly afterwards I caught a second golden grey mullet which also gave me the run around before being landed, again using a gully and wave to assist me. The mullet were giving Jake the run around and perhaps my decision to employ a tiny #16 treble hook had aided me in hooking the fish. Jake's persistence with the #10 Drennan Specialist soon paid off though when he hooked one of the better fish that we had spotted amongst the shoals of smaller golden greys. After carefully playing the fish for about five minutes, during which time I nipped and got my landing net, the mullet was ready to be netted, or so we thought before it made another run! It did this a couple of times and this seems to be indicative of mullet. Where they get the stamina from I don't know and it's hard to think of another species that has such tenacity. They just don't know how to give up! Obviously the light tackle you must use to protect your light hooklengths prevents you from applying any sort of pressure but even so the fight you get from them is superb. 

Finally in the net. A nice thick lipped mullet for Jake.
A satisfied angler!

Next it was my turn to hook a slightly better fish. Once again I had to be very patient playing the fish and allowing it to take line freely when it wanted to. Again the spirited nature of the fight had us both smiling and this time the fish also made a few attempts to get down to the rocky bottom directly below us, presumably to try and throw the hook, so I had to lift the rod tip up and tighten down ever so slightly to stop it in its tracks. Jake's turn with the net and after a couple of failed attempts I slipped the fish over it.

I've caught them in Portugal before but this was my first U.K. thick lipped grey mullet.
Thick lipped.

That would be the last mullet of a great fun filled session. Catching these two mullet species added to my species tally for the year so that was a great bonus too. Once the tide flooded over the platform we had been fishing from the mullet disappeared. Jake turned his attention to bass but had no luck. I on the other hand discovered that blennies love bread too, catching eighteen of them in about an hour before we headed off.

A few days later we returned for another fix but this time from another spot as we were fishing over high tide this time. Once again it wasn't long before we had the mullet feeding on our groundbait and a few free crust offerings. I was first of the mark with a nice thick lipped mullet. This one was a bit tricky to land as we were fishing from some large boulders and it made a few attempts to get into them every time I brought it close. Jake readied the net and after a few nervous moments the fish was in it. After that though we struggled for a while until Jake decided to drop hooklength from 8lb to 4lb and try one of my deadly little trebles that I had been using. This would see him catch three thick lipped grey mullet in fairly quick succession.

My smile says it all! But why the hell didn't we do this sooner!
Jake's hat says it all. Mullet are best, f**k the rest!

Well now I know why every now and then Jake has raved about mullet and even more so since he started catching a few! I now understand how frustrating it can be yet how thoroughly enjoyable it is fishing for them! What I don't understand is why in over a year of fishing together we never actually targeted them until now! I guess we just got a bit too focused on our lure fishing, something that I've tried to address over the last few months as I still enjoy bait fishing. I hope Jake won't mind me saying that whilst he normally isn't interested in bait fishing he's definitely glad he decided to replace the Slug-Go's with a few loaves of Warburton's Toastie bread and couple of cans of sardines for a session or two targeting the hard fighting mullet and whilst he says he wants to target them on the fly whether or not he can resist the addictive and almost hypnotic nature of staring at a float waiting for it to go under is another matter entirely!

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


With the end of the year approaching fast and my target of 45 saltwater species only three species away I headed out late the other night with my mate Nick to the inlet area of Torness Power Station. The target species were conger eel and rockling so with this in mind we were both fishing two bait rods. One with a mackerel or bluey head ledgered close in for eels and on the second rod we were scratching with flapper rigs with small hooks with a selection of baits from mackerel, bluey, black lug, mussel, crab and squid. Despite having four rods out and changing baits a few times the fishing was very slow to say the least but thankfully it wasn't too cold and we passed the time talking about fishing and I told Nick about some of my plans for next years fishing.

Nick had with him a disposable BBQ and after a few hours he lit it and was soon cooking some sausages which I must say were very tasty once done and put into rolls with lashings of brown sauce! Just as we started eating them though Nick's scratching rod started nodding. Typical. He let the bite develop a bit but when he lifted the rod whatever it was had lost interest, crabs we surmised. With peace and quiet resumed we enjoyed our hot snacks and then warmed our hands over the embers of the BBQ before rebaiting and casting out again. Nick then had another bite and this time hooked the culprit, a small codling, finally a reward for our efforts. Shortly afterwards the ratchet on my multiplier gave a few clicks and my rod started gently nodding. When I struck and began reeling in I could feel the weight of a small fish and was hoping to find a rockling hooked but when it came in it was instead a small coalfish that had taken my mackerel chunk tipped off with a slither of squid. I then decided to cast to a new area and after a while began reeling in to rebait again only to feel a little bit of extra weight on my line. As it came in I spotted the shape of two small flatfish. I swung them up and quickly realised they were dabs when I saw their large eyes and the small semicircular curve in their lateral lines. A new species for me and therefore an addition to my tally for the year also.

A double shot of dabs. A welcome surprise indeed!

Nick then had a cast over in the same direction to try and catch one but instead managed a small coalfish. After that there was no further action, so at about 4am we called it a night and despite the lack of fish the dabs I caught made the session a resounding success in my eyes! Whilst dabs were on my shortlist of potential fish I could target between now and the end of the year to try and reach my species target I wasn't expecting them to turn up at this mark. Some might say they were a lucky catch but for me it's a great example of how sometimes as a species hunter you just have to put the hours in and be in the right place at the right time to make your own luck. Only two saltwater species to go now and with a boat trip booked next week and a few more night sessions to target rockling in the pipeline I'm fairly hopeful I can get them!

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Looking for gold amongst the rainbows.

I popped down to Markle Fisheries near East Linton last week to try and catch a rudd to move my 2012 freshwater species tally one closer to my goal. With water temps dropping I knew it would be tough and was quite annoyed with myself for not popping down earlier in the year to target them. The bait pond there contains loads of them and in the past I've caught quite a few of them on maggots. When they are in the mood you can catch a rudd a cast on the drop which is quite good fun if not very challenging. They are pretty little fish and look similar to roach, the main differences being an upturned mouth, a golden tinge to there colouration, their dorsal fin is set further back than a roach and their fins are normally a deeper shade of orange or red.

Here's one I caught earlier. July 2011 in fact!

Anyway I started fishing in a small bay where there are some overhanging trees, the roots of which normally hold some rudd. Fishing was very slow to say the least and as the day went on I began to think I wasn't going to catch anything when my waggler float disappeared. Striking into the fish I knew almost straight away it was a trout and after a short fight it was in the net. I have to be honest and say that rainbow trout aren't my favourite fish. Brutish eating machines, they lack the finesse and in my opinion the beauty of other members of the salmonoid family. Of course they are not a native species and the ones in fisheries are farm bred so I'm sure this has a lot to do with their appearance and also their voracious appetites.

I'd love to catch a wild one "across the pond". I'm sure in their natural environment they're just as nice as our native brown trout.

Shortly afterwards my float bobbed a couple of times before slowly dissappearing. This made me think it could be a rudd but unfortunately it was another trout. With only an hour or so left I decided to work my way around the pond to try and locate some rudd. This didn't produce any though and a third trout would be my final action of the session and I left resigned to the fact that realistically I may not manage to get a rudd before the end of the year and also may struggle to get the two additonal species I need to reach my target of 15 freshwater species this year.

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A spur of the moment visit.

At the end of last week fellow fishing addict and species hunter Ross Johnson sent me a text from Peterhead breakwater, where he was trying to catch a ling, to ask if I'd like to go to Oban with him to fish at the start of this week for three days including a session afloat on Loch Etive. I replied that whilst I couldn't go for three days, I would like to fish Loch Etive as it would be an opportunity for me to target a thornback ray to add to my species tally and when I got back from Rutland Water on Sunday I started looking at the forecasts.

The weather forecast for Monday was truly horrific so I sent a text to Ross and told him to have another day targeting ling on Peterhead breakwater and travel down on Tuesday. After an extra day trying for ling but catching mainly small codling he came down and arrived in the early afternoon. The plan was to pop down the coast to a few rockpools to try and get him a two spotted goby. Unfortunately when we got down there the tide had beaten us to the rockpools so we popped into Mike's tackle shop on the way back and picked up a few bits and pieces for our boat trip the following day before heading home to make a few rigs and sort out our gear before going out for something to eat.

Yesterday morning we were up early at 5am. It looked like a nice morning and the forecast for Loch Etive were good, sunny all day with very little wind but it would still be very cold. After driving west over 100 miles we were met on the shore near Taynuilt by Doug Bannatyne of Taynuilt Fishing Club Boats, whom we had rented a boat from for the day.

We arrived just after the sun had risen over the mountains. Stunning. Bloody cold though!

Gear soon loaded into the boat, off we went. On the advice of Doug we started in Airds Bay tied up to a buoy off of the south eastern shore. Mackerel and squid baits dropped down 180 feet, we patiently waited for bites. After a while with no real action Ross decided to drop down a scaled down "one up one down" rig with small hooks and straight away had a few small whiting, poor cod and pouting. I did likewise, bites were coming as soon as it hit the bottom and I started catching them too. All small but good fun whilst we waited for bites on the bigger baits. Ross caught a small thornback ray on his mini rig which was encouraging as I wanted one too.

The smallest thornback ray Ross has ever caught!

Ross then caught a grey gurnard. After catching another thornback I hoped I'd get one but the bites dried up a bit so we moved to another buoy. In quick succession Ross caught another two small thornback rays. I couldn't seem to stop catching whiting though! Most of them had parasites on them which I picked off before putting them back. 

Poor little buggers.

We also thought it was quite strange that with so many small fish in the area that there didn't seem to be any spurdogs around. Perhaps they prefer the taste of whiting tipped with parasite to mackerel tipped with squid! At this point we realised almost three hours had passed and decided to move north to drift near the quarry at Bonawe. We switched to luminous Hokkai traces weighted down with luminous pirks with the hooks all baited up. After a few drifts with no action at all we moved opposite the quarry and tied up to a buoy near some fish cages but again our jigging went unrewarded so we decided to head back to the first buoy we'd had the most fish from in Airds Bay. I was still hoping to catch a thornback ray and Ross was hoping that a few spurdogs would turn up but all we caught was small fish again. For the last hour we headed to new buoy close to where we launched from but again this produced no fish. As a last throw of the dice we decided to head out for a drift in middle of bay. It was over 200 foot deep here and after switching to a running ledger on my boat rod I hooked into a slightly bigger fish that turned out to be another whiting. After 10 minutes or so it was time to head back so I reeled up and began tidying up a bit. Ross was just about to reel up too when he had a few good bites which he let develop a bit before striking into a fish. As it came up from the depths we soon realised that it was what he'd wanted to fish Loch Etive for, a dark and nicely spotted spurdog.

He's talkin' about sharkin'! Lucky bugger!
Nasty sharp spurs on both these shark's dorsal fins give them their name.

Whilst I was disappointed not to add any new species to my tally I was so pleased that Ross had got one to add to his on his last cast. Neither of us could believe his luck and it made the journey home a bit easier.

Ross had to head home this afternoon but before he left we headed down the coast again to try and get him a two spotted goby. Fishing a #26 hook it wasn't long before the gobies started appearing and thirty minutes, a few common gobies and a change from a tiny piece of Isome to a tiny chunk of ragworm later, Ross had another new species balanced on the tip of his finger.

They all count when you are a species hunter!

Whilst Ross had been micro fishing I had been amusing myself trying to catch a small flounder that we spotted in a long shallow rockpool and after a while dangling a small chunk of Isome in front of its mouth, it gave in, ate my offering and was quickly hooked and hoisted up.

Pretty strange to find it there in the rockpool not that I was complaining.

After dropping me off back in town Ross had to head off so we said goodbye and I wished him luck trying to catch a ling over the next few weeks. Fishing Loch Etive from the boat was great and I'll certainly be doing it again although I may try in warmer weather next time! It's always a pleasure fishing with Ross and I have a feeling he may be back up here before the year is out so we may be fishing together again fairly soon which I have no doubt will be fun whatever the target species!

Tight lines, Scott.