Friday, May 04, 2012

A "camping" trip.

My long suffering girlfriend Lillian had two consecutive days off this week so I promised her we would head off for a spot of camping and asked her to check the weather forecast and find somewhere to go that would be nice. When I came home from the football on Wed night and she told me we were going to Loch Ken Holiday Camp I was over the moon as I knew that meant a few hours each day predator hunting in both Loch Ken and also in Carlingwark Loch in nearby Castle Douglas.

We drove down on Thurs morning and arrived at Castle Douglas around noon where we stopped for lunch on the shore of Carlingwark Loch. It was a beautiful day, the surface of the loch was like a mirror and the water crystal clear, so whilst Lillian sunned herself I stuck my waders on and started working my way round the edges of the reeds and lily pads with my baitcasting gear to try and tempt any lurking toothy critters with a Savage Gear Soft 4Play on a 7g 2/0 jighead bouncing it along the bottom. 

Hmmm. Left or right?

Before long I had a small pike on but he threw the hook. A quick move around the loch to a secluded bay produced two follows and two hookups although both managed to escape after thrashing about on the surface with one feisty jack leaping about a foot out of the water as soon as he was hooked. Action dried up so we made another move. Whilst wading through the reeds I disturbed a big pike who splashed the surface as he bolted off down into the depths. I went a bit further along to the end of this reed bed and cast along the front of it a few times. Wallop! Another small jack on. As I was fishing from the bank Lillian was ready with the net and the first fish of the day was soon landed.

Small and feisty.

Couple of casts along the front of the same reed bed and I was hit again and this time I knew it was a much better fish. Didn't put up as good a fight as the small jacks had and as it came nearer the net I was expecting it to go berserk but it just glided in no problems.

Long and Lean.

Quickly weighed at 6lb 3oz and put back I had a few more casts but by this point it was time to head to the campsite and pitch our tent.

On the way up to the holiday park we saw a bird of prey circling overhead and pulled over to have a look. Turns out it was a red kite and that the area is part of The Galloway Kite Trail. 

Bird of prey.

We would see a few more during our stay.

Tent up, we went for a quick stroll along the shore of Loch Ken and I had a cast or two of a Lake Fork Baby Live Shad on my ultra light gear hoping to tempt a perch. 

An old metal bridge over Loch Ken.
Searching for perch at the edge of Loch Ken.

I quickly spoke to another angler who was catching roach with single maggots under a waggler float . He told me some other lads who had been out on the loch in a boat targeting pike had been complaining about all the big perch taking their baits. Pleasant problem to have I thought. I continued fishing for a bit and saw my first perch of the trip, a tiny one, followed my lure, bit the end and worked it's way up it but wasn't able to get the hook in its little greedy mouth. As soon as I started pulling on the lure he spat it out and bolted. Encouraging to see one though.

Time for a break from fishing so we headed north to the small village of Dalry and had a lovely meal in a nice little pub called the Clachan Inn which I would recommend if you're in the area. Looking at the various trophy fish around the pub made it hard for me to relax and when I commented that the perch would become active at dusk Lillian said I could try again so we headed back to the campsite!

Upon our return, Lillian went back to the tent to read a book and I fished for 30 minutes into dusk. As the light faded another two small perch followed my lure in tandem but like the first one I saw earlier in the evening they were tiny. Too small to take the hook. Then out of the corner of my eye I spotted something slowly moving across the surface towards the shore. As it got closer I realised it was a toad. I wondered if it would make it or would a huge pike emerge from the depths and devour it? The warty little fellow made it safely accross. Not sure how I felt about it to be honest. 

Pike fodder? Not tonight.

By now it was almost dark and I headed back to our tent to dream of all the huge perch I'd be catching the following day. 

Dusk over Loch Ken. Awe inspiring.

When we woke in the morning it was raining and overcast so we had a bit more sleep. At about 9:30 the rain stopped. Ideal conditions for catching perch I thought! We got up and took the tent down, went to reception and hired a boat for 4hrs. I figured this would be enough time to catch a few perch and not long enough to bore Lillian to death! I rowed us out to a likely looking spot and cast out a Lake Fork Live Baby Shad using my ultra light gear. No action for the first 30 minutes had me worrying about blanking but then as I was retrieving I felt a few tiny plucks followed by a few head shakes. Having struggled to catch a perch so far this year despite several attempts I was taking no chances and Lillian readied the net. As soon as the fish went over it I felt a massive wave of relief!

A small perch and a very happy man!

We continued fishing, rowing around trying different spots. As we drifted back down the loch towards the old metal bridge another red kite appeared circling above some trees on the shore.

Flying high.

By this point I had swapped over to my baitcasting setup and was casting towards the bank, working a Savage Gear Soft 4Play back to the boat in an effort to tempt a pike or even better a big perch when I saw a dark shape come up from behind. At first I thought it was a small jack but as it got closer and was only a few feet below the surface I realised it was a nice big perch. I paused the retrieve and it lurched forward taking the lure into its mouth sideways. I struck but just pulled the lure out, the hook hadn't been in it's mouth obviously. He was still there though so I quickly dropped the lure down near him but he wasn't interested. He swam back down into the peaty depths. Disappointed I fished on to see if there were any more of a similar size around but after a while I switched back to my ultra light gear and managed to land a further two small perch on Lake Fork Live Baby Shad.

Another greedy perch.
Lake Fork Live Baby Shad does it again.

Gutted not to land the big one but happy to finally end my perch hoodoo! Pretty soon afterwards our time was up so I rowed back to shore and we headed back up the road to Edinburgh.

A most enjoyable little "camping" trip. A very scenic area with some stunning wildlife, the red kites were a pleasant surprise and whilst we weren't there to see them we did see plenty of them. A return to Loch Ken is definitely on the cards in the summer to target big perch and Carlingwark Loch is a fantastic pike venue that will no doubt be revisited on the way.

Finally I owe a big thank you to my lovely girlfriend Lillian, who is very understanding of my obsessive behaviour and just happens to be an excellent ghillie. I'm a very lucky man.

Tight lines, Scott.

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