Friday, June 01, 2012

The Skye is the limit.

With two consecutive days off work, my girlfriend Lillian (who is also a top fishing guide and promising photographer) said she wanted to go away somewhere nice for a short break. I suggested a trip to Skye but she wasn't keen on the long drive. Leave it to me I said! I got Googling and planned a few stops to break up the journey. We set off on Wed morning and on the way up we stopped about half way there at Loch Lochy. At over 9 miles long it's quite a large body of water. It's free to fish and no permit is required. Like most Scottish waters it contains pike. It also contains brown trout some of which, for whatever reason, decide to develop into the large fish devouring ferox form. Having caught a couple of arctic char recently I fancied a crack at these big nasty ferox trout. Having never fished for them before I thought I could maybe tempt one with a Savage Gear Soft 4 Play in rainbow trout and this would also be good lure for the resident crocs too! After a long but pleasant drive we arrived at the Loch and headed to the north end. Skin-So-Soft liberally applied to deter any airborne pests (it's what the S.A.S. use allegedly!), we headed down to the shore. It was very shallow and the bottom was littered with dead wood. I soon realised that it was a bit too shallow and the dead wood was snagging me up too much so we moved down a bit and started fishing properly into a bit more water.

The view from the top end of Loch Lochy.
A bit further down the Loch. Deeper and a little less debris on the bottom. Just as nice a view!
I start my search for ferox trout.

My setup was my Daiwa Powermesh X-Spin 902MS 10-40g, Daiwa Exceler X-3000 loaded with 20lb Power Pro, 20lb wire trace and a 9.5cm Savage Gear Soft 4Play in rainbow trout on a 7g #2/0 AGM Ultra Ball jighead. I cast out over the dead wood and started working it back, a few jerks, then a pause followed by a slow steady retrieve for a few turns of the handle then I repeated this pattern. After each cast I made my way along the bank a few metres. After about 30 minutes I had my first take pretty close in and the culprit was soon in the net, handled superbly by my trusted ghillie! A nice jack weighing 3lb 3oz.

Like a lot of pike it had a few battle scars on its tail.

We continued working our way along the bank. I spotted a nice bay with a nice drop off about 12ft out and a little stream flowing into the loch that would provide a food source for smaller fish that in turn would hopefully provide a food source for something toothy!

Looked like a good spot that may hold pike.

I cast out and started working the lure back. I felt a couple of nudges as I neared the drop off and as the lure passed over the top of it a large pike came up, smashed the lure and started veering of to my left stripping line. I love that noise! Lillian sprang into action and readied the net whilst I tightened up the drag a few clicks and started to bully the fish a bit. At this point it did a spot of tail walking, an awesome sight, Lillian got a fright though! After stripping a bit more line with a second spirited run I had it coming towards the net but as I drew it near it made one final burst before finally being netted. A nice fish, I though it may be a double and upon weighing it I was correct.

10lb 8oz and a new PB.

She was quickly unhooked, weighed, photographed and gently put back. Slowly sulking off before a powerful stoke of her tail took her back down over the drop off into the depths again.

Nice to meet you.
Savage Gear Soft 4Play in Rainbow Trout. My new favourite colour!

Absolutely buzzing we continued to walk along the bank and then after a while we turned around and headed back up towards the car. When I reached the point where I caught the first fish I hooked another and to my surprise it was the same one!

Memory only slightly better than a goldfish obviously! Here's his good side.

We walked back up to the starting point and jumped back in the car and headed onward to Skye. On the way we passed Eilean Donan Castle built on a small island at the north end of Loch Duich.

Eilean Donan Castle. It was used as a location in the film "Highlander".

Another 2 hours drive and we arrived in Portree and checked into the Pink Guest House situated right on the Quayside.

Can you tell which one is the Pink Guest House?

After a quick nap we popped out and had a lovely seafood dinner in The Lower Deck just along the quay from our accommodation. The seafood stew was amazing and the highland ale was rather nice too!

Now it was ultra light time! I quickly grabbed the gear from the car. Headed along the quay side, threaded half a medium pink Isome onto a 2.3g #6 Shirasu Fine jighead and dropped it down the side of the wall. It wasn't long before a sea scorpion bolted out and had a chomp. Not hooked though just holding on and this happened a few times so I halved the lure and doubled it up on the jighead. Next drop I hooked one.

Nice little long spined sea scorpion.

I started to slowly work my way along the wall and soon caught a second sea scorpion. To my delight this one was a short spined sea scorpion. My first one of 2012.

Another species added to my 2012 tally!
A very distinctive throat membrane is a good way to identify them. Short spines is another!

Very happy with this I carried on hoping to maybe catch a goby or some other mini species but all I caught was another three long spined sea scorpions. The last one I caught had some very unusual marking on it's underside.

Brown and Yellow body are quite nice on this fish.
Very bright yellow underbelly with vivid markings on the fins.

I've never seen one like this before. Quite stunning and one of the reasons I love this species, no two are alike.

As light faded and the gentle breeze dropped off the dreaded Scottish midgie began appearing. Just as they did I spotted a larger fish moving from under one patch of weed to under another and had a few casts in its direction but the swarms of midgies were beginning to irritate me already so I retired for the evening!

Early rise yesterday morning to make the drive up to Neist Point, a place that's been on my fishing mark bucket list since I first saw incredible shots of it on the World Sea Fishing forum. Looked out of the window though to be confronted with grey skies and light rain, not ideal for a session on a rock mark! I checked the forecast at breakfast and it predicted the rain would clear later in the morning, however the weather in this part of the world is notoriously difficult to predict! Jumped in the car and drove northwest across the island along some single track roads and dodging the sheep on the way. Had to laugh at this lamb's choice of vantage point!


We arrived at the Neist Point car park and got the gear together and began the walk down. Having read about it on other fishing reports I was expecting a brutal climb but the path was very good and we were down at the lighthouse in only 20 min.

Neist Point from the top.
We had a quick look around and worked out how to get down to the side of the small bay beneath the lighthouse. The climb down was relatively easy and I was soon ready to start fishing. 

The first spot we fished from beneath the lighthouse.

I asked my fishing guide for some lure advice and she picked out the real pearl Savage Gear Sandeel. Great choice I thought! Casting into the bay I let it get down and then started a sink and draw retrieve. After about 15 min a pollock shot up and grabbed the lure and bolted off to the right towards some kelp. It wasn't hooked though and the lure came out of its mouth. I kept working over the same area and a few casts later I hooked my first pollock of the session. Soon afterwards I caught another smaller pollock but then it went a bit quiet so we did a spot of exploring, found another nice spot and climbed down.

2lb 5oz Neist Point pollock. Lovely start.
Second pollock landed. Listening to your fishing guide pays off.
Slightly further around the peninsula. The weather has brightened up nicely!

At this point a boat arrived and they caught a few pollock before moving off again. I decided to try a Slug-Go as I've never caught on one despite numerous attempts. Today would be no different though! I really must pick Jake's brains on how he fishes them as he loves them and catches loads of fish on them. Next I tried a 4" white Reins Bubbling Shad. One small fish followed this lure up at the end of one retrieve. Not a pollock but I couldn't positively ID it. Perhaps it was a mackerel. With no further action we decided to move again and this time to swap over to the ultra light gear and see if there were any mini species around. We headed over towards the old loading dock on the Moonen Bay side of the peninsula.

I thought this old loading dock would hold some mini species.

On the way over I spotted a nice rockpool and I couldn't resist dropping a section of Gulp! Sandworm in. No sooner had it hit the bottom than out came a sea scorpion and nailed it! Lifted him up and it was another of the long spined variety. We reached the old loading dock but to my surprise there was not much happening there so we clambered along rocks until we reached a nice deep gully. I dropped down an IMA Trilobite. Out came a small wrasse from the weeds and had a look at the lure. A few little jigs soon had it tapping away until it was hooked. I lifted it up hoping for a corkwing or a goldsinny but instead it was a nice brown and orange ballan wrasse.

Cute little ballan wrasse.

We continued to rockhop around the bay and I spotted another nice rockpool and dropped in the IMA Trilobite. Two small fish shot out. I could make out a custard tip on the dorsal fin of one of them so I knew they were rock gobies. I quickly tied on a tiny #18 hook and put on a tiny chunk of a Gulp! Fish Fry. Letting it slowly sink down the little goby darted out again. Wham! I quickly swung it up to my hand. 

Who said punk was dead?

Another species checked off the list for this years hunt! I tried to catch the other one but a large crab appeared and kept grabbing at the lure so I went back to exploring the gullies in search of more wrasse.

This great looking gully surprisingly produced no fish.

Then we came to a nice little deep bay and I thought I'd have a go for a pollock or two on my ultra light gear and started off by rigged up a 2" Ecogear Strawtail. No luck with that so I switched to half a large pink Isome. Casting over to the other side of the bay and letting it sink right down then working it back very slowly with a few little twitches, I soon had a few plucks and hooked a nice little pollock just over 1lb.

Not a big fish but the Diaflash has a nice bent in it. Great fun!

Next cast I hooked another bigger fish. Maybe 2lb. Must have been barely hooked though. After a dive for the kelp at my feet I got it up again only to see it thrash on the surface and shake the hook free. Oh well, catch and release in action! Again on the next cast I hooked another! About the same size as the first but this one had nice golden honeycomb markings on its flanks.

Nice markings on this young pollock.

By now time had come to make the walk back up to the car and again having read others reports of a gruelling trudge with several breaks required we were surprised when we did it in about 25 min. I guess others must have taken far too much tackle with them! The joys of light gear! On the way up I spotted this area which I'll be exploring the next time I visit.

Looks fishy.

So we set off home and stopped at Glengarry Castle Hotel on the way for a nice meal and to break up the journey a bit. Then we stopped at the Commando Memorial and took in the stunning views of Ben Nevis and the Grampian mountains before making the final 135 mile leg of our journey home.

"United We Conquer"
The Grampian mountains. What a view. The commandos used to train in the area.

Wow! What a trip! Some awesome scenery and beautiful places to fish. Great to get a new PB pike and a double at that! Two new species for my 2012 tally and some great great pollock action on my standard spinning and ultra light gear! An absolutely superb little break and a trip I'll be making again that's for sure.

Tight lines, Scott.

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