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.

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