Monday, December 30, 2013

Light fantastic.

Over the last week or so I've read a few reports online from other anglers catching flounder using heavy tackle with the anglers concerned asking how to avoid deep hooking flounders. I offered some advice and decided to practice what I preach, heading out on Boxing Day to have a go for them on light tackle and using circle hooks. I drove down to West Barns, parked the car and crossed over the Biel Burn before strolling down to fish from its mouth at the end of Belhaven Beach.

This bridge is partially submerged either side of high water. This catches a few people out and results in either getting quite wet or a very long walk.

It was a lovely day with hardly any clouds and a slight off shore breeze flattening the sea. Perhaps a little too flat. I prefer to fish for flounders when there are a few small waves breaking as it stirs up the bottom and encourages them to feed but I gave it a go anyway.

Not the Bass Rock again! It's been on the horizon at the last few marks I've fished. I'd love to visit it one day.

My setup for the session was my Nories Flat Fish Program Rough Surf 88, Daiwa Caldia 3000 reel spooled with 15lb Sunline Castaway braid. At the business end I tied on about five feet of 15lb leader using a uni to uni knot onto which I slid a 1oz egg sinker followed by a bead and tied on a small swivel.

Get with the program. Light is the way to go for flounders. This 8' 8" rod is rated 10-40g and combined with braid the bite detection is very good. 

I then snelled a #4 Mustad Demon Fine Wire circle hook using a knotless knot onto a fairly short 6" 10lb snood and tied this onto the swivel. My bait cocktail of choice was a small section of black lug, which I doubled over and bound with bait elastic, tipped off with a small sliver of squid.

Snelling circle hooks will help them work properly by turning them into the mouth of the fish.

Casting out I found my lead was resting on the bottom. Flounders are attracted by movement and I would have changed to a lighter lead so that the current could wash it and my bait around a bit but didn't have any lighter leads with me so instead every minute or so I would turn the reel handle a couple of times to bump my bait along the sand and try and tempt any fish that were in range. My setup was very light and comfortable and holding it at right angles to the line I watched the tip for signs of activity whilst feeling the line also between my thumb and finger.

Holding your rod tip at a ninety degree to the line also helps with bite detection.

Fishing with circle hooks it is important to remember that you do not strike when you feel a bite. Instead you let the bite develop before slowly reeling in or lifting the rod tip, feeling for the weight of the fish which will hook itself as the shank of the hook is draw out of its mouth and the hook point turns into the lip. After forty five minutes or so of casting out in various directions and slowly working it back I felt a gentle pluck of a fish and waited a few seconds before slowly reeling in. My rod soon had a nice bend in it, the fish on the end nodding its head so I knew the circle hook had done its job and a nice flounder was soon on the sand ready to be easily unhooked and returned to the water.

Success! A nice flounder perfectly lip hooked.
Off it goes again to grow bigger!

I carried on fishing for another hour or so but had no more bites before I headed home. Still it was very satisfying that everything had come together as it had been a while since I'd fished for flounders on an open beach using this method. Circle hooks are great and really reduce the chances of deep hooking. It can still happen occasionally if you don't notice the bite though and this alone is a good reason to fish lighter particularly if you are a catch and release angler. However even if using Aberdeen patterns whilst fishing light for flounder it is still so much more enjoyable than the two heavy rods and a tripod approach and the additional bite detection provided should still reduce the chances of fish swallowing baits right down making unhooking difficult. I would even go so far as to say that the tackle I was using was still a little on the heavy side as the use of ultra light tackle really transforms flounder into a sporting fish so the next time I go I'll be going even lighter!

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wind of change.

I headed out for a few hours fishing with my mate Nick on Sunday. We selected "Ghegan Rock" near Seacliff beach as we thought it would be quite sheltered but as the wind seemed to be blowing from a different direction to the forecast we weren't sheltered at all. Oh well, having walked a fair distance and scrambled down a rather muddy embankment to get to the mark we decided to give it a bash anyway and were soon fishing a selection of baits fairly close in. Nick fished a single rod and opted for a fairly big bait hoping to catch some winter cod. I on the other hand fished two rods and lobbed out two small baits on small hooks hoping to tempt a three bearded rockling.

Not an unpleasant view with the ruins of Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock in front of us. 

The wind made fishing pretty uncomfortable but we soldiered on and as we patiently watched our rod tips for signs of activity we had a chat about the pros and cons of various approaches to bait fishing. One rod versus two, fixed spool reels versus multipliers, complicated rigs versus keeping things simple and the benefits of braided mainline were all discussed. After a couple of bait changes I reeled in to do a third and found this greedy little swine on the end of one of my running ledgers.

This cheeky little long spined scorpion fish was a nice surprise.

Nick laughed and said his bait was bigger than my catch which was no doubt true. A short while later I caught another in exactly the same way. As light faded the coalfish bites started and after catching one I decided to switch to slightly bigger hooks. After darkness fell and the headlamps were switched on, the tide turned and began to ebb and I had a couple of good bites. The first almost pulled my rod from the stand but when I picked it up and struck there was nothing there. The second time I was holding my rod but again when I struck I failed to connect. By this point the wind had really picked up however, it had started to rain as well and we were taking a bit of a battering so we called it a night.

It was good catching up with Nick and our discussion of bait angling methods has cemented a few thoughts I've had recently about how I want to bait fish next year. I've realised that fishing two rods can be counter productive at times and can lead to missed bites. It also means you are less inclined to move around. Fishing and focusing on one rod is the way forward for me. Also it's better to hold your rod if possible, be able to feel what's going on and quickly react to bites. I also plan on keeping my rigs very simple and most of the time will fish a running ledger or a one hook paternoster. I think most of my fishing will be done at close range too in clean to mixed ground so no need for anything too fancy. More species hunting is on the cards next year so I'll be using smaller baits and hooks which will hopefully mean more fish being caught and also less damage to the fish that are to be returned. I also want to use snelled circle hooks whenever possible too, again to minimise damage to my catches. I'm thinking I may treat myself to a new setup but in the meantime I'll start putting these changes into practice and I'm keen to try for a three bearded rockling at the "Ghegan Rock" again with Nick when the conditions make fishing more comfortable.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lucky Horseshoe?

The rather windy weather of late is making it rather difficult to get out fishing so when I looked at the forecast and spotted a slight lull in it on Tuesday night off I went. With a three bearded rockling still on my radar I picked a spot near North Berwick known as "The Horseshoe", arriving about an hour before sunset.

I don't have a superstitious bone in my body but maybe some luck would rub off on me anyway?

Simple running ledger setups incorporating rotten bottoms were my chosen approach on both rods. Black lug tipped off with squid was the bait for the evening and I decided to fish it on #1/0 hooks to try and stop small coalfish from taking them. This of course did not stop them from tapping away and before long one managed to get the hook in its greedy mouth. Quickly unhooked and put back I think it was at this point I spotted an odd light coming from behind the bass rock. I soon realised it was the moon and as it rose up and tried to get through the clouds it was quite a nice sight so I tried my best to capture it with my camera, taking loads of photos in the process.

This image is probably the best but try as I might I couldn't really capture the scene with my camera. It was one of those moments when you forget you're there fishing and are just glad to be out.

After messing about and probably missing loads of bites I couldn't miss the next one. It was a right good rattle and I quickly lifted my rod and felt the weight of a fish. As it came towards me I was of course hoping it was a nice big three bearded rockling but I knew from it thumping away that in all likelihood it was a small codling and was soon proved to be correct.

Bloody pest! Now I know how those targeting cod feel when they catch rockling!

As the tide continued to drop the wind picked up a bit and I found myself hunkering down behind some rock. It was hard to see bites and what bites i did see were few and far between and were no doubt small coalfish slowly stripping the bait from my hooks. As low water arrived even these seemed to become increasingly sparse so I called it a day at about 20:30. With my first rod broken down I lifted the second to find my end tackle was snagged. Pulling for a break the rotten bottom did its job and I felt a little bit of extra weight as I reeled in. Probably another greedy coalfish I guessed or could it be a small rockling perhaps?

No. It was a rather plump starfish. 

Well there's no sign of a let up in these strong winds and if anything they are going to get stronger. The only positive thing is that if they remain offshore they'll flatten the sea on the East Lothian coastline. If I'm to brave these howling winds I'll have to try and fish from a mark that offers a lot of shelter. Luckily my mate Nick is off work at the moment and he may know a spot or two that fit the bill nicely.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, December 13, 2013

More beards than ZZ Top.

Well it's that time of year again. No, not cod season. Rockling season! Having caught my first rockling species, shore rockling, at the start of this year I was keen to add another before the end of it. With the largest of the UK rockling species, the three bearded variety in mind, and after gathering some intel, I decided to visit Anstruther in the East Neuk of Fife to try and catch one. I was told that some had been caught there recently and conditions looked good so off I went on Tuesday for the first of two evening sessions.

Anstruther Harbour's western breakwater is known as "The White Pier" due to the white lighthouse at the end of it. About halfway along it would be my chosen mark.

Fishing with two rods I decided to keep things very simple and fished a running ledger on both with #8 Aberdeen hooks baited with black lug and tipped off with a little sliver of squid. It didn't take long at all for one of these small but smelly offerings to attract the attention of this passing flounder.

A nice start to the session. 

After the sun set the pace of the bites increased as the resident coalfish came out and after catching a few of them I caught a few small codling too.

Not the stamp of cod most anglers who visit the venue are after but nicely marked and a welcome change from the coalfish. 

I pretty much had the place to myself until a local lad came down, chatted to me for a bit and I explained what I was hoping to catch, before he headed home to get his gear. When he returned he lobbed out a juicy lug and mussel cocktail to try and tempt any larger codling that may have been around. He didn't succeed in catching any but did manage a few small greedy coalfish. Just before he left though he struck at a bite hooking the culprit and was soon reeling in a small fish. Another coalfish I guessed but as he lifted it over the wall he realised it was a small rockling and called me over so I nipped along to where he was took a look. Upon closer inspection of the fish which was maybe only 15cm long I couldn't believe the thing had managed to get a #6/0 hook into its tiny mouth!  It was a darkly coloured rockling so a quick beard count was completed and it turned out to be the five bearded variety, a species I'd never caught. The whole thing brought a huge smile to my face but I did jokingly tell him that if he caught another I'd have to throw him in! That's fishing though and it was good to know that there were some rockling around at least. I fished on for a while after the young lad called it a night at about 21:00 but left soon after rocklingless. 

The following afternoon I returned to try again. Thinking about the rockling the local lad had caught the night before as well as some of my angling mates advice to "go cod fishing" if I wanted to catch rockling and fish big baits and hooks I decided to try a compromise. I switched to a wishbone arrangement at the business end to hopefully put a bit more scent into the water that hopefully the resident rockling could home in on and this would allow me to continue using small hooks to increase my chances of a hook up should one decide to take a bait. As I set up the wind had dropped off almost completely compared to the previous day and the clouds had almost disappeared. It was a lovely mild evening especially given the time if year. 

A very picturesque December evening. 

Soon fishing black lug and mussel baits tipped off with squid the session started as it had the day before with another flounder and as soon as the sun began to set the bites were fairly frequent and a few coalfish were soon being caught. Reeling them in I was mumbling away to myself, "Please be a rockling, please be a rockling!" After a while I had a double shot of a coalfish and a viviparous blenny which at first glance I thought was a small rockling. It was a nice change from the coalfish though. They are cool little fish and are quite hard to handle as they slither around.

A slippery character indeed.

Shortly afterwards, after catching a few more coalfish and a single small codling, I was beginning to think it wasn't going to be my night again when I hooked another fish and as it came over the wall I was very excited to see it was a rockling. Which kind though? I knew straight away from its dark brown colouration that it wasn't a three bearded rockling so it was quickly unhooked and a beard count was eagerly done.

One, two, three, four, five,
Once I caught a five bearded rockling alive.
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
Then I let it go again.

I was over the moon to catch this as it was my first one! I really like rockling, I think they are a very interesting looking fish with their long bodies, small eyes and the barbules on their snout are most intriguing. I may be alone in feeling this way about them however as they are usually considered a nuisance, bait stealing pest by most anglers who catch them whilst targeting other, more prized species. Like all fish I think they are pretty cool fish in their own right. With about an hour or so left I decided to fish some slightly bigger baits on bigger hooks to try and tempt a three bearded rockling. This just resulted in coalfish tapping away but no more fish were hooked. Still a very pleasant couple of night's fishing, I left very pleased to have caught another new species and I'll certainly be out trying for a three bearded rockling again at some point over the winter.

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Three men and a lady.

After several emails asking if I could tag along with them I finally had the pleasure on Sunday of meeting up and fishing with Brian and Col, co-writers of the rather good "Streamside Diary" blog. After driving west and picking them both up we headed west further still to a stretch on one of the rivers they fish for grayling where they've had some success recently. After a short walk to the spot we'd be fishing we were soon tackled up and ready to get into the river. I had decided to try a centrepin reel for the first time and the latest addition to my fishing tackle arsenal was spooled up with 3.2lb Bayer Perlon. I paired it up with a 13ft float rod. An Avon float was employed and I was soon trotting a single maggot on a barbless #18 Kasaman B911 hook about four feet beneath it. I immediately found it a real pleasure to use especially as it only took three trots to hook a fish!

My first "lady of the stream" was in fact a male.

Obviously I was quite pleased and with the pressure off we could all relax and enjoy the rest of the day. Brian soon caught a few grayling, some of them right at his feet which goes to show that feeding maggots regularly can draw the shoal in rather close.

This nice grayling certainly put a smile on Brian's face.

Col had soon caught a few too and it was turning into a rather wonderful mild winter morning's fishing. At this point I noted that Brian's float seemed to be trotting downstream at a much slower speed than mine even though he didn't seem to be slowing it using his centrepin. I figured this was perhaps due to him either fishing a lighter float than mine or fishing his maggot slightly deeper than I was and this acting as a break. I quickly increased the length of the drop I was fishing and this seemed to have the desired effect and also saw me hook a few more fish almost straight away with three more grayling caught in quick succession. After a couple of hours I had to take a break on the bank as my leaking waders meant my left foot was absolutely freezing.

Whilst I enjoyed a warming cup of soup and thawed out my foot Col plays another grayling.

After a while we decided to split up and went for a wander fishing different swims. The clouds had disappeared by this point and this seemed to slow things down a bit. I found that fish were taking my bait a lot further downstream from me. Perhaps the extra sunlight made my presence easier for them to spot and they kept their distance as a result. In the afternoon I only managed a small out of season brown trout and three more grayling but to be honest it was nice just to enjoy the scenery and practice using the centrepin.

We all caught a brownie or two.
My final grayling of the day was probably in the nicest condition.
I admire a really lovely fish. I like their yellow teardrop shaped eyes too.
Beautiful deep red colouration on the dorsal fin.

It was soon time to go and on the way back we had a good chat about fishing. It was great meeting up with Brian and Col and I can't thank them enough for helping me catch my first grayling. Hopefully we can meet up again in the future. They've been dabbling with lures in saltwater this year so maybe I can return the favour and help them catch something new. They both mentioned that they'd tried to catch a corkwing wrasse and had no luck so perhaps a day hunting some down next summer will be a good way to repay them.

Tight lines, Scott.

Most Wanted : Common Dolphinfish (Mahi-Mahi).

I saw a small group of five or six of these whilst I was in Crete. Their humped backs and dark blue dorsal fin giving away their identity as they swam past the rocks I was fishing from one afternoon trying to catch European barracuda. Casting towards them I had one follow my hard lure before turning away. I cast towards them again to see the others in the shoal turn and follow it in for a few second before they all lost interest and swam off out into deeper water. It was heart pounding stuff and now I really want to catch one!

A yellow, green and blue torpedo.

These fish have beautiful colours and a quite odd domed forhead giving them an almost torpedo like shape . Also known as mahi-mahi, which is Hawaiian for "very strong", this is probably very apt as I'm sure once one is hooked it will go off like a rocket. Another species to try and target when I return to the Mediterranean in the autumn next year when I visit Menorca for a week with my mate Lee. I can't wait!

Tight lines, Scott.

No Bull.

I went out on Wednesday evening last week to visit a small stream on the south side of Edinburgh to try and catch a bullhead. Also known as Miller's Thumb it is the only UK goby species found in freshwater. Hiding under rocks during the day they come out when it's dark. A simple running ledger and a small chunks of raw prawn on a #10 Sabpolo Wormer hook were the chosen tactics but after a while fishing a pool with a few rocks in it and no bites I spotted some small fish in a shallow area at the edge of the stream and decided to see if the were juvenile bullheads. A quick change soon saw a #26 Gamakatsu hook baited with a minuscule piece of raw prawn being lowered amongst them and they immediately started fighting over it. One was soon hooked and quickly hoisted up.

A tiny three spined stickleback. Not the fish I was after.

It was quite amusing watching them all assualt my hookbait so I had a bit of fun and caught a few more. They are quite cool little fish. When I got home I spoke to my mate Lee and it's now obvious that he is a bit of an expert when it comes to freshwater mini species and their diets so a trip to his boyhood stream some where down in England next year at some point is now on the cards. Scottish bullheads can sleep safe under their rocks again.

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jack Frost nipping at my maggots.

I popped to Eliburn Reservoir on Sunday for a few hours in the afternoon to relax and fish the waggler. I've not fished there for a while and when I arrived I found that it was almost completely frozen over. Not a good sign and it limited my choice of peg to only four in the small bay on the western side of the venue. I quickly set up my waggler rod and started fishing a single maggot on the bottom. Feeding a few maggots it took just under an hour to start getting bites and after missing a couple I hooked and landed a roach.

All good things to those who wait.

Over the next two hours I patiently watched for my puddle chucker for signs of fish and was rewarded with three more roach before a swan and two signets invaded my swim to eat the maggots that had landed on the ice as I had been feeding the swim. After they moved away again I didn't get any bites for a while and my fingers were getting rather numb so I decided to call it a day.

Pesky birds!

So yet another cold weather session that was fairly hard work. That's just the way things are at this time of year though if you are prepared to brave the cold. Some people might think I'm mad but a I think a few nice roach were worth the effort!

Tight lines, Scott.

A zander! A zander! My kingdom for a zander!

Last year at about this time I fished Rutland Water with my mate Martin and despite some pretty miserable conditions we both managed to catch our first zander. We were keen to have another go for them this year and had planned to head down south again to Grafham Water this time to have a couple of days out in a boat fishing for them with lures. The weather forecast a few days before we left predicted wind speeds into double figures so we changed our plans and decided to head to Warwickshire to fish the Lure Angler Canal Club's stretch of the Grand Union Canal instead. We met up in Carlisle on Monday evening and drove down the M6 arriving at our hotel after a few hours where we sorted out our gear for an early start.

Tuesday morning and over breakfast we discussed our plan of attack on the ten mile section of canal our day ticket covered. I suggested we start at one end and tossed a coin to decide which. Tails it was and off we went. Soon at the canal we started working our way along the towpath. It took us quite a while to locate any fish. Whilst quite cold it was quite a sunny day and perhaps not ideal conditions. The canal is quite shallow and is very coloured too so we elected to use some Mike's Scent in herring and trout flavours on our lures. Yummy. Apart from moored boats though the section we were on had very little structure so we spent more time fishing around locks when we reached them. It was from just below one that I caught the first fish of the day, a small perch. 

Greedy little bugger swallowed a 3" Daiwa D-Fin whole!

Shortly afterwards Martin briefly hooked a small zander that threw the hook whilst he got his net. Encouraged to have found a couple of fish we carried on working our way along a long and pretty featureless stretch for a mile or so and it became quite apparent that we were really struggling to locate any more fish. After a while we decided to fish back along towards the car and head somewhere else. With no sign of any fish on the way once back at the car I had a quick look on Google Maps and found a spot with a few locks that we could park next to and off we went. 

By now the light was beginning to fade which we both agreed could work in our favour. Sure enough I hooked and landed another perch on my first cast. A good start. We headed along towards the first lock, Martin hooked a fish and called along to tell me it was a zander. I ran along the towpath and netted it for him. We carried on slowly working our way along when I thought I had snagged on something on the bottom and began slowly lifting it up. I was quite surprised to see it was a zander! Bizarrely it didn't move at all and it was a bit like a submarine surfacing. As it got near the surface I wasn't sure if it was hooked but as soon as I put a bit more pressure on it spat the lure out of its mouth and swam off. I called to Martin and he came along to where I was. We had a few more casts around the area and Martin soon hooked his second zander of the day. 

A nice fish and it was about the same size as the one I'd just "lost". No way of telling if it was the same one though.

We both thought we'd see a bit more action but despite fishing on into darkness no more fish were caught. 

The next day the weather forecast was for rain and wind. We headed to a spot a mile or two from the other end of the stretch we were permitted to fish. After a few casts I hooked a big perch but it managed to throw the hook whilst Martin came over with the net. A couple of casts later I caught a smaller one and then we decided to start working our way along the canal in search of some zander. After a while the skies opened and it started raining hailstones. We took shelter under a bridge for a bit until it went off again. Martin switched to a Savage Gear Dying Minnow and the resident perch seemed to like it.

The colouration of the resident perch matches their murky home rather well. 

After that it went fairly quiet and we reached a large open area with a lot of boats. Whilst I focused on this area Martin went along the canal to fish around a bridge. It wasn't long before he called me along to say he had just hooked and lost another zander so I joined him there. This area seemed to hold a lot more fish, we both had a few perch and then I hooked a zander which annoyingly managed to throw the hook again. At this point I had a horrible feeling that I wasn't going to land one as we had planned to turn back when we reached the bridge. However, the stretch after it looked quite good being rather shady with a fair amount of overhanging and partially submerged trees on the opposite bank so we started fishing it. It turned out to be a good decision as it was easily the most productive stretch we had discovered so far and soon a few perch were caught. Martin then caught a zander and I finally hooked and landed three zander in fairly quick succession on a 8cm Savage Gear Soft 4-Play fished very slowly on a drop shot rig.

My third zander was a lovely fish in almost perfect condition. For such a streamlined fish with all those huge fins you'd think they would fight hard but they don't unfortunately which is quite odd.

I hooked a forth, larger zander which came off, Martin caught a few more perch, then the sky opened up again and we got a bit of a soaking. This also signalled the end of the action too so we called it a day and headed back to the car to head back up the road. We both really like zander, they are lovely looking fish and we really wish there were some up here. Sadly there isn't though but such is our fondness for them we're tempted to return to fish for them again over the winter at some point! It was great catching up with Martin again, I really enjoy fishing with him, and whilst it was tough finding fish at times, for our first attempt at zander from a canal I think we did ok, despite losing as many as we landed. I'm hoping to meet up with Martin again before the year is out to try and catch some spurdogs from either Loch Etive or Loch Sunart. Something else to look forward to!

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Keep calm and carry on fishing.

For most anglers winter is a difficult time. Usually because the species they choose to target are no longer around or they don't want to fish through the colder months. I also find it pretty tough but I still like to get out and try and catch something and there are still fish around to be caught. During the week I headed down the coast to St Abbs Harbour. At this time of year there are plenty of coalfish around and plenty of fun to be had catching them on ultra light tackle. It's very easy to catch them too so the action can be fast paced. I debarb my hooks to aid unhooking and prevent damaging the fish. On the first night I fished with my current favourite and perhaps the most convenient of baits, raw prawn. On the second night I fished with small lures and mixed it up with some small metals (with the trebles replaced with single hooks), paddletails on jigheads and Gulp! Angleworm and Isome on a dropshot rig. Over the two nights I caught just over one hundred coalfish, most of them only a few ounces but the odd fish about a pound put a good bend in my rod.

The humble coalfish is often overlooked but can give a good scrap on ultra light tackle.

A couple of pollock and a solitary long spined sea scorpion managed to muscle their way through the shoals of ravenous coalfish and in the back of my mind I was hoping that something unusual would turn up but nothing did. Still it was a lot of fun and just goes to show that if you're not too fussy about what you are targeting there are still plenty of fish in the sea and plenty fun to be had catching them!

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

...and the sky is grey.

I hadn't seen my mate Keith for a while so when he told me he had a few days off this week we arranged to meet up. The weather was looking pretty rancid across most of the country so we agreed to go where ever conditions looked most favourable. The night before we checked the forecast and there was no escaping the howling wind. Dunbar was forecast to be overcast but dry at least and the wind was blowing off shore so there would be very little swell to make things even harder so I was confident we could find a sheltered spot or two for some ultra light mini species fun.

First stop was Torness Power Station outflow, Scotland's premier common blenny hotspot. Not a place I really like visiting anymore due to it being a bass nursery area that is sadly frequented by a lot of idiots who take undersized fish. Anyway, as Keith was keen to catch some blennies I made an exception and luckily we had the place to ourselves. Fishing for a couple of hours we had a lot of fun and caught several dozen blennies between us on Gulp! Angleworm and raw prawn. I also caught the smallest corkwing wrasse I've ever seen.

These cheeky little fish always put a smile on my face.
How cute!

It was quite interesting that whilst there were plenty of blennies amongst the large boulders that make up the sea defences they weren't being particularly aggressive but when we tried fishing down the edge of the outflow it was a blenny pretty much every drop. This was probably due to the artificially warm water and a reminder that over the coming months the fishing in saltwater will get quite tough as fish feed less. As it started to get dark we left, popping into Dunbar harbour for an hour to have a even more ultra light fun catching loads of small coalfish before finally heading back up the road.

Good fun on ultra light tackle and plenty of them in the harbour as always.

It was good catching up with Keith and he tells me he'll have a bit more free time next month so no doubt we'll be off fishing and with Keith being a keen fluff chucker I suspect we might try for grayling at some point.

Tight lines, Scott.

Most Wanted : Grayling.

The lady of the stream. Beautiful and elegant. Hard fighting. I'd love to catch one. There's no season for them in Scotland and with things slowing to a crawl on the saltwater front what better way to spend cold winter days than wading in icy cold streams and rivers, frosty air nipping at your fingers trying to catch a grayling?

Lovely looking fish with that large sail like and wonderfully coloured dorsal fin.

I'm not sure if I'll get myself a centrepin reel and try trotting maggots, fish one of the tried and tested grayling fly patterns and hopefully improve my fly casting in the process or perhaps do something different and fish a tiny soft plastic on a jighead using my ultra light gear. Whichever approaches I end up using I'm sure I'll have a lot of fun and the reward will be well worth braving the cold should I manage to catch one.

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Most Wanted : Gilthead Seabream.

Another addition inspired by my recent trip to Crete, the gilthead seabream is a species that can also be targeted in UK waters. Named due to the golden band between their eyes and golden hue on their upper gill plates, this member of the seabream family is renowned as a powerful fish that offers great sport when hooked. The small common pandora, a very similar fish shape wise, that I caught gave me a little bit of an idea what to expect, scrapping well, putting a nice bend in my ultra light gear and taking line in short but powerful little runs. 

All that glitters may not be gold but in this case it is.

With at least one trip to the Mediterranean already on the cards, perhaps a holiday there too and a trip or two to the south coast next summer a distinct possibility as well I'll hopefully get more than one opportunity to have go for them. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Most Wanted : Stargazer.

Having caught four out of the six Mediterranean species on my "Most Wanted" list I'm going to add a few more. Then I can justify more species hunting sessions if I go for a holiday there next year and if I don't I'll just have to go for a fishing trip! I quite like weevers. There's just something about them that I'm drawn to. Perhaps it's their aggressive nature or cunning method of camoflage. I just think they are cool. Stargazers are without doubt my new favourite weever though. Having seen them buried and waiting to pounce I fell in love with their grumpy looking faces in the sand. 

Grumpy but certainly not dopey.
The cunning predator uncovered!

The ones I saw in the aquarium in Hersonisos were all caught in fisherman's nets and my capture of a greater weever at range from a harbour makes me think that stargazers will also be a viable target from the shore too. Weevers being aggressive also suggests to me that locating them will be the hardest part and once I've done that catching one won't be too hard. Local knowledge will no doubt be the key and hopefully I can find some fisherman who are prepared to share it with me!

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All the leaves are brown...

Having not caught a fish since I returned to Scotland on the 15th I was feeling pretty bad due to withdrawal symptoms and needed a fix so I drove up to Orchill Coarse Fishery yesterday to take advantage of a break in the wet weather and had a day fishing maggots on a float ledger setup. In the morning I tried "Alex's Pond" but after three hours with out so much as a bite I decided to head up the hill to the "Snake Pond" and try my luck there. It was slow for a while but eventually the bites came and I soon connected with a few fish. Roach and perch made up the bulk of my eight fish haul over the next three hours but a lovely little mirror carp made sitting in the cold wind all day with leaves falling all around me worthwhile.

A rather lovely little mirror carp.
Autumn is here and getting back from sunny Crete was a bit of a massive come down if I'm honest. A good few tough months ahead but I'm sure I can make the most of whatever fishing opportunities present themselves and I still have a few species I'd like to try and catch before the year is out so planning around those will keep me occupied!

Tight lines, Scott.

Species hunting adventures on Crete : Part 5.

Over the last few days of our holiday we visited the south coast a few times. First on Lillian's list was Lerapetra so off we went. After passing Agios Nikolaos we headed further east along the coast and came to a very sharp right hand turn in the road. As we rounded it I spotted a nice looking little harbour down below with a sandy bottom so we went down to take a look.

Just what I was hoping to find!

It was a very hot day but having stumbled across this perfect spot to try for wide eyed flounder I had to have a go! First cast and a few lizardfish appeared from the sand and shot over to investigate what had just entered the water. A few were soon too inquisitive for their own good, eagerly grabbed the Gulp! Angleworm and were caught. I worked my way along the harbour and caught some ornate wrasse and a black scorpionfish closer in. Then I couldn't believe my luck when I spotted a small wide eyed flounder swimming along the bottom!

Try as I might I couldn't catch it on Gulp! or raw prawn. It kept swimming up to have a look and then turning away. By this point it was very hot and even the lizard fish had all buried themselves and were ignoring my hook bait when it passed there partially buried heads. Having spent too long already and getting quite frustrated in the process we got back on the road and were soon in Lerapetra. We had a ramble around and went for something to eat. I wasn't going to fish but when I spotted some strange fish in the mouth of the harbour that I guessed were pipe fish I had a go.

Another harbour...
...another potential new species!

I did manage to get them interested but I could not get them to bite and had to make do with a few ornate wrasse before admitting defeat.

In the early evening we headed back to the small sandy bottomed harbour on our way home and I tied up a simple three hook flapper rig with very short snoods and baited the #12 hooks with little chunks of prawn. Casting out I held the rod feeling for bites. There wasn't much happening to start with then I had a good bite and struck, hooking a fish that fought quite well. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was a striped seabream, a nice bonus new species.

Striped seabream have a rather strange looking head!

It was a little while before I got my second bite and because it was a gentle one I let it develop a bit before slowly winding into it. I felt the weight of something small but as I slowly reeled it in I felt something else biting. By the time I had reeled in my mini rig it had a triple shot of fish on it. The first fish that came into view was a lizardfish. So was the second. The third however was a tiny flatfish! My sense of anticipation briefly turned to dread when upon lifting them up the harbour wall I heard a splash as one fish fell off but luckily it was not the wide eyed flounder!

Small but perfectly formed. Nice almost floral pattern too.

I was over the moon and for the second time during the trip did a little jig. After that the bites slowed down again so after a while I switched to a drop shot rig and started fishing down the harbour wall in the hope of getting lucky again and finding a tentacled blenny. There were loads of small black scorpionfish hiding in the cracks that came charging out to grab my little lure and I even managed to hook a couple of shy biting damselfish. Last drop before we left I caught a tiny grouper that I would later identify as a goldblotch grouper, another new species for me.

The adults are much more bland.

The next day we drove down to the south coast again and after visiting a nice beach we then took a long drive up through the mountains and headed north again to the Aquaworld Aquarium in Hersonisos. We visited it the last time we were on Crete five years ago. The Scotsman who started it, John McLaren, and his lovely wife who helps him run it are great and it may be a fairly small place but I enjoyed it much more than the much larger Cretaqurium. There were lots of species on show but the tank with the weevers, stargazers and scorpionfish in it was my favourite.

These streaked weevers were quite big. I'd love to catch one!
You lookin' at me? Quite a friendly bunch really.

Out the back there are lots of reptiles on display and I got to cuddle a snake again. This time it was a bit bigger than the one I got to handle the last time we visited!

This large male iguana kept jiggling his dewlap (flap of skin on his neck) and jowls and generally showing off. 
This albino Burmese python was rather heavy. It seemed quite friendly though. 

Incredibly this was the first and last day of the trip that I didn't do any fishing!

Lillian has this thing about castles so the following day we made a three hour drive to the south west of the island to see the fortress at Frangokastelo. After having a look around I was allowed to fish the harbour there and from the rocks at the end of its outer breakwater. The fishing was pretty slow but I persevered and managed a few Buchichi's gobies, a rainbow wrasse and tormented another octopus that kept grabbing my bit of Gulp! and letting it go again. I really wanted to catch one so Lillian could see it up close but after a while it got bored with me and crawled off.

Tough going here in front of Frangokastelo fortress.

After lunch we headed further west to Hora Sfakion. It was another very hot afternoon and while Lillian took the opportunity to relax in the shade I fished for an hour in the fairly deep harbour there and caught a few lizard fish followed by some rainbow wrasse, including a couple of males.

Slightly more colourful than it used to be as a female.

I then moved to another part of the harbour and soon caught a marbled rabbitfish and a parrotfish before I caught something else at range that felt a bit different as I was reeling it in. When it came to the surface I was very pleased to see my first greater weever. This would be my last new species of the trip.

A small specimen but I was chuffed to catch it and laughing in the face of danger handled it in a manly manner.
Nice light blue and gold markings and a jet black dorsal fin with venomous spines just like its smaller UK cousin. Note the sharp spines on the gill plates too.

The day before we left I had an hour at "The Lake" after popping to Agios Nikolaos to buy some gifts for folk back home and caught a few more fish. My last fish of the trip was a small, but very angry, white grouper. Lillian said it was trying to bite me but I could have sworn it was talking to me!

Maybe it was saying goodbye.

Well I had a great holiday and was very sad to leave. The fishing was great fun too and again I was sad to be returning back to a cold, wet and windy Scotland! At least I was coming back with some happy memories, some of them fishy. Here's what I caught...

  1. Annular Seabream x 13
  2. Bass x 1
  3. Black Goby x 1
  4. Black Scorpionfish x 1
  5. Blue Runner x 9
  6. Bogue x 23
  7. Buchichi's Goby x 6
  8. Cleaver Wrasse (Pearly Razorfish) x 1
  9. Comber x 9
  10. Common Pandora x 1
  11. Common Two Banded Seabream x 6
  12. Damselfish x 9
  13. Derbio x 4
  14. Dusky Grouper x 2
  15. Dusky Rabbitfish x 5
  16. European Barracuda x 1
  17. Grey Wrasse x 1
  18. Garfish x 1
  19. Giant Goby x 5
  20. Goldblotch Grouper x 2
  21. Greater Weever x 1
  22. Lizardfish x 14
  23. Madeira Rockfish x 13
  24. Marbled Rabbitfish x 9
  25. Ornate Wrasse x 24
  26. Painted Comber x 7
  27. Parrotfish x 4
  28. Red Porgy x 3
  29. Rainbow Wrasse x 11
  30. Rock Goby x 1
  31. Rusty Blenny x 3
  32. Saddled Seabream x 5
  33. Salema x 11
  34. Slender Goby x 1
  35. Striped Seabream x 1
  36. Thick Lipped Mullet x 1
  37. Tompot Blenny x 1
  38. White Grouper x 2
  39. White Seabream x 11
  40. Wide Eyed Flounder x 1
Next year I plan to return to the Mediterranean. At least once. Slightly heavier tackle will be taken next time as well as my ultra light gear so as well as targeting tentacled blenny, flying gurnard and stargazer I can target some of the larger more powerful species like leerfish and mahi mahi that can be found there. I'm looking forward to it already!

Tight lines, Scott.