Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sh-- Sharks!

I love sharks. Sharks are awesome. At the end of last year I tried to meet up with my mate Martin several times to fish Loch Etive for spurdogs. Each time the agreed date arrived our plans were scuppered by some truly awful weather. Sunday must have been the fifth or sixth time we'd arranged such a session and finally the weather cut us some slack. After picking Martin up in Glasgow we drove up there and were soon at the quarry in Bonawe on the western side of the loch. Martin led the way to a rocky outcrop and we were soon getting set up. We set ourselves a little challenge of catching a shark hat trick of a spurdog, a thornback ray and a dogfish and decided to fish a variety of baits on single hook pulley rigs. I was using a fairly soft rod, a fixed spool reel loaded with 50lb braid and circle hooks whilst Martin was using a shorter stiffer rod teamed up with a multiplier loaded with 18lb mono and a more traditional hook pattern. The water in front of us was very deep but there was a weedy ledge to negotiate when reeling in. It didn't take long for Martin to get a few bites and whilst I was struggling to get my lead to hold bottom and constantly trying to tighten up he hooked a fish.

Martin gets the first fish of the day. A nice cod taken on a strip of rainbow trout.

After losing a rig due to the current pulling it into a snag I moved a few yards to an area where I could cast a little easier. As a result I was getting a bit more distance and a few knocks too. First good bite and I lifted the rod, reeling into a fish. It was hard work trying to quickly get it up over the ledge and I was regretting my choice of tackle if I'm honest.

Reeling like a madman. Sweaty work in several layers and a floatation suit jacket!
A nice thornback ray. Double sandeel proving a tempting snack.

Martin then opened his shark account with a small spurdog before I got my second fish and second shark species of the day, a dogfish.

Martin's spurdog.
I don't care what anyone says, dogfish are cool.

Another spurdog for Martin and a few dogfish too left him just needing a thornback ray to complete the day's shark challenge. We fished on but were both struggling to get gear and fish back up over the ledge. As the tide dropped the black rocks being exposed in front of us were making things difficult too if we had to go down onto them to try and free out gear or return fish. Martin's Vibram soled boots made it particularly treacherous for him. It wasn't too long before I hooked my third fish of the day.

Three fish. Three species of shark. Hat trick completed!

Before the sun set we decided to move to another spot that was more comfortable and easier to fish in the dark. Whilst the water we were fishing into wasn't as deep there was no big ledge to contend with, there was also a bit less tide running and it didn't take long for us to start catching fish again. I had a second spurdog followed by a cod. Martin set up a second rod and after a string of dogfish taking his crab baits he got a cod too followed by a thornback ray.

Shark hat trick completed by Martin.

It then went quiet for a while and as I watched my rod tip I suddenly noticed how clear the sky was and how many stars were visible. Enjoying the view and using an app on my phone to see what constellations I was looking at I also picked out one "star" that was very bright which turned out to be Jupiter. I pointed it out to Martin who was trying to spot an owl which had broken the silence. It sounded like it was very close by and eventually it gave its position away when it turned its head and its eyes caught the light from Martin's headtorch.  A couple more fish were caught before we called it a night, my last one being a tiny thornback ray and Martin ended the session with an equally tiny dogfish.

This little thornback ray was only about ten inches across. Still managed to gobble a pretty big mackerel and squid cocktail though!
The smallest dogfish Martin's ever caught. Note the small parasites on its eye. A lot of fish in Loch Etive have these unfortunately.

All in all it was a good days fishing although I think next time I fish Loch Etive I'll be taking heavier gear and 8oz leads instead of 6oz ones to make holding bottom and retrieving gear and fish easier. On the plus side the circle hooks are proving effective with all bar one of my fish nicely hooked. I'm going to start debarbing them to ease unhooking though. The weather was actually quite nice too being very mild for the time of year and dry most of the day with only a couple of showers in the early afternoon. Martin commented that it was the driest day's fishing he's ever had there.  I always enjoy fishing with Martin and I'm looking forward to meeting up with him regularly throughout the year if possible. We've discussed a few things including him joining me to try and catch a ruffe from Loch Lomond and I'd like to go and target smoothhounds, a species of shark I've never caught before, from the shore down the south west coast of Scotland with him in the summer as well. We're also planning a few days fishing afloat and no doubt we'll squeeze in our annual Zander pilgrimage at some point too so lots to look forward to.

Tight lines, Scott.

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