Thursday, August 28, 2014

Most Wanted : Menorca.

With a week long fishing trip to Menorca with my mate Lee in October to look forward to I've been thinking about what I'd like to catch. Four species that are possible targets, flying gurnard, common dolphinfish, streaked gurnard and Atlantic stargazer, are already on my "Most Wanted" list but as it's a hardcore fishing holiday I've decided to add a few more.

The one thing I didn't really do enough of whilst on Crete last year or have much success with whilst on Lanzatote in May was fishing hard lures or metals to try and catch some powerful, hard fighting fish that will really test my tackle. Whilst I still plan to have lots of ultra light fun I really want to catch some bigger, faster, more powerful fish from the Mediterranean when I visit the Spanish Balearic Islands for the first time. With this in mind here are a couple of potential targets that would fit the bill nicely.

Greater Amberjack.

A golden stripe down its flank and a dark line across the top of the head make it quite distinctive.

Leerfish

Big and aggressive. A very distinctive lateral line makes it fairly easy to identify. Line being stripped from your reel is another giveaway!

As I've already said however I'll still be targeting mini species on ultra light tackle as well and I thought I'd add one to my "Most Wanted" list as well. It's a member of one of my favourite groups of fish, blennies. Not another blenny I hear you say! Well if you didn't realise already I have a bit of a soft spot for them and this may just be the coolest looking one I've added to my "Most Wanted" list so far!

Peacock Blenny.

Males (top) and females (bottom) look slightly different. Males are deeper bodied, have a crest on their heads and have deeper fins. Both sexes have a similar colouration with rather striking electric blue markings.

I can't really describe how much I'm looking forward to this trip. Lee's a good friend and I really enjoy fishing with him. I'm sure it will be an epic, action packed week and we'll no doubt catch a lot of fish. I've set myself a target of thirty species including ten new ones.

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

If you can think of a better title let minnow.

With a day off on Tuesday and all the preparations done before I headed to Zakynthos the following day for a week long holiday I decided to relax and what better way to relax is there than, you guessed it, a spot of fishing? After a lie in I jumped in the car and drove west, my first stop being the River Forth near Stirling where my target species was the humble minnow. Fishing a sensitive waggler in the margin I had soon caught a dozen of them and a few small dace too. 

Minnows are quite pretty little fish if you take a moment to admire them. 

Pleased to have added another species to this years tally I headed off to Loch Lubnaig to try and catch an Arctic char. As they are a fish normally found in deep water I decided to fish using a swim feeder. Casting out every ten minutes or so I patiently watched the tip of my rod waiting for it to hopefully pull round. In a bit of a trance I suddenly felt something on my hand. Looking down a strange looking insect had landed on me. After looking at it briefly and popping it on the ground I looked up to see my rod tip gently nodding away and soon landed the culprit, a small brown trout. 

Not sure what kind of insect this is. A beetle of some description I think*.
Not the salmonoid I was after. A beautiful fish all the same and my first brown trout of the year too. 

After a while with no more action I moved further down the loch and started fishing the waggler again. Casting out just beyond a row of weed and catapulting a few maggots in around my float after a while it went under and I caught a second brown trout. Again, the trout was followed by a period of inactivity so I started fishing in the margins for minnows again, discovered there were large shoals of them and was soon catching a small fish almost every cast. 

A lovely day on Loch Lubnaig. One of my favourite places to fish. 
The Loch Lubnaig minnows had a much more defined dark stripe down their flanks. 

By the early evening I had caught over fifty minnows and with the sun shining it had been a most pleasant way to spend a day. That was the first time I've fished both these venues this year and I think I'll return to both soon. I'd like to use my centrepin reel to trot maggots for the River Forth's dace and I have to return to Loch Lubnaig with some lures to catch and admire some of its pristine perch. 

Tight lines, Scott.

*I've been informed by my mate Nick that the insect above is in fact a red legged shield bug. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Trying to find a needle in a haystack?

After hearing that a small diamond backed sturgeon had been donated to the Magiscroft coarse fishery and was now resident in its main loch I decided to head west on Wednesday to try my luck at catching it. After paying for my permit and seeking advice I headed off to the area where I was informed the fish had been caught a few times. As it was fairly windy and sturgeon are bottom feeders I elected to fish using a float ledger setup to ensure my bait was stationary and tight to the bottom. Unfortunately Magiscroft has a rule banning the use of meat so my bait of choice, a chunk of luncheon meat, was not an option and instead I fished triple maggot or double corn. Fishing this method the float can behave in a peculiar manner but when it shot away after about thirty minutes I knew a fish was hooked and a small common carp was landed about five minutes later.

Nice chunky fish.

After that I caught a succession of tiny perch and a couple of small roach, their bites indicated by the float lifting up and then staying there. This probably caused by them picking up the bait and swimming towards me dragging the small drilled bullet I was using along the bottom in the process. 

Triple maggot no problem for this greedy little chap.
Or this equally greedy roach.

Six hours of patiently watching my float for a more positive take came and went before I decided to call it a day. Obviously there is only one sturgeon in the pond and perhaps it's unrealistic to deliberately target it. That being said while it'll require a huge slice of luck I still think it is possible and I will be back to try again. Maybe a change of tactics or bait will improve my chances and trying to figure these things out is part of what I like about fishing and targeting new species.

On the way home I took an alternative route and stopped off at the latest piece of oversized art that has been installed at the side of a motorway to distract drivers. The looming metallic sculpture "The Kelpies" is inspired by the powerful Clydesdale horses that at one time worked the towpaths of Scottish canals and the fields around them. 

"The Kelpies".

The huge horse's heads now stand either side of a lock on the Forth & Clyde Canal and unlike a needle in a haystack or a single sturgeon in Magiscroft main pond they are hard to miss standing at an imposing thirty metres tall. 

Nearby in the canal there were plenty of boats, pontoons and water features for pike to hide under.

Their location on the canal was of course was my real reason for the quick stop, to check out another stretch to try another spot of lure fishing for pike. It looked quite good so I may be fishing in the shadow of the kelpies soon. 

Tight lines, Scott. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Slippery when wet.

Carrying on with my recent return to freshwater I visited the Forth & Clyde Canal with my mate Nick on Tuesday. The weather was pretty miserable being quite windy and it rained constantly all day. We got a good soaking but enjoyed a day's lure fishing nonetheless. At the first stretch we explored I lost a couple of small jacks before landing my first pike of 2014.

There are lots of these juveniles in the canal which is always a good sign. It does produce pike to over twenty pounds as well though. 

Having added another species to this year's tally I decided to scale up to a bigger lure to try and tempt a bigger fish. My mate Ross gave me a pack of chartreuse Daiwa Tournament D'Swim lures so I went with one of those.

My #2/0 jighead combined with a stinger meant any pike having a go should hopefully get hooked. 

Still not a big lure by pike standards really but it soon did the trick when casting out and working it back close to the end of a moored boat when a jack came hurtling out and grabbed it.

A bit bigger than my first.  

Nick also hooked a small jack but as I arrived with my net it thrashed near the surface and threw the hook. After a while we headed further west and tried a few different stretches. After getting heavier for a while the amount of rain falling dropped off to a light drizzle and the sun made a few attempts at breaking through the cloud cover. Casting along past some reed beds from a mooring pontoon I caught another pike after it wolfed my lure almost at my feet startling me in the process.

The bigger lure seemed to be paying off. I rigged one up for Nick to try. 
Chunky teeth filled jaws.

At the third stretch we tried I caught another small jack, the stinger doing its job nicely as the fish took the tail of my lure. Nick was not getting much action though so switched from the big chartreuse paddletail to a small hard lure. This worked almost straight away but he lost the small jack that grabbed it in some weed just before we decided to turn back. As we made our way along the canal towards the car he kept fishing however and his perseverance paid off when he hooked and landed a tiny specimen thus avoiding a big wet blank.

A small Rapala worked quite quickly with little jerks tempted this micro pike.
They all count when you are blanking!

Not the most pleasant summer day to be out fishing but we still had a laugh and a bit of fun. I love seeing pike appearing from the murky water of the canal and launching an attack. They are beautiful fish and I really should spend more time targeting them. This is something I shall try to remedy soon. 

Tight lines, Scott. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Most Wanted : Zakynthos.

I'm off to Zakynthos for a week at the end of this month for what will be first and foremost a relaxing trip spending quality time with my girlfriend Lillian. On the fishing trips front I get away with murder really and she puts up with no end of my fishing related shenanigans so I shall do my best to limit my fishing sessions to sneaking off early in the mornings when she is asleep and if I'm lucky I can perhaps squeeze in an additional one or two very short sessions if I am given permission. I am also not going to add any new species to my "Most Wanted" list for this holiday. There are however a few species already on my "Most Wanted" list that I may encounter.

Atlantic Stargazer.

My mate Andy has caught a few of these now whilst on holiday on Crete. Surely there must be some hiding in the sandy seabeds around Zakynthos?

Common Dolphinfish (Mahi-Mahi).

I saw some of these cruising past a harbour when I was on Crete last year. I'll try for them early in the morning using small metals or soft plastics fished in conjunction with a caro. Should be fun if I hook one on my ultra light travel setup!

Flying Gurnard.

Like the stargazer these will most likely be found over fine sandy areas. The rocky peninsula I'll be fishing from every day looks like it has some of those around it.

Streaked Gurnard.

The only fish of the five featured that can also be caught around UK waters, the colourful streaked gurnard will hopefully be more common in the Mediterranean.

Tentacled Blenny.

I have no doubt that a few species of blenny and goby will be amongst the fish I catch. I'd really love to catch one of these funky little fellows though.

So, whilst I may be limiting my fishing time, I'm still confident that using the techniques I employed on Crete and Lanzarote as well as trying a few others I can still rack up a few species. Hopefully I can catch some of the species above and as a bit of fun I have set myself a goal of catching twenty species including five new ones.

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

And now for something completely different.

My fishing of late has been almost exclusively in saltwater. This was something that I was keen to remedy so on Sunday I set off on another trip down south. This time it was a tour of some of England's coarse fishing venues that are known to contain some rare freshwater fish species. My chosen targets over three days were bitterling, bleak, pumpkinseed, motherless minnow, crucian and silver bream. With the exception of pumpkinseed I have never caught any of them before so the trip was a good way to add a few new species to this year's tally. Setting off early on Sunday morning I arrived at my first venue, Kingsdown Flash in Abram, just after 9:00. My target there was bitterling and I quickly found myself a peg with some nice marginal features to fish.

I was advised by other anglers who had caught bitterling to fish tight to marginal features and these reeds and lily pads fitted that bill nicely.

Single pinkie on a #22 hook fished under a very sensitive No.1 Drennan Glow Tip Antenna float shotted right down to a pimple was my chosen approach and I soon caught a few small roach as well as a couple of bigger fish that I think were rudd but may also have been roach/rudd hybrids.

I'm pretty sure this is a rudd. Hmmm.

After a while I decided to try for my target at a second peg but this only produced a few more roach and a tiny perch. With a two hour drive to Stratford upon Avon to make to try and catch bleak before a further eighty two mile drive south to my hotel I decided to gamble, fish on for an hour longer than I had originally intended and moved to a third peg that again had some nice marginal features to fish.

The view from the bottom end of Kingdown Flash, known locally as Polly's I believe.

More small roach were soon gobbling my small red maggot, with a single gudgeon eventually making a nice change.

Not the little fish I was after but one that brought a little smile to my face.

To be honest I was just about to give up on catching a bitterling and begin packing up to go when I got a huge slice of luck and caught one.

A very pretty little fish with a nice purple sheen to its back and an almost neon stripe on its tail root. 

Over the moon but now behind schedule I quickly packed up and headed off to try and catch my second target, bleak. After driving down the road, parking the car and walking a short distance I arrived at a very nice little stretch of the River Avon just below a weir opposite an old mill that had been replaced with some expensive looking flats.

A lovely spot to fish with a bit of current. Ideal for catching bleak hopefully. 

I decided to use my centrepin reel in conjunction with an Avon float to trot my pinkies down the river. I like using the centrepin although my casting is still very poor but luckily distance wasn't required and by holding my float back, causing my bait to lift up in the current I found that I was soon getting bites. Hitting them was another matter and I soon discovered the difference between a dace and a bleak is a fraction of a second but I managed to connect with a few of both. 

Bleak look similar to dace but have a much bigger anal fin. They also have a nice bright shine to their flanks that looks lovely when you tilt them back and forth in the sunlight.

Spending a few relaxing hours catching a few dozen fast biting silvers was very nice. Some much needed centrepin casting practice was had before I headed down the road to a hotel near Congresbury where I'd be targeting colourful pumpkinseed the following morning.

Up early and breakfast eaten, I checked out of the hotel and made the short drive down to the next venue on my itinerary. The roads leading to Silver Springs Fishery were not great and my Sat Nav took me down a very uneven one before I eventually found my way there. If you want to visit the venue head west along Silver Street and follow the dirt track at the end of it. 

A nice fishery on a lovely day.

Speaking to the owners I was assured that there were plenty of pumpkinseeds present but was saddened to hear that they were trying to remove them. Fishing with the same end tackle I employed for bitterling in a shallow area with lily pads and reeds either side of me I soon caught a few dozen small roach. Thinking that I was going to have to keep plugging away until I caught my target I suddenly spotted a few fish at very close range in about a foot of water amongst the rocks and weed on the bottom that I thought I could make out a gill plate spot on. Reeling in I didn't bother adjusting my float and instead slowly lowered my pinkie in amongst them. They quickly attacked it and I lifted out a pumpkinseed. Quite surprised by their very aggressive nature and their close proximity I adjusted my float depth to about six inches and before I knew it I had caught a dozen of the pretty little fish.

Some were more brightly coloured than others. Perhaps male and female but I'm not sure which is which?

Happy enough I decided to head to my next destination, Viaduct Fisheries, earlier than I had planned to spend the rest of the day trying to catch a motherless minnow. Speaking to the lads in the fishery shop when I arrived I was assured I would easily catch one if I fished my pinkie about a foot under my float and could strike their very fast bites quickly enough. Well I was soon catching plenty of tiny roach again but by late afternoon and having fished a few different pegs the only other species I had caught were a couple of rudd and a perch so I moved to another pond that had a nice view of the viaduct that the fishery gets its name from.

A nice view to fish in front of. 

This produced a few more roach but after an hour or so I decided to have a break, plumbed up a rod length out and fished the bottom for a while. This produced more roach, a lot of bream, a couple of F1 carp and a lovely little tench.

Little slimy bream.
F1 carp gave a good little scrap.
They lack or have tiny residual barbules.
The smallest tench I've ever caught. How cute. 

Before too long I was ready to try again for a motherless minnow and headed to a third pond. By now time was starting to run out, one of the guys from the shop I had talked to earlier popped over to see if I had caught my target and was surprised to hear I hadn't. Just after he left however I finally got a couple of them in quick succession.

Somerset has small populations of these little fish. Also known as Sunbleak they can be easily mistaken for other species at first glance but their partial lateral line is a key distinguishing feature. It only runs 7-10 scales from the gill cover.

My efforts rewarded I quickly packed up and headed east to Godalming in Surrey where I'd be spending the next two nights.

Up early on Tuesday morning I headed to Marsh Farm Fishery to target crucian, the species it's famous for in its purest form and to record proportions. Again seeking advice from the lads in the tackle shop on site I headed up to Richardson Lake and picked a peg.

Lucky number seven?

I took my time setting up and after making up some groundbait and plumbing the swim to find the bottom of the marginal shelf I tossed in a few balls and cast out. There was a slight breeze blowing and this made it tricky to see the tip of my float and any tiny movements that crucians might cause. After a short time I could see bubbles breaking the surface, an obvious sign that some fish had entered my swim and I soon caught a small bream. After landing three more my float dipped under again and I struck into a fish that was a bit better, fought for longer than a few seconds, putting up a decent little scrap. A golden flash when the fish first showed itself had my heart pounding but after a minute or two my first crucian was in the net.

A pure crucian. A lovely fish indeed. 

Keen to catch more crucian I fished on into the early afternoon and hooked a couple of other fish that fought well until disappointingly my hook pulled. Plenty of bream kept me busy however and after twenty five of them and their accompanying thick mucus I decided to head off to try and catch my final target of the trip, silver bream.

Another small bream comes to the net. Their slime was starting to get everywhere. Not pleasant.

About an hour south of Marsh Farm is Mill Farm, a fishery renowned for record silver bream. Arriving there I sought shelter from the wind and started fishing on the bottom into a depression I found whilst exploring the swim with my plummet about two thirds of the way between my chosen peg and an island. I fired out a few maggots and cast in. My float hadn't settled for long when I got a lift bite and struck into a small fish. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was my target species.

Silver bream may be rare but I would discover they are not shy. 
They have a relatively large eye. 
A black edge to their fins is another distinguishing feature. Overall a nice looking fish with the added bonus of being slime free!

Next cast I caught another and this continued with the odd roach also hitting my maggot on the drop. Almost a fish a cast I had soon caught over fifty silver bream!

I then decided to try another pond to see if a bigger bait would produce a carp. Firing in a load of maggots and some corn I fished double maggot or corn on the hook. This produced more silver bream and roach with my baits rarely being on the bottom for any length of time at all. 

All of the fish were in lovely condition.

Fishing to an island feature my float finally shot away so quickly that I knew a carp had taken my bait and feeling the hook had charged off. Luckily the rod was in my hand otherwise it would have probably been out of the rest and heading towards the water. My rod immediately had a nice bend in it and I just took my time playing the fish letting the rod sap its strength whilst my drag allowed it to run when it wanted. 

My soft float rod cushioned the lunges of the fish beautifully. 

It stayed deep, made a few short but powerful runs and took almost fifteen minutes to finally come to the surface and show itself. It wasn't done yet though and it took another five minutes or so before it was ready for the net.

A common carp in lovely condition. Great fun on my float rod too.

I carried on fishing for an hour or so and caught a few more silver bream and roach. Heading back to the hotel I reflected on a very successful trip which couldn't have gone any better really. I caught all of my targets and some other really nice fish too. I really enjoyed myself, overall it was quite relaxing and thinking about it I wasn't sure why I had done so little freshwater fishing lately. I've had some superb saltwater sessions though so can't complain but I am planning on doing more freshwater sessions though. In particular I've been told about a diamond backed sturgeon that has been donated to a Scottish fishery so I plan on having a go for that soon and I also have a spot of lure fishing for pike in the pipeline for next week with my mate Nick.

Tight lines, Scott.