Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hard to beat.

I popped out on Tuesday afternoon for a few hours down the coast hunting gobies. First stop was Dunbar Harbour where I tried to tempt a sand goby. My mate Col caught one on Sunday before Guy and I arrived and I've caught them there in the past too so there must be a small population present.  That said there doesn't seem to be as many in there as there are at some other marks where they can be caught and I guess all the other fish in the harbour predate them and keep their numbers down. Undeterred I spent an hour or so fishing away, twitching a little piece of Isome on a #14 hook along the bottom on a simple Carolina rig. Five coalfish and three flounders later I decided to head down the coast to Torness Power Station to try and locate another couple of little goby species that I've caught in the rockpools there, namely the two spotted goby and the leopard spotted goby.

Once there I had no joy with them either unfortunately so decided to have a few casts into the sea. Climbing down the rocks at the eastern end of the gantry at the inlet area I set up a drop shot rig and put a whole Isome onto the hook. Casting this out and working it back towards me I didn't get any bites for a while. Then as I reeled it up past the submerged kelp covering the side of the concrete platform I was fishing from a rather large pollock shot out and grabbed the little pink ragworm imitation and immediately charged down into the kelp putting a substantial bend in my ultra light rod. Trying to apply pressure to stop it merely resulted in a straightened out hook though. Fun while the short fight lasted I carried on fishing away and a few casts later something else grabbed my Isome as I slowly worked it back towards me. This time the fish was quite far out and whilst it felt decent and made a couple of powerful runs I was able to put some pressure on, got it up away from the bottom and near the surface before it had a chance to get into the thick kelp below me. When it came into sight at first I was surprised how small the fish was given the way it had fought but then I realised it was a mackerel, my first of the year. 

A light game rocket. Beautiful looking fish too with their deep blue, green and black striped backs and pearlescent underside. They taste great as well so it was quickly dispatched. 

Thinking there would be a shoal I tried to catch some more but didn't manage to do so. Pound for pound mackerel are one of the hardest fighting fish in UK waters and are superb fun on light game tackle. Many anglers don't know what they are missing and it's so much more fun than fishing for them with feathers and a much heavier setup. Another species added to my Scottish saltwater tally, not wanting my catch to start going off and with the wind picking up I decided to head home. My goby hunt may have drawn a blank but I'm sure next week I'll get my fill of gobies from the Black Sea where I'm told they are abundant and some of the species found there can get quite large. I will just have to try again for their smaller UK cousins later in the year.

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The first rule of Fish Club is... are allowed to talk about Fish Club.

Earlier this month whilst standing fishing on my own one evening in an icy cold wind, wishing I had some company, I decided I should start up a little fishing group. I asked a few friends if they would be interested in meeting up once or twice a month for a group fishing session, they all said they would and Fish Club was born.

Our first get together was on Sunday and despite a couple of people having to pull out in the days before and only three of us being able to make it, we headed down the coast to Dunbar to have some light game fun with flounders. The persistant wind that has been blowing for what feels like an eternity and is a royal pain in the rear was also in attendance but we soldiered on.

Col and Guy try there best to control light game rigs in a strong wind. Quite a hard task. 

Eventually Col and I managed a couple of tiny plaice and then I caught a flounder. I also had a fairly big flounder follow my lure up from the bottom and strike at it just under the surface which was great to watch but sadly it didn't connect with my hook.

One of Col's plaice. A 7g cheburashka lead used to good effect to get his lure down and keep it there.
The one that didn't get away.

Another light game angler came around from the harbour mouth and I had a quick chat with him before he left and told him about Fish Club. Hopefully he'll get in touch and join us for future sessions. Remember, you are allowed to talk about Fish Club. As the tide flooded we headed around to the old harbour once there was sufficient water in it and also to seek shelter from the wind. Fishing at its entrance I hooked a flounder but it thrashed on the surface and escaped. This brings me nicely to another rule of Fish Club, namely that if your line goes slack or the fish spits your lure out, the fight is usually over. Trying a few different places I eventually found a little hot spot and caught a few more flounders.

The biggest of four flounders all caught from the same area.
This one had no problem gobbling down a large white isome. My #10 hook was placed half way down it.

Things went quiet again so we moved around a little further and I managed to catch a couple more. Guy then hooked a flounder and had it on briefly but it managed to take advantage of the rules, spat his lure out and shot off back to the bottom. I then had a go at "shellfish falls" to see if there were any huge blennies lurking at the bottom of it but there weren't any there. Things went fairly quiet for a while so we headed down to St Abbs Harbour to try for some coalfish. The shoals that were present when I visited last week weren't around however but I managed a small pollock and a small coalfish before trying inside the harbour.

Col and Guy persist with fishing off of the back of the harbour wall in search of coalfish.

After a bit the lads climbed back down and we all fished the inside of the harbour. Bites were few and far between and we all missed some before I caught a small cod. I had just put mine back when Col caught one too.

Looked like something had taken a small bite out of this cod's tail.
There seems to be a few of these around in St Abbs Harbour at the moment.

Working our way back around I caught another couple of small cod and Col caught a couple of flounders before we headed back up the road. It was nice to fish with Col again, meet and fish with Guy for the first time and have a bit of a chat and a laugh whilst fishing. The fishing wasn't great with Guy having a frustrating day and ending up fishless. Luckily for Guy though there's nothing in the Fish Club rules about having to catch fish so he's welcome to attend again. I'm looking forward to the next outing already and hopefully our group will grow. The venue is still to be decided but it will probably be taking place on Sunday the 14th of June. Interested in joining us? Get in touch.

Tight lines, Scott. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tiding me over.

Well the weather continues to be fairly rotten but despite this I've been out several times over the last week. With winds forecast to gust at over 40mph last Tuesday I headed down the coast to try and find a few sheltered spots. Firstly I headed over the back of Eyemouth Golf Course where I soon spotted a nice looking platform and after a while figured out how to safely get down to it. The water in front of it was incredibly deep and I started off fishing a paddletail on a cheburashka lead to try and tempt any resident pollock. This didn't produce any fish though so I then tried Gulp! Sandworm on a drop shot rig but this didn't draw any bites either. I was quite disappointed but I think later in the year the fishing at this spot will be productive so happy to have found a new spot to return to I decided to head up the coast to St Abbs.

Once there I sought shelter on the rocks at the back of the harbour, stuck with a drop shot rig and began casting it into gaps in the kelp. Eventually this produced a few sharp taps that made me think I had located a small wrasse but when I hooked the culprit it turned out instead to be a small long spined sea scorpion. Continuing to work my way around the rocks I had no further luck so decided to try inside the harbour before leaving. The tide was almost half way in by this point, normally a good time to catch flounders as they enter the harbour to hunt. Methodically working my way around and slowly covering as much of the bottom as I could I finally caught one.

This flounder seemed to have the whole harbour to himself.

Just after popping it back the wind picked up again making fishing virtually impossible so I decided to call it a day.

Last Wednesday there was a slight break in the weather and feeling frustrated by the previous day's fishing I opted to head to the River Forth to see if there were any dace around, to relax watching a float and practice casting using my centrepin reel. I certainly got plenty of casting practice as the river was a little higher than I expected, was flowing by quite quickly and as a result meant there didn't seem to be any dace around. I did run my float a little closer in though and holding it up I caught a little brown trout and a trio of rather plump minnows which brought a smile to my face.

Minnows are really pretty little fish. Pretty greedy as well.

In the afternoon I headed up to Orchill Coarse Fishery to try my luck there. Fishing maggots on the waggler things were quite slow and I only managed a few chub. Another frustrating day's fishing really and in future I must check the Forth's water level on the SEPA website before I visit it again to target dace.

On Sunday evening I met up with my mate Nick and we headed down to Torness Power Station outflow area to try for bass. Despite a promising start with a couple of them following my lure in on my first cast we had no luck tempting them. As is customary when visiting Scotland's premier blenny mark I dangled a piece of Angleworm into a few rockpools before we left and caught a couple of them, although they weren't as obliging as they normally are.

Even the resident blenny population seemed to not be in the mood.

Yesterday I headed back down the coast and went to St Abbs Head. It was a nice sunny day although still quite windy but the swell below wasn't too bad and I decided to climb down to a new mark. I know fine well that it's not the type of place to go exploring on your own but truth be told I find it quite exciting. Anyway, when I managed to get myself down to water I noticed it was absolutely teeming with millions of small jellyfish. The arrival of jellyfish is normally a good sign as it means the water temperatures are slowly creeping up and summer species should start appearing but I've never seen so many of them. It looked like a great mark but after a couple of hours with no action I decided to climb back up to the top of the cliffs and walk back to St Abbs Harbour to try my luck there. It too was full of jellyfish but unlike the rock mark I'd fished in the morning it also had a few fish in it and I caught several dozen coalfish, a couple of flounders and a little cod before heading back up the road. I also bumped into a mate who came down to fish for an hour after his work which was nice. 

I bought myself a packet of Marukyu Isome during the week. I used to fish with it a lot but whilst it's a superb ragworm imitation and its effectiveness isn't in question, it's not the most durable lure and is also quite expensive. Not a great combination.
This little cod took an Aquawave Straight on a drop shot rig. Another excellent worm shaped product, a packet of these lures cost about the same as a packet of Isome and are almost as effective but they are super durable making them much better value.

Well quite a nice end to a frustrating week really with the persistent strong wind becoming rather annoying if I'm brutally honest. It almost feels like it has been like this all year. The fishing is still tough at times and really by the middle of May I'd expected it to be better than it is. Never mind, in just over a week I'm off on holiday to Nessebar, it can't come soon enough and surely the weather there will be better? I hope so and when I get back from the Black Sea maybe the summer will have arrived here and some better fishing with it? Fingers crossed.

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Blown away.

I went out for a few hours fishing this afternoon. I started off at Dunbar Harbour but after trying various spots, struggling to fish in the wind and not getting any bites I decided to head down the coast to the inlet area of Torness Power Station, more to get out of the wind than anything else, but I also wanted to fish in the rockpools there. A couple of years ago I caught a few leopard spotted gobies from them and was curious if they were still around. Before I hit the rockpools though I fished an Angleworm on a drop shot rig from the exposed concrete platform below the gantry at its western end into the deep water below it. Whilst I was slightly sheltered from the wind it was still difficult to feel for bites and when I finally got one I wasn't sure if I had hooked the little culprit. As I slowly reeled in it felt like it was just my drop shot lead that was putting a tiny bend in my rod tip but then I felt a little head shake and to my surprise a sandeel came into view.

I think this the second time I've caught a greater sandeel using this approach. My drop shot lead had jettisoned during the "fight" which explained why I didn't really feel the extra weight of the fish. I was quite pleased as it was other potentially hard to catch species ticked off my Scottish species hunt target list.
Note the dark mark above its upper lip. A key distinguishing feature.

I carried on fishing the area just as the tide had started to lap up over the platform and I was just about to move over to the rockpools when I heard a voice behind me. Turning to see who it was I was confronted by two uniformed officers. It was the station's Civil Nuclear Constabulary who had spotted me as they patrolled the site, were concerned I was fishing in a dangerous place and had come over to make sure I was OK. After thanking them and reassuring them that I was fine and was about to move anyway I  headed over to the rockpools to start searching for a leopard spotted goby. Slowly working my jighead mounted Angleworm around the gaps in the partially submerged sea defence boulders I was searching it soon became apparent that there weren't any leopard spotted gobies around, or any other mini species for that matter. Eventually I managed to coax a solitary long spined sea scorpion out from a crack.

I never tire of catching these little rockpool gremlins.

As the afternoon progressed the wind cranked itself up a few more notches and got so strong that even fishing in rockpools effectively became a bit of a challenge! After a while with no further reward for my efforts I decided to call it a day and headed back up the road. Despite only catching two fish I was happy to have added another species to my Scottish saltwater species hunt tally. It's fair to say that the weather so far this year has not been great with the wind in particular often making things difficult. My mate Nick tells me that the first mackerel have been caught by Dunbar's commercial boats so hopefully it won't be too much longer before they and some other summer species start showing up inshore and hopefully we get some nice weather to go with them.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Two's company, three's a crowd, five's no showed.

I was planning on a trip down to East Lothian last Friday evening but my right knee was feeling a little sore, a recurring problem I have due to playing five-a-side football in my twenties on early generation AstroTurf, so to avoid clambering about on rocks I changed my mind. Instead I headed over the Forth to the lovely village of Anstruther armed with some black lug, squid and mussel to have a go for a five bearded rockling. The white pier there is a very easy access mark and when I hobbled along it the tide was still going out and the spot I've caught my target at before was exposed. 

This heron wasn't bothered about the tidal state and was already fishing the area where I've caught five bearded rocklings in the past.

While I waited for the tide to turn I headed along to the lighthouse at the end of the pier and started fishing a two hook flapper into small gaps in the kelp. After a couple of hours without a bite the flooding tide was almost covering my preferred spot and the sun was getting quite low when my rod tip finally started to twitch. A small coalfish had taken a small mussel bait, was quickly landed and returned. Shortly afterwards my rod tip went again and I reeled in to find a double shot of a coalfish and a viviparous blenny on the end. 

Quite a large viviparous blenny. It took the bait on the top hook of my rig. In the past I've ledgered baits on the bottom for them but clearly they'll come up off the sea floor for a juicy bait. 

Having started catching fish I was then in two minds about what to do, stay put and see what the kelp beds would produce or move to the five bearded rockling "hotspot". I opted to move and over the next couple of hours caught a few more coalfish and a cod with mussel being by far the most productive choice of bait. Whilst it remained dry all night a brisk icy cold wind made standing there on my own watching my rod tip a fairly chilly experience and really I would have preferred someone to chat to and share my misery. Sometimes I don't mind fishing on my own but most of the time I prefer company and it's definitely nice to have someone with you especially when the conditions are not great or the fishing is slow. By midnight my hands were pretty numb, I admitted defeat and packed up.

Driving home I mulled over the session and had a few thoughts. I might try fishing the area with much lighter gear, holding my rod, fishing smaller baits and being proactive, moving my rig around to find the fish. The kelp beds at end also looked like a good spot for fishing in the summer and I think a few wrasse will be resident in amongst it. Whilst on this occassion I had been out on my own I'm lucky that I have a few friends who often go fishing with me. I enjoy the social aspect of angling and with that in mind I think I'll start up a little fishing club and arrange a meet up once a month. Light rock fishing will probably be the style of choice for these group sessions and the many harbours of East Lothian and Fife are ideal venues for some light hearted light game shenanigans. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

No flies on me...

...because I have a nice little double sided box to keep them in!

Sorry. I'll get my wading jacket.

Recently I purchased some basic fly tying kit so I could tie myself some micro assist hooks to aid my exploration of fishing ultra light metal jigs. I thought I'd also put it to use for its intended purpose and give fly tying a bash. I've opted to start this off with a simple but reputedly very effective little dry fly pattern, the grey duster. After a bit of practice I think I've got them up to a reasonable standard.

Perhaps tying these onto #18 hooks wasn't the best choice for a beginner. Quite hard to photograph as well.

Having got plenty of practice working with thread, bobbin and whip finishing tool whilst making dozens of micro assist hooks I found dubbing the moleskin onto the thread the most difficult part of the process. Filling my little fly box with a few more of this pattern will no doubt help me improve this skill. I'm really looking forward to visiting the Water of Leith soon to fish them with my 6' 2/3 weight brook rod and hopefully a brown trout or two will be fooled by them. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Subtle differences.

Looking at the photos of the little silver fish I caught in Eyemouth Harbour last week I noticed that a couple of them looked subtly different to the others. After doing a bit of research I now think the two fish in question may not have been sea trout. Here they both are.

Two little silver fish. With both note the small mouth, single large spot on the gill plate, the long pectoral fin (more obvious in the first photo), the lack of spots beneath the lateral line, the plainly coloured adipose, pelvic and anal fins and finally the forked shape of the tail. On the second photo note the markings on the flank towards the tail.

Comparing them to these fish which are most certainly sea trout.

Note the larger mouths, multiple spots on the gill plates, the short pectoral fins, the spots below the lateral line and the less deeply forked tail fin. On the first fish note the red colouration on the adipose fin.

Then consulting the following very useful drawing that can be used to distinguish salmon parr from juvenile brown trout.

Salmon parr top and brown trout below. Salmon parr have (a) a sharper snout, (b) a smaller mouth, (c) only one to four spots on the gill cover with often one larger one, (d) a longer pectoral fin, (e) highly defined "parr marks" and no spots below the lateral line, (f) plainly coloured adipose, pelvic and anal fins and finally (g) a deeper pointed tail.

I have come to the conclusion that both of them were in fact salmon smolts. Obviously I'll be quite happy if I am correct as it will be another species towards to my fifty species from Scottish saltwater challenge but before I amend my catch records I'd welcome any comments on my identification of these two fish.

Tight lines, Scott.