Thursday, July 30, 2015

Going out for dinner.

I had a couple of hours down the coast last Thursday afternoon trying to catch a couple of mackerel to have for dinner that evening. Sadly my efforts to tempt them with light game metals proved unproductive but on my way home my mind turned to species hunting as I got close to Torness Power Station. There are a few species I can add to this year's saltwater species tally at both its inlet and outflow areas. It's not really a place I enjoy fishing at this time of the year as it is popular with some unsavoury characters who target bass, taking undersized fish, which they keep in Royal Mail style shoulder bags. Luckily most of them are one trick ponies, standing for hours with fairly heavy tackle casting out and slowly retrieving a large controller float and small Eddystone eel up through the outflow current. This method doesn't seem terribly productive unless the bass are feeding on sandeels near the surface. Anyway, I decided to go down to the outflow to see if there were any mullet around. I began fishing with a modified 00 Mepps whose treble I had cut off and replaced with a short piece of 4lb fluorocarbon and a #14 hook. Onto this I put a small section of white Isome. Casting it around and reeling it in very slowly I didn't have any follows but looking over to my left every now and then I didn't see any bass being caught either which was a bit of consolation. After a while I decided to fish at the top of the outflow in an area of slack water. It was nice and clear and I could see a few mullet grazing on the bottom amongst the sea lettuce. Trying to get them interested in my Isome proved difficult and after a while I clipped on a small metal. I had sand smelt in mind but after a few casts a small bass found the long sandeel like profile and colouration too appealing to resist.  

A very small bass but it's always quite satisfying pulling one out in front of the postie bag brigade. The look on their faces when you put bass back is even better. 

Returning to fishing with my modified Mepps I could still see mullet grazing amongst the sea lettuce on the rocks on the bottom and down the edge of the outflow. Letting my baited spinner sink before very slowly working it close to these areas had fairly predictable results. 

The area has even more blennies than it does bass or mullet. 

The spinner just didn't seem to attract the resident mullets' attention so I tried dead sticking a piece of Isome on a jighead. This just produced more blennies that snaffled it rather quickly. Admitting defeat at least it was good to see plenty of mullet around and I'll be heading back with some bread and a float rod at the next available opportunity.

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Somewhere over the Forth.

I headed over to Fife last Sunday to mess about in a couple of the harbours there with my mate Dan. We were quite optimistic about enjoying some light game fun and I also planned on fishing mini species bait rigs too but a few showers on the drive over had us unsure about where to fish. St Monans was to be our first stop but we decided to head further east towards bluer skies and started our session in Cellardyke Harbour instead. Two anglers were already fishing for cod off the end of the outer breakwater and hadn't had any bites. Dan and I struggled to get any inside the harbour fishing Isome on drop shot rigs either. A sure sign usually that there aren't any fish around and a single tiny coalfish later we headed along to Anstruther to try out luck there. After trying a few spots that didn't produce anything other than a second tiny coalfish we ended up along at the lighthouse fishing around the harbour mouth. Dan decided to try fishing metals and I decided to switch to fishing small baits in gaps in the kelp on a mini one up one down rig. Dan soon had a bit of fun when he caught a mackerel and followed this up by catching his first ever launce after getting a few bumps from them. 

Dan didn't realise that launce are quite an aggressive species until I spotted them cruising beneath and picking off juvenile coalfish and pointed them out. They were aggressively attacking Dan's lure too. 

My mussel and raw prawn baits weren't getting any attention and Dan was having way more fun than I was so I removed my bait rig, tied on a leader and a small metal. Jigging this with short sharp lifts of my rod tip before lowering it as the metal fell keeping just in touch with it I was getting little bumps on the drop and after hooking and loosing a launce of my own I hooked and landed a couple. 

My first one was rather plump.
Even mini species deserve a trophy shot. All good light hearted fun. 

After hooking and loosing a couple more I returned to fishing baits. Some people think bait fishing is easy but anyone who thinks you just turn up, cast in some baits and pull out fish clearly hasn't done much bait fishing. I patiently waited for bites trying different areas to hopefully locate some fish. I eventually caught a couple of coalfish. Dan carried on fishing in the mouth of the harbour and caught another mackerel but as the session progressed and low water approached things went very quiet. 

Somewhere over the Forth (and rainbow), mackerel swim.

I was hopeful that as light faded some shore or five bearded rockling might start hunting but apart from a couple more coalfish the only long slimy fish I caught was a viviparous blenny which proved tricky to unhook as it slithered backwards around my hand. 

It would seem that these are present all year round. I've had a few of these from Anstruther White Pier now. 

As it got dark we saw a flounder swimming near the surface and Dan had a few casts in the general direction it headed off in but to no avail. Soon afterwards we called it a night. It hadn't really been the action packed session we had been hoping for but the launce were good fun and Dan enjoyed some sport from the mackerel too. I have mixed feelings about fishing over the Forth as it rarely fishes really well and is sometimes quite poor. Regardless I'll be back to try for the two rockling species again although waiting for the longer nights later in the year might prove a better choice to have more time to target them. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Each to their own.

Looking at my list of possible remaining saltwater target species last Monday night I decided to head west again last Tuesday. With last Wednesday off work as well however I opted to have an evening session at Greenock, fishing the Victoria Marina, followed by an overnight stay in Glasgow before heading up to Loch Fyne early on Wednesday morning. I knew my mate Dimitrios who lives in Glasgow was free on the Wednesday and is still without a car so I sent him a message to see if he wanted to ride shotgun which he did. My plans complete I put them into motion early in Tuesday afternoon. Really I choose Victoria Marina with shore rocking and common eels in mind as I have read reports online of them both being caught there recently. Common dragonets are also known to turn up there too from time to time. Given these facts I felt there was a good chance of adding a species to this year's tally.  There were a few other angler fishing when I arrived but one leaving as I got organised to start my own session told me that not many fish were being caught but looking along the marina I could see most anglers were fishing heavier gear and no doubt large baits for larger fish. Fishing a scaled down three hook flapper and various small baits on #10 hooks I quickly caught a couple of small cod at fairly close range and when I cast out a bit further I caught a few tiny haddock.

A pleasant little surprise and my first of the year. Even juveniles bear the "devil's thumbprint".

As the session carried on I caught a few more fish and when the tide turned and began to flood, submerging the weed covered rocks at the bottom of the marina wall, I caught a few goldsinny wrasse.

There are a few of these little chaps who feed in the weedy rocks at close range.

I fished away quite happily catching mainly juvenile haddock, dab and cod. As the evening progressed the other anglers, who still didn't seem to be catching much, slowly started to pack up and head off and before too long I had the place all to myself. 

A nice little early evening codling.

It was quite a nice night and as the sun set I changed end gear and was hopefully that maybe a shore rockling or common eel would become active and take my ledgered fish bait and my #6 hook with it.

Red sky at night. Lines will be tight?

As darkness fell however all activity ceased apart from the resident shore crabs which had my rod tip rhythmically nodding ever so slightly, a few of them holding on for dear life, munching away, as I reeled in to rebait periodically. At about 01:00 I called it a night and drove east to Glasgow where I stayed the night in a budget hostel. 

In the morning it was a lovely day. I picked up Dimitrios and after making the nice drive through some lovely scenery we were soon on the bladderwrack covered shore of Loch Fyne. I was hoping for a common dragonet again and fished small chunks of raw prawn on a three hook flapper using very light tackle. Dimitrios fished small metals and before I had finished setting up my gear he had caught a launce and a tiny whiting. The area I planned to fish was fairly weedy and quite shallow until it reached a drop off though so he soon headed south to fish some deeper water. 

Dimitrios heads off to do his own thing.

I was soon fishing and catching the usual suspects. A black goby was first to be caught and was followed by a few tiny cod, a mackerel and a string of dabs. 

Even at range holding my rod meant I could feel the fish attacking my little baits. 
I've been catching a lot of dab recently. 
I have a strange fixation with the big eyes of the dab. They are just plain weird and freak me out a bit if I'm honest.
Rather than swimming off this one just went straight to the bottom and with a quick shake buried itself. I held my cheap sunglasses close in front of my phone to take this photo without the surface glare. Who needs an expensive camera and a polarising lens filter? 

After a while Dimitrios came back along to get his ultra light rod. He had with him a few mackerel which he'd had fun catching but he wanted to up the ante and catch a few more on even lighter gear. After a while doing just that he returned again and decided to have a bit of a nap in the sun. I carried on fishing away and as the tide dropped away revealing more of the shoreline I was able to get my three hook flapper out further and further. After catching a few more black gobies I was getting a few bites that I couldn't connect with so I switched from #10 to #14 hooks. I was hoping the culprits were common dragonets but after missing a few more of the tiny little knocks I was beginning to wonder if it was crabs when I eventually hooked something and landing it added another species to this year's tally. 

Feeling the bite of this tiny sand goby at a fair distance in deep water is testament to the incredible sensitivity of the tackle I was using. Still very lucky to hook it on a #14 hook though.

Quite pleased I carried on fishing hopeful that the receding tide would allow me to reach an area that held my target. Dimitrios feeling refreshed from his afternoon snooze headed back along to enjoy some more sport with the mackerel. Most of them had moved off but he did have some fun when he hooked a sea trout. As they often do however it eventually managed to throw his hook. I didn't manage to locate any common dragonets in the end but I caught a few more dabs, cod, mackerel, a solitary juvenile haddock and a couple of short spined sea scorpions before it was time to pack up and head home. 

These are much more prevalent in sea lochs than their long spined cousins.

It had been an enjoyable little two day trip and with the addition of another two species taking my 2015 saltwater tally to thirty four it had been worth putting a few more miles on the car's clock again too. It was good to meet up with Dimitrios again even if we both spent most of the day doing our own thing. Nothing wrong with anglers enjoying different styles of fishing but as Dimitrios fishes exclusively with lures I think next time we meet up I'll join him fishing with them too, if not for the entire session then for the majority of it at least. Personally I think Dimitrios is one of the most talented light game anglers in the country and I think I could learn a lot from him, particularly when it comes to fishing metals. We're thinking about a trip to fish Loch Linnhe with ling and cuckoo wrasse being the main target species. I think between now and the end of the year I'll be spending a lot of my time fishing over on the western half of the country so no doubt Loch Linnhe won't be the only venue that Dimitrios and I visit.

Tight lines, Scott.

Not feeling ticketty boo.

My mate Martin put me in touch with his fellow Aye Sea Angling Club member Gordon who very kindly invited me along to have a day out on his Warrior 165 named "Ticketty Boo II" on Sunday. It was an early start after working on Saturday night and by the time we had reached the Isle of Whithorn and launched I wasn't feeling too great but was hopeful I'd perk up, was still looking forward to the day's fishing and in particular the chance to catch tope and bull huss. Just outside the harbour we did a drift or two and soon caught a few mackerel to use as bait before dropping the anchor at the first mark. With whole mackerel ledgered down tide the waiting game began but feeling a bit worse my stomach didn't want to wait any longer and I started doing a bit of "chumming" over the side. Oh dear. Before too long Gordon's reel's ratchet started clicking though so I had to compose myself to help him boat what turned out to be a lovely tope. Measuring and tagging quickly done it was time for a quick photo.

Gordon with 34lb of shark.

It was a great start and I was optimistic it might be the first of a few but things were slow after that. Fishing a three up rig baited with ragworm on a second rod only produced a cod, a whiting and a few dogfish and there was no further interest in our mackerel baits so we headed to a second mark. Things were fairly quiet there as well however so we went further north into the much shallower waters of Wigtown Bay. Sitting in about 10ft of water I didn't bother with a bigger bait but after catching a few flounder Gordon hooked a fish on half a mackerel fillet which he thought was a starry smoothhound. Once on the surface however we were surprised to see it was in fact a small tope so I quickly put out a half mackerel fillet too. The action was pretty steady after that with Gordon boating a couple more small tope, a couple of thornback rays and a starry smoothhound. I had a small tope throw the hook at the side of the boat before landing one.

My first tope from Scottish waters after several attempts afloat in the Irish Sea and Luce Bay. A small one but I didn't care as it was still another species added to this years tally so I was quite happy.
Sharks are pretty cool fish.

As the tide slackened off things went quiet again apart from a few more dogfish and not long after that it was time to head back to port. To be honest I was glad to get my feet on dry land again and I felt better almost straight away. Sea sickness is pretty horrible but fortunately it's not something I often suffer from. A lack of sleep seems to be the thing that triggers it for me so I'm going to get some travel sickness pills for my tackle box. Depsite feeling ill most of the day it was nice to meet up and fish with Gordon and I hope we can do it again in the future.

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fifty shades of grey.

With adding a few more species to my 2015 Scottish saltwater challenge tally in mind I grabbed my sun cream and hat and headed west on Tuesday. Sadly neither were required as this year's rather dreadful weather continued. 

The summer sun nowhere to be seen on Loch (not so) Fyne.

All of the recent stormy weather had dumped a lot of water into the loch and as a result the water was quite peaty and had a fair amount of loose weed suspended in it. Removing this from my scaled down two hook flapper was a bit of a pain but fishing small raw prawn chunks on some very light tackle had me catching fish from the first cast. The only species that were on the feed were dabs which I caught a steady procession of. 

Goggle eyed dabs. Another species added to my 2015 tally.
On most flatfish the second eye seems to make it all the way over but not on a dab. Their eyes are quite large and there's not really enough room for two of them on one side!

In the past I've also caught haddock, common dragonets, black gobies and sand gobies from the area I was fishing but after wandering along the weedy shoreline as the tide creeped up it all I had caught were more dabs. Keen to catch something else I headed up to Loch Etive to fish around Kelly's Pier at Taynuilt. In the past amongst other species I've caught black gobies, sand gobies and pouting from it but there was no sign of any gobies so I started fishing off the end of it into deeper water. This resulted in a steady stream of fish. 

Some quite dark grey gurnards.
A few small codling put up a good fight on my light rod.
It was soon apparent that grey gurnards were present in large numbers including this very darkly coloured, almost black old warrior.
After a whle I caught a string of poor cod. They can be quite pretty little fish with their pearlescent pink flanks. 

With seemingly no pouting around I returned my attention to hunting for gobies and plopped my rig into the rotten remains of what used to be the main part of the pier. 

Full of hiding holes and covered in weed. The perfect place for mini species like gobies to hang out.

Trying different spots close in to the decaying timber pilings I eventually had a few taps and hooked a fish. My first black goby from Scottish waters this year was soon in hand.

Species number thirty one successfully added. Much darker in colour than the ones I caught from the Black Sea last month.

Before leaving I tried in the deep water again which resulted in a few more grey gurnard, cod, poor cod, a coalfish and a whiting. No pouting though.

Not the member of the cod family I was hoping for but I was happy to provide a free of charge parasite removal service before releasing it again. 

The miserable grey sky overhead and a few showers hadn't stopped me having fun catching plenty of fish and I lost track of the time before remembering I had a fairly long drive home to do and checked what time it was. Two species added to my tally meant it had been quite a productive day really. I'll no doubt return to these two venues later in the year and perhaps by then the summer will have gotten its act together and my sun cream and hat can come out of retirement as that would be nice but I'm not counting on it.

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

A day at the wrasses.

Sunday's Fish Club meet saw myself, Brian and Col hit Starney Bay at the eastern end of St Abbs Head. The fishing was quite slow though after the lads initially caught a few coalfish. I tried fishing small baits over the sandy areas to see what mini species might be lurking there but after a while with only a tiny cod and coalfish to show for my efforts I joined the lads targeting wrasse. There wasn't much happening for a while until Col shouted over to say he had hooked one and Brian headed over with a net to help him land it.

Col loves catching wrasse and was ecstatic. Honest.

Needless to say Brian and I were soon perched either side of Col and the next thirty minutes or so saw Brian then catch a couple and Col catching a second too.

Brian readily admitted that in the past he has been guilty of plundering Col's swims when they trot maggots for grayling. Entering another angler's wrasse hole is another matter however but Col didn't complain too much.
One of Brian's colourful big lipped ballans.
Col's second ballan was a bit of a lump and he did well to keep it out of the kelp on the very light gear he was fishing.
You don't need use huge hooks and big baits to catch wrasse. Small strong hooks like this Kamasan Animal baited with a small section of ragworm will usually see them nicely lip hooked like this.

I just wasn't at the wrasses however and didn't have any luck getting myself one, instead catching a couple of very greedy little long spined sea scorpions whose enthusiastic assaults on my piece of ragworm had me thinking a wrasse was tapping away before they got hooked and I pulled them up. 

It then went fairly quiet again so after a while we headed to St Abbs Harbour but fishing there was also very slow. There seemed to be a lot of diesel on the  surface and the water itself was uncharacteristically quite coloured too. I managed a solitary flounder, Brian caught a coalfish and Col got a couple of long spined sea scorpions before we decided to call it a day. Even though I hadn't got into some wrasse myself it was nice to see the lads get into some nice ones. I'm sure if we return to St Abbs in the future when the conditions are a bit better we'll all enjoy catching colourful, hard fighting wrasse. Speaking of colourful, Brian and Col are also both keen to catch some cuckoo wrasse and as I still require one for my species hunt I dare say a trip up to Lochaline at some point might be on the cards. 

Tight lines, Scott. 

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Small stream shenanigans.

Last Sunday's Fish Club meeting was cancelled due to nobody being able to attend. I still wanted to get out though and my mate Nick agreed to meet me for a couple of hours' fishing late on in the evening. We hit the coast to explore a low water rock mark but the windy conditions were against us and we failed to catch any fish. On the way back to the car we passed a small stream and spotted a few trout rising, an opportunity too good to miss. We quickly rigged up some tiny soft plastics and from the first cast had little brownies attacking them as we cast them upstream and retrieved them a little faster than the current. A few casts later I hooked a fish and quickly landed it.

A pristine little brown trout. Lovely.

Working our way upstream we found another couple of nice little pools and soon landed a couple more of the beautifully marked little fish. We were both glad to have avoided a blank and our unscheduled foray into freshwater was a reminder to me that I really must get out with my brook rod and put the grey dusters I tied up to use. I think some of East Lothian's small streams might be getting a visit soon.

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The joy of catching little fish.

After work last Friday I popped over to Burntisland for a few hours fishing with a few of the Fish Club guys. It wasn't an official meet but with four of us there ironically it was the best turn out yet! Col and Brian had already caught a few wrasse by the time Dan and I arrived and it didn't take us too long to get a few bites too. The fish were being a bit finicky though and after struggling to connect with tentative taps on scented soft plastics we started fishing little pieces of ragworm and raw prawn which the fish took a little more aggressively leading to a few being caught. At one point Brian hooked a ballan wrasse that headed towards my line so I started reeling in. I didn't get my line out of the way quickly enough though which resulted in a tangle. I just gave Brian enough slack line so he could land the fish. Initially we thought that the fish had simply got my line wrapped around it but when unhooking it Brian told me it had my hook inside its mouth as well as his which had us both scratching our heads a bit. Quite a bizarre event really and we weren't sure what exactly had just occurred.

Brian's fish or 50/50? I let Brian claim it.

I then decided to try and catch a Yarrell's blenny inside the harbour. Fishing away I caught a coalfish, a goldsinny wrasse and a corkwing wrasse whilst trying. The corkwing was a nicely coloured male.

Col's favourite wrasse is the corkwing and they are very pretty fish but I think he might change his mind when he catches his first rockcook.

As the evening progressed some nice fish were being caught by the boys over the back of the harbour and Dan also caught his first goldsinny wrasse. I kept trying inside the harbour and I eventually got a nice surprise when I caught my second butterfish of the year. Its markings were much more vivid than the one I winkled out of a rockpool back in April.


Not sure how this pretty little fish got my #10 hook in its mouth but it did!

Things started to slow down a bit and after a while Col and Brian decided to head off but Dan and I fished on for about an hour or so. I returned to the harbour wall to fish down the outside and tried some mussel ledgered on a #6 hook. This produced a few bites which eventually resulted in a small cod being caught. Dan meanwhile fished a vibe metal to try and tempt a mackerel and soon had one on briefly before it managed to shake his hook. We headed off shortly afterwards bringing an end to a nice evening session. It was good to catch up with Dan and Brian whom I've not fished with for some time. It was also good to fish with Col without doing any dodgy climbing other than up onto the harbour wall. 

On Tuesday afternoon I returned on my own for another go for a Yarrell's blenny. Fishing little pieces of raw prawn and mussel on #14 hooks things were pretty slow until I caught a common blenny and a coalfish. These were followed by my second butterfish from Burntisland from pretty much the same spot as the first four days previously.

It would seem that Burntisland Harbour is a good spot to target butterfish. I really like them and they always remind me of turning over rocks as a child, finding them but struggling to pick them up. Big hands help with handling them now. 

I carried on fishing but bites were pretty few and far between and not very strong. When I got a better one however the fish got hooked and it turned out to be my target species. A Yarrell's blenny was quickly swung up the harbour wall into my waiting hand before being quickly unhooked, photographed and then popped into my little observation tank for a few more snaps. I was over the moon and grinning like a Cheshire cat I admired the fish through the thin plastic of my water filled empty chocolate box.

Only my second ever Yarrell's blenny. I was rather excited to catch one again. They are a pretty strange looking species.
Submerged in my mini aquarium the full funkiness of my little brown and pink fish's hair becomes apparent. Ferrero Rocher I am in your debt once again!

Still on a bit of a high I popped the cool looking blenny back and in a daze like state started fishing down the outside of the harbour wall for a while but as it was overcast and the sea was a little lumpy I only managed two fish, a ballan wrasse and a long spined sea scorpion.

In my excitement I'd lost focus. Ballan wrasse are great but I've caught them already this year.
I've caught plenty of these cheeky little chaps too.

Calming down a little I realised that if I'm going to stand a chance of catching fifty species from Scottish saltwater this year then I need to try and catch species I've not had already where possible. I should really have been trying to catch a sand goby, a species I've caught before in Burntisland Harbour, to take this year's tally up to thirty so I quickly changed to a suitable rig and started doing so. I spent the next little while casting out into the harbour and slowly working tiny baits on #18 hooks along the sandy bottom but it soon became clear that getting through the shoals of juvenile coalfish would prove very difficult so I gave up and headed home still on a bit of high from catching the Yarrell's blenny. Focusing on my little challenge aside, sometimes catching small fish can make me very happy. I know that sometimes other anglers find this an odd concept but I enjoy it and true angling success should be measured in pleasure experienced, not in pounds and ounces. 

Tight lines, Scott.