Monday, August 03, 2015

Once he popped he couldn't stop.

My mate Dimitrios messaged me recently to say he had unexpectedly been given four consecutive days off work and was up for a little fishing trip. It was short notice but luckily I managed to get the time off work too and a plan was hastily put together to head to Lochaline and then on to Skye, two places we've talked about fishing together when we have met up previously. Last Sunday off we went and on the way to Lochaline we stopped off at Loch Linnhe to fish a couple of his favourite marks near Kentallen. Dimitrios is a lure only angler and although I enjoy fishing with bait too I promised to fish with lures a fair bit as well during the trip and that's how I started off. After hooking a fish and loosing it on my first cast things were a bit slow but we both eventually started getting bites and caught a few fish.

Dimitrios was first to land a fish on a light game metal.
With ling in mind I fished a paddletail on a cheburashka lead close to the bottom. Working this slowly back towards myself saw me landing this small cod.  

Things went quiet again after a while so we moved to a second spot where we caught a few more fish, again on our light game gear using a variety of lure fishing methods.

Angleworm on a drop shot rig will catch most species. This pollock grabbed mine as I reeled my rig in to recast to try another spot. 
This nice female cuckoo wrasse also took a piece of Angleworm. I caught my first two of the year taking my Scottish saltwater tally to thirty five. 
Quite a large female, the markings at the rear of its dorsal fin were very bold. 
My first ever poor cod on a light game metal. I caught a couple on it. 

Early in the evening we arrived in Lochaline and after leaving our stuff at the Dive Centre where we'd be staying we headed down to the stone pier. It quickly became apparent that there were hundreds of coalfish around it and we were soon having lots of fun catching dozens of them. The phrase "a fish a cast" is an exaggeration often used in fishing but on this occasion our lures were being hit repeatedly as soon as they entered the water.

The action was ridiculously frantic and the feisty fish put up a great scrap on our light game tackle.
Fish caught from crystal clear water always seem to have lovely bright livery. 

It was was quite astounding how many fish there were and we could see their flanks flashing as they came up in the water and attacked our metals one after the other with aggressive slashes until one got hooked and tore off. Dimitrios loves coalfish and on light game gear they fight superbly well. He was in his element really and we both had a lot of fun. Eventually however I hooked something at range that fought differently, thumping away it could only be one thing.

This lovely deep red cod somehow managed to muscle its way through the dense shoals of coalfish to take my jig.

As darkness fell Dimitrios started fishing small poppers over a shallow area next to the pier where there was a fair amount of surface activity and had a lot of coalfish taking it off the top. It was soon quite late and as we were both feeling a little tired we eventually called it a night although I think Dimitrios would have stayed out a lot longer! Before heading up to the Dive Centre we quickly popped along to the west pier for a look around only to find it covered in timber which wasn't ideal for our session there the following day.

Up the next morning after breakfast we headed down to the west pier to find the boat had arrived and was being loaded with the timber. A steady procession of trucks bringing more down all day meant that where we could fish was restricted. I began fishing from the rocks next to the pier using raw prawn on scaled down bait rigs and Dimitrios headed off along the rocks to the west to fish lures. Before he got too far he called over to say that he had cast out past the ledge and his reel had emptied of line before his lure got to the bottom. I did tell him it was incredible deep but I think this really brought it home just how deep it was! Fishing in the relatively shallow water next to the pier I initially struggled to get any bites and I wondered if the noise being generated by the trucks loading the boat had scared the fish away. Casting my rig to different spots eventually saw me getting some little taps but I was struggling to connect until I made a quick change of hook size.

Dropping down to rigs with #14 hooks saw bites converted into fish. This goldsinny wrasse was the first fish of the session. 
I love rock cook wrasse and caught a couple of them too.
I stayed put at the pier but as ever Dimitrios headed off to explore.

The action was noticeable slower than during my previous visits to the pier but I patiently fished away catching a few more fish. I was hoping to catch a rock goby to add to this year's Scottish saltwater species tally but it was another goby species that I caught a couple of in fairly quick succession that did just that.

Not the goby I was expected but this leopard spotted goby saw another species added to this year's tally regardless so I was happy enough. 

The mini species kept coming at fairly constant intervals and when I caught a few cuckoo wrasse my thoughts turned to the possibility of completing the wrasse grand slam by catching a corkwing and a ballan. I had no luck on that front and really I'd have preferred a rock goby but one of those failed to turn up too. Most of the fish I did catch were colourful specimens however including a short spined sea scorpion and a rather large Yarrell's blenny, another very funky little fish.

 This short spined sea scorpion was perhaps the most colourful I've ever caught. Unlike there long spined relative, whose colouration can vary a lot, these are normally all a fairly drab brown.
A rather large and particularly plump Yarrell's blenny. 

By the time Dimitrios made his way back along it was late afternoon and after returning to the Dive Centre for something to eat we decided to head west to try somewhere new. Arriving our chosen mark it looked very promising and Dimitrios soon caught a few coalfish, cod and pollock. I opted to fish large mackerel baits using a fairly heavy bait setup. This only produced a couple of knocks although I did catch a nice pollock when it took my half mackerel fillet as I reeled it in over the kelp. After a while Dimitrios started to struggle as well so we headed back to Lochaline and had a couple of hours fun as light faded catching dozens of coalfish again with Dimitrios putting his small popper to good use before we called it a night.

Up early last Tuesday morning we made the drive up to Portree on Skye. On the way we stopped just before Eilean Donan Castle to break the journey up. Purely by accident when we started fishing it was low water so we were able to fish light game gear in the slack water.

Over an hour or so we both caught a few fish from Loch Duich. Quite a nice backdrop for some more rod bending fun with light game methods.

It didn't take too long for us to arrive in Portree and before heading to the hostel to check in we headed around the bay to the Black Rock to fish for a couple of hours. The incoming tide soon forced us back onto the shoreline however and heading north to some slightly deeper water the fishing was difficult due to a fairly strong northerly wind. My mate Keith, who stays in Portree regularly while working as a tour coach driver and guide, caught a common dragonet there recently so we persevered. The ground was clean and sandy out past the kelp lining the rocks we were fishing from and after catching a few small cod I caught a dab.

The colourful hotels of Portree Harbour from the opposite side of the bay.
A nice dab from the clean sandy sea floor. I'm sure in better conditions and armed with some quality ragworm a common dragonet would be a very probable catch. 

After popping into the hostel to leave our overnight bags we weren't sure where to head in the evening given the building wind strength and direction. We both wanted to fish light lure gear for big pollock but with most of the marks I knew of being on the north of the island I was struggling to select a place to fish that wouldn't be unfishable due to the wind and accompanying swell. After speaking to the Portree tackle shop owner we weren't really that much further forward as the only two spots he suggested involved parking the car and making quite a long trek to get to them. In the end we made the short drive north to Staffin to see just how bad the conditions actually were.

Unfortunately the conditions were even worse than I thought they would be.

Rather frustrated we had a quick look at a map and decided to head for Uig to try fishing from the ferry pier. Fishing there was very poor though and after a while we headed back to Portree where I had an hour fishing off the end of the harbour. This produced a procession of small cod, poor cod and coalfish. It had been a very frustrating first day on Skye really and so we decided to get a few drinks and head back to the hostel for an early night. Just before we left I caught a tiny grey gurnard which made me smile.

Gurnards are cool fish. This little one was the highlight of a rather poor day's fishing.

After a few ciders and beers we headed off to bed. As it was peak season we were in different rooms though. Soon in my bed in a shared twelve person dorm I was asleep pretty quickly but was woken up at 01:00 by a drunken idiot who put the light on to find his bed. After pointing it out to him he got into it fully clothed including his boots, proceeded to pass out and started snoring very loudly. I struggled to get any decent sleep after that and at about 03:30 I decided to just get up and go fishing. I headed back to the shore to the north of the Black Rocks to try for a common dragonet again. Things were slow however and the wind whilst not as strong as the day before still made things difficult. After catching a few small cod, coalfish and another solitary grey gurnard I headed back to the hostel to pick up Dimitrios so we could drive down to Elgol on the south west coast of the island. On the way it was still quite overcast but when we arrived a bit of blue sky was showing through the grey clouds to the south where we were heading.

The view of the Cullins to the north west is normally quite spectacular. Unless of course they are partially hidden by clouds and rain.
There are various rock platforms that can be fished along the shoreline when the tide is out but we headed to the deeper water at the far end.

After making our way along the network of cliff top paths, made by the livestock that roam them, we climbed down onto a large comfortable platform and were soon fishing away. Working soft plastics near the bottom Dimitrios was first into a fish.

Dimitrios' rod bends into a pollock.

I was struggling to get any bites on my paddletail so I changed approach which improved my fortunes almost straight away. After that the action was still sporadic but we both caught a few more fish.

Switching to a metal jig got the pollock biting as I let the lure flutter down through the water column by lowering my rod tip to try and maintain a near vertical fall.

Things soon went fairly quiet again though so I decided to do my best goat impersonation and headed along to explore the cliffs to our left.

With more deep water to try along the bottom of the cliffs I decided to climb along them. A bit risky but extreme caution was exercised.
Perched on a little ledge along from Dimitrios I started fishing.
Don't look down. No room for an error when placing feet.
Don't look up. Some of the overhanging slabs of rock above my head looked a bit loose. 

Fishing away, all the time mindful of where I was putting my feet, I soon hooked a nice fish that made it into the kelp and managed to dislodge my assist hook. Shorty afterwards though I hooked a second fish a bit further out that felt even bigger that had my rod buckled over and line peeling from my reel. I managed to keep it away from the kelp though and after a few more dives and a bit more scrambling a lovely big bronze pollock was landed. My cliff side antics had been worthwhile and I headed back along to the safety of the large rock platform so I could get a photo with my fish.

The look on my face says it all. A lovely fish and the reason we wanted to fish on Skye.

Dimitrios had a go fishing at the end of a newly accessible rock skeer that had been exposed by the receding tide before then having a go fishing from the narrow ledges of the cliffs. He soon returned with a nice fish of his own. 

Dimitrios fishes the point as the clouds begin to break up revealing the impressive Cullins.
Another lovely big bronze pollock. This one took a lightly weighted soft plastic on the drop.

Before we left I decided to fish a bait on the bottom to see what else I could catch. I quickly tied up a one hook paternoster and kicked a limpet off the rocks to put on my hook. My rig was only on the bottom for a few seconds when the shellfish bait was taken aggressively and I was soon reeling up the culprit. 

A nice little deep red and pink mottled ballan wrasse.

With a long drive home via Glasgow to make we decided to head back to Elgol shortly afterwards and loaded up the car. The journey back was pretty nice as the sun finally decided to put in an appearance lighting up some stunning scenery. To break up the drive we had another short stop at Loch Duich again. The tide was flooding though and whilst I tried to fish baits on the bottom in search of a ling the strong currents pulled my rigs into snags and after losing a couple I had a quick nap in the car while Dimitrios fished on for a bit. It had been a great trip even if the weather had been pretty poor and fishing had been tough at times as a result. I had added a couple more species to this years tally and I think Dimitrios loved catching so many coalfish using poppers, not something you get the chance to do often really. I'm looking forward to meeting up with him again in the future and I don't think it's the last time we'll fish Skye together. Hopefully next time we do the weather will be kinder and allow us to fish some of the marks on its northern shores, perhaps trying some new, not so well known ones in search of double figure pollock.

Tight lines, Scott.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog- I've gotta get myself over to Lochaline for a bash at the wrasse grand slam!