Saturday, August 20, 2016

Light game fun in Croatia : Cavtat.

My girlfriend Lillian and I fancied heading somewhere new for a two week holiday this year and I suggested we visit Croatia. Rather than book a package holiday we did our own thing and sorted flights, accommodation and a hire car so that we would travel up the coast staying in three different locations on the way. We flew into Dubrovnik airport at the end of last month and soon arrived at the first stop on our journey, the lovely port town of Cavtat. Over the next five days we had a fairly chilled out start to our holiday as we acclimatised to the thirty degrees plus heat, exploring the area on foot and enjoying cold drinks and tasty seafood in the shade. Our apartment was right at the top of a rather big hill above the town centre though and being a lazy bugger in full holiday mode the potential of early morning sessions wasn't quite a big enough draw to get me out of bed. I instead made do with squeezing in a spot of light game fishing here and there as we wandered around the rocky peninsulas either side of the town's main harbour. The crystal clear blue water wasn't particularly deep and I wasn't too surprised that rainbow wrasse and painted combers were the predominant species I caught. A few other species also took a liking to my lures which I fished mainly on a drop shot rig changing occasionally to a Carolina rig just to mix it up a bit.

Cavtat harbour from the eastern side of the bay. 
Finding a quiet spot from the first cast I caught fish.
A painted comber was my first catch of the trip. Aggressive ambush predators that hide amongst rocks close in.
Quite small for a male. Normally rainbow wrasse this size are female. Stunning colours anyway.
Amongst the rainbow wrasse I caught this solitary ocellated wrasse. I've only caught them in the Black Sea before. 
After a couple of days I found a flat rock To fish from that was down below a spot where Lillian could relax in the shade under some trees. Perfect. 
I added a few more species to my tally including this annular seabream. 
This was my only scorpionfish of the trip rather strangely. It's a Madeira rockfish.
Fishing in the sun makes an angler very thirsty. 

Whist staying in Cavtat we took a ferry north to the walled city of Dubrovnik. It was a lovely place but if I'm honest it was a bit too busy for my liking. It was also incredibly hot! Walking all the way around the city's outer wall was the best part for me. It offered an escape from the crowds and great views over the city and beyond.

Dubrovnik from the mountains to the south. 
The rooftops of the city from the top of the wall. 
The wall runs right along the clifftop on the western sea facing side of the city.  
More fortifications to the north.

Exploring the narrow streets of Dubrovnik under the blazing sun and going up and down its narrow alleys off the main streets was a tiring affair. Back in Cavtat in the evening Lillian had a nap so I did a spot of fishing as light faded. Surprisingly it was pretty poor until after dark. Then I caught a few axillary seabream and a few nice saddled seabream which gave a very good account of themselves.

The sun sets on the Adriatic. 
The biggest axillary seabream I've ever caught. This species seems to be much more active after dark. 
These saddled seabream were great fun on my light game gear. 

The day before we left Cavtat we caught another ferry to nearby Plat. It was an extremely hot day and after a walk around and a some lunch Lillian wisely got out of the sun in a shady spot next to the town's small stone pier. While we waited on the boat returning to take us back to Cavtat I braved the afternoon heat and caught a few more rainbow wrasse, painted combers and some East Atlantic peacock wrasse. I also caught a surprise wide eyed flounder and sight fished a rusty blenny from the shallows too before the boat arrived.

Nice colours on this East Atlantic peacock wrasse. They have quite big rubbery mouths for their size. 
Wide eyed flounders are a cool fish. One of my favourite flatfish and I particularly love their beautiful, almost floral markings. 
My first blenny of the trip played hard to get but eventually I tempted it with a tiny piece of good old Angleworm on a simple split shot rig. 

The first leg of our Croatian adventure had soon come to an end and after picking up our hire car we drove north to our next destination. It was an incredible drive along the mountainside coastal route with the blue Adriatic and some of Croatia's many lush islands to our left. On the way we passed through Bosnia and Herzegovina and then once back into Croatian territory we made a brief stop for lunch near Drvenik where the road got down close to the sea. As I'd spotted some small mullet on the way to the restaurant where we ate I was given clearance to fish briefly while Lillian had another ice cold lemonade. 

Right at the end of the small breakwater where I went to fish stood the nice statue. I think it was a fountain but sadly there was no water flowing from it. 

Knowing how finicky mullet can be and with time being limited I resorted to the incredibly crude Mediterranean method of free lining a piece of bread with a few hooks wrapped around it. I opted for only four hooks spaced a couple of centimetres apart but it was still deadly. The first mullet that went near my piece of hot dog roll was almost immediately hooked. It turned out to be my first new species of the trip, a boxlip mullet.

Boxlip mullet have a very odd protrusible mouth and a split bottom lip. They also seem to swim around a lot more frantically than other mullet species but maybe that was just the midday heat!
A nice looking fish and instead of having dark stripes like other mullet species I've caught theirs look almost metallic. 

I was happy to catch something new but the method didn't sit well with me despite it obviously being very effective. It's just not a great approach for a catch and release angler but luckily the fish I had caught had somehow got itself hooked on the end hook. It's not an approach I think I would employ again if I'm honest. Multiple hooks could possibly cause a lot of damage to a mullet's delicate mouth especially if you tied up a hooklength with the amount of hooks I've seen local anglers use. Then again the locals usually don't return their fish. Anyway, the fish was released and we hit the road again. Late that afternoon we arrived at our second stop, the city of Split, for the next part of our holiday. With a hire car at my disposal I was keen to get up early and drive to the coast to see what species I could add to my tally. 

Tight lines, Scott.

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