Sunday, November 27, 2016

Not very lady like?

Two sessions trotting maggots for grayling on the River Annan last Sunday and the River Clyde today have sadly only produced a blank and a couple of out of season brown trout respectively. The lady of the stream is proving elusive.
On the way back to the car today I had to pass this lump. I was glad there was a fence to separate me from perhaps the biggest highland cow I've ever seen with an impressive set of horns to match. Males and females both have horns so I'm not sure if the hairy beast was a lady or a gent. Anyway, my search for lovely ladies will continue over the coming months.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Playing the numbers game.

Last weekend I had a message from my mate Nick about an interesting talk he had attended about Scottish freshwater fish species. He mentioned that the person giving the talk had covered nine spined sticklebacks and this sparked my interest in the species and potential locations that may hold populations. After a bit of Googling and sending off some emails I received a reply from wildlife photographer Jack Perks who very kindly pointed me in the direction of a small pond in the East Midlands that he assured me contained a lot of them. It was a long way to go to catch a tiny fish but I decided to head down there and went early last Monday morning to see if I could catch one. Five and a half hour's driving later I arrived at the venue, a lovely little pond full of lilies, reeds and weedy areas. Keen to start catching little spiky fish I quickly set up my micro fishing tackle.

Stuffed with sticklebacks according to Jack.
 I used a super sensitive pole float and shotted it right down.
A tiny section of pinky maggot on a tanago hook. Ideal for tiny mouths.

Dropping my micro fishing rig down in to a gap in some lily pads in the margin the tip of my chianti pole float soon registered the interest of a little fish and after a few more tiny dips it went right under. The culprit was quickly lifted out and swung to hand but whilst it was a stickleback it wasn't the one I was after being six spines short. This set the tone for the next hour or so with my float barely having a chance to settle before being pulled under by a succession of my target's hungry cousins.

These three spined sticklebacks weren't shy and the pond was full of them.

I slowly moved around the edge of the pond trying different spots but after catching several dozen three spined sticklebacks and nothing else I began to wonder if Jack had been mistaken about the presence of the nine spined sticklebacks or if I was fishng in the wrong pond. I was still having fun though and eventually I caught a tiny fish that had a completely different profile and colouration to all the others I caught so far. As soon as the fish raised its spines it revealed its identity and confirmed that I'd hit the jackpot.

Eventually my persistence paid off and I'd caught a new species as well as the smallest freshwater fish in the UK.
One of each in my observation tank. Very different in appearance.

I carried on fishing for another couple of hours before headed back up the road, having had lots of fun catching the diminutive fish. In amongst a few more dozen three spined sticklebacks I managed to catch a few more nine spine sticklebacks as well. Micro fishing is good fun and with doing more of it in mind I've treated myself to a 6" tanago rod that will be perfect for targeting a whole host of little fish so I'm looking forward to getting out and using it in the not too distant future. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Who wants to fish forever?

Last month my mate Lee came up from Wales for a week long holiday. After chilling out for a couple of days in Edinburgh we set off to the Highlands on a four day tour of some of my favourite fishing spots. Our first stop was Lochaline's West Pier where Lee was hoping to catch a few species he'd never caught before. I was slightly worried that with it being quite late in the year the fishing wouldn't be as good as it is in the summer but it didn't take us long to start catching a few colourful mini species.

Lee fishes from the right hand side of the pier. Down the sides it's not too deep.
Lee's first fish of the trip. A leopard spotted goby.
More funky little fish followed.

Two of the species on Lee's new species hitlist were members of the wrasse family, the cuckoo and the rock cook. I was a bit worried that due to the time of year the resident wrasse might prove elusive but again my fears were soon dismissed. After a few more gobies and small coalfish we began catching a few wrasse and after a few goldsinny Lee caught his first ever cuckoo wrasse which was followed by several more as the session progressed.

Goldsinny were by far the most prevalent wrasse and some of them were particularly nicely coloured.
I also hooked a nice chunky ballan which was great fun on my ultra light tackle. It almost made it under the pier where it would have certainly broken me off but luckily I managed to bully it back out into open water at the last second.
One of Lee's cuckoo wrasse. He also caught one on a little metal jig which was pretty cool. All the cuckoo wrasse we caught were females which Lee was a little disappointed about.

Having had a lot of fun with the mini species all afternoon for the last couple of hours of the session I gave the light game a rest and fished a bait rod. Big baits were cast out into the incredible depth of water directly out in front of the pier and eventually produced a dogfish and a thornback ray. We fished into darkness with Lee amusing himself with lots of poor cod. An hour or so after dark we packed up and headed up to our digs to freshen up before visiting the village pub for some food and a pint.

Double sandeel wrapped in squid caught this. It is a deadly bait combination for rays.
A lovely sunset over the Sound of Mull.

On day two we drove up to Applecross, a place I've not visited for a couple of years which quite frankly is too long not to visit what is a truely magical place. On the way we passed the iconic Eilean Donan Castle. I've passed it several times now on my way to Applecross or Skye but it was Lee's first time seeing it and he was blown away by its stunning beauty.

 Back in the car and some Queen went on as we headed to Applecross.
The Bealach na Bà is the highest road in the UK. It's great fun driving up over it and some of the views it affords are breathtaking.

After dumping some of our gear in the wooden hut we'd be staying in that night we headed north to Fearnmore to fish from the rocks there. We started off targeting large pollock on light tackle but things were slow so we switched to our light game gear and caught lots of cuckoo wrasse and small pollock. As light faded the poor cod started feeding hard too.

I fish down the side at close range. That's where most of our fish came from.
This nice colourful cuckoo wrasse caught by Lee was the highlight of the session. He was chuffed to catch his first male.

On our drive back to the village the journey came to an abrupt halt when we encountered a highland cow that stubbornly stood its ground in the middle of the single track road. Lee jumped out of the car to get a few photos and eventually it slowly moved to the side and let us past.

It wasn't for moving at first.

After getting freshened up we headed down to the village for an excellent meal and a few drinks in the superb Applecross Inn. Lee also tried a few whiskies before we stumbled back up the hill to the campsite. In the morning we headed back over the pass and drove west over to the island of Skye. We headed to Elgol on the south east coast where we had arranged to meet my mate Dimitrios for a day targeting big pollock on lures. While we waited on him arriving Lee and I had a few casts from Elgol's slipway. Making our way down to it from the car park we were met by a couple of cows that were rooting around in the rotting seaweed and stones on the shore.

Kelp fed beef?

This short impromptu light game session produced a few fish. The first caught was a small coalfish and then I hooked a launce that grabbed my lure just as I was about to lift it out of the water.

A surprise capture really.

As I turned back to have another cast I discovered Lee had opened his account and was guiding a nice flounder up the slipway to land it. Just before Dimitrios arrived I caught a flatfish of my own in the shape of a small plaice.

A nice plump flounder for Lee.
The fourth species of our short fifteen minute session. Not bad going.

We headed south along the boggy cliff top paths to our chosen mark but upon arrival the conditions didn't look great. The wind was stronger than forecast and a slight swell also made fishing tough.

Dimitrios fishes from the rocks but things were slow.

After a while Lee and I switched to light game gear and this saw us catching a few small coalfish and pollock.

Amongst the smaller fish landed was this very nicely marked pollock.

We persevered for a bit longer but eventually the decision was made to cut our losses and head north to Neist Point. When we arrived the conditions on one side of the peninsula looked pretty terrible so we sought shelter on the other side below the lighthouse.

A bit rough.
Neist Point Lighthouse.

After climbing down to our chosen spot it didn't take Dimitrios long to hook a big pollock and I then got into the action myself with a couple of nice pollock of my own. While down closer to the water landing the second one I looked up to see Lee had hooked into a nice fish.

Fish on. A good one too.

It looked like a big fish but when it came to the surface we all got a surprise. From his elevated position Lee thought it was a cod he had caught but I had a better viewpoint and spotted the bright blue fringes on the fins of a large ling! Being down there at the fish landing area already I duly landed the fish for Lee before he climbed down beside me to admire his catch.

A cracking ling from the shore and Lee's first. Caught on a slow jig too which made it an even more special capture. Lee was quite rightly over the moon.
Some set of teeth on it.

A few more nice pollock were landed before we left and while Lee didn't get one as big as the fish Dimitrios and I had caught he wasn't bothered in the slightest having landed the best fish of the session in the shape of his specimen ling.

Some icing on Lee's ling cake. Not that he cared.

In the evening the three of us headed into Portree for another superb meal and a few beers and whiskies before we said goodbye to Dimitrios and headed back to our hotel. The next day before we left Skye Lee and I fished from a long stone pier near Broadford. Lots of coalfish were caught on light game gear and I also caught a lovely big bonus cod that was great fun on my ultra light tackle.

The coalfish weren't being very fussy really but Lee caught loads on "The Dagger", a lure that he designed himself.
This deep red bonus cod gave a great account of itself.

Having had our fill of coalfish and with nothing else beating them to our lures for a while after the cod went back we hit the road again. Soon back on the mainland we headed south to Loch Etive where we fished from Kelly's Pier on its eastern side. The target there was grey gurnard as Lee had never caught a gurnard before. We both quickly caught some from the deep water directly out in front of the end of the pier. Lee also managed to catch a couple of sand gobies, one of his least favourite species, which I found very amusing. A few whiting and poor cod made up the rest of our catch and I also winkled out a few two spotted gobies as well before we ended the final session of the trip.

Another species that Lee had never caught before successfully ticked off.
Lee's caught sand gobies before. He loves them really. No, he doesn't.
Lee has a final cast as the light fades.

So another little jolly was over and it had been great to spend time with Lee, meet up with Dimitios and catch a few fish in good company. It was particularly nice to take Lee to beautiful places where he caught a few new fish and we also enjoyed some great food and drink as well. I think it's safe to say the Scottish Highlands blew Lee away and his ling will take some beating as far as memorable fishes go. Memories weren't the only thing he took away with him either as he took a bottle of whisky as well. Hopefully he'll be back up here soon so we can have another little highland adventure.

Tight lines, Scott.