Saturday, September 19, 2020

Golden opportunity.

Over the last month or so I’ve had quite a few sessions down at Torness Power Station. The main reason for these visits was so that I could make an attempt at catching a gilthead seabream, a species that believe it or not does get caught there on the rare occasion. The first such session sadly was pretty poor, my chosen approach of ledgering small chunks of prawn on light tackle in the outflow only produced a solitary fish but it was a nice chunky corkwing wrasse, so despite the lack of any other action I left reasonably happy.

The inlet area of the power station produces large corkwing wrasse but this was my first one from the outflow area.

Another session, this time at the power station's inlet area, fishing light game metals for mackerel, produced a bonus large sandeel. Lacking the prominent dark spots on either side of its snout that the greater sandeel has and having a noticeably dark chin I suspect that it may have been a Corbin's sandeel.

Dark chins matter. Especially as they are a key distinguishing feature of the Corbin's sandeel.

I’m still not 100% sure about the identity of this large sandeel and having purchased a rather old species identification book I'm still doing further research into the differences between the greater sandeel and Corbin’s sandeel, so I can hopefully reach a conclusion. In hindsight, I perhaps should have kept the fish for further, more detailed examination, but instead opted to take lots of photos so those will have to do.

A few days later I returned to have another go for gilthead seabream. When I arrived at the outflow however there were over half a dozen other anglers already fishing, targetting bass using controller floats and Redgill eels, so I decided to fish from the area directly above the outflow. Ledgering small chunks of prawn I quickly had a take and couldn’t believe my eyes, or luck for that matter, when a reasonably sized gilthead seabream eventually came to the surface after putting a spirited scrap. My heart was pounding as I cautiously played the fish out in the current but my excitement was short-lived as it quickly dawned on me that landing it on the ultra light gear I was using and from my elevated position would prove very difficult especially as I did not have a net with me. My hook set seemed good though and after tiring the fish out I made the decision to try and lift it up. This proved to be a mistake and when the fish thrashed around my braid came into contact with the edge of the overhanging concrete shelf in front of me as a result and parted. To say I was absolutely gutted to lose what would have been my first Scottish gilthead seabream would be a massive understatement. I carried on fishing for a while and caught a few small bass, which ironically I did manage to land, but left the venue kicking myself at my decision to leave home without a net of any kind. It’s not the first time that being without a net has cost me a fish but this time it felt so much worse. The only positive to be taken was that I had discovered that there were indeed gilthead seabream present to be caught and where there is one there are usually more!

Determined to hook another and to land it successfully I dug a large drop net out of the back of my cupboard and returned several times with heavier tackle to try and do so. I tried several types of bait and also gave small live crabs a go, which I quickly discovered to be a very productive method for catching bass.

It turns out bass love small live hardback crabs.

A drop net wasn't the only thing I dug out for use during my sessions. My mate Ross told me that in his experience blow lug and peeler crab had been the best baits for catching gilthead seabream in the UK so several trips to Portobello Beach to dig worms were undertaken in the hope that some top quality freshly dug worms might increase my chances. The following photo of me digging away was taken by a passing female who was out for a walk. Not taken with my permission I might add, I turned around to find she had sneaked up behind me and was crouching down to compose her shot. Once caught she offered to email me the photos she'd taken and assured me she wanted to capture the sight of a large sweaty man bending over for artistic purposes only.

Worth making the effort to reduce the odds even just a little.

Armed with fresh lug worm, raw prawns and some peeler crab, generously given to me by my workmate Gordon from his winter cod supply, I was quietly confident that if I put the time in I'd catch another if the conditions were right. By the end of August however I'd had a few more unsuccessful sessions and was beginning to get concerned that as the end of the summer approached my window of opportunity may close. My mate Nick joined me for a few more sessions at the start of this month but all we caught were bass and, much to our amusement, several thick lipped mullet that after nibbling away at our baits on the bottom eventually hooked themselves. I also took a some bread along with me for one of the sessions and using smaller hooks managed to catch a golden grey mullet on small pieces of freelined flake too.

Another species that has golden markings but not the one I really wanted to catch.

Last Tuesday I was off work and the forecast conditions looked great with mostly clear sunny skies, an offshore wind and reasonably big tides too. The timing of the tides also meant the chance to fish over high water twice as well during daylight, just after sunrise and just before it set again, so I made a full day of it.

The start of a glorious summer day.

My session began just after sunrise but things were very slow to start with. A few hours went by before I eventually got a few bites and caught a couple of small bass in quick succession. After another long lull my rod started registering little knocks, so I wound in to see what it was. It turned out to be a rather ravenous blenny that had tried to eat a lug worm a little longer than itself and had somehow squeezed my chinu hook into its mouth. 

Something greedy going on!

Over low water things went very quiet again and as it was also very hot I put my reel into freespool and tried to take shelter from the midday sun by sitting down in the shadow cast by the railings behind me.

Strangely I had the place all to myself. The rocks to the right of the outflow are normally lined with anglers trying to catch bass.

Once the tide started flooding I was hopeful that I'd catch a few more fish but another couple of hours went by and with not much happening I decided to try swapping out my hook for a smaller one, so I could fish small chunks of raw prawn for a while, after all that's what I'd hooked the gilthead on several weeks ago that I'd failed to land. A short time passed and then I had a very aggressive take that had my rod tip thumping away and line being jerked from my reel. Quickly lifting the rod an engaging the drag it didn’t feel big but when the fish came into view my heart immediately started racing. It was my target species, this one perhaps half the size of the one I'd lost weeks before but after playing it out I still had to land it from my elevated position with no assistance. Decision time! Whilst I did have my large drop net with me I figured trying to get it, lowering it down over the ledge and then manoeuvring it in the current below whilst still holding my rod was perhaps just as risky as simply lifting the fish up. In the end I just went for the lift. I had tied on an extra long rubbing leader so didn't have to worry about braid touching the ledge and my 9ft extra heavy lure rod had the required strength to do the job. It was still nerve racking as I hastily hoisted it up but the fish was soon safely up on the platform with me being unhooked for a quick photo.    

My first ever (successfully landed) Scottish gilthead seabream.

Once the fish was returned I did a bit of celebratory fist pumping and shouting having successfully added another species to my lifetime Scottish tally. I fished on for a while but having accomplished my goal I ended up leaving earlier than I had originally planned. All the time and effort I'd put into the sessions had been worth it in the end. It was great to capture one of these in Scottish waters and I only know two other anglers who have done the same so it was a really special capture. As sea temperatures continue to rise it's predicted that this species will move further north so who knows, they may become a much more common catch for us anglers north of the border.

Tight lines, Scott.


Thursday, September 03, 2020

Rock hopping and here's hoping.

Since the five mile travel restriction was lifted I've been down the A1 to Eyemouth and St Abbs several times. Fishing light tackle, I was hoping to get lucky and catch some of the more unusual species that are occasionally seen by divers along that part of the coastline. Ledgering ragworm sections on small hooks was the approach taken but unsurprisingly the much more common species that one usually encounters repeatedly found the bait.

On a rock mark near Eyemouth it was nice to have a fish put a bend in my rod. Any fish.
St Abbs Harbour and Starney Bay to the north of it were also visited.
St Abbs Harbour produced some coalfish and wrasse but it's also a great venue to sight fish lures for flounder and I spent a couple of hours doing just that. When they're in the mood they'll take all sorts of offerings including this chartreuse hellgramite fished on a Carolina rig.
Whilst fishing the rocks that get cut off over high tide on the southern side of Starney Bay, amongst another steady procession of small coalfish and pollock, I caught this ballan wrasse which was great fun on light tackle.
During a different session on another Eyemouth rock mark I fished small baits on the bottom again in an attempt to pick up something unusual yet again. Lots of coalfish, a single flounder and a long spined sea scorpion were all I caught however.
I still love catching these little gremlins.

I'm trying to be realistic about my chances of catching something odd during these sessions. To be honest they're slim at best! That being said you never know and it was nice just to be able to visit these areas again. I dare say that simply spending time outside doing a bit of fishing won't be taken for granted for some time regardless of what's being caught.

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Wetting a line.

It's been a while since I've written a blog post. The main reason I think is pretty obvious and like most anglers my fishing this year has been curtailed severely including the cancellation of a two week holiday to Hawaii. I don't really want to dwell too much on it if I'm honest, the pandemic has caused chaos and with things beginning to slowly return to some sort of normality I thought I'd do a few posts about what little fishing I have been able to do so far this year. 

 Towards the end of the lockdown I went back to work to get the shop ready for opening. Cleaning the casting pond outside the shop was one of the tasks I had to carry out and after several months without any maintainance it resembled a swamp. On the upside however it was full of bloodworm, so I filled a small container with a couple of dozen before draining the water out of it. When Lillian and I went for a walk in Holyrood Park that evening I took my Tanago gear and the small batch of wriggling red midge larvae with us. We stopped for a break at Dunstapie Loch around the back of Arthur's Seat and while Lillian relaxed on a bench I had an hour testing my eyesight baiting tiny hooks with the bloodworm and watching a tiny float.

I'm not even sure if fishing is allowed in this small body of water. I think there is only one species present anyway and most anglers just wouldn't be interested in catching it. Not me though. I love a spot of micro fishing!
Very fidgety but happy to report a trip to Specsavers isn't required.

Sitting patiently under the shade of a small tree it didn't take too long for my tiny Drennan 0.2g float to begin registering bites and soon a few diminutive spiky fish were being swung to hand.

My first fish of 2020, a three spined stickleback.

I caught about half a dozen and to be honest really enjoyed focussing on the task. It had been nice just to simply wet a line and catch something, for a brief period forgetting all that was going on in the world. Fishing is a great escape at times.

Tight lines, Scott.