Thursday, April 26, 2012

A change from my usual haunts.

My girlfriend Lillian surprised me last week by announcing she had booked a nights stay for us in the supposedly haunted Chillingham Castle, Northumberland.

Chillingham Castle. Very scary place.

As well as looking forward to seeing her scared out of her wits for 24 hrs I also knew I could squeeze in a couple of hours fishing! A quick look on the castle website informed me that a permit could be purchased for the River Till that runs through the castle estate. Lillian also wanted to visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on the way home on Wed so I had a look at Google Earth and liked the look of Seahouses harbour for a spot of fishing.

We arrived on Tues afternoon and were shown up to the "Grey Apartment" where we would be spending the night. We ditched our overnight bags and explored the parts of the castle that are open to the public and had a walk around the beautiful gardens. No paranormal activity in these areas.

The Great Hall. Original name.
Very nice but must be a right pain to maintain!

After that it was time for some fishing related exploration so we took a walk up to the lake. This was leased to a local angling club so I thought there would be plenty of fish in it. A short walk up through the woods and we found the lake. No ghosts here either.

Not a big water but the fish were very active.

We started watching for signs of fish and straight away we could see a few trout rising but frustratingly I couldn't return with my gear as access was restricted to members of the local club only. We walked back down to the castle and I got a permit from the estate office for the River Till and we made the short drive along the road to reach it. We had a nice walk along the bank and I enjoyed a couple of hours fishing with three small brownies showing interest in my lures but as ever I didn't manage to hook any of them. I think I may start fishing small flies on a bombarda setup and will try this soon.

Much like the Water of Leith brown trout their Northumbrian cousins gave me the run around.

We headed back to our apartment and had a candlelit dinner. I thought that the atmospheric lighting would get the spirits in the mood for a bit of mischief but they must have been watching Barcelona v Chelsea down the village pub. Off to bed we went. I nodded off straight away and enjoyed a good night's sleep and whilst Lillian didn't, due to being terrified, she told me that nothing strange had occurred so all in all our short stay in this "haunted castle" had been a bit of a disappointment for her!

In the morning, before we left Chillingham, we headed up the hill behind the castle to see the wild cattle that are thought to be the only remaining survivors of the wild herds that once roamed the forests of Great Britain several hundreds of years ago.


Back down the hill and off we went to Seahouses so I could have an hour or two fishing in the harbour. The tide was almost fully out when we arrived so not ideal and as I jigged around edges of the harbour wall there was no sign of any fish. I tried bouncing my lure back along the sandy bottom too but again there was no sign of any fish. I decided to leave the harbour and go explore the rockpools to the west to see if I could catch something there. I hoped it might even produce a new species for me but instead these two long spined sea scorpions taken on some and Gulp! Fish Fry would have to suffice.

Nicely marked red, beige and turquoise long spined sea scorpion.
Small, plain and brown. Still beautiful though with fins flared!

Back in the car and we headed north to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne that is cut off at high tide. We drove out over the causeway and spent an hour visiting the castle, walking along to see the ruins of the priory and having a late lunch in one of the many cafes in the small village.

Lindisfarne Castle. Built using stone taken from the Priory.
Could have been a bit more ambitious and built a bigger castle then.

No time for fishing unfortunately before we had to leave due to the tide cutting the island off. Lovely area and I'd like to revisit in the future and skip the ghost hunting and do a bit more fishing!

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A load of pollocks.

I headed up to the beautiful Scottish Highlands on Sat for a two day fishing trip. Destination Applecross. I go up there in Aug every year for a week with two friends, Alan and Mark, but we fancied meeting up for a spot of fishing and a weekend up there seemed the natural choice as Alan lives up in Aberdeen. Also we thought it would be interesting to see how it fishes at this time of year. Mark picked me up at 6am and we reached Inverness just after 9am, met Alan, grabbed a "big breakfast" at Woody's Truck Stop Cafe, then made the final leg of the trip including the breathtaking drive over "The Pass".

Over "The Pass" we go once more.
Looking back from the halfway point towards Loch Carron.

We arrived at the campsite at just after midday, quickly set up our tents, loaded all our gear into Alan's car and drove twenty miles north to Fearnmore to fish Loch Torridon from a rock peninsula surrounded by deep water.

Fearnmore rocks await.
 Deep water and kelp screams pollock.
Lovely view to the west up Loch Torridon.

We all set up our bait rods and then started fishing with lures. I had two lure setups with me, my Daiwa Powermesh 902MS and Exceler X3000 spooled with 20lb Power Pro for lobbing soft plastics and metals and my Nories Rockfish Bottom Ultra Light and Daiwa Steez 2500 spooled with 6lb Sunline Rickfish for a spot of ultra light fun. I started with the ultra light setup and a Tiny Slug-Go in Arkansas Shiner on a 3.5g #6 AGM finesse jighead. Working the lure across the kelp beds from the rocks above I was standing on. After a while I heard Mark shouting "I'm in!" and headed over the rocks to see what he had caught. A coalfish just short of 1lb was the answer.

Mark is first off the mark at this mark.

He was a very happy man as he had caught the fish on a silver spoon that he would later tell me was one of his many home made lures. I don't have a photo of this lure as unfortunately he lent it to Alan who lost it a bit later before I could take a photo of it. I continued fishing ultra light but after a while with no sign of any fish I decided to switch to my other setup so I could cast a heavier lure out a bit further and work it a bit deeper. I tied on a 23g Savage Gear Sandeel in Sandeel and began working the area, letting it drop to the bottom and then retrieving it steadily but very slowly. After a few casts I felt the tell tale pluck of a pollock and kept winding. Another pluck. Bang! Fish on! My elevated position made it relatively easy to bully the fish up away from any snags and it was quickly landed with the assistance of Alan with a net. Quickly photographed and weighed it was returned. Over the next hour I caught another three. All of them were 2.5-3lb.

1st pollock of the day.
Savage Gear Sandeel claims it's second victim.
Another pollock.
White bodies took a couple of the fish.

Then the action stopped so I decided to switch back to my ultra light gear again and try a Lake Fork Live Baby Shad in Magic Shad on a 3.5g #2 AGM finesse jighead to see if there were any wrasse around. Jigging vertically above the kelp to imitate a dying fish I suddenly saw the large silver flash of a pollock as it took my lure from below and my rod bent over as the fish dived back down to its kelpy lair. It managed to take some line but I quickly tightened up the drag whilst raising the rod up preventing it getting there. The rod was bent double but I felt in total control at all times. I got him up to the surface and I could see he was my biggest pollock of the day. I'd say he was about 4lb. At this point I was quite high up above the water so I started to make my way along to a point where it could be netted but when I got about half way there he thrashed violently on the surface and threw the hook. Gutted as I would have liked a photo of it next to the Nories. Still, I was pleased that the rod had been subjected to a good test and had passed with flying colours. No more action for anyone so we headed back to Applecross to get a shower and head down to the Inn for dinner and a few drinks.

Early start yesterday saw us return to Fearnmore again and the weather was lovely. The drive north presented us with stunning views to the west of Raasay and Skye.

Breathtaking! Some lucky bugger sees it everyday from that house!

Fishing was very slow with no interest in the bait rods again and only one fish being caught in the morning. My Savage Gear Sandeel claiming another pollock.

Lovely clean fish.
Why the sad face? You'll be going back soon.

After a few hours with no action in the afternoon we decided to call it a day. We packed up all the gear and set up the camera for a group shot. From left to right are Alan, Mark and myself.

Two fisherman and Bobby Bald. (Sorry Alan!)

We made the walk back up to the cars and drove off just as the weather deteriorated and it started raining heavily. We headed back to Inverness and Mark and I said goodbye to Alan who had failed to catch anything and was planning to buy a few packs of Savage Gear Sandeels to hopefully ensure he doesn't suffer the same fate come August!

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Three amigos ride again.

I headed down the A1 yesterday with my mates Jake and Naz for a little tour of a few of our East Lothian marks. Once on the road, Jake put on the music of a band he was once a part of and Naz recognised it. After some discussion, Jake and Naz realised that they had met before via the Edinburgh music scene many years ago and had a few friends in common as a result. After a bit of "those were the days" reminiscing we arrived at our first mark, the mouth of the Biel Burn at the eastern end of Belhaven Beach. Flounder were the target but no fish were to be found. Naz did find a nice looking white paddletail lure before we left.

A nice find.

We jumped back in the car and headed along to Dunbar harbour but after a bit of vertical jigging down the edges with no bites we decided to move again. Despite a bit of a swell running and an inshore wind we decided to head to Torness Power Station outflow and try for bass. We were soon working our lures over the reef in amongst the breaking waves. Naz was first into a fish. His first bass in fact, so he was over the moon. Shortly afterwards Jake hooked and landed one and I followed suit almost immediately.

Naz's first ever bass!
Caught on guess what?
Bass Bros.

We continued to fish but our efforts produced no more takes so we went to bother the blennes for a while  before we opted to move again and drove further down the coast to Eyemouth. No sign of any fish inside the harbour there though either. Jake and I did get some interest from three small sea trout in the channel where the river flows into the harbour but no sooner than they had appeared they vanished again. We then did a spot of rock hopping at the back of the harbour but again no sign of any fish apart from one small sea scorpion that I hooked briefly before he gave me the slip and shot off back down the edge of the gully to the crevice he came from.

This will be full of pollock soon hopefully!

The lack of fish at most marks is disappointing but we can't complain really. We all landed a bass and the blennies were a laugh as always. However I can't wait for the summer and the variety of species that come with it to arrive.

Tight lines, Scott.

A silver thread in a ribbon of green.

I had a few hours to spare on Tuesday afternoon and headed out to fish the Water of Leith for an hour or two. I went with two of my mates, Jake and Naz and we started off in Leith but as the flood prevention works had turned the water into mud we elected to head further upstream and began fishing again at Stockbridge. We worked our way up a really beautiful stretch of the river with many nice pools and fast flowing runs ending up on the section of the river that runs through the idyllic Dean Village.

Dean Village. A little hamlet tucked away in the middle of town.

We fished up the river hopping from pool to pool and it wasn't long before Jake was into a fish. He had been working his lure across current and just as it began to swing around a trout seized it. It gave a good account of itself in the flow but was soon brought to hand. We suspect this brown trout had been stocked as it had a slightly deformed mouth and some wear and tear on its fins but it was an otherwise very healthy looking fish.

Bit of a David Coulthard look about him.

Jake popped it back and it swam off upstream. Naz then led us even further upstream to a large weir which looked very nice indeed. 

Simply stunning and right in the heart of Edinburgh.

Naz has had some good fish from this weir pool in the past and we were keen to try it! We couldn't access much of it due to the high water level so after fifteen minutes of trying we headed upstream. Seeing the water hammering down the weir got us talking about whether sea trout could scale it. We were still discussing this as we were crossing a bridge overlooking the pool above the weir. The pool looked so inviting we had to have a shot. We were high up above the water but we are used to fishing from heights due to our harbour fishing experiences. I rigged up with a red 2" Ecogear Strawtail on an 2g #6 jighead. My lure had barely touched the water when a big brown trout grabbed the lure but just as quickly threw the hook in a flash. I cast again just past where it had struck and began working the lure very slowly up stream. The great thing about being so high above the river was that I could see the lure working. I could also see a flash of silver as a second trout took my lure. Fish on and our earlier question was soon answered as a sea trout was hoisted up from the water below.

My second sea trout in as many weeks!

Jake and myself having both caught something it was Naz who was in next. Although not really the intended species he successfully wrestled a pair of chest waders up the bridge!

Heaviest catch of the day.

They were a bit damaged, possibly from ascending the weir on their way to spawn, but otherwise in quite good condition. That was the last action for the day but a successful little recce further up river and it's somewhere we might visit again soon.

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, April 16, 2012

East Lothian highs and lows.

Lillian was off today and begged me to take her for a quick look in some of the harbours on this side of the River Forth to see if there were any flounders in them. I'm not even kidding. On the way we stopped at the Hopetoun Monument that proudly stands at the top of Byre's Hill about 1km north of Haddington. A short climb up a path and there it was in front if us.

Hopetoun Monument.
The 4th Earl of Hopetoun must have been a top bloke!
A quick photo in front of the monument.

Lillian likes another man's column behind my back!

Another climb up 132 steps took us up to the top of the monument and the views were absolutely stunning.

The Pentland Hills, Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh and Cockenzie Power Station.
Gullane Sands, The River Forth and Fife.
Berwick Law and Bass Rock

After admiring them for a short time we went back down the steps, down the hill, jumped back in the car and headed to Dunbar harbour to hunt for our flat fishy friends. Alas when we arrived the water in the harbour was very dirty. We had a quick cast or two but quickly decided to head further down the coast to St Abbs harbour and when we got there the water in it was crystal clear. I started with a whole large pink Power Isome so that I could see it bouncing along the bottom and hopefully a flounder or two giving chase but after 15 minutes covering a large area there was no sign of any activity whatsoever. Lillian was gutted as she loves flounders. I decided to try round the edges to see if there were any other species around and after some persistent jigging I felt a few tiny taps and hooked a small fish but it shook itself of the hook while I was lifting it up! I think it was a sea scorpion but I'm not sure if it was short or long spined. After that I had a quick look in some of the large rockpools to the left of the harbour but there was no sign of any fish there either. Disappointed we began the drive home. I hate to blank so on the way back up the A1 we popped into Torness Power Station and first drop into this hole drilled right through a rock into the rockpool below produced a blenny.

Velux style skylight provides an easy way to reach the fish underneath!
Another blank saving blenny. Thanks pal!

I then went to have a quick crack at the bass but with an onshore wind and a 5ft swell running it was a futile exercise. Back to the rockpools and as usual they were full of blennies. Next fish caught though was a small long spined sea scorpion which is quite unusual for the area as it is wall to wall with blennies.

There once was an ugly blenny.

One more blenny after that then it was time to go.

Yes it's another blenny! #122.

So it would seem that the fish activity in the East Lothian harbour marks is a bit behind those in the East Nuek of Fife. Oh well, will just have to continue pestering the brown trout in the Water of Leith for a little while longer.

Tight Lines, Scott.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Exercise and exploration.

I headed over the Forth Road Bridge today to the glorious Kingdom of Fife (my birthplace) with my girlfriend Lillian, a.k.a. Lilly the Ghillie, as she has in the past put me onto a fish or two (and out fished me but less said about that the better!). Our destination was Largo Law, the remnants of a volcano, now just a big hill that idiots like us climb up from time to time.

Largo Law Looms.
The beginning of the climb. Note the lovely blue sky.
Lovely view of the Fife coastline on the way up.

The weather was bright when we arrived but showers were forecast and it was rather windy although we were climbing the southern side and it was a northerly wind so we were quite sheltered. After quite a steep ascent a large dark cloud passed overhead and it started to rain hailstones. Luckily this didn't last long but with the full force of the wind battering us I took a few photos of the views and we promptly began our decent. 

The summit with the River Tay off in the distance. Funny I always see the water.

Bloody windy up here!

Exercise over and with burning quads we drove down to Pittenweem, one of many small villages that are dotted along the Fife coastline that were once bustling fishing ports and are now just picturesque coastal villages that have nice little harbours in them and that's where we headed. First on the agenda were flounders. I cast out my red Power Isome into a couple of feet of clear water and began a slow bottom bouncing retrieve. Pretty soon had a small flounder following and it had a nibble but I didn't hook up. Spent the next 20 min with flounders chasing and nibbling on the tail of the lure but without hooking any. Encouraging to see them back in a harbour though as they've been absent from the ones in East Lothian for a while. Hopefully they'll be there too next time we visit one!

Next I went round the back of the harbour and tried a spot of vertical jigging in some rockpools. Wasn't long before I caught a long spined sea scorpion.

Blank off!
Covered in little spots this one.
Spot the long spined sea scorpion!

Followed shortly by another much smaller one.

Small but still greedy!

I also had a blenny assault the lure too but after three attacks it lost interest and disappeared back into the crack it came from. It started raining so I decided to move.

Jumped back in the car and drove along to St Monans but the water in the harbour was filthy and very low so we headed along to the next town, Elie.

On the approach I spotted a nice bay and a rocky peninsula that looked quite good so we followed the signs to the bay and I headed out to the point.

That rocky peninsula looks promising.
The water inside the bay was very clear and I could see the bottom. Nice clumps of weed were wafting around in the current and this time I opted for a 1" section of red Gulp! Sandworm and began casting between them. A big fish darted out from some weed but I missed it's bite at the lure. I recast to the same spot to see if it would have another go but it didn't. I continued exploring the gaps as I worked my way around the edge of the rocks and after a short while another big fish went for the lure as it passed some rocks. Managed to hook this one though and quickly hoisted it up. Cracking long spined sea scorpion. At 184 mm long it was a new PB but unfortunately I didn't have my scales with me to weigh it. I will just have to pay the mark another visit now that I know it holds a few specimen fish. It was raining again as I took a few photos of it.

What a lunker! 184mm. New PB!
Lovely light turquoise throat membranes.
Bit of a belly! Obviously not eating enough Diet Gulp!
Wet but well chuffed!

I caught one more tiny long spined sea scorpion from a large rockpool but the wind picked up and my hands were becoming numb so I called it a day and we headed home.

One more for the road.

Productive session at a few new marks and very promising to see some flounders in a harbour. Nice area with many lovely villages most with little harbours all along the coast and I think during the summer some great mini species hunting opportunities will be found there.

Tight lines, Scott.