Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ultra light fun.

Saturday and it was an absolutely lovely day and Lillian had the day off work so we headed to the beautiful Yellowcraig beach in East Lothian to enjoy the weather and relax. When we arrived I opened the boot of the car to get our lunch and a blanket to sit on and was shocked to find my ultra light gear in there too!

We headed down to the beach and over to the rocks with pleasant views of the small island of Fidra opposite us I spotted some nice deep rockpools and dropped a 1" Gulp! Fish Fry in red on a 1.8g #10 Decoy Rocket jighead . 

Fidra island, reputedly the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island".
Deep rockpools with weed around the edges and rocks in the bottom provide cover for sea scorpions.
Every hole can contain fish. This one did!

As soon as it had entered the water a sea scorpion shot out and grabbed it. This would set the scene for the next 30 minutes and I caught a few more all of the long spined variety.

Gulp! Fish Fry. Yum yum.
Greedy little fish are quite aggressive.
Quite unusual colouration on this one. All one tone with just a few spots.

Then I started to fish around a small bay exploring the edges and working the lure around boulders and weedy patches.

Lots of places for fish to hide here.

As I dropped the lure down onto a light coloured rock a strange looking fish came out of some weed and paused at the lure. My first though was that it was a pipefish or a fifteen spined stickleback. Excited I gave the lure a little twitch and it had a bite or two but it had a tiny mouth and as I tried to hook it I only succeeded in pulling the lure away from it and sending it back into the weed. I managed to coax it out a few more times, getting a better look at it in the process and identifying it as a fifteen spined stickleback, but the end result was the same. Eventually it vanished into the weed for good. Very frustrating and I was kicking myself for not having any smaller hooks with me.

I caught one more long spined sea scorpion and then we sat on the rocks and has some lunch before walking along the beach and then back to the car. Next we drove a bit further East for a quick stop at North Berwick harbour so I could see if there were any flounders around. Small pink Isome was the lure of choice and as the water was crystal clear it was quickly evident that there was plenty of flatfish on the bottom as they chased the lure as I jerked it along the sandy bottom.

Bites were coming thick and fast but frustratingly I had no hook ups. Decided to have a break and try straight down the side of the wall. Switched to a section of Gulp! Sandworm in red and dropped it down, then began jigging it a few inches out from the weed. As I worked it along the wall a big sea scorpion charged out and attacked it but missed. He headed back into the weed and despite my efforts I couldn't tempt him out again. After a while with no further interest I went back to the flatties. Couple of casts later I felt a few little taps and hooked the culprit. To my surprise it was a tiny plaice. 

Spots not so obvious on such a lightly coloured fish but bony nodules on its head tell me it's a plaice.

I had another quick jig down the side as we left the harbour and located a little blenny hotspot that held a few. Fighting over my lure, I managed to hook three of them in quick succession but dropped all three when I was lifting them up the wall.

Great little session and the #24 hooks to nylon are now in my hPa Sooper Trooper along with some split shot to improve my chances of hooking surprise species with small mouths like sand gobies and fifteen spined sticklebacks!

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A charming afternoon's fishing.

Yesterday was a stunning day weather wise and after a spot of work, unfortunately this does occasionally get in the way of fishing, I headed to Loch Lubnaig with my mate Jake. The last time we fished it Jake hooked two arctic char on a pink Jackson Cymo vibe lure but lost both of them so we wanted to have another try for them! We headed about halfway up the eastern side of the loch and parked up, carefully and quietly crossed a field containing some large highland cow bulls and followed a small stream that was stuffed with small minnows down to shore of the loch.

Loch Lubnaig under a clear blue sky.

We setup up our gear, clipped on a pink Jackson Cymo vibe lure each, and started casting out, letting the lures sink down then retrieving them in a very quick sink and draw style but with lots of small rips and pauses to get the lure working. A slight wind blowing up the loch made it tricky to cast and stay in contact with the lures but it soon dropped off. Jake had a couple of missed bites and then hooked into a fish. He got it up to the surface and could see from its colours that it was an arctic char. Mission accomplished!? Not quite unfortunately, like the two he hooked during our last trip, with a frantic thrash it threw the hooks and bolted. A very annoyed Jake decided it was time for a smoke break but he couldn't find his tobacco so headed back to the van to look for it.

Whilst he was gone I kept on fishing and just as the lure dropped after a short rip I was hit by a fish. I played it lightly to try and minimise the chance of losing it and as it came into view I realised it was another arctic char! I was expecting it to thrash around and give me the slip but before it could I guided it over the net and breathed a huge sigh of relief! I looked over it and admired its aubergine back and silver flanks with lovely subtle pink spots. Its fins had a nice white tinge to their edges too. A lovely looking fish indeed. I popped it back into the net to show Jake when he returned. As Jake came back he must have seen me kneeling over the fish inspecting it and popping it into the net as he came back in quite a hurry to see what I had caught. I gave him the news and he congratulated my success, we got a few photos and popped it back.

My first ever arctic char.

Jake was now even more determined to land an arctic char and pretty soon he hooked a fish but it was a small brownie. He followed this up with another brown trout shortly afterwards. He then started working his way around the bay and after a while was a fair bit away.

Small but perfectly formed loch trout.
Lovely heavily spotted markings on Jake's second brown trout.
Jake searches out his target.

I continued to fish over the same area and looking over I could see Jake's rod bent over again. He was making his way back to the bank and obviously had landed a fish. I wondered if he had caught an arctic char as he seemed to be taking a lot of photos. A few casts later and he had hooked and landed another fish. I was happily fishing away whilst watching him and not really paying too much attention to what was happening with my lure, just enjoying the sun and the surroundings really, when I felt a take pretty close in. After a very short but again cautious fight I had landed my second arctic char of the session. I called Jake over and he came across to see what I had caught. Again we got a few photos and popped the fish into a stream and watched him make his way back into the loch.

My second arctic char. Same size as the first. This one took a brown Jackson Cymo.
Very hard to capture the pink spots in the bright light. The photos don't do the fish any justice at all.

After the excitement subsided I asked Jake what he had caught and he told me it was a couple of perch. I was chuffed for him as we'd both been having a bit of frustrating time with a long barren spell as far as perch go and now we had both busted the hoodoo!

The perch were loving the pink Jackson Cymo too!

We had a few more casts at the area where I had caught both my arctic char and then had thirty minutes over at the point where Jake had caught his perch, a very weedy shallow area. Jake hooked a third perch but it came off as he tried to pull it through a large clump of weeds. Time up we headed back to the van. As we were leaving I spotted a load of small fish in a little stream. Jake scooped some up and it turns out they were lamprey. I've never seen one before so it was fasinating seeing their strange mouths and fins. A few of them were absolutley full of eggs.

The tiny stream was full of these small lamprey.
Tiny little sucker mouth full of little sharp teeth! A few hundred more on the way too!

Obviously this won't be the last trip the Loch Lubnaig as whilst Jake has sorted himself out with a perch he's still determined to land an arctic char. I'm sure the next trip will see him do it!

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Anglesey angling adventure.

I decided earlier this year to try and get away more often on short fishing trips. I was planning a weekend in Plymouth at the end of May, but with some uncertainty about a competition I was looking forward to taking part in occurring, I spotted a thread on The Lure Forum about a North Wales Bumble taking place on the island of Anglesey and thought it would be a good alternative destination for a short trip. In addition, I'm heading to Cornwall for a week in July so with the competition perhaps off it seemed a bit silly to visit the south coast twice.

I spoke to fellow The Lure Forum member Lee Goddard, who lives in Wales, about coming down and he was keen to meet up and do some ultra light fishing and also maybe some bassing. Neither of us drive though which was a bit of a problem but luckily another The Lure Forum member and keen angler, Ross Johnson, said he would like to join us and could drive us to various marks around Anglesey. Lee sorted out some cheap accommodation for the two of us in Amlwch and I booked my train ticket to Bangor. Arrangements made, I started discussing the possibilities mark and species wise and started looking forward to meeting Lee and Ross and getting quite excited by the trips potential!

The night before I travelled down I packed my gear. I decided to take four rods. My two ultra light rods, a Shimano Diaflash 237L-S 0.8-8g for vertical jigging and rockpooling due to its ultra sensitive solid tip and my Nories Rockfish Bottom Ultra Light 1.8-7g for working small lures close in and around structure. For bassing I packed my Daiwa Powermesh 902MS 10-40g. Finally the Shimano Speedmaster Drop Shot 240 3.5-28g went in the rod sleeve for targeting bigger wrasse with soft plastics and also for drop shotting smaller species should the conditions make fishing ultra light difficult. Two reels would make the journey. My Daiwa Steez 2500 spooled with 6lb Sunline Rockfish for use with the two ultra light rods and my Daiwa Exceller X-3000 spooled with 20lb Power Pro for use with the other two rods. I'll restrict details on lures till later in the report as I packed way too many!

The morning of the trip arrived and my alarm went at 6:00, I got up, got ready and headed up to Waverley train station. Boarded the train and began writing this! After changing trains at Crewe and another hour on the train I arrived in Bangor and was met by Lee and Ross. Bags in the car off we went to start fishing. We headed off to fish a few marks on the South West coast, hoping to stay sheltered from the North Easterly winds.

After a short walk and an easy climb we were soon setup and fishing but it quickly became apparent that the current flowing past the mark was a bit too strong to get lures anywhere near the bottom using most of the light gear we had with us so we opted to fish a bit higher up in the water to see if there were any mackerel around. I was first into a fish. This small pollock taking a pink Isome.

A small but rather plump pollock!

Ross then landed a small pollock that also fell for Isome.

A tiny pollock! Lovely golden honeycomb markings on it.

Ross hooked the next fish, a mackerel, which came off as he was reeling it in. Almost immediately I had a take close in and after a short scrap on the Nories and with Lee carefully climbing down and lipping the fish I had my first mackerel of the year.

Perhaps the one Ross lost?

Lee and Ross went off to explore another ledge whilst I opted to do a spot of vertical jigging in a very deep gully. As they climbed over to it a sea gull who had been sitting there tried to fly off but it quickly became apparent that he was going nowhere except straight down due to the fact he had a discarded fishing trace including a lead tangled around his legs. We couldn't leave it like that so Ross and Lee managed to guide it over to me, I grabbed it and we began to remove the trace starting with the hook the poor thing had in its beak. No doubt the bird had tried to eat a baited trace left behind by the same idiots who had left a load of other rubbish and discarded tackle lying around on the mark. We carefully managed to cut off all the line and cut the hook with some pliers.

The ungrateful gull had a good peck at me and squawked in my face before he was set free again! I squawked back.

Bird rescue complete we went back to fishing and Lee got off the mark with a small pollock caught from the ledge he and Ross were fishing from.

Lee opens his account. Dropping a lure straight down the side produced a fish.

As the fishing was relatively slow we decided to move to another mark. After a short drive and a walk along the cliffs, Ross showed us one of his favourite marks but as it involved a dangerous climb that neither Lee nor I were up for we headed a bit further along the coast to a mark that was slightly easier to access. A long jagged section of rock in the middle of a deep gorge that is only accessible at low water.

Fishing to the right of the rock in the middle would prove productive.

Upon arrival though Ross realised he had left his camera at the first mark so went back to get it. After a pretty steep climb down Lee and I started fishing and pretty soon we began catching pollock and then Lee caught a nice ballan wrasse.

Power Isome doing what it does best!

The pollock kept coming and by the time Ross returned, climbed down the gorge, got onto the rock and started fishing Lee and I had caught a few each. None of any size but good fun on ultra light gear.

Most of my pollock took the lure on the drop.

Next it was my turn to get a ballan wrasse. It shot out and grabbed my lure right at my feet and was quickly bullied up the whole two or three feet to the surface!

Nice brown and orange ballan wrasse bolted out of the kelp and nailed a Lake Fork Live Baby Shad before trying to bolt back into it again.

Ross went and had a look at the tide and said we would have to leave soon as the tide would cut us off so we had a few more casts. Ross hooked his first ballan wrasse of the day with his last cast.

Last fish for Ross from this mark before we tried to leave.

We packed up and started to make our way back off the rock but it soon became clear that we had left it too late and were trapped. After a bit of climbing and getting wet feet we all made it off though.

Oops! Lee and I struggled a bit with the escape but Ross made sure we made it in one piece!

To finish the first day off we headed to Wylfa Power Station to target mini species in a big side pool next to the main hot water outflow. Lots of big mullet were swimming around but the tide was out and most of the side pool was empty so no one caught anything. We did try to tempt the mullet with some lures but being mullet they just weren't interested! Ross took Lee and I back to the caravan where we would be staying and we were warmly welcomed by some other lads who were here for the bumble and who we were sharing the caravan with. Great lads who visit Anglesey on a regular basis.

Next morning we headed up to the meeting point for the bumble. It was nice to meet everyone and we all had a chat and a spot of breakfast with hot drinks and some very nice sausage and bacon rolls warming everyone up on what was a pretty cold and windy morning. Lee and I bought a couple of the small hard lures that were on sale and then we got chatting to Terry, who despite his lack of enthusiasm for our preferred style of fishing, took it upon himself to offer advice to us on potential marks to go species hunting with our ultra light gear. We had a great chat and he offered to take us to a few of the places he had mentioned as they were near his house. We happily accepted his generous offer, jumped in his van and off we went. We tried a few of the marks but the wind and also the currents made controlling our lures difficult something that Terry hadn't anticipated as he favours traditional methods of fishing and this was his first real look at fishing so light. We then headed to a mark where Terry thought we could catch big wrasse, a deep water rock mark that was easy to access. After showing us the mark Terry gave us his number and told us he would pick us up later to take us bass fishing on the Menai Straights in the evening then left us to fish. We tackled up with the heaviest end gear we had but the current was too strong again and we started losing quite a bit of gear as the tide swept it into snags and when another angler arrived with traditional tackle we decided to let him have our spot and headed along the cliffs to look for a more sheltered mark similar to the gorge Ross had taken us to the day before.  After a pleasant walk along the cliff we spotted a likely looking spot and figured out how to get down. The climb down was very easy and the mark was well sheltered. With fairly deep water and lots of kelp around the edges we started targeting wrasse down the sides. I decided to fish my Speedmaster Drop Shot just in case there were any bigger fish down there. We started exploring the edges and it wasn't too long before Lee had caught one followed shortly afterwards by a second. I asked him what lure he was using and he gave me one of them, a small IMA Trilobite in Pro Blue. First drop with it and I had hooked a wrasse too. I was hoping it was one of the smaller species but it was just a tiny ballan. Lee seemed to have found a bit of a hot spot and it looked like there was a large shelf in the rock beneath him from which he caught another two ballan wrasse.

This ballan wrasse found Lee's IMA Trilobite lure irresistible!
Lee's second ballan wrasse of the day.
Lee was on a roll.
Lee's last ballan out of this mark was also the best.
High hopes that this would be one of the smaller wrasse species were soon dashed when this tiny wrasse was properly inspected.

I did hook a second ballan wrasse but just after I got it up clear of the kelp my braid snapped at the rod tip. A quick inspection revealed that my tip ring was chipped. I must have damaged it during our escape from the cut off rock mark the previous day. I packed it up and setup my Nories rod. As the tide turned the wrasse stopped biting and I started casting out a bit further and managed to catch two tiny pollock that must have been part of a passing shoal but after that things went quiet again. I decided to explore a bit and rock hopping around a corner I found a huge rockpool. A chunk of Gulp! Sandworm was soon bouncing around the bottom and a few blennies shot out to fight over it. I managed to catch two of them.

Despite being caught this blenny put on a rather defiant display!

I remembered that Lee had never caught a blenny and called him over. Pretty soon he had caught his first  and was quite pleased.

A new species for Lee. A small specimen but it still managed to bite him a few times much to our amusement!

We went back and had another go for some more wrasse as the tide began to flood but with no sign of any around and time getting on we packed up and started heading back. After a few texts from Ross to say that Terry was looking for us and realising that we had went to a different car park to the one we were dropped off at, a rather relieved Terry soon picked us up and we went to the  pub where we met up with Ross and his mates whom he had been fishing with. They had been to the mark Lee and I didn't fancy the climb down to and had caught a few pollock and some bigger ballan wrasse. May have to attempt the climb next time I visit! We had a quick pint, grabbed some fish and chips then headed to the Menai Straights with Terry to target bass. With the wind dropping off, the tide just right as the light was due to fade, Terry thought that the conditions were perfect and after a stroll along the shingle we all started fishing, wading out a few yards and casting out past the weed into the currents. Ross and his mates headed a bit further along the beach to fish. As the tide flooded and light began to fade the action started. My Nories was the first rod to bend in our group as I hooked into my first Welsh bass.

Ultra light bass. Great fun!

It took a Sidewinder Brill Bait fished behind an 8g sinking bombarda. Shortly afterwards Terry landed a fish and his mate Darren lost one before catching another. After this brief spell of activity the action stopped just as quickly as it had begun. Ross and his mates rejoined us and they too had caught a couple of bass. Probably from the same shoal that had passed in front of us. As it got dark we decided to call an end to a very enjoyable, very long and very tiring day. Ross drove us back to the caravan again and on the way we discussed our plans for the following days fishing. With the wind due to almost disappear along with the clouds we were looking forward to a better opportunity to do some more ultra light fishing and a spot of mini species hunting.

Sunday morning and Ross picked us up at 9:00. It was a lovely sunny day and with little wind we made the short drive to Amlwch Breakwater.

With over 20 species having being caught from the breakwater we had high hopes.

We started fishing down the inside wall of the breakwater but surprisingly had no bites at all so we began exploring the southern side of the harbour. No sign of any fish there either though so we decided to head back to Wylfa Power Station outflow as the tide was in and hopefully so would be the mini species. Ross caught a small thick lipped mullet on a bit of bread. Shocking I know! He then managed to catch one on a small section of Isome.

Even the fussiest fish in existance can't resist Isome!

Tricky, hard to catch fish out of the way, blenny bashing soon commenced! I took an early lead and it soon got quite competitive and we were all catching them. Even Lee admitted that it was strangely addictive! I decided to climb down to see if there were any tompot blennies or gobies amongst the boulders at the bottom. After catching a few more common blennies I hooked what I first thought was simply a slightly plumper one but as I hoisted it up I was overjoyed to discover it was in fact my first ever tompot blenny.

Blenny #171. Tompot flavour!

I was well chuffed. I headed around to the other side of the pool to continue hunting mini species and then Ross caught a couple of corkwing wrasse in quick succession followed by a couple of tompot blennies.

Lovely little corkwing wrasse for Ross. I'd loved to have caught one too.
Ross gets a another tompot blenny.
There may be a few more tompots soon!

I made my way around and rejoined them on the ledge but by the time I got there the tide had dropped and the mini species action had dried up. I decided to go and have a chuck with my Yo-Zuri Crystal minnow in the outflow to see if I could tempt a bass but had no luck. I climbed up and had a quick seat to regain my breath. I watched Ross and Lee fishing for a bit. Ross really is a bit of a mountain goat.

I relax for a moment or two whilst Lee and Ross prepare to climb up from the ledge.
Ross is quite a keen climber. Lee and I are not!

As Ross and Lee climb up so we can head to the next mark, I look down to discover that hard lures can be used to target insects as well as fish!

This ladybird found my Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow more attractive than the resident bass.

Leaving the mark and discussing our options, we spotted a nice looking cove on the opposite side of the bay, so we walked along the cliffs to have a quick look. It looked great so after working out the easiest route we climbed down. At the bottom we discovered another lovely looking deep gully with plenty of boulders and weed. We started exploring with our lures and after a few taps I hooked a nice ballan wrasse.

Reins Rockvibe in chartreuse pepper takes my third ballan wrasse of the trip. Note the beautiful turquoise markings on its fins.

This turned out to be the only fish we could find in the gully so we decided to head back to the mark Lee and I had found the day before. No sign of the wrasse today though, so whilst Lee persevered with the wrasse hunting I showed Ross the huge rockpool and we bashed the blennies in it for a short while. I caught two and Ross caught one. We went back to join Lee and try for wrasse again. The tide was now rising quickly and three big seals appeared, swimming around in the massive currents that were passing through the rocks in front of us. With no sign of any wrasse we decided to try Holyhead breakwater for a few hours and we headed to the very end. Known as corkwing corner I had high hopes of catching a new wrasse species or a few other mini species but the only fish caught were a few pollock as light faded. Another great days fishing concluded we headed back to the caravan.

Monday morning and this would be our final session. The weather was stunning and Ross arrived just before 9:00. After a quick chat about possible destinations Ross suggested a potential wrasse spot at Porth Wen. After parking the car and enjoying a gentle walk down we were confronted with the beautiful ruins of an old brick works. Lots of old walls and rocks to fish from, it looked great.

Where do we start?

Whilst Lee and I got set up, the young and fearless Ross climbed up onto a large rock, doing a great impression of a mountain goat again.

Ross does a spot of climbing and takes a few photos.
I thought the rock in front of me might hold a few fish underneath.

Liking the look of a weedy area at the foot of the rock Ross was on, I threaded a small section of Gulp! Sandworm onto a jighead and cast onto a big flat rock. I gently pulled it off the front edge and let it drop down. Out came a large fish. Ross called down to tell me it was a wrasse. I couldn't believe my luck. I paused for a moment or two to let it grab the lure, and struck. Fish on but it was stripping line way too quickly! Eager to start fishing I had not set my drag after loosening it to setup my gear. The wrasse bolted back under the rock and out the other side into deeper water, snapping me off in the process. I was gutted! After tightening my drag and tying on a new leader I had a few casts over the sandy bottom to see if there were any flat fish around. No joy there so I climbed onto a wall and started working along it, jigging my lure down the sides and through the weeds. Meanwhile Ross was away climbing again and Lee was fishing from a rock at the end of another old wall.

Ross gets another great shot from another lofty position.

I had a few small fish come out from the weed and have a few taps at my lure a couple of times but no hook ups. I looked over to see Lee land a small wrasse. First fish of the day, a nice little ballan.

Lee locates the wrasse once again.

Shortly afterwards Lee hooked into a bigger fish. It stripped line a couple of times and was putting up a good fight as it tried to get back down into it the kelp. Lee tightened up slightly and soon brought it up away from the weeds. A nice dark brown and lime green fish. The super small IMA Trilobite in watermelon doing the damage this time.

Lee's best ballan wrasse of the trip.

Ross and I joined him out on the rock and Ross soon landed a ballan wrasse too. After that though the action dried up so we explored a bit in search of mini species but surprisingly couldn't locate any despite the area we searched looking like it should hold a few.

Ross finally starts fishing and gets a reward.

We then walked back up to the car and after stopping for a bite to eat we headed to Holyhead breakwater again, but when we arrived a very strong tide was running so we headed to a small pier that went out into the Menai Straights near Bangor, unfortunately apart from seeing lots of tiny fry, me catching a shore crab and Ross a sea anemone, none of us had any luck so we decided to relax for a bit and enjoyed a pint in the sun before Ross dropped Lee and I off at Bangor train station. We all said farewell and to be honest it felt like I was saying goodbye to two very good friends whom I'd known for years instead of just a few days. We'd had a fantastic time and caught a lot of fish together and we're already planning meeting up again. I'm not sure if that will be on the island of Anglesey with it's stunning coastline and warm friendly people or perhaps up here in Scotland but I'm certainly looking forward to fishing with Lee and Ross again in the not to distant future!

Tight Lines, Scott.