Monday, June 18, 2012

Should I stay or should I go?

Last month when I heard that the Art of Fishing Species Hunt competition that I was told was being planned in Plymouth for the end of May may not take place I headed off to Anglesey instead for the North Wales Bumble. When I heard it had been reorganised to take place on Saturday the 16th of June I was tempted to head down for it. The only real problem was that it clashed with the Shark-a-Tag three day event at the Mull of Galloway and I had planned on taking part in. With the prospect of catching a few sharks proving attractive it meant a difficult choice would have to be made! 50lb tope or 50g gobies? Decisions, decisions! After much thought and deliberation, and despite some poor weather forecasts for Plymouth leading up to the weekend of the competition, I decided midweek to head south. I'm off to the Mull of Galloway in August so the sharks can wait until then.

The day before the comp my alarm went at 5:00, I boarded the Train at 6:06 and almost nine hours later I arrived in Plymouth. It was a bit windy but overhead was mainly blue sky and no rain. I walked to my hotel which was situated near the Hoe. For the benefit of any gangster rappers or pimps, "The Hoe" is a large public space above the limestone cliffs that make up the coast of Plymouth and is not one of your female acquaintances or employees! Anyway, I dumped my suitcase of clothes in my small single room and headed off to the Art of Fishing shop down near the Barbican. Ten minutes later I was outside!

Some folk kneel and face Mecca. I normally just point my browser!

I braced myself before entering, knowing that I must be strong to avoid the mind boggling selection of goodies on offer and try to resist the overwhelming temptation to acquire bags full of them. I took a deep breath and walked in.

Tackle tart heaven. So much better than browsing online but even easier than clicking!

Inside I was like a child in a sweet shop, I looked at the endless rows of lovely lure fishing bling before I spotted Matt, the competition organiser, and went over to introduce myself. We had a quick chat and he introduced Phil, a fellow TLF member who was also in town to take part in the comp. We had a chat and browsed over all the gear again before making our escape. I managed to restrict my impulse buying to some jigheads and a packet of large pink Power Isome. Neither of which I really needed! I'm not sure how Phil fared but he left clutching a bag too so must have given in to lure lust as well!

Following some advice Matt had given us, we took a short stroll around to the north end of Sutton Harbour Marina and I started fishing. Phil went back to his hotel to get his gear.

Looks good!

Straight away I was getting lots of bites. I hooked a fish but it bolted into the weeds and came off. Judging by its shape and the way it shot off I think it was a sea scorpion. Shortly afterwards I caught my first fish of the trip, a black goby.

The nightmare scenario of a totally fishless trip quickly put to bed!

Then I spotted a large sea trout. I lobbed a lure in its direction and it did have a look at it before being spooked and bolting down into the depths. At this point Phil returned and started fishing along from me. I told him about the black goby and the trout. The little bites continued and I caught a rock goby followed by a few more.

Nice mustard coloured tip on this ones' dorsal fin.

The trout returned but unlike Phil and I managed to resist taking a lure despite having a few chucked in front of its face! Phil wasn't having any luck and told me he had a habit of blanking at new marks and was going to head off for some food and start afresh in the morning. I carried on fishing and slowly worked my way along the edge of the harbour catching a few more rock gobies as I went before I caught something slightly bigger, my first tompot blenny of the trip. I love blennies and the tompot's weird little eyebrows were awesome so I was chuffed!

I love tompot blennies!

I decided to move round to another area and found a nice little spot which I quickly discovered held a fair amount of small wrasse. Being small wrasse they did their best to infuriate me with their little taps before I hooked a particularly greedy goldsinny that swallowed half a Gulp! 1" Minnow!

Nasty set of teeth on this greedy little fish!

I then spotted a slightly bigger wrasse that I thought might be a small ballan or a corkwing and tried to catch it but it lost interest after a few taps at my lure and disappeared into it's weedy hole. At this point a young lad named Dean turned up with his ultra light gear and we got chatting. I told him what I had caught and he started fishing alongside me. Fish kept coming steadily. I caught another goldsinny wrasse, another rock goby, a common blenny and another tompot blenny. Dean caught a tompot blenny and we chatted about blenny and goby identification. After a while we decided to move round the harbour to a new spot where Dean had been told there were a few sea scorpions. When we arrived to our surprise we saw a lesser spotted dogfish swimming around near the surface between the harbour wall and the pontoon. Dean dropped a lure in front of it but it just sulked off under the pontoons out of site. We started exploring the stretch of wall and were getting lots of little bites. Dean's mate Ben arrived and we fished on for another hour. I caught another rock goby and another goldsinny wrasse. Ben got a goldsinny wrasse too. By this point it was almost 23:00 so we packed up, Dean and Ben went home and I headed back to the hotel.

Saturday morning I was up at 7:30, got ready, had a hearty breakfast and headed down to Art of Fishing to meet everyone and start fishing the competition. There was a few of the guys from TLF taking part which was nice and then we all registered for the competition, bought a few bits and bobs and headed out to start fishing. I headed to the spot where I saw all the wrasse the night before. The water was a lot lower and the wind was blowing through a bit more strongly which made things difficult but I was fishing a drop shot rig to combat this and had a few bites. A few other lads joined me and pretty soon there were five of us all along the wall side by side. The bites kept coming but mainly from wrasse which I couldn't manage to hook. A blenny appeared though and being a much more obliging fish it chomped the lure eagerly and became my first fish of the day.

Species 1. - Common Blenny.

A few of the other lads, no doubt frustrated by the small wrasse moved on but I continued working my lure along the edges of weed. Out swam a bigger blenny. This one took a couple of goes before being hooked.

Species 2 - Tompot blenny.

After a few more "close but no cigar" bites off the small wrasse I decided to go to the north end of the marina to try for gobies. It was a bit more sheltered there so I switched to a jighead and dropped a small chunk of Power Isome down the side, hit the bottom, lifted up an inch and started walking along. Few taps later I hooked a fish and lifted it up.

Species 3. - Rock goby.

I continued working my way along and caught another tompot blenny. Then the wind picked up and began making things difficult. I was about to switch back to a drop shot rig when I spotted a pontoon at the eastern end of the marina that was accessible. I headed over there and spotted a little alcove in the marina wall that looked good. Crouching down I lobbed my lure in. It was full of fish. I could see small wrasse so started targeting them by sight. Out shot a fish from underneath a submerged traffic cone and nailed lure. Another tompot blenny. Quickly unhooked and returned my attention focused on being tormented by the small wrasse. Getting rather annoyed by their pathetic nibbling I switched to a #14 hook with a couple of split shot just above it and lowered it down only for the wrasse to continue tapping away. Then another small fish came out from under a rock, muscled its way past the wrasse and was quickly hooked.

Species 4. - Black goby.

Sight fishing for the wrasse was becoming seriously frustrating now and I was about to move on when I finally hooked one. Expecting a goldsinny wrasse I was pleasantly surprised when I realised it wasn't one!

Species 5. - Corkwing wrasse.

Spurred on by this and realising that it was only 12:25 and a goldsinny wrasse in the next thirty five min would put me on six species at the half way point of the competition I continued trying to catch one. I can see them nipping away at the lure again. Very frustrating. I end up spending an hour trying to hook one, catching another tompot blenny, a rock goby and two black gobies in the process whilst generously providing the goldsinny wrasse with free lunch in the form of tiny pieces of Power Isome! Now determined to get one I decide to head back to my starting point as I know there are a few goldsinny wrasse there that are slightly less well fed. They swim out of the weed and have a look at my offerings occasionally having a shy tap at them before hiding again. I persist for thirty minutes catching another tompot blenny, a rock goby and common blenny. Thoroughly disgusted by their complete lack of compliance I decide to end my goldsinny misery and try for some pollock in the outer harbour. I spend an hour exploring and flicking out small metal lures but have no joy. With conditions outside of the inner harbour pretty horrid I decide to return to the pesky goldsinny wrasse.  On the way I cross over a bridge at the mouth of the inner harbour and pass underneath a huge metal sculpture.

Wouldn't mind catching a Barbican prawn. Bet it would put up a good fight!

I speak to a few other guys who've caught them and they point me in the direction of a spot that they tell me holds lots of them. I head over and sure enough there are a few moving around the fringes of the weed. All small though and again they spend the best part of the final hour of the competition tormenting me. The torture is broken up by two further common blennies. No one I spoke to had caught more than my tally of five species so I'm reasonably happy with my performance and head back to the shop to see how I've done. I wasn't too bothered though to be honest. Goldsinny wrasse aside, it was another enjoyable days fishing and good to meet the other participants. I end up being ranked 5th. Eight species took 1st place. Some of the lads had their kids with them and it was good to hear they all caught fish and they were all given some goodies. Adults prizes were then dished out and packs of Power Isome for all who took part. After a bit of chatting and the cash register ringing a few times everyone said their goodbyes and started heading off. Most lads had driven down for the day and had a long drive back to make. I headed off for a bite to eat and was going to go back to fish a bit more but it started raining quite heavily so I retired to my hotel with the intention of relaxing and watching the football.

After an hour or so the sun appeared though and I decided to pop down to the ferry port for a couple hours. Using Google Maps to find my way there I got a bit lost and jumped over a wall to take a short cut across some disused waste ground. I got about fifty yards when I heard a loud whistle. I turned around to find it was the police so I headed back and jumped over the wall again. After explaining myself the officer very kindly gave me a lift along to the mark I was trying to get to! First class from Devon's finest I must say. When I got along to the end of the pier there were three lads fishing already with tradition gear lobbing out baited feathers. I decided to see what was down the sides. Black gobies was the answer. I caught two in quick succession.

The three lads were curious about what I had caught and came over to look.

I tried in front of some weed at the bottom of some big concrete steps. Tap, tap. Time for some payback so I quickly tied on a #18 hook and threaded on a tiny sliver of Isome. I dropped it down and after only a couple of bites I finally managed to hook my first goldsinny of the day.

Revenge is a dish best served on small hooks!

A very satisfying feeling I can tell you! After talking to one of the local lads for a bit and him telling me the bottom was quite clean, sandy ground I fished a whole large Isome along the bottom for half an hour to try for a flounder and had one decent bite but didn't connect with the fish. With light fading I headed back to the hotel. It was a nice end to an enjoyable day.

On Sunday morning I woke up about 8:30 and sorted out my bags, had breakfast and headed out for a walk along the coast. I spotted a nice looking little harbour and headed down. Four guys were fishing bait, some ledgered and some under floats. As I started fishing I got a few funny looks but I'm used to this by now! Besides, they soon changed to curious looks when I started getting bites from the wrasse that were resident in the weeds at the base of the outer harbour wall. No hook ups so I tied on a #18 hook and soon hooked one of the culprits.

Another nice little corkwing wrasse.

I then decided to see what was inside the harbour. Working the lure in between patches of weed a few fish showed an interest but they weren't biting so I moved round a bit and cast across the mouth of the harbour. Bouncing the lure back over the top of the kelp it got about half way across when a sharp little jolt signalled a fish was on. I hoisted up my first long spined sea scorpion of the trip.

Where were you yesterday when I needed you most!

Action stopped so I started heading along the coast towards Sutton harbour. I passed a few spots that looked good but didn't have enough time to try any of them.

The old harbour I had just fished form further along the coast.

I soon arrived at Sutton harbour and headed to a spot that had been productive on Sat. Wasn't long before I spotted a few small wrasse and dropped the lure down. After a few taps I hooked one of them and hoisted it up.

 This corkwing had quite vivid markings.
Gold, blue, orange and lime green. Stunning!

The other wrasse lost interest so I moved again to find more small wrasse there as well. Couldn't hook any if them though but the rock gobies were more obliging. I caught three in quick succession.

Bright yellow tip on this one.

Next to interrupt my goldsinny pestering was a tompot blenny who grabbed the lure and charged off before being quickly cranked up from the water.

This one required a quick comb through his eyebrows before being photographed!

I then spent the next thirty minutes trying to catch sand smelt from a shoal of them I had spotted earlier. No luck though and I headed off to the train station to make the journey home.
I had a most enjoyable few days and it was well worth travelling almost a thousand miles! The weather wasn't anywhere near as bad as the forecasts had predicted either, I met up with some great lads who all love fishing and took part in my first competition. I caught thirty six fish and seven species over the duration of my trip. The only disappointment was not catching any new species for my 2012 species tally but I did catch a few species which I love so that made up for it a bit! Looking forward even more now to visiting Cornwall at the start of next month for over a week!

Tight lines, Scott.

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