Thursday, July 26, 2012

Oban species hunt.

On Tues I headed to Oban with my long suffering girlfriend Lillian who is also an excellent ghillie. My mission was to add a few more species to my 2012 tally. About half way there we passed the beautiful Loch Lubnaig. It looked like a mirror. As we drove passed the north end I could see lots of weed beds and began thinking about all the big perch that may be hiding amongst them. As we continued west through the mountains we passed a few of the other Lochs in the Trossachs national park. Beautiful scenery all around it was a very pleasant drive indeed. Passing Loch Awe it was easy to imaging huge pike and shortly afterwards as we drove along the shore of Loch Etive my mind was going through all the different species of fish it contains. All of this fishy daydreaming made the journey seem a short one and we soon arrived in Oban, checked into our B&B and headed down to the harbour for a spot of ultra light fun.

The view from Oban's North Pier.

Straight away I could see lots of small fish down the side. I rigged up a #14 Kamasan Animal hook and squeezed on a 0.8g split shot. Dropping down a tiny chunk of Isome I soon hooked one of the little fish, hoisted it up and inspected it, the small scales coming off told me it was a poor cod.

My first poor cod of 2012.

A good start to the trip with another new species for my 2012 tally so I was chuffed. The harbour was plagued with them though and despite seeing a small wrasse I couldn't get through the poor cod. After hooking twelve of them I did manage something different, a very small codling. My second addition to my 2012 tally.

The smallest codling I've ever seen!

We then headed north to Ganavan Bay. The target here was a sand goby but on arrival the tide was too far out to fish for them so we went for a walk along the coast and I had a few casts with a small silver wedge lure over some kelp beds from a rock mark.

Large kelp beds in front of me could contain...

After 10-15 min I hooked a fish, it put a nice bend in my Diaflash and took a little line as well before Lillian helped me land it, getting a wet foot in the process. What a woman!

...pollock. Good scrap on my Diaflash.

A few casts later I caught a second smaller pollock and then we headed back along the beach to try for sand gobies as the tide had risen a bit covering the sandy area where I'd caught them before. These gobies are very small and to catch them you really need to scale down. A #20 hook was tied on with a single 0.8g split shot squeezed on a few inches above it. I cast this out and began very slowly twitching it back along the sandy bottom. The gobies are very hard to see. As well as being small they are incredibly well camouflaged and you can only really see them when they move. This wasn't really a problem though as I was soon feeling their tiny bites on the ultra sensitive solid tip of my Diaflash rod. I also had a few tiny flatties chasing the tiny section of lure and manage to catch one.

The smallest plaice I've ever seen. Nothing escapes the #20 hooks!

After a little while longer I then caught my intended target and my third new species for 2012 of the trip, a sand goby.

The sand here has literally hundreds of these tiny fish all over it as the tide floods covering it.

A few more gobies were landed before we headed back to town to head out for dinner at Room 9 and then retired for the evening.

Wednesday morning we headed back to Ganavan Sands as I wanted a few more shots of the gobies in better light. With the tide fully in there was a lot more of the sandy beach underwater and as result a lot more fish were around. In an hour I caught two pouting, five sand gobies, five codling and two plaice much to the amusement of some young lads who came down to see what I was catching.

Banding on pouting is good way to identify them
Sand gobies are quite difficult to tell apart from common gobies. Something I'm determined to master though!
A few more tiny codling to add to my tally for 2012.
I love the way these tiny fish are perfectly formed little versions of adult fish.

With the tide being in I wanted to go back along to the rocks where I had caught the pollock the day before to try and target wrasse, which I felt would move into feed amongst the weed close in. When we arrived I could see lots of small fish swimming about and was concerned that getting through them would be an issue so I started with a 4" Keitech Shad Impact rigged on a weedless jighead. Then I saw a small brightly coloured wrasse grazing on the rocks. At first I thought it was a corkwing wrasse but as it moved around I got a better look at it and could see brilliant blue highlights on its dorsal fin when the light caught it which meant it was in fact a rock cook wrasse! Trying to keep calm I quickly scrambled up the rocks to my bag to get my gear so I could quickly scale down. A #14 hook was tied on with three 0.8g split shot squeezed on above it to get it down through the small fish. I returned to the spot where I saw the rock cook wrasse only to find it had moved on. Determined to find it or another I started slowly working my way along the edge. I soon found a small weedy shelf that seemed to have a lot of small wrasse around it but I was sure they were all goldsinny wrasse as they were very light in colour and I could just make out the spot on their tails. Watching them closely though I thought I could see one or two that were darker and had the distinctive blue markings of rock cook wrasse. Dangling my tiny offering of pink Isome in front of one of them it eagerly devoured it and was very quickly hooked and hoisted out. It was a indeed a rock cook wrasse. I was ecstatic.

My first ever rock cook wrasse!
Stunning violet markings on its head.
This small fish made me so happy!

I was tempted to try and catch a few more small wrasse but Lillian reminded me quite rightly that I was there to species hunt so I scaled up again and cast out to see what else might be on the bottom a bit further out. I tried various soft plastics and did hook one small pollock that took a Slug-Go but it came of as it came to the surface in front of me. Still buzzing from a catching my first ever rock cook I wasn't too bothered. After another hour or so we headed back to the car and I was still pretty excited by the rock cook wrasse. So much so I ran up a small hill and celebrated!

I want the world to know how much I love wrasse!

We got back to the car and had a snack and cold drink from a catering van named "Midgie Bites". The only midgies bites I've actually enjoyed let me tell you! We then began the drive home but not before doing a quick detour to Bonawe on the northern shore of Loch Etive. Here my luck would run out however! Not so much as a nibble.

Should be called Loch Empty. No fish in it. Well not on Wed afternoon anyway!

I really can't complain. Four species added to my 2012 tally and only another four will see me reach my target of 30 on lures. I fully expect to reach this at some point in Aug which means I can get smelly fingers chasing another 13 species which would take me to my target of 45 saltwater species on any method for the year. The highlight of the trip though was undoubtedly the bonus rock cook wrasse. I love wrasse and this was my first time catching one of this pretty little species. Looking forward to hopefully catching the beautiful cuckoo wrasse whilst on a boat trip soon.

Tight lines, Scott.

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