Thursday, April 25, 2013

Man with the mirror.

The weather of late has been very infuriating. Wet and miserable most of the time and when it has brightened up the wind has been very strong. This combined with starting a new job has made getting out fishing very tough. Yesterday the weather was forecast to be dry and the wind to drop off but alas I had some things to do that required the use of a van. My mate Jake came to the rescue with his and we set off late morning to get the task done and were back in Edinburgh just before 15:00. Whilst Jake had to head off to another job I was free until 19:00 and couldn't resist heading to Eliburn Reservoir for a short three hour session. Lillian wasn't as keen but reluctantly took up her usual job of ghillie when I pointed out it was too nice an evening to sit in the house. A short drive later we arrived and walked down to the reservoir to find only two other anglers already fishing for carp with two rods out each and I decided to fish a peg towards the bottom of the venue that has recently had an overhaul.

A nice newly refurbished double peg to fish. Good to see the venue being maintained to a high standard in this way.

I normally start by fishing on the bottom and yesterday was to be no different so after plumbing the depth I was soon fishing a single red maggot on the deck. I missed a couple of bites before hooking my first fish of the day, an exceedingly plump little perch.

Small but still my biggest perch from the venue.
Fattest too without a doubt!

This was followed by a few roach. At this point I heard quite a splash to my left under some overhanging trees that I thought must have been a carp and also spotted a few fish cruising around near the surface out in front of me that I suspected were ide. Ide like to take on the drop so I changed my tactics, started fishing at a depth of about three feet and also bulked all of my shot below my float except one No.10 above my hook so my maggot would fall through the water column nice and slowly. Fishing each cast for a minute or two and feeding maggots with each cast I soon had a few more roach and also a couple of roach/bream hybrids, but none of the larger fish that I thought were ide.

Skimmer or hybrid? A hybrid I think. It has some features of a bream and some of a roach. I've still to catch my first proper bream.
100% roach and the biggest of the nine I caught during the session.

For a while now I've been planning on leaving the float rod at home and trying other approaches to target the resident carp. It's proved too hard to resist the temptation of the waggler though as I've been enjoying fishing it so much. Also I've not seen that many carp caught from Eliburn and I guess this is another reason why the waggler is so hard to resist. Shortly after the angler opposite me packed up and left the bailiff came around and I paid for my permit. Just after this my float shot under and I lifted my rod. Immediately I knew I had hooked a good fish as it started making its way towards the bottom end of the reservoir taking line against my lightly set drag. It must be a carp I told Lillian. I was very excited but with just a #18 barbless hook and 2lb hooklength at the business end I was slightly concerned about bending out the hook, being snapped off or the fish getting into the submerged tree branches to my left so I loosened the drag a little further and took my time playing it. It made a couple of runs towards the bottom end of the venue and came to the top a couple of times too thrashing around on the surface but somehow the hook held. When I finally gained enough line to get it close to me for the third time it started to head to my left towards the submerged tree branches but I managed to turn it by applying some side strain whilst very gently thumbing the spool. After this it cruised around in front of me heading to the bottom a couple of times before it finally tired enough for me to manage to get it up to the surface and over the net expertly handled by Lillian. Taking over ten very nervous minutes to land it the sense of relief was immense and I was over the moon.

My first ever mirror carp.
I inspect its lovely dark green and golden yellow colours before slipping it back.
The light hooklength that I caught it on.

Now that I've caught my first mirror carp I'd really like to catch some more and I can appreciate why some anglers become obsessed by carp although I don't think I'll become one of them because I'm still enjoying trying my hand at different styles of fishing and targeting a variety of different species. I'm still keen to explore other methods for targeting carp though but that being said I also fancy trying to catch more on the waggler. I'd use a stronger hooklength in future though if deliberately targeting them! I've seen an interesting hair rigged "maggot ball" method that involves a sewing needle and dental floss that I'd like to try and I'd also like to try catching them on surface baits as well in warmer weather. Whilst the call of the sea is getting stronger and will soon be too strong to ignore I'm certainly looking forward to enjoying more coarse fishing and hopefully catching more carp and I'm keen to go for a carp session with my mate Jake too if I can drag him away from his lures for one!

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Eliburn hour cures the Balmaha blues.

With the horrible weather of late finally breaking I headed west with Lillian to Loch Lomond today to try and catch my first ever ruffe. Driving there I noted that there was hardly any snow left on the peaks of the Ochil Hills, a good sign that spring is finally here! When we arrived at Loch Lomond it was a lovely day, the sun was shining and there was hardly any wind.

Blue skies.

Balmaha Pier on the eastern shore was the spot I decided to fish and I elected to fish maggots on the bottom using a swim feeder set up. Arriving at the waters edge it quickly became apparent that the water was quite coloured up from all the rain recently and the wind during the week had no doubt stirred it up too. I gave it a go anyway, hoping that the ruffe being a hardy and voracious little bugger would find my red maggots irresistible. After a while Lillian went for a walk along the shore and took a picture of me on the pier on her return.

Feeding the swim with maggots regularly and waiting for the tip of my feeder rod to move.

After about three hours though with not even a twitch on my rod tip I decided enough was enough and the murky water had got the better of me. We headed home and on the way we stopped at Eliburn Reservoir in Livingston for an hour or so. Switching to my float rod and fishing a waggler a rod length out I soon had a fish on, a lovely roach. 

Finally a fish! In nice condition too.

This was soon followed by a second roach and then a greedy little perch. All the perch I've caught from Eliburn have been very small. There must be some bigger ones in there somewhere. Must try with worms in the future to see if I can tempt one out.

Where are your big mates?

I hooked one more roach before we headed home but pulled the hook out of its mouth trying to lift it out instead of using my net. I would have liked to have carried on fishing but I had to get ready to go to work unfortunately. Oh well, whilst quite disappointed by the abject failure at Balmaha Pier I was glad not to end such a nice day fishless. I guess I'll have to wait for some settled weather before heading back to Loch Lomond to try for ruffe again. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Most Wanted : Streaked Gurnard.

Knowing your target species and other similar fish can be important if you are going to be able to tell them apart and avoid misidentifying them which could result in potentially catching new species without realising it, a disaster to a species hunting angler like me. The three pictures of gurnards below hopefully illustrate this point.

Some grey gurnards are grey.
Some grey gurnards however have a bit of a red tinge to them. This doesn't make them red gurnards though!
An actual red gurnard caught by my mate Ross. I'd like to catch one this year.

As you can see it's possible to mistake the identity of the second fish. Key identifying features to look out for on grey gurnards are the light lateral line and the dark spot on the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin on red gurnards stands taller than on greys too.

This year I have red gurnards on my list of potential new species to catch along with a further two species of gurnard, these being tub gurnard and streaked gurnard. Tub gurnards and streaked gurnards can look quite similar and are a further example of where misidentification is a possibility. Both species come in a variety of shades from pale beige through to dark reddish brown with a rather striking blue/violet border around their large pectoral fins. There are a few differences that can be used to distinguish them however although to the untrained eye these may not be obvious. Tub gurnards can grow to much larger sizes so a gurnard over 40cm will most certainly rule out the possibility of it being a streaked gurnard.

A great photo of a fairly large tub gurnard showing its colourful pectoral fins.
A brightly coloured streaked gurnard.
Another example of a streaked gurnard. In this photo the colourful fins are turned downward to camouflage the fish. Note the much paler colouration.
Once on the move the colouration on the fins of this streaked gurnard looks a bit like that of its cousin the tub.

If in any doubt the simplest way to distinguish between them is the angle of the front of the head. Tub gurnards have a longer, concave snout while streaked gurnards have a must shorter, more steeply angled, flatter snout.

Whilst tub gurnard are believed to be much more common misidentifications may have caused the perceived rarity of streaked gurnards to be somewhat skewed which is also quite interesting. For example it is believed that streaked gurnards may actually be quite common catches on commercial boats off the south coast of England but are just sold along with the tub gurnards at market.

Another fascinating fact is that gurnards have specially adapted the first three fin rays on their pectoral fins into seperate "legs" that they can use to crawl around on the sea bed. It is thought they also use them to hunt by sensing movement with them of prey in their vicinty. Very bizarre indeed.

Finally, gurnards groan. If you have ever caught one you'll know what I mean by this. I think this is quite amusing as it sounds a bit like they are burping which adds to their quirky character.

Anyway, revolting fish behaviour aside, I hope you've enjoyed this little look at gurnards and I'm looking forward to targeting them later in the year. Whilst red and tub gurnards should be easy enough to track down and I'd love to catch them both I don't think that they warrant a place on my "Most Wanted" list. Streaked gurnard does though as they are very rarely caught. Or are they?

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


With sea temperatures still very low and easterly winds battering the coast fishing in saltwater has been a bit of a non starter recently. Turning my attention to freshwater and with the trout season underway I have visited the Water of Leith but have struggled to get myself a trout from the river on three separate occasions. The river isn't being stocked this year and as a result the permit is now catch and release only. Personally I think this is a good thing as long as the river is managed properly, hopefully the wild fish will thrive. Over the three sessions I only saw two fish and whilst I managed to hook one of them, a fairly decent fish too which I think was a sea trout, it quickly performed a trademark sub surface thrash that bent out the hook and escaped after about two seconds flat. My only fish of late have been caught during two sessions at Scotland's self proclaimed premier coarse fishery, Magiscroft. Fishing maggot on the waggler on both visits I was hopeful that I would perhaps catch a common carp or a bream or maybe even a blue orfe, any of which would be a new species for me.

Sat on my seatbox ready to strike watching my "puddle chucker" insert waggler.

On both occasions however the resident roach had other ideas and over the two sessions I caught 67 of them. Two small ide and two small perch providing the only respite from the little silver buggers. None of them were very big either but I quite like small roach as they have a nice blue tinge to their backs that they seem to lose when they become adults, a bit like juvenile pollock lose the nice orange honeycomb markings from their flanks.

I'd guess the dark back of juvenile roach serves as camouflage against predatory birds.
Burning like fire. Stunning orange eyes also make the roach very pleasing on the eye.
At first glance small ide can easily be mistaken as roach.
Angry little perch always bring a smile.

I did try scaling up my hooklengths and hooks and fishing double/triple maggot, sweetcorn and also pellets a couple of times to try and find some bigger fish but this just resulted in a total lack of action! As soon as I swapped back to the finer end tackle and single maggot the roach started biting again. I may try fishing using a different approach next time. Perhaps a feeder or a simple ledger setup although saying that the waggler has produced other species on previous sessions so perhaps it just comes down to the peg I'm choosing on the day!

Tight lines, Scott.