Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lightning fast silver darts.

I headed west today to target dace. Whilst doing some research on potential venues that hold them I was surprised to find one not to far away. Lillian wanted to have a go too so off we went. We arrived just after midday and I quickly set up my float rod and started fishing. The flow was nice and slow so I went with a small "Puddle Chucker" float to maximise the sensitivity. Setting my depth at three foot and arranging my shot in a shirt button pattern I nicked a single red maggot onto my #18 barbless hook and flicked it out into the water. Feeding maggots regularly just downstream of where I was casting in I watched my float slowly meander down the swim and after only the third or forth run I had a bite which I managed to connect with. A few silver flashes as I reeled the small fish in told me I had caught what I had came for and my first ever dace was soon in my hand.

My first ever silver dart.

This was quickly followed by dace after dace and whilst I did miss a fair amount of bites there were hardly any runs when I didn't get a bite. After my tenth dace I caught a small brown trout which was a pleasant little surprise. The few sessions I've had locally for brown trout haven't been great and I think I'll wait for warmer weather before I go back to the Water of Leith and I'll get in it and try and catch them on dry flies using my nice little 6' #2/3 brook rod.

First brown trout of the year too. A nice bonus.

After catching a few more dace I then tried fishing double maggot to see if I could tempt some bigger fish and this seemed to do the trick almost straight away with a few larger dace taking the more generous hook baits.

A bigger specimen.

Whilst I had to be quick to strike the lightning fast bites I had soon caught over thirty fish and Lillian, who had been relaxing next to me on a blanket, decided she wanted to have a go. It didn't take her long to catch a few as well. Whilst there were clearly a lot of fish in the river and catching them was relatively simple I still found it a very pleasurable way to spend a couple of hours. There is something very hypnotic about watching a float that I really love, even more so as it slowly works its way down a river.

Any second now...

So another nice place to go and spend an hour or two fishing added to my list. A very relaxing way to fish for very nice fish and the quick bites are good fun trying to strike and certainly sharpen your reaction times too. I'll certainly be back there soon catching dace again for sure.

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The sun has got his hat on.

I should have had mine on too. I headed out yesterday for a full day of coarse fishing to hopefully catch plenty of fish and also the sun which had decided to come out of hiding. First I headed to Pumpherston Pond to have a go there for the first time. I popped into Livingston Angling on the way there and picked up some maggots.

Pumpherston Pond. It used to be a great little venue I'm told.

The water was crystal clear which meant I could see all of the rubbish on the bottom and there was a considerable amount unfortunately. It's such a shame that idiots dump litter and spoil such a nice pond. I decided to take an ultra light rod instead of my usual float rod to have a bit of fun playing the fish I caught. I set up and started fishing a single red maggot under a Puddle Chucker float. Another angler arrived and told me that a few pike had been caught there last week which was encouraging. He started fishing just along from me using a small Rapala. As if to prove what he had told me after a few casts he hooked a small jack, but lost it after a short scrap. He worked his way around the pond and disappeared out of sight. I meanwhile was having no luck at all and after about an hour or so I decided to head off to Eliburn Reservoir and began packing up. When I lifted my net out of the water it had a leech in it. I've never seen one before and it was quite a bizarre creature contorting its body as it wriggled in my hand and then taking on a ribbon like shape and swimming off when I threw it back into the pond.

I bet the perch and pike would snaffle this given the chance.

A short drive later I arrived at Eliburn and set up on a peg in the sheltered bay on the western side of the venue. Plumbing the depth and fishing on the deck it didn't take long before a I was getting a bite every other cast and had soon caught a load of perch, roach and a solitary ide which thrashed out of my hand just as I was about to take a photo of it.

One of twelve small spiky perch I caught.
A nice plump roach. Again, one of twelve.

It was at this point I noticed my arms were quite red and wondered what my head was like. With a pleasant breeze blowing all afternoon cooling my skin and the sun beating down for a change and reflecting back up from the water I thought it best to go and get some sun cream. Before I did though I decided to have a few more casts and I'm glad I did because the next fish I caught was a lovely tench that fought rather well, as tench do, with those big powerful fins.

Great fun on my ultra light gear.

Happy with the short session and looking forward to hopefully catching a few more rudd, practicing my fly casting and perhaps even catching a rainbow trout or two on the fly at Markle in the evening I headed back to the car, where upon seeing my reflection in the windows my fears were confirmed. My head was quite red indeed. I stopped off at a supermarket and bought some sun cream, although to be honest the horse had well and truly bolted from its "burnt bald head" stable.

I drove east and was soon at Markle. The wind had dropped right off, the sun was still shining and after another generous application of the factor 30 to try and prevent any further damage I headed over to the little bay to float fish for rudd. They were much more actively feeding up in the water, probably due to the sun warming it up a few degrees. I caught seventeen in a fairly short amount of time.

Rudd are lovely looking fish.

The two tufted ducks swam over and I thought they were going to start diving down and gobbling my maggots but they didn't. As I was watching them out of the corner of my eye I saw my float go under and when I struck the fish took off to my right away from the bushes. I knew it was a rainbow trout straight away and it was soon charging off stripping line against my loosely set drag. After a bit of scrap on my ultra light rod which was great fun I eventually drew the fish over my net but not before it coughed up a large quantity of my red maggots that it had obviously been happily scoffing before taking the one with the hook in it. I must say I'm not a great fan of rainbow trout, perhaps my least favourite fish in fact, their bloated appearance, which is obviously not natural, is not very nice in my opinion although apart from that this one was in reasonable condition.

Rainbow trout remind me a bit of Mr Blobby. Charging about smashing into things.

Given a minute or two to recover in the net it swam away strongly to gorge itself in readiness to inevitably fight another day. I continued float fishing and caught another three rudd, the last one was a bit larger than the rest I had caught and was in lovely condition.

Possibly the nicest rudd I've ever caught. I wasn't the only thing the sun gave a nice glow to.

Having caught twenty rudd I decided to pack up the float gear and go and practice my fly casting. To cut a long story short I really could do with some lessons. I did get one bite on a bright yellow dancer but didn't strike quick enough. It was some consolation that I only saw one other angler catch a solitary fish so maybe the bright conditions stacked the odds against me. That's my excuse anyway. I would really like to fly fish for pike in the future and would also like to try it for a few saltwater species too so I really need to get practicing. Anyway I packed up at dusk and headed home to rub moisturiser on my aching scalp.

A fairly close match to my two tone appearance.

I shouldn't complain though, we're long overdue some nice weather! I really must get a hat however. Perhaps I could get a nice IMA beanie from somewhere like the one my mate Ross wears?

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Short but sweet.

I got away from work early today and decided to head out for a couple of hours. Checking the weather forecast for a couple of potential places to fish I decided to head to Markle Fisheries in East Lothian. The wind was quite strong and I thought there might be a nice sheltered spot there. The main target would be rudd with the chance of rainbow trout too. The ponds there are also full of three-spined sticklebacks so a pack of my Gamakatsu #26 hooks went in the tackle box as well.

Arriving at the venue it was not as windy as I'd feared and in fact the area I like to float fish for rudd was fairly well sheltered. I quickly set up and started fishing, clipping up so I could cast into a gap between the overhanging bushes to my left . 

Fishing tight to these bushes normally produces rudd.

Feeding the swim with a few maggots it took about half an hour before I got my first bite and quickly landed a small rudd. This was followed by a further four over the next thirty minutes.

Rudd are a grumpy looking fish due to their upturned mouth.

Whilst I was fishing a pair of tufted ducks moved into my swim and began diving down and gobbling up the maggots I was tossing in. As they worked their way closer and closer to my float the inevitable happened and my float went under due to one of the ducks picking up my hookbait. After a short tug if war I managed to get the bird into my net after a few attempts and carefully handling the bird removed the hook from its bill. Letting it go it flew over to its mate and they wisely stayed away from my free offerings further along the pond.

The bird didn't seem too bothered by the whole experience.

With any fish that had moved into my swim being well and truly spooked by all the commotion caused when I was trying to land the duck I began feeding it again to try and tempt some back. It took a little while to get another bite and when I connected with it I quickly realised it was a rainbow trout that had taken my bait. It wasn't on for very long though, managing to shed the hook with a powerful head shake near the surface.

At this point I decided to have a go for a stickleback in the margins. They can normally be seen in small shoals around the reeds. I removed the float from my line and connected the tiny #26 hook. Rummaging through my tub of maggots I found the smallest one I could and nicked it onto the tiny hook. Wandering around the waters edge I soon spotted a few of the little spiny fish and lowered the maggot in amongst them. It took a while to get them interested and even then it was very frustrating watching them pecking at the bait but eventually my perseverance paid off when I managed to hook one of the bigger ones!

Don't be sad. Two out of three ain't bad.

At this point it started raining and I was feeling quite hungry so I decided to call it a day. Just as I was leaving though the pond was stocked with a rather large quantity of rainbow trout. I must say the thought of all those new additions in the pond makes it tempting to head back tomorrow to work on my fly casting and maybe I can catch a few of them in the process.

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Big girl you are beautiful.

After my first taste of skate fishing last December I was keen to do it again and land one this time! The MV North Star, the same boat we chartered last time, was booked earlier this year for Monday the 20th of May with myself and Ad, who landed his first skate on the December trip hoping to fill a few more spaces on board. This wasn't to be however with a couple of people saying they'd like to go only to pull out and other people not being able to make it on that date. With a weekend in Oban and the surrounding area proceeding the boat trip my girlfriend Lillian managed to get the Monday off work and came along with us keen to do some fishing this time instead of just her usual ghillie duties. Just the three of us going out on the boat would make the day on the boat quite an expensive one but I wasn't bothered as long as I landed a skate!

Ad came down from Aberdeen early on Friday evening. I was working so he met up with Jake and they went fishing down at St Abbs and Jake will do a short report on their session soon. On Saturday morning we were planning on heading off early but a quick look at the weather forecast forced a change of plan. The east coast was wet and the west coast was very windy but there seemed to be a small window of better conditions half way across the country so we decided to stop off at the Forth & Clyde Canal for a few hours in the afternoon. Well as is often the case the weather forecast was not very accurate and from the moment we arrived it rained non stop, quite heavily at times and we all got thoroughly soaked. Also when we arrived we realised we didn't have a net with us which would prove making landing fish tricky. After only ten minutes or so I hooked a small jack on a Savage Gear Reel Eel. After a short scrap I thought the fish was beaten only for it to thrash and come off when I was lifting it up onto the bank. Ad then hooked a larger jack. With a small crowd watching it put on quite a show, tailwalking several times before coming to the edge. I went down the bank and slipped a finger under its jaw before carefully unhooking it with my forceps. Like my fish however it escaped my grasp with a powerful thrash and got away before I could grab it so we didn't get a picture of it. We continued heading along the canal but there wasn't any further action. Lillian was getting the occasional wind knot in her line. About halfway along she got another wind knot in her braid and Ad sorted it out. Whilst he was doing this her small diving crankbait sank to the bottom. When Ad finished unpicking the knot and handed the rod back to her there was a fish on the end which she quickly reeled in and lifted out.

Soaked but smiling. Lillian with her first pike.

We continued working our way along to the end of the pontoon but with no reward for our efforts until my bright yellow Kopyto Shad found the gaping mouth of something big at the far side of the canal that soon had by rod bent right over. A bit of a battle ensued with my tackle being really tested to its limit. After a lengthy and tiring fight I eventually landed the culprit.

Easily over a double (yellow line at some point).

After this we headed back towards our starting point and Ad hooked another jack on the way but it managed to threw the hooks whilst he was trying to land it. So after about five soggy and frustrating netless hours we called it a day, jumped in Ad's car, put the heaters on to try and dry off a bit, made the drive to Oban and booked into a hostel. With the wind blowing very strongly but forecast to drop off almost completely in the morning we grabbed something to eat and had an early night.

Getting up on Sunday morning we were relieved to find that the weather was indeed much nicer. We popped along to Ganavan Sands as I wanted to see if there were any mini species around specifically with sand gobies in mind as it normally holds lots of them. Sadly there were no sign of any sand gobies but I thought that was perhaps due to the water being very low. Ad and I both managed to catch a tiny long spined sea scorpion each before we left.

Tiny long spined sea scorpions took our tiny Power Isome sections that were meant for tiny sand gobies.

We then headed south down the coast to fish along Gallanach Road. We soon arrived at a nice easily accessible rock mark. Both Ad and I set up two rods. I was fishing with pulley rigs using 5/0 Mustad Demon fine wire circle hooks on them as I'm keen to use circles whenever possible in my bait fishing. Baits used were mackerel, sandeel and squid. Casting out there wasn't much tide running past us and our 6oz leads held in the clean bottom no problem. Having fished a bit further north back in December where we had a busy session catching lesser spotted dogfish and thornback rays we were disappointed to find that the fishing was very slow. Whilst waiting for bites we both fished close in with lures to try and tempt any pollock that may have been in amongst the kelp on the ledges in front of us  but had no luck doing so. After a couple of hours and a few bait changes one of my rods finally started nodding. I let the bite develop for a moment or two before picking it up and steadily reeling in. You don't strike when using circle hooks as due to there design they set themselves in the fishes lip against the weight of the fish. I'm finding this quite hard to get used to as the urge to strike is quite a strong one. I could tell it was a ray as after a head shake or two it felt like a dead weight when it was coming up and it was soon cranked up over the ledge in front of us and lifted out by Ad.

Perfectly hooked in the corner of the mouth. The beauty of circle hooks.
My first thornback ray of 2013.
Sulking in the shallow water in front of us for a while before heading off over the ledge into deeper water.

Another hour or so passed and we had no further bites until I re-baited with squid for a last cast. The baits weren't on the bottom long when one rod started nodding away again and I wound into a second ray.

Fish on.
Another nicely marked thornback ray.

After this we packed up and popped back to Ganavan Sands as it was just after high water and I hoped the sand gobies would hopefully be there. The lack of fish was still apparent however although I did spot two large sand gobies. They weren't interested in my tiny lure though so a return trip in the summer will be required I think when they should be there in greater numbers. At this point we headed back into Oban and dropped Lillian off at the hostel as she wanted to relax and take a break from watching us fishing. Ad and I went up to Loch Etive to the mouth of the River Awe in search of a trout or two. Using our ultra light gear and a selection of small metals we soon had a few knocks casting them across the current and letting them swing around in it before slowly reeling them back towards us. Ad hooked and landed his first ever sea trout after a short scrap. He followed this with a nice little brownie. Both took a copper Hansen Pilgrim spoon. I then hooked a brownie on a pink 4g Prime Area Tiebo Jig but after going aerial for the forth time in quick succession it threw the hooks.

Nice Loch Etive sea trout.
Ad and I wondered if the fish had ever actually been to sea or just in the loch. We'll never know I guess.
This trout whilst quite silver still had a few faint river markings.

Before heading back to the hostel we drove north up the loch and checked out a couple of new marks that we think will be worth trying in the future. They require a bit of a hike though so a couple of days will have to be put aside to make visiting them worthwhile.

On Monday morning we were up early and drove down to Crinan. It was a lovely day and the water in the sea lochs as we drove was like a mirror. It was quite misty too but that would soon lift. We were soon at Crinan Harbour and aboard the boat. Skipper Archie soon had us out and tied up on one of his moorings and several whole mackerel and squid baits were making their way to the sea floor several hundred feet below.

Flat calm sea, a hazy sky and near silence created a strange atmosphere.

After the tide dropped off and our baits settled down it wasn't long before the action started and I was first up to be attached to a skate.

A great start and surely I would land this one right?

Unbelievably, after about forty-five minutes, and just when I had managed to get it up of the bottom and was gaining line, I felt a sudden but sadly familiar release of pressure as the fish came off. Reeling up the trace was still attached so it was a simple case of the hook pulling. This was the second time this had happened to me in two trips, I was absolutely gutted and had a horrible feeling it wasn't going to be my day again but Archie reassured me I'd get another chance. Shortly afterwards another rod started going and Ad was soon into a fish. It was a bit further out from the boat though and he was struggling to get it up off the bottom. Whilst he maintained pressure to get it moving another rod started going and I was soon attached to my second fish of the day. Surely this would be third time lucky?

Ad battling to get his skate off the bottom.
Keeping the pressure on, my second fish of the day came off the bottom fairly quickly.

I'm relived to say that after about thirty minutes, a lot of pumping and winding later and with Ad still locked in a tug of war with his fish, my first skate came into sight and was soon expertly brought on board by Archie much to my relief.

My first skate and it's a cracker. Needless to say I was over the moon.
Skate have almost human like eyes that can also be used to correctly identify specific species.*
Slipped back and off she goes. What a truly majestic sight and probably the best part of the whole experience.

Ad was now steadily gaining line, his fish was slowly coming up and it finally appeared a fair distance away from the boat. The skipper thought it was going to dive again and it looked like it was for a moment or two but Ad managed to put some final pressure on and prevent it doing so.

After quite a battle Ad eventually got the better of this skate.
Again Archie soon had the fish in the boat and Ad was a very happy man!

This was Ad's second skate and this time he managed to win the battle standing up which is just as well as he took a bit of stick for having a seat last time. With us both landing fish next up was Lillian, who having witnessed the physical nature and length of the fight, was slightly reluctant to have a go but I put the harness and butt pad on her and talked her into it. It would be several hours before she would get her chance however as all the action stopped completely.

Watching the rod tips, anticipating them springing into life at any moment.
Skipper Archie hand feeds some of the local sea gulls with mackerel tails which they quickly snatch and fly off with.
The next bird patiently waits to be fed.

The wind had started to pick up by this point making bite detection more difficult but with thirty minutes to go one of the rods started going and Lillian had her chance to experience the awesome power of a skate.

Let battle commence. A bit bigger than the last fish she caught Lillian wasn't smiling for long!

Just as she was starting to regret letting me talk her into it when it became apparent that a tangle had occurred. It would turn out that this had been caused by a dogfish picking up one of the baits and swimming around some of the other lines. This caused problems boating the skate and required a team effort so when it was finally brought on board it was quickly unhooked and put straight back to minimise the stress it was put under. This meant Lillian didn't get a photo with the fish unfortunately, but it was still great that we had all landed one skate each and I think Lillian was quite relieved to get a bit of help landing hers. It was then time to head back to port but due to an electrical fault the engine wouldn't start so Archie rang the boat's owner Sandy and after a short wait he came to the rescue in his rib.

Help arrives.

Whilst being towed back the short distance to the harbour we were lucky to spot a sea eagle. Archie had mentioned earlier in the trip seeing them the day before at very close range and tossed in a whole mackerel which the bird swooped down and grabbed in a rather impressive display. A very nice way to end the trip indeed.

Hovering above the coast line before coming down to get a free meal.
What a fantastic sight!

We headed back to Edinburgh and after dropping us off Ad drove up the road to Aberdeen. Whilst the fishing leading up to the boat trip wasn't great the three of us had a good laugh and still managed to catch some fish. With all three of us landing a skate the boat trip worked out perfectly especially considering I managed to drop a second consecutive fish, a feat that Archie tells me is pretty rare! Skate fishing is definitely a bit different to other styles of fishing and is more of a waiting game followed by a physical battle than anything else and certainly isn't for everyone. The banter on the boat was first class though and I personally think it's a real privilege to catch such rare and beautiful creatures, to briefly admire them and best of all to watch them glide back down to the depths from which they came. It's certainly a sight I hope to be seeing again!

Tight lines, Scott.

*As an interesting side note to this report I recently read a few articles online that highlighted an important discovery. A few years ago through genetic analysis it was discovered that the species that has been known for almost ninty years as common skate (Dipturus Batis) is in fact two distinct species. These have been named Dipturus Intermedia and Dipturus Flossada with common names flapper skate and blue skate respectively. These are the names that were being used up until the 1920's when a study of the time incorrectly grouped both together as only one single species and this went unchallenged until the recent genetic study brought the error to light. From the reading I've done it would seem that whilst both are very similar there are a few ways to distinguish between the two species with iris colour being the simplest method. In flapper skate the iris is dark green/olive, in blue skate it is pale yellow.

Friday, May 17, 2013

They only come out at night.

I headed down to St Abbs on Tuesday night with my mate Jake where we met up with our fishing pal Richie to have a go for flounders, coalfish and anything else that was silly enough to swim and take our lures. Fishing was slow to say the least and some divers I spoke to as they came out of the water confirmed what we already knew, there was hardly any fish around. Undeterred we worked our way around the harbour using a variety of methods and lures and finally spotted a fish which Jake promptly caught.

Ever obliging. Greedy little buggers.
Richie and I carry on searching both in the harbour and in the kelp beds below the outer wall.

After reaching the end of the outer harbour we decided to try our luck from the rocks over the kelp beds. After a bit of rockhopping I spotted a few small fish as they came up from the kelp to have a go at my 10cm Savage Gear Sandeel Slug but they weren't much bigger than it and when I switched to a 2" Reins Rockvibe they lost interest. Jake and Richie came over and joined me and tried to tempt them but had no luck either. We all went over onto the rocks at the very mouth of the harbour and carried on the search. As light faded Richie hooked and landed a small coalfish and I switched to a small metal opting for a pink/luminous 5g Quantum Sea Mahi jig. After a few casts I felt a couple of bumps before striking the third, hooked a fish and quickly landed it before heading over to where Jake was so he could take a few photos.

Sunset over St Abbs.
My first coalfish of 2013.
Thanks Quantum Sea Mahi Jig!

Fish popped back we all started fishing at the mouth of the harbour and as the light continued to fade we started spotting coalfish swimming around below us and started targeting them. Before long I had a second and Jake and Richie also caught a few. Nothing big but good fun on the light gear we were all using.

One of Jake's fish caught on a drop shot rig.

Pretty soon it was getting quite late so we called it a night. Despite the slow start it was a pleasant evening spent in good company and no doubt we'll be back again soon for another night time session.

Tight lines, Scott.