Thursday, June 06, 2013

A bit of ruffe would be nice.

With another day of glorious sunshine forecast on Tuesday I arranged to meet up with fellow angler Keith for a trip to Balmaha for another attempt at catching the small cousin of the perch, the ruffe. Unfortunately by the time I got to the point where I was to pick him up he had text me to say he had slept in and just to go without him. Disappointed as I've not seen him for a while and I was looking forward to catching up I headed off on my own. My first stop was Angling Active near Stirling to get some maggots. Driving along the M9 I realised I was going to arrive before the shop opened so I made a slight detour and had a quick hour at the Forth & Clyde Canal. The result of which was a couple of small jacks. One took a Kopyto Shad and the other a small Soft 4Play. Both were being lazy and took the lures worked very slowly but soon woke up when hooked, suddenly feeling rather energetic and putting up some acrobatic resistance to being landed. A third threw the hook doing exactly the same.

You smell that? Do you smell that? Pike, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of pike in the morning.

Quite pleased with the start to the day and with my hands smelling of CK Croc I headed to Angling Active and bought a pint of maggots as well as some new Savage Gear Soft 4Plays in Dirty Roach, my favourite pike lure, as the ones I have are slightly chewed up now. I also picked up a few small delicate insert wagglers as on the way west I planned to stop off at the river I fished recently for dace.

A nice new Drennan float with a very thin insert tip for maximum sensitivity.

I was soon on the bank and whilst setting up my float and fine tuning the shotting in the margin I spotted some small fish that I assumed were minnows so I put a tiny maggot on and lowered it in. Several of the little fish started attacking it and I soon hooked one. Hoisting it up I realised that it wasn't a minnow but was actually a small salmon parr.

My first ever salmon. How cute. Carefully unhooked and quickly returned to provide future sport when a bit bigger!
If it just looks like a brown trout to you here's how to tell them apart. Salmon parr top and brown trout below. Salmon parr have (a) a sharper snout, (b) a smaller mouth, (c) only one to four spots on the gill cover with often one larger one, (d) a longer pectoral fin, (e) highly defined "parr marks" and no spots below the lateral line, (f) plainly coloured adipose, pelvic and anal fins and finally (g) a deeper pointed tail.

Sure that some of the small fish were minnows I carried on messing about close to the bank and eventually I got through the very aggressive juvenile salmon and a few small brownies as well and caught my first minnows of this years species hunt.

Some of the small fish I thought were minnows were actually minnows!

Quite pleased with adding two species to my tally and catching my first salmon I remembered what I had come for and whilst the dace didn't seem to be present in quite the same numbers as during my last visit I still caught eight of them in a fairly short time.

When I finally got round to catching some dace they were in nice condition.

Jumping back in the car I had soon made the final leg of my journey and arrived in Balmaha on the east side of Loch Lomond. Heading straight to the pier I found it rather busy which is to be expected at this time of year I suppose. I therefore opted to try fishing around the boatyard. I chose to fish from the wooden viewing platform and the plan was to fish around the moored boats and in close to some water features to my left, setting my float so my maggot would just touch the bottom. Before doing so though I applied a generous amount of sun protection cream.

Greased up and ready for a bit of ruffe.
A likely fish holding spot in front of those reeds.

Flicking my float over a dark patch of wood debris on the bottom I soon had a bite and connected with the fish. Reeling it in I could make out a small dark fish and as it got closer I could make out a spiky fin too. Could I have caught my target species with my first cast?! No.

Ruffe sized perch. How infuriating!

This perch set the tone for the next couple of hours. I caught fifteen of them all about this size so every time I hooked one I thought it just might be a ruffe only to be disappointed. Being on the platform also meant a steady stream of tourists asking question. Two Japanese girls were very bemused to see me returning the little fish. Perhaps they fancied trying some perch sashimi! They also wanted a photograph of me with one of them and a perch so I duly obliged. Two Dutch guys also showed a real interest too especially when I explained that I was trying to catch Ruffe. They quickly Googled the fish and told me the Dutch name for them is "pos" and that they had caught one or two of them in the past from canals. Next up some kids asking questions about the maggots in my tub as they prodded them whilst screwing up their faces. All these interruptions and the endless stream of small perch meant a change of spot was in order so I headed along the shore a bit. I spoke to another couple of anglers as I went who told me that the ruffe population seemed to be in decline backing up this claim by  informing me they hadn't caught any for quite some time. Undeterred I carried on past the pier and found a quiet spot.

A lovely unspoilt view.

The water here was much deeper so I switched over to a swim feeder set up. Reeling it in and recasting regularly to build up a baited area I didn't get any bites and when someone arrived on a jet ski and started fooling around in front if me I decided to call it a day. Perhaps this part of the Loch isn't such a great choice during the summer.

So, the supposedly massive ruffe population of Loch Lomond had eluded capture once again, it was still an enjoyable days fishing though! Next time I may avoid the crowds though and might try fishing for ruffe on the River Endrick which flows into Loch Lomond to the south of Balmaha. I've also been told about a basin on the Forth & Clyde Canal that holds them too so I may try there as well soon.

Tight lines, Scott.

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