Monday, June 10, 2013

A Bute-iful day.

I text my friend and fellow angling blogger Martin Allison recently to say I thought it was about time we went fishing together again. He suggested a trip to the Isle of Bute to explore a new mark with a spot of wrassing in mind. After meeting him yesterday at Wemyss Bay ferry terminal and grabbing a quick bacon roll we were soon rolling onto the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to make the short crossing onto the island before driving to an area Martin had spotted on Google Earth that he thought was a good starting point. Parking the car and unloading our gear we briefly chatted to another angler who passed us who was walking back to his car having just finished fishing. He assured us that the spot we were heading to did indeed hold a few wrasse as well as pollock and told us the best way to get there so as not to annoy the local farmer. 

The sun beats down and over the fields a rock and kelp fish filled paradise awaits. Hopefully.

Walking down a farm road, across a small field then down a small path before going up and over a grassy hill we were soon confronted with a fantastic looking piece of coast and a difficult decision, where exactly to start fishing! It all looked like a great place to begin fishing and getting down onto the rocks didn't make it any easier.

New grounds to explore. Where to start?
Gullies and rocky outcrops to our left?
Explore the long finger of rock to our right?

To start with we just started to fish where we had walked down to the waters edge but after a while we decided to head in different directions and whoever found the fish first would let the other person know. I liked the look of the irregular coast to our left and Martin began methodically working his way along to the right.

Martin works his way along the rocks searching close in above the kelp beds and over any holes.

The first rocky bay I came to looked great and was full of large boulders. Perfect I thought. Starting of with a 7g drop shot rig and and using my Nories Rockfish Bottom Light rod I began dropping a section of white Gulp! Sandworm into likely looking hiding places. It wasn't long before I spotted a few small goldsinny wrasse and also a slightly larger wrasse that I think was a corkwing but may have been a small ballan. They all gave my lure a few tiny taps but they just didn't seem to be that interested in it so I changed to another colour, then I tried Isome in a couple of colours and the result was the same. I changed to a #12 hook and smaller sections too but the result was the same, a lack of proper positive bites that could lead to a hook up.  When I finally did get a decent bite that I could connect with it didn't feel like a wrasse on the hook and I wasn't that surprised to find out it wasn't.

A blenny. Off the mark at least!

I text Martin to let him know I had found some smaller wrasse that were eluding capture and that I had opened my account for the day. He replied to let me know he'd hooked and lost a ballan wrasse. I continued exploring the area and it was very interesting watching the wrasse in the crystal clear waters. Some of them were hiding in weed and popping out occasionally and the corkwing/small ballan seemed to be doing regular patrols back and forth between a clump of weed and a large crevice a few meters away. I lured a bigger wrasse out from under a large flat rock but the result was the same, timid little taps and a quick loss of interest. I switched to my Shimano Speedmaster Dropshot rod and tried some larger lures to see if there were any more larger wrasse around. There were and at one point I had three of them slowly circling my lure. Ribsters, Ladyfish, Slug-Gos were all dropped down and I just could not illicit a good bite from them no matter how I worked the lures. Rather frustrated at this point, Martin then text to say he had landed two fish, so I headed along to where he was.

The view towards the mountains on the Isle of Arran was quite stunning and took my mind of an infuriating hour or so as I walked along to join up with Martin.
There were lots of jellyfish in the crystal clear water. A lot larger than the ones I saw recently on the east coast. Probably because the water temp is higher and they have been here longer. The water clarity on the west coast can be amazing and always makes me want to go swimming in it. Not wise with all those jellyfish around though.

Just as I arrived Martin landed another wrasse. He had caught his fish on a Swimming Ribster and told me they were following his lure close in before biting it as it reached the edge of the kelp in front of him. I stuck on a Keitech Easy Shiner shad and flicked it out. After a few casts I had my first proper bite of the day and the paddletail was removed from the lure by a wrasse so I put a new one on. Martin caught another wrasse.

Martin is a big fan of Swimming Ribsters.
So are the resident wrasse!

I then switched to a standard willow leaf tailed Ribster but after a while with no action I took up Martin's offer of a Swimming Ribster. By this point we had almost reached the end of the finger of rock and there was a channel running along behind it that I decided to go and try in. The remnants of a small building and some kind of loading pier were opposite me and large chunks of concrete that were perhaps once part of the installation were in the channel on the bottom. I thought these looked like they may hold some wrasse. Working the lure past one of them a large wrasse soon appeared and followed my lure to the rockface below me before attacking it but I didn't manage to hook it and it quickly shot off across the channel with three or four swishes of its tail before hiding under a large piece of concrete on the far side. Martin caught another couple of wrasse and I had a seat to fish half heartedly and contemplate why he had done so much better than me.

Where did I go wrong?

Time was getting on. We were both quite tired and the sun had taken its toll on us both. I also had to drive home to Edinburgh so we decided to head off. As we were leaving and discussing the potential reasons for Martin's successful days wrassing and my poor days wrassing we passed a very weedy section of the channel behind the rock finger further in that was cut off by the receeding tide and out of the corner of my eye I spotted something moving. Stopping to see what it was I realised that it was an eel. I pointed it out to Martin and then we spotted a second smaller eel too. I couldn't believe my luck and quickly rigged up a piece of red Gulp! Sandworm on a drop shot rig whilst Martin tracked them through the pool and I then began sight fishing for them.

Dangling Gulp! Sandworm in front of the eels soon had the desired effect.

Dropping the rig into an area that I thought the fish was swimming towards so as not to spook it I patiently waited until it did and to my surprise it went for the lure in a very aggressive manner as soon as it saw it. Striking quickly I didn't hook it though and the eel swam off rapidly to the back of the pool and into some thick weed. I then repeated the process with the smaller eel. The result was the same, an attack on the lure and a failed hook up. I quickly switched to a small Ecogear Shirasu jighead and began looking for another eel to target. To my left I spotted one and dropped the jighead down into a small clearing just past the weed the eel was swimming through. When it emerged it paused for a second before turning its head towards the lure and engulfing it. I quickly struck to set the hook and this time this fish was on! Playing the fish along to a point where I could scramble down to land it I had to pull it through some weed on the way and it also made a few attempts to swim backwards into the dense weed at the side of the pool. After a nervous minute or two I lifted it out and climbed up to the top again with my first ever common eel!

This slippery customer made up for my failure to catch any wrasse.

Climbing down to release the fish I felt that in some way my efforts throughout the day had in some strange way been rewarded and to be honest whilst I do like catching wrasse if I had been offered a new species but no wrasse at the start of the day I would have taken that happily. So both quite pleased by the days events we headed back into Rothesay to catch our ferry home and grabbed some cold drinks and a bag of chips each to satisfy our thirst and hunger. Chatting to the chip shop owner about the reason for our visit he told us about the good head of large pike that are present in Loch Fad on the island. Food for thought indeed!

Relaxing on the upper deck of the ferry on the way back, enjoying the lovely view down the Firth of Clyde whilst enjoying a gentle, cooling breeze made the sail back to the mainland most enjoyable.

Blue. My favourite colour.

It was great catching up with Martin again and I'm looking forward to wrassing again with him soon. Perhaps once I suss out a few of the St Abbs Head marks we hit the east coast for a change. Saying that the tiny section of coast we visited yesterday has really whetted my appetite for more and I'll certainly be making a trip over to the Isle of Bute again as I'd love to spend time exploring more of the coastline and perhaps even actually catching some wrasse! In addition the big pike that are found in Loch Fad on the island are another tempting reason to return.

Tight lines, Scott.

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