Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fisherman's Friends.

No, this post has nothing to do with the brand of strong menthol lozenges produced by Lofthouse company in Fleetwood, Lancashire, England that no self respecting skipper will leave port without. It's me being soft and reflecting upon how lucky I am to have met many people I now consider friends through my love of fishing. I suppose this is true when you indulge in any hobby but for me my rather obsessive love of fishing has led me to meet some fantastic people who all to some degree also have an angling addiction problem too.

Can you even still buy these?

This week on my two days off and also after work on Thursday I went fishing with three of my fishing pals, meeting up with a different one each day. Unfortunately my best fishing friend of all Jake couldn't make any of these trips. He was supposed to be coming along on one of them but unfortunately his van broke down whilst he was working that day which meant he couldn't make it. We'll catch up soon enough though no doubt!

On Tuesday I headed down to St Abbs Head to meet up with local rockhopping angler Richie to try our luck from the rocks beneath the lighthouse up there. Before meeting him however I popped into Dunbar on my way down the coast and enjoyed an hour or so messing about in the rockpools and in the harbour at "flattie corner". There were plenty of long spined sea scorpions around. Dangling chunks of Isome on a 0.9g #10  Ecogear Shirasu Fine jighead in likely looking spots I had in no time at all racked up ten of them and a solitary blenny. A few casts over the clean sandy bottom of the harbour soon had loads of little flat fish in pursuit of my lure and two of them were soon hooked and landed. I was hoping for a plaice as last year Dunbar harbour was full of them but both of them were flounders.

I caught these two oddly coloured long spined sea scorpions from the same hiding place.
Blennies are ace. If you don't like them there's something wrong with you.
Small but perfectly formed, these little flounder are pretty cool too. Watching groups of them chase your lure and fight over it is great fun.

Quite pleased with my fish filled start to the evening I jumped back in the car and drove down to meet up with Richie hoping to catch some bigger fish. After a short drive up to the car park next to the lighthouse we were soon making our way down a fairly well worn path to the rocks below. The climb down to the mark was fairly easy.

The lighthouse and fog horn on the cliff top high up above us.

Once down there we were met by the hundreds of sea birds who are resident on some of the cliff faces down there. The gully in front of us was almost like a busy airport with birds flying out to sea and returning with small baitfish in their mouths before swooping up and perching on tiny ledges closely huddled together. Some of the birds also flew down and landed in the water fairly close in. Some of the landing were not very graceful to say the least and a few were so bad they had me in fits of laughter. Setting up our gear Richie headed to the point and fishing a small metal with a piece of red Gulp! Sandworm attached had soon caught a few coalfish and a couple of pollock. I was keen on fishing the gully with a Lunker City Swimmin Ribster on a weedless jighead smeared in Captain Mike's Sardine scent and was twitching it along the bottom in front of me. I had just had a couple of bites that I was sure was a wrasse when Richie hooked a nice fish, his rod bent right over and the fish started stripping line from his reel.

Richie puts his ultra light rod and his reel's drag through their paces.

After a few power dives the fish was played out and came to the surface. Landing it would be tricky from our elevated position but I scrambled down the rocks as far as I could and handlined the fish up for Richie. It was a cracking pollock and Richie was very pleased.

Richie's best pollock so far this year.

After Richie had returned the fish I went back to where I had been fishing and cast back to the spot where I had registered the bites. I didn't get anymore though so I joined Richie at the point and switched to a new style of jighead I've bought to try, a 3g #6 AquaWave Rock Bait, and threaded on a long section of red Gulp! Sandworm. Richie was on a bit of a roll by now and had caught a few more nice coalfish but for some reason I just wasn't having any joy so I switched to a small metal and finally caught a coalfish too. I then hooked a decent coalfish that went ballistic just as it got close but it managed to throw the hook just as I was about to try and lift it up. Richie then hooked another nice fish, its headshakes led him to believe it was a cod but unfortunately he lost it. We carried on fishing for a while and I caught a few more coalfish and a single pollock whilst Richie tried fishing in the gully where I had been earlier but before we knew it the sun had begun to dip over the horizon and we decided to call it a night and climb back up to the top while it was still light.

Time to climb back up before it gets dark.

On the way back up we spotted a few gullies that had some nice big boulders in them that look like they'll be great for wrasse so I'd like to figure out how to access those spots. I really enjoy fishing in places like that. Rockpooling and messing around in harbours is great fun but there's something special about fishing from secluded rock marks surrounded by cliffs that I really love. I really want to spend a lot more time up St Abbs Head this summer as I feel it has massive potential for both lure and bait fishing especially if you are prepared to try different tactics than those normally employed by others who fish that type of mark. It's the type of place you could spend a lifetime exploring and still only barely scratch the surface. I'm sure Richie will be up for a few more trips up there to explore it with me. So my first fishing trip to St Abbs over, I drove Richie back to his van and we both headed home.

On Wednesday afternoon I met up with Mark, one of the lads I've been going up to Applecross with in Aug the last few years. This years fishing trip isn't looking likely so instead we've agreed to meet up a few times and go fishing for the day. Wednesday was the first time this year we've met up and we decided to go for a spot of lure fishing for freshwater predators and hopefully get Mark his first ever pike and perch. First stop was the Falkirk Wheel section of the Forth & Clyde Canal but when we got there the sun was shining, a fairly constant wind was blowing straight along the canal and the water was quite coloured up too, all of which made me think we might struggle a bit.

Lovely day but not ideal conditions for catching pike.

My concerns were soon justified and after an hour or so of working our way along the canal trying different lures we decided to move to another stretch about eight miles further west that had a few more natural water features and shady spots that I hoped would hold some fish.

I was hopeful that some pike would be lurking under the lily pads or in the reeds and shade provided by overhanging trees on the opposite bank.

Arriving there we spoke to another angler who told us that he hadn't caught anything. Not the news we wanted but with a few more clouds now overhead and the wind dying down slightly I was hopeful we would get some interest in our lures. Working our way along it was a while before I finally spotted some fish, a few roach and called along to Mark to let him know there were some signs of life at last. Finishing my next retrieve I was just about to lift my lure out when a small jack quickly appeared from the middle of the canal and had a rather half hearted go at it before hovering next to it. Letting it drop to the bottom I gave it a few tiny twitches and the little pike had a second and then a third more aggressive go at it. Not sure if it had the hook in its mouth or not I gently struck and succeeded in hooking it. Soon landed, it was a little bit of encouragement that perhaps there were a few pike around that were active after all, so we decided to continue fishing the canal for a bit longer to try and get Mark a pike too.

A small jack but a most welcome one.

We continued heading along towards a large basin with quite a lot of lily pads and reed beds on the far side. Mark then hooked a fish and his rod tip started nodding away. I told him to take his time and just as I got the net ready it came to the surface and we were both quite surprised to see an eel! Instead of waiting for the net Mark just lifted it out onto the bank. Having caught one recently I knew how difficult they can be to handle but Mark told me he knew how to calm them down. What happened next had me in stitches. Mark placed the eel on its back and began rubbing it from head to tail. This had the desired effect rather quickly and the fish was soon rather limp and easy to handle. After a quick photo of the "Eel Stroker" with his victim, the eel was popped back and quickly came around before it slowly slithered off through the rocks and other debris on the bottom.

Mark the eel stroker with a fairly limp easy to handle eel. I wish I had known about this technique when I caught one the other week!

Shortly afterwards I had a small pike nipping at my lure again and let Mark have a go in the spot where I thought it was. He had no luck trying to tempt it though so we started heading back to the car. I had one more small jack follow my lure and again Mark had a few casts in the vicinity without reward so we decided to head to our next venue, Loch Lubnaig, to try and get Mark his first perch. Having been there recently with Jake and caught over twenty between us I was very confident getting Mark one would be easier than the search for pike had turned out to be. Having learnt an itchy lesson during that visit I had brought both of us midge nets ready for the little buggers should they appear and we were quickly fishing at my favourite spot. My rod was already set up and I cockily told Mark I'd probably have a perch by the time he had set up his. Pretty soon Mark was fishing next to me though and the lack of bites was quite worrying at first until I felt a few taps and then the weight of a fish. I smiled over at Mark who was concentrating on his own fishing and hadn't noticed the bend in my rod. With the fish at my feet I was just about to lift it out of the water when it spat the jighead out of its mouth and shot off back into the weeds in front of us. Bugger. I was hopeful it would be the first of a few but after a while with no more bites we decided to move along the shore to the small peninsula at the bend in the loch. Once there we carried on searching and after a while Mark called over to me that he was in. I didn't want a second perch to escape so I quickly reeled in and ran over with the net and Mark soon had his first ever perch safely in it.

Mark was very pleased with his first perch. I was quite relieved.
Another lovely Loch Lubnaig perch. Mark caught it on a Savage Gear Cannibal Shad.

Mark thought the perch was a lovely looking fish and was now keen to catch some more. I just wanted to catch my first one of the evening so we both kept searching the area. After deciding to try some metal lures I finally found a weedy area that held some fish and caught one on Jake's favourite lure for the venue, a Jackson Cymo, and soon after followed it up with a second perch after switching to my favourite lure for perch, the Lake Fork Live Baby Shad in golden shiner.

I continue working my lure through the weeds.
Finally I land a perch. Again a small but most welcome catch.

Shortly afterwards I caught a third small perch and by now the wind had dropped right off and the surface of the loch was like a sheet of glass, so much so we could see loads of trout rising all around us. Checking the time though it was getting quite late and I was just about to tell Mark it was probably time to call it a night and head home when his rod hooped over into another fish. He could tell it was a good one and after landing it he brought it over and we popped it in the net and kept it in the water while Mark got his camera to take a photo of it.

As light fades and the midges appear Mark dons his net and keeps trying for a second perch.
A much bigger specimen than his first he was over the moon. Just reward for his efforts.
Dusk over Lubnaig. What a backdrop to fish in front of.

Popping his perch back and watching it quickly shoot of over the drop off in front of us Mark was quite pleased and we both agreed it was the perfect way to end the session so we packed up and headed back to the car. The fishing may have been quite hard going but it was great to catch up with Mark again and whilst it's a shame that we probably won't be going to Applecross for our annual week long break the prospect of a day trip here and there is quite exciting and will allow me to take Mark to some more nice venues that will see him enjoying his fishing and hopefully catching a few more new species too.

After work on Thursday afternoon I met up with Keith, who I haven't fished with for a while as he's just started a new job, for a totally stress free evening drowning maggots at Eliburn Reservoir. Upon arrival we were shocked to find that we had the entire venue to ourselves and so we picked the newly refurbished and very comfortable double peg on the western side at the bottom end. With trees behind us providing some shade and hardly any wind the conditions were absolutely ideal for a spot of waggler fishing. The action was immediate and fishing about a rod length out and feeding maggots constantly kept the fish coming at a steady rate. Perch in particular were out in force and after a few of them, a roach each and an ide for me, Keith landed a rather nice rudd, the first I've seen caught from the venue.

Eliburn Rudd. Lovely.
Keith with his nice golden nugget.

After this we caught a load more perch, it didn't seem to matter what we did they kept coming and it seems they have almost reached plague proportions in the venue. They were all a fairly consistent small size until I caught one that was a bit of a bruiser by comparison.

A monster perch by Eliburn standards though as I've said before I'm sure there are bigger perch lurking in there waiting to be caught.

At this point a fleet of ducklings swam through our swim and gobbled up some of the maggots we were tossing in. We didn't mind and tossed them a few more handfuls which they greedily gobbled up as their mother watched from a distance.

How cute.

A few young lads turned up and set up opposite us. After a while it became apparent that they weren't catching anything. Keith and I have discussed this before and we still cannot work out how people struggle to catch fish there, especially when there are so many perch in it at the moment! Keith then caught an ide, I had a roach/bream hybrid and we both caught a load more perch with the odd roach managing to beat the little rampant spiky predators to our baits. When we had just about run out of maggots we started to pack up our gear and I had one last cast. Packing up the last few pieces of my gear into my seatbox I saw my float disappear out of the corner of my eye and gently lifted into a nice fish which turned out to be a roach.

A plump Eliburn roach. A nice way to end the session.

It was good to catch up with Keith again and whilst the bulk of the fish we caught were small perch, over fifty between us, with a few other species in amongst them the relaxing session was exactly what I had been looking for and I'm looking forward to meeting up with him again soon for a trip to Magiscroft to try for some carp. I'm also looking forward to fishing some new freshwater destinations with him because his new job has taken him to some potentially great places to fish where he has been doing a bit of reconnaissance and gathering information by speaking to the locals. More trips to the Trossachs and the Highlands await!

So three quite different sessions with three good friends. I'm looking forward to fishing with these three guys again soon, also with some of my other fisherman's friends in the future as well and hopefully meeting some new ones to go fishing with too.

Tight lines, Scott.

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