Friday, July 26, 2013

My annual viviparous blenny hunt begins.

When I woke up this morning I looked out of the window to find it was a nice sunny day contrary to most of the weather forecasts I'd looked at last night. Perfect I though for a couple of hours down at Granton Breakwater before work to begin my hunt for a viviparous blenny, a species that has eluded capture despite me having several goes over the last couple of years at catching one. My plan was to fish small baits on a #6 hook close in on a simple running ledger rig. When I got to the tackle shop though they were out of ragworm, my first choice bait, so I popped along the road to a supermarket and got a bag of frozen raw prawns instead. Parking the car and heading right to the end of the breakwater I was soon fishing in about six feet of water between the rock I was standing on and the remains of the wooden pier that many years ago was at the end of the breakwater. Bites came from the start and a string of small coalfish were caught and quickly released. 

One of the bigger specimens. Quite a fat little coalfish too! 

Just when I thought a move was in order I caught a long spined sea scorpion so I decided to stay put to see what else I could catch. 

Perhaps there were other species down there who could battle through the coalfish hordes to my bait?

After a few more coalfish I felt the distinctive taps of a wrasse and managed to hook the culprit, a nice little dark brown ballan wrasse with subtle gun metal grey spots.

My first wrasse from the venue. 

You can see the gun metal grey markings on the fishes gill covers too. 

Quite pleased with this I then caught another wrasse, this time a rather large battle scarred corkwing that had a chunk missing from his dorsal fin. 

An old warrior. 

As the tide started to flood I caught a second corkwing that I thought might be the same fish but a quick check of his dorsal fin told me he was a different wrasse. A second ballan wrasse soon followed before I had to get back onto the main breakwater as the tide was about to cut me off on the large rock I was fishing from. 

Before leaving I had a few casts to see if I could hold bottom out in front of the breakwater but my 1oz lead was quickly being pulled sideways so if I want to try there on future viviparous blenny hunts I will require heavier tackle I think. 

On the way back to the shore the heavens opened as predicted by the Met Office, finally getting it right for a change! I got a soaking but I still had a big smile on my face after a very enjoyable short session. So, no sign of my target species but with plenty of prawns left over and with reports of them being caught there recently I will be back and the hunt will continue...

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Feeling tense? See the doctor.

After a fish free visit to Loch Skeen above the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall near Moffat in the Scottish Borders with Lillian at the weekend, I began working eight days straight on Monday. Fortunately this isn't normally something I have to do very often, but combined with a change in the weather I thought these circumstances might limit my fishing opportunities so I was feeling a little stressed out at the prospect of little to no fishing until midway through next week!

The Grey Mare's Tail water fall. The walk up the right hand side to Loch Skeen above is quite steep.
This little fellow hopped across our path on the way up.
Loch Skeen, a beautiful little water. Despite seeing a few small wild brown trout rising I couldn't get any takes on my #0 Mepps. Next time I visit I may take a fly rod and some small dry flies.

With a break in the recent thunderstorms and rain forecast for this morning and early afternoon I wanted to squeeze in a short session before the weekend. Also with a few days off booked next month but no solid plans yet I wanted to meet up with my mate Naz to discuss us potentially going on a short fishing trip. I had to be at work for 16:00 so I picked up Naz at 8:00 and we headed to Eliburn Reservoir in Livingston for some stress free maggot drowning and a chance to chat about potentially going for a short trip in August.

Fishing was quite slow at the first peg we picked so after an hour or so we decided to move. This paid off quite quickly with us both soon catching a few roach, Naz's first ever roach in fact, I also caught a couple of small perch and what we both agreed was the nicest fish of the short session, a lovely little tench.

One of Naz's roach.
A lovely if grumpy looking little tench. Always a nice surprise to see "the doctor fish".

As we watched the puddle chucker we chatted about various fishing destinations we would like to visit on the west coast of Scotland but it soon became clear that perhaps Naz wouldn't be able to make it on a short trip next month after all. This is a pity as that would have been good but I have no doubt that at some point, in the not too distant future hopefully, we'll manage to get a short trip organised and visit some of the places we talked about.

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A quick perch pick me up.

Work has been pretty dull since I returned from my ten day trip down south and whilst I've certainly been enjoying the hot weather during the day when I'm not there the last few nights it's been awfully hard trying to get to sleep. This meant I was in two minds about going fishing yesterday evening with my mate Jake as I had a few things to do as well as feeling pretty tired. Despite this I decided to go anyway and after picking up Jake and driving west we were soon on the shore of Loch Lubnaig, our favourite perch venue and perhaps one of my favourite places to fish due to the stunning surroundings. We fished for a few hours and had a great time as usual catching lots of beautiful perch in the process.

I had a couple of perch from the weeds in front of these rocks on my go to Lake Fork Live Baby Shad in Golden Shiner fished on a 3.5g #4 jighead.
Jake was fishing a bigger Lunker City Swimmin Ribster on a 10g #2/0 football jighead in the hope of singling out some larger specimens. He also brought an unhooking mat. We talked about using them more often, even for saltwater species, as we believe fish care is important if you practice catch and release.
With the unhooking mat beneath me I figured out a good way to present my catch to the camera safe in the knowledge that should the fish fall it wasn't landing on rocks. Another good reason to use one.
Jake admires another beautiful Loch Lubnaig perch.
I prepare to land another feisty fish.
I figure out a one handed way to hold a perch to show it off in all its glory.
We released a few of our fish via a small stream that ran into the loch. This gave us the opportunity to take some cool "Jaws" shots. This one shows the power of the fish as with one swish of its tail it creates a wake and heads at speed back towards the loch.
Jake managed to resist the temptation to go smaller and lighter for a change.
No need really as the perch were loving his Lunker City Swimmin Ribster.
When he wasn't looking I stole a Fish Arrow Flash J lure in Black Gold out of Jake's bag. Cool lures that look like minnows and sit horizontally when fished on a drop shot rig due to an air pocket inside. That's exactly how I caught this perch.
Drop shotting a Lake Fork Live Baby Shad in Sun Perch also proved irresistable. You can just about see it in the back of this perch's mouth!
Catching a load of these pristine perch is hard to beat and to be honest we weren't even really trying that hard!
Jake got the heaviest catch of the night after bullying this lump up from the depths.
I caught this little chap on a Live Baby Shad in Pink & Pearl, again stolen from Jake, and whilst experimenting with a retrieve twitching pattern I'm calling "The Pink Panther". He bought these pink ones due to all the fish he's had with his Jackson Cymo in pink. The success of my new twitching pattern caused me to go a bit "Kenneth Williams".
As darkness fell and the moon shone in the sky we reluctantly headed home rather pleased with the evenings exploits.

It was really good to fish with Jake again as apart from briefly meeting up for an hour or two down in Cornwall it's been a over a month since we have fished together and I must say I had a nice relaxing time fishing, enjoyed a good chat about what we'd both been up to recently and it was just what I needed really. I was glad I'd made the choice to go.

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Catching up.

I met up with my mate Naz on Tues for the first time in a while. We headed down to fish a low water mark in East Lothian near North Berwick but despite the conditions looking great and the mark looking like it would produce a few fish we both struggled. After several hours exploring and trying a few different approaches to target various species all we had caught were a small coalfish each from the above the kelp directly under our feet and a small long spined sea scorpion I winkled from a rockpool so we opted to head to the rocks near Dunbar to see if a new location would improve our fortunes.

A short drive later we were on a large rocky shelf again and whilst it was quite a similar mark, the key difference was the water at the new one was a little deeper and indeed things were looking good when I hooked a small pollock on my first cast only to helplessly watch as it managed to throw the Savage Gear Sandeel at my feet before diving into the kelp below. It would be a while before anymore action and I had tried a few different lures and Naz had too as well as lost a few on the bottom before I hooked and landed a small pollock on a Savage Gear Phsyco Sprat that I was jigging quite aggressively fairly close in just beyond the kelp on the rock ledges just infront of me. This was quickly followed by a second larger pollock which Naz helped me land before taking a photo of before it went back.

This feisty pollock put a nice bend in my Nories Rough Surf 88.

On a bit of a roll now I quickly landed a third pollock and then hooked another nice fish a bit further out which I could tell was a codling when it started thumping away at the end of my line instead of diving. Soon landed, Naz stopped fishing again to take a photo of me with my catch. 

I was very pleased to catch this nice codling. The first time I've caught one on a metal.

After one more small pollock though the action stopped just as suddenly as it had started and with the tide flooding we decided to try fishing off the rocks at the back of Dunbar Harbour. This only thing this resulted in sadly was a few more lost lures though so we decided to have a quick mess about in the harbour with my ultra light gear at "blenny corner" and "shellfish falls". I managed to catch two blennies and a small flounder on some drop shotted Isome and a quick change to a section of Isome on a jighead saw Naz catch his first blenny before our hunger got the better of us and we called it a day.

Hooked. Naz catches his first blenny.
Unhooked. Naz is bitten by his first blenny.

So pretty tired after a long day's fishing we headed home, stopping briefly on the way for some tasty haddock and chips. A nice fishy way to end a days fishing. It was good to catch up with Naz again and hopefully we can meet up again soon for another fishing trip.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, July 19, 2013

South Coast Fishathon Part 4 : East Sussex.

When planning my trip I wanted to include some freshwater fishing so after eight days of fishing in the sea I ended my south coast fishathon with a couple of days of relaxing coarse fishing at Tanyard Fishery in East Sussex. Whilst the fishing was to be slightly more relaxed, not that any of the fishing I had done had been particularly stressful, I was still hopeful of catching a few new species whilst there.

One of seven ponds at Tanyard Fisheries. A very nice fishery indeed I must say.

Arriving at the fishery early on Thursday morning I sorted out my rod licence over the phone and paid for my permit as well as a pint of maggots, some luncheon meat, a can of sweetcorn and some feed pellets. Most importantly though I sought the advice of the bailiff on the best locations to try for some of the species I hoped to catch. My top target being a pumpkinseed, I was soon heading up to "Coarse Pool 1", the smallest pond of the venues seven. Setting up opposite some overhanging trees, fishing my favourite puddle chucker waggler, I was soon catching fish. With all of my shot directly under my float bar a single No. 10 a few inches above my #18 hook I had a single red maggot falling nice and slowly through the water column and this approach was soon producing bites on the drop almost every cast resulting in a steady stream of small roach and rudd including this rather nice specimen.

A lovely rudd.

After about thirty fish I hooked another small fish and it didn't feel any different so I quickly reeled it in and just swung it up to my hand to discover it wasn't a roach or rudd. I had caught my pumpkinseed and was quite relieved it had stayed on the hook whilst I lazily neglected to use my landing net! A very nice looking little fish and one that photographs don't do justice to due to their bright blue reflective markings.

A small pumpkinseed. I was over the moon, if taken a little by surprise, to catch this beautiful little fish.
New species #6 and addition #14 to my 2013 species tally

Happy to catch a quite unusual new freshwater species I carried on fishing to see if I could catch a few more pumpkinseed but after quite a few more roach and rudd I decided to head over to the "Carp Free Pool" to try and get my first bream. Fishing luncheon meet on the bottom over feed pellets it took a little while to get any bites but I was encouraged by the fact that both the anglers to my left and right both caught bream whilst I was trickling in the pellets and waiting for my float to go.When it finally did disappear it did so rather quickly and in fact the fish nearly pulled my rod in as it went quite ballistic once it realised it was hooked, surging off breaking the surface in the process. After this initial run however it did what bream are famous for, a rather good impersonation of a wet sack, and was quickly brought into my net.

My first common bream. Went off like a rocket but gave up the fight very quickly.
New species #6 and addition #15 to my 2013 species tally.
Another angler very kindly took this photo for me.

This would be the first of many bream throughout the afternoon and each time I was taken back by the short explosive runs they made before going rather limp and surrendering. My rod was almost pulled in a second time and after that I kept one hand on it at all times! After a while I decided to switch to double maggots to see if they would take them and first cast saw me hook a nice perch followed by a few more bream. I then changed to sweetcorn on the hook and after a couple more bream I hooked a fish that I knew wasn't a bream or perch due to the way it was staying deep and putting up a spirited fight. A lovely tench was soon played out though and was on the unhooking mat being photographed.

A colourful change from all the bream!
This powerful tench put up a good fight. The biggest I've caught.

Towards the end of the first days fishing I started experimenting with the "lift method". The following day I planned on targeting crucians and this was to be the method I'd be using. I managed to catch a couple of bream using it although in both cases instead of lifting up the float slid away rather quickly as the fish bolted off! The gates at Tanyard close at 19:15 so I headed back to my B&B and watched a bit of TV before going to bed.

Up early the next day and packing all my things into the car I set of back down to the fishery to begin my final days fishing. With an eight hour drive back up the road I wanted to be home at a reasonable time so decided to leave at 16:00 so this gave me eight hours fishing time to try and catch a crucian. Again speaking to one of the bailiffs before I started fishing he told me that the "Carp Free Pool" was the best place to try and advised me to try maggot and sweetcorn tight down the margin at the side nearest the small stream the ran along behind the pond. Off I went and set up at the spot he'd described. Fishing the lift method pretty soon I was catching a steady stream of roach, rudd and perch. It was rather odd watching my float behave in a very odd manner at times but it proved to be a very successful way to catch fish from the bottom.

A nice roach. I caught lots of these over the two days.
Another spiky fish with attitude took my maggots.

After a few hours with no crucian showing up I decided to try another spot and liked the look of a corner of the pond that had some nice looking reed beds that looked like a good place to try. After quickly speaking to another angler who agreed with my evaluation and very kindly gave me a little of his groundbait to try, I began fishing sweetcorn tight into the reeds. This saw me almost lose my rod again as a brief laps of concentration allowed a bream to pick up my hookbait and tear off after realising it had been hooked!

Another nice bream. They may fight like wet sacks but their initial run when hooked can be very powerful often propelling them out of the water in spectacular style and sometimes almost pulling rods in!

The next bite I had was quite a small one but striking gently I felt something on the other end and reeling in resulted in a red signal crayfish being landed. I've heard about these non native little crustaceans before but this was the first time I'd ever seen one "in the shell". I wasn't sure what to do with it and just tossed it back in but was subsequently told that they were not to be put back as they eat the fishes eggs and small fry and obviously that's not good for the fisheries stock levels.

An unexpected catch for me and an unwelcome guest at the fishery, a red signal crayfish.
This is how they get their name. When threatened they rear up and display the underside of their claws.

A few more bream and a tench later and now into the early afternoon I had sort of resigned myself to not getting a crucian. The fishing had slowed right down as the temperature had risen and I decided to try switching out the swan shot on my lift method rig for a small drilled bullet to try another technique, float ledgering. The beauty of this method is that the fish feels almost no resistance at all and it quickly became apparent that when fishing on the bottom this method is highly effective indeed as I soon started catching a steady stream of roach and perch again. The bite sensitivity seemed to be excellent too and the only real drawback I could see is that along with the lift method you can't hold your rod so may miss some bites. I'll certainly be experimenting more with both the lift method and float ledgering in the future. The last two fish I caught before packing up were gudgeon so whilst I didn't get any new species on my final day or even add any species I've caught before to my 2013 tally it was still a cool little fish to end my trip on.

My second tench from the carp free pool.
The final fish of my trip, a gudgeon. A nice little fish to end it with.

So my ten day fishathon had come to and end and I packed up my gear and headed up the road. What an epic time I'd had. I'd fished with some great people, in some great places, caught a lot of fish including many new species and even better, caught three of my "Most Wanted" species. I thouroughly enjoyed myself in the process, so much so that I may just make this an annual pilgrimage! 

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

South Coast Fishathon Part 3 : Dorset.

Last Sunday morning the third leg of my south coast fishathon began at 02:30 when my alarm went off. After getting ready and driving along the coast I met up with dedicated local bass angler, Bill Fagg and his adorable, very clean and well behaved but soon to be adorable, very filthy and quite naughty dog Poppy at 04:00. We headed along the rugged Jurassic Coast and Bill told me about some of the history of the area. As we walked along and day broke, and it was a beautiful sunny one, perhaps too beautifully sunny for me to be wearing waders,  I became very aware of the jagged cliffs towering above us. The hills might have eyes but these cliffs definitely have teeth and sharp dangerous ones at that.

These cliffs are constantly crumbling. Like a huge long set of hour glasses small pieces are constantly trickling down forming heaped piles at the base of the cliffs. Every now and then a bigger collapse occurs. My fingers were crossed that I wouldn't be standing under such an event!

After about an hour of walking along the coast we reached the first spot and started fishing. Bill is a big fan of Slug-Gills, a home made hybrid of a Slug-Go and a Red Gill and I soon had one tied on and we began walking along the shingle, casting out and retrieving the weedless lures as we went. No sign of any fish after working the first area so we moved further along the coast. Poppy wasted no time getting quite filthy as we went. Rolling around in huge mounds of maggot filled rotting seaweed and a host of other foul smelling stuff she found lying around.

Poppy smells some rancid rotting kelp and gets stuck in.
Bass and mullet gorge themselves on these kelp fly maggots on large spring tides. A fact Bill uses to locate and catch bass. The smell was quite disgusting especially on such a hot day.

As we went along the shore Bill kept ahead of me and at one point had walked a fair bit along the beach from me when I noticed his rod suddenly bend over and he soon landed a fish. Shortly afterwards and still a bit further along the shoreline from me he landed a second. This looked promising I thought, perhaps my first bass of 2013 would soon grab my Slug-Gill and be landed on the shingle shortly afterwards. I had a few casts at the spots Bill had caught his fish but I couldn't repeat his success. We kept working our way along the coast and by this point I had lost confidence in the Slug-Gill, or should I say my ability to use it, and started trying a few of my own lures. This made no difference at all however and I noticed Bill had started coming back towards me. When he reached me I asked him if he'd caught anymore fish and he told me it was just the two that I'd seen him catch. We started heading back along the coast towards our starting point fishing as we went. I decided to try a Keitch Easy Shiner on a weedless jighead and began casting it out and slowly bouncing it along the bottom back to me. Finally I had a few taps but they didn't feel like those of a regular bass. I cast out again to the same area and had a few more taps before hooking a fish that wasn't very big and I quickly landed it. My first bass of the day looked rather strange I must admit.

My first Dorset bass was a "dark brown and orange with light green spots bass".

I returned the fish, caught up with Bill and told him the news. Despite catching such a beautiful fish I was still keen to catch a regular bass so we carried on fishing and soon reached a spot we had covered earlier in the day. It was now approaching midday and the heat had become rather unbearable in my non-breathable waders. Poppy was obviously feeling the heat too and when we reached a long stretch of shingle she had a well deserved rest from rolling in foul smelling stuff.

Bill suspected that the large brown stain was some fox excrement. Lovely.

Bill and I carried on fishing, working our way along the shingle fishing over a shallow reef that had a few small boulders strewn across it. No doubt they were once part of the cliffs behind us. A sobering thought which made me take a few steps forward. As I continued to fish the area I caught another three rather odd Dorset bass.

The rare "chocolate and lime bass" is unique to Dorset too.
Poppy comes over and sniffs my catch to see if it's something she can roll on before it is set free.

I laughed out loud and told Bill how it was funny that I had travelled all the way to Dorset to catch a bass and I'd managed to catch four of these very special Dorset bass instead but that at least he had managed to catch two regular bass so there are some around so maybe there was still a chance I could get one too. It was at this point that Bill broke it to me that the two bass he had caught earlier were also special bass!

Bill's Dorset "dark green bass".
This chunky Dorset "mottled brown and green bass" fell for Bill's Slug-Gill.

We then start heading back towards the cars still fishing as we went. Spotting a few fish swirling over gullies on the way we had a cast or two in their direction but got no response which meant they were probably mullet.

Bill, Poppy and some mullet.

By this point the sun was shining intensely and I was slowly being cooked in my waders. Resigned to the fact that I'd have to wait to get my first regular bass of 2013 we called it a day and headed back to the car park. On the way Poppy misjudged the depth of a rockpool and ended up getting a bit of a bath which was quite funny. Bill told me that was the first time he'd seen her swimming. I thought it was probably a good way for some of those stains to get loosened up and would perhaps make Bill's job easier when he got home to get Poppy back into a reasonable state! It was a real pleasure meeting Bill and Poppy and whilst it was disappointing not to get a regular bass it was still an enjoyable session. As a species hunter I don't think I could spend all my time targeting one fish in particular but who knows that may change in the future and I must say that I really admire Bill's dedication to fishing for bass on what he calls "his patch". He told me that last year he fished every Sunday without fail, even in horrible weather and often blanked as a result but he still clearly loves getting out there walking along enjoying the coastline and fishing. He takes the rough with the smooth and has been rewarded recently with some cracking fish.

Bill with a large bass (or Dorset silver wrasse). One he caught earlier this year. When I wasn't around.

By now my juices were running clear so I thanked Bill and Poppy for taking me out, said goodbye, scurried off into the toilet block at the car park and got out of my waders, dried off a bit, put on sensible clothes for the hot weather and drove back to Weymouth.

When I got back to the B&B I was absolutely shattered. The first half of my trip had obviously caught up with me and the early start that day, all the walking I'd done and with the sun having taken its toll, I had a shower and went to bed at about 5pm. I must have needed a good rest because I pretty much slept right through until about 7am on Monday morning! Feeling energised and ready to go fishing again, after having a hearty full English breakfast, I drove east along the coast to Swanage to fish from the pier.

Swanage Pier on a sunny day.

The target here was a black faced blenny, a species most anglers have probably never heard of. A fish found in the Mediterranean and here are at the most northerly point in their range they have in the past been spotted by divers under the pier. I went armed with an ultralight rod and fished a mini one up one down rig. Using small pieces of ragworm and Gulp! Sandworm sections I was soon into several small corkwing and ballan wrasse and a few tompot blennies.

The open section in the middle of the lower deck seemed like a good place to start and the upper deck overhead provided me with welcome shelter from the sun.
Nice little corkwing wrasse.

Then I caught a small wrasse that I initially thought was another corkwing but upon closer inspection I realised it to be a small Baillon's wrasse a new species for me! I was so excited by this surprise catch I forgot the reason for my visit for the next hour or so as I happily fished away with a huge grin on my face, catching a few more Baillon's wrasse in the process.

This little Baillon's wrasse was a very welcome bonus capture.
New species # 2 and addition #8 to my 2013 species tally.

Then I remembered what I was there to catch and decided to try another spot and ventured out into the sun for an hour or so. The result was the same however, with a steady stream of the small wrasse and tompot blennies grabbing my natural and synthetic offerings. Moving back to the lower deck and trying another section of the open centre this continued all afternoon. A quartet of pollock, a solitary goldsinny wrasse and a weed covered spider crab broke this pattern up every now and then and despite the frantic action that saw me land over one hundred fish, the pier wardens appearance at five to six to say the pier was about to be locked up signalled the end of the session and I had not caught the little exotic fish I had come for.

Another Baillon's wrasse. Lovely looking wrasse with quite unique markings.
Lots of tompot blennies under the pier too. Another species I really love.
I caught over fifty ballan wrasse. This one was the nicest I think. In perfect condition with stunning markings on that huge tail.
This goldsinny wrasse was the only one I caught which was a bit odd really as they normally live in shoals.
Spider crabs are very strange even for a crab.

Talking to the pier warden as I left he told me that the spot I had been fishing in when he came down to announce the pier was closing was not too far from where the black faced blennies had been sighted this year. I kicked myself for not thinking of speaking to him when I had arrived! I guess I'll have to head back there again for another go. A bit annoyed with myself but still happy to have caught a new species I had my photo taken before I headed back to Weymouth to sort out my gear for my first boat trip of two the following day.

Baillon's wrasse, ballan wrasse, corkwing wrasse, goldsinny wrasse, pollock, tompot blennies and black faced blennies?

Tuesday morning I was up early again and headed along to Weymouth Angling Centre for 06:30 to pick up my bait. I arrived at the pick up point where the boat was tied up and boarded the boat with nine other anglers.

The good ship Flamer IV skippered by Colin Penny.

First off we headed to one of the entrances to Portland Harbour to try for mackerel to use as bait. It quickly became apparent after a few drifts that there weren't many around and only a few were caught. More pollock were caught actually and I caught one of those and no mackerel. As everyone had brought frozen mackerel this wasn't a major problem though and we were soon drifting over large mussel beds fishing for plaice. I went for a single hook trace with lots of black and green beads and a silver spoon baited up with a few ragworm and tipped off with a strip of squid. It was hard trying to feel for bites with my lead constantly rattling along the mussels. A few of the other anglers caught plaice before I felt what I thought was a bite and lowered my rod tip to allow the fish to swallow the bait to ensure a good hook hold before striking. When I did strike I felt the weight of a fish that put a reasonable bend in my 12/20lb class rod but soon had it reeled up to the surface. Skipper Colin soon had it in the net.

Slightly bigger than the one I caught from Sutton Harbour Marina in Plymouth!

As we drifted over the mussel beds most of the anglers on board caught plaice. Some other species were caught too. I caught a lesser spotted dogfish and a small pouting which was addition #8 to my 2013 species tally but I returned it straight away and didn't take a photo of it. A few black bream were caught too and I had my fingers crossed I'd get one too at some point during the trip or on the boat the following day as it would be a new species for me. After a few hours Colin announced we were heading off to to target turbot and brill. A change to 20/30lb class gear and a very simple rig consisting of a sliding lead clip with a 5ft flowing 30lb trace with a 4/0 Sakuma Manta on the end and a strip of mackerel on for bait. We were soon drifting over some huge shingle banks and after a short period the first turbot was caught. A few more soon followed before I felt a couple of bites and let out a little line before striking. A good fish on the end, again skipper Colin was ready with the net and when my fish broke the surface I was briefly disappointed to see it wasn't a turbot but was soon happy enough when it was identified as a small eyed ray as it was my first ever.

This lovely small eyed ray was definitely a most welcome bonus capture.
New species #3 of the trip and addition #9 to my 2013 species tally.

Shortly afterwards I felt a good bite and let out some line again before striking into a fish, this one felt much smaller and before long came up from the depths into sight and I was very pleased to see it was my first ever turbot. Taking no chances Colin netted the fish for me.

My first ever turbot. Small by turbot standards but I didn't care. Such a beautiful fish. Such a big mouth!
New species #4 of the trip and addition #10 to my 2013 species tally.

A short while later Colin announced that we were heading to a spot that often threw up the odd brill. Hooks baited up and 10oz leads soon heading towards the sea floor again I knew there was a slim chance of catching a brill but two were caught, both by the same angler, before Colin declared that we were heading back to port. It had been a great trip out on Flamer IV targeting flat fish with Colin demonstrating throughout the day why he is a top skipper. The following day I was hoping his skills would help me catch some more new species as I had chartered his boat for a days species hunting. When we got back to port many of the anglers on board offered me their left over ragworm which was gratefully accepted before I headed back to the B&B to tie up a few rigs for the following day. Once back though it soon became apparent that I didn't have enough components for making as many rigs as I perhaps needed so I decided to make up rigs that I thought were likely to be lost and would supplement these with ready made rigs in the morning from the Weymouth Angling Centre.

In the morning I headed to the shop and stocked up on mainly Sabikis as well as a few other ready made rigs before heading to pick up point. I boarded the boat and the rest of the lads were already there. Fellow keen species hunter Malcolm Ruff whom I had fished with the week before in Plymouth and had very kindly brought bait for both him and myself, Steve Clements who has fished for England and Alan, one of the anglers who had been on the flat fish trip the day before and wanted to come along. With just four of us on board it would make for a comfortable days fishing and as I was surrounded by very experienced boat anglers I knew I could learn a few things from them throughout the day and they could no doubt help me catch a few fish. First off again we tried to catch a few mackerel to use as fresh bait but again there weren't many around with only a few being caught as well as some small pollock. We then fished close in to Portland Harbour breakwaters and in the entrances. Fishing baited mini species rigs, in my case half a set of sabikis, on 6/12lb class gear we were soon catching lots of small wrasse and some odd looking gobies that didn't quite look like any of the species found in the UK. Malcolm and I popped some of them in a large bucket of water so we could examine them when we got a chance. After I caught a few small ballans and a few goldsinny wrasse the other guys started catching cuckoo wrasse and then I caught some too. A few black bream were also caught but despite my best efforts I couldn't seem to catch one.

Mystery gobies. Were they a new species for me?  They had many features of a black goby the main difference being their lighter colouration. I'm not sure yet so I haven't included them as a new species or as an addition to my 2013 tally. I took loads of detailed pictures and hope to get a positive ID soon.*
A nice male cuckoo wrasse for Steve.
I had three females in total. This female cuckoo wrasse looks like it's just started changing sex. You can see the markings on its back are fading and the male bright colours are beginning to develop around its head in particular.
Addition # 11 to my 2013 species tally.

We then headed to one of Colin's red band fish marks. This was the species that I most wanted to catch on the day so I was worried when Colin said he was concerned that the wind would make the drifts too fast for us to fish the muddy bottom effectively and that we may have to try a less productive backup mark but I needn't have worried. After no time at all Steve was first to catch one and quickly followed it up with a few more showing that Colin had put us onto the right spot yet again. He was using a dedicated rig however that over time he had discovered was very effective. I was beginning to worry that my cut down three hook sabiki rig wasn't quite going to cut it and was considering asking Steve if he had a spare one of his when I felt a few plucks and paused for a moment before gently lifting into a fish. Colin told me to reel up very slowly as red band fish have delicate mouths so following his advice I took my time. Colin had the net ready just to be safe and before too long the most bizarre fish I have ever caught was unhooked and wriggling in my hands.

I can't tell you just how weird these fish are! They have to be seen to be believed really so you'll have to go out fishing with Colin on Flamer IV to find out!
New species #5 and addition #12 to my 2013 species tally.
A very large cavernous mouth in realtion to its size and filled with odd looking little teeth.

Malcolm and Alan were both keen to catch one too so we did a few more drifts. Steve was clearly a master and pulled out a few more and I managed a further two before Malcolm caught one too after being wound up by Steve. One last drift to see if Alan could get one but sadly he didn't manage it so off we went to another spot to try for another species I really wanted to catch, a butterfly blenny. Unfortunately though none were caught and after a short time with little action Colin was fairly quick to suggest a move to another spot. This time we went a fair bit out to sea to try for tope and ray species at anchor. As well as fishing a single large bait on the bottom we also fished for bream using lighter gear. Steve told me that bream like yellow beads and while I was busy messing about putting them onto my rig Malcolm shouted over to say I had a bite on my other rod. I took too long to react though and Malcolm lifted the rod and struck into the fish but when I took the rod from him after a few turns of the handle there was nothing on it. Lesson learnt I abandoned the light rod and stayed next to my big bait rod. This would see me catch a couple of lesser spotted dogfish. Steve meanwhile was catching a string of rays as well as fishing a lighter rod and catching bream. This prompted me to wind up my large bait and try with my lighter gear for a while. Colin soon spotted I was only fishing one rod and wasn't best pleased as he was keen to see me land a bigger fish,  hopefully a tope which would be a new species for me. Setting up my trace with a second pennel hook Colin quickly showed me one of his preferred ways to hook up a squid and mackerel cocktail and this was soon on the sea floor to hopefully tempt a shark which it did rather quickly in the form of a small thornback ray.

A nice little thornback ray. How cute.

Soon rebaited in the way Colin had showed me, another squid and mackerel cocktail was soon on the bottom to tempt a big fish. It was down for a while and whilst I was trying to watch that rod as well as feel for bites on the rod in my hand Colin, who was stood next to me saw a bite and lifted the other rod and struck into the fish for me quickly handing me the rod and taking the other one out of my hands. The fish on the end felt decent but as I've had a tope hooked before, when the fish didn't start running I knew it was something else and given the dead weight nature of the fight my money was on a ray. Colin's guess was an undulate ray and he was correct.

As a paying customer I'll happily take the credit but basically I just reeled this fish up for the skipper. Thanks Colin!

I love the patterns on undulate rays. They are lovely sharks.
Addition #13 to my 2013 species tally.

After a while we headed back towards dry land stopping on the way at a spot where I could try for gurnards and bream. Malcolm caught a small tub gurnard and Alan had a red gurnard. Both of which would have been a new species for me had I caught one but I didn't and after another dogfish it was soon time to head back to port. I thanked the lads for a great days fishing and Colin for being a great skipper before saying goodbye and heading back to my car. I was soon on the road again, driving further east along to East Sussex and inland away from the sea as well. Having spent the last eight days fishing for saltwater species I planned on spending the last couple of days of my south coast fishathon winding down enjoying a spot of coarse fishing.

Tight lines, Scott.

*Subsequent careful examination of the photos and counting fin rays and lateral line scales led me to believe that the gobies I caught were simply lightly coloured black gobies, perhaps females. Studying the head canal pore and sensory papillae pattern, which are unique to each species of goby, also supports this conclusion.