Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My first wrasse grand slam.

On my two days off this week, Tuesday and Wednesday, I was planning to fish at Orchill Coarse Fishery in Perthshire on my first day off with my mate Keith and head up to Lochaline the following day to have a go at a wrasse grand slam, catching all five main U.K. species in one session. It was also a chance to maybe pick up a surprise new species if I got lucky fishing small baits on light tackle with one of my current targets, Yarrell's blenny, being one that has been caught there before. On Monday though, with all the rain over the weekend, Keith was tempted to chuck fluff and Mepps around at the trout in some of his local rivers. My fly casting is pretty poor and I feel I get in the way a bit when Keith takes me to these small waters with him so after checking the weather forecast for Lochaline and noting it looked better on Tuesday I decided to change my plans, wished him luck with the salmonids and decided to head up to Lochaline a day early. So on Tuesday morning I got up early at 5:00 and drove west through the Trossachs and up through Glencoe. The scenery on this route is quite breathtaking.

Glencoe. An awe inspiring landscape.

After three hours or so I reached Ardgour, drove onto the small ferry and made the extremely short crossing to Corran on the western shore of Loch Linnhe before making the final thirty mile drive south to Lochaline, the final twenty miles along a single track road. Lochaline is a very remote small village that sits at the mouth of Loch Aline where it meets the Sound of Mull. I would be fishing from the rather run down, but still working, west pier that faces out onto the Sound of Mull just past the village.

After all the stunning scenery along the way the pier was a rather uninspiring place to be fishing. I didn't mind as long as there were plenty of fish around its submerged structure.

From various reports I had read I knew it was very deep water just out in front of the pier but I wasn't sure how deep it was close in and around the sides so I quickly setup my gear and had a few casts at various spots to find out how deep it was. Around the sides it wasn't that deep. Along the front directly next to the pier it wasn't that deep either but casting any further than a couple of metres and it was taking a ridiculous amount of time for my lead to hit the bottom. I decided to start fishing off of the right hand side of the pier and work my way around it until I located some fish. Fishing a two up one down rig with #8 Sabpolo Wormer hooks and a 1oz bomb the first bait used was small chunks of raw prawn. First drop down the side and I got a few bites which resulted in the first fish of the day being caught. It was a coalfish though and I was worried about how many were down there.

I thought they were mainly an east coast species. I was concerned about hundreds of them making my task difficult.

Next drop I started getting the distinctive bites of wrasse though, a very welcome feeling through my rod. The bites weren't overly aggressive, just steady sharp little plucks that soon resulted in the rod tip nodding away signalling one of the culprits had been hooked and when I reeled in I was delighted to find I had a double shot of a goldsinny wrasse and a cuckoo wrasse on my rig. What a great start to my first real grand slam attempt!

Quite a dark brown goldsinny with nice deep red and golden markings.
A small female cuckoo wrasse. All small cuckoo wrasse are female. They are born that way and change sex later in life!

These were followed by a few more of each before I caught my first ballan wrasse of the session. A nice mottled brown fish. I caught a few more goldsinny, cuckoo and ballan wrasse and after another twenty minutes or so I caught my first rock cook wrasse of the morning.

Third wrasse species of the five required.
I really like rock cook wrasse. Especially this one as it left me with only one species of wrasse to catch!

Having only been fishing for about forty five minutes and with just a single corkwing wrasse required for me to complete my first wrasse grand slam I was very excited. I carried on fishing away at the same spot and steadily caught more fish including a few other species. Every time I hooked a wrasse I was hoping for a corkwing. Every time I hooked something else I was hoping it was something odd and new.

A long spined sea scorpion manages to fend of the wrasse.
All of the goldsinny wrasse I caught had a red or pink hue to their colouration and a golden underbelly. Very dark spots too which makes me think it might be breeding season for them.
Rock cook wrasse really do have absolutely tiny mouths.
As well as some very large cod I've also been catching loads of tiny codling this year. A good sign hopefully that cod stocks are doing well.
A solitary rock goby also beat the wrasse to my bait.

As the day progressed the action slowed down a bit and I was starting to think that a corkwing wrasse would prove elusive when I hooked a small wrasse that came off just as it reached the surface. I only got a quick glance at it but I was pretty certain it was a corkwing. Slightly frustrated this spurred me on a bit and I was considering trying a new spot when I finally got my fifth wrasse species of the day completing the grand slam in the process!

I've done it!

I was very pleased and to be honest having been fishing for less than three hours I expected it to take longer than it did. This left me the rest of the day to explore around the pier a bit more and maybe get lucky and pick up something odd or even better something new to add to my species tally! Unfortunately however the wind  started to pick up and the action slowed to a crawl as the tide went slack as low water approached. I was also beginning to feel a bit tired and quite hungry. I persevered for a bit longer, moving along to the opposite end of the pier and getting a little shelter by fishing from behind the large upright concrete blocks there. I managed to catch a few more wrasse, tiny codling and also found a small pocket of small poor cod but when the wind picked up even more and with the thought of a four hour drive to get home on my mind I decided to leave earlier than I had originally planned. After getting something to eat from the local store I headed home enjoying the drive once again on the way stopping to take this photo of the famous Scottish mountain Buachaille Etive Mor on my way back through Glencoe.

At the time the sun was blinding me but I took this as it disappeared behind a cloud just above the mountain's peak. Whilst you could say I failed to capture the thing I was trying to photograph I still quite like this dark menacing photo.

All in all it was a great little trip, even if I probably did end up spending more time driving than I did fishing! I achieved one of the goals I set myself this year although in hindsight perhaps it wasn't a particularly difficult one, it just being a case of finding the right mark really and I think there are a few spots on the west coast where all five wrasse species can be caught. I love wrasse though and it was another excuse to go and catch loads of them so I enjoyed doing it. Maybe next year I'll try and do it quicker or throw Baillon's wrasse into the mix and try and complete a six wrasse species super grand slam! In the end I wasn't really disappointed about nothing new being caught because I knew the chances of that were fairly slim anyway. I'd certainly like to fish there again and it seems like a great spot for a short break, I'd also love to fish the deep water directly in front of the pier with some heavier gear and I'm sure over a few days a new species would turn up so I'll definitely be back.

Tight lines, Scott.

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