Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In at the deep end.

I headed down to St Abbs Head with my mate Stewart last Sun. It was his first time fishing so being a bit naughty I decided to throw him in the deep end with this choice of destination and after showing him where we'd be fishing from the top of the cliffs and making sure he was OK with it we scrambled down the steep path to a rock mark beneath the lighthouse.

Our destination down below on the right. St Abbs Head is not a place for the faint of heart. Great care is required accessing the marks there.

Once down we setup on a rock platform well above the water as there was a slight swell running. As well as the swell causing the odd wave to break on the rocks below us, which we had to keep an eye on to avoid the spray it produced from soaking us, the tide running past made holding bottom rather difficult, even with 8oz of lead. Eventually things settled down a bit over high water. A variety of baits on simple running ledgers were cast around in various directions but after a few hours with no bites and a few lost leads we decided to cut our losses and headed back up the cliff. I couldn't let Stewart blank on his first ever fishing trip so we headed along to St Abbs Harbour which soon saw us catch a couple dozen small coalfish.

Stewart's first ever fish.

Obviously the lack of action while we were fishing from the rocks up at St Abbs Head was quite disappointing but it was however good to test out my new close range rock fishing setup and I'm happy to report I think it's going to do the job quite well. We also used it to fish in the harbour and the small coalfish caught demonstrated that bite sensitivity is very good. This was one of my main concerns really as I plan to target some small species using it. More important though was the fact that Stewart quite enjoyed his first fishing trip so it may not be his last.

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Most Wanted : Bitterling.

I recently purchased a copy of Mark Everard's rather excellent "The Little Book of Little Fishes" to further my research into the various mini species that can be found in UK freshwater. As well as the usual more familiar fish species like minnow, stickleback and gudgeon it covers some species that are less well known, some that are distributed in localised areas and also some non native species too that have been introduced to the UK from elsewhere. Of course, my favourite little spiky brown fish, the ruffe, is an example of all three. Another is the bitterling. Released from aquarium stock in the North West of England they seem to have found a niche for themselves and can still be found around the region. They are pretty little fish with the males taking on rather impressive colours during their mating season.

A male bitterling displaying some rather nice breeding colours. 

Bitterling have a very interesting relationship with freshwater mussels and the breeding cycle of the bitterling is in fact reliant on them. The female injects her eggs inside the shellfish and the males sperm then enters the mussel as it filters water in to breath. A very odd process indeed and one of those strange things that occur in nature that make you wonder how such things come about.

A female bitterling. Note the long egg tube (ovipositor) in front of the fishes anal fin that is used to deposit eggs inside the mussel.

Growing to an average size of only 5-7cm and with a small upturned mouth some very sensitive wagglers will no doubt be required as well as small hooks and probably a pint of pinkies or squats if I'm to successfully target and catch them. I have a couple of small stillwater venues in England in mind that rumour has it contains bitterling and I will hopefully get a chance to have a go for them later in the year.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Planning ahead.

I popped down to St Abbs Head on Tuesday to see what was around. For the first time instead of lure gear I took a beachcaster and some bait down the cliffs with me as this year I intend to fish the area quite a lot using bait to try and catch some of the unusual species that are found there. The question of what was around was soon and rather predictably answered. Coalfish, and lots of them. 

Holding my rod and employing the simple tactics I've been using of late, a running ledger and single circle hook, I caught over a dozen, mainly on strips of mackerel.

Most of them were caught before it got dark which is quite unusual because normally after the sun sets is when the coalfish really become active. As things slowed down one greedy little long spined sea scorpion tried to scoff a strip of mackerel longer than itself and got hooked. I didn't know he was there until I reeled in to change my bait.

Coalfish are very common around many East coast marks. So are these little greedy chaps.

The swell starting to build up may have had something to do with the lack of fish towards the end of the session and this along with a light drizzle appearing in front of the beam of my head torch made me decide to pack up and make my escape back up to the top of the cliff before the rocks became wet and dangerous. It was an enjoyable session and I'm really looking forward to exploring the area further and getting smelly hands doing so. 

With future trips in mind I've decided that my current bait gear isn't really ideally suited so after some thought into what I need I've ordered myself an uptide rod for the type of close range rock fishing I plan on doing down there this year. You may think a boat rod is an odd choice but I decided to get one for a variety of reasons. Being a peninsula the tide can race past St Abbs Head meaning a reasonable amount of lead can be required to hold bottom. Even in the gully I was fishing last night 8oz was being dragged around a bit so the ability to chuck around heavy leads is very useful. I also want to leave the tripod at home and hold the rod at all times. The rod's length of 9'6" and the fact it is much lighter when compared to my beachcasting rods is also good as it will be more comfortable to hold, be less cumbersome when fishing at very close range and be easy to work with in some potentially restricted spaces. Finally some of the species I want to try and catch are quite small so bite detection is also important. The uptide rod has a fairly sensitive tip that I'm hopeful will aid registering smaller bites but it also has plenty of power lower down to help get bigger fish up out of snags quickly should I hook anything larger. Of course I may get the setup and find that it doesn't meet my expectations! I hope to find out soon. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Most Wanted : Lanzarote.

With a week long holiday booked on the Spanish island of Lanzarote in May it goes without saying that some fishing gear will be going with me. I'm looking forward to a spot of foreign species hunting and I've been having a look at what weird and wonderful species I can hope to catch from the warm waters of the Eastern Atlantic that surrounds the island. As well as some of the fish I learned about and caught from the Mediteranean Sea last year being resident, there are other interesting species too. Here is a trio that have caught my eye that I'd really love to catch.

Barred Hogfish

A very colourful member of the wrasse family. Did I mention I love wrasse? Would be rude not to try and catch some new ones whilst there!

Swallowtail Seaperch

Another very colourful species with quite a large mouth. A rather cool name too. I'd love to catch one!

Macronesian Sharpnose Puffer

Pufferfish are pretty cool. I know these can be caught off the rocks at the back of Puerto del Carmen harbour so will be having a go for them.

Picking three from such a wide variety of species was quite hard and regardless of what I end up catching I'm sure I'll have a great time. I'm really looking forward to fishing somewhere new again and whilst it's a family holiday and short fun sessions will be the name of the game I have set myself the little challenge of catching twenty five species whilst there including ten new ones.

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Diamonds in the ruffe.

Thinking of cheesy post titles for my ruffe hunting catch reports will soon be getting almost as difficult as catching the little brown spiky buggers! I headed to Balmaha Pier again on Wednesday with my mate Jake to have another go at catching one. When we got there just after daybreak we found a camper van parked at the pier. There was a landing net outside it so I quickly got my gear onto the pier and secured the spot I wanted before the angler inside emerged. When he did appear it turned out to be someone who had been in touch with me at the end of last year to chat about lures for perch after reading a report I posted on a forum, he recognised me and introduced himself. It's a small world. After a short while one of his mates arrived and the four of us started fishing. 

Whilst the other lads opted to spend the majority of the day fishing lures for perch and lobbing out a couple of deadbaits for pike I had decided to fish a feeder rod for my small elusive target. For the first time I had spooled my feeder reel up with some Berkley Fireline Crystal to aid bite detection at range and after my last visit I decided to try experimenting with multiple hook rigs too, starting off fishing a swim feeder at the bottom of a three #18 hook paternoster. Hemp and maggots were loaded into the feeder, single maggot on the hooks produced a roach on the first and second cast and this set the tone for the first hour or two with a few more roach being caught.

A lovely Loch Lomond roach in wonderful condition. Bright orange eyes and scales gleaming in shades of blue and silver in the sun.

After a few more roach I switched to chopped worm on the hooks but this just resulted in hardly any bites. As the day went on it was soon becoming apparent that most of my fish were coming on the bottom hook of my rig. I reasoned that perhaps this was due to the depth of water I was fishing in resulting in the other two baits being presented up off the bottom when I tightened down to the feeder so I switched to a one up one down rig to try and present two baits on the deck.

As the day progressed I continued to catch roach with a single bream/roach hybrid breaking the pattern. By early afternoon none of the others had managed to tempt any of the resident fish until Jake's persistance finally paid off when he hooked a fish fairly close to the end of the pier. It turned out to be a small pike instead of a perch though.

A nice looking fish.

After a bit of a lull I then had a quite small indication on my rod tip which I struck into only to feel the weight of a decent fish. Obviously it wasn't a ruffe and as the fight progressed I suspected it was either a perch or maybe a powan as it gave a few thumping headshakes. It turned out to be the latter and my second rare and beautiful powan was soon landed before being quickly unhooked, photographed and returned.

I admire my second silvery powan from Loch Lomond in two trips. Lovely.
Powan are a really stunning species with lots of subtle colours becoming visible as you view them from different angles. Hard to capture in a photograph.  Beautiful indeed.

After carefully popping it back and watching it swim off strongly we all laughed about the fact I'd caught possibly the rarest fish in the loch twice in two trips but couldn't catch what is allegedly the most common! Things then slowed down for a while but I managed to catch a few more roach. I fished into darkness to see if what I'd read about the nocturnal feeding habits of ruffe had any truth in it but alas a single roach was the only reward for my speculative effort. None of the others managed to catch anything further either. 

So despite enjoying a decent days fishing it was yet another failure on the ruffe front! I'm sure the method I'm using is fine and I know that they have been caught recently at the pier too but repeated trips without success has me questioning things. Perhaps I should use even smaller hooks? Order some pinkies or squats? Maybe a change of ground bait might attract them into my swim? Perhaps a lighter or faster tip for my rod would show up bites I'm missing? Perhaps another mark at Loch Lomond or perhaps elsewhere holds more of them and an attempt there would see me land my target? I think I shall have a little break from them, target other things and ponder some of these questions and make a few decisions before I have another go for that will hopefully make the difference. I know one thing for sure, when I finally catch one it'll be "ruffe justice"!

Tight lines, Scott.