Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rays of sunshine.

All of last week I couldn't decide where to go fishing on Sunday. The weather forecast locally wasn't great so I started  to look further afield. Trips to Lochaline or Killantringan were considered but in the end I decided to revisit Loch Leven to try again for thornback rays. With my girlfriend/ghillie Lillian joining me we made the scenic drive north west and arriving in Glencoe Village turned off the main road and headed along the southern side of Loch Leven to Kinlochleven to look for a spot to try. I stopped the car at a few parking places high above the water but couldn't really see how difficult access to the rocks below was so we headed to the top of the loch and back down the northern shore. As we drove I spotted two anglers fishing next to a lay-by and pulled in to talk to them. They had a few bait rods set up but told me things were slow with the only fish caught being a few small pollock on their spinning gear. The mark looked quite good however so I decided to give it a go anyway and quickly set up along the rocks from them.

A nice day with the sun making the odd appearance through the clouds and hardly any wind meant the loch was like a mirror.

Fishing two rods, one with a pulley rig to try for thornback rays and the other with a three hook flapper to see what else might be around I baited up my circle hooks with cocktails of mackerel, mussel and razorfish. 

We relaxed, trying to keep an eye on my rods whilst also enjoying the scenery, it was a lovely peaceful day but unfortunately my rod tips were rather peaceful too. As high water came and went I was starting to think I was going to blank for a second session in a row when I finally got a decent bite. Lifting the rod the culprit was hooked and I wound in quickly to get it up over the ledges in front of me and through the kelp and bladderwrack. 

It took about two hours to get a bite. This nice little thornback ray, my first from the venue, was worth the wait though.
They are very graceful swimmers. An elegant flap of their wings and they glide for a while. It's a real pleasure watching them go back.

Pulley rig rebaited and cast out again it wasn't on the bottom long when I noticed the line moving in a peculiar manner. Not enough to move the rod tip but I suspected something was hooked and reeled in to find a small and rather greedy dab had guzzled a fairly big mackerel and razorfish cocktail.

Dabs are almost transparent when held up in strong light. 

After that it went quiet again for an hour or so. As the tide ebbed its strength increased making holding bottom difficult to the point I was thinking about calling it a day but before I did my pulley rig rod tip suddenly arched over and sprang back again. Another fish on, the lack of fight gave away the identity of the shark on the end and my second Loch Leven thornback ray was soon landed. 

A larger specimen to end the session. 
Put back it sulked around in the weeds in front of me before heading through them and disappearing.

I had another couple of casts but the current in front of me was now pulling my gear around with relative ease. Lillian was also feeling hungry and as I hadn't needed her expert net handling skills was a bit bored too so I packed up. We headed home stopping at the charming 17th century King's House Hotel in Glencoe on the way for a tasty bit of grub in its public bar.

So, a fairly short session fishing wise but the drive was a real pleasure and we escaped the weather at home which was pretty miserable. It's always good to catch the target for the day, even if it's a species that the venue is renowned for producing. It was also good to find another mark for future visits. I have a feeling it may be a popular spot though given it's extremely easy to access. The ledges typical of many deep Scottish sea lochs were also not as much of a problem as the spots my mate Nick and I fished earlier this month. I think finding such marks where the ledges aren't such an obstacle to landing fish is the key to a successful day fishing such venues. I also think Loch Leven is perhaps a venue that's better fished afloat as this obviously takes rock ledges and weed out of the equation altogether. I also note from a few online reports that those who did so at the weekend enjoyed excellent fishing and caught dozens of thornbacks. Another reason to get myself a kayak and explore fishing sea lochs from it.

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The circle is complete.

Popped out for a short late evening session with my mate and young fishing apprentice Stewart on Thursday. We headed down to Torness Power Station and fished from the platform around at the inlet area. Instead of taking turns to lift a rod when bites came as we had done at Loch Fyne last time we went fishing, we fished one rod each. Two three hook flappers with #1/0 circles baited up with mackerel and squid cocktails were cast out onto the fairly clean bottom and the waiting game began. It was quite a nice night and the sea defences to our right offered us protection from the slight easterly wind.

Torness Power Station. Famous for being Scotland's premier blenny mark.
The platform we were fishing from is also used by the RNLI who have a fast rescue boat moored nearby.

Whilst we waited for bites I prepared more bait and tossed the waste over the railings next to us. With high tide due at just after midnight I planned to drop a mackerel fillet down close in later on to see if there were any conger eels around.

Things were slow but after about an hour and a half Stewart's rod tip sprung to life and a small cod was soon landed. Shortly afterwards he picked up his rod and began reeling in to change his baits only to find a bit of extra weight on the end. A dogfish was the culprit so Stewart reluctantly got some more shark handling practice.

Stewart gets off the mark with a codling.
Not as common on the east coast but this seems to be changing.

My rod had barely moved all night and each time it did I lifted it to find nothing there. My baits didn't come back untouched though so I surmised that the local crabs were enjoying a few tasty free snacks. An hour before high water I switched to a running ledger and dropped my conger bait down the side on a #6/0 circle hook. Loosening my drag and putting the reel on the ratchet I waited for it to hopefully start clicking but it remained silent for the rest of the session. Stewart's rod saw no further action either and at about 00:30 we packed up and headed back up the road.

A fifth blank of the year for me but it didn't feel like one though. I was quite pleased that Stewart wanted to go fishing on a fairly cold night. I was not so impressed that he caught some fish and I didn't! He's learning quite quickly, hopefully soon he'll have his own gear and who knows, maybe he'll be able to outfish me without my assistance!

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Who let the dogs out?

My mate Stewart has a mild case of galeophobia so on Sunday we headed west to Loch Fyne for a nice relaxing days' fishing. In order to prove to him that whilst sharks should command respect and require careful handling when caught they are also very interesting, beautiful creatures that are worthy of admiration and are not really that scary, the main targets for the session were dogfish and thornback rays.

It was a lovely sunny day and after a quick stop to pick up a few packs of frozen mackerel and a couple of boxes of squid on the way, we were soon at our chosen spot, a comfortable mark very close to the car. Two rods were quickly setup, one with a pulley rig and the other with a three hook flapper rig. I explained the rigs to Stewart and quickly gave him the lowdown on using my slosh multipliers before baiting up with mackerel and casting them out. Last year I fished the same spot with very light tackle and caught dabs, dragonets, black gobies, sand gobies, haddock and cod so I started to set up a third, lighter rod to fish very small baits on #10 wormer hooks to see if I could tempt any mini species that might be present. Before I had finished doing that however one of the other rod tips started bouncing away.

Lifting the rod it kept nodding so I handed it to Stewart and told him to wind in quickly. Sadly he didn't reel quite quickly enough and the fish was lost on the way in as it came up over the weedy ledges in front of us. Fortunately it didn't take too long for another bite and I thought it would be best to demonstrate how to quickly retrieve a fish up over the ledges to hopefully help Stewart minimise any further fish or tackle losses. Feeling slight pressure to land the fish I was glad when I managed to do so, the first dogfish of the day was soon on the bladderwrack and a quick lesson on handling and unhooking dogfish could begin. I explained how confidence is key when handling sharks and to maintain control of them two hands should be used. Unhooking the dogfish I gripped it firmly behind the gills and brought It's tail forward, holding it against the side of the sharks body leaving one hand free to work on removing the hook. I explained that alternatively the tail of the shark could be placed between the thighs again leaving a hand free to unhook and that the reason for handling them in this way is that dogfish have extremely rough skin, will try to wrap themselves around your arm and attempt to rasp your skin from it causing nasty wounds that will bleed for a prolonged period. Maybe Stewart was right to be cautious!

Dogfish are quite strong for their size. This one was particularly feisty and refused to behave for a photo.
Put back into a shallow bay to our left it adopted a defensive position. As well as being efficient hunters and scavengers they are also pretty tough. Easy to see why they are so prolific in places.
After a while it uncurls itself and gracefully swims off.

It wasn't long before another fish was attacking our bait and Stewart lifted the rod to feel for the fish. Once he confirmed it was on he kept the rod high, wound in fast enough to clear the ledges and soon he was looking rather worried as his first ever shark came through the weed. He was clearly still a bit nervous so I unhooked it for him and again explained how to hold it before he had a go himself.

Stewart lifts the rods and feels for a fish on the end.
Still slightly unsure Stewart faces his fears and gets to grips with his first shark.
A rather cute one if you ask me!

Pretty soon we had landed a few more although it was a bit of a pain getting the three hook flapper rig back through the weed so I swapped that over to a second pulley rig. I also swapped the circle hooks from #3/0 to a #1/0 because a couple of the dogfish had the hook points penetrate close to their eyes and gills and I didn't want to risk causing unnecessary damage to these delicate organs on future catches. This worked a treat as the next few fish were all hooked nicely in the bottom jaw. After about ten dogfish between us I decided to put out a couple of sandeels wrapped in squid, a cocktail that has produced rays for me in the past. I asked Stewart to reel in one of the rods whilst I prepared the baits and low and behold a tiny thornback had taken the mackerel bait.

Speak of the devil and a cute little ray doth appear.
Stewart with his second shark species of the session and he was a bit happier handling it.
Popped back the little ray sulked in the shallows for a while before heading off.

We carried on fishing, hoping for some more rays but all our sandeel and squid cocktails were attracting was more dogfish. Meanwhile my mini species rod hadn't attracted anything at all which was quite a surprise so I decided to pack it up. I then headed along the shore to check out another spot. When I returned Stewart had caught a dogfish, unhooked and released it on his own. I was suitably impressed. In the early evening we headed along the shore to try the other spot but this turned out to be not as productive as our first mark. The water there was a lot deeper but the ledges proved more difficult to get our gear and fish back up over. Three more dogfish were caught before we called it a night taking our tallies to ten sharks each making the day a fairly busy one with plenty of exposure to sharks for Stewart. 

Another lovely evening making it a real pleasure to be out fishing.

After our failed attempts afloat on Loch Etive a couple of weeks ago it was good to see Stewart get his first sharks and I think he has gone some way to curing his mild phobia of them, although more "therapy" is probably required. Maybe in the summer we can up the ante and target tope and bull huss. Stewart's isn't keen on conger eels either so maybe that's an issue we can work on too. He does seem to be enjoy our fishing trips though which is of course the most important thing. Next time we go fishing we'll have a break from sharks but whilst we may target some smaller species I can't promise Stewart we won't encounter some vicious Blennies. If he thinks sharks are nasty he's in for a shock!

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Relaxing by the pool.

As part of his job, my mate Nick takes groups rockpooling to show them the diversity of the life they can sustain. At the weekend he was out with about thirty people and fish wise, as well as a few of the usual mini species, a couple of small rockling turned up in the weedy rockpools he was searching. As he was working he didn't really have the time to inspect them properly but we suspect they may have been four bearded rockling. As you can imagine this revelation had my species hunting senses tingling and I was keen to head down there to try and catch one on rod and line. With a day off work today I decided to do just that so armed with some ultra light gear and a packet of raw prawns I headed off to have a bit of fun and maybe catch a bonus new species in the process. Low water was at about half past two so being a lazy sod I had a lie in and headed down there for noon. The weather forecast was for rain and when I arrived it looked pretty grim but it was dry at least. 

A dull overcast sky didn't dampen my sense of anticipation. Loads of rockpools to explore and you never know what might turn up.

Having messed about there many times I now have a good idea which nooks and crannies will hold a vicious little monster and sure enough one such hiding place soon produced a cheeky little blenny.

One of my favourite mini species. Full of character and I never grow tired of catching them even when they're trying to savagely bite me.

Popping it back I hit a few other known hot spots and caught a couple of small long spined sea scorpions. Then I headed to the spot where Nick had found the mystery rocklings. This produced another blenny but after a while trying different areas in the vicinity with no further action I started exploring some new ground and soon came across a nice big boulder in a fairly shallow pool that looked a bit fishy.

Was there something lurking underneath?

Dropping my chunk of raw prawn down close to the edge of the gap underneath the answer presented itself almost instantaneously. A big long spined sea scorpion shot out and then just as suddenly slammed the breaks on right in front of the bait. It paused for a second before devouring it in one gulp along with my #8 hook! I found this little display of aggression quite comical and laughing out loud pulled the entertainer out from under the boulder and swung it up to my hand. It was a dark brown specimen with purple patches and covered with grit like flecks. Its gill membranes were a nice turquoise colour and its underside golden with intricate mottled markings on its throat. A very pretty little fish indeed.

Little brown and purple horned monster.
A nicely marked plump underside too.

The variety of colouration of long spined sea scorpions is quite mind boggling and this along with their aggressive behaviour makes them a fun target species. I searched a bit longer and caught another smaller long spined sea scorpion before making my way back to the car. Quite content with a few hours spent lazily mini species hunting even if no four bearded rockling showed up and happy that the forecast rain had not shown up either I headed off just as it did.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Somewhere old, somewhere new, something flat and something blue.

On Monday I still hadn't decided where I was going to be fishing the following day when I got a text from my mate Nick about a spot where he fancied fishing on Gullane Bents. It is a rather nice stretch of coast I've walked along before and I too liked the look of it as a potential fishing mark so we hastily arranged to meet up there on Tuesday evening to see what we could catch. With the whole day free however I went down to the more familiar and altogether less scenic inlet area of Torness Power Station in the afternoon to have a go for a Yarrell's blenny at a spot Nick caught one from a couple of years ago. I only stayed for a couple of hours, no fish were biting and the only things I caught were three lobsters who took a liking to my small chunks of bluey and got hooked on my #8 wormer hooks.

I've hooked one before but didn't land it so this was a first for me. I love the deep blue colour of their shells.

The third lobster was bigger than the first two and was big enough to keep but was completely clawless so feeling sorry for it and thinking that there wouldn't be much eating in it without the claws I tossed it back. Despite it's obvious handicap it was clearly quite a hardy, ravenous creature and was so fond of my oily fish baits that it fell foul of my hooks again shortly afterwards, being caught a second time. A quite bizarre start to my day's fishing and there can't be many anglers who have caught four lobsters in a row! Still rather bemused I headed off to Gullane Bents hoping to find some fish instead of crustaceans.

After a short drive and making a fairly long walk along the top of the dunes I was down on some exposed rocks at the tip of a peninsula with bays to either side of it. I set up a rod and cast out a plain lead to find that the water wasn't very deep and the bottom was mixed ground but not too snaggy. At this point I gave Nick a ring to let him know exactly where I was only for him to tell me that something had come up and he would no longer be able to come down. Slightly disappointed to not have some company arriving later on I promised to let him know how I fared and carried on getting ready for the session. Clipping on a three hook flapper I tied a rotten bottom between it and my lead to prevent rig losses should it find a snag. I then baited each #1/0 circle hook with a one inch section of black lug sausage and tipped it off with a strip of squid. Casting out not too far I sat down to prep a few more black lug sausages. I had just finished them and had started prepping some more squid strips when my rod tip rattled a few times. Picking it up and reeling in I felt a small fish on the end and the white underside of a flatfish soon appeared on the surface.

My first googly eyed dab of the year.
The bug eyes are always the first thing I notice but a semi circular curve in the dab's lateral line is also a key distinguishing feature.

Encouraged by this positive start I decided to fish my second rod. Unsure about what larger species would come into such relatively shallow water I clipped on a pulley rig to hopefully find out. Fishing a bigger bait I launched it out as far as I could to try and find some slightly deeper water. As the tide receded a few large weed covered boulders were exposed directly in front of me that would make retrieving gear and fish troublesome so I decided to move around the rocks a bit to where there was a gap. Before long the sun started to dip towards the horizon and low water wasn't far away either. 

The sun began to set over Fife. Time for the headtorch to come out of my bag.

As always on the east coast I was expecting darkness to coincide with coalfish becoming active if there were any around. Things went quiet though for a little while until my close range flapper rig rod tip twitched a few times signalling the interest of a fish. Thinking it was probably another dab I let the bite develop to give the fish time to take the hook into its mouth. When my rod tip moved for the third time I lifted the rod and slowly wound in to find another flatfish had taken one of my baits. 

A rather chunky flounder.

By this point I had used up all of my black lug so switched to bluey strips tipped with squid on my flapper rig. A few more flounders were landed over the next couple of hours with one even managing to get a fairly large bluey bait that I put out in my long range rod into its greedy mouth. The #5/0 circle hook still did its job though, placing itself nicely in the scissors of the flatfish's jaws. Quite pleased with a successful first visit to a new spot I packed up at about 22:30, headed back to the car and drove up the road. Obviously it is a good flatfish mark but I'm keen to return with Nick in the not to distant future to try and find out what other species it holds.

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Know your quarry.

When my mate Nick told me he had some free time in April I suggested we head off somewhere for a couple of days fishing. After considering a few options we settled on a trip to Ballachulish to fish for thornback rays from Loch Leven. On Tuesday morning he picked me up and we made the drive up through some lovely scenery.

As we drove up through Glencoe I did my part to ensure Buachaille Etive Mor remains one of the most photographed mountains in Scotland.

The weather most of the way was rather nice but as we neared our destination it slowly changed to match the forecast, overcast with light rain showers and breezy. Upon arrival we quickly checked out a few places along the shoreline before deciding on one to fish. A short walk down from the car we were both soon set up and baits were cast out. The water was very deep beyond a ledge in front of us and I decided to fish just the one rod whilst Nick opted to fish two.

A small stream flows into the loch.
More imposing mountains line the shore opposite our first mark.

A few hours and a few showers later with no interest shown in our baits we moved along the shore slightly and I decided to switch to a three hook flapper rig to see if I could tempt any other species. For a while this attracted no attention from the resident fish and the only action Nick and I saw was a few helicopters out on exercises flying quite low up out of Glencoe.

Something going on in the water would have been preferable.

A while later Nick was coming along to see if I fancied a move when I got my first bite of the session and lifted my rod to find something fairly small on the end. Reeling it in fairly quickly to get it up clear of the ledge a rather nice looking grey gurnard was soon guided through the floating bladderwrack in front of me and swung up to my hand.

Beautifully marked with lovely golden flecks down its flanks. I think fish from crystal clear water are the most vivid colouration wise.

Carefully put back I watched it swim off quickly through the seaweed. Getting off the mark had been very hard work but we were hopeful this would be the first of a few fish. Alas it was not and whilst my rod tip was gently rattled three more times over the next hour or so I only connected with one small whiting. Little reward for about five hours fishing. More action than Nick's rods had seen though so we agreed to head off, get something to eat and book into the hostel we were staying in before heading out again for a few hours in the evening.

Accomodation and hunger sorted out we headed down to another spot just before dark and found an area that offered us some protection from the wind leaving just the constant drizzle and a fishing platform of slippery slate fragments to contend with. The water was very deep but we'd soon discover that the downside was the numerous slate ledges in front of us which were very difficult to retrieve our gear over. Nick's first cast had barely settled when a cracking bite pulled his rod rest over. Picking up his rod he wound down and soon had a good bend in it. A descent fish but sadly we didn't find out what it was as he lost it trying to get it in over the ledges.

After Nick's first cast action I stand hoping something will pull my rod over too.

We soldiered on and tried a few different spots but retrieving gear was proving extremly problematic and as Nick had already discovered, landing a fish should we hook one would be even harder. After a few hours and thoroughly soaked we decided to call it a night and formulate a plan for the following day over a couple of hard earned alcoholic beverages back at the hostel. 

On Wednesday morning we headed west and checked out a few marks we'd picked out as potential fishing spots on Google Maps but with rain forecast all day and the wind blowing right up the loch we decided to head south to Loch Etive and seek shelter at Bonawe where the weather outlook was slightly better rain wise. It didn't take too long to get there and we were soon at the chosen spot and fishing. Hopeful of catching a shark I went with a pulley rig and fairly big baits. Large mackerel pieces and double sandeel wrapped in squid were my weapons of choice and these were cast out into the bay in front of us. Nick was obviously keen to catch any fish that would bite having blanked the previous day and dropped a two hook flapper down fairly close in. This saw him hook a fish almost straight away and a small cod was soon landed.

Nick's first fish of the trip. Small but most welcome.

After a while with no bites I decided to fish a flapper rig close in too and quickly replicated Nick's result with a small cod of my own. I then alternated between rigs each cast. No action at all on the pulley rig but I managed another two cod and two pollock from close range.

Slightly wet but this rather plump pollock cheered me up a bit. 

Having caught a few fish I then decided to focus again on trying to tempt a shark of some description. Sadly my efforts didn't produce one. Nick caught a few more small cod at close range but in the early evening he packed up and headed back to the car to warm up. I finished off the last of my bait without tempting anything else before joining him. When I got back to the car I found Nick fishing lures next to it and he had caught a few small pollock. Both pretty tired we packed our gear into the car and set off for home. Like my day afloat on Loch Etive the previous Sunday the weather over the two days was pretty miserable and the fishing was tough but it was still an enjoyable trip. I'd like to try Loch Leven again but in better weather. It was good to catch up with Nick again and I'm looking forward to going kayaking with him in not too distant future. He's keen to catch some wrasse on soft plastics too so no doubt we'll be meeting up to do a bit of that in summer as well and I'm sure we'll have some fun doing that down St Abbs Head when the weather is a lot nicer!

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Wet and windy in the west.

My workmate Stewart has recently stopped playing football, hanging up his boots at the ripe old age of twenty three, this has left him looking for something to do with his Sundays. After enjoying a couple of days out with me fishing recently he was keen to go again last weekend. The weather looked pretty miserable across the country when I checked the forecast at the end of last week so I decided we should head west and spend the day out on Loch Etive to hopefully catch some shark species. The weather outlook there was not any better than anywhere else but I figured we would be able to move around to find a bit of shelter during any bad spells and if things got really bad we could always hide in the longliner's cuddy.

It was an early start on Sunday morning and we arrived at Aird's Bay just after nine, quickly loaded our gear into the boat and started the session by tying up on a large grey buoy in the bay. The target there was thornback rays so I set us both up with a simple running ledger with a strip of mackerel on a #3/0 circle hook with the snood decorated with a few luminous beads. Things were slow though so we switched to a sandeel wrapped in squid to see if we could change our fortunes. Sadly apart from a solitary shore crab for Stewart we didn't though so we both changed to a three up rig with slightly smaller #1/0 circles and small chunks of mackerel to see if there were any whiting around. After another hour or so though we still hadn't made contact with any fish so I suggested we moved up to the front of Bonawe Quarry and fished on the drift to try and open our accounts. This soon proved to be a good move when we both caught a few small cod.

Not much comes back out of a cod's big mouth.

After several drifts and still keen to locate some sharks we headed further up the loch to the next small bay and tied up to another buoy. I switched back to a running ledger but it soon became apparent that there was nothing happening and when the wind picked up, the rain started to fall rather heavily and almost horizontally we took shelter in the cuddy.

Miserable conditions.
Stewart watches his rod tip from the shelter of the cuddy.

We struggled on as the boat swung around but after half an hour or so we decided to head back to Aird's Bay to hopefully find a calmer spot. On the way I got a good soaking as spray came over the sides which Stewart found hilarious. The wind dropped off and the sun appeared as we got half way across the bay so we tied up to another big grey buoy and I started to dry out a bit.

Here comes the sun.

After a while I finally had a couple of bites before connecting with a third. A small but obviously very hungry whiting had taken my fairly large piece of mackerel.

Last time I fished in Aird's bay there were loads of whiting and poor cod around.

I was expecting more to follow but it went quiet again. The sun may have appeared but there was still a strong wind moving the boat about a fair bit which made bite detection tricky. Reeling up the slack line as the boat moved towards my lead I lifted it up out of the soft bottom and felt a little extra resistance. Reeling up I felt a dead weight and soon had a small thornback ray that had taken my sandeel wrapped in squid bait in the boat.

Heads or tails? Both missing. Maybe Stewart can take photography lessons on Sundays?
A rather thorny tail on this thornback.

Stewart still wasn't having any luck and I was keen to see him catch a ray too so we swapped rods. No more action for a while though and with time running out we headed over towards the shore where we'd launched from and drifted fairly close in. Despite being close to the shore we were still fishing in just over 100ft of water. The bottom there was mixed though with some soft and some rocky areas. As Stewart hadn't caught anything for a while he took the rod with the three up rig. I took the running ledger rod and put on a fairly big mackerel strip. Almost completely dry by this point the sky opened again and we got another soaking. I then felt a knock and lifted into it. Fish on. Up came a nice chunky short spined sea scorpion.

Probably the biggest I've ever caught but I don't bother with weighing or measuring anymore. I aways enjoy catching fish regardless of their size.

This was followed a few minutes later by a second. Time was soon up so we made the very short journey back to the shore bringing what was a good session to an end even it was slow at times and the weather mainly poor. I love catching rays and scorpion fish are a favourite of mine too so I was chuffed with those. Stewart enjoyed himself again and I think he's going to get into fishing so it'll be good to add him to my growing circle of fishing mates. I was a bit disappointed he never caught any sharks but it was good to see him catch a couple of cod on his first day fishing afloat. I think we will be having a work day out afloat on Loch Etive over the summer on one of the larger charter boats so hopefully he'll get a few then if we don't go back there sooner.

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The one that got away.

On Tuesday I decided to wet a line in the Irish Sea again and after looking up a few marks I flipped a coin and headed to Killantringan Lighthouse to fish for three bearded rockling from the rocks beneath it.

Killantringan Lighthouse. The light no longer operates. Killantringan House then.

I arrived just after high water and found a safe comfortable ledge to fish from. As my session a few miles further down the coast at Portpatrick was very slow last week I opted to fish two rods. Onto the first I tied a three hook flapper and after quickly preparing some mackerel strip baits this was cast out into the bay where the bottom was very clean. On the second rod I set up a simple running ledger and lobbed another mackerel strip close into the rocky area below me. 

Things were slow and as the tide receded I noticed the rusted remains of a ship start to reveal themselves. When I got home I did a bit of research and discovered they are what is left of the MV Craigantlet, a container ship that ran aground in 1982.

At the other side of the bay the remnants of the bow appeared and down to my left a few pieces of the bridge began breaking the surface too.

With no interest being shown on either rod after about two hours of waiting patiently and casting out fresh baits every now and then I prepped some squid strips, removed a few more mackerel fillets from my frozen baits and chucked the heads and guts into the water in front of me to try and draw some fish into the area. This did the trick and shortly after the groundbait went in I got my first bite of the session when my close range rod was slowly pulled down and straightened up again twice. Lifting the rod and winding down I felt the weight of a fish. A big fish. A big angry fish!

All hell broke loose and it didn't take long for me to figure out it was a conger eel. Getting it up away from the bottom I kept the pressure on as the fish thrashed around violently beneath me. Slowly I was able to gain line until the beast came into sight. It was a very big fish indeed and as I kept the pressure on to prevent it getting down again and to hopefully tire it out I started to think about how on earth I was going to land it! There was a gully to my left so I tried using the swell to wash it up into that. This was partially successful but as the waves receded it was putting a lot of pressure on my rod so I decided to try and get down to the fish from the rocks to my right. Landing the eel was one thing but unhooking it was going to be another matter entirely as I didn't really have the tools required to make it straight forward. I grabbed my long forceps, guided the fish over to a point where I could scramble down the rocks that I thought I could safely try to land and unhook it. As I got closer to the fish I could see that my #3/0 circle was nicely placed in its lower jaw so I was confident that if I could get the hook in the forceps I could quickly turn it, unhook the fish and release it. After a couple of failed attempts the swell brought the fish up the rocks towards me, I managed to get hold of the leader and quickly wrapped it around my arm. I waited for the next wave and pulled the fish up towards me a little further. As this wave fell away though I heard a crack and fell backwards against the rocks. My 30lb hooklength had parted under the weight of the fish just above the hook and I watched as it slowly swam off out of sight. Rather gutted to leave a hook in the fish I climbed back up to the safety of my ledge and just sat there for a few minutes gathering my breath and my thoughts. I couldn't quite believe what had just happened.

My composure almost fully regained but with a slightly surreal feeling remaining I got back to trying to catch my target species. As the session went on I prepped more bait and tossed in more groundbait but it was a while before I got another bite. Again it came on the close in rod just before daylight started to fade, this time it was a small codling that put up no fight and posed no landing or unhooking issues! Whilst removing the hook it coughed up a squid head that I had thrown in once again proving the worth of using a bit of groundbait in the area I was fishing.

A very hungry and nicely coloured little cod.

As it got dark the tide turned and started to flood and I started fishing both rods close in. It was soon pitch black and it took just over an hour longer for my third bite and fish of the session. As I reeled it in I could see it was a fairly big rockling. As I shone my head torch down onto the fish before lifting it up it looked like it had the pink hue of a three bearded rockling. I got a bit excited, although my celebrations proved premature because I quickly realised after hoisting the fish up that it wasn't the rockling variety I was after.

A big plump shore rockling.

Hoping that this might be the first of a few rockling and my target might be amongst them I fished on for another hour or so but with work to go to the following morning I packed up and headed back up the road at about 22:30 with no further reward for my efforts. Quite a strange session really. The conger was quite a surprise, gave me an awesome scrap and has sparked an interest in targeting them from the shore again. I dare say there will be a few living in the remains of the shipwreck so a trip back to Killantringan is on the cards. Obviously I wasn't expecting to hook such a large conger eel and as a result I didn't have the equipment with me to make handling and unhooking possible. I hate leaving a hook in a fish but it was lip hooked and shouldn't take too long to rust out. Gloves, a towel and a t-bar will be going with me from now on. The late shore rockling was also a bit of a cruel twist to end the session with, and my quest for a three bearded rockling continues. Who knows what might turn up next time I go out trying to catch one? One of the great things about fishing is you never know what your next cast might bring!

Tight lines, Scott.