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.

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