Thursday, June 12, 2014

Guess who just got back today?

At the end of May I headed north west for four days fishing with my mates, Alan, Mark G. and Mark L. Mark G is also known as "The Baw" so to avoid confusion I shall refer to him by this nickname for the rest of the post. The plan was to fish the Applecross Peninsula for three days then head over to Skye for a day. The rest of the lads were head home first thing Sunday morning while I planned on staying behind and squeezing in an extra days fishing. I was quite excited about the trip and I was also looking forward to driving over the Bealach Na Bà for the first time. After about four and a half hours we reached the start of it.

Fair warning.
The drive up to the top of the highest road in the UK is something else.

Getting to the campsite at about noon we quickly set up our tents. "The Baw's" pop up tent was up in less than a minute. Emblazoned with a Ministry of Sound logo and a clear warning it always makes us laugh and also seems to deter other campers from pitching their tents near us.

No loud music emanates from his tent but "The Baw" does snore a bit.

Base camp organised we headed off to our favourite rock mark along the coast at Fearnmore. As we got our gear out of the car another Applecross regular named Jen, who stays nearby when in the area, was passing by and stopped to say hello. She decided to go and get her fishing gear and meet us down there. A short walk later we were on the rocks and quickly set up fishing Savage Gear Sandeels. Occasionally changing to other soft plastics and also a metal or two we were all soon catching some nice pollock which to be honest didn't seem overly fussy about what lures we had on.

The coast around the peninsula is rocky with a mixture of shallow bays and deep water at close range. Access can be an issue but a bit of exploration normally results in a fish holding spot being found.
Alan slowly retrieves his lure.
The average size of the fish ensured good sport on light tackle.
Mark's holds his first ever pollock with military precision.

Jen soon arrived and straight away caught a couple of nice pollock too. She was fishing from an elevated position and my telescopic net came in very handy to help land them. It then went quiet for a bit until I caught a coalfish and "The Baw" caught a nice red cod. "The Baw" then headed out onto a rocky outcrop and caught a pollock or two. We thought he might get trapped there by the tide which would have been rather amusing but he made it off in time.

An orange kelp cod. I think they look so much nicer than their brown brethren.
A nice plump coalfish in fine condition.
The outermost rock is now known as "Baw Island". Trespassers beware, you may not escape!

After a few hours of enjoyable fishing we headed back to the campsite, got freshened up and headed down to the pub for our tea. Over the years we've gotten to know a few of the locals and it was good to catch up with them again. The food in the Applecross Inn is superb and the atmosphere is rather special too. It's always busy and you always end up chatting to complete strangers. The views across Applecross Bay are also lovely and the sunset was particularly nice that evening.

Every time we visit Applecross this cheeky chap can be found in the Inn. This stuffed otter has an interesting story behind it. You'll have to visit the Inn to find out about it.
Red sky at night...
...angler's delight.

The following day Alan an I were up early and went along to Toscaig Pier for an hour or so. Alan cast a metal out to try for mackerel whilst I fished Gulp! Angleworm on a drop shot rig to see what mini species were around. Unfortunately neither of us found any fish so we headed back to the campsite to see if Mark and "The Baw" were up. Everyone up, Alan sorted out some tasty black pudding rolls, made coffee and tea before we paid for our pitches and headed off to hopefully find some fish.

Blue Tit chicks chirping drew our attention to this sign outside the campsite reception building on a wall mounted cigarette bin.

As we had decided to explore a new area we headed off to Fearnmore first to seek advice from Barry, a local whom we have gotten to know over the years who is also fond of fishing. More tea and coffee were consumed and Barry pointing us in the general direction of some potential fishing spots. We headed off across the peninsula to hopefully find some deep water to fish. After crossing some boggy ground we were soon fishing from a large gently sloping rock platform.

Areas of the peninsula are marshland. Alan and "The Baw" had more suitable footwear and crossed this bog first. They then relaxed on a rock and had a good laugh watching Mark and I try (and fail) to get over quickly without getting wet feet.

The first spot we tried wasn't particularly deep and with the tide ebbing making it even shallower as the morning progressed it looked like the mark would be better fished over high water. Despite us being on the mark at what I felt was the wrong tidal state "The Baw" was soon into a pollock and I soon caught one too. Not much action after those two fish though so I headed off to explore a bit further along the rocky shore and soon found some much deeper water along at the end of the platform where it dropped off. Directly beneath the end of the ledge was a very deep kelp lined alcove that I thought might contain a few wrasse. Before trying for them however I cast out just to the right of the drop off that ran straight out in front of me to see if there were any pollock around. After a few casts my lure was slowly making its way back and was about half way in when it was taken by a decent fish. My rod buckled and the fish made a few line stripping dives before I got it up away from the kelp. My trusty 4m telescopic landing net was once again deployed and the fish lifted up.

 Hard fighting pollock are great sport.

The lads all came along to where I was and I caught two more pollock before trying down the side for wrasse. None were around though so I headed off to explore again. The tide had turned by the time I found some nice looking skeers of rock extending out with deep gullies between them. Making my way out onto one I cast out to find that the water at the end was very deep and contained a few nice pollock.

Another lovely golden fish.
The huge eyes and cavernous mouth of an efficient predator.

Shouting along to the lads they soon joined me and the action was frantic for over an hour with the average size of the pollock being rather good. Pollock are hard to beat in terms of pure power and most of the fish hooked were making surging runs to try and get into the kelp directly beneath us.

Another nice pollock for Mark.

The tide now rising quickly we were soon forced to leave the skeer and headed along the rocky shore further still to seek another pollock holding hotspot. The ground we were covering however was much shallower and apart from one or two solitary fish we struggled to find a spot that was anywhere near as good as the one I had discovered although "The Baw" found a few smaller specimens.

"The Baw's" rod bends into another pollock.

Quite pleased with the day's efforts and heading back for our evening meal I took advantage of the Inn's Wi-Fi and did a bit of research to decide where we could go do a spot of bait fishing the following day. I decided that we would head back over the pass to Loch Carron to try for dogfish and thornback rays. Another nice meal and a few drinks were enjoyed as well as another lovely if less colourful sunset over Applecross Bay.

Beautiful. Raasay and Skye in the distance.

In the morning we sorted out our bait gear and were treated to another tasty breakfast by Alan before heading south to the northern shore of Loch Carron where we found a nice looking spot to fish.

Looked good on Google Maps. Looked even better when we arrived!

We parked the cars and walked around the left hand side of the bay onto the rocks. Being a narrow part of the loch I knew there would be strong currents flowing past us at the peak of the tide but when we arrived they tide was ebbing and had started to slow making holding bottom possible. "The Baw" and I were first to get our rods setup and cast out and it didn't take long for the tip of my rod to start nodding away.

The first fish caught was rather predictably a dogfish.

"The Baw" soon caught one too and these would be the first of many. "The Baw" had a light lure setup with him and had a go for pollock in the deep water close in. After a while enjoying no luck I had a quick go with it and caught a nice red cod which shot out of the kelp under my feet and grabbed my Savage Gear Sandeel.

Eyes bigger than its plump little belly. Lovely colour too.

As the day went on more dogfish snaffled our baits and were all nicely hooked on the circles we were all using. By the time low water approached we had all caught some. A new species for Alan and Mark, they were both quite pleased.

Alan's first ever dogfish.
Another one swims off.

We all agreed siting watching our rod tips had been a nice relaxing change from targeting pollock. Having had no action for a while over slack water Alan and Mark decided to head back to Applecross. "The Baw" and I decided to fish into the flood, stayed for an hour or so longer and finished off the bait. We managed a couple more dogfish and I caught a second small cod before the currents increased in strength to the point it was almost unfishable even with 8oz of lead. Meeting up back at the Inn we enjoyed another excellent meal and a few drinks. I had turbot and it was superb.

The A(pplecross) Team.

After dinner we had a pint or two and some of the group made it known that they no longer wanted to go to Skye the following day. I was still keen to go and with the rest of the lads leaving early on Sunday morning the thought had crossed my mind to stay over there on Saturday night and fish there on Sunday too before heading home in the evening. The weather forecast for Sunday was not great though so I decided to leave the tent in Applecross and head back there on Saturday night.

Saturday morning I got up very early but was in two minds about going to Skye on my own. I had been looking forward to visiting Neist Point for a while and the chance to catch something big at such a beautiful venue was hard to ignore. That said I also didn't want to leave the rest of the lads and was a bit disappointed they no longer wanted to go. A difficult decision to make and in the end I tossed a coin. Heads I head off, tails I stay. Heads it was so I got up and set off on the the drive over to Skye. It was a beautiful day and it was a very nice journey through some breathtaking scenery.

Skye has spectacular scenery around evey corner. Driving around it is a real pleasure.

After a quick stop in Portree to pick up some mackerel I had ordered I was soon back on the road and made the last leg of the journey to Neist Point. It's a stunning place and with as little gear as possible I was soon walking down to the rocks beneath the lighthouse.

Neist Point. A stunning place.
Clouds breaking up as they meet the cliffs to the south.
The rocks along from the lighthouse were my chosen spot.
No rod rest required.

Unfortunately my bait fishing efforts proved a futile exercise with my end gear being swept into snags by the incredibly strong currents that rip past the rocks. I tried fishing lures for pollock too and after a couple of hours with nothing to show for my efforts I moved around to the Moonen Bay side of the point and tried at a couple of spots there but rather frustratingly this produced nothing either. Rather gutted I trudged back up to the car and pondered what to do. I thought about fishing somewhere else on Skye but I didn't want to spend time exploring unfamiliar ground especially on my own. I opted instead to head back across to the mainland and fish a comfortable rock mark on Loch Duich to the south of Eilian Donan Castle.

Eilean Donan Castle.
My chosen rock mark on the shore of Loch Duich. Nice spot.

Now desperate to get a bite I put out two bait rods and over the course of the next few hours I cast them around in different directions at various distances. All this effort resulted in absolutely nothing however and a sea trout jumping out of the water in front of me as I started packing up was a rotten end to a pretty miserable day fishing wise. With my tail between my legs I headed back to Applecross. On the way back I spotted two deer near the top of the pass. This cheered me up a bit.

Quite expensive.

When I got back to the campsite I found a broken rod outside my tent and was looking forward to hearing a story about a monster fish when I got down to the Inn to meet the lads. When I got down there I was glad to hear they had all caught a few pollock and the snapped rod was the result of an incredibly large one making it into the kelp and Mark applying too much pressure to try and get it out. Explaining how my day had went, with a double Kraken rum in hand to drown my sorrows, I was expecting a bit of a hard time for blanking in such spectacular fashion but the lads let me off fairly lightly and our last evening in the Inn was another good one before we headed off to our tents. With rain forecast in the morning we got up early to get the tents down to try and avoid a soaking. Packed up and on the road we headed up over the pass one last time. For now.

I'm always sad to leave Applecross but the drive over the pass always cheers me up a bit. Even more so as a driver.

Well another great fishing trip to Applecross with the lads had come to an end. We also enjoyed great food and a few hard earned drinks each night in the Applecross Inn and it was great to catch up with some of the locals too. It's a special place and I'm sure it won't be long before the boys are back.

Tight lines, Scott.

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