Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Less is more.

My workmate Stewart was off on holiday last week and wanted to go fishing. The weather looked poor at several places around the country and after much deliberation we decided to head to Skye to target pollock on lures and do a bit of bait fishing. An early start last Tuesday morning saw us arrive in Elgol at about 11:00. Parking the car it started raining so the waterproofs went on and travelling light we headed south along the cliff tops to find a place to fish.

Elgol slipway.
We weren't the only two up on the cliff.

Like much of the island the ground was covered in grasses and heather with a few small streams flowing through it making it quite boggy in places. After a while we reached a bog that was difficult to cross so we climbed down to the rocky shore and made our way along it. The rain had made some of the rocks quite slippy but before long we reached a flat barnacle covered rock platform that was a natural dead end due to the sheer cliffs to the left of it. The water looked nice and deep in front of it so we got our rods set up and as this was Stewart's first time fishing with lures I gave him a few pointers. I told him to keep tension in the line at all times to stay in contact with lure as it dropped through the water so he would feel any bites. Once down deep I told him to reel very slowly to give his Savage Gear Sandeel a nice subtle action and to add a few pauses to let the lure sink again as this is often what can trigger pollock to attack. Basically I told him that "less is more" sometimes. This advice was obviously taken in and soon did the trick with Stewart getting off to a great start catching a couple of cracking pollock.

Stewart was a bit nervous about handling the fish as he didn't want to drop them. I held this one up for him so he could take a "selfie".

Shortly afterwards I got my first pollock of the trip and after switching to a HTO Shore Jig to get a bit more distance followed it with a small coalfish. Stewart stuck with his trusty Real Pearl Savage Gear Sandeel and got another pollock and after switching back to one too and casting along to the left in front of the cliffs I had another nice fish.

I'm really enjoying targeting pollock at the moment. Can you tell?
Stewart was happy to admire his fish without handling them. Not a bad thing really and perhaps a practice I should adopt more often.
I really like my rubberised net. This smaller fish fit OK but I could really use a bigger one for the bigger pollock.

As the tide flooded it went quiet for a while then it forced us to leave our comfortable flat rocky platform. By now it was almost time to think about heading to Portree to book into our hostel. However, we soon realised that the route we had taken to reach the mark had been covered by the incoming tide.

Another escape route required.

After scouting around for a bit I managed to find what was a fairly tricky climb up to the top of the cliff. Taking our time we eventually made it up the rock face and through some insect infested heather to safety. This mark is obviously one to fish on the ebb and into the flood unless you are prepared to get stranded for a few hours or are willing to do some climbing as we did.

Looking down from the cliffs above the rock platform we had been fishing from is almost cut off by the tide.

Before heading back to the car we quickly explored a bit further along the cliffs. The water below looked very deep and yet again I found myself wishing I owned a kayak. If I do end up getting one the waters around Skye will be right up there on my list of places to use it once I am suitably experienced.

The deep water in front of these cliffs looks great for a day afloat.

With no real path back along the cliffs we followed those made by wandering livestock, successfully negotiated the large bog and soon back in the car headed off to Portree. After booking into the hostel and having a hot meal we then headed off to Carbost Pier near the Talisker Whiskey Distillery on the shore of Loch Harport. By now the rain had stopped and it was a fairly nice night.

The Talisker Whiskey Distilery. The only single malt producer on the island.

Setting up two bait rods and fishing with lures close in whilst we waited for bites things were very slow until a small shoal of mackerel broke the surface out in front of us. Tying on a metal and casting it towards them as they gave their position away I quickly caught one. By the time I had landed and dispatched it to use as bait though they had moved off out of range again. Reeling in and replacing the frozen bluey baits with fresh mackerel it didn't take too long for one of the rod tips to start going. Stewart had just retired to the car for a nap and returned to see me land a dogfish. I was quite tired too by this point and when some grey clouds started to appear over the hills behind us moving in our direction we hastily packed up and headed back to the hostel to avoid another soaking.

Up just after eight on Wednesday morning the forecast was for a dry day and we headed north to Staffin. After a quick stop for a bacon roll and a hot drink we drove along to its small harbour, parked the car and walked south along the coast to the rocks.

Many roads and paths on Skye cross fields that contain livestock. Look out for large highland bulls!
Being a well known spot to fish doesn't make the rocks at Staffin and the Kilt Rock behind them in the distance any less spectacular.

There were many accessible ledges to choose from so we picked one and carefully climbed down. It was a lovely day and fishing such a dramatic part of the coast into crystal clear deep water was a real pleasure even if our Savage Gear Sandeels weren't tempting any fish. After a while we started moving along the rocks and I decided to switch tactics and fish a large Firetail Jellyworm weedless on a Carolina rig. Casting around and slowly working it close to the bottom and up through the kelp I soon hooked a big fish that had my rod bent over and made a couple of very powerful dives close in against my almost locked up drag. Just when I though I had the fish beaten however everything went suddenly slack. The fish had somehow thrown the hook. I was quite disappointed but had a few more casts with the same lure to try and tempt another one. This wasn't successful though so we moved along the rocks again. After an hour or so we reached an impassible section and climbed up and around it. Before climbing back down again we were passing some tadpole infested shallow ponds when I spotted something out if the corner if my eye that I haven't seen since I was a young boy. Once again my net came in handy.

A newt. Very cool.

Showing it to Stewart before popping it back we climbed back down to the waters edge again. By now the tide had turned and was starting to creep up the rocks. We then reached a very deep kelp lined alcove. The water was so clear you could see right to the bottom which was made up of large round boulders. I decided to tie on a weedless jighead and fished a Daiwa D-Fin shad on it. Hoping to tempt a wrasse a small ballan did appear from the weed to investigate but after a brief inspection shot off into a large crevice and stayed there. By now I was starting to wonder if we would catch any fish and decided to try a 28g TronixPro Casting Jig to get more distance and cover more water. Persisting with this eventually paid off when I had a take quite far out and Stewart netted the first fish of the day.

Finally a Staffin pollock! I was sure as the tide picked up more would follow and at closer range.

Now mid afternoon and the sun directly above us we started working our way back. Stewart being fair skinned was a bit sun burnt and had to periodically seek shelter in the shade. As we reached our starting point I caught a small pollock but any big improvement in our fortunes I thought the rising tide would bring didn't materialise. We decided to head back along towards harbour and as we got closer to it we spotted a nice looking outcrop and decided to fish it for an hour or so with our Savage Gear Sandeels before calling it a day. After a dozen casts or so my lure was aggressively taken on the drop before I started reeling in a good fish. After the obligatory three powerful dives the fish was netted by Stewart whom by this point was rather red and had kind if given up on catching anything.

Another pollock can't resist the Savage Gear Sandeel.

This capture spurred Stewart on a bit I think and he had a final half an hour trying to bust his blank but sadly his efforts went unrewarded. I managed one final small greedy pollock just before we left.

Burnt but not beaten.

Soon back in the car we made a quick stop just outside Staffin to view the Kilt Rock from the other side.

Kilt Rock in the distance with the Mealt Waterfall in the foreground.

We decided to take the slightly longer scenic route home and stopped for fish and chips in Glencoe Village. It was a lovely evening and a nice way to end a great trip. I must say I did have some reservations about going all the way to Skye for such a short trip but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The three sessions were much shorter than I would perhaps have done had I been there for an extended period but we fished three new marks on Skye and caught some nice fish even if the fishing was slow at times. Portree was a great central base of operations and in the future a longer trip might be on the cards to revisit some of the marks I've fished there now and do some more exploration. That being said I wouldn't hesitate to do a short trip again because like working soft plastics for pollock less is indeed sometimes more.

Tight lines, Scott.

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