Monday, January 30, 2017

2016. Mixing business with pleasure.

I've not been out fishing yet this year, mainly due to catching every bug that seems to have been going around and also hurting my foot. Whilst recovering I've had plenty of time to look back at the fishing I did in 2016, think about the year ahead and ponder what direction my fishing might take.

The weather at the start of last year was truly dreadful. By the end of January I hadn't been fishing at all and badly needed a fix. To try and escape the harsh UK winter I took advantage of some very cheap flights and headed to Santander on the north coast of Spain for a few days with my girlfriend Lillian. Conditions there were not, shall we say, exactly conducive for using the light game tackle I'd taken with me. Still, we enjoyed our short stay and I managed to find an hour or two here and there, along with some shelter up the estuary away from the open coast, where I successfully winkled out a few small fish.

The conditions on the coast weren't ideal for the tackle I had with me.
My first fish of 2016 was this feisty common comber.

Luckily I didn't have to wait long to escape the miserable UK weather again. In March I was off abroad again for a week's fishing on Fuertaventura with two of my mates, Lee and Nick. The windy conditions hampered our lure fishing for larger species but we found some sheltered spots, caught lots of fish on our light game tackle and had a great time. As well as enjoying fishing in the sun all over the island, eating plenty of tasty seafood washed down with cold cerveza and rum, the trip also had some memorable pain related moments. Lee and I endured some epic sunburn whilst Nick experienced a slightly painful greater weever sting and accidentally fell down a hole in a breakwater we were fishing from after dark. No lasting damage was done and amongst over thirty species by the three of us I managed to tempt my first redlip blenny out of a harbour wall crack after much persistence. A species I've had several frustrating failed attempts at catching during past visits to the Canary Islands.

It was good to finally get this blenny off of my back. I've seen lots of them in the past but find the species to be a rather fussy little buggers.
They have quite an odd upper lip and a big set of fangs too.

Back in the UK again things began warming up and I enjoyed a surprise capture when my mate Dan and I visited Greenock in April to target wrasse. While we were setting up our tackle another angler told us that he had caught a tadpole fish there a few days previously. Very interesting we thought but were still quite shocked when Dan caught one shortly after we started fishing. It was very cool to see one in the flesh but to say I was a little jealous would be an understatement and I thought catching two in one day was a bit of a tall order. Towards the end of the session however I got lucky too and caught one as well which I was over the moon about.

The aptly named tadpole fish.
They have a huge cavernous mouth filled with lots of little sharp teeth.

In May I left the UK yet again and headed over to Ireland with my mate Martin for a few days, to have a go fishing for shad in St Mullins. I've been saying I'd go over for the shad's arrival for a few years now so it was good to finally go there to join the dozens of anglers who line the banks of the River Barrow to try and catch these rare fish as they head upstream to spawn. It was a fairly wet but enjoyable trip, we both caught our first shad and I'd love to go back and do it again.

Tazmanian devils ready to go. These are the lure of choice for most who turn up to target the shad.
Shad are a beautiful fish whose scales reflect the light in a multitude of iridescent colours. Photos just don't do them justice at all.
Martin with one of his many shad. He caught over fifty.

In June I got myself a new job in the soon to open Edinburgh Angling Centre. Getting the shop ready for its opening in August was a big task and this meant there was plenty of overtime available. Whilst this meant I had lots of money to spend on fishing tackle at a discounted price it also resulted in less time for me to go fishing sadly. Come the end of July I was glad to get a break from setting up the shop and went on holiday for a fortnight to Croatia with my girlfriend Lillian. Light game tackle went too and I enjoyed a fair amount of fun fishing in the Adriatic for the first time as we travelled up the county's stunning coastline from Cavtat all the way up to Pula. The highlight of the fishing I did during the trip was a session catching several gilthead seabream that gave my reel's drag a vigorous work out.

These give a great scrap on light game tackle. Awesome.

One of my targets for 2016 was to try and catch a dozen new species of fish. By October I had caught eleven and headed to Loch Etive to try and complete this little personal challenge by catching a twelfth. My target was the diminutive fifteen spined stickleback and I had an enjoyable few hours wading in the bladderwrack hunting them, eventually tempting one out of its weedy lair with a tiny piece of ragworm fished under a pole float which it eagerly shot out and attacked in a most aggressive manner.

Such a cool little fish.

Later that month my mate Lee came up to visit me for a week and we headed up to the Highlands for four days. We enjoyed the scenery, tested my car's breaks to avoid wildlife that had strayed on the road, had some great food and drink and some varied fishing too. For me the highlight of the trip was meeting up with my mate Dimitrios over on Skye and us both witnessing Lee catching a ling on a slow jig whilst we were targeting big pollock below the iconic lighthouse at Neist Point.

Highland cow roadblock. Can't get much more Scottish can you?
Lee's first ever ling was a cracker. Probably my favourite fish of the year and I didn't even catch it.

In November I tried to add a thirteenth new species to my 2016 tally. I drove all the way down to Nottingham on my day off after receiving some information about a venue that I was informed held a health population of the UK's smallest freshwater fish species, the nine spined stickleback. A long way to go for a tiny fish but I caught my target and had a lot of fun micro fishing so it was well worth the effort made.

I drove over 500 miles in one day to catch this little chap. Nurse!

As last year drew to a close I managed to get out a few times to trot maggots for grayling. After a few sessions where all I caught were out of season brown trout I managed to catch some lovely ladies of the stream. I love fishing with a centrepin. I finding it rather relaxing and during these sessions I also improved my casting technique a lot too. I'll be doing more of it before winter is over hopefully.

A perfect way to end the year.

So whilst I did less fishing last year than the previous few, mainly due to working more hours, 2016 still produced some enjoyable sessions, a few interesting new species and provided me with a few more great fishing memories. As I mentioned at the start of this post, this year hasn't got off to a great start and I've yet to wet a line in 2017.  I'm off to Madeira in a fortnight for a week long holiday though so I'm looking forward to that enormously. I've also been thinking about what other destinations I'd like to visit later in the year and I might travel further afield. I turn forty this year as well so I think a big fishy adventure of some description is on the cards. Closer to home, I'm not quite sure where I want to take my UK fishing this year if I'm honest. Whilst I'm enjoying my new job it will no doubt limit my fishing opportunities again this year and that's something I'll just have to get used to I suppose. Target wise I don't think I'll bother setting myself any goals this year and will just try and get out there and enjoy my fishing when I can.

Tight lines, Scott.