Sunday, December 30, 2018

Species hunting fun in Japan : Kyoto & Lake Biwa.

The second city on our itinerary was Kyoto so we caught our first bullet train to get there. We booked seats on the right hand side to give us an opportunity to see Mount Fuji on the way. It wasn't a clear day however so only the snow covered peak of the the huge mountain was poking up through the clouds as we sped by. We didn't manage to get any good photos but the sight of the massive landmark dwarfing its surroundings off in the distance was pretty impressive.

The bullet train or shinkansen. They're incredibly fast.

Being much smaller and less densely populated the feel of Kyoto was a little bit of shock to the system after all the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. It had a much more relaxed feeling to it as a result which was a welcome change. After spending the first couple of days wandering around the older parts of the city visiting temples, shrines and castles we caught a train to Lake Biwa which wasn't very far away. When we arrived we wandered along the path hugging its shoreline and soon came across a large fish related sign.

It would seem that the bluegill, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are all unwelcome additions to Japan's largest body of freshwater.

Carrying on with our walk we soon came to a bridge spanning a fairly shallow reed lined bay. Spotting a few fish down below the bridge I quickly got a float rig set up and put half a grain of cooked rice from my 7-Eleven bought lunch onto a small hook. In no time at all I was catching lots of small bluegill.

The bluegill were swimming up and taking this before my float had time to settle.
My first new species of the trip.
Not a Japanese one though!

Continuing our walk I then had a go for bass from some rocks after spotting one skulking around near some rotten wooden pilings. I didn't have any joy sadly but before we left we discovered that fish aren't the only type of creature that has been introduced to Lake Biwa. Large rodents called coypu are also an unwanted invader. Escaping from fur farms they have made the lake's shoreline their home and they can be seen in some of the reed filled bays with their young.

Coypu are a bit like a beaver but have a thick rat like tail. Seeing them was an unexpected bonus.

By now my knee was feeling a lot better so the following day we caught an old single carriage train to Arashiyama so we could visit a bamboo grove and climb a hill to visit a monkey park. If I'm honest the bamboo grove was a bit disappointing and because we went in the afternoon it was very busy too!

Lots of bamboo. Lots of people too. Go very early if you want to see lots of bamboo.

The monkey park on the other hand was one of the highlights of our time in Kyoto. I mean who doesn't love monkeys?! When you arrive at the top of the hill there is a small hut where you can go inside and buy small bags of apples and nuts. These can be fed to the monkeys who reach in to take them from you through wire screens. The juveniles in particular were very cute.

How adorable!
The views of Kyoto in the valley below made the climb worthwhile too.

In the evening we went for a walk along the banks of the River Kamo. We'd walked along it and crossed it numerous times already and I'd spotted some carp and catfish in some of the pools so this time I took my fishing gear and freelined some bread to see if I could get lucky.

Sadly my efforts were all rather futile. The water was quite low and crystal clear and any carp that my bait got near just turned away and swam off. It was a lovely spot to blank though with rich autumn colours all around.

On the morning of our last day in Kyoto we decided to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha shinto shrine. It's a very popular tourist attraction and even has a dedicated train station. The main shrine sits at the foot of Mount Inari. On the way up to this from the station the street is lined on both sides by food stalls so I treated myself to a delicious stick of grilled crab and after buying a couple of bottles we had a look around the shrine and then began to climb Mount Inari. The path up to its summit passes through thousands of red torii gates and a photo opportunity under these seems to be the reason a lot of people visit, taking a photo at the first section of torii gates before heading off. I was determined we buck this trend and go all the way to the top. 

Many visitors seem turn back after the first double row of torri gates. More take a left at the red dot after the second section of gates. The further up we went the less people there were.
Perhaps climbing a mountain whilst recovering from gout wasn't the best idea and I had to take a few breaks to rest. The view at the top wasn't particularly great either as the summit was covered in trees but the sense of achievment made the three hour climb up and back down again worthwhile and my knee actually felt better afterwards too.

That afternoon we had a well earned nap. When we got up in the evening we decided to visit the Gion district after dark to do some Geisha spotting. Incredibly after only five minutes we spotted one which Lillian was very excited about as she loves the film "Memoirs of a Geisha". Climbing mountains, sleeping and Geisha spotting had made us very hungry so we crossed over the River Kamo again and headed to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant that also had touch screen ordering and mini bullet trains to deliver your special orders.

I love catching fish and I love eating it too!
Can you tell?
I tried a few new types of sushi and the sea urchin was a revelation. It doesn't have a very atractive appearance but the taste was incredible. It's hard to describe what it is like. It tastes like the sea.

We'd had a great time exploring Kyoto and I was looking forward to visiting our third Japanese city, Osaka. Situated on the coast I was also looking forward to fishing in the sea again. Having only caught two species during our stays in the first two cities and them being European and American species I was hopeful I'd catch my first Japanese saltwater species of the trip.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Species hunting fun in Japan : Tokyo.

Last month I visited Japan for a three week long adventure with my partner Lillian. It goes without saying we were incredibly excited about visiting somewhere so far away, visiting lots of interesting and beautiful places, enjoying lots of tasty and weird food and emersing ourselves in a culture that's so different to our own back in the UK. Obviously I was also looking forward to doing the odd bit of fishing as well but with so much to see and do I was realistic about how much I'd be able to squeeze in.

I suffer from gout and during the night before we flew out I woke up and felt the first signs of an attack developing in my right knee. It's a horrible condition that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Luckily it didn't flare up properly until we reached Japan as the long journey there would have been a nightmare if it had happened twenty four hours earlier. The subsequent inflammation and associated pain in the joint reduced my mobility and slowed down our adventure for the first few days but despite finding walking difficult and at times painful I soldiered on, hobbling along as fast as I could around our first destination on the trip, the mega city of Tokyo.

Tokyo is massive. We went up to the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building near our hotel to take a look. The city extends as far as the eye can see. In every direction. Tokyo is mind bogglingly massive.

Staying in Shinjuku we used the metro to visit a few places of interest nearby while my knee was a problem. On the to way to Shinjuku station we spotted this infamous mutated dinosaur doing what it's infamous for, attacking Tokyo.

Godzilla on the rampage.

It might be a sprawling metropolis but Tokyo also has many beautiful parks where you can get away from the crowds. We visited the Meiji Shrine and it's gardens early one morning before the bulk of tourists arrived and it was blissfully quiet.

Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. It is situated in a beautiful park the has hundreds of different species of trees planted throughout.
The Japanese visit the shrine to make an offering and pray.
After leaving the shrine we visited it's nearby gardens where there were some impressive Bonsai trees...
...and a pond full of Koi carp. If I'd had some tackle with me I may have been tempted.

On day three Lillian assured me she'd found a place where I could do some fishing in the sea. We caught a couple of trains and headed to DiverCity Tokyo Plaza shopping centre. After some lunch there we headed to the fishing spot, the Seaside Park in Odaiba, passing a huge statue of the mecha Gundam, a massive robot fighting suit, on the way.

The Japanese don't do things by halves. At just under 20m tall the statue was pretty impressive.

Sadly when we got to the fishing spot it was quite small being restricted to a few areas. As is usually the case the best looking bits where we spotted some large seabream swimming around and a stingray feeding in the shallows were off limits. I had a go in the area where fishing was permitted but it was pretty shallow and I didn't catch anything.

By this stage my knee was begining to feel a bit better and I was desperate to catch some fish so a short visit to Ishigaya Fishing Centre was squeezed in between some delicious lunch in a small sushi bar and a walk around the Imperial Palace gardens.

Tackle, including a bamboo rod, as well as a ball of paste for bait was provided.
The pond was well stocked, catching fish was incredibly easy and I quickly got bored of catching carp. The same carp (Cyprinus Carpio) that we have in the UK. If I'm honest it was a bit dissapointing that the first fish I had caught on the trip was something I can catch back home.

On the morning of our last day in Tokyo we visited Tsukiji fish market for some tasty street food before we visited the Wakasu Seaside Park Fishing Facilities near the Tokyo Gate Bridge for a second attempt at catchig something from the sea. It's a very long breakwater and as its name suggestes it's dedicated to use by anglers. It was very busy when we arrived but despite being lined with anglers none of them seemed to be catching anything. Unfortunately I didn't do any better and when it started raining after an hour or so I admitted defeat.

Our time in Tokyo had come to an end. Despite the discomfort caused by my inflamed knee we'd had a great time exploring a tiny fraction of the massive city. I hadn't done that much fishing and what I'd managed to do had been pretty dissapointing but there was plenty of time left to do some more and I was sure I'd soon catch my first new species.

Tight lines, Scott.

Click here for the next part.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Unwelcome break.

On my drive home from Devon I took a slight detour and stopped at Welcome Break services near Oxford. I'm now able to report that anglers aren't welcome at all, at least not if they intend to stealthily do some fishing using a piece of line, split shot, a barbless hook and small chunks from the crust of a Subway sandwich. This fact only became apparent after I'd caught about a dozen goldfish from the large water feature at the bottom of the service stations' food court area when I was rudely interrupted and had to make a sharp exit.

Goldfish come in all shapes and sizes. From the traditional fairground prize type... silver ones.
This one is a shubunkin, an ornamental goldfish with a long tail and the odd metallic scale.
This one is bog standard brown goldfish. This is what they should actually look like and what ornamental goldfish revert back to if they breed without a selection process.

Anyway, just to clarify, anglers aren't welcome to take a break at Welcome Break services near Oxford. If they do they might get chased from said rest stop by site management and security just like I was. You have been warned!

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Good heavens!

After the fairly disappointing fishing of the first half of my south coast adventure I drove west to Devon to do a bit of coarse fishing. I headed to Angler's Paradise to try and catch my first koi carp and golden rudd. I say Angler's Paradise but really I didn't fish the specimen lakes around the main complex as they are for residents of the holiday homes situated there only. As I was staying in a campsite down the road I was limited to fishing the day ticket waters that are situated nearby and over four days I fished two lakes in Angler's Eldorado and one in Angler's Shangri La. My visit got off to a great start and within the first few hours fishing I'd caught both my targets from the "Koi lake". The novelty of catching golden rudd quickly wore off however as the Koi lake is absolutely full of them.

Not technically a new species but still my first golden rudd.
My first ever koi carp was caught on single maggot fished on the bottom under a waggler.
Freelining maggots to cruising fish worked very well too. I simply cast onto a lily pad and slowly pulled it off into the water as a cruising carp approached.
Sight fishing was great fun and my third koi carp also fell to freelined maggots.

Things went a bit quiet on the Koi lake after my third koi carp so I moved to the neighbouring Tench and Orfe pond. Starting with single maggot under a waggler I quickly discovered that it was full of lots of small... 

...tench and...

Over the remaining days of my trip I switched to fishing a method feeder and had an enjoyable time. Fishing hair rigged double corn produced plenty of nice carp and I was pleasantly surprised that there were koi carp in all three of the lakes I fished.

I mainly fished down the margins to various water features.
Nothing fancy just double corn and micro pellets.
It usually didn't take too long for my rod tip to pull round.
All the fish were in great condition including this nice common carp.
In amongst the mirror carp I caught this stunning looking fully scaled fish.
I caught the odd small tench too including this lovely golden one.
I'm pretty sure I caught more koi carp than common carp and mirror carp put together.
With their colourful patterns they are beautiful looking fish.
I caught quite a few of these orange and black ones.

Before I knew it another south coast adventure had come to an end and I was heading back up the road. I must say I was very impressed with both the Angler's Eldorado and Angler's Shangri La day ticket waters and as I fancy a few sessions targeting the catfish and specimen carp in the two ponds I didn't fish in the Angler's Eldorado complex I may be back down there again next year at some point.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Chance encounter.

Last month I spent a week camping and fishing on the south coast. My trip was split into two halves with the first three days being spent in Dorset. On two of those days I had booked myself a space aboard Weymouth skipper Colin Penny's boat Flamer IV. On both days we were due to spend some time drifting over the famous Shambles sand banks and I was hoping to catch my first ever brill while doing so. Sadly however the first day's fishing was very poor and due to a deterioration in the weather the second day was cancelled. Obviously this was a major disappointment but I ended up driving along to Swanage Pier twice where I relaxed, kept things simple and enjoyed a couple of fun sessions fishing rigs with small hooks baited with ragworm on ultralight tackle. On my first visit the end of the pier was off limits due to restoration work being carried out but fishing further up than I usually do I was still hopeful something odd might turn up, with a black faced blenny at the top of my wish list. I caught no little surprises though and the main species caught by some distance was corkwing wrasse. If I said there are lots of them underneath Swanage Pier it would be a massive understatement! In amongst the endless corkwings, the odd tompot blenny and a few dozen pouting I did manage to catch a few Baillon's wrasse too which brought a smile to my face. With their colourful markings I think they just pip the rock cook to the title of the nicest looking of the wrasse species that can be caught in the UK.

A great example of the stunning markings on the head of a Baillon's wrasse.

Swanage Pier is the only venue that I'm aware of in the UK where these can be caught with any reliability and I even managed to catch the same one three times during my first day there. It had a small deformity just behind it's left eye in case you're wondering how I know it was the same one. I dare say if you took good photos you could use their facial markings to identify individual fish.

Arriving to begin my second session the end of the pier had re-opened and walking down the steps onto its lower deck there were already a few people fishing in the open area in the middle of the deck. As I got closer I thought I recognised an angler that I knew but had never met in person before so I went over and said hello. The person I'd accidentally bumped into was Adam Kirby, an angler with over thirty years' experience in several disciplines who now focuses on lure fishing.

Adam with an impressive lure caught grey gurnard.

Adam currently contributes to Sea Angler magazine and is a member of the Prostaff team with UK tackle company Tronix. He is also very passionate about light rock fishing in it's purest form and recently published the 500th post on his excellent "Light Rock Fishing" blog. More important than any of that though I'd also been told by several mutual friends who had already met him that he was a really nice guy and I'm happy to report that he is! We got on very well and enjoyed fishing together, talking about fishing and species hunting too. Adam also caught a Baillon's Wrasse whilst he was on the pier but with a little more skill and finesse than my lazy efforts with bait, catching it on a tiny Mushi creature lure mounted on a equally tiny jighead worked slowly along the bottom.

Baillon's wrasse light rock fishing style!

Pretty soon it was time to leave as the pier was being closed for the evening. On the way back to the car we carried on chatting and exchanged some mark information for various species. It was a real pleasure meeting Adam, the chance encounter being the highlight of my stay in Dorset really and I hope we can fish together again in the future.

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Slippery customers.

Butterfish were probably the first fish I ever encountered. As a child I lived next to the sea and remember messing around when the tide was out, turning over stones and occasionally finding one underneath. When I became a speies hunting angler I never thought they'd be a realistic fishing target but over the last few years I've managed to catch a few. Back in July I even managed to catch three of them during the one session at Burntisland Harbour.

One of the three butterfish I caught.

Believe it or not the butterfish is a member of the blenny family and speaking of blennies I also caught a Yarrell's blenny during the session too. Burntisland regularly produces both these rarely caught species so it's definitely the place to visit if you're involved in a species hunt and want a good chance of catching either of them or indeed both!

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, September 07, 2018

They're great.

It's been a while since I put a post up. It's not that I've not been out fishing, I just hadn't done anything that interesting for a while or really caught anything of note. At the start of the summer I spent a fair bit of time having a go at fly fishing for trout at various fisheries. Fishing lures was the most successful approach with one pattern in particular proving to be very effective.

The Ally McCoist lure. They're great!

It was almost entirely rainbow trout and blue trout that fell for Ally McCoist but it also produced my first tiger trout. They're a hybrid of brown trout and brook trout and are a pretty cool looking fish with their tiger like markings.

My first tiger trout.

Despite enjoying a reasonable amount of success I have to be honest and say that I'm not a massive fan of this style of fishing. I still need to catch a golden trout and a brook trout though so I'll no doubt be tying on an Ally McCoist and doing a roly poly retrieve again at some point.

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Species Hunting fun on Cyprus.

Earlier this month I had a week's holiday in Protaras on the island of Cyprus with my partner Lillian. My fishing expectations weren't very high as before I went I had been warned that the fishing wasn't as good as other parts of the Mediterranean. The chances of catching something new including a lionfish were good though so I was excited about that prospect at least. I only took a small amount of ultra light tackle with me to fish two styles, light rock fishing and to do a bit of bait fishing too. I treated myself to a new reel prior to the trip and loaded it up with fresh braid.

My new Daiwa Fuego LT 2500 loaded with 0.3PE Sunline Small Game. Lovely.

I fished for an hour or so every day and as I had been forewarned overall the fishing was pretty tough. During the first session it soon became apparent that there were a few puffers around. I wouldn't have minded these so much if I'd caught a silver cheeked toadfish but instead all I caught was a puffer species I'd caught before whilst on holiday on Crete.

The yellow spotted puffer. A species that's originally from the Red Sea. Known as Lessepsian migrants they are named after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat who proposed the building of the Suez Canal, the commercial waterway they use to make their way north to the Mediterranean.

Over the first few days pretty much all I caught was yellow spotted puffers, with just a solitary rainbow wrasse and a couple of small parrotfish managing to find my lures and bait before them. Most of the coast was extremely shallow and the water was incredibly clear too. I'm not sure if this had anything to do with the lack of fish but I soldiered on trying several different spots.

The coast looked great but there didn't seem to be many fish around. Fishing in the sun is still hard to beat even when you're not catching much..

Eventually trying new spots paid off when I found an area that held loads of fish. Unfortunately it was a series of ponds full of koi carp outside a sushi restaurant. How annoying!

I've been known to carry out covert fishing operations in corporate ponds in the past and I was slightly tempted to carry out a dawn raid but they were just too cute and friendly so I let them be.

Despite the seeming lack of fish in the sea the locals were out having a go almost everywhere we went which was slightly encouraging and as ever Lillian was very generous allowing me to fish whenever I thought there might be a chance of catching something. At Ayia Napa harbour we saw a few bluespotted cornetfish as we walked around so I got permission to try and catch one.

A local float fishing at the mouth of Aiya Napa Harbour with a very long pole.
A tourist fishing at the mouth of Aiya Napa Harbour with lures on an ultra light setup.

Fishing small curly tail soft plastics on a 2.3g #10 jighead quickly near the surface I soon had several elongated fish following and having a go at my lure. After several hits I hooked up with a couple of small barracuda and then after a quiet spell where the fish seemed to loose interest I caught a small bluespotted cornetfish, a truly bizarre looking fish and a very slimy one too. I was very pleased to catch my first new species of the trip.

My first ever bluespotted cornetfish.

Midway through our holiday I decided to use the depth charts on Navionics' website to locate some deeper water, something I probably should have done sooner to be honest. I located a mark with good depth close in down the coast towards Cape Greco and had a few sessions there in the evenings as it got cooler. I was hoping to catch a lionfish there but had no luck sadly. The mark was a bit more productive though and I caught quite a lot of combers. Mostly the common variety but I also caught a few painted comber too, with the odd Atlantic lizardfish and some more yellow spotted puffers taking my drop shotted scented lures too. I also hooked something a little larger that I suspect was a bream but it managed to throw the hook unfortunately so I didn't find out what it was.

A nice colourful painted comber.

On the morning of our final day on the island we stopped at a small harbour on our way to Larnaca so I could have a few final casts. Unsurprisingly it was full of yellow spotted puffers although I did manage to add a couple of goby species to my trip tally as well. I also spotted a small wrasse that I couldn't positively identify but the puffers and gobies were way more aggressive and repeatedly beat the wrasse to my bait. Just before we left to get some lunch I fished over a very shallow sandy area and was pleasantly surprised when I caught my second new species of the trip.

My first Red Sea goatfish, yet another Lessepsian migrant.

Incredibly I picked a restaurant for lunch that was right next to Larnaca harbour and as we had an hour or so to kill after we had eaten before having to make the short drive to the airport I got the green light for a few more final casts. This proved fruitful and saw me adding a few more species to my tally in the shape of a few rock gobies, some axillary seabream, a plain red mullet and a marbled rabbitfish. From under the shade of the pontoon I was fishing on I then caught my final new species of the trip, another little invader from the Red Sea.

I knew this was a cardinalfish but I had to do some Googling in the airport departure lounge to discover it was a pharaoh cardinalfish.

So the fishing had been tough but I still managed to catch seventeen species including three new ones which are in bold below. Also worth noting that just over a third of the species caught are Lessepsian migrants and I've underlined these below.
  1. Atlantic Lizardfish
  2. Axillary Seabream
  3. Black Goby
  4. Blue Spotted Cornetfish
  5. Bucchich's Goby 
  6. Common Comber
  7. Marbled Rabbitfish
  8. Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse
  9. Ornate Wrasse
  10. Painted Comber 
  11. Parrotfish
  12. Pharaoh Cardinalfish
  13. Plain Red Mullet
  14. Red Sea Goatfish
  15. Rock Goby
  16. Yellow Spotted Puffer
  17. Yellowtail Barracuda

So whilst we had an enjoyable holiday on the beautiful island of Cyprus I'm not sure I could recommend it for the saltwater shore fishing. I think if I were to return I'd have a go fishing in the islands freshwater instead.

Tight lines, Scott.