Saturday, 31 March 2012

Ullapool : Between a rock mark and a freshwater place.

Jake had a job delivering two large terracotta urns to a lovely lady in Inverness and has some friends who live near Ullapool so when he was given clearance to stay overnight this presented a great opportunity to do a spot of fishing and we rarely miss those! We planned to head up to Rhue lighthouse to the west of Ullapool to target pollock and also do a spot of LRF in the harbour in Ullapool itself to hopefully pick up a few new species for this years count. We set off at 8am on Thurs morning and after a 5hr drive up through some lovely scenery we arrived at the rock mark. The lovely weather we had been having in Edinburgh for the last few days was left behind though and it was quite windy with grey clouds and the odd light shower.

Rhue Lighthouse on a cold and misty March afternoon.

We made the short walk down to the rocks in front of the lighthouse and setup our gear.

Another shot of the lighthouse.

The tide was ebbing and we began fishing. I started off with a Savage Gear Sandeel Slug in Sandeel fished on a weedless hook 3ft behind a 1/1oz bullet lead and Jake opted for a Baby Slug-Go in Arkansas Shiner on a 10g jighead. Fishing was slow for the first hour or so and I changed over to a Berkley Firetail Jellyworm in classic black body, red tail whilst Jake soldiered on with the Slug-Go. His persistence would soon pay off. As he worked the lure around the edges of a large submerged rock he missed a bite and then recasting to the same spot soon had a fish on that took his lure on the drop and put a nice bend in his rod. After a brief fight he landed his first fish of the day, a 3lb pollock, that had swallowed the entire lure. 

This pollock swallowed the entire Slug-Go.
Destined for the table.
The eye of a hunter.

Two casts later he hooked another, much smaller, pollock that again had engulfed the entire lure. Needless to say I quickly changed to a Slug-Go! We both thought this would be the start of a busy period but unfortunately it wasn't. After a short while with no further takes we both began to explore a bit. I headed in one direction and Jake in the other.

I took the high road.
Jake took the low road.

I found a nice looking bay area with lots of nice big boulders and kelp beds close in covered by 3-4ft of water and a nice deep drop off on the other side. After deciding where I wanted to fish and working out how to clamber down I also decided to switch from a Carolina to a Texas rig.  I began casting to my left and worked my way clockwise and after covering the area with the Slug-Go I changed back to the black/red Berkley Firetail Jellyworm. After a few casts I felt everything go solid. Fish on! I had hooked it just as I started to retrieve and as I was reeling it in I was conscious of the boulders and kelp. My drag was set fairly tight so I managed to keep him from going to ground a couple of times but just as I got it close in it made one final surge and managed to get round the back of one of the boulders! Ping! My braid had gone on the rock. I was pretty annoyed with myself. I quickly tied on a new leader, bullet lead and tried a couple of lures then abandoned the Texas rig and switched to a 23g Savagear Sandeel in pearl white but didn't get any further interest. At this point I went back along to where Jake was and he was doing a spot of LRF in the rockpools and fissures in the rocks. A spider crab and a few sea anemones had tried to eat his Power Isome but there was no sign of any fish so we decided to head along to Ullapool harbour.

A short drive later we were at the harbour. Jake dropped his Gulp! Fish Fry down the harbour wall and straight away we could see some small fish attacking it. After a bit of jigging he managed to hook one. A closer inspection and a bit of discussion and we concluded it was a darkly coloured sand goby and he had been quite lucky to catch it!

Their tiny mouths make them very hard to hook.
Jake had foul hooked this sand goby in the chin.
They all count though!

Pectoral fins on sand gobies are fused together forming a suction cup.

After spending a short time trying to catch another and them stealing the tiny chunks of Power Isome in the process without us managing to hook any more we decided to try investigating the rest of the harbour. We moved around the edges jigging away down the sides. Whilst the tide was almost fully out at this point there was still a reasonable depth of water but we were fishing from quite a height which, combined with the wind, made staying in contact with our lures difficult. After a while I decided to go back and try for a goby whilst Jake continued to explore the harbour. Whilst there were a couple of gobies there and they were biting at the lure I just couldn't hook one on my #10 Decoy Rocket jighead and didn't have any smaller hooks with me. Very frustrating as I really hate blanking and it's even worse when you know that fish are there!

We then decided to head to Jake's friends Alison and Aaron's house just outside Ullapool. They had very kindly agreed to put us up for the night and shortly after arriving they made us a lovely meal which provided us with some much needed sustenance! After dinner Aaron showed us some underwater footage he had filmed using a mini remote operated vehicle. Fascinating stuff with lots of great footage of pollock and small wrasse swimming around the remains of kelp beds that had been partially destroyed following a storm. Quite a few crabs too scurrying around on the bottom or with claws up in defensive mode as the R.O.V. approached them. Most impressive was some slow motion footage of sandeels appearing from sandbanks and also being chased and eaten by mackerel. Awesome stuff. We were then shown a photograph of a large salmon that had been caught from the nearby river by their son Eli. He offered to take us down to the river to see if there were any brown trout around. After a short walk we were on the bank next to a nice looking pool and before long a few trout were seen rising. We spent a few hours fishing various small paddletail grubs with our LRF gear. Jake hooked a fish first cast but wasn't expecting it so it got off! I missed a couple of bites too. Eli hooked two fish but they both threw the hook when they jumped out of the water. Pretty soon it was dark and we made our way back to the house. With the offer of a warm welcome, a place to stay and with some better fishing to be had in the sea in the summer when a few more fish are around not to mention access to some superb trout and salmon fishing later in the year, it's safe to say we may well be visiting the area again!

Tight lines, Hutch.

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