Sunday, 29 July 2012

Variety is the spice of life.

Jake picked me up at 8:45 yesterday morning, we headed down into East Lothian and to be honest we didn't decide where we were actually going until we were half way there! We parked up and walked down the path, through a small dark tunnel and arrived on the sandy shore of Cove harbour.

The sun was shining and the water was crystal clear. We started of with a spot of LRF. Exploring close in amongst the rocks and weed. There was no sign of life though and just as we were about to move I spotted a submerged large flat and dropped my Isome down the edge. I was soon getting little taps and then a more solid little bite resulted in a small blenny being hoisted out. I repeated this and was rewarded with a small long spined sea scorpion.

Jigheads? What are those?

Jake had a go at the same spot but didn't have any luck. He then waded out onto a skeer of rock and I headed round to the outer harbour wall. I managed another blenny but the lack of fish was quite surprising as it just screamed fish. Perhaps it was just too bright. Jake came around to join me and we decided to head to another spot.

On the walk back up to the car we looked over to a rocky peninsula to the north west and discussed its potential. By the time we had reached the top of the path we had decided to go and check it out. After a walk down a dirt road, hopping over a few fences, walking along the edge of a field and climbing down a grassy embankment we were finally on the rocky platform. However it was a lot shallower than we thought it would be, with boulder fields stretching out as far as we could see. Jake cast out a Ribster but lost it in a snag on his first cast. After trying Isome at close range with no reward we quickly decided to leave although I think it looked like a good mark to try for bass with surface/shallow diving plugs in the right conditions so we may be back here!

Heading back up the grassy path and back to the car we were both pretty sweaty and Jake was also a bit grumpy as well. He only had about another hour or so to fish and was facing a dreaded blank. We decided to head to the outflow at Torness Power Station to try for a bass or worst case scenario raid the rockpools for a blenny.

Arriving on the reef Jake went with his Major Craft Crostage and started lobbing his new found favourite Lunker City lure, the Ribster in Arkansas Shiner. I went with my Shimano Diaflash and half a large pink Power Isome. After 10-15 min Jake hooked a fish and had a nice bend in his rod and a big grin on his face. I looked over anticipating the fish coming to the surface as bass normally do fairly quickly but it didn't. Strange I thought then the reason became apparent when the fish finally did come up. It wasn't a bass! Jake had caught a nice ballan wrasse!

Blank busted and the grumpy angler cracks a smile!
Quite an unusual catch from this mark although Jake has caught them before many years ago but on ragworm.
Jake's last Arkansas Shiner Ribster. He would lose it shortly afterwards. Just as well he's ordered a few more packs!

We fished on for a while longer but no bass were caught and Jake had to head up the road. Blank avoided though he was a happy man. I wanted to fish some more though and got Jake to drop me off in Dunbar where I headed down to the harbour. I sent local angler and fellow The Lure Forum member Nick Aitken a text to see if he fancied joining me as he lives near the harbour. He text back to say he was on his way home from work and would pop down when he got back. To pass the time whilst waiting for Nick I headed to flattie corner and stuck with my #14 hook with two 0.8g split shot and put a tiny section of pink Isome on. Casting out I was quickly into a small flounder. Couple of casts later a second. Then a small plaice, my first from this harbour. By the time Nick arrived I had caught 5 flounders and 4 plaice. I caught another 2 flounders and gave Nick a #14 hook so he could join in the fun but whilst he was getting plenty of follows they were tormenting him and he just couldn't manage to catch one although he did hook one but it came off. Here are a few photos of the flatfish. Can you correctly identify all 7?

The correct answers are at the bottom of the report.

Next up I got a little surprise. After travelling 250 miles during the week to get a sand goby I caught one from Dunbar harbour! I couldn't believe it! Anyway, nice to know they are still in there.

Where have you been every other time I came to Dunbar harbour trying to catch you this year?!
At this point Nick suggested a move so we headed over the back of the harbour to target wrasse. On the way we passed some nice big rockpools that I'd never fished before and I couldn't resist! It wasn't long before one of the regular inhabitants of the rockpools at Dunbar appeared and greedily scoffed the little chunk of Isome.

Possibly the most aggressive salt water species of fish I've encountered. 9 times out of 10 they just charge out into the open and smash your lure.

After that we headed out to the end of a rock skeer and started fishing 3-4" soft plastics down the edge. It wasn't long before we were both getting bites but we couldn't get any hook ups. Shortly afterwards we spotted the culprits. Two small ballans were coming out from underneath a huge boulder and nipping away at the lures. This continued for a while and then I decided enough was enough and switched from my Shimano Speedmaster Drop Shot rod to my Diaflash and dropped down the split shot rig I had been using previously. I missed the first couple of bites but let the third one develop a bit more and the fish hooked itself. Drag locked up the Diaflash had a nice bend in it but I just raised it up to stop the wrasse getting back into its lair. Soon pulled out away from the weed it was hoisted up into my hand.

My first Scottish ballan wrasse for a while. Lovely!

I soon followed it up with a second wrasse from the same spot. 

Nice dark brown fish with a bright orange underside.

At this point Nick, who had persisted with the larger soft plastics, switched over to an Isome on a #4 aberdeen hook. After this change he was still getting bites but no hook ups. I then pulled out a third wrasse.

Chocolate and Lime. My favourite!

Seeing this Nick quickly switched over to the #14 hook I had given him earlier and carried on trying. He soon hooked a wrasse but it charged into some kelp and came off. I then went to check on our exit from the mark as the tide was flooding in behind us and would soon be cutting us off. It had a little bit to go though so I returned to close to where Nick was but decided to try dropping my Isome into a nice big gap in the kelp. I let it land on a large rock and just let it sit there. A small fish appeared and tentatively had a little nibble. I gave the Isome a little twitch. It had another nibble. I then raised it up off the bottom slightly and that did the trick nicely! I quickly lifted the fish out to discover it was a leopard spotted goby!

Looks like a black goby I hear you say.

These can look very dark and it can be vary hard to make out their markings when they are out of the water. I popped it into a small rockpool to reveal the beautiful electric blue edges on its fins.

Hard to believe it's the same fish isn't it?

I felt a bit sorry for the goby as it looked like the local wrasse had been nipping at its tail fin as it was in a bit of a ragged mess! I popped it back where I caught it from and returned to Nick. He was still patiently trying to catch a wrasse and whilst I was trying to sort out the tangled mess that the goby had made of my split shot rig he finally hooked and landed one. Nick having only really taken up fishing with soft lures this year having enjoyed many years as a successful bait fisherman had just caught his first wrasse on one and was a very happy man.

Nick's first lure caught ballan wrasse. The first of many no doubt.

At this point we had to leave the mark before we got trapped and we timed our exit to perfection really! It was about 6pm and I had to go and catch my train up the road so we called it a day. We walked up the road and Nick went home to order a few packs of #14 hooks! All in all a great days fishing. A few different marks. Two great guys to fish them with. 7 species and 23 fish caught between the three of us. Happy days!

Tight lines, Hutch.

Flatfish I.D. challenge answer.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Birthday bass bonanza!

I became a year older on Friday, so in order to celebrate I dragged myself out of bed at 4.45am and headed out to fish! First mission was to extract myself from the house without waking my wife and kids! Although it was my birthday they didn't want to celebrate at 5am. My next mission was to try to catch 14 bass to take me to my 2012 century! A short drive later I was at the mark with my bass gear and my LRF gear. There were a couple of other anglers there but according to them it was "very quiet" and only one of them had caught a bass and that was the evening before. Unperturbed by their bleak reports I rigged up my new found lure par excellence, a Lunker City Ribster in Arkansas Shiner, on a 10.5g #2/0 AGM Football jighead. The tide was high and I began working the lure around the reef, over the shelves and little gulleys that are so apparent at low tide. The technique employed was pretty straight forward, cast out, allow the lure to sink to about 8ft then with a slow retrieve add some jigs upwards and allow to fall again. Occasionally I would add a slow straight retrieve with no twitches. After about 15 minutes the lure was totally smashed by a bass who pretty much hooked itself then preceded to tear about in the swell. It felt a good fish and put a lovely curve in my Major Craft Crostage rod! It was still landed pretty quickly and measured 44cm on The Lure Forum ruler. It was a nice looking fish too with quite a bronze back and it had obviously been feeding well as it was pretty chunky!

Off the mark.

The fish was released and a few casts later I had another bass nail the Ribster. It was a smaller fish at around 40cm but still gave a good account of itself before it was landed and released. I had a couple more before the action slowed down a bit but one thing was for sure, the bass love Ribsters above everything else. A couple of fishermen were fishing near me using redgills, ragworm, live shrimp and little plugs but they were not catching anything! Over the next few hours the Ribster accounted for a further 7 bass meaning that I was only 3 fish away from catching my 100th bass of 2012. Meanwhile a few other "anglers" had turned up but they were all blanking. Needless to say I was getting a few jealous looks!

Ribster claims another victim.

The tide had now dropped quite a lot which allowed me to get out onto the reef and also gave me access to deeper water close in . I changed tactics at this point and went with the LRF gear. A small pink Isome was mounted on a 1.8g #10 Decoy Rocket jighead and cast into the flow and gently twitched back towards me. After a few casts I had a knock and reeled in to find my Isome missing. I rigged another one cast again to the same spot and it was nailed on the drop! The lighter gear really lets you enjoy the small bass and after a bit of tearing around another one was landed, photographed and released. Brilliant!

Great fun on the LRF setup.

I carried on and hooked and landed another before I caught the magic no. 14! My 100th Bass this year was duly landed and photographed before being released. 

Bass #100 of 2012. The perfect birthday present!

I called it a day at that point and managed to get back to the house by 1pm. It was a great session and brilliant to reach 100 bass on my birthday. It didn't take long either which meant I was able to spend the afternoon playing with my kids whilst sampling some of my birthday whiskey! I wish it was my birthday every day! 

Tight lines, Schogsky.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Carlingwalk Loch suprise.

On Wed I had a job doing a removal in Castle Douglas so needless to say I built in a bit of time to visit Carlingwalk Loch! The forecast was for heavy persistent rain across Dumfries and Galloway, however when I arrived at the loch after loading the van it was warm and sunny! I only had an hour to fish which meant I couldn't really work my way round the loch. 

I started fishing close to the van where there was a lot of lily pads and weed beds. I wanted to try one of the Croatian bumble lures as we had got hold of a couple and they are perfect for this type of weedy swim. I went with the popper type and cast it out into the weedy growth. The action on the lure was good and it spat water and walked the dog when i gave it little twitches. It was also surprisingly weedless and meant I could work it through lilly pads and over surface weed beds. No bites were forthcoming though so I swapped over to a Savage Gear Soft 4Play in Fungus Roach. I hopped around reedy bays working the lure through the clear water but to no avail. 

With about 15 mins to go until I had to leave I found myself in a little bay. I had waded out till i was knee deep and suddenly noticed a large shoal of little perch milling about my legs! Not one to miss a opportunity I waded back to get my LRF kit and mounted a small 1" tail section of pink Isome on a 1.8g #10 Decoy Rocket jighead. Determined to beat the blank I waded out again and flicked the Isome out beyond the shoal. As I began to retrieve suddenly everything went solid and the little rod arched over, then bounced wildly as the fish gave a massive head shake and bolted! Line screamed off the reel as the fish stayed deep and tore off out the bay. If this was a perch it was a record breaker, if it was a pike I would have to be very lucky indeed to land it as I had no wire trace on! I gently turned the fish and caught sight of a big mottled tail as it made another run, Pike! Oh dear I thought as the pike made another run stripping line off the reel, this cant end well! Every second of the fight I kept picturing the tiny hook bending straight or the pike biting through the 6lb leader. Every time I got the fish close it would scream off at an incredible speed stripping line and pulling my arm off! Eventually and with disbelief I managed to beach a wonderfully fat 7lb fish! The hook was in its scissors and promptly dropped out as I lifted the fish to admire it!

My biggest pike of 2012 so far.
Recovering in some shallow water.

My Corto/Technium LRF combo had dealt magnificently with the fight and I know it would handle a bigger fish as I had to play this one very lightly indeed. What a turn up as I was honestly just trying to catch a little 3" perch and ended up with a beautiful Carlingwalk Loch pike. The fish recovered well from the fight and after a couple of pics she swam strongly away, although what she was doing preying on tiny worms is beyond me. With that it was time to head back to Edinburgh and finish the job, but I was sure glad to beat the blank on work time with a Carlingwalk Loch suprise!

Tight lines, Schogsky.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Mini session for mini species.

Jake and I headed down to Dunbar harbour for a few hours yesterday. We didn't realise that it was RNLI day and the new harbour was packed with people enjoyiing the nice weather, watching the entertainment, listening to live music whilst enjoying the food on offer as well as a few beers. We started the session in the old harbour and again I was after sand gobies. I'm sure at one point I spotted a few but they didn't have a chance with little shoals of small coafish quickly appearing and attacking my small section of Power Isome. I was fishing this on a #18 Kasaman Animal hook with a single 0.8g split shot a few inches above it. I've been using this setup a lot recently as I find the hook up rate with the smaller species is far higher. Jake was fishing a red Berkley 1" Fish Fry on a 1.8g #10 Decoy Rocket. It wasn't long before we were both catching small coalfish and the odd blenny that came out of the weed on the harbour wall to get in on the action.

The harbour is full of these at the moment and they are growing quickly.
Blennies now face competition for food.

After a while we moved to the outside of the harbour to explore the rockpools in the hope that something odd may turn up. The tide was covering them fairly quickly though and we didn't get long. I managed a couple of tiny long spined sea scorpions before the tide forced us off the reef.

Small hooks and split shot ensure even the smallest target can be caught.

Next we headed into the new harbour and had a quick drop down the side at "blenny corner". The residents were quite obliging and we were soon hoisting them up much to the amusement of passing spectators, particularly the children.

We then headed over to the area where Jake had caught some launce earlier in the week but a thick soup of coalfish meant the chances of hooking anything else quite slim! A steady stream of small coalfish were shown to passing kids and we also tried fishing the bottom for flounders and whilst we both had a bite or two I think it was just the coalfish!

Finally just before we left we had a quick go over the back of the harbour from the barracks. I switched over to a 2.3g #8 Shirasu jighead and half a pink large Power Isome. Casting this out and working it back very slowly with a lot of small twitches I hooked a small pollock on my third cast and followed this up with another two.

Biggest fish of the day!

Jake meanwhile had been trying to tempt a wrasse in some deeper water but his only reward was another coalfish.

A relaxing, fun session still produced 4 species and about 40 fish. It was also great to see the harbour so busy with everyone having a great day and hopefully the RNLI raised a lot of money in the process.

Tight lines, Hutch.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Every cloud...

With Jake catching a few launce in Dunbar harbour on Tuesday and the weather clearing up yesterday after all the rain the day before, we headed down there again after doing a bit of work yesterday afternoon. As well as hopefully getting a crack at a launce or two for my species tally I also wanted an opportunity to continue my ongoing search for a sand goby and a viviparous blenny from the harbour as I know they are in there having seen them caught from it in the last year. 

This plan was soon scuppered however as when we arrived at about 14:00 we found the harbour looked like the outflow from Willy Wonka's chocolate factory! We decided to head further down the A1 to another outflow to try our new Lunker City Ribster lures on the resident bass population. It wasn't long before Jake established that the bass liked them and then that the bass were very keen on them!

This greedy bass swallowed the entire lure.

I then caught one too, again on a Ribster. Jake caught a couple more before I spotted the swine trying to secretly smear some scent on his lure. His little bottle of Captain Mike's Shrimp scent was soon confiscated by me and liberally applied to my lure too. Jake's a big fan of it and no sooner had I cast out my stinky lure than I had a bass on.

Thanks Captain Mike!
Ribbed for pleasure!

Coincidence or not, I may have to order some! The action died of a bit for a while although Jake did catch a few more fish. I tried out some new Daiwa Tournament D'Tail lures and had a knock or two but no more hook ups. Not the targets we originally had in mind but I suppose we can't complain too much. What is it they say about every cloud?

Tight lines, Hutch.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Dunbar : Solo Session.

Tuesday and with Scott taking a well earned day off from fishing I had a couple of hours to spare, so I popped down to Dunbar Harbour for a fish. I had planned to try round the back to try and get a bit more of an understanding of this rock mark as usually when we fish Dunbar we get hooked on the flattie action and tend to just stick inside the harbour! I arrived an hour before high tide and before I knew what was going on I found myself standing at flattie corner with my LRF rod in hand! Instantly lured by the promise of flatties, I thought I would have a quick go just to see if there were any about. High tide is not the ideal time to catch flounders at this mark, mainly because it becomes quite hard to cast out and keep a 1.8g jig head on the bottom in the deep water. I rigged up a small pink Power Isome on a 1.8g #10 decoy rocket jig head and began by casting it out and allowing it to sink to the bottom, before gently trundling the lure along the sea bed. If there are flatties about they will usually chase and attack the lure very quickly and after a few biteless casts I turned my attention to the shoals of little coalfish that were chasing the lure as it came up the side of the wall. Jigging it soon had the little coalies chasing the lure up and down each taking turns to nip at the lure. It wasn't long before one of the little guys was hooked. I have a real soft spot for coalfish as they were one of the first fish I ever caught. This ones colours were very appealing.

Gold flanks, an emerald back and white edges on its fins.

I continued enjoying watching the little coalies attacking the lure and managed to catch three more. Still aware that I was supposed to be checking out the rocks at the back I thought I would just have a couple more last casts. About ten casts later I was working the lure back up from the sea bed when I saw long electric green flashes around my lure. I cast again and saw more of these flashes sparking around my lure! Could it be garfish? Surely not. I cast again and kept the lure at about 8" depth with a slow jigged retrieve. Again more green flashes and I saw the culprits, launce! This time they shot after the lure as if they had been fired from a bow. Taking turns to attack a couple had a go before one made the error of engulfing the lure. I hadn't realised just how fast a launce can swim but it did a mighty fine mini garfish impression before I landed it. A took a quick photo and then I released it again watching it dart away to find its shoal.

Mean green slippy machine.

Brilliant! My first launce on LRF gear and my first launce from Dunbar harbour. I carried on fishing for them and have to say I really enjoyed it! On my ultra light gear they gave very sharp bites and tore around at speed once hooked, great fun! I landed four more and dropped another three before finally making my way round the back of the harbour.

They were loving the Power Isome. Which fish doesn't!

First I had a fish around with my heavier spinning gear I rigged a Lunker City Ribster on a 10.5g #3/0 AGM Football jighead and bounced it over the kelp. I was hoping to tempt a pollock or a wrasse but after 20 mins no bites were forthcoming, so I swapped back to my LRF gear. I still had the same jighead and Isome that I had been using for the launce. This was duly flicked out about 10 meters and allowed to fall down on a curved arc and rest on a large white boulder in amongst the kelp. I tightened up a bit and noticed the line going slack. I thought the lure had rolled off the rock and was free falling towards me. I lifted the rod tip and instantly felt a head shake, followed by the horrid sensation of a fish tearing into and through the kelp! Doh! The fish (undoubtedly a wrasse) had caught me napping. I gave it some slack line and the fish began to move. So I tightened up again only for the fish to dive back down into the kelp shedding the hook in the process. Shame to lose the fish (especially when it was my fault!) but it still amazes me when I find wrasse that want to play! I carried on for another hour and was rewarded by another little coalfish and a rather nicely coloured long spined sea scorpion.

Stunning little fish. I could look at these all day.

There was no further wrasse action but the tide was halfway down and most of the action seemed to be over. With that I headed back home still chuffed about the launce my 18th species this year and finding a wrasse spot!

Tight lines, Schogsky.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

St Abbs : Cod hunt.

On Sunday we traveled down to St Abbs to meet up with our friend Ritchie who has been exploring new ground. He's been fishing a mark near the harbour where he's been catching codling and pollock on soft lures. So when he asked if we wanted to come and fish it with him we jumped at the chance! We were keen to catch codling but Ritchie also suspected that there would be wrasse there too. After a short walk down the hillside and a scramble over the rocks we arrived at the mark. The water at the mark was deep and gin clear with large sandy patches breaking up the thick kelp beds, gullies and boulders. This all combined to scream fish! We headed out on to a finger of rock and geared up with our standard spinning gear in order to target the codling. I went with a new lure, a Lunker City "Ribster" in Arkansas Shiner.

Lunker City Ribsters in Arkansas Shiner (Top) and Motor Oil.

The lure is a similar soft plastic to the Slug-Go but ribbed with a willow leaf tail which causes the lure to wiggle and flicker in the current or when twitched. It is also a buoyant lure and when the nose is weighted it sits tail up on the sea bed gently wiggling in the tide. I mounted it on a 10.5g Lunker city football head and smeared with Captain Mikes Sardine scent gel for added atrraction. Scott, fresh from his wrasse hunting exploits in Cornwall, went with a Keitech Shad Impact on a 7.5g AGM Ultra Ball jighead. Richie was using a Texas rigged Molix paddle tail with an orange belly, this had proved irresistible to the codling on his previous session, with fish hitting it when it was stationary on the bottom!

We began casting out and searching the area, working our lures along the sea bed. After a few casts we started getting sharp bites as the lure sat next to a kelp fringe under our feet. We were pretty certain the culprits were wrasse, however they only seemed to be pecking the lure tentatively rather than attacking it full on and indeed the bites dried up pretty quickly with no hook ups. We continued to search around the area changing retrieve and depths but after a couple of hours we still hadn't been able to hook anything. The water was possibly too clear for the codling to have come into the bay to hunt and they may have pushed offshore following the wind. With the chances of finding a feeding codling dwindling I changed tactics and went with my LRF gear in the hope of targeting the wrasse. Many people would shudder at the thought of using such light gear for such dirty fighting, kelp diving fish, but I have landed wrasse up to 2lb on the set up and know what it can do. I rigged up a small pink Power Isome on a 2.3g #8 Shirasu Fine jighead and went back to the place where we first started getting bites. I dropped the lure down and began jigging the lure gently above the kelp directly beneath my feet. Almost straight away I saw a bright red head poke out of a clump of podweed and soon a nice size dwrasse had appeared. "Wrasse" I shouted to Richie who hurried over to where I was fishing. As Ritchie made his way over the wrasse seized the Isome and ripped it off the hook! With shaking hands I rigged another Isome and repeated the process, sure enough the wrasse emerged again and came to investigate. It ws very exiting we both watched in fascination as the wrasse approached the lure. The fish slowly checked it before quickly sucking it in, I struck then all hell broke loose! The fish instantly powered off to my left heading for a kelpy over hang. The rod bent hard round and I instantly had to apply side strain to turn it from the barnacle encrusted ledge. The fish redoubled its efforts to make the ledge and was beginning to turn when suddenly the lure pinged out the water and shot over my shoulder! What the? The hook had bent straight and the fish had won its battle! Oh well lesson learned, Shirasu fine hooks are not the best for vertical jigging for wrasse! Learning from my mistake I rigged up a 3.5g #6 AGM Finesse jighead with an Isome. Although still a fine wire hook, they are a heavier gauge than the Shirasu Fine. I continued to work the lure along the rock ledges and had moved about 20ft along when I saw another wrasse poking its head out of a clump of Podweed. It was a smaller fish but again bright red and was wary of leaving its lair. The fish was weaving in and out the waving weed, so I dropped the lure as close to it as I could. A couple of jigs and then a tiny bite, a greedy little long spined sea scorpion had charged out and nailed the lure before the wrasse could get to it!

Little bugger!

I dropped the lure down right next to the podweed again and allowed the lure to rest on the rock. I jigged the lure gently and saw the wrasse poke its head out slowly coming closer and closer. Quick as a wink it sucked the lure into its mouth. "Yes"! I shouted setting the hook with a flick of the wrist. Quickly followed by "Nononononoooo.." as the wrasse dove into the weed and began weaving itself between the fronds, quickly unhooking itself in the process! Ah well even though I had lost both fish it was fantastic to watch them attacking the lures in such clear water and it was great to find some wrasse! We carried on fishing but apart from Scott hooking a nice size coalie on a Hogy sandeel and losing it at his feet that was it for this mark. One things for sure, we will be back!

We decided to pop into St Abbs Harbour for a quick bash at the flounders before heading home. Richie despite fishing the area for most of his life had never caught one. We arrived at the harbour and we all went with 1.8g #10 Decoy Rocket jigheads rigged with Isomes. Action was instant, with lots of little flounders chasing the lures as they trundled along the bottom. Again the water was so clear that we could see the little flatties struggling to fit the lure into their mouths. After a couple of minutes one managed to suck the lure far enough into its mouth to hook itself and my first st Abbs flounder this year was soon landed!

Isn't he cute?

Scott was next to hook his first flounder of 2012 and although it was only palm sized too it still put a big grin on his face!

Small but perfectly formed.

He quickly followed it up with a second, before turning his attention and a #18 hook to some gobies that were attacking his lure. I carried on trying for the flatties as did Ritchie but alas we couldn't tempt any more. We headed back to the car, pleased with the flattie action as well as the discovery of a great new wrasse mark. Ritchie was pleased to see how we were targeting the little flatties and will be back at the harbour with his LRF gear soon to catch his first!

Tight lines, Schogsky.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Cornish Lure Festival : Topknots and Tantrums!

Last week on Thursday Scott and I drove almost 600 miles down to the north coast of Cornwall to take part in the Cornish Lure Festival. The festival had been arranged by Ben and Jo at Art of Fishing in St Merryn with two types of competition; a bass section and a species hunt. We were going to focus on the species hunt aspect of the competition and sample some of the truly magnificent fishing that Cornwall has to offer. After setting up our tent we decided to go down to Padstow harbour for a look. We spent the next couple of hours being tormented by big shoals of mullet and, true to form, the mullet ignored our offerings. I managed to winkle out a solitary blenny and Scott hooked three but they all came off as he lifted them up but apart from that the fishing was surprisingly hard. After a couple of hours we headed back to the campsite to get some much needed sleep. This was quite hard to come by as I had somewhat foolishly brought a million tog sleeping bag. This had the same effect as wrapping your body in clingfilm and sitting in a sauna. As I lay there I kept thinking about techniques and lures and the competition in a kind of sweaty malariaesque delirium.

It was a relief when dawn broke and we could end the humid hell and prepare for the competition proper. First stop was Art of Fishing in St Merryn where we met Ben and Jo. The shop is amazing, a mecca for all things lure fishing. It was great to see all the products in the flesh although hard to resist spending a fortune on them! Ben gave us some advice and a couple of marks to try and we headed down to St Austell to meet some fellow The Lure Forum members and sign in for the comp. We grabbed a bite to eat, met up with Rod Lugg and Steve Richardson and signed in. After meeting a few more The Lure Forum members we followed Rod and Steve to our first port of call. This involved a rather arduous decent down a steep Cornish hillside. I was wearing felt soled boots and these are exceptionally slippy in muddy conditions. With the aid of some ropes I slithered and sweated my way down to the mark, privately dreading the return journey. Finally we made it down to be greeted with a great looking mark; gullies and boulders and a crystal clear sea. Perfect!

Scott geared up his LRF gear and went exploring in the rockpools. I went straight for bass and went for a topwater lure. Within a few casts I had a swirl at the lure but then things went really quiet. Scott was first to catch anything.

Species #1 for Scott. A long spined sea scorpion.

After half an hour with sign of any bass I decided to try some rockpool exploration. Things were very slow for the next hour and every second that passed without fish put me on edge. Scott pointed out a large rockpool that had a large boulder in it where he had seen some blennies, as he wandered further along the coast and had a go for bass, I climbed down into the gully to see if I could winkle one out. What happened next will remain etched in my memory for a very long time. The boulder was big and had a large overhang which meant if I crouched down I could get the rod tip under the rock and present a lure right in amongst the fish. I mounted a 1.8g #10 Decoy Rocket jighead with a red 1" Gulp! Fish Fry and slipped the rod tip under the rock. There was no room to jig the lure with the rod so it was a question of tapping the line to make the lure tap against the bottom. I watched the lure tapping against the rock and noticed one of the rocks underneath start to move. The moving stone came into view it was flat with prominent eyes - a topknot! I have never seen one in the flesh before and with shaking hands I continued to tap the lure. The fish approached my little red fish fry and just stopped about 6" away watching it. My heart was in my mouth, contrary to my instincts I hopped the lure a little further away from the fish and it followed! This time it stopped 2 " away from my quivering lure. The fish really seemed to focus on the lure. Then, with incredible speed its mouth extended 2" and sucked the lure deep into its mouth! No need to strike the fish had hooked itself and with disbelief I quickly landed my first ever topknot. At this point I realised that getting a pic was going to prove problematic as I realised had left my camera in the car at the top of the cliff! Scott had his but he was way down the coast. I squealed like a schoolgirl until Steve took pity on me and came over to take a picture for me. Thanks Steve! Scott quietly wet himself laughing at my distant pleadings for a shot of his camera.

Species #1 for me. A topknot!
A special fish deserves a second photo!

The fishing slowed down for the next couple of hours apart from Scott having two pollock launch themselves completely out of the water to get at his Kiddy Brill Bait but missing it in the process. An hour before we were due to leave I had a large ballan tear my Slug-Go off the hook followed by Scott hooking but losing another ballan. Finally as we were making our way back I had a good bite and after a brief fight landed my first Cornish ballan wrasse.

Species #2 for me. Ballan wrasse.

Next came the slog back up the hillside to our cars after which Scott and I planned to go to a harbour. A quick breather after the climb up and we were on the road again and after a short drive we arrived. First port of call was the inner harbour where quickly spotted small wrasse grazing on the barnacles. Scott and I both rigged Isomes on a Shirasu jighead and added a 3" length of line with a #18 hook and a tiny piece of Isome. This worked a treat and we soon both had a couple more species.

Species #3 for me. Common blenny.
Species #2 for Scott. Corkwing wrasse.
Species #4 for me. Corkwing wrasse.
Species #3 for Scott. Common blenny.

We kept trying in the hope of getting a goldsinny wrasse as we were sure there were one or two there, but after a succession of corkwings and blennies we headed round to try in the corner. Scott clambered out onto a finger of rock and spotted some slightly bigger wrasse. After a bit of persistence he managed to catch one.

Species #4 for Scott. Ballan wrasse.

After this we decided to head to the outer breakwater. This proved to be a good decision as I soon added another species to my tally.

Species #5 for me. Pollock.

At this point I suddenly realised that I hadn't eaten since the morning and was finding it really hard to think! After a bit of a moan at Scott who said he wasn't that hungry and stomping off in a hunger induced grump, I managed to drive aimlessly round the town, find somewhere that was still open, beg to get some food as they were actually just closed, before heading back to pick up Scott who had managed to get himself another species in my absence.

Species #5 for Scott. Pollock.

We fished for a bit longer but then the skies opened. The rain was torrential and not wanting to try and put up a tent in it Scott quickly managed to somehow find us a caravan using his iPhone and Google! We drove for half an hour in the torrential rain and fog, conversed pleasantly and had a cup of tea with the lovely caravan owner before going into the caravan and passing out.

Saturday we headed back to the harbour again but it was very different. The inner harbour was very muddy with the overnight rain, so we headed to the outer wall. I tried with a Slug-Go and quickly caught a small pollock. I had a couple more but apart from a bass coming to have a look at the lure it was very quiet for me. Scott meanwhile had got off to a good start with a pollock and then proceeded to rack up a few more species for his tally.

Species #6 for Scott. Mackerel.
Species #7 for Scott. Goldsinny wrasse.
Species #8 for Scott. Pouting.

I swapped over to my LRF gear and after what seemed an age managed to hook and land a fish to add to my tally.

Species #6 for me. Long spined sea scorpion.

Scott then added another species to his list before I added one to mine again.

Species #9 for Scott. Dragonet.
Species #7 for me. Pouting.

We then went down to Porthleven where we would be based for the next two days. Scott had booked a weeks holiday there before he found out about the comp so his girlfriend, Lillian and his sister and her partner had driven down and we went to meet them at Rod Lugg's cottage "Tregonning" next to the harbour there. Needless to say we fished the harbour but it would only yield a few blennies and a solitary pollock for Scott, before we had to grab some food. After dinner we discussed tactics and I remembered reading reports that rocklings had been caught from Penzance marina so we headed there in the hope of finding something new. Using the same jighead with a  #18 hook teaser baited with Isome, we began searching the clear patches in between the weeds around the edges. Soon Scott had spotted some small fish attacking his lure. Gobies he declared and 10 minutes later had manged to hook a tiny one. It took about half an hour for me to recreate the feat but I managed it too. 

Species #10 for Scott. Rock goby.
Species #8 for me. Rock goby.

The relief was amazing! I felt I was really lagging behind with the numbers and it was now possible to get to 10 and beyond. We then had to help a man who had fallen down the slope into the harbour whilst relieving himself, dislocating his arm in the process. Scott and I climbed down using the ropes that the boats are tied up to and managed to haul him back up and get his girlfriend to take him to hospital. We couldn't however, include him in our species hunt as he wouldn't take a lure, and we had to resort to hauling him out by hand. We moved down to the main harbour in search of coalfish but all it yielded was a couple of new "personal worst" pollock before we called it a night. We snatched four hours kip and then it was back into the car and an hour up the road to the harbour to hunt mini species again. I was determined to get some of the species Scott had caught the day before. Sure enough when we arrived there were a few others taking part in the comp trying to do the same, all busy fishing. So it was on with the Isome and on with the fishing. I must be honest and say that up until this point I had not really been enjoying the competition. The main reason for this being that I saw everyone else as competition, which annoyed me a bit as I would liked to have fished with them rather than against them. I was also desperate to hit ten or more species and I only had a few hours to do it. I was fishing next to Luke Fox we had a chat and I began to relax and just enjoy the fishing. Twenty minutes later I felt a small bite and there was a bit of weight on the rod. It felt a bit different and with utmost care I brought the fish to the surface to see my prize.

Species #9 for me. Dragonet.

Another first for me. This was the game changer so next target was mackerel. I rigged up my bass gear with a Savage Gear Psycho Sprat that Scott had caught his Mackerel on the day before and cast the lure a country mile out to sea. I had no luck high up in the water but Scott told me I he caught his quite deep down using a very slow retrieve and it wasn't long before I was hit by a fish which started tearing around. The rod tip was juddering and when it started veering off to the side I knew what it was!

Species #10 for me. Mackerel.

Double figures finally! We carried on fishing for another hour before deciding to spend our last couple of hours trying for bass at a nearby mark. The mark was beautiful and looked like a scene from the Mediterranean bathed in sunshine with crystal clear water. We tried Patchinkos first and I had a fish come up and swirl but no takers. We also saw fish breaching the surface in pursuit of sandeels sending them scattering like silver shrapnel. Still no takers on the Patchinkos. I then tried a Megabass Vision 110 but no joy after 10 mins. Next I tried a MaxRap this time I got a couple of hits but no hook ups. This always amazes me as merely trying to get the lure out of my bag had me nearly hooked! Scott had switched to a bombarda and Kiddy Brill Bait by this point. I too had enough messing about with hard lures so on went a 4.5" Slug-Go on a 10.5g #2/0 AGM football jighead. The results were instant; first cast on the drop a feisty wee pollock! Scott then had one too. Another seven followed before we headed back along the beach. With that we pretty much had to head back to sign off at the competition.

When we arrived I was shattered, tired and grumpy and after a bit of a mix up with registering our catches and a bit of a hissy fit thrown by me (Sorry Matt!), we headed over to the prize-giving. First place in the species hunt was won with 14 fish which was great going. Can't help feeling I could have got similar if I had done a bit more research and planning and a bit less stressing out! Still, Scott and I came in at joint 4th I think with my topknot being possibly the most unusual catch over the weekend. Next came the raffle and at this point I turned to Scott and Ross Johnson (who narrowly missed out on a prize place with 11 species) and said "I may as well go sit in the car as I never win anything in raffles!". First name out of the hat was mine! I couldn't believe it! Scott and Ross laughed. I got to choose my prize so went for a 9' Major Craft Crostage sea bass travel rod despite Scott shouting "Get the booze!" when I went up to the table to pick what I wanted. I was totally stoked! There was also a free product handout at the end so Scott managed to get a few packets of interesting soft lures as well as a couple of coveted Ecogear caps. All in all we did pretty well to get 10 species from a place we have never fished before. I know I can get more next time. Many thanks to Ben and Jo and the staff at Art of Fishing for putting on such a great event.It's one that will stay with me for a long time and certainly worth the 1200 miles, sleep deprivation and one sandwich a day diet! Also many thanks to all the good people from the Lure Forum that I met, just a shame I couldn't be more social due to my competitive nature getting the better of me at times! Roll on next year when I'll hopefully be able to relax and enjoy it a bit more!

Tight lines, Schogsky.