Monday, 31 December 2012

Blank busting blenny bashing bonanza!

Jake and I headed out today to end the year with a session targeting mullet. The wind and the mullet had other ideas though and while we waited on conditions improving Jake fished for bass and I did a spot of blenny bashing. No sign of any bass but the blennies were very obliging to say the least. In no time at all I was into double figures and decided to get a few photos of one particularly feisty little fish.

Looks harmless enough.

After a few photos were taken I picked it up to put it back and it decided to have a chomp on my finger. This is normal for blennies but usually they let go almost straight away and this one didn't want to let go. This had me in fits of laughter and its grip was so strong that it was still holding on when I went over to show Jake. When it finally decided to let go it had left a little mouth shaped imprint on my finger.

This blenny obviously got out of the wrong side of his rockpool!
I'll live.

After much hilarity Jake then decided to join me and soon had a few blennies taking his small chunks of Gulp! Sandworm. They seemed to be especially aggresive today, fighting over our lures and we soon had caught a load more, obviously exercising caution when handling the bigger ones to prevent losing any digits.

A short while later and with the tide almost fully in we decided to try for mullet again. Despite putting in large quantities of groundbait and seeing one or two very small mullet they just didn't seem to be around in any great numbers or feeding with any great confidence so after a couple of hours we called it a day with the only action coming when a box of jigheads fell out of Jake's pocket and into a deep rockpool. Luckily he managed to reach down and grab it though thankfully.

The humble blenny has saved us from a blank a few times in the past and today was no different. I definitely have a soft spot for them due to their aggressive nature and almost cheeky character and to be honest, whilst I'd have liked a mullet or two today, it was kind of nice for a blenny to be my last fish of 2012. Not sure Jake feels the same way mind you!

Tight lines, Hutch.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Mullet, mullet, mullet! What's all the fuss about?!

After Jake's first mullet session whilst I was away down south freezing my ass off with fellow fishing addict Martin Allison catching our first Zander and a second successful mullet session he'd had I just had to get myself into a few mullet too so I could see if they were as much fun as Jake's raving accounts made them out to be! I've caught them before but the methods employed to catch and then lift one up a 50ft Portuguese cliff don't really allow you to experience how they fight so armed with feeder rods, floats, bread and a few cans of sardines off Jake and I went. We arrived at the mark and after making up some groundbait and throwing it in the mullet soon started appearing and worked themselves up into a feeding frenzy. It didn't take long at all for them to start bashing our bread flake hook baits around and after a bit of movement on my stick float I soon had one hooked after resisting the temptation to strike until my float had gone under for a second or two. Drag set very lightly the little fish had us both laughing as it put up a very spirited fight and made run after run only stopping to thrash about wildly. Letting the rod tip and drag do all the work I played it out a bit before guiding it into a gully and using a wave to land it.

My first ever golden grey mullet. Lovely looking fish and put up a great scrap for its size.
Golden markings on the gill plate give this species its name.

Shortly afterwards I caught a second golden grey mullet which also gave me the run around before being landed, again using a gully and wave to assist me. The mullet were giving Jake the run around and perhaps my decision to employ a tiny #16 treble hook had aided me in hooking the fish. Jake's persistence with the #10 Drennan Specialist soon paid off though when he hooked one of the better fish that we had spotted amongst the shoals of smaller golden greys. After carefully playing the fish for about five minutes, during which time I nipped and got my landing net, the mullet was ready to be netted, or so we thought before it made another run! It did this a couple of times and this seems to be indicative of mullet. Where they get the stamina from I don't know and it's hard to think of another species that has such tenacity. They just don't know how to give up! Obviously the light tackle you must use to protect your light hooklengths prevents you from applying any sort of pressure but even so the fight you get from them is superb. 

Finally in the net. A nice thick lipped mullet for Jake.
A satisfied angler!

Next it was my turn to hook a slightly better fish. Once again I had to be very patient playing the fish and allowing it to take line freely when it wanted to. Again the spirited nature of the fight had us both smiling and this time the fish also made a few attempts to get down to the rocky bottom directly below us, presumably to try and throw the hook, so I had to lift the rod tip up and tighten down ever so slightly to stop it in its tracks. Jake's turn with the net and after a couple of failed attempts I slipped the fish over it.

I've caught them in Portugal before but this was my first U.K. thick lipped grey mullet.
Thick lipped.

That would be the last mullet of a great fun filled session. Catching these two mullet species added to my species tally for the year so that was a great bonus too. Once the tide flooded over the platform we had been fishing from the mullet disappeared. Jake turned his attention to bass but had no luck. I on the other hand discovered that blennies love bread too, catching eighteen of them in about an hour before we headed off.

A few days later we returned for another fix but this time from another spot as we were fishing over high tide this time. Once again it wasn't long before we had the mullet feeding on our groundbait and a few free crust offerings. I was first of the mark with a nice thick lipped mullet. This one was a bit tricky to land as we were fishing from some large boulders and it made a few attempts to get into them every time I brought it close. Jake readied the net and after a few nervous moments the fish was in it. After that though we struggled for a while until Jake decided to drop hooklength from 8lb to 4lb and try one of my deadly little trebles that I had been using. This would see him catch three thick lipped grey mullet in fairly quick succession.

My smile says it all! But why the hell didn't we do this sooner!
Jake's hat says it all. Mullet are best, f**k the rest!

Well now I know why every now and then Jake has raved about mullet and even more so since he started catching a few! I now understand how frustrating it can be yet how thoroughly enjoyable it is fishing for them! What I don't understand is why in over a year of fishing together we never actually targeted them until now! I guess we just got a bit too focused on our lure fishing, something that I've tried to address over the last few months as I still enjoy bait fishing. I hope Jake won't mind me saying that whilst he normally isn't interested in bait fishing he's definitely glad he decided to replace the Slug-Go's with a few loaves of Warburton's Toastie bread and couple of cans of sardines for a session or two targeting the hard fighting mullet and whilst he says he wants to target them on the fly whether or not he can resist the addictive and almost hypnotic nature of staring at a float waiting for it to go under is another matter entirely!

Tight lines, Hutch.

Maddening, Marvelous, Mullet!

A few days after my first visit I managed to get back to the mullet mark for a couple of hours in the afternoon and began the same procedure. I mixed a tin of sardines with a loaf of bread and mashed it up with water, before throwing in a few tennis ball sized handfuls. Within minutes I could see the swirls of mullet feeding on the bread. This surprised me somewhat as it was really quite rough with a good swell running. The mullet didn't seem to mind though and were happily feeding on the bread. I pinched a small bit of flake onto the shank of the hook and cast into the feeding fish, almost straight away the float sailed under and I struck into the fish. It came to the top pretty easily and I suspected it wasn't a mullet. Indeed it turned out to be a small bass that had been gorging itself on bread, I quickly landed and released the little blighter where upon friend of the blog Frazerio turned up.

I carried on with my mullet mission while Frazerio concentrated on the bass. I was getting a lot of dips and knocks on the float but I always like to wait until the float actually goes under when fishing for mullet. It didn't take too long before it did vanish under the surface and I struck into another fish and this time there was no mistaking its fight, mullet! It thrashed on the surface, stripped line on powerful darting runs and then tried to get into the rocks beneath my feet before it was landed by Frazerio lending a hand with the net. They really are such a hard fighting fish and I gazed down at my prize, my first thick lipped grey mullet this year, splendid. The fish was about 1.5lbs and I released it after a couple of photos, which were hard to take as the light was dimming rapidly!

I love fishing for these "grey ghosts", they are a real challenge!

Frazerio had now been persuaded to try for the mullet and so I lent him a stick float and some shot so he could try for them too. I managed to hook and lose a couple more fish before I struck into another fish. This was smaller than the first but still gave a ridiculously good fight for its size but I managed to coax it into the net in the end. It turned out to be a rather large golden grey mullet, a real specimen in fact! I quickly unhooked and weighed it. It came in at just over 13oz, a new Scottish record and a personal best for me!

At 13oz this golden grey beats the Scottish record by 2oz, I practice catch and release so will not claim it!

I hasten to add that I cannot claim it as a record as the truly out of date rules require you must kill the fish to prove how big it was, a practice that seems to be left over from Victorian times! I released the fish after a couple of photos which again proved problematic as the light was dimming rapidly. In fact I could only manage another ten minutes or so before the light had become too dim to fish with any degree of accuracy, so deciding to go out on a high I called it a day. I left Frazerio still trying valiantly for the grey ghosts and I don't think he will need much persuasion to come back on another mullet mission, and for what its worth neither will I!

Tight lines, Schogsky.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Silver, a sliver and grey ghosts!

A couple of weeks ago I met up with friend of the blog Ritchie in the hope of hitting the bass again. We had arranged to meet at the mark at dawn and fish a few hours up until lunchtime. The weather for once had decided to support our fishing endeavours and it was calm, crisp and clear skied with a rising tide. I met Ritchie at the mark where he had been working his lures for about an hour and despite his efforts had only had a couple of bites but no hook ups. I rigged up my Savage Gear Dropshot XLNT with my go to lure, 4.5" Slug-Go in Arkansas Shiner mounted on a 10g football jighead. After about an hour I finally found some bass who wanted to play managed to catch and release three fish, the biggest just over 38cm.

The only usable shot of the bass I caught as my camera was playing up!

As we searched around the rock fringed bay I noticed some small silver fish shoaling in the shallows and after a bit of observation concluded that they may well be sand smelt. Sensing an opportunity to up my species count I found some #28 hooks to nylon and tied one directly to the 2/0 hook on the Slug-Go (New Zealand dropper style). I rigged it with a tiny section of Isome and gently lowered it into the shallows. The fish were not frightened of the Slug-Go and indeed they soon started shoaling around it before one noticed the tiny piece of Isome and seized it. With a yelp of glee I quickly hoisted it up and there in my hand was species #27, which was quickly photographed then released back to his rejoin his shoal.

Lure caught species #27 for 2012 the humble sand smelt

Ritchie meanwhile had had a few bites on his Slug-Go but no hook ups and soon he had to retire to go and work. I said my good byes and headed back to where we started. I had noticed a shoal of mullet nosing about and for once I had come prepared with bread and my light feeder rod. I started by breaking up some bread and throwing it in up tide of the fish and I was pleased to see them start to feed on the pieces as they floated past. I rigged up my rod with a 5g alloy stick float and had it fairly under shotted to keep it visible in the lumpy water. My hook of choice was a wide gape Drennan Specimen #12 and I pinched a small piece of bread flake onto the hook shank, leaving a nice fluffy edge to the bread. I cast out into the free offerings of bread and almost straight away the float shot under! I struck and then madly fumbled at the drag trying to free it. The fish had other ideas and instantly hit top speed before I could loosen the drag and as the rod arched over the hook bent and the fish was free. Oh well, at least they were in a feeding mood! I carried on with the drag set very loose and it wasn't long before I had hooked another mullet, all be it slightly smaller than the first. As always the mullet gave an amazing fight charging around on the surface, trying to get under rock ledges, diving and running before it was finally guided into the landing net. I was expecting it to be a thick lipped grey mullet but it quickly became apparent that it was in fact a very fat golden grey, my first for a few years.

Golden grey mullet, brilliant fun to catch!
Another fine golden grey, worth the effort for sure.

A couple of pics and the fish was released back to its shoal to continue pigging out on the bread. The next couple of hours was intensely good fun. With the mullet shoal feeding boldly on the bread I managed to hook and land a further two golden greys as well as hooking and losing a very powerful thick lipped mullet after a good seven minutes of playing it! It must have been pushing 5 lbs and every time I got him in he would run out again stripping line off the reel with ease. In the end he threw the hook when I tried to stop him running under a ledge, but I was overjoyed as the fight of big mullet really has to be the best light tackle fight out there. I packed up and headed back when the bread ran out, but it really was the most enjoyable sport I have had for a while and it seems I had forgotten how much I love catching mullet. Now that my mullet fixation has been rekindled I will be back there soon and hopefully I can try and get one on a lure of some kind!

Tight lines, Schogsky.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tackle Review : HTO Rockfish UL 0.5-7g LRF rod

I first heard of this rod a few months ago on the lure forum as a couple of members were testing it, formerly known as TronixPro Rockfish UL it has since been re branded HTO Rockfish UL. It instantly grabbed my attention as it was a budget model LRF rod and they are few and far between! So when we were asked if we would like to review the rod we jumped at the chance!

First off the rod specifications.

Length : 6'11"
Casting range : 0.5 - 7g
Solid carbon tip

The first thing that struck us was the overall look of the rod is very good indeed. The red ,black and silver whippings and overall finish were neat and tidy and the join where the carbon tip meets the matt black carbon blank is nice and neat too.The abbreviated handle is a similar length to my Graphiteleader Corto and is very comfortable as well as looking good in a low profile sort of way . There is no fore grip as such but the reel seat is set up so that its easy to rest your finger on the blank in order to feel bites.The rings are good quality and tough enough to handle saltwater and rocks. The carbon tip is ultra fine and finished in  a nice visible white but it is a very fine diameter tip, ultra sensitive but also delicate too so it will require a bit of care when transporting!The rod definitely looks the part so it was onto seeing how it performed. 

We tried the rod in various different scenarios with both fluorocarbon and braid as a mainline. Our first run through with it was exploring some vertical presentations, bouncing lures down into gullies and next to large boulders. The ultra fine tip worked as an excellent visual bite indicator, registering the tiny bites of blennies and sea scorpions very well indeed and bending right over when they grabbed the lure and made off with it.

Next test was casting and seeing how it registered bites at distance, this we did down at St Abbs  with flounder as our target species. It really does cast little jig heads as well as any of my more expensive LRF rods, which was great for getting to the resident flounder. The rod allows you to feel the contours of the bottom well allowing you to differentiate between rock , sand and weed and when the bites come they are transmitted directly to the hand with the fine tip also giving a great visual indication. There were a few flounders where we got to observe the take and we found that they were able to suck the lure into there mouth while we still had tension on the line. This allows the fish to inhale the bait with confidence as there is hardly any resistance, however we could still feel these bites and I don't think any were missed ! Once the fish were hooked the action of the rod came into play, it has a regular fast action when working the lures but a nice soft action when playing a fish. It certainly has more of a through action when compared to my some of our other LRF rods , this however makes playing fish rather pleasant as the through action cushions the light line very well from head shakes and sudden dives and controls the fish in a soft but firm manner.

A lot of flounders were caught on the rod from 0.5lb to 1.25lb and it was great at registering bites and playing the fish in, I also "swung in" all the fish to land them and the rod coped well with it. I would stress however that due to the ultra fine tip it would be preferable to have used a drop net and I would advocate the use of one just to keep that tip safe. It is also a great little trout rod too and before the season had ended I managed to have a quick session fishing soft plastics for trout. The rod casts and works the 1g jig heads well but came into its own for hooking and landing the trout, where the soft action really worked at keeping the trout hooked no mater how they tore about in the current!

Overall I have to say that there is nothing that compares to this rod in it price range. It is a genuine little LRF rod designed for the sea and it does what many much more expensive rods do at a fraction of the price. I think its a great little rod and the highest praise I can give it is that when I recently broke my GraphiteLeader Corto EX tip section, I went to my rod holdall to grab the TronixPro only to remember that Scott had taken it to Jersey. I was gutted! The rod would have done everything my Corto would have and would have kept me fishing.

That being said it won't replace my Corto but it will stay in my rod bag for friends to use and as my spare LRF rod. It certainly is an excellent rod for those that want to sample the joys of Light Rock Fishing but it also doubles as a great rod for trout and perch and there is simply nothing else that comes close in this price range.

Tronix have also informed me that they will be making a "deluxe" version of the rod with Fuji fittings and a slight redesign of the handle, they have done such a good job with this one I for one cant wait to see what the new model is like!

Tight lines, Schogsky.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

XLNT Sensory Perception.

Following on from my last foray with my new rod I just had to get back and try it again! It was to be a short afternoon session and for once everything went to plan with the sea state calm, a slight offshore wind and a flooding tide combining to make it perfect. When I arrived at the mark I also had the bonus of having it completely to myself and as it is a very popular mark it was pretty unusual! I tackled up the Savage Gear Dropshot XLNT with my Shimano Aernos 3000 reel, 20lb sunline momentum, 15lb fluro leader and on the business end a 4.5" Slug go mounted on a 10.5g football jighead. I began to cast the lure, allowing it to sink slowly through the water column and when I felt it hit bottom I would jig it up with a couple of sharp twitches all before allowing it to fall back again.  The retrieve as such is dead slow all the time feeling the lure bouncing over rocks and weed, the rod is so sensitive that you really start to get a feel for the contours and layout of the sea bed. Fishing these methods with this rod is brilliantly intense and I tend to fall in to a world of concentration mentally mapping the seabed and feeling the lure working in the water. I swear you can feel the fish swim by before they turn and inhale the tender Slug go! Sure enough it didn't take long to get my first hit and again I could sense the fish gently nudge the lure before it engulfed it. I set the hooks and enjoyed a spirited fight before landing another fine bass of 45cm which after a photo was quickly released.

Another XLNT Bass

The soft tip really allows the fish to suck the lure in with minimal effort and every take was really positive. Each of the many bass I caught that afternoon had the lure deep inside their mouths and I am convinced that such positive engulfing of the lure is partly down to the soft tip. It wasn't all fishing the slug go with this rod though and when I saw a shoal of Bass smashing baitfish on the surface I quickly swapped over to a silver Toby to get the required distance to hit the shoal. Sure enough the rod effortlessly cast the metal lure beyond the feeding fish and a quick retrieve had it pass above their shoal where upon it was nailed by another feisty bass which was quickly landed before being photographed and released.

It's not just slugs with me, Tobys also have their place!

I followed it up with a couple more before the shoal moved off out of range. The few hours I was fishing were really productive and brilliantly intense falling into an almost zen like trance when retrieving, punctuated by the electric suddenness of bites and the adrenaline fuelled moments of the fight.

A calm November afternoon, if only it was always this good!

All the time the weather remained calm and mild and as the light began to dim I decided to call it a day and headed back to the car thoroughly satisfied with the amount of fish landed. The main aim of the day was working the new rod though and again it was a real joy to use and I really wouldn't have had as much success without its XLNT sensory perception!

Tight lines, Schogsky.