Thursday, 16 January 2014

Autumn Silver

November, I managed to take a break from hunting Perch and decided to go after their silver sea faring cousins , Bass. I haven't really been that bothered about fishing for them this year as I have been enjoying the challenge of fishing for other species. Change is as good as a rest they say so when I found myself with a free morning before work I decided to hit the coast and try and bag some silver before work. As I only had a brief 2.5 hour window to fish I couldn't pick the best tide state or weather It was just a question of turning up and fishing the conditions I found before me.
Luckily for me conditions were perfect for the mark, calm with a rolling swell and a rising tide surely meant the Bass would be stalking the reef.

I was using my 9ft Shimano Yasei Red Dropshot rod, 20lb braid,18lb fluro leader and on the business end a 10.5g #2/0 jig head rigged with a 4.5" Sluggo in Arkansas shiner.
I was using a variety of techniques from a simple sink and draw, to dead sticking and hopping and twitching across the rocky bottom of the reef.

All these techniques produced bass and indeed the fishing for me at least was intensely good fun ,with Bass from 36cm to 48cm all desperate to hammer my little Sluggo. I caught fish after fish and by the time my little session came to a close I ended up with 24 bass. I had kept 3 for the table ,releasing the other 21 and feeling only slightly guilty for taking some fish for the table I headed into work with the cheesiest grin imaginable!

The first fish of an Intense session,brilliant!

It was about a week later when I found myself with a whole day available to devote to fishing and with no first mate available for the boat I decided to go for Bass again.
The conditions at the mark were a little rougher than my last session and I arrived as the big spring tide was starting to flood.
Armed with my trusty sluggo jig head combination I started to work the channels and slowly flooding gulleys of the reef. As I expected I was into fish quite quickly with a couple of Bass in quick succession, the fish were around the 40cm mark and whilst not massive put up a good fight in the strong swell. The fishing went quiet for an hour or so and I continued to work the Sluggo around the reef, there was a brief flurry of activity and I manged to hook, land and release another 3 Bass. Again the fish moved away and another hour or so passed without anymore action. As the tide got higher the fish started to push over the reef and I began to get more flurries of bass and by the end of the session I had landed 13 and kept another 3 for the table.

Another bass can't resist my subtly twitched Slug-Go.

Whilst not as insanely productive as the last session it was still very enjoyable with the majority of fish being over 40cm it certainly gave me some good sport. It was certainly easier than the perch fishing had been and it was great to feel that rather special excitement of constant action, something I had been missing from my previous loch sessions.
As things turned out that was to be my last bass session for the year and had taken my bass count back up to a respectable 50. Considering I had only targeted them about 6 times I was really pleased with the years final silver tally.
Now it's 2014 and I will be targeting the bass again over the next couple of months, I have some new lures to try out on them and if they are half as good as the sluggo then it should prove to be another fine season!
Tight Lines

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The fickle loch

October and November last year saw Ritchie and I heading back to hunt perch with the boat. We managed two sessions, the first was a couple of weeks after our ridiculous perch haul a session that resulted in over 80 fish between us. So needless to say we were really looking forward to it. This time we were armed with a new second hand 2hp petrol outboard and I was really keen to see how it would perform.

When we arrived at the loch we quickly got our gear stowed and launched the boat. As we drifted out from the shore I readied the engine and gave it a single pull and it roared into life. This produced a couple of whoops from Ritchie and I, as we hadn't actually got over rowing speed with the boat before! Our powered elation was cut short 30 seconds later when the engine lost all power and cut out, stubbornly refusing to live again.

We were a bit disappointed we couldn't continue our speedy journey across the loch but luckily I had my electric outboard and this was quickly put into place and we continued to our perch marks.

As we slowly whirred our way to the place where the perch had been on our last session the rain began and with nothing but thick grey cloud cloaking the land it would be there to stay. We arrived at our chosen mark and began the first drift. Both of us use our LRF setups for perching and I went with my standard dropshot rig. This consists of a 3 foot 8lb fluro leader with a size 8 offset wormhook, tied via a palomar knot halfway down. I then clip a 7g dropshot weight about a foot from the hook and rigged a Lake Fork live baby shad. Ritchie meanwhile had rigged a 3" Sluggo on a  2g Xesta jighead and he began to work all areas of the water column while I concentrated on working the deeper reaches.

After about 20 minutes we drifted past the opening to a burn and I saw Ritchie's rod suddenly snap upwards as he set the hook on a fish. The rod tip bucked about as the fish thrashed erratically on the end of the line. This instantly aroused suspicion that it wasn't a perch as they tend to try to bore down deep when hooked. Indeed, as the fish came closer, we could see it was a nice brown trout, the first one Ritchie had had on the sluggo and his first from this loch.

"Do you want the net?" I asked
"Nah, should be cool." said Ritchie .
"Bugger that!" said the trout, promptly spitting the hook and with a gleeful flick of its tail he disappeared into the depths.

We laughed off the loss of the trout and soldiered on with not even the rain dampening our enthusiasm. We searched and searched for the fish, hours passed with not even a bite for all our efforts. By this stage we were slumped soullessly at either end of the boat, our conversation had descended into a few wheezed expletives of frustration punctuated by damp coughs. Cold, wet and miserable we decided to start making our way back to the slipway.

We stopped off for one last drift in the rocky bay, an area we had steamed passed without trying. Pretty much as soon as we cast out we were getting bites but with our numb hands and damp spirits it took a while to connect. Eventually we manged to land a couple of Perch each and with honour saved we damply motored back to the van and with the heater on full, headed back home.

It was hard going but we each managed a couple in the end.

A couple more weeks passed and we had another window to get the boat out onto the loch and I for one was looking forward to the challenge of finding where the perch had gone. When we arrived at the slipway conditions couldn't have been more different, flat calm and clear blue skies, a lovely Autumn day. Again I had come with another new outboard engine except this one started first time and kept running! The little 2hp engine got us to our first mark really quickly and this gave us scope to really get around the loch to search for the fish.

Using the fishfinder and my knowledge of the loch we tried all the usual perch haunts but all were devoid of fish. We then started on new ground trying bays we had never been able to reach before but again with the same result, nothing!

Flat calm

We went through a host of lures and it was about 4 hours in when Ritchie manged to finally get a bite and promptly landed an out-of-season brownie. He had tempted the fish on a 5g Xesta After Burner jig tipped with white Isome, an innovative and effective approach. We grabbed a picture then he released the trout while I carried on fishing.

Ritchie managed to catch an out of season Brownie

We had drifted into the rocky bay where we had caught perch previously and I had changed lure to a Jackson Cymo vibe lure. I was hoping a noisier more aggressive lure may get some reaction and it wasn't long before a fish nailed the lure. This turned out to be another wee out-of-season brownie which, after a quick pic, was put back. We fished on for a bit but with nothing else doing we called it a day and headed back.

I managed one too!

What a contrast to our previous trips, where the water had been thick with perch and it was a fish a chuck on any lure! I have my ideas as to where the fish have moved; one is that they may have headed to the bottom end of the loch where the flow is greater. This is one of the puzzles I love about getting to know a loch's seasonal fluctuations and these two relatively fruitless sessions should prove more valuable in terms of getting to know the loch.

I hope to put that knowledge gained to the test on my next visit!

Tight Lines

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Jake's School of Fish.

Over the past couple of months I have had the pleasure of teaching my friend's twin boys how to fish. The boys had got a couple of LRF starter sets from Art of Fishing and were keen to use them. So after showing them how to set up their rods and reels we headed off to Dunbar harbour to try them out.
The weather whilst dry was overcast with a strong onshore wind. This made fishing the main harbour with light jigheads nigh on impossible as the wind would catch the line and blow the jig heads about uncontrollably. I went through to the old harbour as this offered some protection from the strongly gusting wind and after a discussion about safety we tackled up. The boys each had a Ecogear pocket in kit so we rigged a 2.5g shirasu fine jighead on each of their rods and rigged a small section of gulp sandworm.
Whenever I teach someone to fish from scratch it's imperative that they actually catch a fish as this shows them what it's all about and sows the seeds of confidence for future trips. With this in mind I was confident that the local hoards of coalfish would oblige. We started by simply opening the bail arm and dropping the lure down the wall a rod length out. Once the lure touches the sea bed a couple of turns of the reel handle hops it off the bottom and a few twitches of the rod tip gets the lure working.

That was all it took and straight away the boys each hooked a coalfish which was hauled out to shouts of jubilation and big grins!

First cast, first fish, ever!

The next couple of hours flew by with a steady stream of wee coalies for the boys who were really enjoying the non-stop action. Together they caught and released over 60 fish between them and with the resident seal making an appearance they were really enjoying their first go at fishing.

Finn and Joe caught fish after fish

A brief pause to check out the local seal.

Sammy made short work of any coalies that were slow to go back.

Bonus flounder, whilst showing the guys how to do it I managed to winkle out this little flattie.

In between helping the boys I also managed to wet a line and using my go to dropshot rig I soon caught a host of coalies and a bonus flounder. The boys were impressed with the flounder and they wanted to catch one too, so we decided to head down the coast to my favourite flounder spot. On the way we grabbed some lunch which for the boys seemed to consist of biscuits and Mountain Dew. By the time we reached St Abbs the "dew" had kicked in and the boys were bouncing madly about garbling nonsense and bickering with each other. However the icy blast of gail force winds soon calmed them down, or at least drowned out there dewed gibbering so I couldn't hear it! Unfortunately the strong swirling wind made it impossible to fish as well as being eye wateringly unpleasant, so we quickly piled back into the motor and headed back to Dunbar.

We only had about 20 minutes of fishing time before we had to go but the boys were straight in again, catching the little coalies. We did a bit of casting practice and while I was helping Joe his brother Finn shouted out " got one, got one!"
I looked round to see Finn's rod buckled over into a fish and watched with horror as he cranked the fish right to the top eye and lifted the flapping flounder out onto the land. The rod stood up amazingly well to this brutal treatment and Finn clutched at a really good flounder. It must have weighed over a pound. Needless to say Finn was really pleased, what a great first flounder! It also gave him bragging rights over his brother which we had to put up with all the way home!

First flounder and biggest fish of the day for Finn.

The next lesson was a few weeks later and I picked the boys up with the instruction of "no Mountain Dew" we set off to try St Abbs .The boys were as keen as mustard to try and catch more flounder and with that in mind we headed to my flounder hotspot. Unfortunately for us a family of anglers had set up right where I wanted to fish. We had a wee chat and they informed us that despite being there for hours they hadn't caught anything.
I couldn't believe it, had the ravening hoards of coalies disappeared? It hardly seemed possible as a couple of weeks before they were shoaling so thickly you couldn't get a lure past them to reach the bottom dwelling flatties. I warned the boys not to expect a fish every cast like the last time as fishing wasn't always as good as their first session.
We all went with the same set up as before, although this time I encouraged the boys to rig up the lure on the jighead themselves and we set about casting around to find the fish. This took me about 30 seconds much to the suprise of the other anglers as my dropshotted Gulp! sandworm was pounced on by a wee coalie. This was unceremoniously hauled out and put back and I quickly followed it up with a couple more whilst Finn and Joe also caught and released their first fish of the session.
From then on the fishing completely dried up and try as we might we couldn't find any actively feeding flounder. A couple of hours passed and the boys were getting pretty demoralised by the lack of fish the wind had got up too, so we decided to call time and head to Dunbar to see if the fishing was any better.

We arrived at the old harbour with the tide quite far into the ebb, which meant we wouldn't have much time to fish before the water levels got too low. I set about casting and searching for the fish whilst the boys practised their casting. It didn't take long to find some wee coalies and I caught and released a couple whilst getting the boys to fish the same area where I was catching.  I encouraged them to fish the area for coalies whilst I moved off trying to work the sea bed for flounders. This paid off after only a few casts as I felt the characteristic plucking of a flounder bite and struck into a beefy flattie which put a good bend in the light action rod. I landed this to much excitement from the boys and they took a couple of glory shots .

A nice flounder always puts a grin on my face and I had two in quick succession

Whilst I released the fish the boys got back on with excitedly fishing, however their excitement and over-keenness soon resulted in a healthy wind knot for Finn. I did my best to sort it out whilst Joe steadily fished on he was keeping calm and methodical with his approach, doing his best to cast and work the lure. I advised Finn to copy his brother and not rush with his casting and I began to search for more flounder. I was working the channel that leads out the harbour when again I felt the bite of a flounder and struck into another nice one. After a good wee tussle I landed a nice flounder of about a pound which I quickly released and recast to the same area. This resulted in another flattie again around the pound mark!

Another flounder for me, love it , love it ,love it!

This flurry of flounder had sent the boys into overdrive and again Finn suffered the mother of all wind knots which stopped him from fishing and me too as I had to try and untangle it for him. Joe meanwhile had been watching where I was casting and how I was working the lure and he began to cast accurately to the flattie hotspot.
I was busy untangling when I heard Joe say "I'm getting bites". I told him to just keep reeling slowly and if he felt weight on the line, strike. I had barely got the words out when he gave a little strike and his wee rod hooped over as a big fish tore around on the end of his line. It was actually stripping line off his wee reel during the fight and he worked the fish to the edge of the wall like a true pro. As the fish rose up we could see it was a really good flattie and the size of it had us all babbling with excitement. It was a bit tricky to land but I had seen the punishment Finn's rod had taken with his flattie so I went for bust and swung the fish up the wall with the rod. The rod was in one piece as the fish touched the deck and we all gave a resounding cheer. This was the biggest flattie I had seen this year and was really, really fat. It must have weighed around the 2lb mark, what a first flounder for Joe!

Now that's a flounder!

An excellent first flattie for Joe, it must have been 2lbs.

It had been a tough old session but this really was the perfect end and I felt really happy for Joe as he cradled his first flounder for the camera. A few pics were taken then we released the flattie watching as it scooted away across the sea bed. After this we packed up and headed back with Joe having the bragging rights this time and rightly so! This was to be our last session of the year as the boys were due to head back up to Skye, however they would be doing so with the ability and confidence to fish by them selves.
I can't wait to see how they get on!
Tight Lines

Thursday, 9 January 2014

2014 Blog Update

Hi Folks , first of all a happy new year to all the readers of our blog.
Many of you may have noticed the lack of blog posts over the past couple of months, this is due to me suffering a family bereavement. I have catch reports to post up but they have taken a back seat to some sad times.
However I intend to catch up with the reports this week and they will hopefully be posted soon.
So stay tuned and a happy new year to one and all!
Tight Lines