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

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