Thursday, 27 June 2013

25/06/2013 - Dunbar Harbour & Loch Chon

Ideal conditions on Loch Chon

My new job basically involves travelling all over the best parts of Scotland and the north of England. This has had me rubbernecking some incredibly mouth watering venues across the whole range of coast, lochs and rivers.
First of many

With a couple of days off work, my fishing acquaintance Hutch was keen to get something arranged with him and another of his fishing buddies. He asked me to pick somewhere from the various spots I've been reporting back on. His preference was for Perch & Pike. My shortlist included 7 lochs, 1 lochan, 2 sea lochs and 2 rivers. These were all places I hadn't fished before and the list could easily have been doubled.

Highland Perch

The day before our trip my job took me through the heart of the Trossachs to Inversnaid and I settled on Loch Chon. As there were 3 of us, we'd need enough room to be able to keep out of each others way. It looked as good as perfect for all our criteria and on the day, even the weather forecast turned out to be ideal.
Mauled on the way in

As Mark wasn't available until about lunchtime, like any good fishing addicts, myself and The Hutch decided to have a dabble around Dunbar Harbour in the morning. Low tide was 10.41 and it was very low at just 40cm. This meant there was hardly any water in the harbour, but it didn't stop Hutch locating some wee flatties, although he couldnt ultimately connect. We both also invoked interest from some sand gobies, but our tackle was probably a bit oversized for their wee mouths.

New PB

We moved out onto the rocks and soon H was into some Long Spined Sea Scorpions picking up about half a dozen. After a while, I managed to get one too (but no photo). We passed a class of primary school children with their teachers on the way back in and learned one or two things about crabs as we returned (crabs, just like humans, are either left or right handed too!!!). Never too old to learn.


Then it was into the car, picking up Mark and off to the Trossachs. A quick stop at the David Stirling memorial near Stirling before a food and permit stop in Callander (Mhor Bread, a baker in Callander is as good a bakers as I've found in Scotland by the way) and we were on our way past Lochs Venachar and Achray before crossing the Dukes Pass with a view of the brilliantly named Loch Drunkie. Soon we were down to Aberfoyle before turning right towards the heart of the Trossachs up the road to Inversnaid.

Historic scar

My general expectation at highland lochs is for long periods of inactivity interspersed with shorter periods of inactivity. When you don't know these often vast waters, locating the fish is the main problem. We arrived, set up and hit the water around 1515. Hutch was annoyed as he realised he'd forgotten his landing net, but I was even more annoyed as I'd forgotten my midgie net.

The engine room

The other two began to head off along the loch whilst I decided to fish into the nearest corner before catching up with them. Initial expectations were being adequately fulfilled after 20 mins or so when I felt my first small bite of the day. Next cast however I caught some weed and suspected I'd probably misidentified the initial bite. Next cast however I was into a fish and it turned out to be a wee Perch. Blank busted already. Too good.
Sulking after release

I cast again and bang, another Perch. Outstanding, now things were looking up. Next cast another Perch, then half way in it got taken by a biggish Pike. I had the pleasure of scrapping with the Pike a bit before it released the poor wee Perch. Whilst Percy had been injured in the assault, it seemed OK when returned. Another cast, another Perch. Followed by another on the next cast, but a big swirl and fin show before boom, another big pike tried to nick the Perch again. Once more he didn't release for a few moments before I was able to land and release another injured Perch. Incredible scenes.

Note the black dot at the end of the dorsal

I covered the same spot again and this time a Pike was on. Now the reel began to scream a bit and I had visions of this fish being snaffled by something outrageous as well. With no net, nobody to help, and no idea how to lift a big Pike out the water I knew I was in for a contest. But it was played out and brought ashore without tooo much trouble and I knew I'd just beaten my PB (formerly 21.5 inches). The measuring tape said 28.5 inches, I didn't have scales. He/She was returned and for a good while it just sat sulking in front of me before making its way back to the depths. I'm pretty sure this fish was one of the two that had attacked my Perch, I'm also quite sure the two attacks were two separate Pike.

Taken close in, smallest pike of the day

At this point I texted the other two who were long since out of sight to say 'get up here, its a fish a cast, (sometimes two fish a cast)', but noticed we were out of signal range. They didn't get this text until we'd packed up and were in the car on the way home again.

A Pike frenzy

I continued to raid this hot spot taking around 15 Perch in all although the Pike seemed to have learned not to be so greedy. I also quickly scaled up my lure to a larger lure and hook due to the bigger Pike showing an interest. But there was no further Pike interest and no Perch either, so I resumed the initial tactics and success, although not as rapid as before, did continue for a while. After interest eventually cooled off I decided to continue exploring along the shore looking for more fish.

The blue sky is not photoshopped

Where a small burn runs in, I found some more small Perch, but no sign of any Pike. I moved to the opposite bank. My tactics was cast out 3-4 times and if no bites arrived, I'd move on a bit. I soon found another hotspot and was again getting two or three taps per cast and a fish every other cast. And I found some more Pike too. Whislt all the Perch still refused to hit even the 8 inch barrier, I connected with a decent  Pike of around 20 inches ( I must have measured it, but just can't remember what it was due to all the action).

Flat calm

I also coaxed a wee jack of about 11-12 inches to attack very close in before a long range cast produced an instant take and I was into another decent Pike. All it revealed for a good 5 mins was one golden flash just after it took, then it stayed down for a long time before I got a look at it. It had picked up some weed on the way in and stripped line off my screaming reel a few times, putting up the fight of the day. Without heavy tackle I had my drag set perfectly so the fish was able to take line and scream my reel (great sound) whenever it wanted. I combined this with a simple tactic of trying to guide the fish rather than fight or boss it before it eventually tired and I hauled it ashore (still netless and knowledgeless). This one measured 24 inches, but was tubbier than the 28.5incher and probably about the same weight.

Fight of the day off this plumper model

Eventually Hutch & Mark re-appeared on the far bank and we hollered garbled questions and answers at each other. When I shouted 'How many have you caught' Hutch replied 'Lost count', or so I thought. This was quality as it meant the whole venue was on fire. I saw them work their way back up to where we were parked and despite still getting Perch galore, decided to go back round and exchange marvellous tales. But not before another decent Pike took my lure. This time I wasn;t to be so lucky and after a couple of minutes of screaming reels again, it dislodged the hook and made good its escape. I didn't see it at all, but it was in the same range, no bigger, than those I'd already caught.

Get in there!!!

When I reached the other two, Mark was just about at my initial hotspot and Hutch was just arriving. 'Any joy' he enquired. 'About 35' I replied, to which his reaction revealed they'd had a much tougher time of it. Apparently what I'd heard from the other side of the loch as 'lost count' was actually only 'one pike'. In no time I'd updated them with my exploits, given them the same size hooks I had been using and told them the magic lures. Mark, was soon into a Perch and would you believe, it was bigger than any of my 30 or so so far. He managed to get a second a little bit later that was also bigger than any of my perch. I took them back round the loch to my other two hotspots and once Hutch located the Perch, he began to pull them out good style.

Shows what wee Perch can recover from

By this time the midgies were reaching critical levels and we began to return to the car again casting here and there as we went and picking up the odd Perch. Then, near the original hot spot I connected with another decent Pike and the reel was wailing again. At least this time I had some help and after a short but respectable scrap, my fish tired and Hutch lifted it from the loch for me. We'd been aware for a while the whole lure was outside it's mouth and it was only lightly hooked right inside the lip.

Perch number 30ish

This one measured 26". Before I measured it, I suspected it was the same fish as my first as it had a similar scar on its back, but it was indeed my 5th Pike of the day. A few more casts on the way to the car failed to increase my tally of 40 Perch and 5 Pike.

The cherry on top of an outstanding day
A stunning day for me where I was fortunate enough to head off in one direction with no real thought or planning and find 3 hotspots that kept chucking fish at me.

Hooked right on the lip

I can safely say I'll be back soon, with midgie net, and we now know exactly where to head!!!

Let the chinning practice begin

Last look

May-June 2013 Update - Various Locations

The reef at Torness at low tide
The lack of blogs has coincided with a new job but that doesn't mean I've not been wetting a line whenever I've had the chance. Rather than update loads of trips individually through a hazy memory into individual blogs, I'm going to roll them all into this one blog and provide details where I can recall them. Here goes.

St Abbs Harbour - 18/05

After some success with Pollock I was keen to return to the Harbour, but the weather wasn't playing ball.

Driech personified
It was raining when I arrived, requiring me to take shelter in some old outbuilding whose door opened when I was trying to keep dry.

Once the rain stopped, the wind made things difficult. An explore all round the harbour bore nothing and I cut the session short.

But not before discovering a seemingly abandoned gulls nest.

Loch Lubnaig/Falkirk Wheel - 23/05

Keen to give Lubnaig a shot I headed up for an evening session.

There are two permits for opposing banks and I opted for the western side which is looked after by the Forestry Commission. Knowing there are Perch as well as brownies and Char I decided on the spinning rod which was just as well as the wind was a little too stiff for casting flies.

I covered a fair amount from the southern tip upwards but didn't find a thing. In the face of the incessant wind I decided to cut my losses and head off home.

The Falkirk Wheel - we're not all trams and parliament shambles

Not content with one blank in the evening, on the way back I decided to have a quick thrash in the basin at the Falkirk wheel. Nowt.

Union Canal - 24/05

Heading out with all my kit but not quite knowing where I'd end up, I finally alighted at the Union Canal just to the west of Edinburgh at a spot known as Wilkies Basin.

Nice day for it, but no fish

I've heard of Pike being taken in here and had an offer once from a wee jack, but otherwise it's really living up to the tag 'looks better than it fishes'.

As usual I fished the entire stretch but couldn't find a fish. But I'm sure it'll get another visit at some point.

St Abbs Harbour - 30/05

In much better conditions I gave St Abbs harbour another go.

A bit more like it

The Coalies are as good as bankers here with a chance of all sorts of other fish like Pollock, flatties, Wrasse and many more no doubt.

I was in straight away at the harbour entrance and quickly hauled three small Coalfish up next to me.

Sample Pollock

The action tailed off though as the returned fish passed on the message there was a predator about so I began to explore around the outside walls of the harbour. This involves standing even higher and more precariously around the outer wall. I soon found another couple of willing coalies as I progressed around before trying the harbour mouth again from the opposite wall but still no more luck there. On the way back I hooked another wee coalie at the same spot as before making it 6 small Coalfis for the evening.

Dunbar Harbour - 11/06

There is a corner in Dunbar that I've been reliably informed held flatfish from 2 or 4 different species.

First ever flattie

I arrived at Dunbar intent on breaking my duck with these weirdly formed fish and found conditions to be excellent. I could see all the way to the bottom on a rising tide and began twitching some Isome along the bottom.
Second ever flattie
Soon I felt a little tremble and was into a fish which turned out to be a Flounder. I followed this up 10 minutes later with another and growing in confidence I almost immediately felt another bite. Expecting another flattie I was amused to find I'd connected with an aggressive wee Long Spined Sea Scorpion with two tone markings. He went back to patrol the deep and quite soon I lifted out my third Flounder.

Peculiar fellies

There were to be no more though so I decided to explore around the other side of Dunbar Castle to see what if anything it offered. I drove round to West Barns and started following the Biel burn for the mile or so until it joins the sea.

Likes his Ska

There were scores of small trout about, but nothing to get overly excited about.

Flounder number 3, come in, your time is up

Unless you're a Heron. I followed the stream all the way down to the sea and suspect it will be good for flatties or finnock in the right conditions.

Fish munching machine at work

Torness/Dunbar Harbour - 17/06

Spoiling for some Blenny action I went down to the outlfow at Torness and found I had the place to myself at low tide. I explored the whole reef but only located the odd fish in a couple of pools and couldn't get any to take my Isome.
The quickest Blenny in the pool
By the time I reached the breakwater another guy with standard Bass gear had appeared. As I lobbed my Isome down the hole next to the rock he was on, some Blenny action finally began. About 3 or 4 very decent Blennies came charging out with about double that number of small ones all looking to take my bait. Thinking a biggie had it, I struck and pulled out a little booger. Releasing him into another pool, I was back in the same spot.
PB, 6 inch Blenny
Again there was plenty of action. This time I managed to hook one of the bigger ones, probably not the biggest, but a full 6 inches long. Definitely a new PB. After a few near misses, the bigger specimens seemed to have grown a bit more suspicious and showed themselves a lot less.

The wee ones were beasting my Isome, although in time they too became more suspicious and I had to be more patient. I rebaited with a new piece of Isome and chucked the old shredded piece into the same hole, watching as it slowly sank. An inch or two off the bottom it provoked a renewed frenzy and a little bulb went on in my head.

With the weight of the jighead, my bait was plummeting to the bottom and taking them a wee while to work themselves up to the take. So I  lowered my hook into the water as if it was slowly sinking and it was met just off the bottom by a frenzied Blenny mob. I ended with 6 Blennies before it was time to head up the road to Dunbar where I was meeting a few mates later after their work for a session in the harbour.

Bonus Flounder
Arriving first I was able to pull another flounder out of 'flattie corner' and also lose a flatfish that was about the size of a limpet. Then a choir turned up and began singing Moon River. Can't say that happens too often whilst fishing.
Jolly entertaining
I then went to the rocks outside the harbour mouth to see what was about. Immediately I hooked into something half decent and was delighted to find a Coalfish measuring 14 inches. Another of the same size quickly followed, then another smaller one.

Example Pollock
After the initial success, the big ones seemed to move away, but I still managed to catch and release 7 in total. One last hopeful attempt was made on flattie corner without success as I happily toddled back to the car and headed home.

Rock in the sea with birds on it
6 Blennies, 1 Flounder and 7 Coalies.

Eliburn 26/06

First Rudd for a while
My first visit to Eliburn for about 3 months came about after H requested an evening session to use up some leftover maggots. Notoriously difficult to raise in the AM, this suited me fine. We arrived to find nobody else fishing and quickly set up at my favourite peg.

In no time we were under assault from the Perca Perca. On occasion the Perch Army would let a maggot slip through their cordon and we'd snaffle another species. I caught a couple of Roach, an Ide and a bonus Rudd, first one for a couple of years, with the rest of my 15 or so fish being Perch. Hutch motored off into the distance with over 50 fish, around 40 of whom were the stripy anger merchants.

Ducklings providing some fun
An excellent wee session, but once again, as Hutch mentions in his blog of the day, we were left scratching our heads at the blank experienced by 3 boys on the opposite bank. To reiterate, we were under assault by the Perch. I fail to see how it would be possible to blank in there in those conditions short of using a ships anchor as a hook. And even then...Genuinely perplexing.

Friday, 10 May 2013

04/05/2013 & 07/05/2013 - Loch Freuchie & River Braan

Bridges at inflow to Loch Freuchie
A few of my favourite fishing spots (and views) are dotted around Perthshire. Last week I was based just outside Perth for 6 days which, in the evenings, allowed me to cover many of these places, plus a little bit of exploring new locations.

At the head of the River Braan lies Loch Freuchie. I've managed to entice the odd small pike, perch and brownie from this river, but decided to head up the valley to check out Loch Freuchie itself, reputed to be a relatively shallow loch with some small jack pike.

Looking north on approach to Loch Freuchie
The road and passing places have been upgraded to facilitate their use by the construction traffic which is going about the business of building the somewhat controversial new Beauly mega-power line. As I was there outside of working hours and there was almost no construction related traffic about, it opened up the possibility of more places to park the motor and access water.

I began at the head of the loch, exploring especially around where the river enters. Despite the drizzle, the water looked very fishy, certainly if I was a half decent pike I'd probably choose this area to sit. However, despite spinning and jigging around all likely looking lies, I couldn't connect with anything in the at-capacity water.
View down the loch

There was still the odd spot of snow clinging to the shadowed gullies high up the surrounding hills, a sign that as this spring and summer stubbornly refuse to kick off, this season hasn't quite spluttered into life yet.

I moved around the loch to a big bay where a small stream enters. The sort of spot that fishing guides tell you to target. There was a slight ripple on the water which would allow me to see any rises. I chucked my mepp about in the hope of finding some pike action. Almost immediately my eye was drawn to a large trout porpoising in the water. It was an unusual rise, trout usually sipping, rolling or clearing the water altogether, it is unusual in my experience to see wild fish show their dorsal in such a way. I threw the mepp out into its projected path and waited on the thunk of the take as I retrieved, but no thunk came. There was no other visual action, but my curiosity had been well and truly captured.
River Braan, some snow still visible on the hills

With a stiff crosswind, I was only able to cast a fly in one direction covering the little bay to my left. But this change of method was as successful - not at all - as my lure attempts.

River Braan, not quite the only person for miles
Despite the lack of fish connection, there was plenty going on around me keeping me occupied. There was a gaggle of Canada Geese sharing the field with sheep and lamb's. As well as gulls crows and pigeons, I also spotted pheasants aplenty, chaffinches, black grouse, red grouse, pied wagtails, lapwings and meadow pipits. The latter were a completely new notch on my twitching bedpost so to speak. Whilst the lapwings reminded me of when I was younger and these birds were very prevalent flocking around farmland along the Pentlands and surrounding areas. They're a bird with many unique characteristics from their unusual wing shape (almost bird of prey like) to their flappy and erratic flying style to their call which can sound like someone tuning in their radio at high volume, or maybe an 80's computer game sound effects.
Whopper, beauty, peach,, beast, stotter

Bearing all this in mind, I was saddened, in such a wild and wonderful location to stumble across some discarded tackle left behind by some neanderthals (as well as the obligatory used tin foil bbq). There was a completely unravelled spool of bait elastic and a pile of line nesting around sea fishing rig with rubber squids and oversized sea hooks and a large jighead hook as well. The biggest surprise was that no bird had yet entangled itself and come to grief. It really boggles my mind how or why some people can be so irresponsible, especially in such a location. Do us a favour and just stay at home you fandangles.
'only' 16 inch and a pound and a half

With all available water covered in the windy conditions, I called it a night knowing I'd be able to pop back very soon.

Three evenings later I was back. In effect, this was the first day of summer, the first day that temperatures across the country had broken through 15 degrees. Although conditions looked much better from the shelter of the car, once out I realised it was a lot windier than the previous visit which effectively put paid to my hopes of casting a fly on the water. So with a wire trace and big rubber lure around a jighead hook I set about trying to locate some of the resident pike. The results were as before and it was soon time to explore elsewhere. Being very tempted to stop at a couple of locations further down the loch, I continued on hoping for some convenient access to the Braan to appear. On a bend in the road, the flash of the suns reflection on water, close enough to the road, alerted me that the river was quite close by. I parked up and set off through the fields. However, the 'river' I had seen turned out to be a duck pond, the actual river being the same distance away again through more fields, over bluffs, around and through bogs and amongst some not too pleased to see me sheep.

Eventually I reached the river only to find access difficult. As the landscape here is so flat, any spates spill onto the surrounding land quite easily, making the riverbank very marshy and treacherous to access. Being alone in such a location with no phone signal for a few miles means a fair bit of caution is required. Using the large tufts to avoid the bog, I managed to reach the river and have a cast about in what looked almost like a pond. But I was surprised at the pull of the current as I drew my spinner across. With no luck I retreated and moved downstream in pursuit of another accessible spot.

I know that there are some smaller pike much further downstream and this was all I was really thinking about being not too far from Loch Freuchie itself. A few casts into my new location I felt a couple of bumps on my mepp, then the take of something fairly hefty. I was quite sure it was a pb pike (current pb is pretty small) and bossed it a bit to get it up in the water for a look (losing a decent fish before you've even seen it is one of the most frustrating things that can happen) and was surprised and delighted to find I was actually hooked up to a big troot. I played it for a bit before managing to get it across and hauling it onto the bank. At 16 inches in length and a pound and a half exactly, I was absolutely delighted. The Brown Trout hardly gets any better than this (ask me if I stick to this appraisal after I land a Ferox).

Also, the trout that I'd seen do the 'Loch Ness monster impression' in Loch Freuchie the previous visit, was appreciably bigger than this one!!!! Not double figures, but certainly noticeably bigger.

Either side of the fish, the sun was setting at the head of the valley providing an ever changing and completely stunning range of colours from the nuclear furnace at the middle of our solar system. As usual the camera struggled to adequately capture this, but I've included them anyway. And with the setting of the sun, and me standing in a bog in the middle of nowhere in a location I'd never been before, I decided it best to head back to the car whilst I still knew where it was. So I bid farewell to yet another part of Perthshire that ranks right at the top of my favourite fishing locations.

My first three trout of the season were a rainbow, a sea and a brown, which is pretty unusual. Also, this fish brought my tally of trout to just 5 for the season (into May!!!), but with lengths of 11", 13", 16" 18" and 7", an unusually high average of 13".