Monday, 29 April 2013

28/04/2013 - St Abb's Head

The name 'Pouting' was already taken
Choosing where to fish this year has been as much about scanning the weather forecasts to pick the least wet/windy/cold venue as anything else. On Sunday the opportunity arose for me to head out for the day. The forecast predicted wind towards 20mph in most places and a fair smattering of rain. Dunbar/Torness appeared to be about the best bet. Low tide was just before 11am and high around 5pm. Although probably a bit early in the season still, the only way to find out is to get a line wet.

En route, as the car was buffeted by side winds and various showers, I had the idea to go a little bit further and checked out weather, tides etc at St Abb's Head. All looked as conducive to a good day as anywhere and my decision was made.

Stayed still just about long enough to be pictured
I arrived bang on low tide. No water had yet made its way into the small south middle part of the harbour where I hoped to see some flatties later. Elsewhere, where I could make out the bottom I was unable to see anything fishy. The water was a bit cloudier than my previous visit making fish spotting tougher.

I decided to explore the rock pools. There were plenty but mostly quite shallow or containing too much weed. Nothing showed an interest, indeed, I only saw fish in one rock pool, possibly small gobies or blennies which scattered as I approached.

A nicer part of the day
With the tide starting to come in again I made my way round the harbour. The wind was making it difficult, catching my line from the height in the harbour wall I was fishing from, creating drag. I moved again next to the Lifeboat station. Still nothing to get me excited.

Back round at the main harbour entrance I bashed on with some light pink Isome on a jighead. I'd noted the layout of the bottom when the tide was low and was now able to bounce the Isome around on the bottom avoiding snags. Before too long, and reasonably unexpectedly I felt a fish take and tightened into something with a bit of potential. While there was some distance and a flowing tide between me and the fish, it gave an excellent account of itself, staying low until I was able to raise it enough to ID it as a Coalfish. The 20ft or so lift from the water to the harbour wall went without a hitch and my day was under way. Measuring 14 inches, and weighing about a pound and a half this was also a new PB.

Slayer of the last four fish
Before too long I had another couple on the bank, the second fish measuring the same, the third a little bit smaller. While I still couldn't see any fish, it appeared there was a shoal rolling about in front of me somewhere.

As things were going well, I decided to alter my tactics a little. I've had a wee shrimpy thing in my bag for ages which I think I found somewhere and decided to give it a go. Almost immediately I was into fish 4, a little under 14 inches and then fish 5, the baby so far at just 13.5 inches. Although I didn't know at the time, the minimum taking size for Coalies is 14 inches. I reckoned they were just too small to take (guessing 16+) and they all went back to get bigger.

During one of the rain showers
Then things died down a little, although not the wind. Weighing things up I decided to head the couple of miles or so down the coast to Eyemouth as the tide was well on the way in.

Very little to report though, on arrival it was very windy. Fishing alone on the end of a windy pier had me thinking of Darwin awards and so I returned to the car and back up the coast to St Abb's and the same spot at the harbour mouth.

Very quickly I connected with another couple of Coalfish, much the same as before, the final one reaching 14.5 inches and raising my recent PB half an inch. Fish 8 was on after that, but for the first time of the day, it came off. Very likely to be another Coalie as the fight was similar, tugging, running and staying low, certainly pretending in the water to be a bigger fish than I suspected. After this, things went quiet and a while later pretty much on high tide, I decided to pack it in.

On the road home I passed Torness. Knowing the tide timing wasn't perfect, I thought it was still worth a try. But a quick half hour or so didn't produce anything and it was time to finish up for good.

Monday, 22 April 2013

19/04/2013 - North Esk

Fancy meeting you here!!!
Having branched out for miles in either direction, there were still a few of my local pools requiring a first visit of the season. I began at Telford's Bridge in enticing conditions, but very quickly I got the feeling that the story of the early season so far was about to repeat. Specifically - nothing doing. The top and bottom of Telford's brought nothing so I decided to head up to the pool just above the outflow to the old fish farm. It's usually good for a bite, and it wasn't unknown when the fish farm was there to find an escapee Rainbow Trout, usually at least 2 1/2 lbs although the condition usually left a bit to be desired. but any port in a storm.

However, there wasn't a single drop of water from the outflow where usually there is a cascade. I was aware the fish farm had been put up for sale a couple of years ago, but didn't think it was still open. While the lack of outflow could be due to the silting up of the lade above the Serpy Weir (see previous report), I was ultimately saddened that this looked like the end of surprise rainbows on the Penicuik Esk. I don't recall getting any in 2012 and think my last one may have been early 2011 so that would appear to be that.

I made my way downstream through the (overfished and already tree-decorated with bubble floats) Corner Pool and on and on, but with absolutely nothing to show for my efforts.

My final pool was the Ele's Hole, a large pool with a big waterfall crashing into it where I suspect the largest of this area's brownie's will eventually be found. Having fished about half of it for nothing at all, I finally felt a thud and this time it wasn't a snag. I could immediately tell it was big, but very quickly it exposed itself by shooting out and clear of the water. Lo and behold, after writing off my chances of ever encountering another Rainbow Trout on the Esk, here was one going crazy on the end of my line. Spending almost as much time in the air as it did in the water, I eventually coaxed it onto the bank and set about measuring and photographing.

After some fumbling about I got it back into the water and it shot off as if nothing had happened. Obviously in excellent condition, measuring 18 inches and probably 2 1/2 to 3lb in weight (fresh out the fish farm it would probably be more like 4lb.

So, whilst the brownies resolutely decline to play ball (where do they hide in this weather?), it's good to find a bonus Rainbow lolloping about as if it owns the place. I'll maybe give the fish farm a wee visit to find out if they have indeed stopped farming. if that's the case, I'm pretty stumped as to where this fish originated. Whilst not impossible that it made its way here from upstream, I suspect it has arrived there from downstream (on the basis of no evidence whatsoever).

If you look at its fins, the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins are all in excellent condition. The dorsal fin has been cropped to about half size at some point in it's distant past and there was also a small chunk out of the bottom of its tail. I suspect this latter damage may have been more recent, either simply from rubbing against something, or maybe an encounter with a furry brown thing. But it appears to have been in the river/wild for a good few months.

15/04/2013 - North Esk

The Low Pond weir & pool
After the (one fish) success of my previous 'downstream' session I headed upstream into what I like to characterise as the North Esk nursery. Although it didn't completely avoid the industrial intervention that most rivers faced in the last couple of hundred years, especially as you head downstream, it has been largely untouched for at least a quarter of a century and provides plenty of room to grow and thrive for some of the loveliest little brownies you'll see.

With some rain pumping the river up to about double its summer levels (20+ cm) in the day or two before, I was keen to get out and try to add to my catch totals as the water fell back to 'normal' height. The river looked pretty good, just a bit lower than I like (and expected), but nicely tinged with peat which is usually a good sign. The main problem, as always this year so far, was the ongoing low temperatures. Ultimately I blanked without so much as seeing a fish. but it was a nice evening and good to reaquaint with the river after the winter.

The pool at the foot of the Serpy weir is slowly but surely being hollowed out and may eventually get back to the big deep fishy looking spot it once was. Above the weir though there has been a lot of silting up which has resulted in the run-off lade being almost completely blocked. Further upstream, as mentioned, the levels were quite low, so a lot of the runs that hold fish in higher water were barely fishable.

There was good news at the weir adjacent to the Low Pond. I remember seeing loads of small trout trying to leap the weir here about 25 years ago. But since I've 'rediscovered' it in the last few years, I've not even had a bite from it. However this year it has eroded and rearranged itself into a very nice pool and I hold out hopes for it when conditions improve.

I finished a couple of runs above the stone bridge and decided to have a wee look in the Low Pond. I'd already spotted some frogspawn in a large puddle and a couple of toads in a ditch. At the pond it was positively hoaching with toads and I also spotted a stickleback which I suspect might prick up the ears of H, my species hunting friend. Time to get the goby hooks out?

12/04/2013 - North Esk

Brown or Sea?
With winter hanging around to the point we're more or less missing out on spring this year, the fishing has been deadly slow and unproductive. Both Straiton Pond and North & South Esk's hadn't yielded any returns for my efforts, but what are we if not optimists? Even as I write there is still some snow clinging to the Moorfoot's, indeed it's only in the last week that the temperature has finally edged into double figures, although when it did, 20+mph winds accompanied.

My first trout of the season arrived off the Almond on 28th March and is one of those ambiguous sea trout or brown trout specimens. In the water I was convinced it was from the sea, very silvery with a purple/pinkish sheen. However on land I decided it was probably a brownie that was a bit off colour due to the earliness of the season. Now, looking at photos I'm not so sure and am tempted back towards a Sea Trout again. It was certainly in excellent condition attacking me near the side then leaping clear of the drink a few times, which I wouldn't necessarily expect for this time of the year. It measured a nice 13 inches. Naturally it was sent back to get bigger.

I also had a first session with the fly one evening downstream on the Water of Leith. It has been taking a lot of nonsense for the last year or so as they build flood defences upstream. I found no signs of life at all and won't be going back til the weather really improves. That said, it has appeared devoid of life plenty of times in the past, so hopefully the flood work hasn't upset or curtailed the fish in the lower part of the river by too much.
Some retro litter - McEwans lager can circa 1995?

With no signs of any brownies at all in the North Esk I've been covering a lot of river and exploring a bit more. I'm hoping that the scarcity of sport is down to the extended winter. The less attractive explanation is that there has been another landslip just above Penicuik from some sort of historic industrial dump. This area already garrotted the Esk about 10 years ago when a massive amount of sludge and other nasties was washed into the system. This winter's episode was much less severe so fingers crossed it hasn't had a negative impact on the fish. And fingers on the other hand crossed that the weather heats up a bit sooner rather than later.
First Esk Brownie of 2013

Fishing the Auchendinny stretch of the river, it was apparent that we could also do with a good rain to flush the river out. The water itself had plenty of organic 'bits' in it and the riverbed had a cloying sediment in all the slower flowing or still places (there would be rain the following week that helped clear out some of this muck).

With no bites, no rises, no nothing to provide encouragement, I was trying to keep disciplined to maximise my chances in a minimal opportunity situation. In my favourite pool I'd covered the whole lot when finally my trusty little mepp was attacked and a fish was on. An 11 inch brownie was soon on the bank and my 2013 Esk campaign was off the mark. There were no more fish or fish action to report at all.

I had decided to explore as far downstream as daylight would allow and continued on through some of the pools I know until I reached unexplored territory. It's a bit easier to get off the beaten track at this time of year as the undergrowth is pretty minimal.
Glencorse Burn where it enters N Esk

At the old Dalmore Mill site, they are busy building mock mill-building style flats with some houses sprinkled in (some sort of irony that there was a mill there, it was knocked down, then they build a mock mill in its place...). The construction is most annoying from a completely selfish point of view as before too long this stretch of river will be open to all sorts of people, probably with dogs who enjoy swimming. At the moment I more or less seem to have it to myself.

Looking upstream to the viaduct
It's always interesting to view the total disregard or lack of understanding of streams and rivers when building is taking place. It appears to simply be a total inconvenience to us humans, rather than being viewed as an outstanding 'free' resource, not to mention a home for all sorts of other creatures. Usually it is only paid any attention either to build banks high enough to prevent flooding (simply deferring the flood problem elsewhere) which usually obscures any views of the water from the nearest paths or roads or worse still, to simply pipe it up like so many of the streams that flow into the Water of Leith.

In immediate danger of some sort of monstering is the Glencorse burn. This starts in the Pentland's above Loganlea reservoir, flows into and out of Glencorse reservoir, before working its way past Flotterstone. It eventually reappears to the east of Penicuik and snakes its way through Glencorse Golf Club finally joining the North Esk through the aforementioned old Dalmore Mill site. At the end of last season, the confluence was blocked with all sorts of debris and was quite difficult to cross. However it seems to have been purposefully cleared by the workies and at the moment is, in my opinion, an improvement on what it was. I'm disappointed I didn't take a photo in its old form, but you can see what it looks like now in the photo above. Last year it was blocked to a height of 4 or 5 feet roughly from where you can see the river banks in the above photo.

The river meanders in wide arcs below the Dalmore Mill area before flowing under a viaduct and round into more woodland with steep banks. There were three or four pools I'll definitely have a look at later in the year. Hopefully my early season exploration will save time once the bushes and thorns grow into the summer.