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

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