Thursday, 13 March 2014

Neist Point - August/September 2014

Neist Point Lighthouse
The most westerly point on the Isle of Skye is known to any serious sea angler in Scotland and further afield as a primo location to encounter big fish from the shore. And I've been able to fish there four times since July.

On the edge of the Duirinish peninsula, Neist Point is separated from the Outer Hebrides by The Minch, a channel of the sea where there is a real chance of spotting amongst other things, Minke Whales, Basking Sharks or the largest UK bird of prey, the White Tailed Eagle. This isn't to mention the seals or seabirds such as Cormorants and Gannets that feed in the abundant waters overlooked by the Stevenson lighthouse.

Looking south over Moonen Bay
Immediately to the south of Neist Point is Moonen Bay which is overlooked by cliffs towering over 1000 feet in height, some of the highest in Europe. It is a stunning location and on a fine day, it's hard to beat. But it's not for the faint hearted. Setting out from Dunvegan around Loch Dunvegan and past Loch Pooltiel and Loch Mor, the drive to reach the parking spot alone is challenging enough. From the 'car park' its then a good 20 minute traipse down a steep cliff path, then up and over another mound of rock (the large wedge in the top picture) along unguarded cliffs before the lighthouse even comes into view. Another steep decline takes you down to the lighthouse and the very western tip of the island where your next choice is then a clamber over basalt rock formations (akin to the Giants Causeway) in any direction. This gets the heart going, then there is the exact opposite on the way back where frequent rests are required on the steep climb back up to the car park.
Looking east to the cliffs at Moonen Bay

But it's worth it, even for the 20-30 minute sessions I've been able to fit in.

My first couple of attempts were as much exploratory as anything. My tackle was really too light and my offerings of Isome on a jighead weren't taken seriously by anything swimming in front of me. I did however spook a rockpool full of, I assume, blennies of a decent enough size. These will be targeted again at some point for sure, but on that day my mind was on exploring the sea itself and time was of the essence.

My next trip out, tooled up with more lures and heavier jigheads was hindered by the clunkiness of my new rod/reel. I'd bought an emergency set-up out of the tackle shop in Dunvegan after snapping my spinning rod, but the reel and pre-loaded line were a bit mis-matched, meaning my casting distance was poor.

Pollock, returned for being too big!!!
However, another fisherdude appeared with his ladyfriend in tow and promptly began extracting impressive Pollock on a sand eel lure. He landed three that we guessed were from 2-7lb or thereabouts. I wasn't able to reach the extra 10-15 yards he was getting that was getting him interest on every cast. While frustrating, it only whetted my appetite for the next time, when I would be sure to have more adequate kit with me.

So on the 19th September I returned and conditions were good enough for me to set off on the hike down to where I was sure I'd smash my Pollock record (or anything else I caught for that matter). Whilst I'm relating those times I've managed to fish in relative safety, half the time I visit, the weather conditions would only suit someone with a death wish (literally).

19th September, tougher conditions
But on arrival this time it was immediately obvious the previous mark wouldn't be fishable for two reasons. Firstly the tide was a lot lower making the previous hot spot uncoverable, and even if it had been, the wind was blowing straight towards the mark, the entirely opposite direction from my previous visit. So I'd have to explore elsewhere. This might sound straightforward, but in the limited time available, it meant a mixture of jumping over crevices, rock climbing up and over basalt columns and trying not to slip or fall onto the barnacle covered rocks while I tried to find somewhere on the other side of the rock. Neist Point is not a place you want to get injured.

I found a new spot, but despite fanning around with my casts, I couldn't find any fish and had to just make do with watching the Gannets divebomb for their lunch, admire the views across to Lewis, Harris and the other smaller outer Hebridean islands to the south while a seal bobbed its head up to check me out .

So as yet, I've drawn a blank in this breath taking location. But it won't be long until I'm in the right place at the right time. Watch this space.

The three pictures below are from my 14th September visit. As I emerged over the brow of some rocks at the southern tip of Neist Point, I noticed a flock of Cormorants sitting on the rock. But they saw me at the same time and bolted.

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