Sunday, 22 April 2018

Western Sahara fiasco with Peche Dakhla

Western Sahara borders Mauritania to the south and east, Algeria to the north east and Morocco to the north. The region is currently administrated by Morocco although this isn't currently recognised officially by the UN as it is a disputed area. The Spanish moved out in the 70's and from there, some debate took place between the various parties. The berm( buffer zone) runs kind of diagonally across the region from the south to the north, essentially a militarised area which is mined and pretty much off limits. If you find yourself heading here check the UK Gov site for updates as travel here is not without risk. This being particularly relevant if you travel outside of the windsurfing/surfing areas that from my observation seem to be ( for Africa at least) pretty well protected.

Having carried out due diligence in as far as I possibly could I arrived in Dakhla via Casablanca and Gatwick from Scotland. At the minute there are no alternative routes from the UK. Alternatives via Paris and the Canaries have recently been cancelled, Royal Air Maroc having this route buttoned up for the moment. The area is well known to French and Moroccan anglers with Ali at Peche Dakhla YouTube the main guy for this area. Before making my decision I had checked his YouTube uploads and FB across various months before asking a number of questions about the best time to visit. April looked OK. Ali suggested from there on in, prospects would be good. I checked last April, lots of big Leerfish as well as good results a month either side of it.

I'll summarise up front before getting to the breakdown of the trip. It was shit. I've  probably never used as many words to explain how shit something was in 9 years of blogging. For anybody who follows me here....

The good

  • The food
  • The  freshly ground coffee
  • The view

The bad

  • Virtually zero advice
  • Ali the guide looked disinterested
  • Ali wasn't there for most of day 2
  • A guide without a spare reel despite me asking about bait tackle before my trip?
  • A guide who doesn't know the forecast/wind direction/strength ?
  • No plan B for Leerfish, 5 spots, 3 on one beach 2km long?
  • Complete lack of the target species
  • Fishing pressure on this beach which is also netted by rod and line anglers
  • No consideration on choice of venue or conditions to match ability.
  • Cancelled his services at 10am on day 4 from 6 days fishing- a first for me

What I could have done differently
  • Chosen a rod that didn't have an extra fast action
  • Learned more French, although communication was OK
  • Went to a casino with the money spent on the trip. On balance, despite all the planning this amounted to just a bad bet.
Day 1

The fishing area in relation to Dakhla.There is a lot of security along the journey. You would need a proper off road vehicle with a compressor to deflate/inflate tyres to get here to the coast.

I met Ali and and a young Moroccan angler at the airport at 1.30am After arriving at the camp at 3.30am Ali wakes us up at 8.30am. Having slept like a log after the journey we have breakfast, a fried egg, warm bread , olive oil dip ,freshly ground coffee and some fruit.
 Over breakfast it appears the fishing hasn't been good. Simone has been here for 4 days, this his last. He's had 3 small Leerfish and an African Pompano. Having noticed Ali's FB had some recycled images from last year and some new Corvina images it kind of backs up what I had been thinking about the form at the minute. Simone seems a decent angler, he advises using jigs 30-60g. Ali provides some words of wisdom, the first of two pieces of advice, longer leader. I tie on a longer leader. We drive 200 yards from the tent in Ali's Pajero. We're on a steep gradient sand beach with large Mullet leaping 4/5 feet in the air in the morning sun, looking good. We separate and start fishing I vary things using jigs and chisel nose lures and try a Roberts Ranger. Ali gets a brief hook up when I'm watching him but it comes loose. He seems to be throwing a 120g weight with a treble( serious distances) 
One of the local lures with a new hook from my kit
This is wound at speed across the surface creating a bubble stream. Not that he shows me this but I take hold of it and have a look at what's going on. The hooks are blunt. Simone, he's not had a touch. I can see he's probably a wealthy Moroccan, he's throwing lures with a Tenryu Ventura. It also explains why he's not recommending 4oz lures as this is way over his rod rating. We move along the beach and try a few spots. We see two whales hammering some fish just offshore and some camels. I get a hook up from a following Leerfish but it comes adrift. I try various lures but there isn't much around for any of us. After some lunch at the camp Ali points to the sun, Liche are here but they wont eat. 

We agree to bait fish for Corvina using a large cuttlefish Simone found on the beach. It would be a budgies paradise here, the whole beach is littered in cuttle bones. I'm offered a worn 15ft rod but Ali doesn't have a reel.?At a push I can use my main reel but it wasn't ideal. After a 20 min drive we arrive at stunning surf beach, the descent is sketchy.
I go down last avoiding the possibility of being hit by loose boulders in the sand. We fish for about 3 hours, Ali gets two bites and he lands a bream.
The 200ft high cliff behind us held some fossils.In this case what looked like oysters

The 3 rod and line commercial anglers with 13 rods do a little better 300 yards along the beach... We head back to the camp for an early dinner.
Simone, me and Ali.It looks like he's turned to Catholicism in an attempt to get us on "la liche"
The food Abass turned out every night was varied, healthy and top notch.
We fish the spot in front of the tent till dusk without a touch. Ali is taking Simone to the airport tonight. I clarify he's coming back tonight( twice) Also, the time we start at in the morning. He tells me 5am I clarify this. He also mentions the spot in front of the the tent, he seems to like this. He says something about 10am pointing to the beach. The pace of today had been fast, covering the ground we've all been trying hard.

Day 2

The wind has really got up during the night and also changed direction from being marginally offshore to being onshore at about 1 o'clock on the dial. It's 5am and with dawn 2 hours away it's pitch black. The stars horizon to horizon are incredible, wow! No sign of the jeep, no answer from any of the other tents at the camp? I cant say I'm best pleased at having been left alone. I go back to bed and set my alarm for 6.30am just in case I drop right off again, which I do. At 7am I hit the beach at prime time. I get a hook up from something on a 90g spoon, given how it behaves I surmise it's large ray, foul hooked, but it comes off. I see Abass, the cook, waving at me. It's 8.30am, not sure where he arrived from?
My gaff on the left, Ali's on the right the toilet at the back

I have breakfast and Abass joins me on the beach. He's using a 3m Hart pro spin rated to 120g which he's using this effectively despite this being broken and repaired at the butt section. It looked like it had been snapped when being pushed in to the sand. I ask him for one of his lures and I change the hooks, he's still getting +40/50 yards on me. I've realised that my rod is too fast and I cant compress it enough, potentially a problem. This proved to be case as the wind grew stronger and directly onshore as the day went on. By 12.45pm I'm pissed off and hit the tent and read my book. I ask Abass where Ali is, he shrugs his shoulders. The guide arrives at 1.30pm and has a laugh as I've dozed off in the tent. I cant say I'm laughing. I think about what needs to be said and tell him in French, 5 hours, one spot, not OK. Where have you been? I can see he gets the message and we head off along the beach to the same spot we were yesterday. Ali gets out the car and walks off with no chat. I do likewise. We fish for an hour and don't get a touch. We have dinner and funnily enough, we end up back at the same spot after dinner. Blowing a hooli, directly onshore. Ali drives off after 10 mins and Abass and I walk our way 1.5km back along the beach, casting as we go. I realise I have problems with Ali. In the tent I explain I have issues with my rod and get my point across using the word parabolic and some drawing in the sand. Ali doesn't have another rod, doesn't offer me his. He adds ,that he has no problem doing this all day in these conditions. I think about saying good for fucking you mate, but it would get lost in translation. I think he gets the message but isn't bothered. We talk about perseverance and reward. I get this. The reality is 4 anglers off and on the beach plus some others fishing for two days, I'm yet to see a much evidence of a Leerfish. How many spots for Leerfish do you have? Ali replies, 5 and then points to the 3 spots on the beach we've fished. I got to bed extremely pissed off. Ali does not possess  a B game and I think I've clocked it.
Ali's beach, the camp you can see as black dot just above the first map point on the bottom left.This was where most of the fishing was done.There is a tidal race at the 1km mark, you can see  a trace of this on the sea in this image. Many "gross leche" from this area it would seem. I fished this as I walked past it from the 1.5km mark on the way home. Ali was nowhere to be seen. There was another fishing camp at the 2.5km mark before the cliffs. Apparently these guys weren't very good...

Day 3

We had agreed 7.30am. No sign of Ali. I'm on the beach at dawn , arguably the best time of day on any beach , anywhere in the world. I fish alone except for a pack of wild dogs that look like dingos, 30mins without a touch and got back up for breakfast. Ali and Abass are around. I have a few cups of freshly ground black coffee with two sugars before asking Ali for the game plan. We head back to spot in front of the tent yet again. Abass gets a hook up and it comes off. I know that his and Ali's hooks are brutally blunt, hours of being dragged up the sand at the end of a cast. Ali said he had a hook up, zzzzzz, gone. Change your hooks then! Sharpen your hooks! He must have said zzzzz gone, at least twice a day. Frankly I wasn't in the mood for listening. I explained to him that if I didn't see a fish getting caught or catch one that I was off.

It looked to me like Ali had now fished for 8 days straight and had run out of steam. That I can appreciate but I hadn't travelled to another continent to fish a 300 yards stretch of beach with little or no evidence of fish on it for three days.

I had a walk along past the area I normally fished and found a net in the gutter at low tide- fantastic! We then took a run along the beach to the usual spot returning fish-less we stopped to speak to a few anglers camped in the sand dunes. Being the weekend the beach was busy, lots of rods but nobody fishing which I found odd. After a couple of minutes Ali returned with two Mullet and a large Cuttlefish. We had a chat, he stopped the jeep and came around to my side of the car, within seconds of putting his hand to the sand he came up with an old gill net buried in it Those guys, 5 Liche in the net. The lack of activity from the rods started to make sense. 

Ali gets the message as I shake my head. He drives past the end of the beach, seriously off road to an old Spanish lighthouse on a cliff. Finally, a change of venue. We fish for 5/10 mins Ali, says if they are here you know about it quickly. This was a glimpse of what a guide should be doing but it was all too quickly over as we were back on the beach in front of the tent within 30 mins. Ali gives me a 90g weight style lure. Half way through day 3 and that's only the second time he's shown any interest in what I'm doing. Again, I'm told  "La Liche "are there but not eating. I ask him if they're on a diet which is of course lost on him. I ask about what our options are. 

We head off to his top spot for Corvina after some discussion as we both seem to have given up on La Liche. As we get ready he still hasn't got a reel for me. We head off on 40 min drive and I work out we are not going to the beach we tried before.
Mauritania and the berm lay about 250km away

 As we leave the main road Ali deflates the tyres on the jeep and we do some serious off road driving.
I think if I had put as many casts here with the lures I had I would have hooked and landed a snake, scorpion or maybe camel.

 I recognise the beach from his videos but my heart sinks. I know before we start my kit wont deal with this. It's a surf beach, dropping tide over bright green boulders and 10/15ft breakers about 200 yards out. I watch in disbelief as Ali, rigs up with waders, surf jacket and boots. He ties me a rig and as I wade out, I know its probably the last time I'll see it as I cast it out.
Ali in the surf . The water was OK but when I came out I was pretty cold in the wind. On the drive down to what should have been a pristine beach I could really appreciate what a problem the world has with plastic. The volume of litter was incredible.

Sure enough after 30 minutes my rig is gone and what I have is about 50 yards of worn 30 pound braid. Ali saw how I was dressed when we left camp, shorts, inappropriate footwear and the wrong equipment. The thing is, I had breathable waders and boots in the tent. He knew this as I told him I brought them. He says he can cast a rod out for me. I decline. I phone my wife and ask her to look at a hotel for me. I've had enough of him. Not much gets said over dinner.
The main tent
The sun sinks into the sea, followed by my confidence in Ali and a good few £

I tell him I'm thinking of leaving, he seems surprised. We agree to have a push for a result the next morning and agree 7.30 am. I'm up on time, no Ali. 

I have breakfast with Abass then hit the beach. I come back up fish-less at 9 am. Ali says “good morning” and I return the greeting. La Liche? I reply no. I take a seat in the tent for a break for 10 minutes. Ali walks past me to the spot in front of the tent without saying a word. I almost lose the plot and decide it's time to go. At that point I get my wife to book a hotel as I don't have an internet connection. Ali arrives a the tent and puts his head through the door, La Liche, zzzzzz gone! I reply, aye, like me mate ,gone! I've packed my kit. He drives me to a hotel 70 km away. Not much is said on the drive.The longest 70 km both of us have probably driven.

If you like windsurfing and find yourself near Dakhla I would use Ali for a day or two, if the fish are there, in numbers and can run the gauntlet, you might just catch them. I just find it hard to believe that given the coastline available he had no other options. 

A rod 3 m-3.30m would be ideal. I used a 3m Hart Shore Power Evo 2, in hindsight, the blank is super fast, very stiff. It was too much work to compress this rod in that wind on an ongoing basis cast after cast. I was throwing lures mainly 40g-3oz and up to 4oz. 

Abass and Ali with a similar diameter braid and rod length but different rod action were out casting me by a mile. They had better technique. That said, I had enough distance, they didn't land a fish either. Having watched enough videos of fish caught on this beach, extreme distances are not always required given the tackle I've noted being used. Distance is always good but if the fish are not on the beach it wont matter a lot. The virtually non existent release policy must also have played its part over a period of time. The fact that Ali appears to be looking for a new camp tells another story. Considering the relatively  sparse population in the area the fishing pressure seemed very high. It is indeed their country and they need to eat, every corner on the coast had a tent, every tent had rods. In extreme places with no roads and no water people were fishing. I've no idea where they came from , got there or  for that matter survived  but they certainly seemed to manage.

Rod - Hart Shore Power Evo 2 40-120g  3m
Reel -Diawa BG4500
Braid- Sufix 832 30 pound BS
Lures- various, Roberts Ranger 2 1/4 oz, Wake Seriola 3 oz, Wake Lichia 2 oz, various jigs, SG Surfwalker

It was on to another destination for the next three days. I didn't fish at all on my first day as I was totally fed up with the whole escapade. It took me 20 mins of guiding myself to land my first fish early AM on the next morning and another 30 mins to catch my my first Leerfish, tiny in comparison to my target size but the target just the same. I'll put a post up about that just shortly.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Leerfish snacks

My PayPal has been taking a hammering this month but I'm pretty much done now. I'm waiting on some Owner ST66  trebles to re-rig those that I'm fitting with that style of hook. I'll also be trying singles with a split ring, swivel. split ring option. I did this in Norway on pirks a  few years back and it worked a treat with less fish lost. On the likes of the Roberts Ranger(centre left) and Wake chisel nose baits next to it , this seems to work well from what I can see. These lures are designed  to be skipped across the surface and worked like this for fish such as Roosters, Striped Bass, Leerfish and Bluefish. Who doesn't like a bit of surface action?

I have a few bits and bobs in the garage that can be used including the large size Mag Popper that I was kindly given a few years back but not used. Garfish seem to figure heavily on the their menu so the style and casting ability of some of my other choices makes sense to me. I picked up a couple of 3 ounce chrome spoons as I can imagine there will be a lot of mullet around. The roll and flash of these fish is bound to attract Leerfish so these heavy spoons might come in handy. I might also try them bounced along the sand on the surf beaches to see if I can pick up a Corvina.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Hot and Cold

There was some warmth in the sun this morning and it was nice to feel this on my face after a couple of weeks off. My legs however were stinging with the cold after 30 mins  deep wading. It didn't help that one of my dodgy repairs sprung a leak, not a surprise really.

Initially when I woke up I felt ill and contemplated not going. Feeling the need to get out I lasted a couple of hours, had a fish and lost a couple, not the worst way to spend a Saturday morning.

This ragworm escaped the sea trout and gulls and was making its way to safety. Somewhere on the tide the sea trout will be hammering these as the swim freely while spawning at this time of year. A tell tale sign to look out for is gulls repeatedly dipping and picking them off the surface.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Morocco Mission

Between the weather and other commitments I've not managed out over the past few weeks so I'm looking forward to chasing a few sea trout this weekend. Other than working I've been spending some time over the last month(too much in fact) planning a trip to southern Morocco. I've not had the desire for a trip like this for a few years now so when the idea wouldn't go away I found myself searching the internet for information on Leerfish. Morocco , the Ebro delta and Adriatic were all sound possibilities I knew of. With a lot of digging I opted for a Moroccan adventure! April appears to be early in the season but it should be OK and next month suits me anyway. I looked at the tides for the area, the dates I wanted were available, so I booked the flights!

It's a windy environment on the coast of the Sahara and I've had to gear up for this and the potential size of fish accordingly. Longer rods, 40g -3oz lures, surf tables, rocks and wading reefs will be the order of the day by the looks of it. Staying in a tent will be fun, I'll just need to remember to check my boots for things in the morning.
I have to say, it's been a really awkward trip to plan from the start. From flights routes changing to organising the injections I've just had today. I could go on but what's the point? It is however coming together, I just need a valid passport now. I'm sure that will be straightforward....
Being bald people insist on buying me hats. I've no idea where the Fez came from to be honest. I think there might have been drink taken.

My bucket list of fish is out the window unless I get a lottery win. It's now Leerfish, Bluefish and Striped Bass ,all doable. With some luck I might be able to knock the Bluefish off the list in September. I can almost justify the gear I've just bought for a trip in the future for Striped Bass.I'm telling myself that anyway.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Not that I'm tight

Now I'm not tight ,but when it comes to waders and boots I've wasted time and money in the past dealing with sub standard garbage that has failed first time out. In addition, continued to do so when replaced. Following on from this, the last waders I bought were a pair of Visions from Diver Dave in Aberdeen. He sells returns which are fixed, actually quality checked and retailed again by Dave at a decent price.

These have been a great buy for £100, season 5 I think. I did notice a few leaks here and there at the weekend so brutally repaired them with Neoprene Queen. I've used this wetsuit repair material on feet before as well as these waders last season. I didn't expect to get another year out them but I'm now intending to finish the year with these. Yeah, a disgrace, I know. I'll treat myself to a new pair from Dave before I go to Denmark in April 2019. Barnacle covered rocks/saltwater knocks the shit out of this kit.
Neoprene Queen might provide a handy leak solution in the field if you're not fussy about the look.It dries faster than the clear alternatives, especially in the warmer months.
My boots aren't any better. The soles are OK, still intact with studs, not sure how they've survived. Second pair of Scierra Riptides in 8 years, not bad going. The insole collapsed last time out and recess for the stud burst the stocking foot, again, Neoprene Queen sorted that. I drew around my foot on an exercise mat and made some inserts. They might not last but I've about 6 feet of it left :0)
I'm sure if you're reading this thinking about gently treading through gravel on a chalk stream in a pair of £600 Simms you'll be laughing. Wait till the barb wire fence gets you! These will be going cheap in November, you can get in touch and I'll throw in a free box of hankies....

I've also rinsed the last of the value from my Daiwa Certate 10 3000. It's still working but I'll break it for spairs maybe? At £90 for a spare spool( I have this one and a spare) and an RCZ double handle. This was £75 when I lost the original walking to a mark! Believe it or not, the standard handle was also £90 to replace, the RCZ was a bargain eh? It's been a good reel but me, along with a lot of others are over the Magseal nonsense. In addition to that ,at the start of last year Daiwa were looking at £300 to put it right, almost the same price as a new reel. Daiwa did fix it year 1 after it ended up at the bottom of Cork harbour for a wee while. At that point they replaced the the gears in it under warranty, kind of strange it needed this done in year 1 though? It's now 6 years old, caught a lot of fish so I shouldn't complain too much I guess, or should I, at nearly £400 when it was new?
The now retired Certate at the front and its better value little brothers up the back

I like Daiwa reels/products and I want to support jobs in Scotland but I'm done with high end reels for fishing in this country. There is adequate specification at a much lower price point for my fishing. With that in mind I've added another 2 Excelers to the stable, a new 2500 A and 3000 HA to add to my 2506.These reels have a decent specification and both come with spare spools. I bought both of these last week for £110. I did consider the new Daiwa BG, looks the business, great reviews but no spare spool.

That should be me well covered for reels and line options without breaking the bank- happy days!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Lean machine

Nice to be out again two weeks on the bounce. I cant complain, would have liked a better picture of this fish, preferably in June, when it will have packed on some weight.

       4 jumps and a couple of nice runs before it was slipped back, 52.5cm

I had a couple of other fish as well, nice day when I was out of the wind. The week ahead looks fun, amber weather warnings and the beast from the east! I'll be giving it a miss next weekend anyway, hopefully we'll be in a milder spell next time out. 

Like a few other bloggers I'll start listing the gear I use on my sessions. I'll update any posts made  this year on the off chance it's of interest to anyone reading my blog now and in the future. 

  • Rod- Century HPR 9ft 5-28g
  • Reel-Daiwa Exceler 2500HA
  • Braid- Sufix 832 0.14
  • Leader- Seaguar  Red Label fluro10 pound BS, Riverge 2mm ring connection
  • Lures-Magic Minnow D360,black/silver and "the German"UV Tyskeren

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Everyday is like Sunday

River at full pelt , not surprisingly the water level was way up in the loch with the snow melt. I switched on the Lowrance , 2.8c ,oh dear... That is very cold, ever the optimist I pushed off in to the greyness with an earworm and Morrissey's lyrics in my  head. 

All of the above I chose to ignore...

Not much to show for a days fishing, at least one Pike fancied a snack, the free hanging treble was pinned to right of the last tooth mark, in the root of the tail, typical.

I opted to float fish a sardine at one point but I had also underestimated how cold it was. I couldn't hack it after 20 mins sitting still. My layering under my drysuit wasn't right today, something I'm putting down to hurried prep last night. No hot drink either, schoolboy errors really.

I made some nice trippy screen shots with the plotter screen on structure scan overlay, the wind caught me and I spun around. I've not used this much but played around with it today being cold and bored senseless for the most part.

One of my perch spots on the top right, it kind of adds a dimension as you travel. I should get my arse in to gear and set up Insight Genesis. That's job for next week, it could just help me catch that one fish on day like today when everything was stacked against me. 

So I'm having a glass of wine  and drying my eyes, boo hoo.... Not sure what to get up to next weekend? It wont be here:0)

  • Rods -Savage Gear 7ft Big lure/jerk 150g/ Rovex Quad Pro 8ft 20-40g
  • Reels-Okuma Citrix/Daiwa Caldia X
  • Line Powerpro 60pound/Sufix Tritanium 18pound
  • Lures- various, Westin Monster Teez,Fox Pro Shad, Bass Assassin Sea Shad
  • Hobie Outback/Lowrance 7Ti