Friday, 31 January 2014

It takes a certain amount of bravery, drive and self-belief to set out on your own in business, when that business is fishing I’ll tip my hat to those that make the move.  It’s possibly a dream for most of us on a Monday morning stuck in traffic or in an office with deadlines and targets. So the thought of being on a loch, river or beach at 6am on a July morning with someone paying you to be there appeals to me and probably anyone reading this. However, the reality of capricious fish, poor weather, forums and the expectations of fellow anglers might see most of us crumble, being a fishing guide is not an easy life, you probably won’t be rich but it is a lifestyle choice.

So it was good to see my friend Callum Connor recently push out on his own with  providing tailor made Pike, Trout, Grayling, Salmon, Saltwater fly & lure fishing experiences in Scotland.

I’ve fished with Callum socially and can vouch for his passion, enthusiasm and knowledge of the industry and wish him all the best in his new venture.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the pressure to put him on to a fish when he drove from Stirling to meet me down at the Mull of Galloway last summer (and back the same night, committed or what?). The target fish was a Bass on fly or lure at night.

That mission was accomplished but I just hope his nerves are better than mine! I guess we shall see as he’s putting me through my paces with an integrated shooting head and salt fly rod soon. It’s been a while since I picked up a fly rod in anger so he might have his work cut out, good luck Cal!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Shore trip to Loch Etive

Scott and I met up for our first joint trip of 2014 heading up to Etive on Sunday. The targets were the usual suspects for this venue, Spurs, Thornbacks and LSD’s but as always there is the chance of a few other species as well. We had been unfortunate with the weather in December as the intention was to add to Scott’s 110 all-round species tally for 2013 but weeks of gales and rain put an end to that idea. Scott set himself the objective of catching the three main members of the shark family available so I picked a likely spot where you can hit about 200 feet of water pretty easily. The challenge at this mark is the last 50ft which can be tricky due to the fringe of weed and the vertical gradient.

About 1pm we sent the one hook pulley rigs and fish baits out into the loch and waited for the touchdown which does take a little while here.   I started to get bites straightaway and soon had a Codling on a rainbow trout section.
Scott was having a few odd issues with his braid but after losing a rig he settled in and got his first decent bite. This resulted in a nice Thornback on a sandeel sausage. After a bit of huffing and puffing it was up and over the ledge. The first and maybe the one species I felt might be hardest to tick off the target list hit the rocks.

 I had two Daiwa Amorphous AWB's with me so I huffed and puffed as well , they're too soft tipped for this mark.
There was plenty of interest in our baits and I picked up a small Spurdog and Scott made another step towards his target with an LSD.
One more to go!
My first Spur makes its way back.

I picked up another Spur shortly after my first but got caught up on someone’s old braid main line, looked about 100 pound braking strain, a real problem. As I made my way towards the fish I nearly broke my neck as the vibram soles on my boots were hopeless on the black shiny rocks which made going anywhere  near the water’s edge a  problem. Scott got his Spur and the three species hatrick was in the bag a lot quicker than I expected...good news!
As the tide dropped I suggested a move as I didn’t fancy dealing with the rocks in darkness. I felt that the shallower mark close by would start to fish when the tide turned. Shortly after we arrived Scott had the biggest Spur of the trip which might have went about 5 pounds.
We were both getting a few bites here and there and I picked up another Codling, then my first Thornback of the session.
We had a few more fish after this. Scott had another Thornie and we also had Codling and micro doggies.

It was a really nice night to be out, the sky was clear and it was surprisingly mild.  I went over to have a chat with Scott, he was plotting star constellations with his mobile app but the only thing I was trying to spot was an owl which sounded so close it felt like it was nearly on my shoulder. I eventually found it in the trees when it swivelled its head around and its eyes lit up in my headlight. Pretty soon the bites dried up, the owl went on its way and we hit the road for three hour journey home, nice little trip. It was good to catch up with Scott again, we usually find a few fish when we meet up so we’ve planned a few joint sorties for later in the year.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Long term gear review

The days are getting a little longer and the weather over the last few days has been a little better but as we know, it probably won’t last and at some point we’re almost certainly going to hit a cold spell with some snow.  I should make it out for the first trip of 2014 next week which will most likely be a trip to Loch Etive with Scott.   I’m looking forward to spring and the start of my Sea Trout season and found myself in the garage today sorting out some gear and having a look at what I have and what might need replaced. Thankfully there’s not much money needing spent so I thought I would do a quick review of some of the items I’ve worn, used  and abused  as I’ve walked and fished the beaches of Scotland, Ireland and Wales over the last few years looking for those silver spikey things which at the moment  seem like a distant memory.
Costa sunglasses
I fished Tobago in 96 and after trying another anglers Costa’s I decided to get myself a pair when I got back to Scotland. Back then there were no distributors in the UK, changed days since then. In 97 I used this new thing called the internet to make my first ever web purchase and got the bottom pair sent from the states.  These were replaced in 2001 while in Florida on holiday by the Triple Tails( top pair) green 580 lenses, almost still perfect with the odd scratch the leg screws are still tight and the lenses have never popped out despite some abuse. They’ve provided great protection and enhanced my vision on almost every fishing trip since then. My eyes have certainly deteriorated over the last thirteen years but these are still spot on.
Scierra Riptide wading boots
2 ½ seasons with these, probably the most abused item I own. I went for the version with pre fitted studs. I’ve added a couple of additional studs here and there as these have worn down but other than that I’m surprised they’ve lasted.

Good grip, good support and good value at the price they were bought at. I believe they may be discontinued now and got another pair for £40 on sale. They are a combination of leather and mesh with plastic eyelets. I did rinse them in the shower after most trips which certainly helped keep the salt at bay. The leather goes a horrible white colour as it deteriorates but apart from that they’ve been a good buy.

As if I need to tell you the one on the right is new. I will wear the old one's till the soles fall off!

Patagonia gear
The R1 hoody is almost the only base/mid-layer I wear. Worn since 2009  it’s got a great hood, snug fitting and zips up to your nose if that’s what you need. It’s warm but you can also pull the chest zip down to cool off if required. The thumb holes make such a difference when I’m cold it’s hard to believe this doesn’t feature more on similar items. The material is comfortable, stretchy and dries super quick if it gets wet. It’s torn in various places from encounters with hooks and fences over the years and the cuffs are almost in tatters now. I’ve spent so many days in this it’s been like second skin, my number one item of clothing any time I go fishing.

Patagonia Retro X vest, had it a couple of years now, great core warmth, it’s laminated and wind proof with some handy zipped pockets. I like this as it keeps me warm but my arms free to move around. It’s been a great addition as part of my layering system. From Arctic Norway to a wet and windy Wales worn with the R1 hoody and a shell, unbeatable comfort and warmth.

Patagonia lightweight deep /short wading jacket now needs a zip and will be off on a trip to Patagonia in Italy for a replacement this month. I've used it since it 2008 I think.  It’s wind proof and provides reasonable waterproof protection from the rain and waves while wading. The pockets are OK and it packs down to about the size off my fist which is really handy as easily fits into the top slot on my Snowbee backpack or even in my trouser pocket.
Petzl  TacTikka
Not the brightest headlamp out there but the best I’ve used and does exactly what I need it do. For my night time Bass fishing it’s a got an easy flip over red filter which lets me move around with enough light to not fall over( too often) Using a white light really screws up your vision and in my opinion not very useful in assisting in catching Bass at close quarters at night. This thing runs so long on the rechargeable batteries before they need a boost it’s unreal. It’s water resistant and comes with a spare lens attached to the head strap. It has various power settings to suit your needs including a short power boost. I can really recommend this item, but don’t get the camo strap as it’s a pain in the arse to find at night if you take it off. This one was on sale with the camo strap. I keep meaning to wrap some white tape on it. I carry a spare Sylvia which I used for a few years before getting the Petzl, it is brighter but overall poor by comparison.
Daiwa Certate, Daiwa Caldia MK2, Century HPR 9FT

Much maligned in some quarters the HPR has been a great rod.  I’ve broken two tips, both my fault and never thought of replacing it. I’ve been using it for 2 ½ years now it’s as close to an all-round lure rod as I’ve used. Nice sensitive tip with plenty of power in the middle I’ve used it for Bass, Sea Trout, Wrasse, Pollack, Perch and Pike with SP’s, metals and hard lures.  You can really feel what the lure is doing and for working SP’s rod tip up it’s in its element.  The short screw down reel seat lets me keep my forefinger on the blank, great for SP work.

If I was regularly catching big fish in strong tide run over heavy ground I might be looking for more of a rod but I get great feedback from this rod with 99% of the fish I catch. That said I would still be confident if I found myself in the position to have to deal with the afore mentioned situation, it’s not my first rodeo as the yanks might say.  Not the lightest of the 9ft rods out there and I fish with the three counter balance weights on, this works fine for me. I’ve had this rod in my hands for almost 9 hours straight at a time. When I start to worry about a few grams here and there, as some do, I think I’ll be ready to wrap it and take up knitting. When I put this rod together with the Certate and the YGK  G-Soul it’s a super combination, should be at the price mind. If I need to it can cast miles and cover ground with right end tackle. At the same time it provides a super smooth and sensitive combo that I can fish with for hours with full confidence and almost zero wind knots.  When I broke the tip I bought a spare rod for £80 as Century took three weeks to make a new tip second time round( 6 days FOC the first time I broke it) I didn’t like it, zero feel. I also went back to one of old rods, felt hopeless. Fish don’t know the price tag but honestly, this rod with that 8 strand braid and how I fish at the moment enhances my fishing and is worth every penny. My Certate 10 3000 is a nice reel, super smooth, nice drag, good line lay, spare spool price is ridiculous, lost a handle, replacement price, also ridiculous. I did get a W handle on sale but I’ve never had a reel where the handle can simply unwind itself and fall off! I’ve had no problems with the reel other than that. It was briefly at the bottom of Cork Harbour back in 2012 but I had it serviced FOC at Daiwa when I got back, despite what some might say I’ve had great service from Daiwa over the years and was one of the reasons I bought the new Certate. The Caldia pictured here is about 6 years old now and while I don’t use it much these days it was and still is smooth and reliable as it was before the new reel came along. If you don’t want to look after your gear buy cheap and throw away or go for something waterproof, at a big price of course, Daiwa for me though, jobs in Scotland are a good thing.
Wave Worms/stick worms

I used these in Ireland for the first time in 2009. Jim put me on to them, the Wexford worm as he called it. I’ve used them on an off since but I’ve only really switched on to using them since I got the HPR , the outfit I now fish with  lends itself to this style of fishing. They’re cheap, versatile, cast great weightless and they catch fish. I really like just rolling them around in the waves with a few twitches fished weightless and weedless they can be cast into anything. The Bamboo Sticks (the top 4) weigh about 15 grams, and cast almost as far as a 20g hard lure.  My PB Scottish Bass in my current blog header took a white one of these. Then there is the Tiki Stick which is lighter with a thinner profile which is more like the olive laminated Senko pictured here also. The plastic at the bottom is 7 inch Senko, doesn’t cast as well but I had a couple of greedy fish on it last year. I’ve been using them with mainly Nogales Monster  4/0 and 5/0 with a hitch hiker, totally reliable and strong hook but I want something with a lighter gauge of wire for this year so the lures falls more horizontally. I’ve had some fish on them at night  but it’s not my go to night lure at the moment but it is for some.

Anyway, thanks for reading and have a great 2014!


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Grinding out a few on the cut

I made my final trip of 2013 down south to the midlands for a couple of days on the cut. The weather forecast was a mixed bag but it looked like I might miss the torrential rain and storms that were heading in the direction of Scotland.

I picked up where I pretty much finished off on my last trip but the snaggy  swim that produced the goods before was lifeless, after it claimed a couple of rigs  I had a walk and few cast towards a nearby road bridge. It was pretty bright by now so I flicked the lure along the shadow of the bridge and had a nice Perch take the lure pretty much where I expected the fish to be hanging out. After unhooking the fish I sat it in the net and let it rest in the canal while I got my camera. The fish however was camera shy and took the opportunity to find a new hole which appeared from somewhere and it was on its way back to its mates.
I picked this one up after making an on the bank temporary repair to my landing net, it’s about 15 years old so probably about time to replace it. I lost a small Zander shortly after that but after about 3 hours and a lot of walking I got the impression that fish weren’t around in numbers so made a move about 5 miles away.
The Perch were really tight to the wall between two boats and I managed three fish in quick succession before targeting a swim where I suspected there might still be some Zander stuck in a short stretch between two locks.
My hunch was right.
Both Zander really wanted the lure and long nose foreceps were required for both.

The next day I was on the canal for dawn after scraping the car windscreen following a severe overnight frost. With the canal being 30ft wide and no more than 4 feet deep anywhere I suspected that this might have an impact on the fishing. I didn’t however expect to be fishless 7 hours later but that’s how it went, brutal. I was glad to be off the water and heading back to Stef’s for some paella (also fishless as it happens) and a few beers.
The highlight of Sunday was this Kingfisher which I managed to get a poor quality shot using the zoom function. I dont spend a lot of time on inland waterways so it was nice to see one. The last time I came across this bird was near Saumur in France on the bank of the Loire the same day that Tyson bit Holyfields ear off, a long time ago in other words.

I wasn’t intending to fish the next day but I woke up early and noticed there was a lot of cloud cover and some rain so the temperature hadn’t fallen below zero overnight. I hit the canal for two hours before heading home.
One for the road and the double blank was off. This was the only offer on my short session.