Thursday, 23 April 2015

Sea Temperature getting there

Sea temperatures are slowly getting there. The seasonal warmer water will creep all too slowly around the coast of Donegal and up through the Southern Irish Sea. Machrihanish is almost there and is showing 9.1 at the moment, slightly above the average. I doubt the hardy surfers that arrive there will notice the marginal change in temperatures that makes for better prospects for catching Bass. This reminds of a good reason to go back here again at some point. It gets warmer faster than most of the Scottish coast as you can see if you know where to look on the map below.

Last year I had my first attempt for Bass on the 17th of May, then again five days later.. At that point they seemed to be about in numbers. I even caught a Garfish on this trip, a first for me in Scotland. I’ve not spotted any reports of Smoothies being caught yet but I would imagine that will change over the next week or so, won’t be long now!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

First day at School

It was time for the first fishing session on my Outback at the weekend as Lynne and I hit the shores of Loch Ken. With the sunny conditions forecast I had planned an early start on the Saturday morning. This would let me make the most of any dawn feeding opportunity and get back to Lynne at a reasonable time.

The hard overnight frost made for a fairly cold nights sleep in cabin but I was on the water for 5.30am. I fired up the Lowrance in anger for the first time and was glad to see it was working. I was soon under way zig- zagging around a bit and getting a feel for things. Fishing on Loch Ken for the first time with no engine ticking over in the background was a different experience. As I made way along the shore I could hear Cuckoos, Woodpeckers and the noisy arrival of Geese, what a great time to be on the water. 
I was marking fish and structure in detail that I’ve not seen first-hand before. The broadband sounder and downscan really gave me a great view on what was down there. In particular  the separation of structure and fish was a real eye opener with the downscan marking fish sitting behind things like sunken trees, the questions was what were they?  I worked along various contours and it was clear to see that in anything less than 15ft it was barren, between 15ft-25ft there was more happening. I came across vertical columns of fish 10ft high, most likely Roach and sitting below and behind one or two bigger different looking marks , most likely Pike.

I turned the kayak around in a circle and came back up wind and cast towards where I reckon I had marked baitfish and made a few casts and Das Bite was eventually christened. It took SG double blade/tinsel spinnerbait on a slow retrieve.

As I travelled a little further there seemed to be less sign of activity but occasionally I would come across a shoal of fish,  travelling past one of these the rod arched over  and I had my second fish of the morning. Not a great example of fish handling but it looks worse than it is due to angle, just the same I need to be better organised. Even on a spacious rig like the Outback it was easy to get in a muddle. The guys that fish in more traditional shaped kayaks must be super organised.

I made it back out for two hours on Saturday afternoon and the only thing I caught was sunburn. The shoals of prey fish were certainly harder to find although I did take a look over a different area.
When I arrived back Lynne opened a bottle of wine, we had a barbecue and that was the fishing over for Saturday. 
As a result of the night before I was pretty knackered on Sunday morning getting up about 7am dehydrated, slightly hungover and sunburnt but got underway anyway. My intention was to find likely looking targets and cast some soft plastics at them. I did this off and on for three fishless hours. If I can get this outfit working in a targeted manner when the fish are in the mood I’m sure it will be very effective. I had enough when the breakfast bell rang in my head and it was time for home.
So, not a bundle of fish on my Kayaks first outing but interesting nevertheless. There are large expanses of void water but I was surprised at how thick some of the shoals of fish were, Roach, Bream and I’m pretty sure, here and there the ones I’m after, Perch. I can make some assumptions on which of these targets might have been Perch but till I start picking off one or two I won’t know for sure. They might well be spawning at the minute but that should be over for my next visit. I won’t be able to use that as an excuse next time. It was like the first day at school for a lot of this trip but it will get easier.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Successful reunion

My alarm was set for 5pm so I got up and let Buddy out the back door, he didn’t fancy the hail and neither did I. We all had another three hours in bed. I re-emerged and the sun was shining but the wind would be the real problem, I grabbed some gear from the garage anyway.  I also picked up my new HPR tip which is just back from Century having broken it for a third time in yet another daft accident. I was looking forward to using it again as I just feel confident with it. In my opinion a great rod and ideal for the task in hand , catching Sea Trout.

The wind dictated where I ended up today with miles of coast just about unfishable. One minute I had too many layers the next my hands were being stung by hail showers. The sky would go black and the next minute I was reaching for my sunglasses, this was repeated regularly. I also witnessed a Jack Russell being blown over, not something you see every day.

                             I  had a few taps on the way in, the first fish took 10ft from my tip

Same again, maybe even closer to the tip when I was wading. This one had an odd two tone tail section on both sides.

                                                                Another close quarter take

I'm sure this little fish came back on the next cast after it narrowly missed my lure, funnily enough just as I was lifting out.

It's great to have my favourite rod back. The sensitive tip transmits any subtle knocks and enables me to convert these into fish landed. It’s why it’s such a great rod for SP fishing for Bass. I might get myself the short version for Perch fishing from the kayak. It will now be in a tube at all times except when I'm on the beach. I've eventually got the message.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Going Solo

My intention was to be out on the bite this weekend, the forecast has other ideas. The grass had its first cut of 2015 midweek ahead of a wet and windy weekend. When I was out I caught site of a Swallow which is earlier than I’ve noticed them arriving since I moved here, seems I see them usually around the 20th, good sign? I’ll have a look out the window about 5am to see what the weathers doing, might have a shot for Sea Trout if I’m in the mood.
              I got a decent deal on this Kannad Marine Safelink Solo from the Marine Superstore.

This was hopefully the last of many parcels which arrived today, easy to operate; rugged feeling and it should accompany me on most of my solo shore Bass trips as well as out on the water. Not one to be held back if I want to do something myself it’s occurred to me in the past some of the situations I’ve been in. If I’m out at night or in areas where there is no mobile signal I would be in trouble if anything happened. It’s no replacement for common sense but makes good sense for the kayak and other situations.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Launch Day

I spent some time actually in the water today following on from my day afloat on Sunday. Jamie agreed to chaperon me on my first launch, provide a few tips and put himself on standby. The objective was to do a number of self-rescues ,complete a shakedown of the boat as well check the gear I was wearing worked. For a newbie there’s quite a lot to think from securing the rig to the roof to getting back in the boat. I made a few mistakes but that’s how you learn I guess. One of them was a classic and Jamie will probably keep that in his back pocket for a later date. I learned a lot from my first couple of hours today and I’ll make a few minor changes based on this. We would like to have travelled a bit further but given the fog it clearly wasn’t a good idea, back out soon, next time with a rod.

My camera battery was dead so Jamie kindly took some video footage and from this the following stills.

                                    We launched at Troon which was flat for my first attempt
                                                                   Taking a  bath
                                The Typhoon drysuit had no leaks which I'm glad to report
                           My ass has been hauled back in, time to swing around, job done.

Thanks for your help today Jamie, the very least I could do was provide the entertainment.

Chunder Road trip

With a break in the Sunday weather Scott and I eventually got a session together on Loch Etive. We had been trying to get a trip together and have a catch up for a while and Nick joined us for the journey north. We met up in Dumbarton and set up off at 7am. The drive up was eventful for Scot at least, he had been ill for a couple of days as it happened. I had to abruptly hit the brakes a few times as the journey turned in to chunder road for Scott. Nick and I had a chat about kayaks on the way up as Scott sat quietly and focused on feeling better. When eventually we arrived to pick up the hire boat Scott was certainly lighter and felt ok so we got rigged up and set off in the clearing fog.

We had all fished Etive before and were aware of what it can be like, great setting, sheltered waters and with a good variety of species. However, some days it can be really poor, today was going to be one of those days.

Our first stop produced small Whiting and Cod for Nick and Scott and only the very occasional rattle of the rod tip. The only thing showing interest in me was a passing Swan.
It was a pity we were to be limited by the lack of an appropriate length of anchor rope for this venue.  We made do tying off to the limited number of buoys around the fish farms, sometimes this is adequate to get results and sometimes it’s not. I would have preferred the choice.
After a move and hour or so on a new spot I had a good bite on a Rainbow Trout fillet. I hooked up and realised it was a decent fish. As I brought the fish to the boat predictably it got stuck on some of the structure around the fish farm. Scott started the engine up and moved the boat from its position just enough to give me another angle, luckily this worked.
Trying various spots and one or two drifts we hooked off to another buoy and the three of us started to get little knocks. I had a rummage in my bag and found a Sabiki rig consisting of two lures which I baited with tiny pieces of squid. This worked and produced a steady stream of small Grey Gurnards.
Nick commented that it was the most successful rig of the day, sadly he was correct but at least it kept me entertained for a little while. The final drift was about 100 yards from the boat station where Scott reckoned we might pick up another species or two. I didn’t bother to put a line in the water but Scott got a knock straight away as did Nick, this ended up being his best fish of the day ironically, where we started.
The final tally for species, Cod, Poor Cod, Whiting, Coalfish, Spurdog and Grey Gurnard. Bizarrely no Dogfish. We got lucky with the weather and the scenery is great, a couple of trips to Sunart and Etive in a year is plenty for me, I’ve seen enough of it as a fishing experience over the last 15 years.
It was good to meet Nick for the first time and we might get a Kayak trip together on the east coast this summer. Scott now has a few days off to recover, it was good to see you again and thanks for keeping my car clean under pressure!


Saturday, 4 April 2015

My Hobie Outback is ready to go.

Having had my Outback a couple of months now I’ve pretty much finished setting it up and buying the various pieces of kit to get myself on the water safely. I’m a couple of weeks behind where I expected to be, it’s been very easy to go over budget starting from scratch. After my drysuit arrived back from Typhoon this week with a convenience zip fitted I reckon I’m now pretty much good to go.

It's now named, a slant on one of my favourite films and one of the best anti-war movies ever made.

My mate Jamie at Bad Panda Graphics took my request and put this together for me. I’ll get it put in place after Jamie has it printed shortly. We intend to do some self rescue practice on the water together on Monday, should be fun!

This being the first time I’ve gone through this process I’ve had a number of headaches along the way. Everything from a dive reel to roof bars was new to me and there was some serious internet searching done along the way. The  Anglers Afloat forum  has been a massive help, everything you need is there, in fact I don't think I've had to ask a question after using the search facility. Also, Saltwater Kayak Fisherman  has been really handy given that he's rigged a similar boat and in a fashion that seemed to suit my needs.

I'm in no position to review anything thus far, that is a long way off for the minute. I may need to make a few changes in the future as I work with the gear, maybe somebody will however find this useful if they find themselves in a similar position.

I wasn’t a fan of the anchor trolley kit that I got with my boat and I did in fact nearly bin the lot. I did however end up using the running line and pulleys.  I got this as part of the deal but I wouldn’t purchase it if I had to do so today. I’ve added a carabiner, two stainless rings, double piece of knotted bungee and two plastic rope stops.  The stainless fittings will be more robust than the plastic ones provided and the rope stops will prevent the knots on the running line jamming in the pulleys. With this set up I will also be able to disconnect the carabiner from the ring and use it to pull the boat through the shallows or utilise it as a tow point.

I removed the screw in holders for the paddle retainer and replaced these with screw in pad eyes. I understand that these used to come with the trolley kit but have been replaced with the well nut eyelets. The supplied instructions suggested that these were to be fitted to the paddle supports, you can’t see these in the picture but drilling two significant holes here made no sense to me. I contacted my supplier; they agreed and sent me the screw in pad eyes FOC, job done. The supplied parts would have allowed the installed kit to be fitted to the bottom running line but I don’t believe this will be an issue in practice. In addition I also fitted a bungee button to prevent the top running line encroaching in to the boat. I found this to be a bit of pain and really awkward for me to reach. I actually bruised my ribs leaning in to the hatch and reaching around to tighten the locking nut. It would have been much easier if someone else was there, also, if I had not had to use a shifter to lock off the nut while screwing the button down.

I went with the low profile GT 175 rails from YakAttack. These are quality fittings which come with everything you need including the drill bit and screws. I did however add backing plates to these to spread the load and give what should be a really robust mounting platform for any gear that I attach to them in the future. I should also point out that anything which has been drilled has had a liberal coating of Marine Goop as a back up to any potential water ingress in the future.

Scotty gear head track adapters will provide some flexibility for mounting a variety items. These slot in to the rails perfectly and screw down providing a solid mounting point.

                                                   In this case a Scotty extender and rod holder.

I chose a RAM mount for my fishfinder. It has two ball joints which provide a range of movement enabling me to adjust this towards me in easy reach when attached to the rails.

The  Outback comes Lowrance ready and has a transducer pocket built in to the hull. You can of course fit other brands with a few adjustments.  I have used Lowrance on my boat in the past as well as a mobile unit when I’ve been fishing abroad. On the whole I like them and have found them easy enough to use so went with a 5 HDI plotter combo which has both downscan and broadband sonar.

I can see this being really useful on my hunt for big Perch on large waters which was another reason I went with it.
The fact that these were on sale in the Vegas Bass Pro when a friend was on holiday was a big help. I managed to take some cost out of a number of items thanks to this trip. A word of warning though, some of the Lowrance units, namely the HDS range are geo-locked so you won’t be able to use any bought outside of Europe in the UK. The HDI range is fine.

The 2015 Outback has the new Vantage seat with multiple adjustments points including a lumbar support. It even has 4 fold down legs to enable it be used as a camp chair.

Lynne got me a really nice  top spec PFD for Christmas but sadly I had to sell it recently.  I found it incompatible with the seat. I went for the Kokatat Bahia Tour which is way more comfortable sitting in this chair than the Kaikoura was. This is down to Bahia Tour being a high back PFD with the floatation up towards the shoulders leaving the small of my back fitting the curvature of the chair much better, massive improvement in fact. Given I was sat in the chair adjusting the seat for a minute or two and my back was sore, using the Palm was not an option.

                                                Not a great picture but you can see what I mean

I’ve fitted a 10l Orteleib folding wash bowl to the centre hatch to assist in storing items but mainly to prevent them moving around inside the hull.

                                                 The supplied tackle tub sits neatly on top.
                            The new Mirage Drive Glide system, the boat also comes with a paddle.

I went with a rear installation with the Hobie battery kit which I negotiated in my deal. Unlike the anchor trolley kit I’m initially pleased with this. It provides a really tidy finish and has quality components. Some online checks and a few calculations suggests the battery capacity should be fine to drive the Lowrance for about 8 hours. This will depend on the settings but I’m crossing my fingers with this a little.

 As I learn what works or needs changing I'll post as I go.