Westward Ho! – Revisiting Lochs Leven and Sunart

I hadn’t really planned on a trip to the sea lochs, but the forecast was mixed to poor and Trevor was still recovering from the damage inflicted the last time he came fishing with me, so we took the Mr. Sensible route and headed westward – besides which, I haven’t fished Sunart for a couple of years now and it is a very pretty place.

Loch Leven

We got launched easily enough at Ballachulish, once the hotel reception had found the key to the car park barrier, and skipped across to the fish farm for a couple of hours.

A small thornback from Loch Leven
Baby thornback

Smallish mackerel soon added to our bait supply but the rest of the fishing was pretty slow, with only a few rays showing. Getting a little fed up of this we upped anchor and went for a bit of exploring.

Trevor feels for a bite as we fish on Loch Leven
Concentration: Trevor on Loch Leven
A nice ray from Loch Leven for Trevor, but nothing like the quality of fishing that the loch can produce from time to time
Ray of the day. Umm!

Heading up the loch in far calmer conditions than the forecast promised, we passed through the Narrows and into the upper loch. We dallied for a few minutes at the cliffs, but the codling didn’t really want to play ball and we’d to settle for a few poorcod as additional bait.

A warm afternoon afloat on Loch Leven had us both getting a little sleepy
Nodding off
A peaceful scene on Loch Leven - vastly better than the near gale and heavy rain that was forecast
Tranquility… despite the near gale-force forecast

A mooch over to the mussel farm saw a few more rays and absolutely the tiniest mackerel I’ve ever seen – large shoals of fish the size of a large minnow.

These tiny mackerel were around in large shoals on Loch Leven
Micro-mackerel
Another miniature mackerel falls to Trevor on Loch Leven
Another miniature mackerel

The final move for the day saw us try some reefier ground in the middle of the loch, but with only a few dogfish to show for it. Heading back to the slate slip we duly retrieved Alcatraz after the usual palaver of getting the keys for the barrier.

Ballachulish now boasts a chippie, but before heading off to find it we’d a chat with the skipper of one of the big ribs that plays with tourists on the loch. Aside from the tale of the witches curse on the Ballachulish bridge, it was quite blood curdling to hear of the fuel consumption of these ribs at full blast – 110 litres per hour – per engine!

Trevor hauls up a thornback from Loch Leven
Something meatier
It would be nice to say Loch Leven coughed up loads of thornback rays, but that would be a fib.
A small ray comes out to play

And across to Resipole and Loch Sunart

By now the rain was starting, but the plan called for a run to the Corran ferry and then an overnighter at Resipole campsite before a day on Loch Sunart. We reached Resipole as it got dark and pitched the tent quickly in what was becoming quite heavy rain – and then promptly fell asleep.

Resipole is a very nice and scenic campsite, but the still, damp air at half-past six next morning meant there were a million midges hovering outside the tent, just waiting for us me(!) to step outside. I’d say it took around 60 seconds to clear the tent and sleeping gear into the car…

Launching wasn’t too bad, as we’d a few minutes grace before the little bar-stewards figured out where we were, but we didn’t hang around on the slip and were soon heading out on the loch.

A very atmospheric early morning on Loch Sunart
A very atmospheric early morning on Loch Sunart

We tried a couple of different marks in the morning, and both were holding good numbers of spurdog – but just the wrong size, maxing out at maybe 5lbs. Mackerel, dogfish and a solitary thornback made up the numbers, but quality was distinctly absent.

Not great - a typical sized spurdog for this trip on Loch Sunart
Not great – a typical sized spurdog for this trip
Clearing skies on a windless Loch Sunart - but only small fish around
Deep water + small fish = hard work

A shift to shallower marks for the afternoon added some smaller species – whiting and gurnard, plus a conger eel for Trevor. We were trying for thornbacks but had none at all, so it was a little ironic to get an eel from relatively shallow, clean ground when we’d spent all morning trying for them without success on the more recognised marks.

This Loch Sunart conger eel was a slight surprise from the mark it was captured on - shallowish water and clean ground
Sunart conger
A low double figure conger for Trevor - and our best fish of the weekend from Loch Sunart
Trevor with his conger

And the whelk population just here seemed enormous – I don’t recall seeing any from Sunart before.

A "shoal" of whelks feasting on a whole mackerel bait in Loch Sunart
Whelk-fest!

So we ended up with better weather and fewer fish than we probably deserved, but it was fine just to mix a bit of fishing with a bit of fossicking about in search of new ground – and I don’t see anything to regret in having a relaxing weekend in the Scottish fjords, rather than a full-on fishing trip.

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Boat camping in Sunart

Almost two months had past since Alcatraz last got some exercise, as one thing after another got in the way of a bit of fishing, until finally some decent weather and a free diary lined up for a few days.

The original plan had been to head either to the far north of Scotland or to some very remote territory on the south coast of Mull, as the forecasts looked a bit on the breezy side. However this improved just enough to give a decent crack at Loch Sunart so it became a question of finding somewhere sheltered enough for an overnight stay in a northerly wind that was still forecast to be a force 5.

Looking towards Dun Ghallain, a natural harbour used for over 2000 years
Looking towards Dun Ghallain, a natural harbour used for over 2000 years

Dun Ghallain (“Fort of the Storms”) is a highly sheltered little lagoon on the north side of Sunart between Laga Bay and Salen, and most people are only vaguely aware it exists. It does indeed have an old Iron Age fort, and the superb little anchorage was used by the Vikings for their own ships over 1000 years ago, but the more pressing question was – is there anywhere to pitch a tent? Past experience with Sunart’s combination of stony shorelines and bogs has made me wary as flat ground is quite rare, and Dun Ghallain is no exception.

Sunart-Viking-harbour

After a good bit of looking around I settled on a site on the outer edges of the lagoon where there was enough ground to pitch a tent between exposed rock edges. Fine for a bit of solo camping, but two would definitely be a crowd when it came to avoiding rocky lumps in the ground.

Given the history of the place you’d half-expect a ghost or two to show up but not even a stray deer wandered past and I’d a couple of uneventful nights. I’d been a bit worried about the amount of weed in the bay, coupled with some large rocks, but low water revealed Alcatraz safely surrounded by sand and water and it wasn’t difficult to extricate her from her mooring and out the channel into the loch.

Leaving Dun Ghallain anchorage just after sunrise
Leaving Dun Ghallain anchorage just after sunrise

To be honest the fishing wasn’t great. Day 1 only involved a few hours by the time I was launched and allowing for the time spent setting up camp, and it was basically dogfish. Day 2 was better after a slow start, with a mix of rays and a few spurs from Laga Bay, including just one double of 13lb 6oz, plus more dogs and a couple of whiting. Given that it was pretty windy for much of the day I couldn’t really complain as I headed back to feel my way in to Dun Ghallain as darkness fell. After breaking camp (and the ice off the tent), the last day gave a couple of conger to 17lbs 6oz and yet more dogs and whiting in a beautiful sunny day. So quality fish but slow fishing, and in line with my previous experience of Sunart.

A spur in low-double figures
A spur in low-double figures
A small thornback ray from Loch Sunart
A small thornback ray from Loch Sunart
Where possible I use a net to land conger
Where possible I use a net to land conger
A typical conger eel from the Laga Bay area
A typical conger eel from the Laga Bay area

 

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A little bit of everything on the sea lochs

…and that’s just the weather. Flat calm and warm sunshine one minute, followed by vicious squalls with heavy rain and sleet the next. Not quite what was forecast but certainly what we got when Trevor and I headed west for a couple of days on Etive and Sunart. Sort of summarises the fishing too!

A double figure spurdog from Etive An early start on Sunday saw us anchoring in around 120 feet near Ardchattan, where we got off to a good start with my second fish being a lively spurdog which just made into double figures by a couple of ounces. Trevor soon added a thornback and we both picked up more doggies than we might like. Whitecapped waves driven up Loch Etive by a vicious squally wind The weather alternated between bright sunshine and a blasting cold wind that kicked up the surface of the loch into a mass of whitecapped waves, but we stuck it out for most of the morning, picking up a good collection of spurs and thornies for our trouble.

A rainbow brightens up the gloom of a severe squall, upper Loch Etive Come lunchtime and we decided on a move up beyond Bonawe narrows where we spent a fair while chasing fish quite a long way up the loch, but with fairly poor results. As a sort of compensation, loads of rainbows appeared after the many heavy showers, several of them framing the mountains and upper loch quite nicely. Working our way back down to Bonawe I took the opportunity to mark the wreck of the hulk that had sunk earlier in the year – just in case I get bored some point in the future and want to give it a try. Another rainbow frames Barrs and upper Loch Etive Our last spot for the day was opposite Airds, where we anchored again in fairly deep water and picked up more smallish spurs and a ray or two until we packed up about an hour after dark and headed in to recover the boat.

The plan was to fish 1 day on Etive and 1 on Sunart, so we needed to head down to Connel and then up to the ferry at Corran. The hotel at Salen had been our first thought for the night, but we wouldn’t arrive until late and the forecast had been good enough to tempt us into few hours camping rather than forking out a fair bit for a few hours kip. Given that it was now cold and fairly wet, this didn’t seem like the best decision but it was a bit late to change our minds so we turned up the car heater full blast and headed off into the night.

A little detour to Oban saw us with a first class fish supper, but the drive from Etive to Sunart took an age and it seemed to rain most of the way there. To be fair we didn’t have to wait long for the Corran ferry, but it was around half-nine before we pulled over near Salen and got the tent organised. It was a cold night and I was glad of the extra mats and warm sleeping bags that we’d taken over, and we were so tired that it didn’t take long to fall asleep. Next morning saw us awake to clear skies and ice on the car, but we were launching at Salen just before 8 and heading out on a perfectly calm loch.

Trevor holding a nice double figure Sunart spurdog The first two or three hours proved to be a teaser session – just enough double figure spurdog to keep us interested, but not enough to stop us considering other options. Another nice spurdog, this time for me! No wind and a fair bit of sunshine made for a very pleasant session but eventually we tired of the spotty dogs and decided to chase conger and skate down in Laga Bay, aiming to get there just before the tide turned. A few hundred feet of anchor rope later, and a little detour back to Salen for me to pick up a couple of essentials (a hat, and water for the kettle!), and we were soon scooting seawards at a steady 21 knots.

A decent coalie parcelled up as skate baitAn early sunrise at Salen, Loch Sunart More nice spurdog from Sunart

A conger eel from Loch Sunart As per usual, things were quite slow in Laga, but a few conger to the low twenties appeared which were good fun on light gear, plus a handful more spurdogs and the usual LSDs. Skate were noticeable by their absence, but the baits did seem to attract a few spurdog which did their usual shredding act whilst avoiding the hooks. We hung on until the light was almost gone, but with nothing wanting to play we called it quits around 5 and headed for home with the last of the light fading over Carna. A typical Sunart conger eel A Laga Bay spurdog, caught from 370 feet below

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Shivering on Sunart

This is the tale of a trip to the wilder parts of Scotland in mid-December, and one that came together quite wonderfully well given the preceding forecasts and work getting in the way of the participants. Of course, trailing a boat across to Ardnamurchan for 3 days fishing hardly counts as a great adventure but after a summer of dismal weather I didn’t rate the chances of getting decent fishing weather very highly. However the forecasts improved mightily and we were faced with three days of flat calm, sunny weather, so some hasty calls to the Salen Hotel later and we were (almost) organised.

Crew were Trevor and Ian, and we rendevouzed at Ian’s house at the relatively leisurely hour of half-six in the morning and trundled across westwards to Sunart without any drama. Making our way along the single track road towards Salen we realised that the upper loch had frozen over – something I should have expected given the conditions on Etive a week earlier, but it underlined how cold it was. Fortunately we arrived at Salen Pier and got launched into the ice free lower loch without any bother, and readied the boat for the rest of the day.

First stop was the deep hole opposite Salen which can produce decent numbers of spurdog from 380 feet below our keel. The weather was beautiful – sunny and windless, and it felt quite warm – so it wasn’t a great hardship to give it a couple of hours with little activity from anything. Trevor picked up a bonus Black Mouthed Dogfish – it’s the second I’ve seen from Sunart, and also taken from what is paddling pool depth for this species as they’re more commonly associated with 600 feet of water. Apart from that all that came up was a slow succession of LSDs.

You can only flog a dead horse for so long, so we shifted down towards Laga Bay to finish the day off, trying a mark that has thrown up conger, spurs and thornies in the past. Initially this was quiet, but picked up as the light faded – nothing spectacular but a smattering of conger to mid-teens plus a single double figured spur for Trevor and a mid-sized ray for me. We called it a day at the back of 5 as it was now freezing in the winter darkness, and we needed to check into the hotel and claim dinner before it got too late.

Day 2 saw us eating a decent hot breakfast before venturing out into very frigid conditions with thick frost covering the boat. Once out on the loch it became obvious that there was really no need for a coolbox, as the water and milk left on the boat overnight (and under cover) had frozen almost solid! Popped up on top of the cabin to catch the sunshine they eventually melted enough to keep us going for the day but it remained very cold all day, and we were all soon suffering from the cold creeping up the deck and through the soles of our waders. Fortunately the fishing picked up a bit and kept us moving as a selection of spurs, mainly low double figure fish, chomped at our baits around 400 feet down. A couple more conger appeared, plus a slow procession of LSDs, but the fishing eventually slowed to a trickle and a move was on the cards before darkness fell again.

Life here was very quiet until the light started to fade, whereupon another conger and spur put in an appearance – and then Ian almost watched his rod head over the side as a skate ignored the “proper” baits and munched a spur bait instead. On light gear Ian really struggled to slow the fish as it quietly proceeded off down the slope towards decent water, and it was clearly a good skate as it pretty much ignored whatever level of pressure was applied. This went on into the darkness until the hook snood finally gave out after an exhausting 30 minutes or more, leaving Ian gutted if not terribly surprised at the outcome. Back at the hotel it gave an excuse for a few more drinks that evening, and we looked forward to the final day out.

Again we awoke to clear skies, no wind and a vicious frost and we headed off eagerly down the loch to try the same mark as produced the spurs yesterday. However a few almost fishless hours later we called time on the deep water and headed over towards the same general ground as we’d tried the day earlier. Being earlier in the tide, and also a couple of hundred metres nearer the mouth of the bay we found ourselves in a significant run of tide which made fishing very difficult at first – normally you get a surface run of tide with little movement more than 50 feet down, but this was the reverse with a lot of movement sub-surface and not too much showing topside. Eventually the tide slackened and we caught a couple more spurs before Trevor picked up a nice 22.5lb conger to finish the trip with – this took a whole coalie skate bait and was the only fish we caught on a skate rig the entire trip.

Overall the fishing was modest, and dominated by spurs in the 10-11lb range plus a decent sprinking of conger – in absolute numbers there weren’t many caught, but the quality was better than I’ve had in the last few trips to Sunart, and fishing in clear windless weather is so massively more enjoyable than enduring heavy rain and strong winds! Sea lochs like Sunart are simply transformed by winter sunshine, which really adds to the pleasure of fishing them, even on days with little more than 7-8 hours of daylight.

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30 December 2011 – Loch Sunart

Weather: Pretty poor, getting very wet and windy. At least it wasn’t completely frigid!
Sea: Nothing too horrible, but some impressive whitecaps in the squalls
Time: Launched around 7.30 and returned back of 4 p.m.
Tides: HW around 0900 and a largish tide.

A combination of fishing starvation and post-Xmas doldrums led to an end of year assault on Loch Sunart, grabbing a small and shrinking weather window between the endless westerly gales that have plagued us the last few weeks.

The day started OK (at 3.30 a.m.) and a reasonable drive across to the west over fairly frosty roads to catch the first ferry of the morning at Corran. The plan was to launch at Strontian’s slipway and then head up the loch, but one glance in the beam of the headtorch was enough to rule this choice out – the slip was completely covered in 1-2 feet of seaweed over its whole length after the recent storms, and it would have taken hours to shift it. Plan B meant a run along the loch for 10 or 12 miles to Salen and a launch at the pier there, so no big deal, and it was thankfully free of weed.

A quick cruise across the loch saw me set up quite comfortably over one of my favourite marks, a 380 feet deep hole which has produced many nice spurdog over the years. Alas today was not going to be that easy and a 90 minute session saw only one spur and several LSDs boated. Next choice was an even deeper mark a few miles down the loch, opposite Laga Bay, where conger and skate regularly join the catch. The same story repeated itself – a solitary spur and a series of LSDs. However the weather was deteriorating rapidly with heavy rain and very squally winds and eventually the anchor started dragging slowly across the loch at the peak of the gusts.

Another move saw me try a new spot a little further up towards Salen, where there was marginally more shelter and I could anchor in shallower water and drift back into the deeper central channel. This worked fine for holding the bottom, but produced only a handful of doggies. By now it was gone 2 p.m. and I decided on a final move back to a shallower mark near Salen, tucked in near the southern shore. Shallower still meant over 200 feet, but at least I was out of the worst of the wind and in a modest tide run. Still nothing but doggies though! By 4 I’d had enough and packed in before darkness closed in.

Overall the day falls into the “can’t win them all” category. Despite a reasonable forecast the wind made it difficult to fish the more exposed locations, and the spurries weren’t showing on the fishable marks. Not the best end to the year, but I was glad I’d made the effort to get out.

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April 17-18 – Loch Sunart

Weather: Calm or lightish winds. Overcast on the Sunday and sunny on Monday.
Sea: Calm
Time: Roughly 1130-1630 on Sunday, and 0730-1530 on Monday – say 13 hours altogether
Tides: HW 1822 on Sunday and 0637 Monday (large tide – 4.5m range)

March and April are always fairly slow months for salt water anglers, but I hadn’t been fishing since early March and the frustration was growing unbearable. I’ve long had the desire to explore the islands at the mouth of Sunart and reckoned it should be possible to anchor the boat safely overnight in one of the deep inlets on Oronsay islands, so the chance of a couple of days good weather was seized eagerly and I threw the camping gear into the car and headed off towards the ferry at Corran.

By the time a further 30 miles of snaking single tracks were negotiated and Alcatraz finally got prepped and launched it was late morning by the time the first bait hit the seabed some 400 feet below and perhaps twenty minutes later before the first fish started snaffling around for lunch. This eventually proved to be a small thornback of about 3 1/2 lbs which was a welcome enough start. Unfortunately only doggies came out to play in the next couple of hours so I upped anchor and shifted into Laga Bay to see if anything else was around. Initially more of the dogfish, but a couple of small conger eventually made an appearance about an hour before I packed up – best around 9lbs so nothing to get too excited about, but a welcome change to LSDs.

Camping on Loch na Droma Buidhe
Camping on Loch na Droma Buidhe

I finished early in order to get enough time to find somewhere to stay for the night. Originally I had planned to camp on one of the inlets on the north side of Oronsay where there is a large sandy area, but the tide was actually too large to allow me to anchor safely and leave the boat for the night. After a look around I decided on a move round to the south of Oronsay and into Loch na Droma Buidhe (a yachtie favourite) where I found sanctuary in a narrow inlet that ran several hundred yards up into Oronsay. The large tide actually worked in my favour, as the very head of the inlet was softish sand and salt marsh rather than the bouldery ground I’d have found on a small tide, and it was easy enough to secure Alcatraz near to a small space on the shoreline with just enough space for a tent.

Oronsay Island, Loch Sunart
Oronsay Island, Loch Sunart

Once the basics were sorted out I had a look round the island, which was completely deserted apart from some ruined old croft houses. With no wind and no people about the silence was almost total – only the occasional bird intruded for a few seconds. Very therapeutic for a night or two, but would probably drive you over the edge after a week. It does make you realise just how noisy our normal environment actually is, though! As the light faded I lit a small campfire and had a coffee before turning in for an early night. Next morning I woke just before six to find clear skies and a flat calm sea – and the tide only a few centimetres from the tent, and still rising. Oops, a slight miscalculation on the height of the spring tide! A few minutes frantic tentpeg pulling and stuffing of sleeping bags back into drybags and Alcatraz was quickly loaded and soon underway, headed back into Loch Sunart.

It was a lovely sunny morning but still cold as I headed back to a mark near to yesterday’s session. By 7.30 we were anchored in around 360 feet and fishing the start of the ebb. Over the next 4 hours there was a slow trickle of fish, mainly doggies but also a 9lb spur and a couple of thornbacks. The better of these was 9lb 8oz which is the best I’ve had out of Sunart, so at least that was something. A late morning shift saw me close inshore at the base of an underwater cliff, looking for conger again – however all that turned up was a solitary ray of about 6 1/2lbs.

A standup Thornback Ray
A standup Thornback Ray

By now it was just after low water so I decided on one final move up the loch towards Salen, so spend a couple of hours on a mark that can be good for spurs. I also put down a skate bait and settled down to wait. The first hour produced only a couple of doggies until the silence was broken by the urgent warning of the ratchet on the skate reel as several feet of line were suddenly pulled into the loch. I quickly freed the rod from its holder and lifted into very solid resistance as the 12/0 hit home almost 300 feet below. The skate didn’t hang about and powered off down the slope of the loch in determined fashion whilst I hung on as best I could until we could get to the usual stalemate of fish glued to the bottom and angler trying to apply enough pressure to get it prised off the seabed. After an eternity (according to my aching back, but probably no more than a few minutes in reality) the fish grudgingly gave way and was slowly persuaded towards daylight. Once alongside I reckoned it at something like 80lbs, but being alone in the boat I had no intention of trying to get the fish inboard to find out for sure. Fortunately it was tagged – #1080 – so I simply noted the number and released the skate to be caught another day.

By now it was 3 p.m. so I spent a little while sorting out the boat and various bits of fishing gear before calling it a day and heading back into Salen. Total catch for the trip wasn’t spectacular – 1 skate, 4 thornbacks, 2 conger and a solitary spurdog (plus plenty of spotty dogs, of course) – but it was great to get some spring sunshine and do a little exploring in one of the most beautiful places in Scotland.

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22 Jan 2011 – Loch Sunart

First time out on the boat for months, thanks to weeks of snow and ice. A bit disappointing in terms of fish, but great to be out once more and blow away a few cobwebs. Judging by the other boats out I wasn’t the only one keen to get on the water again.

Weather: Calm, dry and mainly overcast. Nice day for January!.
Sea Conditions: Flat calm, 7 degrees C.
Time: 0800-1700 – 11 hours
Tides: HW 0715 (4.6m) LW 1315 (0.7m)

This was the first trip out for 2011 and since last November, due to a mix of weather and family distractions, so it was preceded by some anxious checking of the boat/trailer/engine in case of frost damage or brake seizing, etc. Fortunately everything seemed OK so I decided to head to Sunart on a day trip – at least there’s more chance of larger fish there than in Etive, although it can be a very unproductive fishery for much of the time.

The run across was a little slower than usual as there was a fair bit of fog and frost around, not to mention some fairly hideous potholes hiding in the darkness. However, we made it safely to Strontian slip just at first light and got set up and ready to go a little before 8 o’clock. I usually use Strontian nowadays if I’m only across for the day – it’s a good bit further to the marks, but it saves a long slow trek along single track roads and the slip is the best in the loch (although exposed to S winds).

Looking towards Mull from Laga Bay
Looking towards Mull from Laga Bay

The trip down the loch was chilly but uneventful and I arrived at my preferred mark only to find it occupied by another Warrior – Paisley Pete. Although there’s space for several boats around here I decided to press on down the loch to its deepest point, opposite Laga Bay in 410 feet. The anchor was already prepped with some fairly revolting mackerel remains in the rubby dubby container and a mix of skate and spurrie baits followed soon after.

Laga Bay
Laga Bay

Three hours later I’d amassed a respectable collection of LSDs but only one modest spurdog, at about 6lbs in weight, so I decided on a move over to Laga Bay for a couple of hours. If anything it was even worse fishing here – a handful of LSDs and a solitary small thornback (although Dale Roberston did pull in a few small conger a few hundred yards away), and around LW I decided on a final move back up the loch to Salen.

The deep hole here produced nothing except more dogs (total for the day 22 or 23), although Tickety Boo 2 did land a small skate and had had a couple of decent spurs earlier in the day. It was a lovely evening though, with the loch flat calm and the sun just peeking out and the lack of fish wasn’t too distressing. Finally packed in around 5 o’clock as the light started going quite rapidly.

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6th December 2009 – Loch Sunart

Third and last day of our sojourn to Sunart, and the weather pretty much killed it as the wind rose to a three quarters gale and the anchor eventually couldn’t hold us properly. Only a handful of fish to show for our efforts before we called it quits in the early afternoon.

Weather: S force 4 rising to a 6-7. Dry becoming heavy rain. Pretty horrible overall
Sea Conditions: Calm, becoming choppy later
Time Spent: 10:30-14:30 – 4 hours
Tides: HW approx 09:00

The weather looked OK to start with so we headed over to the marks opposite Salen and stuck the hook down. An hour here produced a single doggie, so we moved down to the fish farm half way down the loch towards Laga and tried again. Another hour produced a couple of doggies and small conger before the rising wind persuaded us to try and get shelter near the salmon farm opposite Laga.

Anchoring up in the same spot we’d picked up fish on Friday we initially held bottom and fished OK, but with little result apart from a couple more dogs. Dale had been across the other side of Laga but wasn’t able to hold anchor, so came back near us and tied up to a buoy on the farm. The wind continued to rise and our anchor finally dragged slowly through the soft mud on the bottom. The rain came on with a vengeance and spirits sank as nothing fishy like appeared, so we called it a day around half two, and headed back through a pretty strong wind.

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5th December 2009 – Loch Sunart

Day 2 of our Sunart trip, and Ian and I had a reasonable day with spurs and conger. Still not a patch on earlier years on the loch though 🙁 At least the Salen Hotel offers good food and friendly place to drown your sorrows!

Weather: Initially F2-3 S, later F3-5 SE. Dry and mild(ish). Overcast
Sea Conditions: Calm
Time Spent: 10:00-16:30 – 6.5 hours
Tides: Approx 08:00 Largish tide

After the slow fishing on Friday we decided to head down towards the mouth of the loch and kicked off at a spot just west of Carna. At 170 feet it was much shallower than other marks, but there were fish showing and we quickly got bites. Alas these proved to be small doggies and whiting and, after an hour of baits being stripped, we decided to move back into Laga Bay and give it a try opposite the fish farm area.

Ian with a nice Sunart conger eel
Ian with a nice conger

The first hour and a half was completely blank, with no sign of activity until Dale Robertson and Iona V appeared sometime after 12. They had tried a number of marks but had also failed to find fish in the morning, and ended up anchored a few hundred yards away from Alcatraz. Happily things picked up shortly after they arrived and both Ian and I hit into spurdogs of a decent size. We had perhaps 90 minutes of decent fishing with several spurdog and 3 congers as well as a few LSD, before things went very quiet again.

Dale left for home first, and we gave him a few minutes to clear the slip before heading back ourselves. Back at the hotel we met up again at dinner and had a couple of drinks in the evening, mainly bemoaning the weather and general state of fish stocks…

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4th December 2009 – Loch Sunart

Ian and I decided on a three day trip across to Sunart in search of spurdog and skate, the latest in a long line of weekends spent across there. Day 1 proved to be fairly slow, although I did winch up a skate from over 400 feet of water on a spinning rod – pity it was only 10lbs or so in weight!

Weather: F2 SE to start with, rising to F4-5 SE later. Dry and overcast
Sea Conditions: Calm until late in the day, with a chop developing
Time Spent: 10:00-16:30 – 6.5 hours
Tides: Approx 07:00 – Largish tide

Ian L and myself headed up to Sunart for a long weekend starting on the Friday, aiming to bag a spur or two.

A very small Sunart skate
Tiny skate!

We hit the water around 10 a.m. and nipped across the loch to a favourite spot close to Salen. This proved a slow burn to say the least, with only 1 spur and a handful of doggies showing in an hour and a half so we moved a few miles down the loch and set up shop again. There were more signs of life here and, after dealing with a few more doggies, we picked up two congers, to just under 15lbs and a couple more spurs. Just to complete the doubles I picked up a pair of mini-skate (total weight about 18lbs!) within minutes of each other – one of them christening a new spinning rod.

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