A week in Galloway (part 1)

Plan A for this year involved a serious fishing session in Galloway, for the first time in over twenty years, and I was pretty happy when Ian and I finally made our escape down to Scotland’s fishing paradise last week. The only downside was that Trevor’s mum had been taken ill and it seemed unlikely that he’d be able to join us.
A windy day on Monreith Beach
Monreith Beach

Saturday evening saw us tottering down the mini-steps at Monreith Bay and making our way across the sand, leaning into the strong north-westerly wind that blasted across the beach. A couple of hours later we reversed the process, with nothing at all to show for our efforts except mild hypothermia. It’s a pretty enough place to blank though, but perhaps not the best start to a week’s fishing.

Not just windy, but cold too!
Not just windy, but cold too!

I was up early doors on the Sunday and took a walk round the nearby loch with a view to sussing out the pike fishing possibilities. Half-way round I encountered this little fellow who was obviously out looking for breakfast.

And one of its resident otters
One of our nearby residents
Our local pike loch
Our local pike loch
Our home for the week
Home for the week

The wind was still a moderate NW, but looked to be dropping slowly, so we decided to head out of Sandhead for the afternoon and have a try off Ardwell. Launching about two in the afternoon we had a reasonable session, although the wind stayed around a force 4, and I eventually lost my hat to the breeze, much to Ian’s amusement.

A sad end for my hat! - drifting out to sea on the breeze
A sad end for my hat!

Mackerel were around in modest numbers and we soon had enough for bait, and settled down with a mix of rigs to see what was feeding.

First blood was a nice huss to Ian, weighing in at around 10lbs.

Ian with a Luce Bay huss
Ian with a Luce Bay huss

And was followed by a succession of rays, all but one of which also belonged to Ian.

A thornback from Ardwell, Luce Bay
A thornback from Ardwell, Luce Bay

Lots of smaller fish such as whiting, gurnard, etc. appeared and Ian notched up a personal “best” with something like 25 LSDs in an afternoon.

The forecast for Monday was for lighter winds, and we launched from Isle of Whithorn a little after low water. An hour spent under the cliffs proved very unproductive and the wind appeared to have died away completely so I pointed Alcatraz in the direction of Luce Bay and Port William and we bounced our way round the coast for around 10 miles or so until we hit our chosen mark.

Snack sized mackerel appeared very quickly, along with a few Galloway tarpon (herring), which were soon sent back down to the seabed in search of our target fish, tope.

Galloway tarpon, aka herring, aka baitfish
Galloway tarpon, aka herring, aka baitfish

Our wait wasn’t too prolonged and we started to hit some good runs on whole mackerel.

Ian with a tope
Ian with a Luce Bay tope
Happy angler, rather disgruntled tope
Happy angler, rather disgruntled tope
Hugging a tope...
Tope hugger…

It wasn’t just the tope, as this bull huss also put in an appearance – not a biggie, but my first of the year.

Myself with a tope from Port William
Myself with a huss from Port William

And, in between tope runs, this little beauty had me shouting for a net. A nice bass of a little over 5lbs on a whole mackerel bait – lucky for it that it was caught early in the week, as the temptation to knock it on the head and pop it under the grill might have been irresistible on our last day.

A nice bass, caught on whole mackerel bait intended for tope - complete with wire trace

We finished the day on 15 tope between us, not too shabby a result considering we only fished this mark for a few hours.

A double hookup of tope. Fun!!
A double hookup of tope. Fun!!
Ian with an angry tope
Ian with an angry tope
A little bit of wind against the tide, with a tope on to complicate things a little
A little bit of wind against the tide

Retreating to the cottage for the evening we spent a little while sorting out gear and tidying things up generally, before the midgies started to appear in some numbers.

Trace repairs, aided by a beer
Trace repairs, aided by a beer

Tuesday meant a launch from Port William, to have a serious try for the tope in the shallow waters of Luce Bay. Today started cool and calm, but the sun became progressively hotter and I really started to regret losing that hat at Ardwell!

Perfection. Blue sky, blue sea. In Scotland :-)
Perfection. Blue sky, blue sea. In Scotland 🙂
Ian into a tope
Ian into a tope

Fortunately for us the tope were in the mood to feed and we fairly quickly started to add to our tally.

Hold it out far enough and it becomes a shark!
Hold it out far enough and it becomes a shark!
A tope makes a run for freedom.
A tope makes a run for freedom.
Ian up close and personal with a tope
Ian up close and personal with a tope

Ian had the best fish of the day, with a nice one of 39lbs, and it was noticeable that there were none of the small sub-15lb fish you often encounter, with most being in the high teens to mid-twenties in weight.

I don't want to be here - a tope beside the boat
I really don’t want to be here – a tope beside the boat

By the end of the day our total was 28 fish and hands that were rather worse for wear as a result of hauling on traces a little too carelessly. Easily my best tally for the boat in one day, and we were both happy running over the day’s events as we worked our way through the menu at the Clansman later that evening. Trevor had phoned to say he could make it next day, so another session off Port William was planned…

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At Last! – Back in Action

After being out of action with a damaged leg for almost three months, the last day of May saw a good forecast and I decided to try my luck down at Isle of Whithorn and Wigtown Bay. Alcatraz has managed the grand total of 1 day out in 6 months so it took a while to check everything over (not to mention find it in the first place), but we set off from Edinburgh just before six.

Down at Isle of Whithorn harbour several hours later, the tide was still well out, but I decided to head out overnight and sleep over on the boat. A brief half-hour or so just off the harbour entrance resulted in 6 or 7 herring just as the light faded away and I moved on to anchor for the night. Round at Portyerrock I surprised a couple of shore anglers who clearly weren’t expecting a boat out at that time, and then dropped anchor a few hundred yards into the bay. By this time I was pretty tired and despite the best efforts of the water slapping against the hull, I managed a few hours sleep before waking just before 4 and getting going again.

Just before sunrise on Wigtown Bay
Just before sunrise on Wigtown Bay

It was a calm day and it didn’t take too long to reach the Cree estuary where I hoped to put the crab to good use hunting for smoothhound and maybe a bass.

Even small Scottish smoothhounds put up a good scrap
Even small Scottish smoothhounds put up a good scrap
A modest sized smoothound caught in Wigtown Bay in May 2014
Solway Smoothhound

I didn’t have to wait long as first cast saw a pair of smoothhound smash into the crab baits and put up their usual robust struggle on the way to the boat. This carried on for the next couple of hours and gave me a total of 8 smoothhound, a dab and the usual numbers of dogfish. The couple of hours over slackwater proved fruitless with only dogfish showing up, with not even a flattie to break the monotony. Once the flood had strengthened things changed for the better, with a couple of hounds and a brace of good bass up to 5lbs 6oz, before settling down to a lengthy run of hounds.

A bass edges reluctantly alongside Alcatraz
A bass edges reluctantly alongside Alcatraz
Safely in the Net - and it's a nice Galloway Bass for Dinner
Safely in the Net – and it’s a nice Galloway Bass for Dinner
A decent bass from Wigtown Bay
A decent bass from Wigtown Bay

By the time I packed in around HW my total stood at 22 hounds, 2 bass, 1 dab and innumerable dogfish (at least 35, maybe more). None of the hounds were big, with most in the 4-5lb bracket and the best not making 6lbs, but it was a great start back into fishing after too long away.

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5-6th June 2010 – Galloway Weekend

No fishing at all for a couple of months due to a combination of work and family commitments, plus a load of hassle with trailer brakes (spit!). However, a decent forecast plus a free weekend meant a quick phone call to Ian and a scurry around to dig out the tent.

Ian turned up nice and early on the Saturday and we headed off to Brighouse Bay on Saturday for a wee play about in Wigtown Bay. Although it had been nice and sunny on the way there,  the Solway was covered in a layer of thick cloud and looked pretty misty. It wasn’t actually too bad initially although it got fairly thick later in the afternoon. At least the wind kept down and the sea was reasonably flat.

As it turned out fishing wasn’t the best, with only small hounds showing and not in huge numbers. However I had a decent bass and lost a respectable tope alongside the boat when it decided it didn’t like being tail hooked and went a little beserk when it got close. There were piles of dabs showing, including a decent one of 12oz for Ian, and a single example each of a flounder and a plaice. We packed in around 9 p.m. and headed back to Brighouse to set up camp for the night.

An early start on Sunday saw us move over to Ardwell on Luce Bay, launching into quite a stiff NW wind just before the On Yer Marks crew
arrived. Despite being told that there were virtually no tope being caught we decided to give it a go on one of the marks and see how we got on. Mackerel were around in large numbers, so bait was no problem – alas, so were the dogfish, and Ian switched over to a small livebait to get away from them.

A few minutes later his rod keeled over as a tope hit home, and he soon landed a fish in the high teens. The smaller rigs pulled out a succession of whiting, doggies and gurnard, mainly for Ian as I dozed off in the sunshine. A further smaller tope followed for Ian, before he got into his stride with the rays, pulling out 7 or 8 thornbacks and a spotted ray. Over slack water the dabs came out in numbers, so the fish were pretty continuous during the day, although I was well cuffed by Ian on all counts. My consolation prize was the smallest tope I’ve ever seen, at around 1.5lbs.

Eventually we called it a day around 5 p.m. and hit the slip at Ardwell just as the tide reached it again, which made retrieval a little easier.

Not a spectacular weekend, but still collected 13 species – Dab (12 oz), plaice, flounder, grey gurnard (14oz), tub gurnard (1lb 5oz),   mackerel (1lb 6oz), bass (4lbs 5oz), starry smoothound (tiddlers), tope (18lbs), whiting, thornback ray, spotted ray.

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27th June 2009 – Wigtown Bay

Weather: Light SE wind dropping to calm for much of the day; overcast becoming sunny and hot later
Sea Conditions: Muddy colour at first (altho fish seemed to like it), then clear as tide pushed through
Time Spent: 0900-2030 – 11.5 hours
Tides: LW 0930 moderate tide

First off was a patch of roughish ground not too far from Brighouse, but this was wall to wall doggies coming up 2 at a time so I only gave it an hour before heading along to Wigtown.

This proved an instant hit with a good collection of smoothies coming aboard in the first two hours, plus a couple of bass as a bonus. By this time the wind pretty much dropped to nothing and the sun came out, so it was soon getting almost too hot – not often I make that complaint. Things went fairly quiet after that and I decided to try well up river over HW, so headed up to Carsluith and dropped anchor not far offshore in about 15 feet of water. A small smoothie hit the bait almost immediately, but that was the only one. Over HW I added a smallish bass, couple of flounder, LSD, a small tub gurnard and a surprise mackerel which took a lug bait on the bottom. Not much in the way of numbers or quality, but at least it showed a decent range of species well up the estuary.

As the tide started to ebb I went back to where I started, and was rewarded by a slow but steady stream of smoothies and a few dabs and LSD. I had a bait out for tope, but there was no sign of any, which was the only disappointment of the day. Total for the day was 28 smoothound and 3 bass which is easily my best session in the Cree.

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31st May 2009 – Wigtown

Weather: Dry, sunny, light or no wind
Sea Conditions: Calm and reasonably clear
Time Spent: 0815-1845
Tides: LW 1300 – Moderate tide

A smallish smoothound from the Cree estuary
Small smoothie

Took 3 hours to get to Garlieston where I launched with no difficulty and headed out to the Cree and set up for smoothies.

Fishing varied during the day, with the best of it early on and then on top half of the flood. The run up to low water was very slow, with only a couple of fish showing in the last 90 minutes of the ebb. Immediately after LW I landed a couple of small bass and missed a third one, but then it went quiet again until mid-tide when I had a flurry of smoothies between 4 and 5 pm, and a couple more and a pair of tope in the last 90 minutes before packing in.

Final total was 12 smoothies (none big, but a 5lb fish makes for huge fun on a spinning rod), 2 bass and 6 tiny tope – none of which made it into double figures.

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10th May 2009 – Wigtown

Weather: Calm and sunny
Sea Conditions: Calm. Coloured in the estuary. Lot of freshwater after rain.
Time Spent: 1500-2130 – 6.5 hours
Tides: LW1930 – moderate spring

A small bass from the Cree estuary, Wigtown
Small Wigtown bass
A very spiny thornback ray from the Cree estuary
Thornback, Wigtown

Fished with Ian and launched out of brighouse bay (£18 for tent, car, boat and launch). A late start on Sunday saw us out at Wigtown Bay for about 3 p.m., fishing a few hundred yards away from Jim Hamilton. The weather was bright sunshine with barely a breath of wind so it was definitely sun screen time.

Unfortunately there was quite a lot of freshwater in the bay due to the recent rain and this may have affected the fishing a bit – we had plenty of fish, but only one of them was a smoothhound.

Ian notched up 20 dabs, several flounder and a lonely plaice and we both had a small bass each plus plenty of doggies. I picked up a couple of thornbacks
(one of which had a full forest of thorns, front and back), but that was it, apart from the solitary smoothie.

We left it a bit late in raising anchor and made it back to the slip at Brighouse in near darkness, although this wasn’t any real problem.

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