Gubbed by the Weather in Galloway

It’s taken almost a month to getting around to post this little report, which probably says it all! Who’d be an angler in Scotland. Four days of wind and a fair bit of rain ūüôĀ Still, we caught a few fish, had a few beers, and even the tent survived unscathed.

The forecast was pretty much right, with mainly a force 5-6 S/SW wind, which leaves most of the area unfishable from a boat. Even shore fishing is hard going.

A boisterous sea on Luce Bay
A boisterous sea on Luce Bay

Thursday afternoon saw Ian and I hammering in what felt like 100 tent pegs as we put up a cavernous old family tent at Port William. At least base camp looked and felt fairly spacious – even if I wasn’t entirely confident it would actually¬†still be there in the morning.

Base camp - a 12 man tent for the 3 of us
Base camp

We followed up with a couple of hours catching weed at Luce Bay, together with a stray coalie and flounder.

However Friday offered the prospect of lighter winds, so Ian and I took the chance to get out before things got worse again, and headed out from Garlieston. A little bouncy in Wigtown Bay but not too bad, and we were able to fish OK.

Ian holds a very spiny thornback ray which was armed front and back with big hook-like spikes
A very spiny hedgehog of a thornback ray
One of several nice dabs from Wigtown Bay
One of several nice dabs from Wigtown Bay

We’d only frozen mackerel but otherwise had plenty of crab and some squid, however the fish weren’t too keen to play and we only had a handful of smoothhound showing interest.

A small hound for Ian
A small hound for Ian

Ian had several decent rays but there was no sign of tope, whilst we had rather too many doggies and a few dabs.

Ian holds the best smoothhound of the session
Best smoothhound

We headed back to Garlieston around half-three, to catch the slip before the tide ebbed too far, and passed Trevor catching a few crabs at the pier head as he waited for us to come in.

Trevor waiting as we come back to Garlieston after a few hours afloat
Trevor waiting as we come back to Garlieston

Boat recovery and greetings over with, we spent a little while collecting some lug to augment bait supplies before munching a variety of chippie suppers in the early evening sunshine.

Morale somewhat restored it was off round to Carsluith for an evening fish at a more sheltered spot. This worked out pretty well, with good numbers of flounder, an eel or two and a couple of bass for me.

Trevor casts out over the mud towards the River Cree
Trevor casts out over the mud
Fishing over mud to reach the estuary as we wait for the tide to rise.
Fishing over mud to reach the estuary
Lucky Ian - another eel, one of several he caught
Lucky Ian – another eel
A small bass from Carsluith on the Cree Estuary
Small bass from Carsluith

A fairly manky and muddy venue, but it did churn out the flounders and eels (mainly for Ian, who didn’t receive much sympathy), as well as bass and plenty more weed.

The wind was pretty horrible on Saturday so it was back to Carsluith for a few hours. Between fishing¬†Luce Bay and Carsluith I ended up with a good number of flounders, three bass (and a fourth that fell off at the side), and a solitary eel and coalie. The bass were¬†a definite plus for me as I’ve hardly ever caught them from the shore before and although the best probably didn’t make 3lbs, it’s still a PB for me.

Nice shore caught bass
Nice shore caught bass
A nice flounder from the pier
A nice flounder from the pier
Trevor relaxing at Carsluith whilst Ian holds on to his hat in the wind
Trevor relaxing at Carsluith
Ian with the best flounder of the trip, something like 1lb 6 or 7oz
Best flounder of the trip

Sunday proved more of the same, weatherwise, so we called it quits and reverse engineered the tent back into the car before trundling off home. So, one good day out of four from a fishing point of view, but I suppose we were spoiled by the last couple of years when sunstroke looked a real possibility!

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Galloway Smoothhounds

Ian, Trevor and I spent all last week hunting for tope and smoothhounds down in Galloway. Loads of fish, although decent tope proved a bit more elusive than last year.

Bar a single session from Isle of Whithorn, our time was spent fishing out of Port William and Garlieston into Luce Bay and Wigtown Bay.

Waiting for the tide to rise a little at Port William
Waiting for the tide to rise a little at Port William

Tope were very scarce out of Port William, although we did pick up some decent huss and thornbacks, plus loads of smaller stuff including a lot of tub and grey gurnards and the usual whiting hordes. Mackerel were generally easy to find, although a little bigger than last year, and there were a few herring and launce mixed in amongst them. Ian managed to up his personal LSD record up to 63 in one day, which I can’t imagine he’ll want to beat anytime soon.

A pretty tub gurnard
A pretty tub gurnard
A bull huss for myself from Luce Bay
Huss always look vaguely gangster-ish
Nasty looking bull huss dentistry
Nasty looking huss dentistry

Garlieston held plenty of smoothhounds and small/baby tope plus more thornbacks. Ian picked up the best hound, at over 12lbs (which took a mackerel bait), but most were in the 2-5lbs range. I’d 57 one day which is way more than I’ve seen before, although other days weren’t quite as hectic.

Ready to launch at Garlieston slipway
Ready to launch at Garlieston slipway
Another thornback for Trevor
Another thornback for Trevor
Ian landing no less than 3 hounds in one cast
Ian landing no less than 3 hounds in one cast

I’ve never seen so many small tope, which were picking up crab and lug baits as well as mackerel, and we must have had many dozens on the days we fished there, but with the best only going 24lbs. I’d one tiddler that looked that it had just avoided becoming breakfast for an older brother.

A small tope with distinctive teeth marks in its belly
Tope eat Tope!
Only a small one - but a tope nonetheless
Only a small one – but a tope nonetheless

A few hours on the banks off Isle of Whithorn produced the largest tope (predictably for Ian again!) with a couple at 35lbs each, but we didn’t hang around for the tide to run against the wind on the flood.

The only decent tope from Port William this trip - a 25lber for Ian
The only decent tope from Port William this trip – a 25lber for Ian

Our last day saw a combination of boat weariness and squally weather push us out on a shore trip, which resulted in our first shore-caught hounds and a tope bite off for myself.

Casting a crab bait for smoothhound
Casting a crab bait for smoothhound
A small shore caught smoothhound
A small shore caught smoothhound

Incidentally, the petrol station at Port William is now open 24 hours with a self-service card machine, which will prove handy for future trips. And there is also a nice new coffee shop above the Inshore Rescue Boatshed, with a great view out over Luce Bay.

The GoPro got dropped over the side for a quick view of the seabed at Luce Bay, revealing a complete doggie-fest with a few dabs thrown in – plus this smoothie roaming about. We didn’t catch any hounds here, so interesting to see it on video.

A smoothhound ignores our baits off Port William
A smoothhound off Port William
A lesser spotted doggie lurks on the bottom of Luce Bay, out from Port William
A doggie lurks on the bottom of Luce Bay
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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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June 4 and 5 – Galloway

Weeks of frustration had been building during a very windy May, so the first possibility of a weather window was seized with both hands and Ian and I arranged a couple of days targetting hounds and tope in Wigtown and Luce Bay.

Saturday involved a lazy start that saw us launch at Brighouse around 1 p.m. after sticking the tent up first.¬†The wind was stronger than forecast, but manageable, and we headed round¬†into Wigtown Bay to try some of the marks in the Cree.¬†At anchor it became clear that the north easterly forecast was¬†in fact a south easterly reality – a big disappointment as it meant fishing wind against tide rather than with the tide, and a very uncomfortable beam on chop. Hey-ho, that’s what happens all too often in Scottish sea angling, so we¬†carried on and tried to minimise the bruising from being thrown about.

The fish were there, but not entirely cooperative. We’d 10-12 smallish hounds, plenty of doggies and dabs and a solitary tub gurnard and bass (to Ian), but there was no sign of tope. We did try closer in to Ravenshall point for over an hour¬†and this was more sheltered but the¬†fishing was very poor and we moved back out again – at this point the outboard threw a wobbly as well and started misfiring above 1600 rpm (i.e. 6 or 7 knots). Just what you need 10 miles from launch site in moderately snotty weather! Given the¬†engine problems I decided to finish earlier than planned and we hauled anchor about 8 p.m. and started back, only to find the Etec was now behaving normally. Not sure it¬†made much difference really, as it was a slow trip back into¬†a quite nasty set of waves¬†with anything much above 12 or 13 knots¬†proving pretty horrible. However we got¬†back safely and soon had the boat put to bed before heading off the Kirkcudbright and a well-earned chippie.

A fairly leisurely start on Sunday saw us parked on the slip at Ardwell around mid-morning¬†in “will we, won’t we” mode, as¬†Luce Bay¬†looked less than inviting in the strongish E wind and grey skies. After checking out the beach I reckoned we’d be OK provided we dry launched¬†Alcatraz above the¬†soft sand patches that had obviously bogged down some previous vehicles. After a rather damp struggle through the surf, and killing my mobile thanks to a pair of leaking waders, we headed carefully out through the rocky minefield of Ardwell and out towards our chosen mark.

Fish were pretty much instant, with small¬†mackerel and a couple of herring hitting feathers. Whilst these ended up as tope baits I sent out a crab and worm bait on the uptider in case there was something¬†else hanging around.¬†We didn’t get much chance to settle down, as there was a steady stream of mackerel, gurnards, doggies and whiting coming to the small rods which kept us pretty occupied as we lurched around in fairly unpleasant seas (admittedly better than yesterday’s beam on rolling). There were a few bites on the crabs and worms, and several smoothies and a respectable thornback ray put in an appearance.

The missing guest was the tope Рnot a whisper on either rod for almost 4 hours until I hooked a decent fish that eventually shook the hook. Half an hour later a smaller companion saved our embarassment as a 15lbr briefly graced the deck before being returned.

So a good day for numbers and a decent range of species, but poor for the tope. A final mention has to go to the scad – we had a dozen aboard during the day, and I finally broke a very long running duck with this species.

Overall a poor weekend weather wise, with the forecasts significantly out, but at least we got out and had a couple of days catching rather than just fishing.

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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 РDab (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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