(In)action at Loch Leven with Summer Thornbacks

The east coast looked a bit breezy so Ian and I decided to try a sheltered west coast sea loch, namely Leven, for some summer thornbacks. In the event we met up at Lochearnhead at a fairly civilised 7.30 in the morning and trundled across with the early morning traffic.

After a short skirmish with an advance guard of the midge hordes at the slate slipway in Ballachulish we were launched and heading out across the loch to try for mackerel and thornies at the fish farm. Typical Scottish summer weather with a mix of grim grey clouds and some nice warm sunshine to knock you off guard!

With pretty eyes and vicious thorns this little ray deserves both admiration and respect
Pretty eyes and vicious thorns…

Mackerel proved easy enough, although most were smaller than I’d like, but it took 90 minutes or more before the thornies put in an appearance. Both Ian and I had fish straddling the 5lb mark within minutes of each other (Ian’s straddling the right side of 5lbs whilst mine fell short – an all too typical story in my experience).

Ian bends into a Leven thornback
Ian bends into a Leven thornback

Sadly, the anticipation generated by a brace of nice fish soon wore off. There were more rays about but they steadily dropped in size towards the embarrassing end of the spectrum. When the mackerel are larger than the thornbacks you are definitely struggling…

A typical Leven thornback ray in the 4-5lb bracket
A typical Leven thornback ray in the 4-5lb bracket – but as good as we got

Upping anchor we decided to give it a try outside the loch, where the mouth drops into 100+ feet of water. New territory for me as I’d never fished out here before, and I doubt I’ll bother again given the highlight was a 3 inch whiting impaled on a 4/0 hook. ’nuff said!

A moody looking Loch Leven and Glencoe
A moody looking Loch Leven and Glencoe

Our final mark was a slightly off-the-wall offering courtesy of Ian, and we ended up in very shallow water (for a sea loch) with the anchor in around 30 feet. A slow start gradually improved as a succession of tiny/small thornbacks appeared, and at least the size appeared to be increasing. There was a reasonable trickle of tide and I could believe the claimed 8lb’ers were certainly possible at times.

Getting closer to postage stamp size - a small Leven ray
Getting closer to postage stamp size – a small Leven ray
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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 🙁 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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Pollacked on Loch Etive

Fish in the east, fish in the west, but not really the weather to exploit either coast! Faced with the need to check out Alcatraz before an upcoming trip to Galloway I chickened out and made my way over to Etive again, with the furball for company.

Having had fairly poor results from down the loch over the past year I just headed straight up into the less visited upper loch and settled down to a little Etive pollack bashing. This isn’t something I often do on the loch, as there are a lot of smaller fish around, but I was trying for something a little better today.

My leadhead attracted little attention in the peaty-ish waters, but I lost a couple of smaller fish which threw the hook before my light spinning rod went parabolic and line peeled rapidly off the little Abu reel. Clearly a better fish, I treated it with a little respect and it was a few minutes before a good sized fish (and my best Etive pollack) slid into the net and came aboard.

Unhooking a nice pollack taken on a leadhead and firetail worm
Unhooking a nice pollack

Being guilty of over-estimating the size of pollack (slab sided, but thin when compared to cod) I always prefer to trust my scales and these slid round to a healthy 5lb 6oz.

Slipping a Pollack back into the water

Nothing else seemed very interested so I shifted a little and dropped anchor. Wind and tide were opposed, which is never something to be recommended, but it wasn’t uncomfortable and just a little awkward as the boat slewed from side to side. Bozo had clearly given up on dreams of a run ashore and curled up and went to sleep for a while.

It was a little slow, but a decent sprinking of fish graced Alcatraz’s gunwhales, including spurdogs, dogs, a thornback and some whiting (heads only!).

A small spurdog comes aboard
A small spurdog comes aboard

Taking pity on Bonnie I took a break in the early afternoon and we headed ashore for an hour of chasing sticks and drinking coffee in the sunshine.

A lethal combination - wet dog with stick
A lethal combination – wet dog with stick

A couple more hours fishing produced more of the same, but no sign of larger spurdogs, so I was happy enough to point Alcatraz south and head back towards Taynuilt.

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A Few Hours Chasing Thornbacks from my SIB

Just catching up a bit with some rather late reports…

A couple of weeks ago I nipped across to Loch Leven to spend the morning chasing thornbacks. I actually drove across the night before to test out some adjustments to my sleeping arrangements in the Yeti, proving you can sleep me, an inflatable and an outboard and associated fishing clobber in considerable comfort. Headroom’s a wee bit lacking but otherwise it all seems OK. I also managed to bounce a roe deer off the front of car near Kinlochleven, but thankfully both parties seemed to escape with only minor damage.

Squeezing my inflatable boat, outboard, fishing gear and a sleeping bag into the back of a Yeti. It's surprisingly comfortable.
Room for Two?

The fishing was nothing to write home about, but I launched the SIB at the old slate slip and spent the morning chasing thornbacks across at the fish farm. It was a nice enough day but even the very slight breeze was chilly, so little chinks of sunshine were welcome when the showed through the cloud. I accumulated 5 little thornbacks (ranging from small to tiny) and a lonely doggie with no sign of any mackerel.

A small thornback ray perched on the tubes of my Avon 310 SIB
Small thornback ray

Overall I think the fishing in Leven seems to be going backwards and the last couple of years have been pretty poor, but it’s still a pleasant enough spot to try for a few hours.

Watching the rod tip and waiting for another fish
Waiting for a bite

I’d to head northwards to meet up with my dad in the afternoon so it was a shorter trip than usual – just the sort of thing the little Avon SIB excels at.

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