15 Jan 2012 – Etive Fails to Shine

Weather: Cold! – but little wind. A little sun but mainly overcast
Sea: The usual Etive millpond, with a few ripples. Temperature down to 4.3 degrees now
Time: 0900-1700 – 8 hours
Tides: HW 1100 – smallish tide

An overdue chance to blow a few cobwebs away saw me leaving home at about 5.30 a.m. on a very frosty morning, towing Alcatraz over Etive direction. Ian met me a Lochearnhead and we trundled on to Taynuilt to get launched on a fairly frigid morning.

First stop was well down the loch, at one of my usual haunts, where we stayed until just after the top of the tide. Just a couple of spurries and a handful of rays and LSD showed, so I moved up to Airds Point to catch the early part of the ebb tide. Here we were anchored in around 150 feet and initially things looked pretty good, with my first Etive ling for several years followed by a couple of modest thornback rays. The next couple of hours were pretty slow though, with 3 or 4 more small spurs and a few rays – although a pouting, grey gurnard and a couple of whiting added to list, alongside the odd hungry LSD.

By two o’clock we had to decide whether to stay for the rest of the day, or head on up the loch to a mark that’s done well for us in the past. Staying put wasn’t that attractive, so it was a case of up anchor and then heading up the loch past two or three other angling boats and on to Barrs. Up here the sun was out and the loch calm so it was almost warm for a little while as we waited for some action. And waited. Things were really very slow in the first 40-50 minutes, and only picked up slowly as the light faded, mainly with small spurdogs. By way of compensation for the slow sport and spreading chill, the sunset was beautiful over the mountains behind us, as they reflected off a calm sea loch.

Five o’clock saw darkness falling rapidly, and the cold becoming brutal, and the fishing wasn’t improving any. Executive decision made we upped anchor and headed home down the loch.

The fishing was pretty poor overall – a dozen small spurs to 5 or 6lbs, ten small rays and perhaps 15 LSDs, plus a few whiting and a single ling, pouting and grey gurnard to up the species count. No monsters, but good company with decent weather (and a lovely sunset) in a beautiful location – I’ve had much worse starts to the fishing year.

 

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

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.

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

15 October 2011 – Loch Etive

Weather: Mild night with no wind and some light showers
Sea: Calm
Time: 2000-2330 – 3.5 hours
Tides:

A shore caught spurdog and thornback ray from Loch Etive
A shore caught spurdog and thornback ray from Loch Etive

It’s been ages since I’ve tried Etive from the shore, and years since I’ve tried the south bank, but I’d identified a decent and fairly accessible spot when dinghy fishing a couple of years ago. Having a few hours free in the evening I decided to give it a quick bash and see whether it held anything after dark. Access was even easier than I thought and my first cast found something like 70 feet of water and clean ground. It was a calm night and fairly clear between some light showers, so it was no hardship waiting for a bite. After nearly an hour a decent nibble translated into a small spurdog of around 1.5lbs, which was quickly followed by several others. Highlight of the evening was a spur of around 4lbs on one rod, plus a slightly larger ray simultaneously on the other.

A final total of 6 spurs and 1 thornback ray was quite satisfying for a few hours on a new mark, especially given how out of practice I am at fishing Etive from the shore.

 

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

18 September 2011 – Loch Etive

Weather: Calm or light winds, warm and quite sunny
Sea: Calm, fair peaty colour to surface water further up loch
Time: 0830-2000 – 11.5 hours
Tides: Moderate tides, HW approx 1100

Lovely day to be out although the fishing was a little slow. I tried about 5 marks during the day, mainly between Airds and the Priory, but finished up well up the loch near Cadderlie. Finished up with a dozen small spurs and 14 thornbacks, plus more whiting than I’ve seen for a while (if you include a couple of head-only captures). Fish seemed pretty evenly spread across all the marks – nothing outstandingly good or bad.

To be honest the day was a lot better than it sounds, as the loch was looking beautiful in the late summer sunshine and the lovely calm evening was completely relaxing – a great antidote to city living.

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

26-27 July 2011 – Loch Etive

There's more to fishing than just fish...
There’s more to fishing than just fish…

Weather: Hot and sunny, with an afternoon sea breeze
Sea Conditions: Flat (and 19.5 degrees water temp in the shallows!)
Times: Roughly 1400-1900 on Tuesday and 0800-1600 on Wednesday – about 13 hours altogether
Tides: LW approx 1120 at Bonawe on Tuesday, small tides

Took my son, Mike, and Bonnie the manic spaniel across to Loch Etive for a couple of days on the boat and a spot of camping. Etive’s not my first choice for fishing at this time of year but both Mike and Bonnie suffer from sea-sickness so it’s a good bet from that point of view, and there’s almost always something to catch.

Bonnie hijacks the skipper's seat
Bonnie hijacks the skipper’s seat
Camping on the shoreline
Camping on the shoreline

I’d deliberately tried to go for a couple of days good weather and the met office didn’t let us down – basically hot and sunny sums it up, with only a light sea breeze in the afternoon (quite welcome, as it was almost too hot in the boat). We tried a variety of marks both east and west of Taynuilt and caught a decent number of fish, mainly small spurs (best 7lb, but most around 2lbs) and a fair number of thornbacks but also doggies, gurnard, whiting, codling, coalie and pollack. Only a single mackerel turned up so it was just as well I’d taken frozen ones plus some squid. I lost count of the final totals but several dozen fish came aboard and the dog eventually lost all interest in them as they wriggled around.

How to spend a summers evening
How to spend a summers evening
Just to prove we did a little fishing
Just to prove we did a little fishing

Overnight, we camped well up the loch at Barrs – a fantastic little spot only accessible by sea or a long hike. The tent went up in a few minutes and then it was time for a beer and a barbie, plus a modest campfire to help keep the midgies at bay. For the first time I’d put together a sliding mooring for the boat, which allowed me to keep her 50-60m off the beach overnight but pull her in to shore as needed. It seemed to work pretty well, but I was pleased/relieved to see her still there next morning. To be honest the highlight of the trip is summed up by the first image – waking up to a view like that is simply inspiring, doubly so when you see some of the highland magic click with your kid. Mind you, Bonnie was more inspired by the bacon than the scenery…

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

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.

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

March 4th 2011 – Loch Carron

Weather: Calm or light SW wind, mainly overcast. Chilly.
Sea: Calm, clear and cold
Time: Roughly 0845-1445 – 6 hours
Tides: LW around 1330 – largish tide

I hadn’t been up to Loch Carron for 6 or 7 years, since Ian and I had a windswept week struggling to find a few fish in late autumn 2004. It’s over 200 miles from Edinburgh, so not an easy daytrip and something like 5 hours driving if you’re towing a boat. However the plan was to use the inflatable (therefore no trailer hassle, and only a 4 hour drive), and then head up to see my dad in Nairn for the weekend. From that point of view it’s little more than a 150 mile detour – less than a Loch Etive trip.

Dolphins chase my inflatable
Dolphins chase my inflatable

An early start saw me launching from the Stromeferry slip before 9 a.m., heading towards the avalanche shelter area in search of a codling or two. After a mile or two I came reasonably close to a prawn creeler, and could see a pair of dolphins splashing around it. Once they picked up the sound of the outboard engine they made a beeline for me, easily traceable as the ploughed across the flat calm surface of the loch. I then had the pleasure of their company for the best part of an hour as I made my way up to the avalanche shelter and for a fair time afterwards as I tried to fish it. I’ve seen dolphins many times before, mainly on the east coast, but these were the most persistent I’ve encountered and the only ones I’ve ever caught on camera or video. Take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hgiqCQjt1A

Stretching my legs
Stretching my legs

After the dolphins eventually got bored and bu**ered off I started to pick up a few fish, mainly smallish ling in the 3-4lbs bracket on mackerel baited hokkais fished on a slow drift. I’d guess I fished roughly half to three quarters of a mile of the loch, centred on the avalanche shelter. The water got deep quickly, reaching 120 feet within easy casting distance of the shelter, even deeper from the point 200 or 300 yards to the west – perhaps 180 feet or more. Over the day I picked up 8 ling and a single codling, plus a heap of mussels for dinner later in the week. Nothing big or exciting but a decent day for March and no cause for complaint. I packed up early only because I had to be in Nairn for 5’ish and I dare say the score would have been higher if I’d hung around a bit longer.

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

10 Feb 2011 – Loch Etive

A few hours fishing from my Rover inflatable on Loch Etive – chilly but otherwise a beautiful day, with a few thornbacks and spurdogs appearing to keep things interesting.

Weather: Calm, sunny and beautiful – but a bit chilly
Sea Conditions: Flat calm.
Time: Roughly 0900-1630 – 7.5 hours
Tides: HW approx. 1100

Ben Starav from Loch Etive
Ben Starav from Loch Etive

The weather’s been it’s typical wintry self recently – cold, wet and windy – but I grabbed a few hours of calm between the gales to give Etive a try. I’ve been trying to run-in the little 5hp Tohatsu O/B I bought back in September and also get my Rover inflatable back into more regular use, so it was a chance to kill two birds with one stone, and hopefully get a few fish as well.

The 120 mile trip across to Taynuilt was certainly easier and quicker without hauling the usual trailer, although there were some terrific potholes around the Tyndrum area which had to be treated with caution in the semi-darkness. Arriving at the old pier the weather was beautiful – calm and sunny – and I quickly got the inflatable set up and ready to go.

Ready for a day on the loch
Ready for a day on the loch

Once out on the loch I headed out for a couple of hundred yards and then tied up to the outermost mooring buoy and set up a couple of rods – a spinning rod armed with hokkais and 20lb class rod with a standard 1 up 1 down mackerel baited rig. Fishing was fairly slow, but three respectable thornies and a couple of doggies appeared over the next 90 minutes before I decided to move further up the loch beyond Bonawe. The rest of the day I spent tied up to the fish farm or on a slow drift, and it wasn’t the most productive experience, with only a couple more thornbacks, 2 spurdogs and a few LSDs making an appearance.

Although sunny, the day was still very cold and I was quite glad to pack up around 4 o’clock as I was starting to freeze – one of the downsides of an inflatable is the level of exposure coupled with an inability to move around to keep warm.

Totals for the day – 5 thornbacks to 5lbs, 2 spurdogs to 3.5lbs and 7 doggies. All on mackerel baits.

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

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.

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

20 November – Loch Etive

A fairly typical day at Etive, with decent numbers of thornback and small spurs showing – plus my first ever tagged spurdog recapture. And don’t forget a few mussels picked up for dinner later in the week – a little bonus for the effort spent getting a boat too and from the west coast.

Weather: Light E wind, dry and mainly overcast. Pretty cold.
Sea Conditions: Flat calm, 8 degrees C.
Time: 0930-1700 – 7.5 hours
Tides: HW 0626 (1.9m) LW 1340 (0.4m)

Alcatraz on Etive
Alcatraz on Etive

Mainly thornbacks today, with 9 or 10 coming aboard. Nothing huge with the best around 5lbs, but only one micro fish for the day which is an improvement on the last couple of trips. Tried a couple of new marks, both of which produced 3 or 4 rays but only one spurdog – both look interesting for another time, although there were a fair number of LSD present as well.

Around low water I stopped off to collect a few mussels for dinner later in the week, although there were only a few visible and it took a wee while to get enough – a bit chilly on the hands when picking them up underwater!

A tagged spurdog
A tagged spurdog

Afterwards I headed further down the loch, to the deep water opposite the church where there were a few more spurs. However these were small ones so I didn’t hang around for too long, particularly as the tide had swung the boat stern on to the very cold breeze.

Back up to a deep mark near Airds Point and I decided to stay here until darkness fell, and see if any spurries were moving around. Initially things were very slow but picked up after around 30 or 40 minutes with a couple more thornbacks and a few spurdogs to 5lbs or so, alongside the usual LSD. Best fish of the day came in the shape of a 9.5lbs spurdog which was carrying a tag from the shark tagging programme.

Share this:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterest