Lazy Summer Morning…

Whales are still rare enough round here for a sighting to be memorable, and this Minke looked very purposeful as it ploughed steadily along in the direction of St. Abbs. Close enough to be impressive, but too far for a decent photo! A little later its baby cousin, a small porpoise, also paid a fleeting visit, so a good day for cetacean watching… More welcome than the seal that hung around for a while earlier on – I’d swear there’s a smile on its face.

A rather contented seal
A rather contented seal

Earlier in the morning I’d slipped out of Dunbar on the ebb tide and nosed Alcatraz out onto a sunny and windless North Sea. Not exactly calm, mind you, with a steady NE swell rolling in – nothing major, but enough to remind me that the weather lately has been anything but summery.

Leaving Dunbar through the Harbour Bridge
Leaving Dunbar through the Harbour Bridge

An inshore drift  produced mackerel, codling and Pollack – but only one of each before my blubbery “friend” turned up and outstayed his welcome. A move out to the wreck resulted in more activity, with a slow but steady stream of ling and a couple more codling.

Small but greedy ling
Small but greedy ling

Getting tired of constant short drifts and only lacklustre fishing I switched back to the inshore marks for a couple of hours, trying a few spots near Torness. Nothing dramatic but more Pollack and codling were my reward – no tiddlers and no monsters either, with the best fish a 6lb ling.

Fish of the day - a modest ling
Fish of the day – a modest ling

A long final drift as I filleted the codling produced a couple more Pollack and mackerel, which hit a slim silver belly fillet of mackerel fished on a long trace from a spinning rod – great fun as the light rod hoops over hard as the fish hits.

Dinner - a pan sized codling
Dinner – a pan sized codling

The final tally was 22 or 23 fish for the morning, split pretty evenly between codling, Pollack and ling. Very few mackerel showed up, although they were of good size and I wasn’t really targeting them.

About to leave Dunbar harbour
The remains of Dunbar Castle dominate the harbour entrance

This was my first shot out of Dunbar since May, with most of the summer lost to a variety of little time-stealers and a fair bit of rubbish weather. On the plus side, I’ve spent a fair bit of time pulling together a little expedition to somewhere warmer, which hopefully kicks off in a couple of weeks. Nowhere near saltwater though!

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First blood on the East Coast

A few hours free this morning and a good forecast, so it seemed time for Alcatraz to hit Dunbar for the first time this season. Hopefully things should be waking up on the east coast by now and the cod larder is very bare indeed.

Off Dunbar

Launching at HW just around 7 was a piece of cake – or it would’ve been if I’d remembered to pop the bung back in. After a bit of red-faced baling and general sorting myself out, it was a trip down the coast towards the Barns Ness/Torness area.

Small Ling off Dunbar
Small Ling

To be honest things were fairly slow and I tapped away with the odd small ling and codling. The early chop died off as the tide turned and the drift was a little on the slow side, but not enough to be a problem.

Fish On!
Fish On!

A couple of moves gave pretty much the same result, until I hit mackerel not too far off the lighthouse. I knew it was possible to pick them up in May, but was a little surprised given the day was otherwise fairly quiet. They were stonking great mackerel too, with the biggest topping 1lb 12oz when I popped it on the kitchen scales later.

First mackerel off Dunbar
First mackerel off Dunbar

Unfortunately time was all too limited today, so I’d to call it quits around eleven and only just made it onto the bottom of the slipway as it dried at the bottom of the tide.

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Three badgers and a Wedding

Yes, it was a rather short but surreal trip last night…

I occasionally take the dog and a rod for a short flattie bashing session on a quiet East Lothian beach. Not being particularly into either beach fishing or flatties I usually only give it an hour or two at dusk, and yesterday looked to be a decent enough evening with some chance of flounder activity.

The beach requires a short walk through farmland and some woods, and I wasn’t surprised to encounter a couple of deer just before I reached the dunes fringing the beach. Walking across the sand to my chosen spot I was hailed by a rather friendly chap who then asked if I’d be willing to perform a marriage ceremony for him and his beloved. Faced with such a radical change from “have you caught anything yet” style questions I was too gobsmacked to argue, and duly spent a few minutes going through wedding vows with a mildly new-age theme. I can only assume there was no-one else around, which is why a random dog walking angler was selected to officiate, but the setting sun on Mayday, standing on a beautiful beach seems to me like a good enough place to get hitched. Good luck to Nicholas and Helen!Dusk-at-Beach-2

A few minutes later your newly appointed wedding registrar was setting up shop for flounders near the bottom of the tide. As the sun faded it was pleasant enough, but a little cold as the light force 2-3 wind was blowing off the sea. There was a little weed about but nothing too bad so I lobbed out a couple of small mackerel baits and kept the dog amused with her ball whilst I waited.

I only gave it a hour, given I was out for some fresh air as much as any fishing, but my shiny new Teklon 802 spinning rod duly broke it’s duck with a surprisingly fat flounder a little while after the sun disappeared completely. No monster and well short of a pound it was still a welcome visitor and another species for the year to date – a total of 11 so far. Not long after something long and low caught my eye as it scuttled across the beach in the last of the light – at first I thought it was someone’s dog before it dawned on me that it must be an otter heading off to prowl the nearby rocks. No chance of a photo, but that’s the first time I’ve seen an otter along the east coast shoreline.

A fairly plump spring flounder
Flounder

To cap off the evening the woods on our walk back seemed full of activity, with several deer and no less than three badgers crossing our path. So a very brief trip, but no shortage of activity last night.

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Inshore codding off Skateraw

Given the weekend is probably going to be a washout for boat fishing, I nipped out of Skateraw for a short session on Friday afternoon.  The weather was calm, but with a small swell running from the NE.

First up were a few mackerel for bait, and I took a few shots with the GoPro of them underwater. I’m still learning the basics with this camera, but it certainly does open up a new dimension for angling photography.

Underwater shot of a group of mackerel taken on mylar lures
Underwater shot of a group of mackerel taken on mylar lures

Even in a more conventional shot, mackerel are a very beautiful fish and very underrated just by being so easily caught.

Mackerel - A very pretty fish when you take the time to look at it, fresh from the sea
A very pretty fish when you take the time to look at it

About a mile offshore I fished one of my regular marks for a few codling in what was a very slow drift. Normally the problem is slowing down a SIB but today there was hardly any movement and the GPS was showing 0.3 to 0.4 mph speed over ground.

No matter as there were a reasonable number of small codling about and I took 9 plus a couple of ling in around two hours. The fish came to a mix of artificial shad lures (fun on a light spinning rod) and mackerel baited muppets, but there were no Pollack amongst them which was a bit of a surprise.

A small codling tries to escape after swallowing a large artificial shad completely
A small codling tries to escape after swallowing a large artificial shad completely

Heading back to Skateraw beach I paused to fillet the fish inside the breakwater at Torness before landing ashore through a small surf at just after HW – a bit splashy but nothing too dramatic.

SIB ashore in a surf
SIB ashore in a surf

And I’m writing this whilst looking out the window at a blustery day with some rain spittering against the windows – so glad I took the chance yesterday!

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Fishing the Haar

Anyone fishing the east of Scotland gets very familiar with the summer haar, or thick mist that rolls in from the sea after a few days of fine, settled weather. Often it burns off by late morning, but it can last for days as a thick blanket limiting visibility to a few 10s of metres.

It was thick today, but not impossibly so, and there seemed a good chance of it disappearing after a few hours so I took advantage of the light winds to try Dunbar again. Despite a struggle to launch Alcatraz as the last of the tide raced out the inner harbour I was soon heading eastwards down the coast and hopeful of adding a decent number of codling to my total for the year. The sea was fairly calm and it was quite warm, but the haar was thick enough to start dripping off me as I ploughed on through it and a weird white rainbow formed as the sun above shone through the cloud.

A half-formed rainbow in the haar
A half-formed rainbow in the haar

I set up shop at the River Garry and quickly picked up mackerel for bait, but found there was no tidal drift and hence very little else showing interest. Giving it a while to see if the tide picked up proved to be a waste of time so I headed over to Torness and started picking away with both bait and artificial eels. There were good numbers of small fish around despite the lack of tide, but quality was pretty much absent.

Thick mist or haar off Dunbar
Thick mist or haar off Dunbar

I persevered for a large part of the morning and the total of codling, ling and Pollack continued to grow, but with only a few takers and a lovely cod of around 8lbs lost alongside the boat. Eventually I popped back out to the wreck to see if anything was coming out to play in the stronger tide run, and was rewarded with a few more fish, including a fine ling of 9lbs – not bad for an inshore ling around here. I lost another even larger fish (probably a ling as well) which threw the hook about half way up.

Good ling from Dunbar
Good ling from Dunbar

That left time for a quick filleting session before heading back to harbour before HW. By now the mist was largely gone and I’d a good view of the Red Arrows performing their routine at the airshow at East Fortune airfield, as well as a number of boats out fishing the local sea angling comp. My final total was 35 cod, Pollack and ling – mainly small codling – so a decent morning but not quite a red-letter day.

The haar lifts
The haar lifts
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A few hours off Dunbar

This past Sunday I took Alcatraz out for a morning trip from Dunbar – her first launch there in almost a year. There was a fairly chunky NE swell running for the first hour or two and, although this settled down a bit as the tide eased off, the wind and tide combined to a pretty fast drift of 1.5 knots or more. The fishing was fairly slow and only around 10 smallish codling came aboard in the first 2-3 hours (plus loads of mackerel, as I’m starting to refill the bait supplies for winter). A switch to anchoring produced a few more codling and a lonely coalfish, but I was surprised to find the anchor not holding properly in 65 feet of water on a rocky bottom and the boat gradually slipped backwards in the tide run.

Around midday the tide, swell and wind all slackened off enough to make it worth trying the River Garry wreck for a short while before heading back to the slip. More smallish codling and some ling chomped on the mackerel baits but there was a distinct shortage of anything over 3lbs which was a bit disappointing. I called it quits just after 1 p.m. and headed ashore with 25 cod and ling under my belt, but only 7 keepers from that total – a nice morning out, but hardly exceptional.

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SIB-ing off Skateraw

Spent a few hours this morning running around off Skateraw, near Torness, in search of some codling close inshore. The weather was stunning, with clear skies and flat seas and it was a joy to be out and skimming the surface of the ocean. Once drifting all you could hear was the occasional whump! of a gannet diving for its breakfast – it was so calm that there wasn’t even a wavelet to slap against the hull.

Warm sunshine, calm waters - a perfect way to spend a morning fishing from a small inflatable
Warm sunshine, calm waters – a perfect way to spend a morning fishing from a small inflatable
Even a small 5hp outboard will push a lightly loaded inflatable at a decent speed
Even a small 5hp outboard will push a lightly loaded inflatable at a decent speed

Fishing was respectable enough with a number of modest codling and a couple of Pollack putting in an appearance, but it was one of these days where the catch mattered less than simply being there and soaking up the day.

Playing with the GoPro - a small codling surfaces alongside my Avon SIB
Playing with the GoPro – a small codling surfaces alongside my Avon SIB

 

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Family Fishing – On an October night

Well, my bluff was well and truly called, as both Mike and Katie decided they wanted to come fishing with me tonight. My jaw hit the floor as I expected only a rude rebuff at the idea of abandoning a night in front of the TV/computer/iPad in exchange for keeping the dog amused on an East Lothian beach in the darkness of an October evening.

Fair enough though – pack another rod and choose a more accessible beach than originally planned and we headed off just as it got dark to try for a few flounders. I’ve launched the inflatable before at Whitesands beach, near Dunbar, and although I’ve never actually fished it I reckoned it was worth a go, and didn’t involved wandering around too much in the dark.

Bonnie the cocker spaniel digs up the beach for her ball - in the dark
Bonnie the cocker spaniel digs up the beach for her ball – in the dark
Katie fishes from Whitesands beach on a calm October night
Katie fishes from Whitesands beach on a calm October night
Katie, Michael and Bonnie fishing on a fine October night, Whitesands Beach near Dunbar
The kids and the dog pretending to fish…

On arrival we found it flat calm, with no wind at all – very nice for the humans, but probably not that attractive for the fish. I’d been expecting a small swell to be running but there was nothing bigger than a ripple in the bay. Oh well! We got a couple of rods rigged anyway and lobbed a 2 hook flapper rig, baited with mackerel, out 10 and 20 yards respectively and plonked the rods in their rest and waited.

Mike and Katie played with the dog as it chased balls in the dark, whilst I played with a new lens for my camera and took a few night shots for practice (and I need a lot more practice to get decent pics without a flash). Reeling in the baits from time to time saw them stripped by crabs or prawns within minutes of hitting the seabed, so it became obvious fairly early on that we’d be lucky to get much.

The Plough constellation shows clearly above my rod tips
The Plough constellation shows clearly above my rod tips
Looking east from Whitesands beach towards Barns Ness lighthouse, at night
Looking east from Whitesands beach towards Barns Ness lighthouse, at night
Looking out to sea from Whitesands beach, Dunbar, on a fine October night
Looking out to sea from Whitesands beach, Dunbar, on a fine October night

And so it proved – by the time we ran out of bait our only catch was a crab that didn’t let go quickly enough. A little disappointing as other beaches can fish their heads off at this time of year, but a perfectly fine evening to be out. The kids seemed to enjoy getting out, and the dog certainly did!

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Dunbar – last throes of summer?

The forecast for Sunday was terrible, so I opted for a few hours on the Saturday (14th) instead. It’s now September so I needed to pull my finger out somewhat and get enough mackerel for the winter season before the bad weather dispersed the shoals. The cod larder also needed an urgent topup!

Mackerel were a little thin on the ground – there were plenty there, but they tended to come aboard in ones and twos rather than full houses. However I added 50 to those already sitting in the freezer from earlier in the summer, so the winter bait problem is largely solved. Plenty of codling showing inshore too, although a little on the small side. Enough keepers to top up the freezer though, plus a sprinkling of smallish coalies and pollack and titchy ling.

There were large shoals of baitfish showing, mainly herring fry to judge by the contents of the mackerel, and in some places these reached from top to bottom of the water column – perhaps 50 feet thick.

Great way to spend a morning, unless you’re a mackerel, of course!

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Summer 2013

What with holidays and family commitments I rarely get the chance to do that much fishing in July and August, and that was true for this year too. The inflatable got wet a couple of times off Skateraw as I headed out in the early morning for a few mackerel and codling, and I met up with Ian for a trip out of St Andrews in early August, but Alcatraz saw no action at all.
To be fair, the second trip on the the little SIB was on a beautiful calm morning and I had a couple of hours on the River Garry wreck which produced a nice ling of 9.5lbs plus some decent codling and pollack, so there were certainly fish about for the taking.

St. Andrews was slow at times, with a lot of small pollack and codling showing, although Ian showed his customary expertise with the spinning rod and knocked out several decent pollack as we sat at anchor.

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