Struggling on Etive

I haven’t been back to Etive since my Xmas camping trip with Trevor, so it was first choice for a daytrip – and besides I still needed a spurdog for my 2015 species count and Etive is the most reliable place I know for them.

Ian was otherwise tied up so I press-ganged the dog into serving as crew and headed off from Edinburgh about 5.30. Arriving at Taynuilt I found the loch enveloped in thick fog, but at least there was no wind to worry about. One rather clumsy launch later and we headed out into the mist and felt our way down towards Ardchattan.

It was pretty thick so I made sure to anchor well out the way of fish farm traffic, and we settled down to wait for action. By mid-morning the sky had cleared and the loch was looking it’s best – but no sign of any fish.

At anchor near Ardchattan
At anchor near Ardchattan

A move up to the deep water near Airds Point produced zilch, and the loch seemed completely dead. After wasting the whole morning in exchange for one half-hearted little bite I decided to head up the loch and try my luck there.

I stopped off at a little mark near Glen Kinglass which produced plenty of small codling for me last year, in the hope of breaking my duck for the day. Success, in the form of a mini-codling, duly appeared but even here I was struggling to get a bite on sabiki style lures.

Ashore for lunch
Ashore for lunch

My furry companion was getting somewhat mutinous by this stage so I headed ashore for an hour or so to let her have a run around the shoreline and stretch my own legs a bit. She wasn’t too happy when it was time to haul in the boat and head off again, but eventually decided she didn’t want to play Robinson Crusoe!

Crew
Crew

Heading across the loch, which was starting to get a little bouncy with wind against tide, I ended up fishing a trench a couple of hundred yards offshore. I’d not tried here before and had no great expectations this far up the loch, especially as there was a lot of freshwater colour in the water, but I couldn’t be doing any worse than back down the loch.

A nice Etive spurdog
A nice Etive spurdog

I was a bit surprised to get a good solid bite after only a few minutes fishing which duly resulted in a nice spur of around 9lbs. Of course that meant I had to stick it out for a while to find out if it was a loner, or whether there was company down there.

The answer came in the form of a chewed up whiting a few minutes later, with the characteristic spur bite out of it.

A well-chomped whiting from Barrs
A well-chomped whiting from Barrs

I’d like to say that the fishing improved from here, but that would be a fib. I did get a fair number of whiting, including several double shots, but spurs were scarce and I only picked up another couple – one around 7lbs and one about 8lbs.

Netting a spurdog
Netting a spurdog

A couple of plain vanilla doggies and a solitary thornback ray made up the numbers, with a tiny grey gurnard arriving just as I packed up for the day.

Small thornback ray
Small thornback ray

I bounced my way slowly back down the loch, which was calming down in the evening, partly to avoid getting a seasick dog and partly just to enjoy the ambience of the place – even though this is probably my poorest result from Etive in several years it’s still a fantastic place to fish.

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Boat camping in Sunart

Almost two months had past since Alcatraz last got some exercise, as one thing after another got in the way of a bit of fishing, until finally some decent weather and a free diary lined up for a few days.

The original plan had been to head either to the far north of Scotland or to some very remote territory on the south coast of Mull, as the forecasts looked a bit on the breezy side. However this improved just enough to give a decent crack at Loch Sunart so it became a question of finding somewhere sheltered enough for an overnight stay in a northerly wind that was still forecast to be a force 5.

Looking towards Dun Ghallain, a natural harbour used for over 2000 years
Looking towards Dun Ghallain, a natural harbour used for over 2000 years

Dun Ghallain (“Fort of the Storms”) is a highly sheltered little lagoon on the north side of Sunart between Laga Bay and Salen, and most people are only vaguely aware it exists. It does indeed have an old Iron Age fort, and the superb little anchorage was used by the Vikings for their own ships over 1000 years ago, but the more pressing question was – is there anywhere to pitch a tent? Past experience with Sunart’s combination of stony shorelines and bogs has made me wary as flat ground is quite rare, and Dun Ghallain is no exception.

Sunart-Viking-harbour

After a good bit of looking around I settled on a site on the outer edges of the lagoon where there was enough ground to pitch a tent between exposed rock edges. Fine for a bit of solo camping, but two would definitely be a crowd when it came to avoiding rocky lumps in the ground.

Given the history of the place you’d half-expect a ghost or two to show up but not even a stray deer wandered past and I’d a couple of uneventful nights. I’d been a bit worried about the amount of weed in the bay, coupled with some large rocks, but low water revealed Alcatraz safely surrounded by sand and water and it wasn’t difficult to extricate her from her mooring and out the channel into the loch.

Leaving Dun Ghallain anchorage just after sunrise
Leaving Dun Ghallain anchorage just after sunrise

To be honest the fishing wasn’t great. Day 1 only involved a few hours by the time I was launched and allowing for the time spent setting up camp, and it was basically dogfish. Day 2 was better after a slow start, with a mix of rays and a few spurs from Laga Bay, including just one double of 13lb 6oz, plus more dogs and a couple of whiting. Given that it was pretty windy for much of the day I couldn’t really complain as I headed back to feel my way in to Dun Ghallain as darkness fell. After breaking camp (and the ice off the tent), the last day gave a couple of conger to 17lbs 6oz and yet more dogs and whiting in a beautiful sunny day. So quality fish but slow fishing, and in line with my previous experience of Sunart.

A spur in low-double figures
A spur in low-double figures
A small thornback ray from Loch Sunart
A small thornback ray from Loch Sunart
Where possible I use a net to land conger
Where possible I use a net to land conger
A typical conger eel from the Laga Bay area
A typical conger eel from the Laga Bay area

 

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Etive shines

Etive is an wildly beautiful place (at times!), and it’s surprisingly unspoilt the upper loch is given how accessible it is from the central belt. Even if it was a fishless desert its upper reaches would attract anyone wanting to experience the beauty of raw nature and the almost complete silence that goes with no roads and no people.

Alcatraz on Etive
Alcatraz on Etive

I’ve visited a couple of times recently and caught it at its best – calm sunny days and moonlit nights – and it really does have the ability relegate fishing into a supporting role alongside immersion in a fabulous natural wilderness.

A couple of weeks ago I took Liz along to share the scenery (not so much the fishing) and we had a fantastic day with plenty of sun and little wind. A respectable number of thornbacks and spurdogs showed up, together with a lot of mini-mackerel, but it was sharing the loch and a BBQ that made the day. Even the midgies stayed away.

Reeling in a small spurdog
Reeling in a small spurdog
A typically small Etive spurdog
A typically small Etive spurdog

Etive wasn’t the original plan for my last couple of days, but offshore on the west coast was looking a little doubtful as the wind touched double figures on a large spring tide, so I decided to go for a combined fishing/camping/photography trip on the inner lochs instead.

Despite a forecast for sunshine it was raining when I launched at Taynuilt on Tuesday morning, although this didn’t last too long and the weather improved during the morning. The first few hours saw a dozen rays and a few spurdog from down the loch, plus plenty of tiny mackerel, one or two whiting and a gurnard – fairly typical fishing for Etive. As the ebb tide waned in mid-afternoon I headed up towards my camping ground for the night, checking out a couple of possible fishy spots along the way.

Grey gurnard (2) - two a penny on Etive
Grey gurnard – two a penny on Etive

There was another group of anglers up at Barrs with at least 3 tents and who looked like they were there for a few days, but I was planning on a spot on the other side of the loch and a little further towards Glen Etive so I ploughed on for a few more minutes to reach my campground.

I’d plenty of time to get set up and then drop a couple of pots to fish overnight – one day I’ll catch something worthwhile and bigger than a squat lobster, but it’s fun to try occasionally and this was hardly a die-hard fishing trip. A short session close to the shoreline as the light faded produced a succession of small codling and the distinct impression that it wouldn’t take too long to catch dozens of the things.

Dusk on Loch Etive
Dusk on Loch Etive

 

As night fell I settled down at the tent, put a couple of burgers on the barbie and watched as a full moon rose to cast quite a strong light over the loch.

Strong moonlight illuminates upper Loch Etive
Strong moonlight illuminates upper Loch Etive

 

Camping on Etive - nightfall
Camping on Etive – nightfall

Early next morning was stunning as the moon was still out as dawn broke over a perfectly calm loch.

Dawn on Loch Etive - with a full moon still showing
Dawn on Loch Etive – with a full moon still showing

It was quite cool, hardly surprising for September, but I spent a fair while taking photos and sorting out coffee and some breakfast.

Mirror calm Etive sunrise
Mirror calm Etive sunrise

Alcatraz in the early morning light

Sunrise on Loch Etive

Plenty of photos taken of the sunrise, before the midgies woke up and made a move essential, and I headed out to retrieve the pots placed the evening before. These had several dogfish and a few crabs, but nothing that the average Scotsman would want to eat, so all were chucked back.

A calm, still morning with the water like glass
A calm, still morning with the water like glass
Checking my creels
Checking my creels

 

Hardly the most testing sea conditions...
Hardly the most testing sea conditions…

Down towards my favourite mark in the upper loch, and we waited for almost an hour before getting a decent run on the 12/20 rod. This bent over into a decent ray, or so I thought, until 300 feet later a small but distinctly skate-like object appeared.

Etive skate - just a wee one but proof they exist
Etive skate – just a wee one but proof they exist

Small Etive Skate (yes, they do exist)

A juvenile female skate is returned - upper Loch Etive Sept 2014

Only a baby at 33 inches long, but the first I’ve seen from the loch and hopefully it’s got some friends along with it. I gave it an hour or two but not much else appeared apart from a couple of doggies and small spurs, so I made a move closer to the shore and did a little more coddie bashing, picking up plenty of mini-cod and little Pollack on a light spinning rod.

Playing a small Etive codling caught on light spinning rod
Playing a small Etive codling caught on light spinning rod

 

Small codling galore from Etive shoreline
Small codling galore from Etive shoreline

By now it was getting very hot in the sunshine so I did a bit more hopping about over the next few hours, picking up more spurs off Cadderlie and more gurnards and codling from the opposite shore, before a last move back into Airds Bay to get the boat tidied up before heading ashore.

Flat calm on the loch - early autumn on Loch Etive

Apart from the novelty value of the little skate there wasn’t much to write home about in fishing terms – a dozen ray and maybe 15 or 16 spurs plus loads of little codling and a few gurnard, LSDs and whiting. Shedloads of mini-mackerel too. However the quality of fishing wasn’t really the point of this trip – it just provided a convenient excuse for a couple of days escapism.

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Afloat on Etive – January 2014

Alcatraz has been sitting on her trailer since early November and we both badly needed a day out, so the little weather window on Monday was seized with both hands and the boat gear dusted down. Crew on this trip was just my spaniel, who’s not much of a sea dog but really enjoys any chance to run around a beach.

Arriving at Bonawe Bonnie was her usual brain-dead self and managed to dive in the water (twice) before we’d even set off, thus guaranteeing herself a chilly day. However she settled down a little and supervised the fishing as we dropped anchor near Ardchattan and sent a collection of mackerel baits down to the seabed.

Bonnie-supervises-the-fishing-at-Ardchattan

The fish weren’t in feeding mood, and it was the weather that provided most excitement for the first hour or so, with a mixture of heavy rain showers and sunny spells. Fortunately it stayed calm and a bit of cowering in the cuddy kept us reasonably dry.Heavy-rain-chills-the-airBonnie-is-unimpressed-at-the-weather

By the time the rainbows came out the fish started to play, first with a couple of small spurdogs and then with a reasonable ray just over the 6lbs mark.Inspecting-the-catch

Unfortunately nothing much else appeared except dogfish, so it was time to head back up the loch in the sunshine. Despite appearances it was freezing!Scooting-up-Loch-Etive

I stopped well up the loch past Barrs to let Bonnie have a run about and me have a play with the camera. Onshore and moving about it was quite warm but I resisted the temptation to linger too long and we headed back out in search of fish (very reluctantly on the dog’s part, it should be said).Alcatraz-sitting-quietly-on-Loch-Etive

Wild-country-in-upper-Loch-EtiveBack afloat and anchored up again we watched the sun disappear behind the mountains and felt the cold descending rapidly.A-steely-January-sunset

By now Bonnie was in need of more biscuits and some warmth, so I wrapped her up in my floatie jacket, which seemed to go down well.A-wet-and-rather-unhappy-Bonnie-dog

A steady run of fish emerged, mainly small spurdogs but also a few whiting and a large(!) poor cod and another thornback.A-meagre-return-for-the-day

There were no monsters and no sign of any, so I called it quits and packed it in just after half-five, and we headed back down the loch in the last trace of light. A bit of a lacklustre start fishing-wise but a nice day out and a relief to get the boat up and running properly after a lengthy gap.

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A little bit of everything on the sea lochs

…and that’s just the weather. Flat calm and warm sunshine one minute, followed by vicious squalls with heavy rain and sleet the next. Not quite what was forecast but certainly what we got when Trevor and I headed west for a couple of days on Etive and Sunart. Sort of summarises the fishing too!

A double figure spurdog from Loch Etive
A double figure spurdog from Loch Etive

An early start on Sunday saw us anchoring in around 120 feet near Ardchattan, where we got off to a good start with my second fish being a lively spurdog which just made into double figures by a couple of ounces. Trevor soon added a thornback and we both picked up more doggies than we might like.

Squalls turn Etive into a mass of whitecapped waves
Squalls turn Etive into a mass of whitecapped waves

The weather alternated between bright sunshine and a blasting cold wind that kicked up the surface of the loch into a mass of whitecapped waves, but we stuck it out for most of the morning, picking up a good collection of spurs and thornies for our trouble.

Come lunchtime and we decided on a move up beyond Bonawe narrows where we spent a fair while chasing fish quite a long way up the loch, but with fairly poor results. As a sort of compensation, loads of rainbows appeared after the many heavy showers, several of them framing the mountains and upper loch quite nicely.

One of many fine rainbows on a squally day on Loch Etive, with Barrs in the background

Working our way back down to Bonawe I took the opportunity to mark the wreck of the hulk that had sunk earlier in the year – just in case I get bored some point in the future and want to give it a try.

A rainbow shines through the clouds on a very mixed day on Loch Etive
A rainbow shines through the clouds on a very mixed day on Loch Etive

Our last spot for the day was opposite Airds, where we anchored again in fairly deep water and picked up more smallish spurs and a ray or two until we packed up about an hour after dark and headed in to recover the boat.

The plan was to fish 1 day on Etive and 1 on Sunart, so we needed to head down to Connel and then up to the ferry at Corran. The hotel at Salen had been our first thought for the night, but we wouldn’t arrive until late and the forecast had been good enough to tempt us into few hours camping rather than forking out a fair bit for a few hours kip. Given that it was now cold and fairly wet, this didn’t seem like the best decision but it was a bit late to change our minds so we turned up the car heater full blast and headed off into the night.

A little detour to Oban saw us with a first class fish supper, but the drive from Etive to Sunart took an age and it seemed to rain most of the way there. To be fair we didn’t have to wait long for the Corran ferry, but it was around half-nine before we pulled over near Salen and got the tent organised. It was a cold night and I was glad of the extra mats and warm sleeping bags that we’d taken over, and we were so tired that it didn’t take long to fall asleep. Next morning saw us awake to clear skies and ice on the car, but we were launching at Salen just before 8 and heading out on a perfectly calm loch.

Trevor with a double figure spurdog from Loch Sunart, on a lovely November morning
Trevor with a double figure spurdog from Loch Sunart, on a lovely November morning

The first two or three hours proved to be a teaser session – just enough double figure spurdog to keep us interested, but not enough to stop us considering other options.

Lovely morning and a nice spurdog
Lovely morning and a nice spurdog

No wind and a fair bit of sunshine made for a very pleasant session but eventually we tired of the spotty dogs and decided to chase conger and skate down in Laga Bay, aiming to get there just before the tide turned. A few hundred feet of anchor rope later, and a little detour back to Salen for me to pick up a couple of essentials (a hat, and water for the kettle!), and we were soon scooting seawards at a steady 21 knots.

Trevor prepares a modest sized snack for a skate
Trevor prepares a modest sized snack for a skate
Sunrise over Salen, Loch Sunart
Sunrise over Salen, Loch Sunart

 

Another nice spurdog from Laga Bay in Loch Sunart
Another nice spurdog from Laga Bay in Loch Sunart

As per usual, things were quite slow in Laga, but a few conger to the low twenties appeared which were good fun on light gear, plus a handful more spurdogs and the usual LSDs. Skate were noticeable by their absence, but the baits did seem to attract a few spurdog which did their usual shredding act whilst avoiding the hooks.

A conger in the low twenties
A conger in the low twenties

We hung on until the light was almost gone, but with nothing wanting to play we called it quits around 5 and headed for home with the last of the light fading over Carna.

Conger eel from Laga Bay, Loch Sunart
Conger eel from Laga Bay, Loch Sunart

 

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Ice Fishing on Etive

Well, yesterday was one of these days that reminds you why you bother to go fishing in mid-winter. It started before 5 when I left Edinburgh in the midst of a mini-snowstorm, which fortunately petered out quickly as I drove inland, and by the time Alcatraz hit the water in Etive it was a lovely cold and crisp winter morning. I’d had good fishing the fortnight before, so was hopeful of repeating the trick on similar tides.

I spent most of the morning down the loch, but with little to show for things – a few small spurdog and a single ray – so it was time to see how the upper loch was fishing. Having fired up the engine I pointed Alcatraz back the way she had come a few hours earlier, and then up into the deep water and high mountains lying inland from Bonawe, home to more otters than humans. Well up the loch and near to Barrs I started to encounter patches of thin ice on the water, some of which were quite large at 50-100 yards across. Fortunately they were very thin and the boat cut through them easily, with only a soft swishing noise, but it did show just how cold it had been.

Happily the fish lying almost 300 feet below didn’t seem to care about the surface temperature and started hitting my mackerel baits almost immmediately. Almost all of them, bar a couple of whiting and a lonely doggie, were spurdogs. The same way as a fortnight ago there were a handful of decent fish and loads of 2-4lbers, and (thankfully) none of the real micro fish that can sometimes be a complete nuisance. Eventually the fishing died off a bit, but not before I’d added another 26 or 27 spurs to the total haul. The best made a little under 9.5lbs with another half a dozen in the 6-7lb category. A few ended up being landed through an ice floe – look closely at the pic of one in the water and you can see its snout breaking through the ice.

I packed in fishing at the back of 4 and headed inshore to practice my mooring techniques (looking ahead to summer camping trips!), and also take a few more photos of the loch. A short final drift whilst I sorted out my gear added a couple more small spurdog before heading home in the last of the evening afterglow.

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Lifting the Gloom on Etive

A calm, misty morning on Etive, early 2013
A calm, misty morning on Etive, early 2013

Went up to Taynuilt yesterday to get the boat wet for the first time since early December, and fish Etive properly for the first time in many months. It was a nice calm morning, but full of the dank, misty gloom that the Scottish Highlands do so well, with no glimpse of the mountain tops hidden in the cloud.

It was quite a large tide, with HW just after 7 a.m., so I got launched easily enough beside the remains of the old tourist boat that was being cut up for scrap on the beach. First off was a spell just downtide of the fish farm at Airds, which produced just one little spurdog. A move across to the other side of the loch gave exactly the same result, and by now it was 11 o’clock so things weren’t looking too good for the day. On the plus side, at least it wasn’t raining, and I could still feel my fingers. I decided to try a mark I’ve fished only once before and lies at the bottom of a bank in around 130 feet, near Ardchattan.

Thornback ray from Loch Etive, Feb 2013
Thornback ray from Loch Etive, Feb 2013

Anchor down and sitting nicely where I want to be, and five minutes later the rod keels over and I’m in to something that’s obviously a respectable ray, to judge by the stubborn resistance. Sure enough a nice thornback of about 8.5lbs appeared shortly afterwards, nicely hooked at the side of the mouth. No sooner than I’d taken a quick photo and returned the fish safely to the water when my spinning rod (sporting a set of mackerel baited hokkais) slammed over hard in the rod rest, and another nice ray was on. This one went 7lbs, and was great fun on light gear. This went on for about 90 minutes and I landed 13 thornbacks before things went quiet again – the remainder were typical Etive specimens of 2-5lbs, but they most certainly lifted the day nicely. There were a couple of mini-poorcod as well, just to add a little variety.

It was near low water now, so I went ashore and had a little look for some mussels for dinner. In years past this was pretty easy, but I’ve found it increasingly difficult find any in Etive the last few seasons, and this session was no different. Possibly the same problems that affected the mussel farms have had an effect on the wild population too, but it’s a shame ‘cos I do like the odd basket of mussels.

By now I’d had enough of the lower loch and fancied a run up to the wilder ground up beyond Bonawe and near the head of the loch at Glen Etive. This far up you rarely see anyone else apart from the occasional walker or kayaker, and I spent a couple of hours exploring and checking out a few potential campsites for later in the year. As a bonus I retrieved a nice polybuoy in perfect condition from where it had been driven ashore, well above the normal tideline. Storms had also driven a good number of tree trunks onto the shoreline in places – a reminder to keep a good lookout when afloat.

It had gone 4 o’clock now, and I needed to find a spot to have a final fish for the day, so it was back to the narrow, deep gulley off Barrs that can (sometimes) throw up good fishing. With the anchor holding in 280 feet, I followed it down with a mackerel baited muppet and had barely popped the rod in its holder when it started banging away frantically as a decent fish grabbed it. A few minutes later and an 8.5lbs spurdog was safely netted and lying in the boat – no monster, but easily my best from Etive for quite a long while. Before I’d even put her back my other rod was getting hammered also, and this went on for around 30 minutes before the spurs moved off, and my total had increased to 9 spurs for the day.

Spurdog or around 8lbs, upper Loch Etive, Feb 2013
Spurdog of around 8lbs, upper Loch Etive, Feb 2013

The respite was short lived though, and the pack was soon back, a scenario which repeated itself twice more before I called a halt around half-six. In all I’d increased my total to 21 spurdogs, with the biggest a couple of ounces short of 10lbs. Most were the usual 1.5 – 3lb fish, but with 5 over 7lbs I wasn’t complaining. Three small LSDs got in on the act as well, but they were otherwise absent the rest of the day. I could probably claim a whiting as well, as the head that came up (attached to a spurdog) had been fairly hooked before it got shredded.

It was pitch dark by now, with light rain falling and no sign of light anywhere apart from a faint glow from the direction of Taynuilt. Even with that it was quite dis-orientating and I was very glad of the chart plotter as I ploughed down the loch towards my launch site surrounded by complete blackness, and thinking of the tree trunks I’d seen earlier!

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Shivering on Sunart

This is the tale of a trip to the wilder parts of Scotland in mid-December, and one that came together quite wonderfully well given the preceding forecasts and work getting in the way of the participants. Of course, trailing a boat across to Ardnamurchan for 3 days fishing hardly counts as a great adventure but after a summer of dismal weather I didn’t rate the chances of getting decent fishing weather very highly. However the forecasts improved mightily and we were faced with three days of flat calm, sunny weather, so some hasty calls to the Salen Hotel later and we were (almost) organised.

Crew were Trevor and Ian, and we rendevouzed at Ian’s house at the relatively leisurely hour of half-six in the morning and trundled across westwards to Sunart without any drama. Making our way along the single track road towards Salen we realised that the upper loch had frozen over – something I should have expected given the conditions on Etive a week earlier, but it underlined how cold it was. Fortunately we arrived at Salen Pier and got launched into the ice free lower loch without any bother, and readied the boat for the rest of the day.

First stop was the deep hole opposite Salen which can produce decent numbers of spurdog from 380 feet below our keel. The weather was beautiful – sunny and windless, and it felt quite warm – so it wasn’t a great hardship to give it a couple of hours with little activity from anything. Trevor picked up a bonus Black Mouthed Dogfish – it’s the second I’ve seen from Sunart, and also taken from what is paddling pool depth for this species as they’re more commonly associated with 600 feet of water. Apart from that all that came up was a slow succession of LSDs.

You can only flog a dead horse for so long, so we shifted down towards Laga Bay to finish the day off, trying a mark that has thrown up conger, spurs and thornies in the past. Initially this was quiet, but picked up as the light faded – nothing spectacular but a smattering of conger to mid-teens plus a single double figured spur for Trevor and a mid-sized ray for me. We called it a day at the back of 5 as it was now freezing in the winter darkness, and we needed to check into the hotel and claim dinner before it got too late.

Day 2 saw us eating a decent hot breakfast before venturing out into very frigid conditions with thick frost covering the boat. Once out on the loch it became obvious that there was really no need for a coolbox, as the water and milk left on the boat overnight (and under cover) had frozen almost solid! Popped up on top of the cabin to catch the sunshine they eventually melted enough to keep us going for the day but it remained very cold all day, and we were all soon suffering from the cold creeping up the deck and through the soles of our waders. Fortunately the fishing picked up a bit and kept us moving as a selection of spurs, mainly low double figure fish, chomped at our baits around 400 feet down. A couple more conger appeared, plus a slow procession of LSDs, but the fishing eventually slowed to a trickle and a move was on the cards before darkness fell again.

Life here was very quiet until the light started to fade, whereupon another conger and spur put in an appearance – and then Ian almost watched his rod head over the side as a skate ignored the “proper” baits and munched a spur bait instead. On light gear Ian really struggled to slow the fish as it quietly proceeded off down the slope towards decent water, and it was clearly a good skate as it pretty much ignored whatever level of pressure was applied. This went on into the darkness until the hook snood finally gave out after an exhausting 30 minutes or more, leaving Ian gutted if not terribly surprised at the outcome. Back at the hotel it gave an excuse for a few more drinks that evening, and we looked forward to the final day out.

Again we awoke to clear skies, no wind and a vicious frost and we headed off eagerly down the loch to try the same mark as produced the spurs yesterday. However a few almost fishless hours later we called time on the deep water and headed over towards the same general ground as we’d tried the day earlier. Being earlier in the tide, and also a couple of hundred metres nearer the mouth of the bay we found ourselves in a significant run of tide which made fishing very difficult at first – normally you get a surface run of tide with little movement more than 50 feet down, but this was the reverse with a lot of movement sub-surface and not too much showing topside. Eventually the tide slackened and we caught a couple more spurs before Trevor picked up a nice 22.5lb conger to finish the trip with – this took a whole coalie skate bait and was the only fish we caught on a skate rig the entire trip.

Overall the fishing was modest, and dominated by spurs in the 10-11lb range plus a decent sprinking of conger – in absolute numbers there weren’t many caught, but the quality was better than I’ve had in the last few trips to Sunart, and fishing in clear windless weather is so massively more enjoyable than enduring heavy rain and strong winds! Sea lochs like Sunart are simply transformed by winter sunshine, which really adds to the pleasure of fishing them, even on days with little more than 7-8 hours of daylight.

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5 February 2012 – Etive (yet) again!

Weather: Cold – but calm. A few showers and a little sun, but mainly overcast
Sea: The usual Etive millpond. Surface water temperature up over 2 degrees in past 3 weeks – 6.5, up from 4.3 degrees last trip.
Time: 0830 – 1930 – 11 hours
Tides: HW 0605 (1.5m) LW 1325 (0.4m) HW 1840 (1.6m)

The forecasts during the week were tantalising, but slightly on the windy side of what I enjoy when sitting in a small boat for several hours in winter, so it was a Saturday morning decision to give the west coast a go again. A forecast of 5-6 mph, even with a little rain and heavy cloud , seemed too good to turn down and so the boat was loaded up for an early start on Sunday.

Given a westerly wind forecast, and an ebb tide for the morning, I decided to tuck in close to the fish farm off Airds Point, reckoning that I’d be sheltered and also just downtide of any trail of fish food that might escape the farm. In practice there was no wind at all, just a nice calm morning, but I stuck with the plan and anchored a couple of hundred yards down the loch from the farm.

After about 15 minutes there was a good run on my uptider and I hooked into a reasonably solid weight which turned out to be a respectable thornback of 6.75lbs. A good start, but alas the remainder of the morning was fairly poor, with a slow stream of rays, spurdogs and a few gurnard adding to the catch. Low water saw a move down to the Abbots Isles area, near where I’ve done well once or twice from the shore. I stuck it out here for a couple of hours, but with zip to show for my efforts – quite disappointing in ideal conditions. However, with a little bit of sun to warm the boat up I wasn’t too bothered. Next was a shift up towards Ardchattan, towards a spot that usually fishes well. Another hour, another disappointment, as only 1 micro cod showed up, alongside a couple of LSD.

By now it was heading towards sunset, so my next move was probably the last for the day, and I decided to head back up to Airds but to fish the opposite side of the loch where the water is considerably deeper. Sunset was around 5 p.m. and that seemed to trigger more activity as I picked up a double shot of rays soon after, followed by a stream of smallish spurs, LSDs and more rays, with a codling and a poor cod thrown in for good measure. Given there was no wind it was very pleasant out on the loch, so I stayed on for a couple of hours enjoying quite relaxed fishing and watching the stars come out.

The final tally for the day was around 40 fish, with 13 spurs, 11 rays and a motley collection of LSD, grey gurnard, codling and poor cod. Nothing huge, with the best fish my first one. In return for 11 hours afloat it couldn’t be considered a great catch (with virtually nothing at all during most of the flood tide), but it was actually a great day to be out and a perfect antidote to a 9-5 style city life.

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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.

 

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