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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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.

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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.

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5th December 2009 – Loch Sunart

Day 2 of our Sunart trip, and Ian and I had a reasonable day with spurs and conger. Still not a patch on earlier years on the loch though 🙁 At least the Salen Hotel offers good food and friendly place to drown your sorrows!

Weather: Initially F2-3 S, later F3-5 SE. Dry and mild(ish). Overcast
Sea Conditions: Calm
Time Spent: 10:00-16:30 – 6.5 hours
Tides: Approx 08:00 Largish tide

After the slow fishing on Friday we decided to head down towards the mouth of the loch and kicked off at a spot just west of Carna. At 170 feet it was much shallower than other marks, but there were fish showing and we quickly got bites. Alas these proved to be small doggies and whiting and, after an hour of baits being stripped, we decided to move back into Laga Bay and give it a try opposite the fish farm area.

Ian with a nice Sunart conger eel
Ian with a nice conger

The first hour and a half was completely blank, with no sign of activity until Dale Robertson and Iona V appeared sometime after 12. They had tried a number of marks but had also failed to find fish in the morning, and ended up anchored a few hundred yards away from Alcatraz. Happily things picked up shortly after they arrived and both Ian and I hit into spurdogs of a decent size. We had perhaps 90 minutes of decent fishing with several spurdog and 3 congers as well as a few LSD, before things went very quiet again.

Dale left for home first, and we gave him a few minutes to clear the slip before heading back ourselves. Back at the hotel we met up again at dinner and had a couple of drinks in the evening, mainly bemoaning the weather and general state of fish stocks…

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8th November 2009 – Loch Etive

Weather: Cold;some long sunny intervals; light or no wind
Sea Conditions: Calm
Time Spent: 0915-1815 – 9 hours
Tides: 11:00 GMT

Etive was looking at its best yesterday morning – clear skies, bright sunshine reflecting off the snow on the mountains, and a virtually calm sea loch. Just to balance things a little, it was pretty frigid getting Alcatraz ready for launch!

Despite the scenery I resisted the temptation to head up the loch and instead trundled on down towards Ardchattan. Ninety minutes here produced a reasonable mix of small spurs, thornbacks and whiting, but eventually tailed off. I shifted a couple of miles and tried a pair of marks near the Priory, with similar results.

By now it was well after 3 and the sun was heading down towards the horizon, so I decided to give it one more shift before dark. I’ve been gathering seabed mapping data for Etive for a couple of years (using the DrDepth software), and still have a few gaps to fill in, so I steered a couple of doglegs on the way back up to collect some more info, and then dropped anchor just off the stream at Inveresregan. Deep water in here meant anchoring in 200 feet less than 200 yards from shore, in light that was fading fast.

The loch was completely calm and the boat was sitting comfortably in a slight surface current so I was happy enough to sit back and watch the stars come out. However the fish wanted to play too, with a rapid succession of spurries mixed in with a few thornbacks, pouting, poor cod and whiting. Nothing big, but pretty much non-stop for the last hour or so. I was tempted to stay longer, but had only one torch with me (having looked out my headlamp and the left it behind in the lounge), so decided not to chance my arm too much and called it a day a little after five.

Final totals – 30 spurdog, 9 thornbacks and a good sprinkling of other fish. Nothing huge, biggest around 4.5 lbs, but a cracking day to be out on the water.

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