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:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

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:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

15th August – Loch Etive

More like a family fishing day than my usual efforts, with two kids and a dog for company. Plenty of tiddler spurdogs for amusement, plus a little barbie on the beach miles from anywhere. Lots of sunshine too, so a great day out before it’s back to school next week…

Weather: A great day, with light W wind and mainly sunny

Sea Conditions: Calm

Time: Roughly 1100- 1730 – 6.5 hours

Tides: HW 1200 – Large tide

Katie's first "shark" - a small spurdog
Katie’s first “shark”

Had a fun day out with the kids and the dog(!), spending as much time cruising about and lazing ashore in the sunshine as we did fishing. Even so we managed 26 spurdog, mainly small but with the biggest at 6.75lbs being caught at the last minute by Mike. Funnily enough we caught nothing but spurs – no mackerel, whiting, LSD or thornies – which is a first for me. Most of the fish came a long way up the loch, about 2-3 miles from Glen Etive, where the bottom was carpetted with small spurries.

Lunchtime on Loch Etive
Lunchtime

It was Katie’s first time out in the boat, but she was quite happy steering us around, and managed to keep a respectably straight wake most of the time. Less said about the dog the better – she demanded to be treated as a lapdog most of the day and also managed to bring a motley collection of ticks aboard after we stopped ashore for lunch, much to Katie’s disgust.

Only downer of the day was losing a tyre at Crianlarich on the way home – the valve blew out (a new one on me), but it took only a few minutes to change to the spare, so not really much of a drama.

Share this:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

7th March 2010 – Etive

Weather: Chilly with a light SE wind and mainly overcast. Wind less than 10mph all day
Sea Conditions: Calm
Tides: 11:36 1.3m
Time spent: 0900-1700 – 8 hours

Started off at Inveresregan in about 210 feet, and maybe 150 yards from shore. Fishing was slowish – quite a lot of small rattles, probably from whiting – but not many coming aboard. The count gradually climbed, with a respectable range of species but nothing of any size. Oddly enough there was no sign of LSDs at all – not that I’m complaining much.

A shift down the loch to Ardchattan for a couple of hours produced a flurry of small spurdog and a couple of small rays, but little of excitement. Overall it was pleasant enough, but nothing to write home about. Total for the day – 4 thornbacks, 14 spurs, plus codling, whiting, poor cod, pouting and gurnard.

Share this:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

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…

Share this:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

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 then 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.

Share this:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest