A Perfect Kayak on Etive

The Scottish sea lochs are beautiful but I haven’t actually paddled my kayak on Etive for over a year now. Fine autumn weather coupled with the gloomy prospect of impending lockdowns made it an easy choice, however. I dusted down the plastic log, dug out my buoyancy aid and generally made ready! Even so, despite finishing work early, it was nearly sunset by the time a mirror-like Etive beckoned in the fading light.

I stuffed my trusty little head torch into my life vest as it would be dark before I arrived at my camping spot, then hopped aboard.

Fishing plans were a little more free-form than my camping and I’d no particular aim in mind. In the end I plopped the kayak on Etive stuffed to the gunwhales with 4 rods and a tripod. Shore, boat and spinning options covered all bases! At least I kept the other fishing gear to a reasonable minimum.

Dusk

Both light and any signs of human activity faded as I progressed steadily down the loch. Etive is a very quiet place for most of the year!

Still a way to go – beyond the last point you can see here

Eventually gravel crunched as my old Perception Triumph slid ashore and I splashed up the beach, sometime after eight in the evening. My tipi tent was quickly pitched on the sand at the top of the beach and my little woodburner set up to cook dinner. I just set it up as a firebox as it was really too warm to test it as a tent stove tonight. My kayak had a decent stack of wood aboard as you’ll find next to nothing on the beach here.

Next morning

I awoke before seven and crawled out into the fuzzy greyness of an autumn dawn. Flat calm, mild, and a cloud layer that seemed to be clearing. Excellent!

Using a kayak to reach a wild camping spot on the shores of Loch Etive

I’ve caught a few spurdog here at night on previous trips, but it’s quite shallow and not obviously attractive on a calm day. Nevertheless I set up and cast out a mackerel bait on the off-chance.

I’d barely got the camp tidied up a little and the fire prepared before my Supercast was bouncing away. Shortly afterwards a typical female spurdog slid up the beach, to be quickly unhooked and returned.

I got the bacon and pancakes on before my ratchet sounded again, but it was a close run thing!

This seemed to set the pattern for the morning, and I’d a steady succession of fish. All spurdog and all female – they do seem to travel in single sex groups much of the time.

By late morning I needed to tear myself away from spurries if I was to do anything else before breaking camp. I decided to have a paddle around the loch for an hour or two, just with the spinning rod.

Spinning for brown trout in Loch Etive
Fish on – and then off again, about 1 second later!

Outfished by an Otter

Just then, I noticed a commotion well out on the loch and then a creature swimming along. I thought at first it was a small common seal that you often see, before realising it was an otter wrestling with its catch. A nice catch too – about 2/3 of its own length by the look of it. I nipped along the beach to try and get closer for a photo, but just saw it head into the undergrowth about 100 yards ahead. Pity!

Duly humbled by this furry expert, I struggled into my kayak gear (Covid hasn’t been kind to my waistline) and launched. I just left my camp to be sorted out later and took a light spinning rod along for a leisurely circuit of the loch.

A change of tack

The sun was bright and quite hot by now, but I wasn’t in any hurry as I explored the shoreline. Unfortunately nothing seemed interested and my lures only attracted a single micro-mackerel and no trout.

I gave it perhaps ninety minutes before gliding back to basecamp for a coffee and biscuits.

Kayak camping on a remote beach on Loch Etive

A final cast as I packed away produced another similar spurdog, so I guess I could’ve caught them all day.

Somewhere New

However, I wanted to try another spot on my hit list which I’d earmarked on an earlier trip but never fished before. It looks good for a winter shore camp, but I didn’t know if it held any fish. I needed stop sunbathing and get the kayak back on Etive if I was to find out!

My kayak on the shores of Loch Etive

Twenty minutes later I scraped ashore on the opposite bank and pulled the yak clear of the rising tide. I belted out a mackerel bait, popped the rod on the tripod, and had a scout around. Looks can deceive and much of the shoreline is very stony in these parts. I didn’t fancy camping on grass covered boulders!

Due diligence undertaken on the camping front, I tried a little spinning along the edge of the loch. The trout were much more co-operative than before and I had four or five over the next hour. All very scrawny but quite pretty fish that came from the weedy margins.

Another spurrie provided final proof of concept not long before I packed up. A male this time, and smaller, but it’s good to know that they inhabit this mark too. Nice deep water and clean ground, so looks OK all round!

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The Sea of the Hebrides

I’m not long back from a very memorable long weekend on Skye, exploring a small corner of MacLeod country amongst sunshine, calm seas and giant volcanic cliffs. We camped above the beach on a deserted little island and spent 3 days fishing on the Sea of the Hebrides. Some very nice fish. No midges. Perfect…

Launched and raring to go

Trevor had obviously checked his forecasts too as he was eager for a trip westward, despite the long haul involved for both of us. I’ve never boat fished on Skye before, so we were largely fishing blind this weekend and I’d picked out some likely areas on the chart.

A place to stay

I fancied camping on one of the islands scattered around this part of Skye, but this is easier said than done. Most are quite forbidding, with high cliffs and rocky beaches and exposed to the Atlantic swell. Not quite what you want for a chilled out, peaceful, night! One looked more promising though, so we loaded our gear into the boat and headed off.

Our own little island

It turned out to be almost perfect for us. The boulder beach at high water was a problem, but just meant we needed to load and unload before the tide rose too much. A decent stretch of smooth, hard sand allowed us to hold the boat off the shoreline and let it dry out over low water.

We checked above the beach, but the grass here barely covered the boulders beneath. A little escarpment overlooking the sand proved a much better choice and the tents were soon up. With the camp secured, it was time to get out fishing!

We started with a couple of hours spinning for pollack over likely looking reefs at the mouth of the loch. Despite a large spring tide there wasn’t much movement on the water, and we glided along slowly at 0.5 knots or less. Plenty of mackerel, some pollack and a load of coleys hit our jellies, shads and metal lures, but they were all small fish. I doubt if any made it above 2.5lbs.

We worked back into the loch over the afternoon, with no more success. Even at anchor we only picked up a few dogfish and pin whiting. It was a slightly chastened crew that headed back to camp that evening, although hot food and fine afterglow soon cheered us up.

MacLeod’s Tables against the evening afterglow

Next Morning

Trev and I were up early the next day, just as the sun rose above the hills. Breakfast (and even coffee) were delayed until we were out and fishing. Despite some faffing about with retrieving the boat, mainly down to a brain dead skipper’s poor rope work the evening before, we were soon heading down the coast.

A quick stop at a couple of rock marks produced a repeat of yesterday – small fish and plenty of them. At least the extra bait came in handy!

I anchored up close to the boundary between rock and sand, and in fairly shallow water. First up was a tiny conger eel to my rod, but his bigger brothers failed to follow suit. That gave me time to sort out bacon and egg rolls and some coffee for the crew, before hunger drove him mutinous.

Things were very quiet and we were approaching the “do we, don’t we” decision on shifting when Trev got a good solid bite. It didn’t stay hooked for long and he wound in to find his light trace bitten through. Most likely a spurdog that ignored all the larger baits available to to her.

At least that’s what I assumed – until both of us got screaming runs in very close succession. Trev’s skate bait got nailed first, and then my spurdog rod went crazy with a good fish. Obviously tope!

With only a 100lb mono trace and some beads for protection, I was surprised my rig lasted as long as a minute before being bitten off 🙁 Trevor was faring better, with a heavy skate trace fending off the teeth of his tope. A few minutes later I lifted a large male aboard which weighed in at 39lbs. In retrospect I shouldn’t be surprised, as tope patrol up and down the coastline here, but I was definitely thinking too much about spurdog.

Lovely 39lb Skye tope for Trevor

Back Inshore

We gave it another hour before shifting into the loch to try another spot I’d earmarked earlier. This was more of a skate and rays mark, in something over 200 feet, but the doggies seemed to love it too. I had them hitting my bait every time it reached bottom, much to Trevor’s amusement. Patience paid off however, and I finally caught my first thornback from Skye. A nice fish that weighed in at 9.5lbs.

Then, with only a few minutes to go before it was time to head home, Trevor’s rod gave a good bite as a skate headed off.

This one glued itself to the seabed and Trev struggled mightily to shift it. Too mightily in fact, as his rod gave an almighty crack and disintegrated at the reel seat. Oh dear! A few minutes of hasty improvisation and we cable tied his reel to the remains of the rod and got him back into the game.

Amazingly enough, the skate just hung around during all this palaver and didn’t take advantage. Eventually Trev managed to inch it up to the surface (one advantage of not fishing my usual 500 feet deep skate marks), and we got a few pictures and released it. Probably fortunately, this was a smallish fish of less than 100lb, otherwise the outcome might have been different!

Back on our little island, we got dinner on the go. I’d taken along a new toy – a lightweight titanium tent stove that can fit in my backpack and keep my tent toasty over winter. It doubles up as a firebox too, and this was how we used it on this trip. It makes more efficient use of firewood and avoids any damage to the grass as well. I’m looking forward to a spell of cold weather to test if properly in in the tent!

Final Roll of the Dice

We were both up before sunrise on another gorgeous morning, to strike camp and load the boat with all our junk. We were slicker than yesterday, and the sun only just broke the horizon as we headed out.

Even the slight swell had died away and only a few ripples disturbed the surface of the Sea of the Hebrides. We fished a very slow drift in around 100 feet of water over rocky ground. Good sized mackerel baits went down in search of ling or spurdogs, and the kettle went on to sort out the coffee!

Fishing today was much busier than the previous couple of days, and groups of spurdogs grabbed our baits at regular intervals. Good sized fish too, with a fair number of fish around double figures.

Trevor went one better, with a beautiful 17.5lb fish that’s the biggest I’ve seen aboard my boats. A personal best for him, and a reminder of the potential available in these waters.

17.5lb Spurdog

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Round 2 with the Skate

I rarely fish for skate, and once a year is usually enough for me. However it’s definitely been an odd year, and calm weather and dead tides suggested Oban. Ian was up for it, so we arranged to meet up at Lochearnhead around 7.30…

We launched at Puffin Dive Centre and headed down the sound towards the south side of Kerrera. Despite stopping a couple of times we didn’t pick up any mackerel; we had enough bait anyway so didn’t waste much time looking for them. I dropped anchor on a different mark from my usual 500 feet+ depth and the sonar settled on 385 feet.

We both baited up with coley and sent our heavy gear down towards the muddy darkness far below. I settled down to wait, but Ian also popped down lighter gear in search of smaller species.

First Blood

Our first hour was very quiet but then Ian got a decent knock on his skate rod. A few minutes later, after a few false dawns, he hit into something that put a decent bend in his rod. Definitely not a ton-up skate though.

To add to the excitement I had a good skate run on my rod as Ian’s fish neared the surface. Unusually, this fish appeared to just drop the bait, so I just left it to fish on. By this time Ian had his fish just about aboard, so I helped him deal with it. As we suspected, it was a conger – not big (under 20lbs), but nice enough for round these parts. A couple of photos and we sent it on it’s way.

I kind of lose track of the order of events after this, but Ian knocked out a succession of fish as I watched on. A smallish skate of 45lbs and a nice spurdog of dead on 10lbs (the best I’ve seen from here), and a couple more smaller conger eels.

A nice spurdog taken from the deep waters off Kerrera, near Oban.

Somewhere in the middle of all this I got another unmistakable skate run, which I hooked up. This was a better fish, but not a real biggie. Much huffing and puffing later I got it alongside. I didn’t bother trying to take it aboard and just released it at the side of the boat – somewhere in the 80-90lb range I’d say.

The Fat Lady Sings

Ian’s rod keeled over again and his ratchet complained loudly as another skate munched lunch below us. This was clearly a better fish and it took Ian a good while to prise it off the seabed.

Eventually a large white shape materialised below us and a good skate surfaced alongside. We took this one aboard and measured it for a more accurate idea of size – 184lbs, which put a smile on Ian’s face.

Ian with a large female skate caught off Oban

This one had suffered some damage towards the base of it’s body, probably from entanglement in a rope, but it seemed to be healing up OK.

A fine 184lb Oban skate

I managed another skate myself to try and even the score. A nice enough fish and somewhere around the 100lb mark, but not really competing with Ian’s chunky female.

Final score for the day was 4 skate (2 each, with Ian’s by far the heaviest), with another 3 conger and a spurdog, all for Ian.

Ian treated me to one of Oban’s fine fish suppers before we headed back home. This took a lot longer than intended as the road was closed due to an accident, and we ended up with a 60-70 mile diversion to get back to Ian’s car. I was truly knackered by the time I crawled into bed some time after 1 in the morning!

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Bracadale Spurdogging

For decades I avoided Skye after experiencing poor weather on several visits to the island, away back in the pre-bridge days. My loss of course, and I’ve been back several times in recent years and had far better luck. It’s a fickle place but very rewarding if you catch it right – and steel yourself for the 5 hour drive.

I did just that in early August,staggering out of bed in the pre-dawn darkness at 4 in the morning. Even the dog didn’t bother to say goodbye as I shut the door. Many hours later I successfully navigated the maze of small roads around Bracadale to reach my destination at Orbost.

Fine looking fishing stance

Tramping along the track through the forest I could see glimpses of my target through the trees. A very inviting looking rocky ledge far below me and about a mile away as the local eagles fly. However, I’m far from an eagle and faced an obstacle course of forest, burns, cliffs and dense undergrowth to reach my chosen spot.

Unforgiving territory!

I’ve been here once before, so knew the way and avoided the worst of the bogs and deadfall, but it’s still pretty hard going. I wasn’t exactly travelling light, but it really pays to minimise weight if you can. By the time I reached the rocks I was soaked with sweat and seriously out of breath.

Recovery

The sun was out and the midges were down, so I took stock. There were two crab pots set in front of me, but I could see the lines in the clear water and they weren’t a big problem. The big seal looking at me curiously was perhaps more of an issue.

It was around half-way down the ebb and the big kelp beds that fringe much of Bracadale were clearly visible in the clear water. I set up my stall and rigged the rods with pulley rigs and a modest mackerel bait. Targets were ray and spurdog from the clean ground further out in perhaps 20-30 feet depth.

The first hour was quiet and I scouted around looking for space for my tent. Eventually I decided to stick with my choice from last time and pitch up in the conifer plantation. Hardly spacious, but there’s enough room for my little Helium 2 and it was a fairly comfortable arrangement.

Finally, a fish

Eventually my patience was rewarded with a decent run on my old Zziplex 2500 and I hooked what was clearly a reasonable spurdog. Scrabbling down the rocks whilst trying to keep the fish from slicing through the line on the barnacles wasn’t easy but I eventually got her alongside. Then blew it by applying a little too much strain on the hook length as I lifted the fish onto a ledge just at the waterline – ping! – as sharp teeth cut straight through 100lb nylon under tension. Dumb error, although the fish should lose the hook fairly quickly as it was just sitting around the jaw line.

I made amends a little later when my first spurdog was properly landed and returned. A decent fish from the shore at around 6lbs.

My spinning rod had tagged along with a view to pollack bashing as the tide rose again. I tried a mix of shads, jellyworms and metals for a while but had very little interest and only a couple of small pollack attacked. Last time I was at Bracadale there were more fish and a bit better sized, so perhaps the seal was keeping them occupied.

I had my hands full with more spurdogs, plus the need to collect some small twigs for my stove and replenish water supplies, so I didn’t persist with the spinning rod for too long.

Dinner

I’d taken along my little honey stove to boil water and cook on. It’s reasonably lightweight and packs very small, and just needs a modest supply of small twigs to keep burning. Coffee was the first priority, then a “chuck it all in the pan” mix of chicken, chorizo, peppers, pasta, etc. got fired up for dinner. It tasted fine I have to say, and probably better than I deserved given that cooking like this is a little random.

Suitably refilled, I fished on for a while, to bring the total for the day to 5 spurdogs. No doubles, but some respectable fish.

By this time I was flagging and the weather was turning a bit on the grey side, so I decided to call it a day. Hitting the sack I was out for the count pretty quickly, probably helped a little by the contents of my hip flask. I think I deserved that though, after quite a long day!

A New Day

I awoke to sunlight streaming in through the tent. It was just after six, and there wasn’t much wind either. No wind, damp ground and trees means midges gathering for breakfast on the other side of the flysheet… A very hasty exit was called for!

A fine early morning light over Loch Bracadale, Skye
A fine morning

Stumbling onto the rocks without breaking anything in the process I quickly baited up and cast out before sorting my gear into more organised piles of fishing gear, food and jackets.

I didn’t have to wait too long before spurdogs started on my baits, and the fish were a similar stamp to yesterday. I managed a couple before hunger pangs demanded I fire up my stove with more twigs and get some food on the go!

Breakfast was pancakes, bacon and maple syrup, recognising my very Canadian looking surroundings. The stove did a pretty good job on the bacon and I happily wolfed down the result in between spurdog runs.

This morning the weather was distinctly patchy, with some squally showers powering in between sunny spells.

I fished on during the rest of the morning, picking up 6 spurdogs to a shade under the 10lb mark. There was no sign of rays though, which I had rather been hoping to see.

Finally, with both time and weather running out, I called it quits and made my way back in a mini-deluge. Which promptly stopped as soon as I’d got past the difficult bits en-route to the track. I was almost dry again by the time I reached my car!

I fished to the right of this bay.
Way in/out at Bracadale
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Summer Fishing off Dunbar

I’d a nice day out of Dunbar earlier this week – nothing exceptional in fishing terms, but a fine, relaxed time afloat on a sunny summer day. I even allowed myself to sleep in until shortly before 6 before hitching up the boat.

First up were a few mackerel for bait. There weren’t huge numbers, and they were small, but I soon picked up enough for bait just off the harbour.

I worked my way eastwards during the morning, trying a few different spots. The wind and tide ran against each other most of the time, so the drift was generally slow. It wasn’t too uncomfortable though, and whitecaps were scarce.

I found plenty pollack on both lures and thin slivers of silver mackerel belly. All on the small side but still able to heel the rod right over!

A couple swallowed the hook and joined the filleting queue in the coolbox, but most went back.

I picked up fair numbers of codling too, on both the bait and the spinning rods. Again, most were on the small side and only a few got knocked on the head for dinner.

I eventually added a lonely ling to my species count. Slippery and wriggly, hence the rather upside down photo below, taken just before it jumped out my hands!

The codling kept coming and there seemed to be more around the Torness area. Only the one double shot though, taken on mackerel baited hokkais.

I managed to forget my sunscreen on my sunniest day afloat this year, hence the hat and gloves. Just trying to avoid a beetroot red face and a lecture when I got home!

I picked up another couple of pollack as I filleted the days catch, but again they were small.

I finally packed in around 90 minutes before high water, despite being tempted to hand around until later in the evening. My phone was out of battery and I’d said I’d be back late afternoon, so I didn’t fancy a 999 call when no-one could contact me!

The harbour itself was anything but relaxing on my return, with a large cabin rib and a yacht planning to launch near the top of the tide. Hordes of visitors too, wandering around the road oblivious to a reversing trailer. If only the Skateraw slip was back in action, it would be easier and safer all round!

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A Lazy Summer Day on Etive

I spent a fine few hours afloat on Etive last Sunday, reminding my little Orkney what water feels like. Only her second outing since last December, so I was relieved that everything still worked! Just a lazy summer day out rather than serious fishing, but great fun nevertheless.

It was just after LW and there were only inches of water available when I dropped the boat in at Kelly’s Pier. I drifted the narrows at Bonawe briefly, in search of mackerel and then just headed up into the mountains.

Spurdog number one came aboard after half an hour or so, but it was small. Also friendless! I gave it a little while then upped anchor and moved a few hundred yards. Not quite instant success but I didn’t have to wait long before a succession of females queued up to say hello. Nothing very big unfortunately!

After tangling rods and losing both sets of gear due to bite-offs, I fell back to a single rod. Even so, action was almost constant so there were plenty of fish about. Something like 16 or 17 in maybe 90 minutes, plus a couple of little whiting.

By now I’d my fill of the spurs, so went exploring a little. In the past I’ve had loads of small codling and other fish drifting fairly close inshore, so I gave it a try. The wind was rising a bit and there was a decent drift, so I covered the ground all right. Unfortunately the fish weren’t too impressed and I only managed a little mackerel.

Plan number three was to have a good look for that rare combination of decent campsite and decent looking shore mark. I sussed a couple of spots last year but wanted to run the sonar over them before I wasted too much time trekking in. A nice flat campsite often means a shallow seabed too!

I stuck on a rather large 20g toby and started a slow trundle along the shoreline. The toby was the best I could do as I managed to forget my small lures and the trout didn’t seem put off. I managed three, and missed a few more strikes. All small fish in the 6-12oz range, but a novelty nonetheless.

Good fun, and definitely lazy style fishing.

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Starting Back…

Like everyone, I’ve had lots of plans cancelled due to Covid house arrest over the last few months. And, after all these disappointments, it’s good to finally get back on the saddle.

My first trip out was at Skateraw, with the SIB for company. I’ve not used the old Avon for a couple of years now, so it seemed fitting to dust it off at the same time as myself! Unfortunately I had to carry the whole shebang from the car park to the beach as the little slip I used has been blocked off.

Red cod

I’m happy to confirm that there are oodles of fish out there – just very small ones. I found tiny codling everywhere, with a couple of little pollack and a solitary coalie as well. I managed one string of mackerel, which sorted out lunch for next day, but generally hung around close inshore. My 5hp Tohatsu was a bit unhappy, which discouraged me from heading out too far. Spitting petrol ain’t a good sign – probably a blockage somewhere, but easier fixed ashore.

This was just a quick hour or two afloat after work, so I was happy to catch a few fish in exchange for very little effort.

St. Andrews

Yesterday was a bit more full on, with a trip out on Ian’s Raider from a very wet St. Andrews. We cleared the harbour under skies so grey that it looked more like November!

We stopped for mackerel in a couple of spots, but only managed two between us. Heading further east we tossed the grapnel over and started on the local pollack – or Ian did, to be more accurate. His float fished mackerel proved pretty deadly for a bunch of fish in the 2-4lb range, whilst shads and metals struggled to get much interest. I managed a couple of pollack around the 4lb mark and a few small codling, but was well behind.

Inshore codling

We tried anchoring two or three marks for a few hours before switching to drift fishing for cod. Heaps of little kamikazee codling promptly queued up to attack our baits. We picked them up 2 or 3 at a time, but sadly most didn’t make 1lb in weight.

We managed a few more respectable fish though, topped off by this very nice cod of 7lb 4oz. I’ve no idea how many fish we caught, but it was a lot, and it’s nice to see that there are some better ones hidden amongst them.

A nice St. Andrews cod, making 7lbs 4oz
Fine little cod

Next mission is to get my own boat out on the water – it’s only got wet once so far in 2020!

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Dog Owner?

Bonnie is quite indifferent to fishing
Bonnie is more into sticks than fishing

My cocker spaniel, Bonnie, used to come along on many of my trips, especially where a decent walk was involved. More into running around chasing sticks than wasting time waiting for a fish, she was always great company. She’s a little long in the tooth these days but still enjoys the odd overnight in the glamping tent.

My daughter is now researching dog behaviour and Bonnie has “volunteered” as guinea pig for numerous trial runs. Part of what Rachael is doing is an assessment of separation anxiety in dogs and she’s asking for help to complete an on-line survey.

If you’ve got a dog and have 10-15 minutes to spare I’d be very grateful if you could visit her survey and complete the survey. The more the merrier, and it’s open to any dog, worldwide!

Bonnie the dog on Loch Etive, Easter 2010
Bonnie on Loch Etive, Easter 2010
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Skating off Oban

We’d a fine day fishing for Common Skate off Oban in early March. Seven fish to 180lb in total.

Wow! Moved from a total of 1 trip in 2 months, to having 2 outings in 1 week. Spring must be on its way! It’s still my first time on a boat since December though.

I met up with Ian at Lochearnhead not long before the sunrise spelt doom for the ice on the car park. Definitely still chilly! A couple of hours later we finished launching at Puffin Divers and headed down the Sound and round the southern end of Kerrera.

We’d a very gentle swell from the SW but no wind, which made for ideal conditions. Anchor down in 520 feet and then we slowly lowered some reluctant coalfish to the seabed, well armed with 12/0 hooks.

Skate on!

Ian had a fish play about with his bait, but I was first to get a decent run. Despite faffing about with harnesses it quickly became obvious that this was a small fish that even I could handle quite easily. 40lbs or so, it was nothing to get too excited about, but it’s always a relief to know that there’s something about.

Ian was next up, with a slightly larger fish

A big girl comes to play

Lazy and inelegant, but it worked – eventually. Pic courtesy of Ian

My next fish was altogether more reluctant to move off the mud and it clung there for a good while, ignoring my puny efforts to shift it. As usual though, persistence pays, and I managed to gain a few feet on the grudging beast. And then a few more. Five hundred feet is a long way so I was extremely glad when a large shape materialised below the boat.

180lb skate. Pic courtesy of Ian

The weight for length scales suggested 180lbs so I was happy to go with that. It’s my heaviest fish for several years so another reason to celebrate, if I’d any energy left.

A rival
Sea lice on a spurdog

Ian was having a shot for spurdog and had some success, albeit with fairly small ones. I’ve not seen one with full blown sea lice before – perhaps it has been playing around the local fish farms?

We carried through the afternoon, with runs appearing every now and again. Thankfully we only had one double hook up, and both fish were well under the ton.

Even this fairly small skate can pulverise and swallow a large bait.

Small skate, big mouth

My final fish of the day put up a good account of itself, so it was no surprise to find it was a large male. This one was towards the top end of the charts, at 126lb. I gave up at this point, as I was getting pretty knackered and it was nearing the end of the day anyway. Ian’s persistence was rewarded with a final skate before we hauled anchor and headed ashore to clean up and get the boat sorted out.

Our final tally was seven skate, biggest 180lb. Five of them were under 100lb but even these gave a decent bend in the rod.

And finally…

Just a wee look at effects of the storms. These are the loos at Puffin, with a nice airy feel about them since the roof blew off. The electrics are particularly charming (centre of the pic).

Loo with a view, Pic courtesy of Ian
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A Chilly Re-run on Etive

Am I an angler or homing pigeon? Out for just the second time this year, and I find my way back to the same spot as last month. I’d a snowy forecast but a rainy reality, which was pretty much as I expected. I do find the forecasts always overstate the likelihood of snow down at sea level.

The little single track road in to Glen Etive was covered with snow, which always makes me think about my chances of getting out again if it gets nasty. However the snow disappeared at about 200 feet above sea level and before I managed to skid off the road, so the last few miles to the car park were uneventful.

Snow covers the road down Glen Etive, making for an interesting drive in slippy conditions
An interesting drive

I was alone at the end of the road so I took my time sorting out my rucksack and gear before starting to splosh my way along the trail. I have to say that this wet and boggy haul along the loch was cheered greatly by white-capped mountains all around.

A snow covered Ben Starav offers a chilly backdrop to my hike along Loch Etive
Chilly background to my hike

Arrival

I arrived at my campsite with plenty of daylight this time, so set up the rods and cast out before sorting out my tent and some extra firewood for the night. Given all the recent rain I was far from confident that the salinity of the loch would still be high enough to attract predators, but I’d plenty to keep me busy with or without actually catching a fish.

My hopes rose dramatically when I reeled in my first rod to find a disembodied whiting on the end. Definitely spurdog about! I quickly rebaited and cast out into the trench again.

Headless

Fortunately for me, the slight wind that was blowing dropped to nothing as I watched some sleet and snow flurries crossing the loch further down.

A Scottish sunset 🙂

I got a decent bite not long after dark bite and retrieved a fine looking female spurdog. Nothing like as big as my beastie from last month, but a respectable 6lb plus.

Nice Etive spurdog

I was hungry by now, so chicken, pasta, tomatoes, chorizo and chickpeas all found themselves bedfellows in my pan. I settled down with a coffee and watched the flames as my dinner got under way.

Dinner, and plenty of it!

Pre-dinner drinks were interrupted by a couple more spurdog, but just small males this time.

Last spur of the day

Rain was falling steadily, but I was happy enough chilling out beside the campfire and checking the rods every now and again. Despite the snow covered mountains it wasn’t terribly cold and the flames kept some feeling in my fingers.

Cheery campfire

A final little spurdog and I decided to call it quits and head for the tent as I was getting a little soggy by now. Rain battered away on my tent but didn’t manage to keep me awake for long. The whisky in my coffee probably helped…

A New Dawn

Next morning was cold and grey as I poked my snout out the tent, but at least the rain had stopped. Hopping around in the semi-darkness I managed to pull on enough clothes to avoid hypothermia before casting out again.

Casting out in the dawn light

Eventually the grey-dark improved to being just grey, but without a flicker of interest on the rods. A couple of re-casts later and a new species for 2020 surrendered without much of a fight. A doggie, more of a puppy really. I suppose the only surprise is that it wasn’t my first fish of the year.

Puppy snatching

By now it was definitely time for breakfast, so round one of bacon and eggs went on the rejuvenated campfire.

Winter breakfast

By round two of breakfast I’d attracted this little robin, who had a happy rummage around the seaweed whilst keeping an eye on me. I offered him some mackerel, but he clearly had standards and just ignored it.

The forecast was deteriorating later in the morning, and I needed to get back to do some dog-sitting, so I packed up camp just after breakfast and reeled in the last of the lines. Nothing else showed up, so it was just one little doggie for the morning compared with 4 spurdogs and half a whiting the night before.

Last orders…

Hiking out was easier initially, having burned the wood I took in and eaten a fair percentage of my body weight in dinner and breakfast. Sadly, good things don’t last and the rain caught up with me big time for the last hour. It was a very, very wet fisherman who stripped off in the carpark. Fortunately for them, there were no witnesses around!

Long way home
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