Galloway Fishing Week!

Galloway Fishing Week has become a bit of an institution in the last few years, largely because I’ve more time to play as the kids have grown up. Early June offers a crack at a wide variety of species in Galloway, with a decent chance of some larger specimens if the weather holds up. Tope, hounds, bass and huss probably head the list, but it is a very different style of angling and that adds to the attraction.

A nice tub gurnard taken by Ian from Luce Bay, June 2019
Nice tub gurnard from Port William

However, last year was a disaster, as my dad paid an unplanned visit to hospital, followed by the only bad weather in the whole of June. Basically, Galloway 2018 simply didn’t happen 🙁

We kept all our fingers crossed for 2019 and pored over the forecasts as the days ticked down. Finally Ian and I hit the road to Port William, sharing the car with a mountain of camping and fishing gear. At least the crabs were relegated to the boat for the journey! Trevor arrived just after the last tent peg was in place – good timing on his part!

Boat, car and tent setup for the week on the shores of Luce Bay
Camping setup

I’ve now tried the rather OTT glamping set up on several occasions, so was pretty confident I could make us comfortable for a week or so. It certainly looked the part, complete with carpet and comfy carp beds!

Our base camp for a week - complete with carpet and very comfortable beds.
Base camp

We didn’t waste too much time hanging around camp, as the tide only allowed us a limited window and we didn’t want to squander our opportunity.

Out on the bay and Ian set the tone nicely early on by catching a relative rarity for an east-coaster – a rather tropical looking scad. A few herring and mackerel secured our bait supply for the afternoon and we could settle down for some proper fishing.

A nice scad caught by Ian in Luce Bay, June 2019
A nice scad for Ian

To be honest, quality was a little hard to come by. We added more species and Ian did OK with the local rays, but tope were elusive. For some reason the dabs found my baits irresistible, but ignored the others.

Another thornback ray for Ian, from Luce Bay, June 2019
Small thornback for Ian

We crept back into the harbour as the last of the tide left it and headed back to our tent. A little later, and marginally spruced up, we headed along to the Cock Inn for a hearty dinner. After which I fell asleep in my nice comfy carp bed – too tired to even finish my beer!

Day Two

Breakfast for Trevor 🙂

We hit Garlieston next day, just before the flood tide reached the very muddy bottom of the slip. Ploughing round into Wigtown Bay we soon hit good numbers of small hounds on crab, rag and other bits and pieces.

A bull huss for myself, Luce Bay
Bull huss

Ray, huss, doggies and a dab or two also put in an appearance, but no sign of bass. We also had a few tope, but all tiddlers with none making double figures. Still, we had good fun for a few hours until the tide turned and I decided not to spend the rest of the afternoon stern on to steep sided waves. Close inshore near Eggerness was definitely calmer but almost fishless, so no-one argued with heading in slightly earlier than planned.

A sleek looking smoothhound for Trevor, fishing in Wigtown Bay, June 2019
Smoothhound for Trevor

Back to Luce Bay

Round at Port William the next morning I felt a bit of a bystander as Ian and Trevor got stuck into a pile of huss, after clearing out the local ray population.

Ian holding a grumpy bullhuss which tried to bite everything in sight
Grumpy bullhuss

Tope played hard to get again, until Ian hit a good run that turned into a very energetic tope that went from one side of the boat to the other repeatedly, until Trevor finally lifted her aboard. At 42lbs it was a personal best for Ian and easily the biggest fish to grace the decks this year.

Ian holds a 42lb tope, caught in Luce Bay, June 2019
Ian and 42lb tope

It didn’t bring many of its mates though, and proved to be the highlight of the day.

Lazy Saturday

We had a nice long lie on Saturday, as the tides favoured a late start, so there was plenty of time for coffee, toast and the obligatory bacon rolls before heading off. Round at Garlieston again, we were soon out on the Cree estuary casting out in search of smoothhound and tope.

Trevor with a Wigtown Bay huss - quite a light coloured specimen
Trevor with a Wigtown Bay huss

We hit fish from the off, but the story was similar to our earlier expedition. Lots of small fish, including a lot of tiny tope, but not too much quality going about apart from a ray or two and the odd huss.

A very small tope for Trevor, one of many that were cruising around during the week
A tiny tope for Trevor

Revenge of the Crabs

We awoke to quite blustery conditions that were pretty marginal for bouncing around on a boat. To be honest, I was quite happy to have a day on dry land so we headed over to Carsluith for a shortish session on the pier instead.

Carsluith pier, River Cree, Galloway.
Carsluith pier

‘Twas very slow fishing, to put it mildly, and it was quite a while before Trevor broke our duck with a small school bass.

A schoolie for Trevor

The crabs were undoubtedly the big winners today, obliterating most of our remaining worms and crabs as they stripped hooks bare in minutes.

Carsluith pier in a weird panorama shot, courtesy of Ian

Ian did manage to sneak out another bass from under their pincers, and Trevor eventually added a flounder, but it was slow going.

A small but pretty little bass from Carsluith pier, River Cree, Galloway
A school bass for Ian

As for me, my contribution was a single eel. I’m not sure what I was being punished for, but I was quite happy to pack up and head for the car!

A sliver eel

Saving the Best for Last

By contrast, our last day was undoubtedly the best of the week, with good weather and plenty of fish. We headed out of Port William and into the early morning sunshine, and soon found our mark for the day. In contrast to previous days, there were plenty of pack tope, mainly in the teens but with the biggest reaching 26lb.

Another Galloway tope for Ian, June 2019
Another tope for Ian

More huss appeared, and I’ve never had as many of the grumpy buggers as we had this week. Doubly so, if you add in all those that just let go of the bait when they got close to the boat.

My day ended with a personal best, being a bass of 7lb 10oz that came to a tope bait. You could probably have heard the yell of delight back in Port William.

A lovely bass from Luce Bay and a personal best for me, weighing 7lbs 10oz
7lb 10oz and a PB bass for me (Trev’s pic)
A fine bass from Luce Bay, taken on a whole mackerel aimed at tope. June 2019
Lovely bass

An hour later and we ran into harbour just as the wind picked up against the tide and the spray started to fly. With the tent all packed up already, Trevor said his goodbyes and set off northwards to the Fraserburgh tundra. Hopefully we can all keep in with the weather gods and get a repeat next year!

I think this was probably the most relaxed fishing I’ve had in recent years. Most days we were out for 6 hours or so over high water, so fairly short trips apart from a couple of longer 9-11 hour trips to take advantage of quieter conditions.

I final note on the Orkney, as this was the first time I’ve had three fishing aboard her and I wasn’t too sure about how she’d behave. None of us are lightweights, but it wasn’t too difficult to work around each other when dealing with fish. Speed dropped of course, down to 10-11 knots (11-12 mph), which was actually a little better than I expected.

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Wild Camp in Galloway

Galloway is one of my favourite parts of Scotland, but I’ve never ventured much into the hills, at least on foot. My forecast said windy, but dry and sunny, so I decided to try an overnight wild camp in the mountains, followed by a few hours shore fishing on my way home…

Glen Trool looked amazing in the late spring greenery, so I didn’t really mind the slow trundle along narrow country roads to reach it. Leaving the car park at the end of the track, I started up the hill to my first objective of the day.

The view from near Merrick, the highest of the Galloway hill, across to Ailsa Craig and Kintyre.
Looking across to Ailsa Craig and Kintyre

Merrick is the highest of the Galloway hills, but a fairly easy 4 mile hike up a well worn trail and it didn’t take too long to reach the summit. With clear views across to Ireland, Kintyre, Ailsa Craig, Isle of Man and plenty more it is a fantastic vantage point, and I happily gazed around me. This is as far as most walkers go, but I wanted to carry on to some of the smaller hills further north before doubling back to find a campsite for the night.

Across the hills and lochs of the Galloway hills
Wild Galloway

The Galloway hills are pretty wild and impressive but fall a little short of Munro height. However, there are few proper tracks and it is quite tiring country to traverse so I was glad to pop up a tent for the night next to a hill loch.

Sunset over Merrick, the highest hill in Galloway
Sunset over Merrick
Alone at my campsite, high in the Galloway hills - early morning, May 2019
Early morning, Galloway hills

This was up around 1650 feet, so it’s one of the higher “proper” sized lochs, and I gave it an hour or so for trout in the morning. The trout here were wiped out by acid rain a few decades ago, but this was one of several lochs that’s been restocked since. I wasn’t sure whether any still survived, but I wanted to have a few casts anyway.

Setting up my spinning rod for a little session on a hill loch in Galloway
Threading my rod

I didn’t land any trout but did see quite a few rising at one point and missed solid take, so at least I’m sure they’re alive and kicking. Next time I’ll try to go back when it’s not blowing a force 4-5 and with more than one lure (leaving the rest in the car was a master-stroke), as it’s a pretty enough spot.

Fishing a Galloway hill loch
Freshwater, for a change!

I only gave it an hour or so, as I wanted to hit HW on the Cree estuary to see whether there were any flounder or bass around. In the event I left it a little later than was sensible, ending up trotting down the track to my car to make sure I’d some fishing time left at the coast.

A lazy sunny afternoon fishing from an old pier on the Cree estuary, Galloway
Lazy fishing

Carsluith almost surpassed my trout lure stupidity as, after 2 hours without a nibble on my crab and lug baited hooks, my spinning rod went screaming along the pier wall at a high rate of knots. I literally had to lunge at it in desperation and only just managed to hang on the butt as it went over the edge.

A small smoothhound caught well up the Cree estuary, Galloway
Surprise smoothhound

Back on my knees after my rugby tackle, I assumed I’d hooked a decent bass until I saw a smoothhound emerging from the water well downstream of the pier. It’s probably just as well that it wasn’t a big one, as it was hard enough to control a 4lb fish on the spinning rod. That was about it though – just a bonus flounder about an hour later.

A small flounder from the Cree estuary, Galloway
Small flounder

And I finished my session by throwing away my car key, which left an interesting sensation at the pit of my stomach – I was chucking an apple core and the key just went with it. Anyway, Dumbo got lucky and found the key after a few minutes frantic searching.

Fishing the Cree estuary, Galloway
Fishing the Cree

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Gubbed by the Weather in Galloway

It’s taken almost a month to getting around to post this little report, which probably says it all! Who’d be an angler in Scotland. Four days of wind and a fair bit of rain 🙁 Still, we caught a few fish, had a few beers, and even the tent survived unscathed.

The forecast was pretty much right, with mainly a force 5-6 S/SW wind, which leaves most of the area unfishable from a boat. Even shore fishing is hard going.

A boisterous sea on Luce Bay
A boisterous sea on Luce Bay

Thursday afternoon saw Ian and I hammering in what felt like 100 tent pegs as we put up a cavernous old family tent at Port William. At least base camp looked and felt fairly spacious – even if I wasn’t entirely confident it would actually still be there in the morning.

Base camp - a 12 man tent for the 3 of us
Base camp

We followed up with a couple of hours catching weed at Luce Bay, together with a stray coalie and flounder.

Snatching a few hours afloat

However Friday offered the prospect of lighter winds, so Ian and I took the chance to get out before things got worse again, and headed out from Garlieston. A little bouncy in Wigtown Bay but not too bad, and we were able to fish OK.

Ian holds a very spiny thornback ray which was armed front and back with big hook-like spikes
A very spiny hedgehog of a thornback ray

One of several nice dabs from Wigtown Bay
One of several nice dabs from Wigtown Bay

We’d only frozen mackerel but otherwise had plenty of crab and some squid, however the fish weren’t too keen to play and we only had a handful of smoothhound showing interest.

A small hound for Ian
A small hound for Ian

Ian had several decent rays but there was no sign of tope, whilst we had rather too many doggies and a few dabs.

Ian holds the best smoothhound of the session
Best smoothhound

We headed back to Garlieston around half-three, to catch the slip before the tide ebbed too far, and passed Trevor catching a few crabs at the pier head as he waited for us to come in.

Trevor waiting as we come back to Garlieston after a few hours afloat
Trevor waiting as we come back to Garlieston

Boat recovery and greetings over with, we spent a little while collecting some lug to augment bait supplies before munching a variety of chippie suppers in the early evening sunshine.

Bass and Eels

Morale somewhat restored it was off round to Carsluith for an evening fish at a more sheltered spot. This worked out pretty well, with good numbers of flounder, an eel or two and a couple of bass for me.

Trevor casts out over the mud towards the River Cree
Trevor casts out over the mud

Fishing over mud to reach the estuary as we wait for the tide to rise.
Fishing over mud to reach the estuary

Lucky Ian - another eel, one of several he caught
Lucky Ian – another eel

A small bass from Carsluith on the Cree Estuary
Small bass from Carsluith

A fairly manky and muddy venue, but it did churn out the flounders and eels (mainly for Ian, who didn’t receive much sympathy), as well as bass and plenty more weed.

The wind was pretty horrible on Saturday so it was back to Carsluith for a few hours. Between fishing Luce Bay and Carsluith I ended up with a good number of flounders, three bass (and a fourth that fell off at the side), and a solitary eel and coalie. The bass were a definite plus for me as I’ve hardly ever caught them from the shore before and although the best probably didn’t make 3lbs, it’s still a PB for me.

Nice shore caught bass
Nice shore caught bass

A nice flounder from the pier
A nice flounder from the pier

Trevor relaxing at Carsluith whilst Ian holds on to his hat in the wind
Trevor relaxing at Carsluith

Ian with the best flounder of the trip, something like 1lb 6 or 7oz
Best flounder of the trip

Sunday proved more of the same, weatherwise, so we called it quits and reverse engineered the tent back into the car before trundling off home. So, one good day out of four from a fishing point of view, but I suppose we were spoiled by the last couple of years when sunstroke looked a real possibility!Share this:

Galloway Smoothhounds

Ian, Trevor and I spent all last week hunting for tope and smoothhounds down in Galloway. Loads of fish, although decent tope proved a bit more elusive than last year.

Tope and Smoothhounds - Galloway 2016

Bar a single session from Isle of Whithorn, our time was spent fishing out of Port William and Garlieston into Luce Bay and Wigtown Bay.

Waiting for the tide to rise a little at Port William
Waiting for the tide to rise a little at Port William

Tope were very scarce out of Port William, although we did pick up some decent huss and thornbacks, plus loads of smaller stuff including a lot of tub and grey gurnards and the usual whiting hordes. Mackerel were generally easy to find, although a little bigger than last year, and there were a few herring and launce mixed in amongst them. Ian managed to up his personal LSD record up to 63 in one day, which I can’t imagine he’ll want to beat anytime soon.

A pretty tub gurnard
A pretty tub gurnard

A bull huss for myself from Luce Bay
Huss always look vaguely gangster-ish

Nasty looking bull huss dentistry
Nasty looking huss dentistry

Garlieston held plenty of smoothhounds and small/baby tope plus more thornbacks. Ian picked up the best hound, at over 12lbs (which took a mackerel bait), but most were in the 2-5lbs range. I’d 57 one day which is way more than I’ve seen before, although other days weren’t quite as hectic.

Ready to launch at Garlieston slipway
Ready to launch at Garlieston slipway

Another thornback for Trevor
Another thornback for Trevor

Ian landing no less than 3 hounds in one cast
Ian landing no less than 3 hounds in one cast

I’ve never seen so many small tope, which were picking up crab and lug baits as well as mackerel, and we must have had many dozens on the days we fished there, but with the best only going 24lbs. I’d one tiddler that looked that it had just avoided becoming breakfast for an older brother.

A small tope with distinctive teeth marks in its belly
Tope eat Tope!

Only a small one - but a tope nonetheless
Only a small one – but a tope nonetheless

A few hours on the banks off Isle of Whithorn produced the largest tope (predictably for Ian again!) with a couple at 35lbs each, but we didn’t hang around for the tide to run against the wind on the flood.

The only decent tope from Port William this trip - a 25lber for Ian
The only decent tope from Port William this trip – a 25lber for Ian

Our last day saw a combination of boat weariness and squally weather push us out on a shore trip, which resulted in our first shore-caught hounds and a tope bite off for myself.

Casting a crab bait for smoothhound
Casting a crab bait for smoothhound

A small shore caught smoothhound
A small shore caught smoothhound

Incidentally, the petrol station at Port William is now open 24 hours with a self-service card machine, which will prove handy for future trips. And there is also a nice new coffee shop above the Inshore Rescue Boatshed, with a great view out over Luce Bay.

The GoPro got dropped over the side for a quick view of the seabed at Luce Bay, revealing a complete doggie-fest with a few dabs thrown in – plus this smoothie roaming about. We didn’t catch any hounds here, so interesting to see it on video.

A smoothhound ignores our baits off Port William
A smoothhound off Port William

A lesser spotted doggie lurks on the bottom of Luce Bay, out from Port William
A doggie lurks on the bottom of Luce Bay
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A week in Galloway (part 1)

Plan A for this year involved a serious fishing session in Galloway, for the first time in over twenty years, and I was pretty happy when Ian and I finally made our escape down to Scotland’s fishing paradise last week. The only downside was that Trevor’s mum had been taken ill and it seemed unlikely that he’d be able to join us.

A windy day on Monreith Beach
Monreith Beach

Saturday evening saw us tottering down the mini-steps at Monreith Bay and making our way across the sand, leaning into the strong north-westerly wind that blasted across the beach. A couple of hours later we reversed the process, with nothing at all to show for our efforts except mild hypothermia. It’s a pretty enough place to blank though, but perhaps not the best start to a week’s fishing.

Not just windy, but cold too!
Not just windy, but cold too!

I was up early doors on the Sunday and took a walk round the nearby loch with a view to sussing out the pike fishing possibilities. Half-way round I encountered this little fellow who was obviously out looking for breakfast.

And one of its resident otters
One of our nearby residents

Our local pike loch
Our local pike loch

Our home for the week
Home for the week

The wind was still a moderate NW, but looked to be dropping slowly, so we decided to head out of Sandhead for the afternoon and have a try off Ardwell. Launching about two in the afternoon we had a reasonable session, although the wind stayed around a force 4, and I eventually lost my hat to the breeze, much to Ian’s amusement.

A sad end for my hat! - drifting out to sea on the breeze
A sad end for my hat!

Mackerel were around in modest numbers and we soon had enough for bait, and settled down with a mix of rigs to see what was feeding.

First blood was a nice huss to Ian, weighing in at around 10lbs.

Ian with a Luce Bay huss
Ian with a Luce Bay huss

And was followed by a succession of rays, all but one of which also belonged to Ian.

A thornback from Ardwell, Luce Bay
A thornback from Ardwell, Luce Bay

Lots of smaller fish such as whiting, gurnard, etc. appeared and Ian notched up a personal “best” with something like 25 LSDs in an afternoon.

The forecast for Monday was for lighter winds, and we launched from Isle of Whithorn a little after low water. An hour spent under the cliffs proved very unproductive and the wind appeared to have died away completely so I pointed Alcatraz in the direction of Luce Bay and Port William and we bounced our way round the coast for around 10 miles or so until we hit our chosen mark.

Snack sized mackerel appeared very quickly, along with a few Galloway tarpon (herring), which were soon sent back down to the seabed in search of our target fish, tope.

Galloway tarpon, aka herring, aka baitfish
Galloway tarpon, aka herring, aka baitfish

Our wait wasn’t too prolonged and we started to hit some good runs on whole mackerel.

Ian with a tope
Ian with a Luce Bay tope

Happy angler, rather disgruntled tope
Happy angler, rather disgruntled tope

Hugging a tope...
Tope hugger…

It wasn’t just the tope, as this bull huss also put in an appearance – not a biggie, but my first of the year.

Myself with a tope from Port William
Myself with a huss from Port William

And, in between tope runs, this little beauty had me shouting for a net. A nice bass of a little over 5lbs on a whole mackerel bait – lucky for it that it was caught early in the week, as the temptation to knock it on the head and pop it under the grill might have been irresistible on our last day.

A nice bass, caught on whole mackerel bait intended for tope - complete with wire trace

We finished the day on 15 tope between us, not too shabby a result considering we only fished this mark for a few hours.

A double hookup of tope. Fun!!
A double hookup of tope. Fun!!

Ian with an angry tope
Ian with an angry tope

A little bit of wind against the tide, with a tope on to complicate things a little
A little bit of wind against the tide

Retreating to the cottage for the evening we spent a little while sorting out gear and tidying things up generally, before the midgies started to appear in some numbers.

Trace repairs, aided by a beer
Trace repairs, aided by a beer

Tuesday meant a launch from Port William, to have a serious try for the tope in the shallow waters of Luce Bay. Today started cool and calm, but the sun became progressively hotter and I really started to regret losing that hat at Ardwell!

Perfection. Blue sky, blue sea. In Scotland :-)
Perfection. Blue sky, blue sea. In Scotland 🙂

Ian into a tope
Ian into a tope

Fortunately for us the tope were in the mood to feed and we fairly quickly started to add to our tally.

Hold it out far enough and it becomes a shark!
Hold it out far enough and it becomes a shark!

A tope makes a run for freedom.
A tope makes a run for freedom.

Ian up close and personal with a tope
Ian up close and personal with a tope

Ian had the best fish of the day, with a nice one of 39lbs, and it was noticeable that there were none of the small sub-15lb fish you often encounter, with most being in the high teens to mid-twenties in weight.

I don't want to be here - a tope beside the boat
I really don’t want to be here – a tope beside the boat

By the end of the day our total was 28 fish and hands that were rather worse for wear as a result of hauling on traces a little too carelessly. Easily my best tally for the boat in one day, and we were both happy running over the day’s events as we worked our way through the menu at the Clansman later that evening. Trevor had phoned to say he could make it next day, so another session off Port William was planned…Share this:

A week in Galloway – instalment 2!

Trevor arrived early on Wednesday morning after a long drive from Aberdeen and we launched from Port William again, with high hopes of bettering yesterdays total of 28 tope. Luce Bay was flat calm as we headed out the short distance to our chosen mark and dropped the anchor in around 45 feet of water.

Port William

Trevor had first blood within a few minutes of dropping a bait in the water, and we fairly quickly built up a score of 8 tope between us before things went pretty quiet for a while.

Trevor and tope

The fish did eventually come back on the feed, but not to the same extent or with the same enthusiasm as on Tuesday, and we only gradually worked our way up to a very respectable 22 over the day.

Underwater tope
Underwater tope

The jury was out a bit for Thursday, but in the end we decided to have another pop at Port William, with a view to changing marks if the tope didn’t play ball.

I dropped the GoPro over the side for a look at the sea bed – no fish at all were showing in the time it was over, and it wasn’t quite as stony as I’d expected from the feel of baits rolling around in the tide.

Port William seabed

A couple of hours on the tope resulted in only one or two fish, with a few more dropped runs, and we decided to head down the coast a bit to try an inshore reef.

Trevor and tope
Trevor and tope

We gave it a couple of hours but this was largely fruitless apart from a steady stream of dogfish. A drop down with the camera again showed it was clearly rougher ground.

Shallow reef in Luce Bay
Shallow reef in Luce Bay

We headed back to the tope grounds again for the latter part of the afternoon, but it was becoming baking now in the sunshine and I popped up the Alcatraz’s pram hood for the first time in several years, and for the only time we’ve needed shelter from the sun!

Too hot to fish?
Too hot to fish?

The tope were still playing hard to get, with very few runs and many of them dropping the bait, but we gradually added to the fish total and ended the day with seven – ordinarily I’d be pleased enough with that total, but it was a little anti-climactic after the previous couple of days.

Ian looking happier than the tope
Ian looking happier than the tope

Ian with a lively Bull Huss
Ian with a lively Bull Huss

There were still some little fish playing, including this pretty little tub gurnard for Ian

Pretty Tub gurnard
Pretty Tub gurnard

and a nice grey one as well

Well armoured Grey gurnard
Well armoured Grey gurnard

Launce and a gazillion whiting put in an appearance as well, but no herring today.

After our roasting and relative drubbing on Thursday we were up for a change from Luce Bay on Friday and elected for an earlier start at Port Logan. The forecast was fine through to mid-afternoon after which the wind was rising from the NW and would probably cut things short.

Aside from a quick drift at the entrance to the bay, which produced very little, we headed out to the banks pretty much immediately to try for both haddock and something a little larger.

Ian soon hit a modest haddock in amongst the droves of whiting, and we also picked up one or two codling before anchoring in the tide run. I’d hoped for some fresh mackerel but these proved elusive and we only had modest numbers all day.

The fishing was very poor with only dogfish and a handful of codling and haddock appearing alongside the whiting. Nothing larger even hinted at being out to play despite fishing most of the ebb tide into increasing windy conditions.

A good sea running at Port Logan pier
A good sea running at Port Logan pier

Given the forecast was for a rising wind I headed back inshore to Logan Bay a little after slack water and we spent an hour or two wasting bait inside the bay before heading back to the beach.

A summerhouse at Port Logan?
A summerhouse at Port Logan?

It proved a busy day on the VHF as well, with Hamish Currie’s Predator 2 coming to the rescue of a local boat with engine failure near Portpatrick, and Belfast coastguard calling out the lifeboat for a yacht aground somewhere on the Irish coastline – nothing like a little reminder of how easily things can go wrong in these waters.

Next morning saw us packing up in near perfect conditions, although a week was probably enough tbh – the collective battering does take a toll and you need a day or two to recover. Ian was pretty much held together by sticky tape by this point 🙂

No-one seemed in a hurry to leave
No-one seemed in a hurry to leave

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At Last! – Back in Action

After being out of action with a damaged leg for almost three months, the last day of May saw a good forecast and I decided to try my luck down at Isle of Whithorn and Wigtown Bay. Alcatraz has managed the grand total of 1 day out in 6 months so it took a while to check everything over (not to mention find it in the first place), but we set off from Edinburgh just before six.

Down at Isle of Whithorn harbour several hours later, the tide was still well out, but I decided to head out overnight and sleep over on the boat. A brief half-hour or so just off the harbour entrance resulted in 6 or 7 herring just as the light faded away and I moved on to anchor for the night. Round at Portyerrock I surprised a couple of shore anglers who clearly weren’t expecting a boat out at that time, and then dropped anchor a few hundred yards into the bay. By this time I was pretty tired and despite the best efforts of the water slapping against the hull, I managed a few hours sleep before waking just before 4 and getting going again.

Just before sunrise on Wigtown Bay
Just before sunrise on Wigtown Bay

It was a calm day and it didn’t take too long to reach the Cree estuary where I hoped to put the crab to good use hunting for smoothhound and maybe a bass.

Even small Scottish smoothhounds put up a good scrap
Even small Scottish smoothhounds put up a good scrap

A modest sized smoothound caught in Wigtown Bay in May 2014
Solway Smoothhound

I didn’t have to wait long as first cast saw a pair of smoothhound smash into the crab baits and put up their usual robust struggle on the way to the boat. This carried on for the next couple of hours and gave me a total of 8 smoothhound, a dab and the usual numbers of dogfish. The couple of hours over slackwater proved fruitless with only dogfish showing up, with not even a flattie to break the monotony. Once the flood had strengthened things changed for the better, with a couple of hounds and a brace of good bass up to 5lbs 6oz, before settling down to a lengthy run of hounds.

A bass edges reluctantly alongside Alcatraz
A bass edges reluctantly alongside Alcatraz

Safely in the Net - and it's a nice Galloway Bass for Dinner
Safely in the Net – and it’s a nice Galloway Bass for Dinner

A decent bass from Wigtown Bay
A decent bass from Wigtown Bay

By the time I packed in around HW my total stood at 22 hounds, 2 bass, 1 dab and innumerable dogfish (at least 35, maybe more). None of the hounds were big, with most in the 4-5lb bracket and the best not making 6lbs, but it was a great start back into fishing after too long away.Share this:

Angling Heaven – Galloway in June

I love Galloway on many levels – it’s wild but not as bleak as the NW Highlands; has a particularly appealing mix of hills, lochs and sea; plenty of interest for a younger family; and easily the most varied and exciting fishing in mainland Scotland. In recent years I’ve only managed to snatch the odd day here and there, but this year I managed a total of 6 during June, which is definitely a record for the last 20 years.

Unfortunately this also coincided with the slowest start to the mackerel for years, with the cold spring seeming to hold them back on both east and west coasts. A first foray in early June found nothing worthwhile in Luce Bay, although a switch across to Port Logan did pull in a haddock or two amongst the small codling and whiting that seemed to swarm over the offshore banks. A week later and I was back at Isle of Whithorn for an overnight trip, and things were picking up, although mackerel were still very slow. A steady drift along under Burrow Head produced the odd one or two, plus a nice tope of around 30lbs and a solitary herring. Despite the boost provided by the tope there were no others following in his wake so I followed plan A and headed offshore to the banks a few miles SW of Burrow Head.

A perfect end to the day
A perfect end to the day

Out here the tide was screaming through, and a good bit stronger than I’d expected and it was very hard going getting any fish to the boat – doubly so as I’d forgotten my butt pad and was soon getting a nice collection of bruises. The fishing wasn’t great, but there were a few spurdog and a single huss that just made it into double figures, plus a few more mackerel.

My final session in June was a three day trip with Trevor, based at Burrowhead caravan site. We kicked off at Ardwell on Luce Bay and covered something like 50 miles in a fruitless search for tope, including another session on the banks beyond the Scares Rocks. It was too beautiful a day to stay downhearted for long, but the lack of mackerel certainly seemed to be a factor. Monday saw us starting early after a well-earned sleep at Burrowhead, and we were soon oing our best to catch a mackerel or two – an hour of this saw us with a handful, and we decided to head round to Port William where there had been reports of tope taken.

We dropped anchor in 35 feet of water and little tide and slung a collection of baits in the water, and settled down to wait. Fortunately it wasn’t too long before our rather battered optimism was restored by the first tope run of the trip, which was first of many that afternoon, and brought our total for the day up to 14 fish boated. Alongside that was the first sign of mackerel in numbers, plus a good succession of whiting, grey and tub gurnards, a dab and a fair number of doggies.

Tuesday was a re-run of the day before – run round to Port William, followed by a succession of tope and a couple of huss. A few launce put in an appearance too, but by mid-afternoon the fishing slowed, so we decided on another try offshore for a little while. The banks produced another 3 or 4 tope and a huss before we called it quits, so all told a good way to end the trip.
The grand total was 29 tope between us, mainly in the 20-30lb range and with non of the very small tope that sometimes appear. However it was fairly obvious that they weren’t as widely spread out across the area as you’d expect by this time of year, which is probably down to the relatively small numbers of mackerel.Share this:

10 June – Isle of Whithorn

Weather: Dry, calm and sunny all day. Great weather for boating.
Sea Conditions: Flat calm and clear.
Tides:Large Tide. LW 1100 HW 1700
Time:Launched 0900 and recovered 1800 – 9 hours

Decided to make a daytrip to the sub-tropical paradise of Galloway yesterday, and for once the forecast was too pessimistic. No wind and sunny all day, so it actually got a bit too hot at times.

I struggled to find mackerel to start with, but eventually picked up a few very small ones (5-8″ long – good snack size for a tope) and headed off to some banks about 8-9 miles SW of Isle of Whithorn, arriving there about just before LW. These are quite chunky structures I first fished about 4 years ago, and rise from 120 feet to 70 feet or so, but have a fierce run of tide over them with a quite pronounced tide rip on the surface – not a place to go near on anything other than a really calm day.

The anchor went down perfectly just at the top of the bank which let me fish the downslope behind it, and dropped a pair of baits down to the seabed. First up was a smallish huss, maybe 5lbs or so and was followed by a small tope which came up quite easily to the side of the boat and got quickly lifted aboard – before I realised it wasn’t a tope and had a pair of large spikes right alongside where I’d grabbed it! Lucky escape/carelessness aside, it went 12.5lbs which is my best for several years now.

By now the tide was really starting to motor, so leads of 1.5 lbs came out, although I could hold bottom OK. Got a series of hard knocks on one rod and hooked into something really substantial, which I eventually got moving but really struggled to make progress with in the tide. Of course, after about 10 minutes of this, my other rod started screaming away as a tope made off with the bait… Another 10-15 minutes went by with very little progress on the first fish (in fact I think I was steadily losing ground to some slow, solid runs back down to the sea floor), and the second taking another run every minute or so, when the leader knot finally parted on the biggie 🙁

The tope was now about 150 yards away, so it was another lengthy job to get it back to the boat but eventually mission accomplished and it got lifted aboard. A good fish of 32lbs, which equalled my PB, it went back fine. New mackerel on and drop down again – and Bang, an immediate hookup, this time from a 30lb fish. This went on for 2-3 hours through the main part of the tide and I don’t think I’d to wait more than 10 minutes for a bite in that period (fishing only 1 rod by now). It was very hard work in the tide run and each fish took a good while to land and deal with, particularly since I was taking care to avoid getting bitten by some very angry fish.

The tope melted away as the tidal flow dropped back, but I picked up a final fish to bring the tally to 9, with the best 36lb and 5 of 30lb+. A couple more spurdog appeared in the slacker water before the tide went dead and I hauled the anchor. I couldn’t risk the tide turning on me, as it would have been very difficult to get the anchor up in the speed of tide run, or I’d have stayed on a bit longer.

As to what the lost fish was – I don’t know. Probably a large tope, although there was no tope like run. I did wonder about a blonde ray, as I’ve had a small one here before, but think that’s unlikely as it wasn’t kiting up particularly in the tide run.

Note to self on this mark – take along the 20-30lb class gear, as 12-20 was getting well outgunned.Share this:

22 April – Port Logan/Ardwell Bay

Ah well, the short version is “not a lot to report”, but I’d a good day out anyway, and there were a few fish around as well.

I didn’t fancy the sea lochs this weekend, and Dunbar looked to still have a northerly swell running, so I decided to give the south west a shot instead. I couldn’t be bothered hauling the Warrior all the way down there just for a day, especially since I didn’t expect fantastic fishing, so I packed the inflatable in the boot of the car and headed off about 5 a.m. The plan was to spend a few hours fishing Luce Bay off Ardwell and then swap across to Port Logan and see if there were any haddock about.

First task on arrival was to extract a few lugworm from the bay before heading out – Ardwell’s not the best spot for worms, but it didn’t take too long to get enough for the day. Then it didn’t take too long to get the Avon sorted out for the morning, so I was soon heading out onto a very calm Luce Bay with only a hint of a breeze.

I did a slow troll out to the southern side of the bay, in the hope that something might be interested in a Rapala, but only picked up a modest sized coalie so I didn’t carry on for too long. Next up was an anchored session to see what was swimming around the sandier ground – answer, doggies and plenty of them. A couple of small thornbacks also put in an appearance but that was all. Another slow troll inshore with a string of feathers produced no interest at all, so I dropped the anchor over some rougher ground and tried again. Same result as the first time, with a series of doggies but without the bonus of any rays. Enough was enough, so it was round to Port Logan for a second try.

There was a little more wind, but nothing to worry about so it was out towards the mouth of the bay and try a bit of drifting. Things were desperately slow to start with, with nothing but snags on the drift at the edge of the bay, and no sign of plaice in the bays north of Mull Head, so a couple of hours passed with nothing to show for it. Heading out a little further produced a couple of mini-codling and an octopus and the tide seemed surprisingly slack, so I decided to head out to the banks a couple of miles offshore for a final session before heading home. I wouldn’t normally take the inflatable out here, but with little or no wind and a slow tide the fishing was pretty easy and the sea pretty much calm. Fish came almost immediately and a succession of smallish whiting, haddock and a couple more codling took worm and fish baits, together with a mini-ling and another two octopus. I wasn’t using mackerel lures at all, but there were a good number of large shoals of fish showing off the bottom, so I’d be surprised if mackerel weren’t around in numbers.

Grand total for the day, just under 20 LSDs plus a around the same again in small coddies/whiting and haddock. And 3 octopus – my best day with them for a while FWIW.Share this: