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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A Couple of Days on Skye

Autumn Wildcamp and Fishing in Skye

I try and keep gear to a reasonable minimum when slogging across heather and bog but I was definitely red faced and sweating as I arrived at the northern tip of Skye. Something to do with too much sun and too many thermals – not a common problem in Scotland! Ditching the rucksack staved off a heart attack as I set up a shore rod and lobbed a chunk of mackerel out in search of conger or spurdog.

Letting that fish by itself, I swapped over to a spinning outfit. The water here is clear and deep, but with some awkward kelpy ledges close in. A leadhead loaded with shads or jellyworms produced plenty of hits but only a couple of pollack actually stayed on the hook long enough to get ashore. Swapping to a 40g Dexter greatly improved the hit rate and the body count rose rapidly as the light faded. A good mixture of coalfish and pollack, but mainly small sub-2lb fish. Fun, but not fantastic, you could say.

My pollack is overshadowed by its surroundings. Autumn fishing on the northern tip of Skye
Big country – but small pollack!

I stopped for a while to get the tent up and gear stowed before darkness fell. It’s great to get a decent spot just alongside the sea, and this was within spitting distance – and with a superb view out across Rubha Hunish and the Outer Hebrides.

Room with a view, my tent perched near the shoreline on the northern edge of Skye
Room with a view

More pollack and coley of a similar size paid a visit as I fished on into the dark, but nothing but rocks hung themselves on the bait rods. I headed back to the tent as the moon rose over the hill behind me and my hunger pangs grew. Things were simple tonight, so a Jetboil rather than steak over a campfire, with Chilli con Carne in a bag. Tasty enough, though!

A jetboil keeps it simple - cooking a meal in the November darkness
A jetboil keeps it simple

Normally the sounds of the sea keep me awake for a while, but I must’ve been tired as I went out like a light. Unzipping my way into the dawn next morning I found it cold but not freezing. Clear skies had encouraged a little frost, but the hint of sunrise to my east suggested another sunny day to come. A couple of coffees later and I hit the rocks again.

Dawn on the northernmost coast of Skye, with Isle Trodday in the background
Dawn

Spinning produced similar results, although I eventually wiped out my small stock of metal lures on various snags. Applying a large pinch of salt, the best fish might have made 4lbs, but there was no sign of the larger pollack I’d hoped to encounter. I did get a hefty encounter on my heavy rod though, with a strong, steady run on a large mackerel bait. It was hooked easily enough, but just kept on going and ran over a sharp rock or ledge – bye, bye 30lb mono mainline. Conger probably, skate possibly – although it’s not really skate type ground. Proof that something decent is out there though!

A small but lively coalfish from the north of Skye
Small coalfish

I wanted to head round to Rubha Hunish for a couple of hours, so I packed a few lures and a little bait and headed up the hill around late morning.

The northernmost tip of Skye, Rubha Hunish
Rubha Hunish

The cliffs are pretty dramatic but I worked my way down the gully and then down the steep path to the bottom of the cliffs, about 250 feet below. Easy enough in the dry, but a bit trickier when it’s icy or wet I suspect. The way to the point is easy enough and I was soon setting up my gear on the very northernmost tip of Skye.

I'm well hidden on the steep descent down to Rubha Hunish, Isle of Skye.
Spot me! Descent onto Rubha Hunish
Looking back to the descent down the cliffs to reach Rubha Hunish
The descent to Rubha Hunish, looking back from the bottom of the cliffs

Casting in, I found I was in quite deep water with a modest tide run. I’d guess this could be a pretty big tide run in a large spring but I was fishing quite small neaps and it wasn’t a problem. Back to spinning the leadheads, as I’d lost the heavy lures by now, but they were soon picking up more of the same smallish pollack and coalfish.

A pollack from Rubha Hunish, at the northern extremity of Skye
Rubha Hunish pollack

Time was scooting by now, and the days here are very short at this time of year. I was conscious that I’d a fair to go to reach my car, and a tent to pick up along the way, so I decided to pack in fairly early in the afternoon. Even so, by the time I’d hauled myself up the cliff path and then back round to the tent it was dark by the time I reached the car.

So a fine couple of days in excellent weather for this time of year. Shame the bigger fish weren’t really out to play, but it was a small tide. As usual, the main obstacle were the short days and rather-too-long nights you get this far north.

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Squelching Across Skye – and a Stray Bass

Just back from a few days wandering around Skye with a fishing rod. More wandering than fishing it has to be said, but a few items of interest from the angling point of view.

Video here, and the full report below…

Squelching Across Skye with a Fishing Rod

The highlight of the trip was actually before I even got there, as I stopped off for a couple of hours near Fort William. It was not long dark when I hooked what was obviously a decent fish but one which came in without too much fuss, and it showed up in my headtorch as a nice looking ray.

A small Common Skate from the shore
My first shore-caught Common Skate

It was only when I picked it up that I realised it was actually a small common skate and a first for me from the shore. The scales put it at around 18lbs, which also makes it my biggest shore caught fish.

18lb Common Skate caught from the shore
18lb Common Skate

Suitably encouraged I scooted up the road to Skye and slept in the car overnight before heading up to Bracadale and an area I’ve never been too before.

The western shores of Loch Bracadale are heavily wooded and fringed with rock and volcanic cliffs
Western shores of Loch Bracadale

Bracadale

It was a fine morning, but the forecast was for heavy rain and a force 6 southerly in the afternoon, so I hoped to find a bit of shelter in the loch. Rather overloaded with too much clobber I headed off down the track that goes out to Idrigill Point and then cut off this and headed down to the shoreline to find a spot to fish and set up camp.

Western edge of Loch Bracadale
Who wouldn’t fancy fishing here

Nightmare country, with old forestry, small cliffs and gorges everywhere, so I was pretty knackered by the time I got set up. The mark itself was easy enough to fish, although it was nearly low water and there was a good band of exposed kelp running out 30 yards or so.

Low water exposes a thick forest of kelp on Loch Bracadale, Skye
Low water kelp forest

I cast mackerel baits over this and started picking up spurdogs from the sand beyond – only about 20 feet of water but there were fair numbers going about once the tide started to flood, and I was kept busy. Initially small males, but then a few females appeared, although nothing above 6-7lbs.

A small spurdog tries to find its way around the kelp forest fringing Loch Bracadale, Isle of Skye
Small spurdog swims over the kelp

As the tide flooded and the weather started to kick in properly I had a go spinning for pollack as the kelp was now covered by water. Plenty of interest in the jellyworms but not too many proper takes. Most of the fish were small, in the 1.5-2.5lbs range and I doubt anything went above 3lbs, but there were reasonable numbers. I lost one larger fish but even it wouldn’t have made over 5lbs. I retreated to the comparative comfort of the tent once the light faded and had quite a decent night’s sleep hidden inside the plantation as the wind howled along the cliffs.

Best way to start the day after a wet and wild night - coffee, bacon and eggs
Best way to start the day after a wild night – coffee, bacon and eggs

Idrigill

Next day was nothing to write home about on the fishing front – I did take a spinning rod along as I tramped out to Idrigill Point (after wading my way through waist deep, soaking wet bracken to get back to the track in the first place), but there is nowhere at the point itself that you could realistically get down without significant ropework.

The sea stacks known as MacLeod's Maidens, near Idrigill Point, Isle of Skye
MacLeod’s Maidens, near Idrigill Point

Most of the coastline is pretty similar, with steep cliffs straight into the water, so I didn’t try and commit suicide and just enjoyed the view. Heading back down to the south of the island I spent a couple of hours on Armadale pier feeding some very hungry crabs which munched everything I gave them extremely quickly.

Fishing Armadale Pier on the Sleat Peninsula, Skye
Fishing Armadale Pier, Sleat

There may well have been fish there, but I doubt they’d have a look in as baits were getting stripped in a few minutes.

Sleat Bass

Another overnighter in the car and then down towards Point of Sleat, armed just with a spinning rod. The Point produced nothing, although I think it is largely sandy ground rather than kelp – a beachcaster and mackerel bait might have told a different story as there was around 30 feet+ of water and a decent tide run as well.

Moving back up towards my car I tried the same spot I’d good fishing from when I was up in summer, and it was instant action. However most were smaller than during the summer and in the 2-3lb bracket, although I did get one specimen that would have gone around 6lbs or so.

Another Pollack extracted from its kelpy home
Another Pollack extracted from its kelpy home

Coalfish from the Sleat Peninsula, Skye
Coalfish from the Sleat Peninsula, Skye

A couple of coalies also and then, just as most of the action had stopped near slack tide, I got hit just on the surface at the fringes of the kelp. At first I thought it was a better sized coalie until I slid it up on the kelp and realised it was a bass! Not a big one, and definitely undersized, but I was both surprised and chuffed with this little bonus. A first on lures from the shore and from any sort of rock mark.

A shore caught bass from Skye
A shore caught bass from Skye

So quite hard work in some ways, and no gigantic bags of fish, but I’m pretty happy with my lot! Even happier to get a decent night in a proper bed…Share this:
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