We’ve all done it. On most, if not all ventures to a new
venue we, perhaps subconsciously, set our expectations based on our research
and knowledge of our chosen location. Occasionally these subliminal
expectations are met, perhaps even exceeded. However all too often we are found
guilty of overlooking several key aspects and reality falls far short of our
We recently spent 24 hours on a newly established lake
within a commercial complex, marketed as a Specimen ‘Lake’ and boasting Carp to
well over 20lbs. These may not be huge by Carp standards but fish of these
sizes will dwarf the average commercial Carp north of the border.
Having fished other lakes in this complex in the past and
enjoying great success with plenty fish averaging 5-6lbs and a fair few
approaching double digits, one can imagine the obvious extend of our somewhat
naïve expectations of spending some time on this big fish water.
Big Carp are infamously challenging to catch and our naivety
hadn’t quite fallen to a level where we believed otherwise. As always, a
significant amount of research and planning went in to this session and we
arrived in an air of confidence. However, being fairly inexperienced on the
Carp front this would be our first attempt at using specialist Carp tactics,
rigs and baits.
Fishing two rods each we adopted two approaches. A
specialist rig paired with a PVA bag, fished with either hair rigged 15mm Pellets
or Boilies on one rod and a scaled up Method Feeder with Pellets on the other,
both of which were to prove incredibly effective at catching possibly the
smallest Carp in any of the 6 waters that form the fishery. The one aspect of
this ‘big fish water’ that we failed to pre-empt was the sheer number of small
fish. Ironic, I hear you say.
Throughout the session, from the first hour to the last, we
were constantly bombarded by small Carp in the 1-3lbs range, interspersed by
the odd Bream and Tench. Carp of this size are hugely outnumbered by 4-6lbs
fish throughout the fishery, therefore we were confounded as to why there were
so many here.
As our frustrations perpetuated through the hours of
darkness and into first light, a hugely inadequate amount of sleep and the
appearance of our 42nd 2lb Carp was almost enough to facilitate a
huge tantrum. It’s easy, in situations like this and particularly on commercial
waters, to look to impose a certain amount of culpability. Accusations of poor
fishery management, inadequate stocking densities or poor stocking ratios could
all very well be muttered through petted lips. However, we were not willing to
drop to such levels quite yet.
Positivity is imperative in fishing and a colossal huff
isn’t going to benefit anyone. I am a huge believer that commercial waters
should imitate natural fish populations and stock densities as closely as
possible. There would be little challenge in catching a 20lb fish in a water,
highly stocked with only 20lbers. There would be no blame sought if one failed
to catch a 3lb Perch on Loch Lomond and instead only managed a net of 8oz – 1lb
fish. Therefore I find it interesting how many of us change our outlook on
On this occasion, what we gained from this session was
knowledge and experience, two of the most important attributes an angler can
possess. Also important is initiative and perseverance and it is this
resourcefulness and determination that will be applied when we return. This
time with baits big enough to choke a Goat. I’d like to see the wee blighters
get their rubbery lips around that.
There are, without doubt some very nice fish to be caught
and the venue is justified in being entitled ‘The Specimen Lake’. The
unforeseen presence of small fish, albeit a massive amount of them, is purely
another hurdle on the route to success and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
*No Goats were harmed in this session, nor will they be in
The Clyde and it’s sea lochs are where I first became hooked on all things fishing, but even 30 years ago at the age of five, I had missed the haydays of Clyde sea angling by a couple of decades. Days where masses of huge Cod, Coalfish, Haddock and many more could be promised on almost every fishing session. At least that’s what I had been told.
In the years that followed, the Clyde was blighted by commercial nets and fished to the brink of obliteration. However, in recent times, this iconic fishing and shipping waterway has shown the very slightest glimmer of recovery.
In many people’s opinion, the Clyde will never be as it once was and unfortunately I am one of them, but there is hope. The fertile waters of the Clyde estuary, teaming with an abundance of food sources has, in recent years, become a rich nursery ground for many species. Cod, Pollack, Coalfish and even Haddock, although some more than others, are beginning to make a recovery, signaling the possible regeneration of the Clyde.
All of these species and many more are showing signs of a slow comeback and there are a few others showing up for the first time in any real number.
Our fishing over the weekend consisted of two short sessions. One for a species, that until now has continued to thrive in the Clyde and one for a fish that is a relative newcomer to these waters.
Our first session started two hours from low tide with a bucket and Garden fork. We have had previous success with this species on lures and even on the fly but on this occasion we were hoping for some slightly bigger Bass on more traditional beach methods.
An hour and a half later and with a bucket of Rag and Lug we were on our way to our chosen mark. The plan was to fish the tide in and into darkness. However what we had failed to anticipate was the shear speed at which the tide flows over the shallow incline of the sand bar and were hastily pushed up the shore before being forced to call it a night. Although not before we managed some success.
Using two hook ‘Flapper’ rigs with size 2 Sakuma hooks and 6oz grip leads, on 13’ 8” Surf rods and fishing up to 100 meters out into the channel we were quickly into some fish. First cast produced a thumping knock after only a few minutes, which resulted in a Bass of around 2lb. Not the bigger fish we were hoping for but a lovely start all the same.
From then on it was down to a race against the Crabs and the Tide. Regular casts were needed as our baits were being stripped within minutes of being in the water. If there was no interest from a fish within 5-10 minutes it was in with the rods and fresh bait applied. A good bucket of worms doesn’t last long on occasions like this.
Despite the ravenous crustaceans and the relentless flood of the tide, we still managed five fish between us before heading for the respite of drier land. Still no big fish but all Bass between 1.5 and 2lbs and an encouraging sign for the future.
Returning home at around 11.30pm there was little time to rest. The plan for our second session was to hit the last of the ebb of the same tide that was on our heels all night in search of another bar of silver that has continued to do relatively well on the Clyde.
At 6am the following morning we were on our second mark. This was the same area where we had collected bait the evening before where our confidence was bolstered by some big fish hitting the surface. Therefore it was with high hopes that we entered the water in the hunt for some of the Clyde’s Sea Trout.
I have had Sea Trout on lures, on the fly and, by happy accident, with fish baits while targeting other species. On this occasion we thought we would adopt a slightly different method, albeit not the most traditional.
Fresh strips of Mackerel were free-lined in the tide using light spinning rods and mounted on a size 8 single hook with a size 12 treble 4” below which provides a neat and natural presentation.
Initially, conditions were less than perfect with little wind and clear skies but as the morning progressed, conditions improved with a breeze creating a nice ripple. Wading the shoreline it wasn’t until two hours into the session that I felt a rattle on the rod tip. As the excitement grew I opened the bail and waited for the fish to move off. Nothing! A couple of twitches of the bait soon provoked further interest, this time the fish confidently taking and moving of with the bait. A swift sweep of the rod and the fish was on, immediately going airbourne. Several acrobatic leaps later a small but very welcome fish was in the net and after a quick snap was soon on it’s way.
A further hour passed with little to show and it wasn’t until thoughts of heading home, due to both of us ironically suffering from leaky waders, that Gordon got a thump on the rod. There was no hesitation with this fish as it took off with the bait. A quick strike and it too was on. With this one keeping it’s head down there was a feeling that this could very well be a better fish and as the anticipation grew the fish finally came to the net. A beautifully marked, slightly bronzed Sea Trout of around 2.5lbs was the prize and although not the size we firstly thought, it was a stunning fish.
It’s amazing how the early stages of Hypothermia and Trench Foot can be staved off with the appearance of a nice fish. Rather than head home as we were so close to doing, we endured water filled waders for a further hour in search of another. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and grudgingly, we began the long squelchy walk back to the car.
This was a great success for two short sessions of 3-4 hours each and helps instill some confidence that a mildly improved situation could lie ahead for the Clyde. There is no doubt that these are challenging times for the area and the decisions we make could make or break this delicate ecosystem.
Our latest session saw us head
south to Dumfries and Galloway in search of some Carp action on light gear. All
too often many anglers are guilty of setting out ‘over gunned’ for these fish
but there is no better way to fully enjoy the pure dogged power of these fish than
to target them on the Quivertip.
Fishing at close range with
pellet baits, paired up with a Method feeder, placed in the margins or under an
overhanging tree and awaiting the rod slamming over must be one of the most exciting ways to catch Carp.
After a slow start with only a
few Bream, Roach and Ide showing interest, we finally found the Carp and
thereafter it was non-stop sport. We didn’t manage any big fish, the best being
around the 8lb mark, but on light gear you don’t really need them.
Commercial Coarse fishing may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, it can be great fun and although it might not be the most challenging fishing, I thoroughly recommend you give it a go. Even if just once.
On the back of the relative success of our previous early morning Tench session we chose to spend another few hours in a bid to better it. However on this occasion we set out late in the day with the intentions of fishing into darkness. Our chosen venue was as previous and again we had opted to fish the feeder on the Quiver Tip.
As before, we were facing a blustery easterly wind which is never ideal and for the first hour and a half we couldn’t buy a bite. As the wind eased later in the evening and the light started to change, our luck also took a turn for the better as my rod, fished at distance against an island, arced over and an unmissable bite resulted in our first fish being hooked. Up until then such bites hadn’t come our way with Gordon missing his first two and a slight air of frustration had started to creep in. This time the fish ended in the net, a nice male fish of 2lb 10oz and we were off the mark.
It was a fair while later before we got our next chance. This time a solid bump followed by a drop back saw fish number two being hooked on the same rod and from the same area as the first. This one felt fairly substantial and after a bit of a tussle, she too was safely in the net, a chunky fish and again another PB at 3lb 5oz. Fish of this size may not be remarkable in any way but giving my limited experience with Tench I was pretty happy with it.
Fishing remained slow with only a single fish each thereafter. Both fish, although very small, were perfect miniature examples of the species with Gordon’s fish being by far the smallest. Nevertheless, at least he got his fish. He was to get one last fish at the last second of fishing, a fish so miniscule that it went undetected until the rig was lifted from the water and although of diminutive stature it was another perfect example. This time, a fin perfect little Rudd.
These small fish, although not overly exciting to catch, are great to see as they are a clear example of the overall health of the fish population. These fish, in particular the Tench, seem to be breeding successfully which may bode well for the future of this little pond, assuming numbers don’t exceed the functional capacity of a limited ecosystem. This is always a possibility when an ecosystem has an obvious absence of predators thus resulting in over population of a particular species. In cases such as these the end result is generally a large number of very stunted fish.
However not to end on such a negative point, this was another great short session which resulted in fish on the bank. Perhaps not in the numbers we were hoping for but some lovely fish all the same. The Tench is very much finding itself nudging into my favourite fish list.
If there is one Coarse fish that I have been guilty of neglecting over the years, it must be the Tench. However, a few weeks ago I made a point of targeting these beautiful fish for the first time in a tiny pond but found it almost impossible to get through the masses of Rudd. I did manage one very small Tench and thereafter vowed to give them a lot more of my time in future.
This morning saw the chance for me to keep my word. Another pond was needed and I had been hearing of a perfect candidate. Unfortunately I can’t elaborate any further as I’ve promised not to give the location away.
A 3.30am start saw us arrive at the venue in almost perfect conditions, slight cloud cover and very little wind and promptly afterwards we had lines in the water. I had opted for Quivertip rods and feeder tactics, one rod set up with a standard Method rig and the other with a heli-rigged cage feeder with Gordon adopting a similar set up. Hook baits were maggots, Corn and worms.
Gordon was first to get the first interest within 30 minutes but what had shown interest in his worm was no Tench, indeed it wasn’t even a fish. Gordon had just bagged his PB Terrapin. Luckily it was only lightly hooked and was returned with no problem.
I was next to get a bite, a solid bump followed by a huge drop back. A sweep of the rod tip and the fish was on. After a nice fight in barely 3 feet of water the fish was on the bank, a lovely fish of around 3lbs and having only caught a couple of Tench in the past, a new PB.
Another 2 fish quickly came my way, another of around 2-3lbs and a small hard fighting male of about 1 1/2lbs before Gordon finally got his shot and another small male graced us with his presence.
At around 7am the bites started to die off. This was expected but perhaps not quite so soon. The strengthening Easterly wind may have had an input but nevertheless a productive few hours was had and it was home in time for breakfast.
This was one of the shortest sessions we have had recently but a positive and enjoyable one. I can safely say that these fish will without a doubt be featuring in my future fishing plans and with any luck, a few more Tincas will be on the bank.
The only down side of a good run of success is that sooner or later it’s inevitably going to come to an end. This little Pike and a couple of micro Perch were all that rescued us from the dreaded ‘blank’ as we once again endured another marathon session in search of some more Lomond magic.
Our original plan was an early start on an area on the East shore of the loch, however this was promptly scuppered as the forecasted strong westerly wind would have made fishing incredibly difficult. Little did we know that our second choice of venue on the opposite side of the loch would stand us in no better stead.
A last minute change of start time and indeed a change of target species saw us arrive at around 8pm, 8 hours earlier than initially planned. Our intentions were to pre bait a well known Bream area and fish through the few hours of darkness in a bid to put a few slabs in the net.
We had put in the groundwork and found a suitable area, some clean ground in around 20 feet of open water. There was no scrimping on bait either. A fluffy sweet goundbait infused with corn, hemp, micro pellets and maggots was fed into the swim via 20 – 30 large feederfuls prior to fishing, when additional bait would be added on each cast. There was no doubt that we had done our homework and put in the legwork.
At this point I would like to say that our industrious work was well rewarded but nothing can be further from the truth. At around 10pm the Midges descended but that wasn’t going to deter us as, like any well prepared Scottish angler, we had come equipped. At around 11pm the midges left as the heavens opened but that wasn’t going to chase us either. 4 very wet hours later the rain eased as the sky lightened and the midges returned. Throughout this turmoil, we continued to fish, however probably not as effectively as we could have, but to no avail. Rarely does 4 hours seem such a ridiculously long time.
After a fishless, cold and wet night many others made of weaker stuff or indeed with any sense may have admitted defeat, packed up and headed home for a hot bath, a hot meal and a warm bed. However, with a massive blank staring us right in the face, that was not going to happen. We are clearly far too stubborn for that to even be an option.
After discussing our realistic options, we decided to move the few hundred yards around the gravel pit to Loch Lomond it’s self. It may only have been 300 yards or so but when you are carrying more gear than a Himalayan Sherpa through a literal jungle, a fair amount of effort is needed and yet again our enthusiasm was put to the test.
On our eventual arrival, we were greeted by the full splendor of Loch Lomond in the ever strengthening morning sun, which helped provide a much needed motivational boost and a renewed sense of optimism. Here we were hoping for…. Well, a fish…. Any fish!
As well as our Bream set up we had been fishing a couple of Pike rods at last and first light and these were once again deployed and were probably our best chance of a fish. The feeder rods were also put to use once more in the hope of perhaps some Perch, Roach or by some miracle, maybe even a Bream.
As the time ticked on, coupled with a strengthening SW wind and with tiredness setting in, yet again our hopes started to fade until a glimmer of hope in the shape of a small Perch was unceremoniously pulled from the loch. Never has either of us been so happy to see such a small fish. At that point a sound, which had become nonexistent over the last 12 hours caught both our attentions. It sounded very much like how a bite alarm used to sound. We finally had our chance.
I must admit, it felt great to finally have a fish on the line and after a spirited fight we had a modest Pike in the net and a hard won Pike at that. At last that bath, meal and a sleep was in sight. All we had to do was hike back to Basecamp.
This was a tough session but I always say that days like these are invaluable and allow us to totally appreciate the good days. Once again, determination and perseverance eventually paid off. However I do hope that our next few sessions are slightly easier.
It’s worth noting that when times get tough, it pays to just take a step back and have a look at where you are. We are privileged to have such stunning scenery in which to cast a line and much of it, right on our doorstep
Located a mere 20 miles from Glasgow city centre and widely known as the Gateway to the Highlands lies a body of water which could very well be described as an inland sea. At 24 miles long and up to 6 miles wide Loch Lomond is the jewel in the crown of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
Highland Boundary Fault, a line of geological weakness that traverses Scotland
from south west to north east, Lomond is a loch of contrasts. To the north of
the fault, which can be clearly marked as it crosses the loch by the islands of
Inchmurrin, Creinch, Torrinch and Inchcailloch, Lomond is typical of a highland
glacial loch with depths plummeting to over 600feet. To the south lies the
‘South Basin,’ which averages a depth of only 30 feet characterising this area
as a classic lowland loch.
above the water line is too of stark contrast, with the almost barren Crom Mhin
and Endrick flood plains reaching out towards the Campsie Fells in the south
east and the Leven Valley guiding the lochs outflow, the River Leven, south
towards the Clyde Estuary. Whilst to the north, the view is dominated by the 3000ft.
peaks of the South West Highlands casting a watchful eye over the loch below.
So besides a
stunningly beautiful and dramatic arena, what opportunities can Loch Lomond
provide the visiting angler? Historically, the loch has been predominantly
renowned for it’s Salmon and Sea Trout and in more recent times it’s
outstanding Pike fishing, with several fish of over 40lbs coming to the net in
recent years. However, this ‘Angler’s Paradise’ has far more to offer and as I
have recently discovered, can produce some excellent sport for the Coarse
Loch Lomond, in
particular the south basin, has a claim to hold more species of fresh water
fish than any other body of water in the UK. Game species such as Salmon, Sea
Trout, Brown Trout and Arctic Char share the depths with the likes of Roach,
Dace, Rudd, Perch, Pike, Carp, Tench, Bream, Chub and Powan (a native fish
found in only 3 lochs in Scotland) with several of these species growing to
It is worth noting
that that several of these species are not indigenous to the loch and have
found their way here over the years by un-intentional stocking, most probably
by Pike anglers releasing their live baits at the end of their session. One of
the most famous of these invasive species is the Ruffe, which has fairly or
otherwise, received a bad reputation for eating the eggs of other species, in
particular those of the endangered and now protected Powan. Nevertheless, Loch
Lomond now harbors one of the most diverse subaqueous ecosystems in the country,
which in turn provides the angler with a plethora of possible species to pit
their wits against.
On such a vast
expanse of water it can sometimes be difficult to establish the best areas in
which to fish. It can often feel rather daunting as you approach the loch and
are greeted by miles of shoreline giving way to thousands of acres of open
water. However, as with any potential venue there are some guidelines to
follow. On any water, small, large or massive it is imperative to fish to
features. I still use a nice analogy quoted by a well-known angler when
explaining the importance of features to friends, the basis of which asks the
question, “If you were in a large open field and in this field stood one old
Oak Tree, where would you choose to have a picnic?” The following look of
sudden enlightenment still makes me smile.
On Loch Lomond
such features could be shallow bays, rocky outcrops, points, drop offs,
channels between islands and the shore, river mouths, even man made features
like jetties, marinas and moorings. All of these give an angler an area on
which to focus their attention. This division of the loch into smaller, more
manageable sections can ease the intimidation factor of a big loch, giving a
huge confidence boost, and as we all know in fishing, confidence is key.
So once a suitable,
hopefully perfect, area has been chosen, how do you maximise your chances of
catching fish? Well as always this depends on your chosen target species. From
my experience over the last few years, the huge shoals of silver fish and
Hybrids (predominantly Roach x Bream hybrids) provide the most consistent and often
hectic sport. For these fish and for the reasons that follow, I have found
feeder tactics to be best.
For the majority
of areas I fish on the loch, a fairly substantial cast of 50 to 80 yards is
needed, often into a depth of water of up to 30 feet, especially in the winter
when the best fishing is to be found in deeper water. There is also the added
challenge of the loch’s notorious blustery weather conditions. Therefore a
medium sized 25 – 35 grams open ended cadge feeder and low diameter main line
The depth of water
will also determine the consistency of my ground bait, which is normally a base
of brown crumb combined with a hemp based mix, a red coloured ‘silver fish’ mix
and a generous helping of maggots. The deeper the water the wetter I make the
mix to help it stay in the feeder all the way to the bottom. It is worth noting
that I have also found a simple maggot feeder to produce results, however a
good ground bait mix and plenty of it tends to pull fish into the swim quicker
and hold them there for longer. I would tend to use around 4kgs of mix and up
to 2 pints of maggots in an 8 hour session. As for a favorite hook bait,
nothing more complicated than a single or double maggot although corn seems to
The end set up is
normally fairly simple, consisting of the feeder, with a small bead either
side, running on a 6 – 8” loop tied directly to the main line with a hook
length of 8 -12” and a size 18 – 16 Kamasan B980 hook.
Once the set up is
complete, the bank sticks are in place and you’ve established a feature on the
horizon to cast to, it’s time for the hard work to truly begin. This style of
fishing is not for those seeking a relaxing day on the bank. However the harder
you are prepared to work, more often than not, the more you will reap the
rewards. Initially, casts every 3-4 minutes delivering a fresh feeder full of
ground bait to the same area will give you the best chance of pulling fish into
your swim quickly. On occasions I have had fish show interest almost instantly,
although generally it takes a little bit of time to draw them in. The key is to
continue adding bait to the swim and eventually the fish will show. I have
found on most occasions that the first enquiries can be very delicate as the
fish will at first be cautious, therefore be prepared to miss a lot of bites.
Keep casting and keep hitting any movement on the rod tip. This constant
addition of bait will continue to draw in more fish and increase
competitiveness within the shoal. As this competitiveness increases the bites
will become more aggressive therefore a lot easier to make contact with
although you still need to be as quick as a wild west gun fighter.
In essence, you
have facilitated a feeding frenzy and at this stage it is probable that the
second your bait and feeder hit the bottom you will see twitches on the rod
tip. The challenge here is determining when a fish has taken the hook bait
rather than fish simply attacking the contents of the feeder. This is an aspect
of this style of fishing that I still find excitingly frustrating.
Now that you have
freely feeding fish in front of you it is all too easy to relax and perhaps
take your foot of the gas a little, but be warned, the shear size of some of
the shoals of fish on Loch Lomond can sometimes make it difficult to keep them
in the swim for any length of time. As soon as the food supply runs out these
fish will not hang around so keep working and keep re-casting.
Don’t be surprised
if the first couple of hours only seem to be producing small fish. More often
than not, continuing to fish hard and maintaining a rhythm will soon see some
larger fish move in, pushing the smaller Roach and Dace off the feed. This is
generally when Lomond’s infamous Hybrids make an appearance often accompanied
by some better Roach and the occasional ‘Slab’. These Hybrids are hard fighting
fish that regularly go to over 4lbs and are an absolute joy to catch.
Other species most
likely to make an appearance are Perch, Ruffe and, during the winter, possibly
a Powan. If you are lucky enough to catch one of these beautiful fish, please,
bear in mind that it is of high priority, that this rare and endangered species
are returned directly to the water as quickly as possible and not placed in a
keep net at any point.
Loch Lomond is
big. It’s wild. And it’s a million miles from any commercial Coarse fishery. It
can be daunting and prone to throwing up a challenge or two. Although if you
are willing to work hard, persevere and explore in some of the most breath
taking scenery in the country, fishing for truly wild fish then I can not
recommend Loch Lomond enough.
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