Thursday, 30 June 2011

Time flies

How time flies when things are busy in life ..and Im trying to slow my pace down a notch ?

It has been a hectic week and I cant believe it is almost the weekend again. The forecast is looking good for another boat journey and Im hoping to try somewhere new . I have not decided where yet but have a few options in mind. I will finish my Lismore journey on my return. Stay tuned :-D

Monday, 27 June 2011

Lismore Skerries and Loch Linnhie Marina

I had wanted to explore the skerries around the island of Lismore for quite a while, but couldn’t decide where the best place to launch the boat would be. I “toured” round Loch Creran several times in Google map, looking for a possible place but found nothing. The two best options that I found were the public slipway at Ganavan bay just north of Oban or Loch Linnhie Marina opposite the Island of Shuna. I didn’t consider the slip at Port Appin because I know its a very popular place for visitors and parking is impossible for a car, never mind a car and trailer.

I was put off launching at Ganavan bay as its a fair stretch of open water over to Lismore and will be exposed if the wind started to whip the water up. I decided to try Loch Linnhie Marina as it was the closest one to the skerries around Port Ramsay on Lismore.

There are quiet strong tides in the area so I had to wait until both the weather was calm and the tides going in the right direction to assist the boat rather than try and fight with them.

I arrived at the Marina at 8am on the Thursday morning. The tide was full in and just on the turn. I knew the outgoing tide would carry me down the Sound of Shuna towards Lismore. My plan was to explore the skerries to the north of Lismore then head down the west side to Castle Coeffin, head back to Port Ramsay and have lunch before heading down the east side of Lismore at low water when little or no tide would be flowing through the narrows opposite Port Appin. The incoming tide would then carry me back to the launch point.

Loch Linnhie Marina at eight in the morning. It was mid week so not many people around. It was £10 to launch and recover and that included parking for the car and trailer. I didn’t complain at that price.

The excellent slipway meant that I could reverse down to the water’s edge and launch using the car. I was afloat and ready to go exploring in no time at all.

I headed north for a bit to give all the mooring buoys a wide berth. I suspected the ropes anchoring the buoys could snag my propeller if I went too close.

Then I turned down the channel towards Lismore. I had the fish finder switched on as the channel meandered a little and the water was quite shallow if I wandered off track. It would have been easy to follow the channel markers instead but I was more interested in watching the fish finder. It worked a treat although it didn’t show a single fish.

I headed towards castle Stalker to get some photos of it from the seaward side, however the fish finder put me off that idea quite quickly, when it started registering only five feet of water and I was still a long way off.

There were a few local boats around so I gave them a wide berth. It looks like they were keeping an eye on me too, just to make sure I gave them a wide berth. This one followed the channel markers and obviously knew which side the green ones were to be passed on and which side was red ones.

The wind was dropping away to nothing and the sea turning like a mirror so I headed straight offshore from Castle Stalker until the fish finder read 150ft deep.

I stopped the engine and let the boat drift in the tide. I then dropped a set of mackerel feathers over the side. There was no fish showing on the fish finder but I was certain they would appear shortly ? Next moment the finder showed bottom to be 24ft below the boat ? I knew this was impossible as I had hardly moved six feet so wound in the mackerel flies thinking it was a shoal of mackerel at 24ft. I jigged them up and down around that depth but nothing was biting. Next moment the fish finder showed bottom at 150ft again ? This happened several times and I was beginning to wonder if the fish finder was broken :(

Then all became clear. A seal surfaced its cheeky head about twenty feet from me. I presume it was playing under the boat at 24ft and that is what the finder was showing. I reeled in my line and moved off. I didn’t want to catch a seal for dinner.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Loch Goil and Loch Long

Happy with my half dozen fish, I then decided to have a look down Loch Long. I was aware there was a slipway at the village of Ardentiny on the Cowal Peninsula so decided to visit it. But first I headed to the little lighthouse on Dog Rock at the northern junction of Loch Goil and Loch Long. Last year I spotted some porpoise in this area but I was out of luck this time. Not that I wanted to fish for them or anything like that, I just wanted to catch a photograph of them playing on the surface. They are a lot smaller than dolphins and perhaps a bit shyer too ?

I took this photograph as I changed direction and headed south towards Ardentiny. The entrance to Loch Goil looks much narrower from this angle.

I was enjoying my journey south when I got that strange feeling that I was being watched ? Looking across to the other side of the loch I saw a stationary boat. It seemed to swivel in the water as I passed by, as if its bow was always pointing at me. I got the binoculars out and had a look. was watching my every move. It was the Police Launch that patrols the water in front of Coulport, the nuclear submarine base. It started its engines and followed my path as I headed south but on the other side of the loch. I didn’t want to antagonise the situation by taking photographs so left my camera in its bag.

Once I cleared Coulport it stopped, so I got my camera out and snapped the eider ducks on my side of the loch. I could feel the police binoculars on my back but they didn’t follow.

A little later I took some photographs of a bunch of Herons. They looked quite unusual to me as they were perched in the trees rather than wading in the water’s edge. That’s when the wind blew up a bit and the waves started to rise.

I wasn’t far from Ardentiny and could see the slip in the distance but Loch Long opens up at this point. I decided to turn round and run with the waves on my stern, back to the sheltered waters of Loch Goil while the going was good. The patrol boat watched my every move and again followed me until I cleared the naval base.

I enjoy Loch Goil, but I wont bother too much with Loch Long.. the MOD are welcome to it. By the time I got back to Lochgoilhead, the tide was full in so my timing was good. A short pull with the winch soon had the boat back in the car park and I was heading for home. Another good boating journey behind me.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Loch Goil, some mackerel and the kipper

Leaving the seals to sleep of their fish suppers, assuming they had found some fish earlier, I started to make my way to Carrick Castle. I had caught a few mackerel there last year so was keen to try my luck again this year. I slowly motored along trolling as I went but neither lure nor fish finder gave any indication of fish life.

I past the MOD buoy and noted the depth, it was built on a mound as it was only 12ft deep at this point although it went to fifty feet quite quickly. Im still not sure what it’s purpose is but I think it acts like a set of traffic lights ? Certainly I have seen a bright light in the silver tube change from red to white to green and back again.

I was now trolling quite happily off the little village of Carrick, the sea was flat calm and the sun had some heat to it.

At the end of the village lies Carrick Castle. I little while back I noticed a couple of apartments for sale in the sandstone building beside the castle. I could quite easily retire to somewhere like that and the flats were in my price range. Perhaps one day soon ?

Approaching Loch Goil marker buoy No 2, I cut the engine and changed from trolling lure to a set of mackerel flies. I thought that if I was to get any fish today, it would be here. The buoy is near the junction of Loch Goil and Loch Long. The boat stopped with hardly any drift as there was no wind. I dropped the flies overboard and waited as the four ounce lead weight took them to the bottom.

That’s when the fish finder started doing something fishy. It looked like a bush slowly moving just above the bottom of the loch. It was 95ft to the bottom. I felt the weight bounce along as I jigged the flies gentle up and down. Next moment.. holy mackerel..I got a bite :-D

Winding in I found I had caught two fish. The bottom one was a mackerel but the top one looked more like a silver kipper ?

It was in fact a herring. I had hit a shoal of fish that were on the bottom of the loch. That’s why trolling a lure along the surface was hopeless, the fish are still down deep. The fish finder kept showing the shoal swim around a bit and I caught a few more. However once I had a half dozen for the pot, I stopped fishing. I only take what I can eat and a few extra for the freezer.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Loch Goil and the seal colony

I slowly puttered down the loch, enjoying the early morning sunshine. I was trolling my mackerel lure along behind the boat and kept a close eye on the fish finder. I was surprised how flat the bottom of the loch was. I always imagined it to be very rocky and full of gullies and holes, Im not sure why I thought that though?

There are a couple of “no go” Ministry of Defence areas in the loch, but they are clearly marked with buoys. Don’t venture into them of the police launch will quickly pull you over.

I kept to the west side of the loch and no one troubled me. There are some lovely houses on the banks. This tree house looks bigger than my house.

The rhododendrons were in full bloom and gave a nice touch of colour to the banking. Last year I found a small seal colony lived in this area. I kept an eye open to see if they were still around.

Yup..they are still in the area and looked even lazier than last year. They gave me no more that a quick glance as I passed, then went back to sleep.

It didn’t surprise me that the fish finder didn’t detect any fish in this area. I guessed the seals would find them long before I would.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Loch Goil and my sonar submarine searcher

Loch Goil was another favourite place to visit last year in my inflatable boat and I wondered if I could still access it with the rigid boat. I knew the parking was quite busy during the summer months at weekends and the local outbound school used the slip ramp for scouts to launch their canoes and dinghys etc. I was on holiday so thought that a mid week visit would suit best. It paid off as I had the place to myself although I also admit that I was there at 7.30am in the morning.

The slip is off the car park right in the centre of the sleepy village of Lochgoilhead. You can reverse the boat right to the ramp and if you have a four wheel drive you could drive right to the waters edge. I don’t risk my old front wheel drive car on anything but tarmac so lowered the boat and trailer manually down the ramp with a rope turned round my towbar.

Although the tide was full out, it was easy enough to push it across the firm shingle beach into the water.

I then portaged the engines down on my sack barrow and twenty minutes after arriving in Lochgoilhead, I had the boat on the water and rigged ready to go.

Its a shallow sloping beach so I rowed out a fair distance before dropping the outboard and starting it up.

The loch looked very inviting in the early morning sun. I was hoping to catch a fish or three with a secret weapon.

On the hills the dark clouds started to break and clear. I felt good, something told me that this was going to be my lucky day. I switched on my new toy.

The day before, I had invested in one of these new fangled electronic gizmo things that find fish, and I was desperate to try it out. Yup, I was now taking my fishing very seriously and was determined to try anything to catch one. Instead of waiting for a fish to find my lure, I was trying a new tactic, I was going to find the fish first..then put my lure in front of its nose.

At switch on, I was delighted to see that it worked perfectly. The red line shows the seabed and it is 89ft below my boat. There was no point fishing here because there is not a fish to be seen anywhere. All I have to do now is find them and its mackerel murder time ... don’t you just love modern technology :-D

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Loch Etive and almost another seagull

After watching the climbers do their climbing and not feeling the fish doing any nibbling, I headed for the new pier at the head of the loch. That is where the lumber boat "Ben Maye" was now moored patiently waiting for the felled trees to be loaded on board.

It has been proposed that the new pier will be left for recreation use once the timber operations are complete. There are also plans to provide a new cycle track along the north west banks of the loch from Bonawe to Glen Etive. I am enjoying the isolation while I can. It would be a shame for the loch to end up like Loch Lomond , full of jet skiers and weekend party campers. I already avoid going down the Glen Etive road in the summer months as the rubbish left by irresponsible campers breaks my heart.

It was almost mid day now so I started heading back down the loch, but first I stopped off at the lovely sandy bays at Rubha Aird Rainich. The bays are on the opposite side of the loch and almost level with Rubha Bharr. They would make a lovely wild camp mooring too..perhaps for my next visit.

I took a walk along the shore to explore a little of the area. The sun was still shining but a weather front was fast approaching and the white horses started to appear on the loch.

I decided to wait a while to let the wind settle again, so I cooked some sausages for lunch. Very tasty they were too.. but a poor substitute for a fresh caught fish.

Once the BBQ was finished, I took all my rubbish home, I left only footprints and took only photographs, although I must confess, I would have happily taken some fish away with me.

With the clouds gathering and thickening fast, I headed for Taynuilt and the narrows before the wind freshened again. It had dropped slightly during my lunch break and the white horses had disappeared again.

As I neared Taynuilt, I noticed this cheeky seagull swooping in low for my lures. It followed me for a while and every time it thought I was not came within six feet of my hooks. I can attract and catch seagulls but not fish ? I must be doing something wrong ?

I managed to get the boat back on its trailer and everything packed up before the rain started..and it rained all the way home. Not that I cared..I had the best of the weather for my trip.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Loch Etive and the Trilleachan Slabs

Unlike the last time I tried to get to the head of the loch, this time it was flat calm. Not a whisper of wind to ripple the water. I had the engine on tick over and trolled a lure behind the boat as I was in no hurry. I was savouring every moment of the calm morning.

As I approached the ruins of one of the old piers, I stopped the engine and changed over to a set of mackerel feathers. I drifted slowly in the tide as I fished the bottom of the loch. I guessed it was around 100ft deep at this point.

I admit that I was caught hook, line and sinker when I saw these rubbery sand eels in the local tackle shop. They look and feel exactly like I imagine a real sand eel would. I threaded one onto the bottom hook and as I moved it slowly in the water, it had a very realistic action. I guess they are designed to catch fishermen better than fish. I never got a nibble.

I wound in my line and headed for the head of the loch, I had a feeling there was a blind starving sea trout up there somewhere , just waiting for me to put it out its misery.

The north shore is very pretty with its natural forest. Sometimes I have see deer lurking in its shady parts. I’m pleased to say the lumber men won’t be cutting this forest down as it’s a protected area of special interest.

Just one more point to round and I will be in the basin that is the head of Loch Etive. The twin peaks of the big and small Bauchailles form the distinctive V shaped backdrop.

But the most impressive mountain from this angle must be Beinn Trilleachian. The huge slabs of granite are a favourite for rock climbers.

I stopped the boat and lowered my hooks and latex eel into the depths of the loch as I scoured the heights hoping to catch a glimpse of rock climbers.

I didn’t have to wait long on such a sunny morning until a couple turned up. I have circled the lower climber. His partner is just above him and looked like he was hanging on by his finger nails. Its a long way down but it’s even further to the top, as they are still on the bottom slab.

I watched them through my binoculars as they slowly moved upwards. They were moving very slowly so I suspected they would be there longer that I was going to be sitting at my vantage point.

I admit that I was much happier in my little boat fishing, than to be climbing on the slabs. I never ventured onto them myself but when I was younger I used to climb a cliff or two. I don’t miss those days now and doubt if I could handle the adrenalin rush of such exposure at my age.

I just wished I could get my adrenalin flowing by catching a fish, but never the less ... I was at peace with the world.