Well the month started off on a bait hunt to get the winter bait stocks up to a decent level, I headed for my usual mackerel mark to be greeted with at least 10 other people busy fishing away, I did get to my normal place and started fishing with near instant effect, my normal tinsel feathers working well for me until the sun disappeared under some heavy looking clouds and the bites dropped off so a quick change of feathers to ones with green beads for heads. The change was certainly worth it and bites continued throughout the rest of the session, I ended up with 42 mackerel in the bucket and our pesky seal had 6 off me on the way in, a great start to getting the bait freezer full for the winter.
You know your on the fish when the gear looks like this.
With the wife, daughter and granddaughters packed off for a weeks holiday I had a chance to get my cousin up from Newcastle to see if we could get him a couple of new species, target from the shore was a common skate and spurdog. We headed to the west highlands of Scotland to try for a shore common skate, I equipped John with a T1200 and fixed spool reel loaded with 60lb braid topped off with a 10m 150lb mono leader. Rigs are simple long pulley rigs with a 12/0 debarbed hook. Baits are whole mackerel mounted with the hook buried deep inside the bait. We were certainly lucky with the weather with a nice sunny day with a gentle breeze to keep the dreaded midges away. We got a couple of general rods set up I opted for my T1000/6500 combo with a single clipped down rig baited with sandeel and mackerel cocktail and cast as far as I could. The TT-R/9000C combo is my choice of weapon to target big skate from the shore, the reel is old but carbontex drag washers are a fantastic upgrade allowing the line to leave the spool smoothly under lots of pressure, the line is 80lb braid with a 10m 150lb mono leader. We both got the big gear out fishing and the wait was on. I had also packed my mackerel gear and started the hunt for some fresh bait, it took a couple of casts to find the mackerel but they were there and in numbers, great fun and far too addictive as it wasn’t too long before the bait bucket was starting to get full.
I had neglected my general rod and on retrieving it I had a nice thornback ray pulling back as I reeled in, nice to see that something was feeding in the bright sunshine, in fact that’s was the first of five nice thornback ray over the session. They certainly have some stunning markings as can be seen on the photo.
Cracking markings on the thornback one of five in the session
John found a couple of doggies and a thornback ray as the tide started to flood and we continued to catch mackerel when we found them. Things started to slow a little towards mid water until John’s skate rod took a really heavy thump of a bite and the fixed spool started to spin as line started to peel out into the water as something took off with his 12/0 and whole mackerel bait, he called out to myself and picked up the rod tightened down on the reel drag and the T1200 tip hooped over into a good curve, John was sure he had found a rock and was stuck fast, trouble was there is nothing on the bottom in front of us to get hung up on it could only be one thing and hopefully it was our target fish a common skate. I advised John to really heave at the rod and sure enough the fish disengaged with the bottom and started to come toward us, as it started to rise in the clear water I could definitely make out the shape of a skate or a very large thornback ray but as she got higher in the water I could definitely make out the sharp snout of a common skate heading to the surface, now this was a very very unusual fish, it was quite small 9lb to be exact and it is very rare catch as the average size Skate from this mark must be around the 160lb mark. We landed the fish safely and the de barbed hook was removed with out trouble but she had three skate leaches on her, two on her vent and a long one on the base of her tail, these were removed and she swam strongly away back into the depths where she cane from. Job done and yet another new species for John.
Very unusual capture a baby Common Skate and another new one for John
We fished on into darkness and a couple more doggies and rays made the time pass quickly and as the light faded the wind dropped away and yes you guessed it the midges came out to play, another application of Smidge saw me clear but John was still getting swarmed with them, I asked him why he didn’t put his midge net on, a puzzled look came over his face…….I gave him the one I had in my bag and a little instruction in how to put it over his head saw him a little more comfortable, moral of this tale is never leave home without your midge net when in the west highlands of Scotland. We packed up around midnight and caught a little sleep in the car before we headed for our second mark of the trip, target this time Spurdog. Boy was it warm and we set up and got our rods our and fishing, sandeel/mackerel/squid cocktails were the order of the day, rigs were a little more conventional with 1/0 manta extra hooks loop rigs and single clipped down rigs, however when targeting spurs short wire biting sections about 6″ long to the hook are a sensible precaution to prevent getting bit off as the spurs have a great set of very sharp teeth. My choice of wire is the 7*7 AFW wire is very supple and kink resistant, in fact it’s the best wire I have every used. John had the first fish of the session out a small red Codling then a couple of doggies, I eventually had a couple of doggies myself and the sun continued to stream down and the morning got warmer and warmer. An hour before low water John’s T1200 tip went down and a slack line bite signaling something hitting his bait hard, John wound down on the fish and it took off nodding heavily throughout the fight, the fish hit the surface and thrashed about on the weed at the bottom of the beach, a quick scrabble down by yours truly saw the fish safely retrieved, yes it was John’s first Spurdog and a good one at that the scales hit 7 1/4lb, talk about hitting targets !
The smile says it all John with his first Spurdog and a nice one at that
We fished on and had another couple of doggies but it continued to get warmer and warmer and the late night really drained us both of our remaining energy, we packed up and headed home glad to have the air conditioning in the car to cool us both off. It really is a privilege to be able to help people to catch the fish of their dreams and add a new species to their list of fish, it’s almost as good as catching the fish myself. I’m sure John with long remember both his first shore caught Common Skate and Spurdog for a very long time. As we get older these are the days that we will remember as we sit as old men and look back on our west highlands adventure and by that time John’s first Common Skate will be 200lbs and his first spurdog will be the same size as Jaws, they never get any smaller as time passes that’s for sure.
Tight lines to you all