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Isle of dogs.

I hope that you find my journal interesting and entertaining. If, having read this, you think that I am talking rubbish then at least you have stopped and thought about it long enough to come to that conclusion which is something of a result in my book. If you would like to comment on this article or anything else relating to my website, please feel free to contact me using the adjacent form. Feedback is always greatly appreciated and very helpful when it comes to improving both my site and my angling. Thank you for looking. If this form will not work for you, please e-mail me at editor@ericweight.co.uk
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For the first time I visited the Isle of Mull not with photography in mind, but sea fishing. Not for the first time, reality and my perception of what would happen were a world apart.

I have fished on Mull before, we always stay on the shores of Loch na Keal, an open sea loch, the mouth of which faces out past Ulva into the Atlantic. The weather can be both mean and generous in minutes. It can be calm and sunny on one side while you watch howling storms of torrential rain hammer along the opposite shoreline a mile or so away. Of course it works the other way round as well and others can enjoy watching you get a storm lashing.

The water is clear as gin, the shoreline mostly rocky and underfished. Thick beds of kelp sway in the tide, such as it is, and myriads of fish feed there and hide there from the otters, seals, divers, gannets, cormorants mergansers and herons. There are loads of fish, we know because we have caught them on lures in the past, predominantly pollack and coalfish along with the occasional codling. Unfortunately, in the past, they have been small with only the occasional fish of a pound or so to really pull back.

 

 

I've never used bait there, they have all taken ultra lite lures of an inch or so on 2 gram jigheads. So benign are the tidal currents, that they can be fished effectively across the top or twenty feet down clipping the kelp. Even the tiddlers scrap and we have caught hundreds.

This time, my sights were set higher. There is a mark at the entrance to the lock that is 150 feet deep a short cast out. Everywhere is rocky and weedy as far as I could see. I would target conger and dream of a small skate or spurdog. It would be so easy.

Obviously to be on the safe side I took everything but the kitchen sink. I packed every lead I owned from 2 oz to 8 oz. I expected losses, so I took stainless steel wire and a hot glue gun to make disposable weights from rocks and stones. It was bait that might be the big issue. The cottage had only ever had a fridge with a little freezer compartment inside before, so I just took a dozen frozen mackerel to tide me over. It has a fishing industry, mackerel would be easy to get hold of there. Big fish, deep water; I packed the 4-8oz beach rods and left it at that. Lure wise, I added some texas rig bits and 4" flukes to my standard, still packed from last time, ultra-lite stuff.

There was a song, 'he's mister know it all'. I am sure the guy (Stevie Wonder?) that wrote it must know me. The second line should be, 'actually he knows f*** all', because I got just about everything wrong. I only caught one species on bait - dogfish, and I didn't even identify those correctly to start with. I confidently explained to anybody that would listen that I was catching huss. They were so black. Until then
I had caught just one huss and one doggie from the channel. The former was very dark, the latter sandy coloured. Up here feeding over black volcanic rock they had adopted a colour to blend, and who wouldn't in shallow water with sea eagles scouring the surface and seals the sea-bed?

 

I worked it out after the first handful when it dawned on me that they were all around one and a half to two pounds and nothing bigger was going to turn up. I checked the tell-tale nasal flaps, as you do, definitely doggies. I ran out of bait and couldn't buy any on the island. They fish crabs, lobsters and shellfish, not mackerel but a kindly crab fisherman on Iona kindly bailed me out with a bagful of his pot baits, mackie heads and coley chunks. The smokehouse chipped in with a trout frame (head and spine ), but Loz nicked that for baiting birds down to the camera.

Leads? Lost two in a fortnight, sixty yards out the bottom was clean as a whistle and even with just 3 oz, the current couldn't put a bend in the rod tip. I could have easily got away with a heavy quivertip rod throwing two ounces.

I couldn't fish the deep water because there was a chain of pots along the shoreline there, just twenty yards out. I didn't waste my time though, I spent it testing rigs and eventually got my up and over rig working as reliably as the pulley. I figured that as dogfish feed in the same zone as conger and rays they would offer good feedback. In the main, I tested up and over rigs against pulleys and single hooks against a pennell arrangement, and 2/0 against 4/0.

I did get some tangles with both rigs, but neither was better than the other and it was only to be expected with no current to pull them straight. I have failed miserably on the Bristol channel with the up and over rig mainly, I think, because it would come unclipped in flight. The splash down clips that I use now have solved that issue and the up and over rig was the most productive by a country mile which was a huge surprise to me.

2/0 pennell rigs were also the hands down winners, but I am not so confident of that result because I was using big baits and dogfish have small mouths. It was interesting but I am not so sure how much difference I would see when targetting bigger fish particularly regarding hook size.


 

 

The main and perhaps only successes came on lures really. We found a nest of slightly larger fish, the majority of them weighing around the pound mark. All pollack and coalfish, but hell's teeth, can they scrap. I had them on 4" pink and pearl flukes as well as small shads and curly tails. Loz was catching them on the fly rod. No record- breakers then, but great sport all the same in an unrivalled setting. Peace, tranquility, awesome scenery, fabulous wildlife and mountains of fish. Why can't I refine my searches on purple bricks and right move by species?

Coalfish and pollack look almost the same on the shore. Colour is unreliable, forget it, we had both species in olive green and red/bronze. The giveaway is the lateral line. Pollack above showing the line curving sharply down behind the pectoral fins. On the coalfish left, you can just see that it runs more or less straight from gills to tail. It is very obvious on a fish in the hand. If you aren’t sure it’s a coalfish. The pollack’s lateral line is very distinctive.

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