Isles of Scilly 2017 (Part 3) – Float Fishing Live Prawn

A family holiday on the Scillies invariably involves plenty of beach days and swimming or paddling in the sea. On a few of the days we saw lots of shrimps / prawns and on the spur of the moment the girls and I filled a small bucket with some monster prawns – Perfect for bait I thought. We popped out to try a spot of float fishing with the prawns off the rocks and first cast I had a wrasse on a prawn. I passed the rod to Isobel to try her luck next, but this first fish proved to be the only one we were destined to catch with the prawns despite Isobel being phenomenally patient. After that it was back to the lure fishing….

See Parts One and Two here, to read about the fly and lure fishing side of things.

 

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Isles of Scilly 2017 (Part 2) – Lure Fishing for Wrasse

With very changeable weather throughout our recent holiday, lure fishing was by far the favoured method over all others. While the weather was mainly dry with sunny spells, the wind was pretty fearsome on certain days making lure fishing far easier than fly fishing – See Part 1.

On arrival, the first day I started off fishing with lures. Fished a sheltered bay out of the wind and used the Megabass xLayer lures fished weedless. Had a few takes and landed a small wrasse. Didn’t fish for long because of the weather conditions but was just keen to get out and pleased to start off with a fish.

Lure fishing for Wrasse - Isles of Scilly

Over the course of the holiday, I generally explored the east of the island and tucked myself into whichever place was most sheltered and out of the wind. The coast produced numerous nice sized wrasse to small weighed shads and soft worms fished weedless with cone weights. My biggest fish of this trip was just over 4lb.

Some days had lots of action whereas other days less so. I think finding a shallow weedy, rocky spot where the sea was calm and fishing it on the flood tide was the principle of success.

Lure fishing for Wrasse - Isles of Scilly

After some success on my own over a few trips, I took the family along for a try on some nice easily accessible rocks. Fished for a bit but took a while to find where the fish were. Once I’d had a couple of takes and lost a nice fish, I knew we were in the right spot so let the girls have a go. They’re used to pole fishing and have even done a spot of fly fishing but never had to cast a fixed spool reel before. I showed them how to cast and it was only a couple of casts before they were doing ok. Wrasse usually take the lures in close or under the rod tip so they had no problem reaching the fish. Rhianna had a few casts, bumped the lure back along the bottom feeling the lure hitting the rocks but was stressing she wouldn’t know what a bite felt like. I assured her she’d know and at that moment a 4.5lb wrasse decided to try to pull her in. Battling with a large wrasse with a light spinning rod is exciting stuff with no room for playing gently. She did really well to keep the fish out of the rocks and get it to the net. It proved to be the biggest fish of the holiday. Isobel and Maria also both caught wrasse. Great to see their smiling faces!

Over the course of the holiday I lost a good number of fish in the rocks having failed to stop their powerful runs. You can usually feel if its terminally stuck and you’re unlikely to see the lure again: and it’s pretty soul destroying to pull for a break when you know it’s a good fish. The fact that I’d only brought limited cone weights and worm hooks which the shop on the island didn’t stock was a little unfortunate. In these circumstances, losing too much tackle would have forced a switch of tactics.  I usually crush the barbs down on my hooks and have to say never felt at any stage that I was in danger of losing a fish to a thrown hook and boy does it make it easier to unhook the fish once landed. Another benefit is that if a fish does get totally snagged where the only option left normally would be to pull for a break is that you can occasionally give it slack – at which point there’s the chance it’ll ditch the hook and you can retrieve the lure.

Isles of Scilly 2017 (Part 1) – Fly Fishing

Two weeks of holiday in the Isles of Scilly provided the perfect opportunity for a spot of fishing – The weather was changeable throughout the holiday – generally dry with sunny spells although the wind varied between brutally strong to light. Strong winds favoured lure fishing and made fly fishing difficult (See Part 2 for a lure fishing slant). The first real chance to fly fish was on a trip to Tresco. Whilst the Family played on the beach, I explored the north end of the island to shelter from the southerly wind. Used fast sinking 40+ line which cast really well and sunk super fast – much faster than any fly lines I’ve used before. This caused problems when fishing shallower weedy marks but was really good for the deeper areas. Despite all the promise the location held, I had no interest from the fish at all sadly.

The next fly fishing opportunity was whilst fishing the rocks on the east of St Mary’s with lure and fly rod. I mainly used the lure rod and had a lot of success. I did however give the fly rod a reasonably thorough go with various flies and did have a few follows from small wrasse, but frustratingly no takes. Given that the fish were queuing up to attack the soft lures there was no contest as to which method to concentrate on.

With nicer weather forecast for one of the days it finally tempted me to pop out to Penennis Head at dawn to fish the deep water there for Pollack. The wind blowing in an awkward direction however, made things difficult and on top of this my casting was pretty atrocious too – despite this, I had numerous takes on small sparsely dressed sandeel looking flies and landed several small pollack. Just happy to catch something on the fly rod at least.

With the easy fishing and greater success on the lure rod, I found myself reaching for the lure rod rather than the fly rod for the majority of the holiday so didn’t really manage to do as much fly fishing as I had intended. Will have to be a little bit more single minded in future perhaps.

Rock Fishing on the Isles of Scilly

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A two week holiday with the family in the Isles of Scilly recently provided the perfect opportunity to brush up on my saltwater fly fishing. I knew my “go to” approach on the rocky marks around the Scillies would inevitably involve lure fishing primarily followed by float fishing, but it made sense to take along the fly rod too. The only other time I’ve caught sea fish on the fly to date has been in the Scillies the year previously, so I knew it was the perfect location if the weather behaved itself.

We were to be taking the Scillonian to the islands, to save money and ensure we wouldn’t struggle with luggage allowances – especially important as alongside my fishing gear I had to bring along wetsuits and towels and all the other beach paraphernalia that a children’s beach holiday entailed. We weren’t looking forward to the journey as the ferry has a well deserved reputation as being vomit inducing even in calm weather given its shallow draft and tendency to roll somewhat. A serious storm on the day we were due to sail led to the boat being cancelled and we were rescheduled for the following day. Thankfully the whole family it seems has good sea legs like myself, and we all successfully braved the roller coaster ride through heavy seas for the 3 hour duration. Many of the other passengers didn’t fare quite so well….

Despite the lost day and delayed start to our trip we were then blessed with pretty good weather for the rest of the fortnight. In amongst the exploring and beach trips, as well as visits to other islands I was fortunate enough to manage to sneak in quite a few fishing sessions even if they were often of a short couple of hour duration.

The main technique inevitably ending up being the lure rod. Being a multi piece travel rod with a nice crisp light action it was not only a pleasure to fish with but easy to carry around when we visited other Islands. Paired with a small fixed spool reel loaded with 15lb braid this made for a really fun set up which I mostly used rigged up with a cone lead, worm hook and jelly worm fished weedless setup. This over the holiday accounted for the vast majority of both pollack and wrasse. None of which were particularly massive but the wrasse especially put a good bend in the rod. Given that most of my sessions during the two weeks were short, I couldn’t justify sitting watching a float for that long, so really didn’t give it much of a go this time, other than to tease out a couple of wrasse on float fished limpet.

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With the jelly worm I tried crushing down the barb on the hook after the first few fish, to make the hook effectively a barbless hook. I use barbless hooks all the time for freshwater fishing and really found it so much easier, quicker and kinder to the fish when unhooking the wrasse in particular. Couldn’t say it resulting in me losing any fish and the benefit of the ease of unhooking really made it a no brainer when lure fishing. Thats not to say I’ll be using barbless hooks for the rest of my sea fishing in future, but for lure fishing where I would expect to be keeping a tight line and generally feeling for a bite, there really seems to be no downside as far as I experienced.

When it came to fly fishing, I had brought my Greys #8 rod – not because I thought I’d need anything that heavy, but more because being a 4 piece rod it was most transportable. That and I didn’t want to ruin any of my other rods / reels on the rocks and salt water. I’d also decided to bring a reel loaded with a shooting head set up. This was to be the first time I’d tried a shooting head and I have to report being really impressed with it – whilst it may of lacked a little finesse it made up for this with the ease with which I could get a reasonable distance. I made the shooting head myself from a mill-end #10 intermediate line, cut down as per instructions found in a quick google search, along with a braided mono running line. For a tippet I just used 6-8 foot of 10lb fluorocarbon. The braided mono running line allowed a nice smooth transition to be formed between fly line and running line. It all seemed to work perfectly well and I have no complaints with it.

We were staying on the main Island, St Mary’s so this was naturally where most of my fishing was done. Whilst we visited all the inhabited islands on day trips with the family, I only fished Bryher and St Martins in addition to the main island of St Marys.

I caught numerous pollack and wrasse, mostly caught on jelly worms but a few wrasse did fall to float fished limpets, when the tide was too low to sensibly lure fish. I found that the wrasse fishing was better in the shallow weedy areas rather than the deeper water rock marks. The pollack were the opposite with deep water being better. Alongside fish on the more conventional tackle, I also had a few fish on fly – mainly pollack but also had a wrasse. I’ve caught pollack on the fly before, but this was my first ever wrasse on a fly! definitely a thrilling catch, especially as I saw it follow the fly in under the rod tip before nailing it. Really exciting in the gin clear water.

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I tried various flies on the fly rod but most successful was a self tied 4” mackerel like fly. This worked for the wrasse and pollack equally well.

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I didn’t catch any really big fish over the holiday, but had pollack to just over 3lb and wrasse to 3.5lb. All good fun on light lure or fly tackle.

In addition to the pollack and wrasse, we did see plenty of very big mullet, some in very large shoals of impressively sized fish. I couldn’t resist casting a few flies to them as they were within range but had no interest at all. Still, worth a go, and it was just too tempting not to cast a fly into a shoal of such big fish even if I didn’t really think there was any chance of hooking any.

My parents also came over to the Scillies for the last week we were there so I had a couple of fishing sessions with my father. We mainly fished Tolman Head near Old Town, for it’s easy access to comfortable fishing and deepish water. Dad had pollack on lures but most interestingly, also had a nice pollack on float fished limpet… not a bait I’d normally associate with pollack fishing but in this case it did the trick. Staying with the float fishing he also had a feisty wrasse on float fished sandeel.

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The scillies has so much potential for rock fishing – miles of deserted coastline and crystal clear water. During this trip I really felt that I’d got to properly explore St Mary’s as well as a fair sampling of the other Islands. There’s still plenty of parts of the various islands I haven’t explored and a massive amount of fishing potential, but at least when I next go back I’ll have a very good idea of places and techniques to focus on.

It was noticeable that this year we did see a few other fishermen – which is a first, as I’d never seen another on any of my other visits to the islands. Maybe it was because we were here longer, or maybe the Scillies are becoming a bit more “on the radar”?

I have to admit that the lure fishing was by far the most productive technique, but really did enjoy the salt water fly fishing and really must endeavour to focus more on it in future. In particular I’d like to try chasing mullet with a little more determination..

Maybe something to aim for next year.

On that note – next years trip to the IOS is booked up – seems a longtime away now, but looking forward to it already.

 

Salt Water Fly Fishing – Bring on the Pollack!

A family holiday to the Isles of Scilly last week, raised the exciting prospect of bagging my first ever saltwater fish on a fly. I’ve fished the Scillies several times before, and each time to great success, but with “traditional” saltwater tackle of spinning rod or float fishing off the rocks. The rocky shoreline of the Scilly Isles is perfect ground for catching wrasse, pollack and mackerel from, and leading up to this years trip I felt supremely confident of some spectacular fishing. As it turned out however things weren’t to be quite what I’d hoped for….

This year we were camping on one of the off islands, St Agnes. The weather sadly threw a spanner in the works from the word go, with very strong winds forecast all week and a smattering of rain thrown in for good measure. Never-the-less I was determined to make the best of things and fish where and when it proved possible.

Upon arrival we set out the tent and made ourselves comfortable, before I decided to have a quick explore during a window in the weather. Hiking out to one of the rocky headlands I promptly slipped and fell before I’d even got near the water. Landing hard and awkwardly on the unforgiving granite boulders, I was initially convinced I’d broken my hand / wrist at which point I slunk back to camp feeling rather sorry for myself – all without having even cast a line. Given that a broken hand would mean a boat ride to the main Island of St Mary’s and would more than likely well and truly ruin the holiday as well as put pay to any fishing to say I was disappointed would of been an understatement. My lovely wife (being a nurse and knowledgeable in these things) after making a few sympathetic noises gave me a couple of paracetamol told me I was fine and to get over it. Anyway – next morning despite a bit of pain it seemed obvious nothing was broken and I would be able to soldier on.

After surviving a couple of days of storms, including 50mph winds and rain, we did have some great weather in the end which necessitated exploring St Agnes, a trip to St Marys and to Brhyer, along with trips to the beaches with the kids. All in all a great family holiday. The last 2 days did see an improvement in the weather and an opportunity between beach & family activities to get away for some fishing. By picking the rocky headlands that were not only sheltered from the wind but also the sea swell, I managed to winkle out a few fish in the end.

Fly Fishing Isles of Scilly Rock Mark

Given the limited opportunity for fishing to date, during my first session rather than experiment with the fly rod, I used the spinning rod and lures to tempt a few small pollack over low water right at dusk. The next session now having had a few fish, I decided to concentrate on the fly rod and returned to where I’d had fish previously but this time armed only with the #8 rod, an intermediate line and extra fast sinking tapered leader. The wind and prevailing swell dictated the choice of fishing location, and a nice rocky outcrop near Beady Pool on the South East of St Agnes gave me a good platform from which to fish, that was sheltered and gave me access to deepish water. I used a couple of different flies but the most successful proved to be a self tied white and mackerel coloured fly of about 2 inches in length. Quite early on in the session I saw a small pollack follow the fly in before turning away but then had no further action for a while. After much perseverance I again saw a shape follow the fly in, and a quick strip of line to make the fly dart forwards, provoked the following fish to rush forwards and grab the fly. It wasn’t a big pollack and was to be fair pretty out gunned on the #8 – but still, after a brief but spirited fight I netted my first ever fly caught sea fish! Mission accomplished.

Fly Fishing Isles of Scilly Pollack

With light fading fast and the family waiting for me back at the tent I called it a day. I’ve proved to myself it can be done and have now opened up a whole host of further fly fishing opportunities to go alongside the fresh water species. On top of this, I really did feel pretty comfortable with my casting in the windy conditions which should bode well for the future.