The Month of June Long Days Short Nights

Well June has started off with a final crack at catching a double figure Thornback so with my cousin John in toe  we headed back to Cumbria, arriving at our preferred low water mark we fished two hours down and
two up, but the fish didn’t read the script and I had the only fish of the day, a nice fat ……….. flounder that fell to a crab bait presented on a 1/0 manta hook. It seems that’s the ray had vacated the area over the two weeks since our last visit and little had been caught in that


Morecambe bay adventures with Matty Preston

One of the perks of job so to speak is meeting and making new friends , Matty Preston whom I met last September invited me to down to Morecambe and have a go for a Smoothie as the beaches in the area had been fishing very well. I arrived at our first mark and armed with the T900 and 6500 C3CT reel and off i sent a crab bait secured to a clipped down single hook rig .Then I promptly wound in our target for the day, a small but welcome smoothie. The tide then started to ebb so we moved out of the rip , Matty found a small schoolie bass which was duly returned, with that we decided to end the session .

Before heading to our next mark we paid a visit to Gerry’s to  say hi to the Guys and eat all the chocolate biscuits before a trip off to low water.
Once again third cast another smoothie, fishing at distance with the
t900 and 7ht combo seemed to be effective as the tide still had a good way to drop.

Then at low water  Matty used his local knowledge (skill/lack of distance ) and dropped a bait a little closer in and bagged a lovely smoothie, just goes to show you can not beat local knowledge, as Matty was dealing with his fish the tip of my rod nodded twice and the line slackened  I was in again with my third Smoothie of the day.

Matty unfortunately had to leave early ,second cast after he had gone my rod tip went over and didn’t come back up, away again but this time a different fight as I pulled the fish up and over every sand bank that was between me and my very angry unseen fish ,  then the dreaded weed jam in the tip ring so I had to walk back to bring  the fish to the edge of the water  it was a lovely marked angry male thornback, at that it flapped it’s wings and dug it self into the soft sand, talk about never giving up I’m sure it left a trench in the sand all the way in about a foot wide and 6” deep.

With that fish it was time to pack up get off the beach and face the long drive home.


Having a free weekend  saw me and my regular fishing partner Paul Stewart heading up to the North West Highlands to Loch Etive to target Spurdog, we arrived couple of hours before low water and got set up I opted for the T1000 and T1200 teamed with a pair of SLOSH 20’s loaded with 20lb line and long 80lb leaders, strong tackle but we are in  fishing deep water with a ledge at about 20m  this calls for a reasonably strong set up.

First cast again and I hooked a nice spur about 3lbs on a sandeel / mackerel cocktail bait on a 4/0 manta hook, so a great start to our day. The fishing was steady all day long with waves of fish hitting our baits on a regular basis, it was not hectic fishing but steady with a final tally of fish for us both of 7 spur each and a thornback ray each. Baits ranged from crab to sand-eel mackerel and squid in various combinations mounted on hooks from 1/0 to 4/0 sizes, it’s worth noting that a short wire biting sections to the hook are essential, Spurs are armed with a good set of very sharp teeth that chomp mono hook links with ease.

However just before dark Paul’s Kompresor SS tip went over and his ratchet on his Penn Fathom started ticking, he tightened into the fish and off it went a great battle ensued until the fish found the ledge Paul gave it a couple of pulls but it was not for coming out, give it some line I advised, So he gave it two or three meters of line and off it went straight away so with one last good pull the fish finally headed for the surface and slid onto the grassy bank, it was a great fish a real lump, the lie detector said 10lbs 2oz, what a result and Paul’s first double figure spur, to say we were both over the moon would be an understatement. Photos taken the fish made its way out into deep water none the worse for its quick visit to the bank. I had a final fish in darkness that hit the surface about 10m out, as i shone my headlight into the water two sets of beady eyes were  glowing green back at me ,before one set disappeared back into the black water, another spur had followed the other up, certainly a first for me seeing another spur following the other up in the water right to the surface. We packed up at 01:00 hrs and headed home reaching my house just as the sun was lighting up the sky at 03:00, long days and short nights indeed.

 Paul with his first double figure spur


Last trip of the month saw me head up alone to the same mark that had given Paul his first double figure spur (see above photo) to see if it would yield fish on a regular basis, I need not have worried as second cast with the T1000 fishing a loop rig with 1/0 mantas with sandeel mackerel squid cocktails saw the tip nod nicely and the fish gave me some slack line I was away, the spur fight deep to start with then rise into the upper layers of the water, as the leader rose out of the water the fish darted first left then right before breaking to the surface and was landed safely, photo taken and fish returned without harm. It was warm even before 10 o’clock but  boy did it get  hotter and hotter as the day progressed but it didn’t seem to effect the fishing as a steady stream of fish were successfully landed and returned. I ended the session with 8 fish, 6 spur’s to around 4lb and a couple of thornback ray, one of which was about to drop her eggs as can be seen quite clearly in the photo I’m not sure if that makes me a daddy again.


Some nice fish on a roasting hot day

I also have conclusive proof that fishing really dose make you a red neck
Sometimes the Sun Shines  in Scotland.


I Don’t Like Mondays ,well sometimes.

PJ has been out and about again.

A new blog of a recent couple of trips including a 1st for him from the shore .

Well this month we will start off with a bit of fun, spot the difference between the top and bottom fish, hint there is only one !

Spot the difference
Spot the difference

Spot the difference answers on £10 notes please ….

I was side-lined start of the month with a cut to my left hand that needed 3 stitches so was desperate to get out and do a little fishing so as soon as I could . I headed up to one of the lochs in the west highlands in the search for a double figure Thornback.
With me getting ever so close last month with one at 9lb 14oz  hopes were high as I headed to the mark, unfortunately the wind was straight in my face and then of course it stated to rain so a quick pack up and move up the loch to find a bit of shelter resulting in four Thornback ray. Three came in three casts then the mark went dead till last cast , my first recapture from the shore .

Baits were sand-eel mackerel cocktail baits on 1/0 mantas loop rig or one down clipped down rigs.
Well I hope you all got it correct, yes it’s the same fish caught within 4 hours of its first capture,leech removed and returned only to be caught again, well it was a first for me a verified recapture of the same fish, wonder how many fish you do re catch without knowing it?

Thornbacks x 4
Thornback rays x 4 Spot the recapture .

The following Monday my long time childhood fishing buddy and Cousin John was desperate to catch a Thornback ray saw me travelling south to the Solway coast in search of his first ray, we headed to a mark that had thrown up my first double figure ray last year. Fishing over low water and on his third cast John managed a nice ray about three pounds using a Sand-eel mackerel cocktail, to say he was over the moon was an understatement, then I  bagged a six pounder, talk about buses .The very next cast John had a great bite resulting in a fat doggie rising from the muddy water so job done.

The tide then turned and the wind increased until it literally blew us off the mark, what is it with the weather on Monday’s, so we had to  move off the mark as John was  packing up he had a micro dab hanging on to his 1/0 hook baited with mackerel so three species in a day is not bad going.We moved trying to find a more sheltered spot  but the rain started and then a visit from the resident porpoises put an end to a blustery and rainy day, but mission Thornback was achieved for John.

Job Done , Happy man!

My next trip out was back up to the west highlands of Scotland this time my mission was to get Nathan his first thornback ray .This time the weather come good for us, first cast for Nathan saw him hook and land his first Thornback Ray of about 3lb and his first fish on his new Kompressor SS, eventually I finally got in on the act as the tide turned and started to flood with three ray and a couple of dogfish .Nathan then landed a lovely Thornie of 5lb 3oz which from this mark is a great fish. Baits as usual were sand eel, mackerel & squid presented on 1/0 hooks. Nathan was well chuffed with his first fish and with  it being a Thornback so  job done for me again . Taking a break from the fishing to grab a bite to eat and moving marks to target doggies. With the onset of darkness the mark came alive with  both of us having  a good run of doggies till it came time to head down the road.

One Happy Nathan , Mission achieved again

Nathan with his 5lb 3oz thornie and a good sized doggie, yours truly with a small ray on the T1000

Strangely I had quite a few doggies wrapped and tangled in the rig and not actually hooked in the mouth any ideas?

The west highlands of Scotland a place were dreams can come true


Thanks for reading PJ..

February Blues

February Blues

Well February started with a trip to a  Loch in the west highlands of Scotland, The target for me and my fishing partners for the night was again Common Skate, quite a few had been hooked and lost from this mark. With the tide being one of the highest in February  confidence was high in at least having a run, however our optimism was short lived as the tide flooded and the weed started passing us in big clumps and dragging our  baits down the Loch.
Continue reading “February Blues”

Chasing Cod North East Scotland With Paul Johnstone

Cod Fishing North East Scotland January 2018

The Cod season is under full swing as I write this article, the best fishing is obtained when the predominantly shallow waters are carrying colour, kind that looks chocolate-brown and big waves, the best time is just after a big easterly wind the ground swell can be very dangerous and care should be taken as to which marks to fish. One of my favourite marks is a small harbour entrance and fishing at times on my own is reasonably safe.
Continue reading “Chasing Cod North East Scotland With Paul Johnstone”

Shore Skate fishing with Paul Johnstone

Taming one of the UK’s largest fish

On the quest for large Common Skate in the North West Highlands of Scotland I have been lucky in finding friends who have help both myself and my fishing partner Paul Stewart make our dreams come true, both of us have landed fish of a lifetime. It was over a year ago that I first witnessed the capture of three common skate in one night with the best being 196lb falling to my friend Paul Stewart. Indeed a capture to fire the imagination.

I again fished with friends who were targeting Skate and again was lucky enough to witness another catch, this started to stimulate my interest in gearing up for a go myself. I’m lucky in having support from Century Composites who supply the finest fishing rods currently available here in the UK, I built my TTR model casting rod for fishing then went on the hunt for a suitable reel to accompany the rod. My friends we’re using various models of reels, one was using a two speed lever drag with magnetic brake control conversion that sparked my interest, low speed can be very useful when in deep water and big fish. ABU however had solved this particular problem way back with the two speed series of reels.

I was lucky enough to get a 9000C from a well know internet auction site and set about ensuring that the real was sound, the reel was indeed fine but new bearings were installed and new Carbontex drag washers fitted to ensure smooth operation of the drag when under large loads.

The reel was filled with 80lb bs braid and I pondered the problem of attaching a heavy nylon leader to the braid without the large leader knots required, a solution came when a friend gave me some hollow braid, a play with a boillie needle and a couple of attempts later I had made up a
loop to loop connector to braid and slid the 150lb nylon inside the hollow braid a spot of super glue over the joint to ensure the joint was stable and a solution was found. This 150lb leader gives abrasion resistance to the set up not only from rock but also the fish as they have sharp thorns on their tails.
Braid to braid loop to loop (white) can be seen at bottom of reel 150lb nylon leader top of reel.

I spent August and September this year gathering bait for this winters fishing season, feathering from the shore for mackerel is great fun and very addictive so it came around that it was time for me to target my first trip for Common Skate. We arrived at the mark on November 5th a clear cold night and it is bonfire night here in the UK so with fireworks going off in the background large mackerel baits fished on 10/0 Cox and Rawle
meat hooks and long pulley rigs tied in 200lb nylon were launched into the darkness and the waiting had begun. It took a while but at 20:30 my TTR tip bent over and the ratchet clicked over stopped then went again this time with me hanging onto the rod, I tightened the start drag and
hung on for dear life.

The fish took 40 to 50 meters of line off the reel as the drag gave line without any juddering as the TTR hooped over into its fighting curve, the fish stopped and the one thing that ran through my mind was advice I got from an old friend who has also landed many skate
from the shore….do not let the fish go to ground…..with this running through my mind I began to slowly put pressure on the fish, the tip of the TTR juddered and slowly slowly rose into the dark night sky, down and wind and so it went on for five minutes or so then I could feel the fish power
up and off she went on a ten meter run the reel giving line smoothly then stopped, I again applied the advice running through my mind ……do not let the fish go to ground……I once again started to pump the fish ever nearer and nearer to the shore line. I had been on the fish for about 20 mins
and she was nearly at my feet, the rig was 4m long plus 10m of heavy nylon leader and my white leader connector was about all that separated me from my prize, I slowly lifted into the fish to raise her up to the surface, lift and wind lift and wind and there was my white leader connector and down went the fish and my white marker, lift and wind lift and wind again and again my white leader connector about 1m above the water and again the fish dived reel drag gave line smoothly again.

I was at this point about 25 minutes into the fight and starting to get tired my arms were getting heavy so lift and wind again and again this time the white leader connector arose from the water up and up I had the leader over the tip rig of the rod now the connector went over the first guide and down she went again taking line back off the reel, I really was starting to begin to worry I could not lift her up, both my friends were shouting encouragement and with there voices in my ears I gave it my all pump and wind the white connector rose from the water again though the tip ring and on and on through the guides one at a time each pump and wind getting me closer and
closer to raising the fish, the leader was safely on my reel each pump was taking me closer to the fish the reel filled with leader then the weight popped out of the water.

The fish dived again likely spooked by the bright headlights shining on the water, again the reel gave line smoothly, the fish
took about 2 meters of line so back to work pump and wind the fish rose slowly slowly into view, my friend Paul Stewart expertly gaffes the fish in the wing and guided her ashore. She was ours, well we though she was, the gaff started to open up and eventually popped free from the wing of
the fish, both Paul and myself managed to get hold of either wing and get her a little more out of the water. The hook was removed using a three foot long homemade un hooking tool and the fish turned seaward and with a couple of graceful flaps of the wings disappeared into the dark waters
not the worse for her adventure. She came out at 172lb from the chart. So that was the end of my journey to capture my first Common Skate from the shore.

I must say that I feel extremely privileged to have got so close to such a creature let alone catch a fish of this size from the coastal waters of Scotland, it is a memory that will be with me for the rest of my life.
With out doubt the reel a 1976 model ABU 9000C handled the punishment that only a fish of this size can dish out with out a grumble or problem, it goes to show that quality will out when the chips are down and your faced with what could be the biggest fight of your life, credit where
credit is due my hats off to ABU for such a great work horse of a reel, I’m sure it will not be the last time my 9000C faces another battle with a large un willing fish from the depths of the west highlands of Scotland.