I’ve just returned from another road trip, though this time I left the UK and headed for the Netherlands. My previous road trip had seen myself and five others tormented by awful weather conditions in the northwest of Scotland. The question was would this trip be more successful?. The fishing was certainly going to be very different, I wasn’t going to require heavy saltwater gear to fish deep water lochs this time around. In fact I didn’t require any saltwater gear at all, this was to be another foray into the mysterious world of freshwater kayak fishing.
The target species for the weekend were Pike and Zander (Snoek and Snoekbaar in Dutch). It’s not my first attempt at catching a Zander, I’d previously fished in the Netherlands in the summer of last year but returned home empty handed. This year would see me fishing a different venue under the guidance of my friend Daniel van der Post. The plan was simple enough, leave home on Friday evening, drive during the night, taking the ferry from Dover at midnight, arriving in Eindhoven at 6am on Saturday. With my wife and children unloaded from the kayak fishing mobile to spend a weekend with her family, I drove an extra hour or so to rendezvous with Daniel.
What were the odds that when burning up the motorway in the early hours that I see Daniel’s car appear in the rear view mirror, getting closer by the minute!. We arrived together and chatted whilst rigging the kayaks. Rigging was quick enough as far less gear was needed compared to a day of bait fishing at anchor somewhere out at sea.
I have to say that the location was stunning, a river system of sorts, freshwater, though tidal due to the effects of sea movement much further away. There was open water, large reed beds as well as large areas of fallen trees and wooded vegetation. The place just screamed fish!!. Though what really caught my eye was the amount of birdlife, geese, waders, divers, woodland birds… the list just goes on. It’s not a well known mark and I’ve been asked to keep its locations to myself, so to the end that photographs that I’ve chosen to use are only a few from the multitude that I took.
The fishing was all to be with the use of lures, and I was presented with a selection of soft baits that I was assured were a choice selection that should work well. They were all rigged onto fairly light jig heads, with some of the larger shads sporting a smaller ‘stinger’ treble towards the tail to hook those fish that may be a little more tentative towards hitting the lure. So I had rigged up two lure rods, one a vertical jigging type rod to handle the larger lures as well as a lighter rod for all other work. My reels were loaded with 30lb Daiwa Tournament braid, all lures were fitted to light wire traces.
There were to be two main methods, trolling and spinning, though the latter was used more sparingly and at somewhat specific locations. Anyway, we headed along the waterway and after a few minutes I was fishing. The first fish of the day was a a nice sized Perch and was caught after only a couple of casts, what a great start!
I honestly cannot remember when I last caught a perch, probably 30 years ago. They are a pretty fish, colourful, spikey and clearly aggressive feeders. All my fish are photographed and measured to enable them to be submitted into the Kayak Wars competition for 2014, hence the measuring board. There was some tidal movement evident on the water, though I was told that this would increase as the flood turned onto the ebb as the morning progressed. We worked our way along the waterways and I tried my hand at trolling, though I was having no success. Though to be honest, I wasn’t at all bothered. It was a new venue, a very scenic one at that, and there was plenty around me to maintain my interest.
It was a good opportunity to play with the Lowrance Elite 7 HDI combo unit and it certainly does a great job of locating and identifying structure on the down imaging (DI). That said, when it comes to identifying fish the broadband does a better job. Fortunately, I can have the best of both worlds be either overlaying broadband and DI data, or by displaying them both side by side. I personally prefer the latter as it offers a little more clarity. I regularly came across shoals of fish which I was told were Bream. In deeper water fish returns on DI are often just dots, though due to the shallow water the fish returns on DI were far clearer, on some returns the fins almost seem visible!.
At times the Bream appeared as short vertical lines on the DI, I guess that’s due the tall, flat profile of a Bream. However, the strong ‘arch’ returns on the broadband sonar were always a clear giveaway of the presence of fish. I was a little concerned as how long my 12aH battery would last for a long session afloat with the backlight on the Elite 7 HDI turned up to a higher setting. As it happened over two days I clocked up around 18 hours of running time with 11.9 volts still being displayed (I started off with 12.8 volts). Clearly the GPS/fish finder unit is fairly frugal with its use of electricity despite having a rather large display.
A couple of hours later Daniel hooked into what was clearly a nice fish and the result was a cracking Pike!
So the fish were clearly about and on the feed, all I had to do was to persevere and hopefully I’d reap the rewards. Ten minutes later Daniel was hooked up again!. I was only metres away and within moments a large Zander was thrashing around on the surface. Ok, it was a little disappointing that it wasn’t on the end of my line, but what a great experience to witness such quality fish being caught.
These fish are most certainly as large as they look, the Pike was somewhere over 90cm ( and much bigger were yet to be caught!), the Zander somewhere very close to 90cm if memory serves me right, stunning fish. Surely it would be my turn next?. We met up with Leo, another keen Dutch kayak angler, he also located Pike and Zander… clearly the knowledge and expertise was all important.
I trolled along various areas of vegetation, drop offs, etc… no Pike or Zander. I ended up spinning at one corner of the waterway and dropped a nice sized Perch close to the kayak. Moral perked up once more and I continued spinning and founded myself hook up into a lively head shaking fish, it just had to be another Perch. Sure enough after a minute or two I netted a rather large fish and bought it aboard for photographing. It was an absolute cracker, measuring in at just over 46cm!
Sadly, despite my best efforts that was to be my last fish of the day. I’d not managed to bag one of the main target species, however, I’d not blanked and had caught a specimen sized Perch. On top of that I’d seen a huge variety of birds, most memorable being three sightings of a Kingfisher, one of those being for a good minute whilst it sat on branch close to the water.
We persevered as the sun went down, hoping that the fading light would encourage the Zander to hit the baits, though it didn’t prove fruitful for me.
We came off the water at around 6pm, that’s a long day afloat. I’d only clocked up a total of six hours sleep over the previous two night and to say that I was tired was an understatement… totally knackered would be closer to the mark!. It had in fact been a struggle from midday and I can honestly say that I’ve never made so many cock-ups during one session, probably a years worth in one day!. I have to say that Daniel was patient and clearly mildly amused despite watching one lure after another be lost to the murky depths.
That was the end of the first day of fishing, the evening was spent talking fishing over a few drinks, despite the lack of Pike and Zander coming aboard my kayak, it’s been a great day afloat.
The plan was to hit the road at 6am, be on the water by 7:30am. We left a few minutes later as Daniel was requiring some extra beauty sleep, though we still managed to hit the water on time (I should state that no speed limits were exceeded in accomplishing that!). Breakfast was enjoyed on the water, my sugar levels most certainly enjoyed the boost!
We were joined on the water by Leo again, with another Dutch chap, Ronald, joining us later as the day progressed. Techniques were the same as before and we worked our way along the waterways once more. Yesterday has been unseasonably warm with the temperature hitting a dizzy 22°C and it was looking like it was going to be another warm day afloat. I wear my dry suit all year round and it never proves to be a real issue. Should I warm up, I just pour some water over the suit and I rapidly cool down. However, at sea I’m far more exposed, there’s always a breeze to keep me cool. Not here, the trees and dykes provide a lot of shelter and I was warming up rather nicely!
Not only was Sunday my second day chasing Piker and Zander, it was my last. The pressure was on and I really wanted to catch that elusive Zander. I’ve caught a Pike from the kayak before so the Zander was top of my wanted list.
As it happened I only had to wait a couple of hours to catch the first of my target species, not a Zander though. I trolled a small soft bait along a mooring wall for recreational boats and was rewarded with a hard hit and a solid hook up. The result was a large Pike, though I nearly lost it next to the kayak. I was going to net it onto the kayak, though decided at the last moment to gill it on. I made the mistake of grabbing the trace as I often do when sea fishing, however the fine braid, thrashing fish and lighter terminal gear gave way. In the blink of an eye the lure flew onto the kayak, the trace was blowing in the breeze and I was holding the Pike by the gill… talk about lucky!. Lessons were learned and such things were not to be repeated.
and another photo…
Despite a deep braid cut and a little ‘Pike rash’ moral soared once more and the hunt continued into the afternoon. I did drag myself out of the water at one stage and grabbed a little rest on the bankside. A young angler came and chatted to Leo and I enjoyed watching his enthusiasm, guess I was just like that once. As the day progressed people around me were catching Pike and Zander, though the action had dried up for me. Daniel landed another cracking Pike, you could easily grow to dislike this chap!
We fished the far end of the waterway for some time and despite it looking very fishy, it failed to produce anything for me. We moved into a sheltered lake that joined the main waterway and the guys took the opportunity to grab some trophy photos. Not of trophy sized fish, but of them holding the winners trophies for the European part of the Kayak Wars 2013 competition. All three of them regularly fish and catch one big fish after another, they most certainly deserved to be the winning team. They’ve also made a great start to the 2014 competition, watch this space.
The sun was quite high by midday and the Zander, being somewhat shy of the sun, were proving to be rather elusive. I felt that my chances of catching a Zander were fading rapidly so I started fishing the few areas of shadow offered by the trees. I trolled one likely looking area once without success, so I passed through it one again and found myself hooked up!. As the fish neared the surface I quickly made out the shape of a Zander and it was netted aboard in record time!. It was no monster, though at 61cm it was respectable, though most importantly it was a Zander!. Typically there was no one around to take a photo, so i kept the fish in the net alongside the kayak and pedalled downstream until I found one of the guys.
So I’d caught a Perch, a Pike and finally the elusive Zander, all boxes had been ticked. We tried a few more areas and apart from missing one hit I had no success. Tiredness was catching up once more, things weren’t helped by my increasing temperature due to wearing a dry suit. I wasn’t HOT, but warm and tired. There was clearly only one sensible solution, pull over and sleep. (thank you Leo for catching me in a deep sleep!).
We travelled along some narrower waterways, very scenic, though the fish weren’t entertaining my efforts. I managed to snag the bottom, snag a tree, get stuck in a tree… interesting moments. I decided it was better to admit defeat and retire back to the wider main waterway.
I trolled a lure on the way along an extensive drop off and experienced a hard hit and a brief hook-up to what felt like a nice sized fish… a monster Zander perhaps?!!. That basically marked the end of that trip and we came off the water at around 5pm, yet another long day afloat. Sunday evening saw myself and Daniel enjoy some very tasty takeout, a few drinks and plenty of fishing chatter, these really are great days afloat, days to remember.
I packed my gear and headed back to Eindhoven on the Monday, and with the family safely aboard we headed back home. That concluded another very good and successful road trip, where will the next one take me?
Welcome to the 'Core!
The HardCore Kayak Anglers Club is based around the many avid anglers that have chosen a kayak as their main method of fishing.
We have many activities per month to keep you on the water and believe in "catch and release" to preserve our fishery for future generations.
Your club hosts an annual tournament series, seminars and fishing clinics as well as "Fish_N_Munch" gatherings and on-line tournaments.
Join up today!
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Best Snook I Have Ever Caught!
Matt Finnesy aka YakkinMatt
Got out on the water on Saturday and boy am I happy I did. Not only was it a beautiful day but I caught my personal best Snook using my favorite topwater and had an absolute battle getting it to the yak!! Anyways here is the picture of the Snook once I landed it, however being as hyped as I was I 100% forgot to measure the fish but it was approaching 30" at least maybe more!There will be a video of the fight sometime this week just haven't had a chance to get around to it.
"You fish all day for that eighth of a second when a fish destroys your bait, so make every cast count" - Don Filkins aka: pop
I love a good trip, though when organising a trip well in advance you will always be at the mercy of the weather. Aspects can be planned down to the finest of details, but as I’ve found out on too many occasions the outcome can be far different from what you’d hoped.
My previous two trips to Scotland had suffered badly from unpredictable weather, was this one going to fair better?. The quick and simple answer is no, the weather was at best challenging and on the most part, horrendous!
The journey started for me late on Thursday evening, leaving home around 10pm to travel 440 miles during the night to pick up my Dutch friend Daniel from Glasgow airport. I’d planned to arrive at Glasgow 3 hours before Daniel’s flight was due to arrive so I could get some sleep, but by 2am I was failing and had to pull in to sleep. My sleeping bag was handy, but I should have taken one with a drawstring at the top. Sitting in the passenger seat (I couldn’t recline it due to the car being full!) I endured a cold and very uncomfortable sleep for a couple of hours. I hit the road once one, downing Red Bulls like they were free.
Early hours fuel stop
Daniel arrived on time and we headed north with 180 miles remaining to reach our destination of Balmacara on the northern shoreline of Lochalsh. It’s a slow drive due to the never ending winding roads, we were also somewhat hampered by the high winds, horizontal rain and patchy snow. Driving through the Trossachs and Glencoe is always an uplifting experience and you soon forget the weather, until you step out of the car that is!. As we travelled up Glencoe the wind was being funnelled down the glen and was almost howling. We hopped out at one scenic vantage point to grab a couple of photos. The car next to use was rocking on its suspension, the wind was tearing through my thin fishing shirt… straight back into the car!
We eventually rolled into Balmacara at around 1pm and had a good view over Lochalsh, only the view wasn’t good at all. Waves right across the loch, as far as the eye could see. The wind was very strong, conditions were totally unfishable, so much for fishing the Friday afternoon into evening. We unpacked a bit of gear and later in the afternoon ventured down the loch in the hope of locating some calmer water. Looking to the south side from a good vantage point of looked relatively calm close in so the decision was made to launch from the southern side of the loch.
We sorted out gear from the back of the car and were rigged up, perhaps not in record time. The water was indeed far calmer, though that didn’t last for long. We found ourselves being battered by the wind and rain, at times conditions were beyond dreadful. I dropped my deep water anchor into over 100 metres of water and once the kayak settled Daniel tied off onto my bow. With the wind hitting both kayaks hard I was unable to hold anchor and we began to drag anchor all too quickly. I pulled anchor after a while (took a while!!) and found a large buoy to tie off to. I’d hoped it would provide a really solid tethering point, though my GPS showed us to be dragging the buoy and whatever it was tied too after only a few minutes, it was frustrating!
The weather showed no sign of improving and the light was beginning to fade so we decided it was time to call it a day. The bar was calling and we could only hope that the Saturday would bring us some better weather.
We were accommodated at Balmacara House on the northern shore of Lochalsh. It’s a military outdoor centre and despite being a little basic, it’s perfect for kayak fisherman. The rooms are warm and comfy, the food is good, it has a bar, drying room and wash down facilities. Before you email me, it’s not available for public bookings.
We were joined that evening by four other anglers who had travelled over from Ireland, lots of fishing chatter over a few beers, who could ask for more?.
We awoke on the Saturday morning to the sound of wind buffeting the old house, not the sound you want to hear. Peering out of the window permitted a view of waves and gloom, the strong south westerly wind tearing up the surface of Lochalsh. Typically we’d been informed that the loch has been wonderfully calm all week prior to our arrival.
After looking over the charts we decided that Loch Duich offered the best chance of shelter and an opportunity to fish. It joins onto the end of Lochalsh and offers deep water up to 120m. Though would it hold any Common skate?. To be honest I was extremely doubtful and there a mile long stretch of shallow water before Lochalsh joins onto Loch Duich, my gut feeling was that Skate were unlikely to have ventured over such an extensive length of shallow water.
We headed down to Loch Duich and I literally turned the corner, watching the rough water of Lochalsh disappear in the rear view mirror as the calm waters of Loch Duich appeared in front of me. We ended up heading all the way around to the south western shoreline to launch and by late morning we were afloat and fishing!
The scenery was breath taking, snow covered, steep-sided mountains, coniferous woodland with multiple shades of winter colours covering the hillsides, living the dream!
The deep water anchor was deployed once more and it held myself and Daniel in place in the sheltered deep water loch without an issue.
The varied depth provided me with a good opportunity to try out some of the capabilities of the Lowrance Elite 7 HDI. Lowrance state that the down imaging has a maximum depth capability of 91m and that held up to be accurate, in fact I was still achieving a return at 98m (321 feet) when set at 455Khz. I really do like being able to view the broadband sonar returns alongside the DI returns. Fish returns are much clearer on broadband, the the detail is much superior on DI. There is the option to overlay data, though I prefer to keep them separate.
There was rarely a break in the rain, so the Lowrance unit was constantly soaked with both freshwater and saltwater spray over 3 days and it never missed a heartbeat. I’m not had it immersed to test out it’s waterproof rating and I’m not planning on it to be honest. However, it’s certainly more than capable of keeping the worst of the British weather at bay!
Back to the fishing,… fortunately the stunning scenery made up for the apparent lack of fish. I managed a string of dogfish, to the point where I stopped putting small baits down. I Then had a few tentative knocks which resulted in a Thornback Ray of 8-10lb. I have to be hones tin saying that it was pretty lifeless when coming up from 100m.
A short time later I hooked into something that felt far more solid and for a brief moment it felt rather large. However, it some began to come up through the depths, head shaking most of the way, classic Conger eel!. It wasn’t particularly big, short and fat, though it gave a good account of itself on the heavy gear.
The weather began to deteriorate as the afternoon progressed, anglers were struggling to hold bottom with the rising wind speed, the rain was becoming heavier. Myself and Daniel tried some jigging close in to one side of the loch, though it was hard work. I missed a couple of hits, Daniel managed to land a small Pollack.
The session drew to a close and we retired to the shelter of the bar back at Balmacara House, though not before the rain produced a wonderful rainbow over Eilean Donan Castle.
Another good social was enjoyed by all, though I don’t enjoy the ‘baggy head’ that I have to endure the following morning!
We woke up on the Sunday to strong winds and a wave-covered loch, nothing new there then!. The wind had swung around a little so Loch Duich was also going to be somewhat exposed, not ideal!. We really didn’t want to be catching Dogfish, so we decided to sit out of the weather until midday, in the hope that it would subside a little… it didn’t. We returned to our vantage point over the loch and the southern side appeared doable, so the decision was made to launch on the south coast and head around to the skate grounds.
Well Friday evening’s poor weather conditions soon seemed quite calm and delightful compared to what we endured for the next few hours!. Once out of the relative shelter of the sea wall and headland were hit weather conditions that can only be described as utterly horrendous!. We crossed an exposed bay, steady winds on 40mph, perhaps gusting to 50mph+. I can honestly say that if I’d not been on the Outback I’d probably have been blown over at times. Yes it was raining, though when Daniel shouted over not to look to the right it became clear that it was really going to rain!!!. A solid wall of rain from seal level up was heading in our direction at high speed, something we were to experience on several occasions throughout the session. The rain positively hurt at times, being whipped into my face, generally horizontally most of the time.
Deceptively calm from the waters edge!
At times is turned to sleet, even hail, interesting conditions to say the least. At one point I gazed across the loch to view a 2 metre deep channel of spray, ripped from the water surface and being blown down the loch. At times water was being sucked upwards in a circular pattern, perhaps the beginnings of a water spout?
We headed back and found shelter in between some salmon fish farms, dropping some bait down in 80m of water. Apart from one sharp bite it was quiet for the two hours or so that we were there. The sky darkened as evening drew in, though a camera flash caught my attention. Though rumbling thunder confirmed that it wasn’t from a camera at all!. A few moments later lightning hit the ground a mile away, almost instantly an enormous crack of thunder made us feel rather small and vulnerable!.. Rods were laid flat and we slid down our kayaks as we watched to storm head along the mountain ridges and into the distance of a period of twenty minutes.
We called it a day, though the journey back was far from comfortable, certainly some of the worst conditions that I’ve experienced in a very long time. I’m not have considered going out alone, to be honest, if it was not for the fact that we’d travelled so far and put so much effort into the planning of the trip, I’d not have considered going out at all!
We left Lochalsh early the next morning, typically the weather has improved dramatically, the wind had subsided and in places the loch surface was a mirror!… how horribly typical.
The drive back through Glencoe was stunning, beauty I couldn’t imagine of growing tired of.
So we all travelled up in the hope of catching a Common Skate, though conditions prevented us from fishing the required marks. I got within 150m of my mark at one stage, though I was driven back by the weather, so incredibly frustrating. That said, with the conditions as bad as they were, hooking into and playing a large Common Skate would be been quite dangerous I reckon!
After 1400 miles I finally made it back home, an epic and tiring trip. Terrible weather, below par fishing and great company in an incredible location. I may yet return, I’ll always be cautious of organising a trip well in advance, it’s fraught with risk and potential disappointment. But, it’s what we do, secretly we enjoy the highs and lows that we regularly experience from the sport of kayak fishing.
FIRST PLACE $136.00
"Rodney2814" - Rodney Nelson
71.5 Total Inches Redfish - 26"
Trout - 14"
Snook - 31.5"
Flounder - none
SECOND PLACE $82.00
"Fishvision" - Rick Taylor
69.3 Total Inches Redfish - 21.7"
Trout - 19.6"
Snook - 28"
Flounder - none
THIRD PLACE $55.00
"Tampa Clouser" - Fred McClendon
66.85 Total Inches Redfish - 16.0"
Trout - 21.6
Snook - 14.25"
Flounder - 15"
"ANGLER ADVANTAGE WINNER" $48.00
"Tide1on" - Steve Burke With a 29.7 inch Red
"TROUT CLOSEST TO 20 INCHES WINNER"
New HCKAC JStock Designs DENALI Microfiber
"dodge" - Olin Satterfield
"CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE WINNERS!!!"
Part of the weigh-in crowd
Anglers that signed-up: 22
Anglers that participated today: 16
Anglers at the Weigh-in: 15 "Again... Excellent"
Tokens submitted for review: 11
Total fish checked-in: 24
Reds checked-in: 6
Trout checked-in: 10
Snook checked-in: 6
Flounder checked-in: 2
Thanks to everyone who came out and fished today.
With the high winds we had again today, we now know who's really "HardCore"!
Again, like the last event. We really appreciated the excellent weigh-in turn out!!!
Also, a BIG THANKS goes out to the... for the weigh-in location and the great service!
They're located at...
5611 US Highway 19
Palmetto, FL 34222
Up next is the 1st of 6 events of HardCore's 2014 Tournanment Series & The "Old Town" Series Championship
on Saturday, March 1st SIGN-IN THREAD FOR EVENT #1
I had the opportunity to hit the water for a few hours with HardCore brother Gian, aka Operation Home Shores, this past weekend and although it started off cold and windy, the conditions and bite slowly improved.
A classic, winter, low tide had us targeting depressions and potholes for fish that were trapped and waiting for the flats to flood. We found a few Trout but the bite was slow until the water started to come in.
Gian saw a bunch of big Reds and thanks to his scouting technique, I hooked into one of them as we headed back to the launch.
We stuck around and tried to hook to another but the school had moved on.
Teach Him The Art Of Reeling And Cast
Steve M. Gibson
My boy Jacob and I took a quick trip around the pond in our new Emotion tandem. He quickly surprised me and stood up and said he was going to find us some fish. He will be a future HardCore member for sure!
Content copyright 2009. Russ Caipen. All rights reserved.