Preparing for Scotland

I'm not to sure when it was, perhaps Easter time, when I decided to organise a summer fishing expedition. The choice of venues was numerous, though the time constraint of around a week limited those choices somewhat. Expense is another consideration, especially if you're opening it up to other folk.

I really fancied a trip to the Beara peninsula in South west Ireland, though it's an awful lot of traveling, as well as the ferry cost, etc. Yes, I could go myself, though the idea was to attract a few members from my local yakfishing forum.

I used to live in the North East and took every opportunity to travel and fish the South West of Scotland, Luce Bay and its surroundings in particular. It's a stunning area with regards to the scenery and the fishing can be superb at times. It's still a long drive from the south coast though the decision was made and plans were formulated for an August trip.

I enjoy camping but sometimes you just have to treat yourself!. With this in mind I've booked a 38' static caravan with all the mod cons, etc. The location at Drummore is cracking, not only is on right on the waters edge, all amenities are either on the site or close by.

The tides are something to be wary of in this area At the Mull of Galloway seven tides converge forming a race that is quite impressive, and being able to hit twelves knots it's hugely powerful. Needless to say I'll be avoiding the Mull itself, unless it's around slack water!

A great thing about fishing this area is you never know what you're going to catch, it's not unheard of to catch a dozen or more species over a few days. These can vary from Tope, Smoothound and Bullhuss to Pollack, Bass, Rays and Wrasse.. to name but a few!

Another factor in choosing this area was shelter. When you arrange a trip well in advance you cannot cater for poor weather. Some venues are unfishable with a particular wind, and if it's set in for days your well made plans are potentially in tatters. However, due to the lay of the land, there's always somewhere that'll be sufficiently sheltered to fish. Loch Ryan to the north can also provide some varied fishing, as well as Wigtown Bay to the East.

There are many well publicised locations that will produce some good fishing, these include Ardwell Bay, Port Logan and Portpatrick. Weather permitting the majority of the fishing will be around the peninsula itself where's there's plenty to keep myself amused for the week.

There are also plans to head north in the pursuit of Common Skate, this in itself has taken quite some preparation. I'm used to fishing light, 6lb class being my preferred outfit, going up to 20lb class if deemed necessary. However skate fishing requires a totally different approach and there's some good articles online to point you in the right direction:

How to rig up for Common Skate
A guide to Catching Common Skate

This has resulted in me purchasing a 50lb class outfit and a new anchor setup allowing me to anchor in the expected depths of 300' or more!. Basically it's the same anchoring system I currently use but with a very large anchor reel!

The venue is to be the Sound of Jura, a well known habitat for Common skate.

So the plans have been set on what could be a cracking trip lasting up to 10 days. However, it's not just about the fishing, the scenery in these locations is truly stunning. I'm not fishing alone so the social should be good, hopefully not too good.. I don't want to be fishing with a serious hangover!!

All we need now is some half decent weather, I'm praying everyday.

Review - Princeton Apex Headlamp

Most of my fishing tends to be at night so a decent headlamp is a must. About 2 years ago I researched the internet to see what what getting the better reviews, whilst still being reasonable value for money. This resulted in me purchasing a LED Lenser 'Head Fire Power Chip' headlamp.


It's quite light at 130g when loaded with three AAA batteries.


The initial light output was excellent for my needs, though like many LED lights it started to diminish after an hour or so. However, it would still produce very usable light for about 20-30 hours depending on the ambient temperature. The loss of intensity after the initial hour or so of use, would become noticeable when trying to make visual contact with the line leaving your rod tip, or when looking ahead of the kayak when recovering a fish.

Having said all this the lamp has, and still is, functioning as advertised. It's not waterproof, it's advertised a 'splash proof', which had been more than adequate considering I've never taken a dunking during that time!. However, the aluminium light housing is corroding away quite happily due to saltwater exposure.

As much as this has not caused the lamp to fail, it's probably only a matter of time until failure does occur. Incidentally, the lamp is covered with a lifetime warranty, though no doubt the small print would ensure that a heavily corroded lamp would invalidate the warranty!.

I still think the light has quite some life remaining, so I made the decision to upgrade my lamp and to retain this one in my 'handy spares box'.

Again, lots of research lead me to the Princeton brand, the Apex in particular. I actually stumbled across this light a year ago, though the price was rather prohibitive at the time, plus my LED Lenser was functioning just fine. Anyway, after hunting hunting around for the best price I had one delivered for just over £50, virtually half the RRP price.


There's many attractive features about this particular headlamp. Firstly it's fully waterproof to a depth of one metre (for 30 minutes), a definite bonus for the kayak fisherman. It'll also make cleaning the saltwater off the lamp at the end of each trip very easy.

The maximum light output is quite staggering for such a compact unit. The LED Lenser quote a maximum of 50 lumens light output, whereas the APEX manages a stunning 130 lumens in its 'Maxbright High' setting. At this setting the quoted useful range is over 90 metres for one hour. After that time the light intensity will fall off. I've yet to try this fully in anger, though it's certainly very impressive.

The headlamp itself has one 'Maxbright' LED in a centre housing with four 'Ultrabright' LEDs in the outer housing. The housing can be adjusted to cast light forward or down (or any angle in between). The battery power meter is the small hole located directly below the Maxbright LED, this is covered in more detail later.


The combination of LEDs provides four light levels as well as a safety flashing mode. The 'Maxbright' and 'Ultrabright' LEDs are selectable separately via separate 'soft push' buttons on the base of the LED housing.


Due to the high power output of the LEDs, especially the 'Maxbright', the LED housing incorporates a heat sink to dissipate heat and prolong the life of the LEDs.


Another nice feature is the presence of a small blinking 'Battery Power Meter LED' which provides a general idea of the reaming battery life, varying between green, yellow and red depending on remaining charge.

Green indicates greater than 40% of battery capacity left, yellow at 40% and red when less than 20 minutes of run time is remaining.The quoted battery life is 150 hours compared to that of the LED Lensers' 50 hours. Obviously this is depending on usage and ambient temperature, though it's clearly a huge improvement over the LED Lenser.


This is mainly down to the battery pack which utilises four AA batteries as opposed to the three AAA of the LED Lenser. Clearly the downside of the larger battery pack is the weight, the headlamp weighing in at 270g, double the weight of the LED Lenser. However, it's not particularly noticeable and is very comfortable to wear. The top headlamp strap can be removed and the buckle used as a tool to open the battery pack, the latter being a nice touch. The battery pack is O-ring sealed and therefore watertight as per the head unit.

The Apex uses a current controlled circuit that enable the headlamp to maintain a constant light output until a certain battery voltage is reached. This feature makes the performance of the headlamp far superior in usability compared to other headlamps.


The Apex is compatible with Lithium batteries which as well as holding their charge better in colder temperatures, they are lighter than alkaline and re-chargeable batteries.

The warranty for users with the USA is lifetime, outside the USA it's 10 years. Though I'm certainly not complaining with a 10 year guarantee!. Time will tell how this headlamp performs in the long run, though my initial impressions are extremely favourable. I'll report back in a few months with an update to this early review.

Kayak fishing - Lynmouth, Devon

The weather on the south coast was looking grim so plans we made to travel to North Devon, Lynmouth to be exact.

I received a call from my mate telling me to travel light. I'd already packed at this point so my gear was thinned down to the limits, toothbrush and a handline. Arrived at his house and he was standing by on his drive. I though he'd just received a logistics delivery via Chinook!!!. Fear not, the 'yakmobile' swallowed it up with room to spare.

The third member of the exped team had a good hours head start on us, unlike us he was in a lightly loaded streamlined machine so we were always going to come last. However, we'd not taken his natural navigational skills into account. We eventually rounded him up and base camp took shape.



A few drinks later, accompanied with a 'dodgy' BBQ, we hit the sack.

Lynmouth is a truly cracking spot, well worth the drive.


Rigged and ready to launch...

We paddled about and scooped up a few fresh mackerel for bait before heading of to try and few marks.



A couple of dogfish surfaced, plenty of bites all round. The tide was quite strong, despite a depth of only 10-12m 8oz leads were needed to hold bottom.

A few timid bites had me fetching a cracking bass to the yak.


I got one of the lads on the phone and told him to stop messing about and to get over to my location. They were soon thrashing their way in my direction and had their lines down in no time. I couldn't believe it, one of them was straight in!!!


Something a little different...


Sadly we lost one of the team at this point. His wife phoned up calling him home.. no comment from me!

I'd had a tope rig down all day and as the tide slackened off I only had a run!, which I missed. Half an hour later I had a screamer of a run, talk about a bit of excitement!. I tightened into it after a few seconds, bait dropped. Disappointing for sure, but it's all good stuff.

Fishing day one came to a close. Cracking weather with a good few fish. Brilliant!


As we were camping, stoves and food bought along, we did the proper camping thing... straight into the pub, bar meal and drank a wee bit too much !

I woke up the next morning to see a living corpse in the tent next door. He didn't say much, only "It's not good", if I wasn't feeling so rough myself it would have been amusing!. After an hour in the shower and a grease-laden cooked breakfast at the on-site cafe, we decided we could manage a spot of fishing after all.

We were on our way again and launched before mid-morning. I truly felt bad, mind and body with not working today, life was a cluster...

Still, it came together in the end. Despite the missed runs of the day before I still had high hopes of tope. Played my ace and dropped a rubby dubby bag down on the anchor. Originally I'd planned to slide the weighted back down the anchor warp hence the weight in the above photo.


That didn't work, so I raised anchor and tied the bag to the chain, sorted.However, no runs during this session.


The weather on day two was mixed, bright sunshine backed up with regular thunderheads with accompanying squalls and torrential rain, it was actually quite a laugh. Big rolling swells out there, an interesting set of mixed conditions.


We called it a day early afternoon as we still had to dismantle the tents and stuff. Another cracking squall on the paddle back.


We arrived back a few hundred yards from the harbour entrance to some cracking waves around 4-5'. A toilet call would have been beneficial at this point!

My mate went first whilst I made a few pre-dunking checks. What luck!, he made it though a lull in the action, barely a ripple. My turn, all clear so I went for it. It wasn't ideal as the waves were sweeping across the entrance onto the rocks. Halfway in with a couple of light waves all was looking good. I turned my head and my heart sank, a big cresting wave 10-20m behind and I was angled off to it. Paddle down hard and leaning back saw me surge off, cockpit taking a hammering. I stayed perfectly upright though, and it was actually very stable. I paddled like a man possessed before the next set made an appearance.


The worst thing about the whole trip... coming home, it was a quiet trip back, we could have happily stayed another couple of days.

Again, brilliant trip and cracking company.

Kayak Trailer - Part 1

I've been after something potentially easier to get the old yak around the place. It's not that difficult to throw it on the roof of my Land Rover Discovery, though it has become a wee bit more difficult since I've fitted the rudder.

I was thinking along the lines of a trailer of sorts. My mate Gary, modified a motorcycle trailer with great effect, easy to move around and a doddle to load/unload the yak.

Nice and light, not that cheap generally, most go for £300 on Ebay. I really liked the idea, though I also fancied some storage space. In fact, a lot of storage space would make it double as a camping/yak expedition trailer. Plus it would keep my wife quiet as the garden rubbish could still be easily removed !

I've looked at a few types, basic camping trailers, box trailer, dog trailers.. and of course canoe and kayak trailers. I saw one that fitted the bill though it was a 12 return journey away. New, these kayak trailers go for £1500-2000 and I wasn't prepared to stump up that sort of cash.

Anyway, I've taken the plunge and picked up this custom built surfboard trailer this evening.

As it stands I can easily throw my yak straight onto the existing Thule bars. However, with some J-bars and could fit 2-3 yaks on top. Inside there's a huge amount of space.

There's a small amount of work initially, a couple of replacement nuts and bolts, hinge re-alignment, all very minor stuff.

I have plans for this trailer, various modifications, etc in order to make it into a top piece of kit. I'm open to suggestions on what might be a good idea..

Current thoughts:
  • Modify the inside of the rear door into a 'kitchen' (fold down cooker with some basic storage.
  • Storage for 2 jerry cans and a water container.
  • Large battery on a split charge powering 12v outlets for cool boxes, chargers, etc and a feed to an inverter for a 240v outlet
  • Perhaps an input for an external camping hook-up.
  • Internal lighting.
I'm not rushing into anything, there'll be a lot of thought and sketches before any modifying takes place... watch this space.


As a follow up, I decided to sell this trailer for various reasons. I replaced it with something more suitable, see here: Kayak trailer project