Duncan Martin is a fishing guide with true stories of exploration that have led him to finding productive and picturesque places to fish on the coast and inland of Scotland. We asked Duncan some questions to learn how he started Explore Fishing UK and get his recommendations for anglers interested in booking a trip to fish the United Kingdom. Read on below, and visit Duncan's page on Fisher Guiding to contact or book a trip with Explore Fishing UK.
The Origin of Explore Fishing UK
Duncan: In 2007, I moved to a small coastal town in the highlands of Scotland. This is when I moved from freshwater to sea fishing. I was thrown in to the deep end and had to learn very quickly when I sadly hit hard times. I was literally fishing to survive. The ultimate test for any angler. Armed with only a basic spinning rod and beach rod setup, I was even using stones as weights. Spending all my spare time studying up on the behaviours and migration patterns of the fish available to me in my local area. After a couple of years I was back on my feet and able to start travelling around the country in search of new, more productive parts of coastline. This is when I happened across the area called Argyll & Bute, known in the UK as the fishing capital of Scotland. It has the widest selection of fishing available in Scotland from Salmon and Trout fishing to deep sea fishing for 200lb+ Skate.
I have since spent every opportunity I get exploring as much of the coast as possible, spending up to a week or more at a time in each area. Trying a multitude of tactics to hone in on what works best and when. Knowing how hard it can be to go to a new area and actually find where the fish are spurred me on to share my knowledge. In 2017, Explore Fishing was born.
Describe to us the region you fish, around Oban on the west coast of Scotland. For an international traveler, what is it like to visit and stay around Oban in Argyll?
Oban in Argyll is the sea fishing capital of Scotland and boasts a vast array of nature loving environments. This bursting country embraces long sandy beaches with abundant Plaice and Flounder, and vast kelp beds that hide gigantic Pollack.
When fishing its infamous sea lochs, you never know what fish you will catch next. If you are lucky, you may even catch a 200lb Skate!
For those looking to fish the fresh water, Argyll delivers here too. Its freshwater lochs are ripe with trout & pike and its fast flowing rivers often hold record breaking Grayling and Salmon. For those travelers looking to explore more than just great fishing, the area is littered with historical castles, standing stones, towns and breathtaking scenery. If its towering mountains, endless sea views and local events aren’t enough, Argyll is ready to share its plentiful wildlife with those willing to look. The local area is a haven for seals, dolphins, deer, eagles, otters and much more, one will never be short of things to do.
How did you learn to fish this region?
Like most anglers I love to fish, explore and discover new areas and all they have to offer.
Learning to fish any new area requires patience. I will often spend weeks at a time discovering which baits and rigs work best, noting the tides, weather conditions and time of year. Argyll is a particular favorite of mine and have happily spent many years exploring the area. To this day I am continually surprised with what I find here.
The name of your guide service is Explore Fishing, and it's evident your tours are designed for exploration and adventure. Tell us more about what fishers get to experience in and along the way to fishing spots.
Tours can be catered to suit all needs and be as adventurous as the guests’ desire. From parking up at scenic roadside spots, through to hiking to remote areas and camping in the wilderness. Towering mountains, picturesque lochs, thick woodland and a seemingly endless coastline made up of golden beaches, rugged rocks and Caledonian cobble - Scotland's landscapes really will take your breath away. Tours start with the rolling hills and lush farmland, then through deep glens surrounded by mountains as we enter the true Highlands.
Accommodation can be provided at cost and range from a tent to luxury 5-star hotels. Alternatively guests can book their own accommodation and suggestions as to where to stay can be given. Collection from accommodation each day is provided if staying locally, or from a meeting point if staying further away.
What are the thrills, or challenges, of fishing in a rocky gully? That sounds like beautiful landscape.
When fishing underwater gullies, it is always a challenge to know where they are, where the fish are holding in them and at what depth to position bait. Some gullies are exposed at low tide, showing you all you need to know, where others can start several meters under the surface and need to be discovered. Once a gully has been unearthed then this can be the start of an amazing fishing session. They often hold huge Pollack, Bass and Cod depending on the time of year. With shallow rocky areas there will also be a great mix of juvenile fish, perfect for the species hunter.
Your Carp, Catfish, and Coarse Fishing Tours are new for 2018. For many outside of the UK, Coarse fishing may be something new to try. What should one know about coarse fishing if they haven’t done it before / what makes it fun?
Coarse fishing is very similar to catfish and carp fishing in the way that there is a lot of finesse involved. Ideally suited for the patient angler that likes to work with light tackle and prefers a variety of species over size. It’s a style of fishing that can be extremely fast paced when the bite is on. The option of canals, rivers, lakes or stocked fisheries gives all interested a great selection of venue. There is also a vast array of carp and catfish venues that range from ponds stocked with large quantities of fish, giving you a fish every other cast, to large lakes with only few monster fish in pristine condition. This is usually best done in the southern parts of the UK where the weather is warmer and the freshwater fish grow much bigger.
What’s the most unique or memorable experience you’ve had fishing in Scotland?
My most memorable experience whilst fishing in Scotland was when I headed out for my first true, rough camping expedition. At the time I was fairly inexperienced in sea fishing and was still very much learning what to do. It was a warm mid-summers day and everything was going my way. I packed the car and headed to a little known car park at the end of a 15-mile long dead end road. On arrival at the car park there was no sign of anyone and clear that I had this section of coastline all to myself. So I grabbed my gear and said good bye to the car and any form of civilization for the next few days.
After an hour or so hiking round the coast I found the perfect spot to pitch the tent. As I finished setting up the camp and the rods I was inevitably getting a touch peckish. This is when I discovered that I had forgotten all my cooking equipment besides some tin foil and a fork. For those that have not been to the west coast of Scotland, there can be areas that haven’t seen the likes of a tree since before the highland clearance in the 18th century! Making a fire was going to be tough to say the least.
The hunt for firewood was on. I spent a good hour looking around for any form of kindling and firewood that I could find; it didn’t go well. At best I would say I had found a handful of firewood that wouldn’t even get the fire going, let alone cook anything I could catch. That’s when it happened. An otter. Out of nowhere, another! These two graceful creatures just diving in and out of the kelp and water, every time coming up with another tasty looking crab or clam. Looking on with envy and awe I followed them as they slowly made their way up the coastline to a small cove and then disappear, seemingly in to thin air. I scaled my way down the rocks to try and work out where they had gone. There it was, my saving grace. A cave. The opening only a few feet across but deep. I saw that there was a glimmer of light towards the back of the cave, so I went in. Driftwood everywhere, from just a few feet in right to the back, but I wasn’t alone. The 2 gorgeous little otters that had happily ignored me earlier were not too impressed about my rude intrusion on their little sanctuary. I slowly backed out of the hole taking a few bits of driftwood as I left. The otters casually came out of the hole and just stared at me while I gathered what I could. It was almost as if they knew what I was doing as what happened next was astonishing to say the least. The male let out a belter of a squeal and they both turned and left the cave, moving all of about 20 feet away where they, again, just stopped and watched me. I took the opportunity with both hands and helped myself all I could carry and more. With my bag and arms loaded I started to make my way back out of the gully. On reaching the top I turned to see the otters still sitting on the same rock, still just watching me and still as chilled and as composed as can be. I gave them a little wave and said “Thank you very much for the hospitality”. Upon saying this they both got up and moved back in to the cave.
Two days later I had been fortunate enough to have been able to keep the fire lit, catch enough mackerel to eat and to use as bait for other species. All thanks to my 2 new furry, four legged friends. I never saw them again but I did drop off 2 mackerel on my way past the cave. I like to think they knew the fish were from me and the fox I saw on the second evening didn’t find the fish first. He had been quite happy with my scraps and leftovers both nights. I still visit the cave when I have the time to make the trip out there and always with a spare fresh mackerel or two. It may not be them there any more, most likely their children and grandchildren, but the fish I leave always get taken.
How 'bout that... an awesome reminder of the connection to nature you might find off the beaten path!
What is your favorite season to fish in Scotland, and your favorite fish to target?
Summer is by far the best season to fish in Scotland. June to early September provides the best fishing experience and greatest variety of species. I love to catch a fish called Thornback Ray. Not only because they are there in large numbers, or even that they can be caught all year round, but because they are an amazing creature. Prehistoric in appearance, graceful when swimming and great fun to catch on light tackle.
Which type of tour would you recommend for a novice angler? An intermediate angler? And a high-skilled, experienced angler?
For all anglers, I would suggest a tour that has both bait and lure fishing so as to experience as much variety as possible. I would recommend the week-long tour if the guest has not been to Scotland or the UK before, or has had to travel from outside the UK. This way they can not only get the best out of the fishing, but also have the opportunity to be shown some of the amazing sights that are on offer. With the intermediate and high-skilled anglers alike, I expect that they will already know what sort of fishing they prefer and to book a tour with this in mind. There is all sorts of fishing available from the active lure and fly fishing to the more relaxed bait fishing from the shore or boats. You can even opt for the ultimate fishing experience that the UK has to offer and go for the giant Skate and Blue Sharks that grow to hundreds of pounds! For the species hunter there are amazing opportunities too for LRF (Light Rock Fishing) and light bait fishing. Some of the better sites have been known to produce double figures in a day.