Angling: Meet the man who liked fishing so much he bought the fishery

Sandy Mabon used to fish Morton Fishingsnote-0 as a teenager and now, around four decades on, he has acquired a ten-year lease on the popular water which will re-open to the public in early March.
Sandy Mabon, the new lease holder at Morton Fishings. Picture: Nigel DuncanSandy Mabon, the new lease holder at Morton Fishings. Picture: Nigel Duncan
Sandy Mabon, the new lease holder at Morton Fishings. Picture: Nigel Duncan

Broxburn-born and raised Mabon is currently racing against the clock to complete a raft of remedial work before opening day as the 54-year-old, who is an experienced fishery manager, is determined to put Morton firmly back on the map after a closure of around three years.

Over three tonnes of quality trout have been ordered to augment the stock already at the water and they will arrive before and on opening day, scheduled for Friday, March 3.

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Bookings are already coming in from individuals and angling clubs throughout the Central Belt and there has been interest from as far afield as Ayrshire.

Sandy Mabon shows the boat pontoon at Morton. Picture: Nigel DuncanSandy Mabon shows the boat pontoon at Morton. Picture: Nigel Duncan
Sandy Mabon shows the boat pontoon at Morton. Picture: Nigel Duncan

Mabon is pleased with the response and stressed that this is a ten-year project and that is why he is investing so heavily in change. Work was under way this week to complete a bridge over a burn between the HQ and the woodland section.

The extensive boat pontoon is also being renovated and a new surface is being created for part of the parking area which is understood to hold around 30 cars.

Gone is the pigeon loft creating even more parking space, particularly for disabled anglers, and that area is only yards from the edge of the lake, and work is also on-going on the disabled fly fishing platform.

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Other plans include re-wiring, fixing the boats, creating more fishing platforms around the extensive lake above Livingston, building a decking area for refreshments and lunch breaks, and landscaping on the site plus cutting weed growth in the water.

Morton at sunset. Picture: Nigel DuncanMorton at sunset. Picture: Nigel Duncan
Morton at sunset. Picture: Nigel Duncan

Mabon said: "There is a lot of work to be done and only around seven weeks to complete it, but we are determined to do everything we can to create a fishery which customers want to come to and where they will enjoy good sport.

"Yes, Morton has been shut for some time, around three years, and we fully understand that the previous customer base may have found other venues to fish, but we would urge them to think about coming back to visit and to give us a chance.

"Overall, we want people to enjoy the customer experience and have good sport here and everybody here is 100 per cent committed to making this a great place to be."

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Mabon has been involved in other fisheries during his varied career, which has included working for a major supermarket chain, but he said he understands the sport and claims to be is a highly-competent leisure fisherman.

The businessman has actually only entered one competition in his fishing career and he came third but that will not prevent him hosting competitive events at the water which will be open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.

He added: "We don't know what damage has been caused to the stock of fish by wild life like otters and cormorants and even herons which nest in trees here.

"Some of the woodland area around the water has been cut down and Morton is therefore now more exposed to the elements, but some woodland remains as there is a resident bat colony in one area and the herons plus owls nest in another part."

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Mabon added: "It is a new chapter for me and the fishery and we will have to see what happens, but anglers should rest assured that we are doing everything we can to make this water a major venue."

Re-stocking starts on March 1 with two tanks of fish. Another two tanks will arrive on March 2 and four are ordered for opening day. Nine boats should be available for use then with oars or battery outboard - bring your own or ten have been ordered - along with around 40 pegs on the extensive bank space.

Traditionally, floating or midge tip lines work early season with cormorant, damsel and diawl back patterns among the past favourites at Morton. One previous regular suggested a cormorant on the point, diawl back on the middle dropper and an emerger pattern on the top dropper.

On their day, dry flies have previously worked well early season with yellow owl, spiders (black and olive) and beetles also worth a cast.

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Mabon confirmed that an extensive range of flies will be available in the on-site tackle shop along with angling basics. It will also sell snacks like crisps and chocolate and he has negotiated a hot food facility with bosses of nearby Selmwood Carp Lake who have a complete kitchen on-site selling hot and cold food, including meals. Orders can be phoned down and delivered.

No wading will be allowed at new-look Morton where depths range from 38ft in one area to 25ft in the bay which shelves dramatically, but Mabon said these numbers will be checked prior to opening to give current anglers an accurate, up-to-date chart.

Prices, claimed Mabon, are competitive with four hours on the bank for £22 and that includes taking four fish and four hours on a boat for £32 also taking four fish. Two men four four hours on a boat is £54 and they can take four fish each.,

Concessions will be available and booking is by phone direct to Mabon on 07842 075828 or via the Morton website which has already generated interest from corporate customers, including banks, for days out. A Facebook page has been inaugurated and has encouraged interest and it will include the latest weather forecast plus updated catch returns and information on productive patterns to help anglers once the season has started.

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Elsewhere, Maisie the resident sturgeon at Drumtassie Coarse Fishery near Blackrige, has been netted again by Darren and she weighed 36lb 8oz.

The new Vision Pikemaniac rods have been designed with the hardcore pike fly angler in mind and the medium-fast action is said to make casting large predatory flies easy. The rod is, claim the manufacturers, ideally for targeting a range of predatory fish from the boat or the shore.

Materials include 40-ton carbon, corrosion-resistant titanium stripping guides and high-density EVA handle and the rod is said to deliver high-end performance at a mid-range price. It also features a fish ruler up to 130cm.

Onto sea fishing and 21 anglers fished the latest round of the Edinburgh Winter Shore League at Newhaven with Gordon Lyall landing 21 fish to win with Stevie Souter second and Stevie Burns third. They both had 17 fish each.

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The longest fish were two 25cm dabs hooked by Mike Kyle and Chris Barrett.

The Bass rock Shore Angling League host the eighth round of their winter league on Wednesday, January 18, at a venue to be decided. Eight anglers fished the seventh round with Stuart Fairbairn of Haddington the winner with one fish for 3lb 10z.

Barry McEwan (Port Seton) was second with one fish for 2lb 30z and Jimmy Green from Musselburgh third with one fish for 1lb 7oz. Shaun Gardner was the only other angler to weigh in and his fish was 9oz and he came fourth.

Further afield, Alfie Brown won the latest stage of Mike and Chris's Winter Cod League with 9lb 6oz. Keith Galloway was second with 8lb 10oz and Pete Bauld third on 5lb 10oz. The heaviest fish was landed by Graham Duncan at 4lb 1oz.

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A total of 39 anglers fished and the next round is on Sturday, January 14, fishing 16.00 to 21.00 with boundaries between Carnoustie and Ferryden Lighthouse. Registration is at the Victoria car park, Arbroath from 14.30 to 15.00. All depart 15.00 and high water is at 18.43.

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