It's been a slightly frustrating few weeks at what is generally one of the best times of year for mullet fishing. The up and down weather has limited my opportunities, but even when I have got out I seem to have missed the best of the fishing. I've also lost a couple of good fish under unusual circumstances, more of which later.
On 4th September I had a short session on the rock mark on the north side of Sheep's Head which had been reasonably consistent when Steve was over, if not hitting the heights of earlier in the summer. There were still mullet in residence, but the size was disappointing. I had three between 1:12 and 1:14, this from a mark where I've rarely had fish under 2lbs before. Pretty little fish though...
On the 5th my friends Pete and Jenny from Cornwall arrived to stay in Rosscarbery. They arrived in time for a short evening session and Pete was straight into the action with a 5:10 and a 5:13, with a similar-sized fish lost. I resisted the temptation to go and visit them on the 6th, instead heading to my estuary on the Mizen peninsula to fish the top of the big spring tide that evening.
Standing on the causeway I had a stiff breeze in my face, it was cold and grey and didn't look particularly hopeful as I waited for the tide to push into the pool. Pete texted me to say Jenny had just caught a 6:00 at Rosscarbery! The tide arrived but brought with it a lot of green weed; I was only getting four or five minutes a cast before I had to reel in to clear the line. Then ... a drop back bite! I struck and the fish ran right. The tip of my other rod moved suspiciously and I thought the fish had picked up my other line. It hadn't, it was just more weed, but while I was trying to solve this imaginary problem a very real problem was developing. By the time I'd sorted out what was going on with the other line, the fish was right over by the rocks and into the flow that was pouring through the twin bridge arches. I stopped it just short of the rocks and I thought I'd get it back no problem, realising too late that the fish was bigger than I thought. I got some line back but not quickly enough and the fish was still kiting towards the arches. I belatedly started scuttling to the right to get over the fish ... I arrived just in time to see its flank as it was swept into the nearer of the two little arches and under the road!
I just couldn't believe this was happening. I stuck my rod tip down and scrambled round the railing above the arch to get directly above it. It must have been a really good hookhold because I spent over two minutes with my rod bent into the arch and drag screwed down trying to haul the fish back against the water thundering through. I even got a few inches of line back occasionally before the inevitable happened and the trace parted. The video above doesn't quite give the full impression, just take a look at the flow coming out of the arch on the other side of the road ...
I fished on for a couple of hours in pretty dour conditions. The weed continued to be a nuisance. At one point I could see a small piece stuck on my line on the surface, causing the quivertip to nod. I put up with it for a minute or two then started to wind in ... and found myself playing a mullet. It wasn't as big as the one I'd lost, and it came off half way in anyway. I thought, what an appropriate end to a disappointing session.
On the 7th I headed down to Rosscarbery to fish with Pete and Jenny. The west wind was still blowing and I arrived late-morning to find them fishing on the sheltered west bank in the same area where they'd been catching the previous days.
I set up legering a bit lower down, but the fish must have been shoaled quite tightly. While I sat without a twitch on either of my tips, Pete was getting regular bites and landed first a 3:13 and then a 4:08 ...
Pete and Jenny packed up for a break back at their rented cottage. I had a brief go at some big fish that were showing close to the rocks in front of the hotel, but these soon melted away. I went up to the cottage for a cuppa, thanks guys.
An hour or so later I headed back down to the estuary. There were some fish still showing in the same area where Pete had caught earlier but I thought I'd leave them for the other two and headed lower down again. There was nothing showing in front of me but I felt confident some fish would move through on the making tide.
It was not to be: another quiet session for me, but some action for Pete and Jen fishing only seventy or eighty yards to my left.
After missing a few bites, Pete was in again, another good fish. After a good scrap Jenny slid the net under a lovely 5:03 thicklip.
My next outing was on the 10th, back to Rosscarbery with Sylvi to fish with Pete and Jenny again before joining them for an evening meal at the Abbey Bar. Pete had continued clocking up mullet with a couple each day, mostly 4lbers. Jen unfortunately hadn't added to her tally but her six pounder was still the biggest of their holiday! The wind had carried on getting stronger and stronger all week, and today it was only really fishable in the tidal lagoon. We arrived to the news that Pete had had a 5:09 that morning, adding to a 4:14 the previous afternoon in a session when he'd also lost three good fish.
We float-fished three in a line along the wall. There seemed to be plenty of little fish around, especially down my end, with my float bobbing almost constantly during some spells. I did have a few more positive bites but I missed all of these. Meanwhile Pete seemed to be getting more of the better bites, and before too long he was in again for another arm-aching struggle. The fish looked huge as Jenny swung it ashore. We wondered if it would make 6lbs but the scales said 5:11 ...
Pete added another 4lber on their last fishing day on the 11th. He finished with 13 mullet to a best of 5:13 and four others over the Irish specimen weight of 5lbs.
It's a standard of fishing that simply couldn't happen these days in the UK and I found myself nodding in agreement with Pete's post on the Irish Mullet Fishing page on Facebook: these wonderful fish really do need protection from netting put in place before it's too late and they go the same way as mullet stocks in the UK.
Jenny had just the one, but the fish of 6lbs exactly was a new PB by some margin.
I know they both love the Ireland experience so I'll look forward to seeing them back next year.
I headed back to Rosscarbery on the 13th. Not much was showing anywhere so I started by legering from the grass by the bridge arch. It was a quiet three hours or so, punctuated by a five minute interlude during which I landed a 2:12 after a twitchy bite on my left hand rod. The fish swam over to the right and when I tried to pull my right hand line out of the way, I found myself playing a fish on that too! That one had to fend for itself for a while, but I landed it okay, 4lb 5oz. Not the first, or the last, double header this year ...
Later on I moved into the lagoon, float-fishing a couple of swims without much interest and no definite bites.
I wandered back to the estuary and saw some good mullet moving in the shallows just to the left of the bridge arch. I decided to jump down the wall further along onto the shingle foreshore then wade back towards the arch.
The water was very shallow, so I waded as close as I dare to the area where I'd seen the fish, loose-fed some bread then fished with the float set to put the bait about a foot deep. I had loads of bites but they were a real problem to hit, depite the float sliding away nicely. I think the fish must have been pushing the bait ahead of them, not getting it in their mouths. Eventually I struck into one, a nice 2:14 hooked right in the front of the top lip, as if to prove that theory. It was not in the same league as the fish I'd seen from the road above.
I waded back for another go, and was getting sporadic bites again after twenty minutes - but I carried on missing them till the bites petered out completely into the dusk, frustratingly.
On the 17th Sylvi and I took the ferry to Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay, to fish the lovely tidal lake behind Baltunta Strand in the south west of the island.
Being a Sunday, the first ferry didn't leave till 11.00 a.m. and it's a fair old hike from the harbour out to the lake, so by the time I was tackled up I had no more than five hours to fish before heading back for the last ferry at 5.45 p.m.
To be honest though, five hours seemed plenty as contrary to the forecast there was a stiff south-east breeze coming down the lake towards us on the shingle near the mouth of the lake, the only accessible area. And no sign of any mullet!
I gave it a good couple of hours float-fishing from the steeply shelving shingle. The breeze died off a bit as the day warmed up and it looked better, but I didn't have a bite or see a fish. I had a brief go on the beach outside the lake, but didn't really like the swim, so I waded over the shallow inlet and fished into the lake from the shingle on the far side.
Again it was quiet, until an after a soporific hour my float buried without any preliminaries. I was surprised, but struck instinctively into a good mullet which didn't run far but chugged deep back-and-forth along the shingle shoreline for several minutes before it surfaced. I hadn't brought my landing net across the inlet with me and Sylvi couldn't get across without getting her shoes wet, so I brought the fish in close and lifted it out by hand. I carried it back over the inlet for weighing at 4lb 4oz and a photo ...
As I was playing the fish, the tide had started flooding through the inlet into the lake. I wasn't sure how deep it would get so with a ferry to catch I thought it prudent not to cross back over.
I fished out the last hour or so from the near side and did get more bites, but they were visibly from a shoal of very small mullet about 4oz. No matter - I was pleased with the one I'd caught and we had both enjoyed our day in peaceful surroundings on the island.
On the 19th I was back on the Mizen in almost identical unpleasant, gloomy conditions to my last visit. The mullet were again scarce and I had just the one drop-back bite. I struck and felt the fish, then everything went slack and stayed slack as I wound in. I was convinced my line had broken, till suddenly a fish shot off to my right yanking my rod round ... it must have swum right in to the wall at speed, most unusual. It was only 2:10, but at least I landed this one. I looked across at the water pouring through the bridge arches, still ruing the one that got away.
Today I started off at the lovely Lough Hyne just south of Skibbereen, but I barely made the early morning high water.
There were a few mullet topping in the bay formed by the pier, they didn't seem to be any great size but that seems to have been the way at this venue recently.
My float bobbed and then slid away first cast. I missed that one but was in second cast, a fish that fought above its weight of 2lb 5oz.
By the time I'd done the measurements, photos and scale samples for IFI and returned the fish, its mates had departed. I fished an hour then decided to move.
35 minutes later I was back at Rosscarbery. I was keen to try my new-found wading swim again, and decided to start off by giving it a go despite not seeing any mullet from the causeway above.
I waded along and fished for twenty minutes or so, loose-feeding tiny portions of mashed bread every cast, and suddenly I was getting whelms in the swim and bites.
Again these proved difficult to hit but not as difficult as the other evening, and soon I was playing a mullet that turned out to be 3lb 7oz.
I couldn't get any more interest on wading back, so I moved into the lagoon. I fished from the right-hand pier next to the activity centre.
My float shot under on the second trot through. I was late on the strike - the float was already coming back up - but I connected anyway.
What was manifestly a very big fish wallowed on the surface. It didn't seem to want to run out, but it swum back and to in front of me. I gave it more stick when it headed left a couple of times as I didn't want it to swim round the far pier or under the pontoon beyond. Then it swam in between the piers, and I thought it might beach itself up the slipway, but it turned and swam out again. I didn't want it reaching the end of the far pier, so I gave it some stick again and turned it. It swam in again, then out again, both times hugging the concete wall of the far pier, worryingly. And then disaster struck, it wouldn't be stopped and went round the end of the far pier.
I ran round, first letting out line then reeling it in as I ran out along the far pier. To my dismay the line went underwater then behind the flagpole bolted onto the end of the pier! If I'd have thought I'd have realised there was no way the mullet could have swum behind the flagpole - in fact the pole only protrudes nine inches underwater, the mullet had swum underneath it and I could probably have just slid the line off the bottom. But my eyes were drawn to the mullet, which was wallowing on the surface next to the pole, looking pretty knackered. In hindsight, I should have invested 30 seconds going back to get my net, but then I'd have kicked myself had the mullet been gone when I got back. What I did was try to lift it out by hand ... and I did get finger and thumb of my left hand behind its pectorals and lift it three-quarters out of the water ... and then it wriggled, dropped back in and the tethered trace parted as swam off.
I was gutted. It was a big 5lber for sure, probably a 6lber, a great thick fish with a slate black back.
I tried further along the lagoon, then back on the pier. I had more bites but the only ones I could connect with were big gobies. I couldn't get the lost fish out of my mind and decided I needed a change of scenery, so I headed down the west side estuary and set up the leger rods. There were plenty of mullet milling around in the shallows, but clearly not feeding as the first hour or so passed without a bite.
Then just as the first of the flood tide started to push through, I had a gentle bite on my left hand rod. It was a good fish - nothing like the one I'd lost but a good fish - and it took seven or eight minutes to get in. I'd just put the net out when my right hand rod nearly pulled over the wall - another double header! I slackened off the drag on the other rod and concentrated on the first fish, landed it, unhooked it, put it back in the water in the net and trapped the mesh under the rim of the net so it couldn't get out. Then I played in the other, much smaller fish and netted that too. They went 5:02 and 2:13. Incredibly they were barely an inch different in length, the 5:02 was so much thicker across the back and deeper.
After that ... nothing ... either for me or for the two anglers on holiday from England who had appeared during the preceding chaos then fished just off to my left. It seemed the fish had all moved on with the tide. If you're reading this guys, I hope you had some fish later on.