On 1st August I headed down to see my old friend Mike Buckley who was over on a break from UK. Mike had been staying in B&B in Skibbereen for a few days already but had found the fishing along the road at Rosscarbery still in poor sorts, with just a few smallish mullet landed. So we decided to head to a pontoon mark to the east where he'd found more consistent fishing.
Sadly this day most of the mullet seemed to have vacated the pontoon: we saw a few fish but after an hour we were still without a bite between us.
Someone called down to us that they could see some mullet under a small boat moored next to the adjacent higher section of quay, so I went to investigate. Sure enough, I could see three or four mullet under the bow of the boat that was actually tied to the outside of a larger vessel that was against the quay. I was able to drift some crusts down towards them and I thought odd pieces were being taken just as they disappeared out of sight down the far side of the boat. We didn't have a drop-net with us but I decided to fish anyway with a vague plan to walk a hooked fish back to the pontoon or send Mike with the landing net down a rather rusty-looking ladder ...
It was difficult to get the bait on the correct drift and even then it was only in the taking zone for a few seconds but eventually I got it right and a fish popped out to take my crust as it reached the bow of the boat. There followed a lively scrap but the fish was only a couple of pounds or so and I soon had it on the surface. A very helpful chap was just departing the pontoon in a small dinghy for a fishing trip and kindly diverted to net the fish for me then take it back to the pontoon!
Having unhooked, photographed and returned the fish I went back for another look. Slightly to my surprise I could still see mullet in residence and I soon had another one on, this time fishing flake a foot deep. Though not huge, it was a bit bigger fish and managed to touch the trace against one of the piles, game over.
I went back to my kit on the pontoon to tie on a new hook and returned just in time to see a procession of mullet streaming out from under the boat and taking station out of range mid-river as the tide started to make. I'd never have believed there could have been so many under there, there must have been fifty or sixty shoulder-to-shoulder under the little boat.
Mike had only had one bite on the pontoon and was no longer seeing fish. We decided to head back for Rosscarbery but we couldn't locate any fish there - I decided to head home leaving Mike waiting for the new tide to arrive in the pool there.
On 3rd August, Mike moved up to stay with us for a week on Sheep's Head. It was great to welcome him back and especially looking so well after a serious illness and open heart surgery over the winter. The weather however was less welcoming. We headed straight down onto the rocks in Bantry Bay but it was choppier than ideal ...
... and the wind never really relented during the week. We persisted on the rocks for a low water session each afternoon and did catch most days. Mike had the biggest fish of dead on 4lbs. The rest were mostly 2lbs-odd, on the small side but nonetheless a good scrap on float tackle.
A couple of the morning high waters on better days we ventured down onto the Mizen peninsula to fish my favourite estuary there, legering over the extensive sand flats. There were a few fish around but we didn't get many takes. I was lucky enough to win the lottery both days with nice thicklips of 4:11 and 4:08 ...
For Mike's last day we headed back to Rosscarbery hoping some mullet would have moved into the estuary pool over the preceding week. We did in fact locate some useful fish down the west side, but we didn't manage to get one before the new tide arrived in the pool and moved them on. It was a crazy windy day and eventually we gave it best and headed home to get ready for a nice meal out in Bantry that evening.
A few days later I was back, wanting to keep an eye on the Rosscarbery form ahead of Dave Matthews' visit later in the month. I found some nice fish milling round in the same area where Mick and I had seen them, and this time got one out before they could drift away. It was a long and lean 4:06 taken on pop-up crust as usual.
Dave arrived with his partner Jane on 23rd and on Saturday 24th, while Jane was riding with Sylvi, Dave and I drove down to Rosscarbery for his first visit to the iconic venue. We had a good look round, there wasn't much water anywhere on the deadly small neap tide. We met my Facebook friend Dan Smith who was just setting up near the bridge, but in the end we settled on the same area of the west bank where once again there were some decent mullet milling about. We both set up two leger rods, cast out and awaited the action ...
The tide flooded in (just barely) and at its peak I missed a take just as a swan was swimming over one of my lines ... a bit frustrating but at the same time, encouraging.
A while later I was in - nothing spectacular but a reasonable thicklip of 3:15 that put up a fair scrap. I followed this up with a smaller one estimated at 2lbs.
Dave missed a couple of takes but, after a long lull, finally was into an Irish mullet. It was similar in size to my first fish but unfortunately it dropped off near the edge.
We were rapidly running out of water in that swim so as Dan had just packed up by the bridge we moved up there. Dan had blanked and in the hour or so we fished we didn't get a bite worth striking.
Overall a disappointing start to Dave's fishing, the more so that this was the first day of NMC'c National Rover competition on the UK bank holiday weekend and it would have been nice to put a contender on the board between us. We'd been joined by Jane and Sylvi during the afternoon and we moved on to an evening meal at the Glandore Inn, only to find Dan at the next table.
Sunday looked the best weather of their week, so Dave and Jane took the opportunity for a long hike along the Sheep's Head north coast. Happily it stayed calm, if cloudier, for their whale-watching trip booked out from Baltimore on Monday. On Tuesday, more horsey stuff for the girls and Dave and I headed back to Rosscarbery. The weather had properly broken - there was a strong west wind and rain in the forecast. We were hoping there'd be fish on the sheltered west bank but we couldn't see any, so we set up on the grass by the bridge - we had a nasty crosswind to contend with but at least we'd be able to get our brollies up when the rain arrived.
Dave took the swim nearest the bridge so he could fish the deepest water there, and I settled a few yards off to his right.
I had to fish over a horrible band of lettuce weed that had blown in against the rocks, although in hindsight this possibly was a blessing in disguise. I fancied I could see fish moving occasionally close in, possibly working their way along the edge of the weed band. So I dropped one bait just over, and fished the other at distance as usual.
It turned into a good session that started with a 3:13 and finished by a 3:03 both on the close-in rod. Between these I had a lovely brace of 5:02s, one on the distance rod and one close in ...
Dave was getting less action over in his swim, but he missed a knock while I was over chatting with him and had a good pull round bite on the next cast. He was in!
It was a steady rather than spectacular scrap. Dave kept it clear of the water pouring under the bridge into the lagoon and soon I was able to get the net under his first Irish mullet.
Remarkably it was another 5:02. We've looked at the photos for evidence that any of them was a repeat capture. My pair seem to be different fish. There are similarities in the tail ray structure between Dave's and one of mine but it's impossible to be sure. Probably they were just shoal mates.
Wednesday was a bright day so Dave and Jane went off on another hike, this time a loop walk along the hill ridges overlooking Kilcrohane. Their week was flying past - we had just Thursday left for fishing and as it seemed to be fishing fairly well now we spent the time back at Rosscarbery.
There was a stiff breeze blowing up the estuary and we started off fishing from the first section of wall where we could see some good fish moving close in and where we could enjoy some degree of shelter from the car.
The fish seemed to move off but we continued seeing them further out and eventually I had a good take. This seemed to be a beast of a fish which took line slowly but inexorably. I began to get a very bad vibe that it was going to find one of the many snags out on the fringe of the mudbank so piled on the pressure to keep its head up ... and the hook pulled out.
I cast that rod again and was just started baiting up the other when I had a massive bite on the first. The line fell slack just as I picked the rod up, and I was dismayed to find the violence of the take had snapped the hook. I said to Dave I think that's the first time I've had a hook break on a mullet in forty years of fishing for them. I was beginning to think this wasn't going to be my day, so perhaps it was a good thing the action shifted over to Dave.
Dave missed one take but was in on the next. Given our performance so far, it was a relief to get the net under the fish, a chunky 4:15 as it turned out ...
Our swim there seemed to die after that, so we decided on a last hour or so over by the bridge in the same swims where we'd scored on Tuesday. As the high tide arrived, Dave had fish lined up in front of him in the stream of water flooding into the lagoon, but they seemed more to be enjoying the flow of water than feeding and ultimately he only hooked a smallish one that came off.
Meanwhile, I had a couple of good takes just beyond the lettuce weed fringe. The first fish ploughed off along the shore to my right, passing worryingly close to the rocks that were submerged on this big tide. Eventually Dave was able to net it for me, a lovely 5:07. Thirty minutes later, an almost repeat performance ... but the fish turned out to be foul-hooked just under one eye. I weighed it anyway at 5:09 but it doesn't count in my book so no photo. Here's the 5:07 ...
I enjoy fishing on my own well enough but it's always nice to have the company of anglers as capable and friends as affable as Mike and Dave. I hope they'll both be back in 2020.