October started with a calm couple of days before the arrival of ex-hurricane Lorenzo which was threatening chaos on Ireland's west coast.
On the 1st I headed down onto the Mizen peninsula and fished the shallow flats of my favourite estuary there with the leger rods. I arrived with the first hint of dawn in the sky on a wonderfully peaceful morning. It was a big tide so there was enough depth for a long session.
An hour in, as the sun broke above some cloud low on the eastern horizon, I had a drop-back bite and struck into a powerful fish which fortunately tended to head left not towards the water thundering through the bridge arches to my right. After a good scrap I had it out, a lovely 4:11. I soon added a smaller mullet of a couple of pounds. The expected lull over the slack water extended into the ebb.
As the water shallowed up I wasn't seeing any mullet activity apart from shoals of fry-size fish. I packed up and was actually started walking back to the car when I saw a large whelm over my groundbait in the area I'd been fishing. I hurriedly unpacked one of the rods again and cast out ... too accurately as it turned out, I must have landed the rig right on top of the fish which departed with a large splash and a bow wave! I thought I'd probably blown the chance but I left the line out and made up the landing net just in case the fish came back, and ten minutes later I had a nodding bite that I converted into a chunky 4:02 thicklip on the bank.
On the 2nd I went down onto the low water rocks in Bantry Bay. There were a load of mullet finning on the surface, mostly small but a few bigger ones among them.
I was getting bites from the off, and soon had a pound-size mullet on. I tried to bully it out of the swim but succeeded only in pulling the hook. Bites resumed but seemed to be getting more and more finnicky with each cast - I missed several then had another pounder but neatly hooked in one of its ventral fins.
More finnicky bites then finally one that sunk the Puddlechucker float properly. This was a strong fish that threatened to get into the kelp reefs to my left then right, but eventually I got it under control and into the net. It was another 4:02, and quite a significant one from my point of view as it eliminated the last three-pounder from my Top Ten list. The Top Ten is a National Mullet Club annual competition for the aggregate weight of ten fish with only four maximum allowed from any one venue.
I continued to see mullet in fair numbers throughout the session but they really weren't showing much interest. I had plenty of bites as the tide started to make but all mackerel, including the Atlantic chub mackerel I posted about already.
That evening I went out onto the rocks near Kilcrohane, trying a couple of marks nearby each other.
There was already a swell running ahead of Lorenzo and this seemed to be growing by the minute as high water approached. I didn't stay long but had a few pollack.
Most were disappointingly small fish of around a pound but one retrieve just before I'd decided to abandon the session was stopped dead as a weightier fish grabbed the pink firetail redgill. After a short tussle I had a pollack around 4lbs in the net, one to take home for a fish and chips supper.
Lorenzo turned out to be a bit overhyped as it passed up the coast a couple of hundred miles out to sea before taking a right turn and making landfall well to the north of us. Still, it heralded the arrival of a wet and windy spell of weather that is still ongoing.
On the 6th I headed to Rosscarbery to check out the form in advance of Steve Smith's visit later in the week. The water was a little coloured but not too bad. I set up under the brolly on the grass by the bridge, casting leger baits into a fairly large clear patch in the lettuce weed.
I missed a good take early on but before long I had a nodding bite on my left hand rod and struck into a very lively fish. It put up a proper give and take scrap at long range before succumbing and kiting in to the rocks to my right where I netted it.
It was a lovely 4:09 thicklip and I was just letting it recover in a shallow gully when my Facebook friend Jason arrived to fish to my left.
Jason was barely set up and fishing when my left hand rod lurched over violently and I was into a more powerful fish that ploughed off out and left through his swim! It went way out but then became a dead weight. After a lot of pumping and winding I had it back under my rod tip accompanied as expected by a large lump of lettuce weed. Jason expertly netted the mullet, weed and all. It was a pristine fish of 5lb 4oz ...
A chilly west wind sprang up and apart from one small mullet for Jason, the fishing went quiet.
Jason packed up and left but soon after, despite the heavy ripple, I started seeing mullet moving in my swim occasionally so I decided to stay a while longer.
Soon I had a good take on my right hand rod and landed a thicklip just an ounce shy of 4lbs. It was success at the first attempt for a new variation on my pop-up crust technique. I'll write about it in more detail later after more trials.
On Tuesday 8th I collected my old friend Steve Smith from Cork Airport at the start of his second trip over this year. The weather forecast was, frankly, a bit grim with strong west winds and outbreaks of rain predicted with just a hint of something better for the weekend. However, the worst of the rain seemed to have passed for today so we headed down to Rosscarbery for a short session on the way back to Sheep's Head.
We soon had two leger lines each out, watching the four tips being buffeted by the wind from the shelter of the brolly. The first hour passed as the water level slowly dropped away on the early ebb tide. Then Steve's left hand tip pulled round as a mullet took the bait that was fishing quite close in, He grabbed the rod and was into a good fish. I took some action snaps and was just getting the net ready when one of my rods pulled over hard in the rest, and I was in too! Steve had to net his own fish and a few minutes later I beached mine over to our right. Steve's was a chunky 4:09, mine smaller at 3:05 ...
Twenty minutes later, Steve was in again on his other rod, and hooked into a stronger fish that went right out and gave a great scrap all the way in. A lovely 5:00 thicklip rounded off a great opening session to his trip ...
Wednesday we had strong west winds with heavy squally showers. We headed straight back to Rosscarbery and got dug in under the brolly. We had bites sporadically through most of the day, well I did more than Steve to be fair. The fish seemed to be holding just a little bit further out today, and Steve was struggling a little for casting range in the windy conditions. I finished with four mullet over 4lbs to a best of 5:09, while Steve added a 4:13 to the total ...
Towards evening the wind dropped and the weather fined off. All was good as the sun set behind the brolly ...
Sadly the briefly improved conditions passed by overnight. We were greeted on Thursday morning by an even fresher west wind with heavy persistent rain due later in the day. We had a quick look at Castletownshend but the water was quite coloured and there was no sign of mullet for the hour or so we fished around the quay area.
As the rain arrived we left for a warming bowl of soup at the Church Cafe in Skibbereen, then along the N71 to hunker down at Rosscarbery again.
The conditions were pretty dire to be honest, and I was surprised to get a good pull first cast. Unfortunately the fish came off after a couple of seconds. A short while later I was in again and this time the fish held on, a 3:09 that I was pleased with under the circumstances.
I told Steve to take the next fish whoever's rod the bite came on, and after an hour watching the tips rattling in the wind, one of mine pulled right round. Steve grabbed the rod but somehow the mullet avoided hooking itself and the chance was gone. The session petered out as the rain lashed the brolly, till it eased off slightly and we decided to pack up before the next deluge arrived.
Friday we had a slow start to recover from the battering we'd had from the elements over the previous three days, then headed for a local pier for a bit of light relief from the mulleting. Steve fished a float with sandeel and mackerel baits. It was hardly mackerel weather with a cold, blustery wind off our backs but he had plenty of bites and a few mackerel out, also rather more pollack including a some decent ones for the venue. I stuck it out with bottom baits but only had a dogfish and a small but typically uncooperative huss ...
Saturday morning was curiously calm, and we decided to have a look at the low water rocks in Bantry Bay. It was swellier than I'd have liked, and we had to wait a while to get onto the mark, but when we did it was just about fishable.
We fished the tide down with only a mackerel each to show for our efforts. No mullet were showing on the surface and it looked like they may not have returned to the area yet after all the rough weather of the last few days. Just before low water Steve's float dipped and he struck. Instead of the expected mackerel a decent mullet swirled on the surface, and proceeded to give him a merry fight on his light float rod. The fish weighed a respectable 3:04 and he soon added smaller fish of 2:06 and 1:13 to make a nice little session for him ...
It went oddly quiet after low water, and a light west breeze sprang up to make the fishing tricky. My only chance came just as we were getting forced off by the swell, a small mullet that came off anyway after a few seconds.
We headed down onto the Mizen and had a nice light lunch at O'Sullivan's in Crookhaven, then moved on to a nearby estuary mark.
We had a couple of hours to fish in the deep pool by the bridge arch until the new tide started pouring through but unfortunately there didn't seem to be many fish in residence today.
I didn't get a bite but Steve's float eventually dipped ... a small but perfectly formed thicklip.
The main event though was to be leger fishing the flats lower down the estuary over the high water.
This almost went to script. We had a little flurry of bites over twenty minutes or so just before the tide peaked.
First I had a fish of 3:06 that gave a drop-back bite. Steve missed a take while I was playing it, then I missed a good pull within a few seconds of my new bait hitting the water. A few minutes later I was in again, a slightly bigger fish of 3:13.
It was a nice little session, but it was a pity Steve missed his only chance and a pity we ran out of daylight before the ebb flow kicked in, as I think we'd have had more if we could have stayed.
Sunday was Steve's last fishing day and it was reasonably benevolent weather again, dry and just the little west breeze that had kicked up yesterday to make life a bit awkward. We went down to the rocks in Bantry Bay again, full of expectation of a few more mullet after Steve's fish yesterday. Alas it was not to be - we packed up after three hours with just four chunky mackerel and a few missed bites to show for our efforts. We'd seen a few fish on the surface but I couldn't work out if they were small mullet playing hard to get or mackerel. A lazy afternoon and a nice meal out in Bantry rounded off Steve's time in Ireland this year.
My October fishing is going to be cut short by a combined family/work trip to UK, so I wanted to get out a couple of times this week.
Yesterday I went down to Mizen again, arriving on the early morning high water to leger the flats. I did have three mullet as the tide dropped away, but they were all small and it didn't seem any bigger fish had come up with the tide.
Today I fished what turned into quite a dour session at Rosscarbery, the west wind and squalls quite reminiscent of the trips last week with Steve but without the numbers of mullet present. I had a few knocks on the tips that didn't come to anything, probably small fish. I only saw one decent mullet move, that right over my groundbait and five seconds later it was yanking my rod over and splashing on the surface. It ran out strongly then threw the hook, the only chance of the day gone as it turned out.