I did two more gilthead trips in August. Both were unsuccessful, though on the first early in the month I was hooked into a gilt within about ten minutes of starting. It felt reasonable but nowhere near the biggest fish I've had this year and it came off after a few seconds anyway. The rest of that session was quiet, as was the entirety of the other. A flounder and a modest schoolie chanced along to save me from blanking on each occasion, but it wasn't scintillating fishing and I feel the gilt hunt is over for this year.
Mike Buckley came over to Sheep's Head to join me for some wrasse fishing early in the month. We drove along the narrow track along the north side of the peninsula to a deep mark in Bantry Bay.
It was a neap tide and flat calm, so perhaps not ideal conditions, but our floats were soon bobbing as the wrasse chomped on the limpet baits I'd collected the previous evening.
We had a succession of fish and Mike seemed happy enough, though I knew the size of wrasse we were getting was below potential. As the bites began to thin out I suggested a move a short way along the rocks to a different spot hoping we might find more and bigger wrasse there.
After a scramble over the rocks we were relocated. Mike was first fishing again, and his rod was hooped over almost immediately.
I went over with the net, but it wasn't a wrasse that surfaced ... Mike had hooked a triggerfish!
Four or five other triggers followed Mike's fish up and were milling around while I got the net under the one Mike had hooked. A good session was on the cards, as my limited past experience of triggers suggested we'd be able to catch most or all the fish in the shoal and some of them looked significantly bigger than Mike's.
I crushed a couple of limpets up and threw them in to keep the shoal interested while we got a pic of Mike's first trigger. And as soon as we were fishing again, I was in too ...
My fish was also followed up by a crowd of others, and they were chomping at my weight, swivel, basically anything that moved. One got hold of my float and gave it a good chewing. Note to self: hollow plastic floats and trigger fish don't mix well.
I had to tackle up again but Mike was soon into another good trigger, with another cracking scrap on the barbel rod he was using.
Before long we were up to three each. We weighed our biggest, Mike's 3:08 and mine 3:14, and some of the others would have been above the IFI specimen weight of 3lb 4oz.
Slightly frustratingly we each lost the last trigger we hooked, mine threw the hook at the end of a searing run along the front of the rocks to our left, Mike's bit his trace. That seemed to leave us with just one fish to target - it would give only the tiniest dinks on our floats, and winding in slowly it would follow the bait up and we could see it taking tiny bites out of the limpets without ever taking the bait properly. After a dozen missed strikes we decided this canny trigger had the better of us and we called time on a great session.
A couple of weeks later we were back on a similar tide, but it was after a spell of rough weather and there was still a metre of swell running. The triggers were gone but we had some better wrasse and I had a decent pollack.
Other rock fishing plans mostly fell by the wayside as I decided to make the most of Mike's company while he was over and concentrate on mullet fishing with him, as below.
I had one pollack trip but was forced by a strong west wind and swell onto a relatively shallow east-facing mark in Dunmanus Bay. After being lulled into a false sense of security by some small fish, I was comprehensively trashed by what felt a beast, no way could I keep it up out of the kelp. Not the first time nor probably the last it's happened on that mark.
Some mackerel finally appeared in Bantry Bay mid-month. I got one decent hit on an ebb tide that I could easily have missed, having already contemplated giving up after fishing 90 minutes over high water for only a few joeys so tiny I shook them back in. The shoals, such as they were, dwindled away again over the next few tides then disappeared completely as the east wind set in towards the end of August. Hopefully they'll be back but I'm beginning to get a bit worried about the winter bait supply, my freezer stocks of mackerel looking sparser than usual.
My mullet fishing for August started on the 3rd with a trip down onto the Mizen. I fished a deep low water pool in the estuary on float and had plenty of bites. The fish were only pound size though ...
When I first started visiting this mark it was common to find shoals of bigger mullet trapped in the pool over low water but it doesn't seem to happen often (or even at all) these days. I'm not sure what has brought that about - some subtle environmental change to the estuary possibly. Fortunately it's still possible to catch bigger fish but on leger and only in a relatively narrow window over spring high waters when they come up and roam over the shallow mudflats.
Mike and I had an evening session legering on the 8th in just about perfect weather with just a slight ripple and we had quite a few bites. Those we connected with produced a nice 3:12 for Mike, a 4:01 and a 3:09 for me ...
We returned to fish an early morning tide on the 14th. I went out onto the rocks on the north side of the estuary, Mike fished off the road causeway again. It was a seriously bleak morning with an unexpected east breeze bringing waves of drizzle down the valley. At times I could only just make Mike out through the murk.
Although Mike had the easier time with the wind on his back, I had the better of the fishing. First off a 2:11 on the last of the rising tide, then a few knocks and rattles on the tips till finally a belting take and a much better fish that powered off downstream with the ebb flow.
The mullet went a long way down then came back very grudgingly against the flow, eventually kiting to the right into the shallow bay below the rocks. I hadn't put my waders on but I thought it best to go and meet the fish rather than try to skull-drag it up any further. It was worth the soggy feet for a chunky 5:02 with a lightly chewed tail ...
Mike blanked that session but, encouraged there were some decent fish showing, we tried a repeat exercise over the next set of springs with an evening session on the 22nd and a morning session on the 27th. Unfortunately the fishing didn't live up to expectations.
The conditions for the evening seemed perfect and on a nice big tide, but we had only one short flurry of bites well into the ebb. We landed a small mullet each, I somehow missed a clonking bite that all but had my rod over the causeway wall, and that was that.
The morning tide was smaller with the level further depressed by high atmospheric pressure. I wasn't sure in very bright sunlight if there would be enough depth to bring mullet up over the flats but in the event I had a nodding bite right at the peak of the tide and a long, lean thicklip of dead on 4lbs.
While I often seem to get the better of Mike on leger, he nearly always oufishes me on float. I joined him for a session on my low water rock mark in Bantry Bay on the 10th. We both had plenty of bites from smallish mullet, but Mike was beating me 3 - 1 in numbers landed ...
Then last knockings as the tide was flooding over, he was in again and attached to a very powerful fish that fought for ages. Eventually I lifted the net under a lovely black-backed 4:12 thicklip that equalled my best from this mark ...
Mike fished the mark on and off throughout the month, getting a mullet or two most trips including another good one of 4:07. I left him to it as it didn't seem to be in top form and there wasn't much point sharing out a limited number of fish between us when I have all autumn to fish there after Mike's gone home.
We had several outings at Rosscarbery, the first being on the 4th for an afternoon on my way home from gilt fishing that morning. Mike was just setting up close to the bridge when I arrived, so I settled on a spot further along the grass.
The first hour was quiet but as the small tide started to make I started to get bites. I had seven good takes, landing six mullet over a couple of hours until the water started to drop away ...
All except the first in the sequence were over 4lbs, the biggest being the 4th and 6th at 5:00 and 5:07. All six fish, and the bite I missed, came on one of my pair of rods, the one on the left. The other fishing identical crust baits on an identical rig a few yards to the right didn't get a touch. Mike came and fished just to my left after my second fish, and he blanked. All a bit inexplicable really when we could see fish active throughout the area.
Those fish seemed to be moved on by the time of another afternoon session on the 9th, and after a couple of fruitless hours I relocated down the west side of the estuary where I found some mullety activity. Mike soon joined me.
There were a quite few fish there, browsing the bottom so apparently feeding but not getting stuck into our bread baits. I had just one meaningful bite, from this 4:10 fish. It was probably the palest mullet I've ever caught and much slimier than most. It was a strange looking fish and the well-healed damage to its tail maybe hints at some trouble in its past.
Mike blanked again, as he did on the 19th when I managed to catch a small mullet to avoid a blank on another short session returning from gilt fishing. Fortunately he caught on days when I wasn't there, including lovely thicklips of 5:01 and 5:12.
My next visit was on the 26th. It was a bright day and the east breeze was set in by now, so I didn't have high hopes as I set up on the grass. It was a slow start but after an hour or so I started getting knocks on the tips, and I was just netting a two pounder as Mike arrived. He'd not been fishing long when I had a powerful take on my right hand rod.
The fish ran out strongly, stopped then surged out again ... it was way across the pool and getting towards the danger area for snags so I piled the pressure on and after what seemed an age had the fish moving back gradually. It swung left into Mike's swim, and by now I could see a clump of lettuce weed on the line. This often happens so I wasn't too bothered, but eventually I had the weed swinging around at my rod tip with the fish still out of netting range. The reason became apparent ... there was an old lost rig tangled up in it, stopping the weed shaking off or sliding down to the fish. I lowered the rod tip and Mike set about removing it all, nervous moments especially when he resorted to biting through the old nylon with his teeth. I was hoping he'd chew the right line!
Mike soon had that all sorted out and netted the fish for me. It was a pristine 6lb 7oz thicklip, my biggest of the season so far...
The irony was the old rig turned out to be one of mine! I can't remember the last one I lost there in a snag or crack-off, certainly it was well over a year ago. And I can't really imagine how I'd have felt if the mullet had thrown the hook while Mike was trying to disentangle one of my own lost rigs.
I soon had another small fish but by now the east breeze was strengthening and the occasional cloud cover had dispersed. A long blank spell ensued into the afternoon. I was just thinking of giving it best when my right hand rod yanked over again and another big mullet ploughed off across the pool. This one came in easier but seemed very heavy, almost deadweight in fact so perhaps this time some weed had slid down the line and covered its eyes. Unfortunately it gave a wriggle about ten yards out and the hook popped out. We packed up soon after, Mike blank again.
We were back a couple of days later on Saturday the 28th. The east wind was properly blowing by now and the sunshine was unbroken, on a smaller tide it looked like being a real struggle but I wanted to fish as it was the first day of NMC's three day rover competition on the UK bank holiday weekend. We both put our brolleys up, part as shelter from the wind but more for shade from the sun.
The morning passed. Lunchtime passed. About 2pm my left hand tip pulled down a couple of inches and stayed there. It was nothing like the ferocious bites of a couple of days previous but it seemed real so I struck ... and connected. Another big mullet motored straight out, paused, then carried on diagonally left. I couldn't attract Mike's attention under his brolley so I picked up the landing net and stumbled along the grass in pursuit of the fish to the bridge arch on my left. When the fish stopped running it kited further left still, well past the bridge and into the shallower water on the far side where there are plenty of snags. My heart was thumping but thankfully it kept moving and ever-so-slowly I brought it back across the flow out of the lagoon and into my waiting net. It was another pristine fish and even bigger, at 6lb 11oz my third biggest in Ireland.
As I'd thought probable all along, it was a one-bite day and obviously I still had the legering jinx over Mike as I'd had the bite! He got his just rewards on Sunday though. I couldn't face the east wind/bright sun combination again but he had a splendid 6:01 last cast of another sweaty session in the sun at Rosscarbery.
For rover Monday we headed east to a pontoon mark that Mike fishes. We arrived to fish the last of the ebb tide and the bottom half of the flood. The wind was running up the estuary channel so it was quite choppy and the water quite coloured, meaning we couldn't see any mullet around the pontoon as is often possible. They were there though, and we shared a seven fish haul between us. This being float-fishing, Mike trounced me both on numbers, 5-2, and best fish, 4:01 versus my 2:08.
I have a couple more mullet sessions planned with Mike before he returns to UK, then a couple of weeks before Steve Smith arrives to reacquaint with the West Cork mullet after a pandemic-enhanced gap of two years. I must get out and try some non-mullety stuff...