The easterly winds at the end of March spilled into April. Mulleting seems to be one of the last forms of fishing to be badly affected by easterlies, but even so...
On the 1st Sylvi and I headed down to Rosscarbery, setting up on the grass near the bridge with the brolly up against the chilly breeze. The water was unusually clear and the sunshine unbroken ... I immediately knew that it would be a struggle for bites and so it proved, with just one good take well into the afternoon. Sylvi was just across the road at the hotel grabbing us a coffee, but she was back in time to take the photo of a 3:09 thicklip that had fought above its weight.
Another hour passed uneventfully. We packed up as the new tide broke into the pool and took the dog for a walk down the west side of the estuary, only to find good numbers of mullet milling around close in at the bottom end of the pool. I wished we'd made a move down there earlier!
On the 3rd I tried down on the Mizen, to be greeted again by a chilly east breeze running down the valley, bright sunshine and exceptionally clear water. There were obviously no great numbers of mullet in the low water pool, but I did spot a few of modest proportions.
After a while I started to get fiddly little dips of the float. I struck the marginally better ones and after a couple of misses connected with a little thicklip of barely a pound. I was pleased to get the fish as it took my mullet-trips-without-a-blank run to fifteen this year, but that record wasn't to carry on much longer.
A couple of days later I was back at Rosscarbery, to try for those fish down the west bank. There were still numbers present but apparently not feeding well in the last of the east breeze and I contrived to miss the only take of a four-hour session over lunchtime. After I'd given up on that I had a look down the channel towards the sea and found some fish down there waiting for the tide to let them up into the pool. I tried for them on float and then with a light leger, but didn't get any definite bites.
The mulleting was such a struggle I decided to give it a break for the rest of the month.
I was back at Rosscarbery on the 6th May with Sylvi. On arrival mid-morning we could see an otter working in the pool and eventually it came in close down the west side where Sylvi managed to get some photos before it disappeared into a hole in the wall.
There were good numbers of mullet down that side and we were nicely sheltered from a stiff west breeze so we decided to stop there.
After about an hour one of the leger rods pulled over and I played in a 3lb+ mullet only for it to throw the hook just short of my net. I couldn't get another take so mid-afternoon we moved up onto the grass to try there for a last hour or so. Far fewer fish were visible here but I thought maybe with a few more inches depth and a little lop on from the breeze any mullet there might feed better. It sort-of worked with a good pull and a 3:10 thicklip first cast, but nothing after that.
I was back a few days later for another go, but once again struggled with the mullet in the shallows down the west side. After four hours without a credible bite I went exploring down the channel near the sea and immediately wished I'd moved earlier - there were plenty of mullet down there but the ebb tide was just starting to flow so I wouldn't get long at them. A couple of decent fish attacked a piece of floating bread ... I broke out the float rod, and trotted through a piece of flake about a foot deep. First run through, float dipped under, struck, missed. Second run, the float dipped more convincingly, I struck too enthusiastically and my fluoro hooklength parted, probably the victim of a bit of laziness leaving the rig made up on the rod too long. Rookie mistake - chance gone.
I felt the mullet gods owed me a good session and I got it after a fashion on the 14th on my first visit of the year to my low water mark in Bantry Bay.
I had a couple of fish on the last of the ebb tide and a couple more as it flooded back, all on fish baits 18" under a Puddlechucker float.
They weren't big fish, between 2:00 and 2:13 but the open water mullet are always fighting fit so I enjoyed some good scraps on the light tackle, and it was generally good to be back mulleting on the coast.
One of the reasons for taking a lay-off from the mullet fishing was to make room for a serious effort at the gilthead bream fishing south and east of us here.
To be honest though, the gilthead fishing has been even harder going than the mullet fishing.
Thanks probably to the unusually settled and sunny weather we had in the late winter, and to far too much nutrient run-off from the farm fields, the estuary has filled up with green weed much earlier in the year than usual. This has the effect of cutting sessions short as the tide starts to run up the channel bringing clumps of the stuff with it ... the fishing becoming near impossible just at the time when bites are most likely. Together with another extended period of east winds through late April and an almost total dearth of bycatch species, it has made for some pretty attritional fishing
Literally the only bycatch I've seen so far was a just-undersize bass taken last knockings of a session in late April when I was down there with Sylvi. The chunky flounders that I was catching two or three a session last year have been completely absent, mysteriously.
Anyway, onto the gilts and so far I've had four but only modest size of 1 - 2lbs. I've missed a few bites but nothing really to suggest a bigger fish, though no doubt a few have been caught by others. All the fish have been on blow lug baits, I dig the lug immediately before fishing. I've been trying mussel on one hook but so far it's not been touched, slightly surprisingly as all the gilts I've ever kept for eating seem to have been feeding exclusively on seed mussel.
I've done a few sessions on the airstrip strand near Bantry since mid-April. The thornback fishing has been better than average though, as ever, the mark continues to blow hot and cold.
The first trip out on 18th April was a proper red letter day, despite less than promising conditions of a stiff NW breeze and mostly bright sunshine. I had four rays in the last hour of the dropping tide and, after a lull, another two as it started to rise before the breeze, flow and dogfish all picked up. No monsters but apart from one baby, all decent fish from 4 to 7lbs...
About low water another angler arrived and fished a bit to my left. He'd missed the first flush of fish I'd had and missed out on them again early in the new tide. Glen, if you're reading this, I hope you had some later on.
It had been such an enjoyable session I went back a couple of days later, not really expecting it to be as good but hoping for some more rays, especially as conditions were superficially much more favourable with overcast and just a gentle southerly breeze. I had out a dogfish early on then sat through the rest of the session watching motionless rod tips!
I went back on 2nd May. It was just after the east winds that had dogged late April so I wasn't too hopeful, but it turned into another good day with four more decent rays...
... and other opportunities missed. I had a couple of massive slack line bites over the low water period that resulted in nothing and when I was playing in the last ray my other rod pulled over about eighteen inches then locked there. It seemed a bit odd and when I came to wind in the rig was tight in a snag.
All the rays have come on either mackerel or bluey. The mackerel has had the edge so far this season, probably because I don't have much of a stock in the freezer where they were so hard to come by last summer and autumn.
My last trip to the airstrip was on a similar tide on 15th May. What a change! The beach was covered in slimey green and brown weed with a minestrone soup of the same in the margins, as you can see. It didn't seem too bad further out but there was some weed masking my baits on some casts as well as a few impressive kelp fronds to wind in...
I fished through it and did get a couple of rays, but they were both babies about a pound apiece. Although it made me a bit nostalgic for good times past fishing the Solent, in truth it wasn't really a particularly pleasant session dealing with the balls of slime picked up on the retrieve. I'll keep an eye on it but probably won't fish there again until it clears.
On 15th April Sylvi and I drove up to Kerry for what might have been a last go this year at my spurdog mark. It hasn't been a great season for the spurs to be fair, and as the first couple of hours up from low water passed quietly again it was shaping up as another disappointing session. Then the first bite of the day yielded an LSD ... and suddenly it was all action as a pack of spurs moved in with bites coming most casts for a couple of hours till another LSD finished things off.
I had six spurs out, but sadly there was no great size to them with all of them much of a muchness about 4lbs...
In the event I decided on one more go for a bigger spur on the same tide a fortnight later, and ended up wishing I hadn't bothered. The spurs didn't show at all, the entire flood tide was graced only by three spotty dogs. Then dead high water I had a little rattle on my right-hand rod that seemed to come to nothing. However, when I came to wind in there was a heavy load on which came to life half way in and ended up giving a good scrap under the rod tip. Eventually a very nice thornback surfaced.
Normally I'd have made my way right during the fight onto some lower rocks to get an easy lift of the fish out but it's not a simple transit and this time my bootlace was coming undone and I thought with the tide up I'd be okay on the higher rocks right in front. It was a fateful decision ... I didn't get a clean lift, the ray swung about, caught on the rocks half way up then the 60lbs trace parted. The thornback fell back into the water and lay tantalisingly on a ledge about six feet underwater till it swam off. I was gutted, it was a very good fish I'd say similar to my PB back in England just shy of 13lbs.
Last session to report on was one on 25th April on a deep rock mark in Bantry Bay on the north side of Sheep's Head, in the worst of the east wind late in the month. At least it had killed the swell rendering the mark fishable though it didn't promise too much regards the fishing.
I only took the big rods and the session was mostly quiet. One rattly bite yielded a three-bearded rockling, definitely not one lacking in ambition as it downed a mackerel head on a 6/0 circle hook. It was possibly a PB ... to my mind they are properly attractive fish but I wouldn't be bothered with ever weighing one!
I missed a few similar bites, but whether also 3BRs, small congers or what I don't know. There were dolphins splashing out in the mouth of the bay most of the session, and more guillemots diving in the bay than you could shake a stick at. There was obviously something going down involving bait fish and I ended up wishing I'd brought some spinning tackle.
Time's going to be a bit pushed the next few weeks with my seasonal exam work on, but I'll try to get in a few sessions, probably shortish and just local. It's about time I stopped neglecting the fishing virtually on my doorstep anyway.