My exam work proved busier than expected, so fishing opportunities have been few over the last month or so.
It was a glorious summer's morning on 28th May, and I couldn't resist sneaking off for a few hours down onto my low water rock mark in Bantry Bay. There was unbroken sunshine and a little heat haze over the Beara, the water was clear and perfectly calm.
I set up with light float tackle on my Preston rod and centre-pin reel, baiting with scraps of fish on a #8 hook. First run through, the float dipped...
There were plenty of mullet about, though on the small side again as has been the norm this season. I had a couple around 2lbs as the tide dropped away, then two more as it started to flood back.
Finally as the water was lapping over my feet, I struck into a positive bite and found myself attached to a better fish. It put up a stubborn resistance for a good few minutes, and for a while I thought it might go bigger than its 3lb 6oz, probably something to do with its huge paddle of a tail.
Appetite slightly whetted, I was out again a couple of days later on the 30th, this time heading east to try for a gilthead.
First, as ever, came the bait collecting. It's not exactly easy digging in the mud/sand mixture but after about 40 minutes I deemed I had enough juicy blow lug for my session.
I headed a few hundred yards lower down the estuary to my fishing spot, arriving about an hour before low water as the ebb flow was starting to ease up ... before this it would be all but unfishable with green weed being washed down the channel.
I set up my Dad's old bass rod, 20lb braid and a one-up, one-down rig with long 12lb fluoro traces and size 2 Chinu hooks, and baited them each with a lugworm, selecting those that were damaged in digging to use them up first. I cast the rig out into the middle of the channel, propped the rod on my tripod and tightened down carefully.
The 2oz bomb seemed to be holding okay, so I made to get my second rod ready, a Daiwa carp rod circa 1989, a decade or so younger than the bass rod. I'd just got the line up through the tip eye when the bass rod pulled over about a yard and braid started stripping off the drag!
I dropped the carp rod, grabbed the bass rod and managed to turn the gilt before it got too close to the mooring to my right. It was manifestly a very good fish ... the big ones have awesome power and this one now ploughed off to my left. Fortunately there was plenty of space that way so I let it go a while before turning it. Several shorter runs followed as I worked it gradually closer, before I waded out to meet it and steer it in round the clumps of bladderwrack in the margins.
It was a magnificent fish, a new PB gilt of 6lb 11oz, hooked within a couple of minutes of starting fishing. There's a handful 7lb+ caught each year but they're very thin on the ground that size ... realistically, I may never catch one bigger than my new PB.
The rest of the session was mostly quiet till the new tide started to flood up the channel . Once it starts to move there's only a short window of opportunity before the weed gets too much ... today a knocky little bite on the bass rod yielded my first flounder bycatch of the year, then barely was that back in the water when another gilt all but had the carp rod off the tripod. On the lighter rod it gave a good impression of the big fella, but it went just shy of 3lbs.
I was back for another go on the 2nd June, hoping there might be a flush of big gilts about. I missed a good pull dead on low water then had another - very probably the same fish - a couple of minutes later on the other rod. It was another respectable gilt of 2lb+ so I was hopeful of more and perhaps bigger as the tide edged back ... but instead I got bassed out with five of the blighters about 12oz apiece.
There was a holiday fly angler working his way up the channel, arrived just in time to see me land the fifth bass. He'd not had a touch and clearly would have loved to catch a bass even that size, so I tried to put a cheerful face on it and not be too grumpy about them wrecking my session. Not sure I succeeded though, or that he appreciated the advice that "lugworm is the way to go."
My friend Jim Murray had seen about the big gilt on my Facebook page, and as he was in the area I joined him to fish on bank holiday Monday, the 6th. He's been wanting to catch a gilt for ages so I suppose it was predictable that we sat out a dour session with not a knock till maybe one rattle for Jim just as the weed was getting impossible.
I needed to focus on work now and I couldn't get out again till the 14th. I had a blood test in Bantry so thought I'd try to bag a June mullet on the way back. In the event the appointment was late and I barely had 90 minutes fishing before getting washed off my rock. It was enough to catch three mullet though, all very lively fish of 2 - 3lbs, and a couple of very plump pollack interlopers ...
Next trip out was with Sylvi on the 24th, back on the gilts again at Weed Central on a later tide than I usually fish, then supper from the chippy by the garage at Rosscarbery.
It was a pretty successful trip in all respects really. After what seemed a long wait, suddenly it was a bite a chuck for an hour soon after low water. I missed a couple of good pulls, landed three more gilts with two of them over 2lbs, another small bass, another flounder ...
... and the chips were very nice too!
I got another chance after the gilts on the 29th after delivering Sylvi to the airport at Cork as she headed back to the UK for a funeral.
Unfortunately all I caught was a pair of small bass half an hour either side of low water. The weed was silly, barely allowing a couple of hours of sensible fishing.
The next day I headed for the airstrip strand at Bantry, arriving an hour or so before low water. Most of the weed that had been on the beach and in the margins a month ago seemed to be gone, but the water was an odd colour, browner than it should have been after the modest amounts of rain we'd had a few days before.
Maybe the colour encouraged the dogfish ... whatever, there was a veritable plague of them and I lost count at about twelve. They'd done for my bait supply by a couple of hours up the tide, but by then quite a lot of weed was running through on the new tide and I think all hope of a ray had passed. A large seal stuck his head up just as I was winding in, probably come to have a laugh at me, anyway it seemed a fitting end to a disappointing session.
July has had a grim start today weather-wise, but hopefully it will perk up so I can get some decent sessions in before another break in the fishing when Sylvi and I are away in the UK later in the month.