We were back from England on 4th August.
I took a day to get sorted then on the 6th headed over to a Bantry Bay mark, mission to catch some mackerel. Alas the shoals that had arrived just before our departure seemed to have moved on, either further up the bay or back out into the Atlantic.
I gave it an hour before deciding it wasn't going to happen today. Unfortunately I hadn't thrown anything by way of a plan B into the bag but I found a Redgill hiding in one of the pockets. I soon had a couple of pollack about 2.5lbs, and took one home for dinner.
My friend Mike Buckley had arrived while we were away, staying in Skibbereen, mostly mullet fishing.
On the 7th he drove up to join me for a rock-fishing session on the Sheep's Head. We started at the spot where we'd had a good triggerfish session last year, but the triggers didn't seem to be in residence, and neither were the wrasse playing ball. Another mark just along was similarly quiet so we headed back to the car to relocate further west.
I'd never caught or even seen a trigger at this new mark, which is much more exposed, but while Mike was still tackling up I had a couple of tiny bites that had me wondering - they didn't really seem enough to strike but I wished I had, both limpet baits were gone completely so something was obviously having a good munch without really taking the float down.
Next cast, as Mike was just getting his line out, I had a better bite. I missed it but a characteristic chunk was bitten out of the limpet. Then suddenly Mike had a small shoal of triggers up on the surface chewing at his float. He set shallower and soon had one.
Unfortunately that was it on the trigger front - we didn't see the shoal again and couldn't get a bite from them fishing back deeper, so we assumed they'd moved on. Mike persisted with the floatfishing and had a couple of pretty wrasse, I changed to a Redgill and had several pollack but nothing much over 2lbs.
The heatwave seemed to have followed us back from England and the 9th was a blistering day. I drove down to try for a gilthead but didn't get a knock till a tiny rattle, probably a flounder, just as I was getting weeded out as the flood tide surged through the channel. Mike had come and joined me, we picked up a sandwich and a coffee on the way back west and had a nice lunch sat by the water at Rosscarbery watching a few mullet moving up with the tide, before deciding it was far too hot to fish.
I was wilting in the heat the next few days, but on the 12th made it out for a shortish session on my low water mullet mark in Bantry Bay.
Mike had fished here four times in my absence but had caught only one mullet. He'd found the place plagued with pollack and baby coalfish, so I was fearing the worst when my float pulled under first trot through on the ebb flow and a tiny coalie resulted. Another followed shortly after then, surprisingly, bites dried up.
Dead on low water I hooked a decent fish. There was a flash of silver but I couldn't be sure if it was a mullet or a big mackerel before it threw the hook. Then, as the tide flooded back I started to see occasional mullety-looking swirls and eventually hooked and landed a mullet 2lb 9oz.
Mike has fished there once since, the pollack were back in force and he landed about ten! He did get a mullet though and at least it was a nice one close to 4lbs.
The heatwave persisted till Sunday 14th but was showing signs of breaking and I decided it might be now or never this year for a triggerfish. I looked at the mark where Mike and I scored last year but there was already a west breeze blowing and a little swell, I thought too much. There were already two other anglers fishing the more sheltered water on the corner of the bay just along, so I ended up fishing well inside the bay. I'd never caught triggers at this spot before but it looked good.
I'd brought mackerel today for bait rather than limpet, and half a loaf that I mashed up and fed little-and-often around the float. Nothing happened for the thick end of an hour when the float bobbed down half an inch and held there. It didn't go right under but mindful of last time I struck anyway and found myself attached to a decent trigger, about 3lbs. It whizzed around as they do then bit though my 12lb fluoro trace just as I was reaching for the landing net!
A couple of others had followed the fish about while playing it, but they didn't hang around and it was a further half hour of feeding and float watching till I had another bite.
This time the float pulled under more decisively and after another good scrap I was relieved to get the net under this trigger.
A shoal of five or six had followed this one around, but again they'd disappeared by the time I'd unhooked the trigger, got a photo and returned it. It was not at all like last year's session when Mike and I hooked most of a shoal of a dozen in about an hour.
Next bite turned out to be a pollack about 3lbs which gave a very good fight on the float tackle. I was just about giving up on getting another trigger, and was watching the two guys on the point packing up, when suddenly I had a shoal of about a dozen triggers on the surface trying to munch my float! I quickly brought the bait up and dangled it in the melee of fish, and it was taken. Another decent trigger was soon in the net.
The other guys came by my way and one turned out to be my friend Jason. They'd had loads of triggers on the surface earlier in the day, but not really feeding. Jason had lost what would have been his first ever trigger when it bit through his trace - he was using 25lbs but to be honest I don't think it would make much difference whatever the strength if they get their choppers onto it. Jason's mate had landed a really good one of 4.5lbs but that was the only one they had out.
The next day I was up early to meet Mike for a mullet session out on the Mizen. It seemed a perfect morning, mercifully cooler than of late and with a promising big tide but unfortunately the mullet didn't come up the estuary in any force. Mike didn't get a touch. I was briefly in contact with a decent fish that had almost pulled my rod over the wall, how it could just drop off after a bite like that defies explanation really. Much later I had a small mullet of less than 2lbs as the tide dropped away. We consoled ourselves with a crab sandwich for lunch down at O'Sullivan's in Crookhaven, very nice too.
Next morning we were both at Rosscarbery for some more mulleting. Mike had arrived earlier and had already had a nice 5:02 thicklip and a smaller one, float-fishing in the lagoon. It was just as well as the day panned out.
I set up my two leger rods on the grass just as the tide was topping out. I catapulted out some groundbait and started fishing but everything was quiet for an hour. I'd just landed my first mullet when Mike arrived to fish a few yards to my right. It was only a small one just over 2lbs, and five similar fish followed in rapid succession to the extent I rarely had both lines in the water at the same time for an hour or so. Once this shoal had moved off my groundbait some bigger fish stood a chance of getting to my baits. I had a 3:15 and a 4:12, separated by a wonderful fish of 6:02.
Throughout all this, Mike hadn't had a bite. A guy fishing surface baits to my left had only had one take and missed it, and even more remarkably eight of my nine fish had come on one of my rods despite the other fishing a nearly identical rig and bait at similar range. Some days there's just no explanation.
While we'd been in England we had a pub lunch with old friends Steve Smith, Ben Mullins, Eddie Baker and his wife Suzanne. Steve, Ben, Eddie and I are the four life members of the National Mullet Club and it's a good few years since we last met together at one AGM or another. It was a lovely get together and even better, Eddie finally got to hand over to me a rod and reel he's been trying to pass on for about a year having decided to part with his beach tackle.
The reel is an ABU Ambassadeur 6500C Special, a very nice piece of kit from the days when 6500 specs were a bit higher than on most of their modern models.
Eddie had removed the level wind but the reel hadn't had a full CT conversion, and the top bar was stopping my getting my thumb over the spool properly to cast. I swapped the cage out for one of a couple of CT versions I had in my bits box, and also fitted a power handle that I bought off Ebay which I much prefer to the standard handle with its two dinky knobs. The nice thing about 6500s is these parts are interchangeable across models even years old.
The rod is a Sea Match Special built by Tony's Tackle in Eastbourne on Daiwa's classic AWB 126 blank. Back around 1990 I was looking for a second rod to go alongside my new Zziplex Dream Machine GS Special Match; I definitely couldn't afford another Zziplex and reluctantly I decided I couldn't afford an AWB either. I ended up with Daiwa's Paul Kerry Supercast II which I'd never knock as it was itself a lovely crisp rod that caught me many good fish, but that said I'm very pleased to finally get my hands on the AWB. I only wish I could say I re-christened it with something better than dogfish and an overly ambitious mackerel that took a 4/0 Pennell bait on the drop ... but that's all the airstrip strand would cough up for me when I visited on the 18th...
On the 19th Sylvi and I travelled down to Rosscarbery to fish the afternoon with Mike. It was quieter than the last time I was down, and I had just two takes. They produced a smashing brace of thicklips though, a 5:09 that ran across to the right during a short but very sharp shower of rain; and a 5:06 that ran left through Mike's swim...
Mike himself unfortunately blanked again, though he was beasted by a big mullet that ran right out into the wreckage of the old oyster cages across the pool and shredded his rig.
On the 22nd I went mackerel fishing again. I'd really like one more decent hit to get the stock up in my bait freezer, but today wasn't the day. The guy fishing just along the rocks had a string of five joeys, I had three my next chuck, then he had another three ... sounds hectic but that was it regards mackerel for about an hour before and after!
Fortunately I had come with a proper plan B this time, with my heaviest bottom rod and reel and a bag of last year's mackerel heads for bait.
I lobbed the baits out into the depths in what is an absolute snag pit of a mark. Even with the heads popped up using polystyrene and the lead on a rotten bottom, nothing much ever comes back. First rig was irretrievably snagged when I went to wind in. Second was taken into a snag by what felt a heavy fish after a good run, and I lost everything again. Third cast, another good run and this time I got the fish up out of the graunch on the bottom, losing only the lead.
After a brief tussle, a good conger surfaced, spinning wildly as they do. I worked my way down onto the lower rock ledges to my left and the other guy fishing kindly held my rod while I handlined the eel up a sloping rock onto the lowest ledge. I didn't weigh it but I don't think there'd have been any change out of 20lbs. It was neatly hooked through just behind the bottom lip so it unhooked easily and was soon returned.
On the 25th I was back to Rosscarbery, keen to make the most of the numbers of big mullet that seemed to be in residence. It was a dull day with a stiff westerly crosswind which made fishing challenging, though I'd take this over calm and sunny weather any time as experience has shown the mullet can feed well in these conditions. I fished from the grass again and, as far as I could tell with the quivertips waving in the wind, I had three bites nicely spaced through the day. Not a hectic session then but what a trio of mullet ... in order 5:05, 5:07 and a 6:00 to finish just as the rain arrived...
On the 26th I did a morning session back on the airstrip strand.
This time out I had out a couple of thornbacks, including one on Eddie's old AWB and 6500, though to be fair I doubt it weighed even 4lbs.
By all accounts, especially those from my friend Stephen, there's been some big rays caught on the airstrip this year ... I'm sure it's true but not by me, and the place does my head in with its inconsistency.
My friend Dave Matthews and his partner Jane arrived late on Friday 26th to stay with us for the following week. They had a day cycling and sight-seeing round Sheep's Head on the 27th, and early on the 28th Dave and I drove down to Rosscarbery.
Mike was fishing in the lagoon. I called him up on the mobile and found he'd just returned an amazing mullet of 6lb 14oz, by some margin the biggest I've ever heard of from the lagoon. Suitably encouraged, Dave and I set up close to the bridge arch. Dave fished to my left, better able to take advantage of the slightly greater depth and stronger flow in the channel.
Dave was into a mullet almost immediately. It seemed a good fish but it threw the hook after a minute or so.
I had yanking bites on my left-hand rod on both my second and third casts, landing both fish including this one of 5lbs exactly.
At this point Dave took over somewhat. He had bites on and off through the day, missing some, losing a couple more fish, but landing seven. Dave's fish were a variety of sizes from about 2.5lbs up to a beauty of 5lb 7oz, his best in Ireland to date.
By contrast my swim was almost dead, I had just one more bite which I missed. Perhaps the freshening east breeze was discouraging the mullet out of the shallower water where I was fishing, or maybe the mullet were congregating below the bridge by Dave there waiting to swim into the lagoon at high tide. No matter, it was a pleasure to watch the master at work and wield the net for him...
... and anyway, my day was about to take a turn for the better. Sylvi and Jane had joined us for the afternoon, and we'd decided to pack up at 6pm to go for supper at the chippy just up the road. At 6.00 on the dot I started to wind in my left-hand line, only for my right-hand rod to lunge over fiercely. A quick change of rods ... Sylvi finished winding in the one while I tried to get some control over a mullet that was running strongly to my left, through Dave's swim, past the bridge and into the snag-ridden shallows beyond.
The mullet hung over there a good while before kiting in towards the wall on the far side of the bridge. I moved down onto the rocks in front of the bridge and played the mullet closer, the fight ending with it chugging around under my rod tip in the deep pool by the bridge. Eventually the mullet surfaced and Dave had the net under it ... it was a beast of 6lb 14oz, equalling Mike's fish this morning.
Mike and I shared the honours with our respective 6:14s in the NMC's rover competition always held over the UK August Bank Holiday weekend and my fish took my top ten total up to an even 50lbs for the year so far, despite having a couple of modest 3lb fish included from other venues ... the rules allow a maximum of four fish from any one venue.
We were back at Rosscarbery for more on the 29th. The day started with a 5:08 for Dave, and finished with a 5:08 for me ...
... but between times the fishing was a struggle in the fresher east wind and unbroken bright sunshine. Dave had the bulk of the bites again, losing a couple of mullet and landing a couple, while I had just one other before that last fish.
I hope to get another day or two mulleting in with Dave before he and Jane head home. They will only be gone a couple of days before Steve Smith arrives, so hopefully there'll be some more mullet action to start next month's blog.