On Saturday 1st I headed down onto the Mizen with the twin aims of getting an April mullet under my belt and checking out the form ahead of the visit of my old friend Mike Buckley who would be arriving in West Cork later in the week after a few days stop-off near Dublin for coarse fishing with Jim Murray.
It was exactly a fortnight after I'd caught an astonishing sixteen fish bag from a pool full of mullet, but there wasn't going to be a repeat of that today. The water was carrying a peaty stain after the rain during the week and although I saw an odd fish or two breaking the surface ripple they seemed very sparse indeed.
I fished patiently for a couple of hours without a bite, feeding mashed bread little and often but to no obvious effect. Then, just as the new tide started to creep through the bridge arch, I started getting bites. I missed a few and hooked a couple, thicklips just either side of 2lbs. They were the 74th and 75th mullet of the year after my best-ever winter season, though the fishing looked to be taking a turn for the more difficult now.
On Monday 3rd I made a second attempt this spring down on my gilthead mark, but as with the trip in late March I was plagued by small coalfish. The water still felt freezing and I decided to leave it a while before trying again.
Ahead of Mike's arrival I sneaked in a trip up to Kerry on the 6th, more in hope than expectation of catching a spurdog after a disappointing season to date. I arrived at low water on a beautiful calm spring day, with just a tinge of colour in the water which often seems to bode well for this mark.
I was getting bites from the outset, all dogfish which were incessant for the first half of the tide. Then they turned off suddenly, maybe that would give some better fish chance to get at my baits. A little west breeze kicked up about the same time, perhaps another good sign.
About four hours up the tide, one of my lines fell slack. I wound down and struck, but the culprit had gone. Probably a huss, I thought. I put a new mackerel bait out, and within a couple of minutes the rod pulled over hard.
The fish seemed both lighter and livelier than a huss, zipping around from side to side as it gradually came closer then diving for the rocks close in. I suspected it was a spur and, true enough, it was. I lifted a nice male fish about 8lbs out onto rocks. It was a long way short of my PB but after so many disappointing trips for them this winter and spring it seemed a major success.
After two bites in quick succession I was hopeful of more but it wasn't to be ... I sat out the rest of the flood tide and a couple of hours of the ebb without incident.
On the 8th I visited the airstrip strand in Bantry for the first time this year, for a session over low water.
Soon after starting, with the ebb flow still running, I had a good pull-down on a mackerel bait. At first I thought I'd hooked into a good ray, but it seemed rather lifeless as I drew it closer and turned out to be just a small ray and a frond of kelp about six feet long!
The low water slack passed with just a few rattly bites and a handful of LSDs landed.
About two hours up the tide, I had another good pull-down bite and hooked into what felt a very decent fish, either a thornback or huss I guess but I'll never know for sure. It put up a stubborn resistance all the way in ... then my 50lb mono trace parted with the fish in the margins, the leader knot already out of the water, so near yet so far. I looked for signs of crab damage on the trace as there are some big spiders and edibles on this mark but the break seemed clean, either bitten or more likely cut on a sharp rock in the edge.
On the 9th I fished at Rosscarbery, legering from the grass while I waited for Mike to rock up in his spanking new motorhome.
It was a pretty dour session, staring at my tips waving in the chilly SE breeze willing them to register a bite.
Mike arrived late morning and fished over by the bridge on float, but fared no better.
Not for the first time at Ross this year, the day was rescued by a last-gasp fish. I'd already started packing up when my left hand rod pulled over fiercely, resulting in a thick lip of 3lb 12oz.
It didn't seem enough to alter our plans so we packed up anyway and reconvened for a cuppa in the motorhome.
I was finally able to take possession of National Mullet Club's new Irish Trophy which Mike had kindly brought down from Jim in Dublin. The 7:08 I caught last autumn was the biggest mullet in Ireland in 2022 by a NMC member (and, judging from the IFI specimen list, by anybody else.)
The week ahead was marred by some pretty bleak weather. Mike tried a few venues but was unable to locate any mullet. He seemed caught between times, the best of the winter fishing having passed at venues like Ross but the water still too cold on the summer marks.
On the 16th I met him for a trip down onto the Mizen where I felt we'd find a few mullet at least. "Few" really was the operative word, but on another dismal weather day at least we got Mike off the mark with a couple of fish around 2lbs each and I added a smaller one...
On the drive back the windscreen wiper motor on my car burned out. It was a pity because I'd planned a session up in Kerry on the 18th for a last realistic chance at a spur this year, but I couldn't get the car back from the garage in time to go.
On the 19th my sister arrived for a much-postponed week long visit ... a stiff east wind picked up almost for the duration so I doubt I missed too much fishing-wise by spending the time with her. By the time she was gone we were into the last few days of April, the tides were very neap, and I was nursing a knee-injury I'd picked up earlier in the month somehow then aggravated on all the scenic walks with the sister.
I only managed one more fishing outing, back on the Mizen on the 28th with Mike again as he was still struggling to locate mullet elsewhere. There seemed better numbers of fish present this time but they were on the small side again and we only managed three between us before an increasingly chilly breeze seemed to put them off the feed.
Hoping for some better weather early in May to perk up what's been some patchy fishing of late...