We arrived into Fishguard late on 30th September, stayed the night in St Clears and travelled on down to my sister's in Christchurch next morning. Ahead of us, a week in Dorset and Cornwall ahead of our son's wedding in Somerset on 8th October.
The original plan had been to fish a couple of days at Christchurch, one with an old friend Steve Tierney, but as the date neared and with poor reports from the venue, carting all the gear over seemed less and less appealing. I blew out the Christchurch fishing and instead had a pleasant afternoon with Steve in the Thomas Tripp in town on the 2nd.
On the 3rd we arranged to meet Steve Smith in Lymington for lunch and then maybe to fish with the skeleton kit I'd packed if the conditions seemed okay. Sylvi and I were there early and we took a walk along the river front either side of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club. The north side was being raked by a chilly wind blowing down and across the river; the south side was more sheltered and we saw a few decent mullet browsing around in the shallows.
Anyway, we had a nice lunch with Steve in The Mayflower then he and I headed for a short session in the same area we'd seen the fish. The tide had filled in while we were eating and no mullet were visible now, but we were reasonably confident they'd still be about. We both floatfished breadflake a few feet deep,
I had loads of bites, but so far as I know they were all from small bass between 4" and 6" long. Steve was fishing to my right a bit closer to the pontoons, and his string of nuisance basslets was interrupted by a couple of mullet. They were only small, less than 2lbs probably, but it was a success of kinds. I have to say it all seemed a lot harder than I remembered - the venue has been heavily netted I know - later on I took a walk right along the marina front and saw only a single mullet lying under the pontoon. It was a nice one about 6lbs but really, there should have been hundreds.
We headed on down to Cornwall on the 4th, staying near Bodmin, and on the 5th headed for Fowey. We looked around the town, had a coffee, went round the aquarium once it opened which was interesting enough but not so impressive as I remembered it from maybe forty years ago! A couple of very tasty pasties from a bakery for lunch then I was across on the ferry to Bodinnick where I'd arranged to fish with Pete Bluett.
Pete was already fishing as the ferry pulled in, though he was less than optimistic about our chances.
I knew the mark from years back and had in fact fished there long before Pete first did, but the recent form had been poor and the gin-clear water on the day probably wouldn't help.
Pete was trotting through a bolo float and loose-feeding, getting a few bites sporadically but he only connected with a garfish which conveniently unhooked itself at the edge.
I decided I'd have a go on leger so mixed up a bit of groundbait, catapulted a few balls just off the back of one of the moored dinghies and fished a pop-up crust bait in the same area. It was quiet apart from one take mid-session and I landed our only mullet of the day, just a small one.
We had a nice meal that evening with Pete and Jen at the Lanivet Inn near Bodmin and spent the next day at the Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum neat St Austell ... speaking as someone who doesn't really do museums I'd have to say it was really interesting, and with a nice woodland walk up the hillside to view the current china clay workings which were breathtaking in scale.
On the 7th we headed to Wadebridge for a quick morning session with Pete before driving up to Somerset.
Pete was already fishing in his iconic bridge swim, getting a few knocks on the tip from what looked the odd decent mullet that were moving up with the tide.
While I was tackling up Pete had a good take and he was into a lively mullet. After a few minutes I was able to slide the net under a 3:01 thicklip for him.
We both carried on getting knocks on the leger but nothing else was hanging on and as the tide topped out and the flow died away the bites dried up.
We both changed over to float. Quite a few mullet were topping but they were visibly mostly very small fish and most of the bites we had were very timid. I was lucky enough to strike into a couple of slightly better fish, nowhere near as big as Pete's earlier.
We arrived back in Ireland late on the 9th and on the 10th I was getting ready for an extended stay in Rosscarbery with my friend Dave Matthews who was arriving that evening.
Our home for six nights was one of the Celtic Cottages in Rosscarbery itself ... not exactly a cheap option but very convenient for the village pubs and shop and for the fishing, and saving a lot of driving back and forth from Kilcrohane.
The cottages seem to have been upgraded recently with UPVC windows and doors and ours was a lot less draughty and much snugger than I remember them being. I collected the key from the owner Kate who clearly has a sense of humour as with the whole estate to choose from she'd put us in no. 13 overlooking the graveyard!
Dave duly arrived, we had a good catch up and made plans for the morning before heading for bed.
Day 1: Wednesday 11th October. I was woken up by heavy rain beating against the Velux window in my room, and I was feeling rough. I'd spend the rest of the week trying to fend off a bug I'd brought back from England ... again!
Dave was keen to get going. The rain seemed to have eased off but I decided on a more leisurely start to give the paracetamol time to kick in.
By the time I'd had breakfast and driven down it was lashing again. I sat in the car a few minutes watching Dave under his brolly in his favourite swim by the bridge but decided I'd pass on the fishing this morning and wait for the rain to abate.
It wasn't long before he was Whatsapping me this photo of a 4:11, bit blurry because I imagine his phone was fogged up by the rain, and he also had a 2:04 before I finally put in an appearence after lunch.
Dave was soon playing his third of the day, pushing 3lbs. The afternoon was relatively quiet but I had one good take just as the new tide was pushing into the pool, the best fish of the day at 4:12. I was started shivering by this stage though it wasn't particularly cold, so I didn't stay much longer. Sadly the fishing died on Dave as the tide rose, setting a pattern for the week. This is the normal state of affairs for the winter mulleting at Ross but I was surprised the fish had already gone into this mode.
Day 2: Thursday 12th October. A grey old day but dry at least. I was still feeling rough and doubted I'd last a full day, so I had a lazy start and rolled down to fish with Dave from late morning.
As it happened he was just playing his first mullet of the day, a fish over 3lbs and I was happy to be able to net it for him.
The fishing had been quiet for him up till now but earlier in the morning Dave had seen an osprey taking a mullet ... I've seen them before in Wales but never in Ireland so I was disappointed to have missed it.
I fished to Dave's right again. He was soon 3-0 up but I had a good run of bites in the early afternoon and ended up winning the day 6-4. My best two fish were 4:11 and 4:12 and I think Dave's bag included a mid-four, possibly 4:09.
One odd incident was billowing slack line on one of Dave's rods, and his end tackle was missing completely. We couldn't work out if it had been cut off by a crab or what.
Just like yesterday, the fishing died as the tide neared high and we sat out the last couple of hours without a bite. The osprey came back though, albeit only briefly before it was mobbed off by crows and gulls. We saw it several more times during the week, what a treat.
Day 3: Friday 13th October. I was still well below par but after my normal leisurely start, at least I felt a bit better for some warmth from the sun on what was our best day's weather.
This was very much Dave's day, with nearly all the action on his left hand rod fishing into the flowing water running out of the lagoon. His right hand rod and my pair were largely untroubled by mullet all day. Dave finished with five fish, best a 4:10 and a lovely 5:09 Irish PB, and he lost a couple of others. I could only muster one bite and it produced a pretty golden grey mullet about 1:12. They're not uncommon in SW Ireland at all, but it's quite rare to get them on bread so I don't catch many and I'm always pleased to see one ... and especially if it saves me from an ignominious blank.
Day 4: Saturday 14th October. At last I was starting to feel better so I put in an almost full day today. Given how the fish had been concentrated in the flowing water yesterday, we decided on a change of tactics.
Dave fished his normal swim from the grass just west of the bridge, while I went across the bridge to fish from the mud/shingle foreshore on the east side.
Collectively we enjoyed our best day of the week, with Dave edging the total catch 7-6.
Today he was picking up fish on both rods, but they were mostly smallish ones up to 3:10.
I'd forgotten how snaggy it is in the swim east of the bridge. I had a mullet about 2lbs first chuck then a frustrating couple of hours mostly getting snagged up, straightening hooks and breaking traces, and tackling up again. Once I'd found a clear area to bait up and fish, I was getting bites again but like Dave, 2lb and 3lb class fish.
Then as the new tide arrived and the water started to inch up, I contacted a pod of bigger mullet. I lost one that cut my trace in a snag, and pulled the hook on another trying to bully it away from the same snag. But I landed a 4:05, pictured below being returned, and a wonderful thicklip of 6:03, my best of the season so far.
Day 5: Sunday 15th October. Our last full day and I rejoined Dave on the grass to make the most of his company.
We had a flurry of bites early on, connected with some but they were all small mullet either side of 2lbs.
At one point we had a double shot, and we were joined for the photo by Ukrainian Edward, very affable chap down from Cork with his wife. He was very interested in how we were catching the mullet and only slightly dismayed we were returning them!
Dave scored better than I did, 5-2, then the middle of the day went quiet. Time was ticking away on our holiday but last knockings, as the new tide broke into the pool, we were in action again.
First I had a lunging take and a fantastic scrap from a fish that turned out to be a scale-perfect 5:06.
Minutes later, Dave was also into a hard fighting mullet and it was several minutes before I could slide the net under his new Irish PB of 5:11.
Remarkably the fish was carrying a second hook, trace and swivel that we quickly identified as Dave's own. We came to the conclusion it must have been from the tackle he'd lost in the slack line incident on Thursday ... presumably the mullet had taken the bait, slack-lined Dave and straightaway cut the line on a sharp rock.
As the fishing died towards high water, we packed up, cleaned up and headed to the Abbey Bar for a celebratory meal ... very nice indeed.
Day 6: Monday 16th October. In the morning we packed our bags, tidied up the cottage and headed down to the lagoon for a quick session before Dave would have to head off for Rosslare.
Dave had already hooked and lost a decent fish when I rolled up.
We fished on into a freshening east wind. It wasn't best pleasant at all but eventually Dave had another take.
I got as far as taking this photo of the man in action before I noticed one of my rods being pulled over too. Chaos ensued, largely because (a) I hadn't made up my landing net and (b) unbeknown to me, Dave had just cast his other rod and my fish picked up the slack line that I assumed was just dangling off the pontoon. What a mess! Anyway we each landed a mullet knocking on 3lbs but there's no photographic evidence of either.
That was our lot for the week. The final score was 26-18 to Dave; my best 6:03 and 5:06; his best 5:11 and 5:09. It had been a pleasure fishing with him as ever and I very much hope he'll be back to try for an Irish six.
I now took a week off, in part to see off the last of the virus I'd had, in part to recover from six consecutive days fishing and in part because the weather was shocking anyway as Storm Babet flooded large areas of County Cork east of us. Then on Tuesday 24th I was up to Cork Airport to collect Steve Smith from a late flight in from Gatwick for a hastily arranged break, and off we went again...
Day 1: Wednesday 25th October. I had a medical appointment first thing and Steve needed to recover from his journey, so a late start was in order. The forecast was for more torrential rain from about 4 p.m. so the best choice seemed to be a short session general fishing from a local pier.
I set up two bottom rods, one with a large mackerel head bait, the other a scratching rig with two small mackerel and squid baits. Steve meanwhile floatfished sandeels.
In the event the first spots of rain arrived at 12.30 and by 1.00 it was lashing down. Not wanting to get soaked on our first day, we called time on a very truncated session. I'd missed a promising run on a mackerel head and caught just a dogfish and a small pollack on the small baits. Steve had a string of pollack on his float, topped by one about 3lbs which was very much fish of the day and fed three of us handsomely the next evening.
Day 2: Thursday 26th October. We headed to Rosscarbery to fish in the shelter of the trees down on the west bank which offered some protection from the heavy showers that peppered the day. The water was very high and coloured after all the recent rain, but unexpectedly this worked in our favour as we could see signs of decent mullet moving close in to the wall and not spooking as they generally do when the water is lower and clearer.
Steve put a float among them and after a few missed chances struck into a very decent mullet. After a grand scrap he landed this wonderful 5:14 ...
After the disturbance the close-in fish had dispersed. I had a few non-commital knocks on leger fishing further out, but nothing was hanging on and they soon dried up too. We took a drive up to the lagoon and fished a couple of hours without a bite before getting rained off again, just too much rainwater altogether in there I think.
Day 3: Friday 27th October. Pretty much a repeat of the weather was forecast and we headed back to Ross and straight to the swim where Steve had scored yesterday.
The water was lower today and the colour had cleared out a lot. There were fish moving close in again but much spookier and they weren't having anything to do with Steve's floatfished bread today.
Perhaps he persisted too long because meanwhile I was getting quite a lot of action on the tips, mostly little knocks and pulls but two proper takes and two mullet landed topped by this lovely 5:10.
Eventually the swim died the same as yesterday. We moved up closer to the N71 where there's a little more depth. There were a few fish mooching around but not much action. Last knockings I finally had another take on the legered crust, and a 3lber landed to make three for the day.
Day 4: Saturday 28th October. We had a later start after two fairly gruelling days and headed out towards the Mizen, arriving at the estuary just before midday. The water was carrying a horrible peaty colour and was far higher than expected, still flooded over the area I'd intended fishing from and the ebb flow running through impossibly fast. We were here now and wanted to fish, but first off to O'Sullivans for a coffee and a nibble.
We got back ninety minutes later. The water had dropped enough to fish but the colour was worse if anything. We stood watching and wondering if it was worth the effort of getting the rods out ... then a decent fish of some description swirled and our minds were made up.
I didn't fish as it didn't seem likely we'd get a lot and I really wanted Steve to catch after his blank yesterday. He did sterling service trotting a float through on the current which was still stronger than ideal. We saw more fish topping but in hindsight I think they were mostly trout ... no bites anyway until the tide flow eased off, then Steve missed a couple, then hooked one, then hooked another as the tide started to flood back in, in the brief window before it became an unfishable torrent. He landed them both, mullet around 3lbs apiece...
Day 5: Sunday 29th October. Back to Rosscarbery again and on the strength of the least hostile weather forecast of Steve's visit we braved the grass by the bridge arch. I put Steve into Dave's swim right by the bridge and fished to his right, two leger rods out each.
We were caught by a heavy shower soon after arriving but once that was out of the way it turned into a very pleasant autumn day, the more so as bites kept coming fairly regularly. We finished the day with honours even after a fashion, I won on numbers 4-3 but Steve had the biggest, his second 'five' of the week at 5:01...
Day 6: Monday 30th October. Steve's last fishing day and after yesterday's success there was only one possible venue really, back to Rosscarbery.
It was a bank holiday weekend and there'd been quite a crowd of anglers yesterday fishing from the wall, not catching much but watching us catching. We got down as early as we could, but even so I was relieved to find our bridge swim still vacant.
In the event it didn't fish quite as well today. I had four again, but they seemed to be mostly further out and Steve wasn't getting so many bites as his casting isn't the strongest. Still he got a couple, the best this sweet looking middle 3lber and he seemed happy enough with his haul for the week, especially given the poor water conditions and difficult weather.
I drove Steve back up to the Airport on the afternoon of the 31st after a nice lunch with Sylvi at The Quays in Bantry.
If I'm honest I was feeling pretty blitzed out with mullet fishing after the marathon stints with Dave and then Steve but I knew I had a ton of exam work coming up in November and the weather looked to be continuing manky for the forseeable future.
I really wanted to keep my monthly mullet run going so on 1st November I was back at Rosscarbery, sheltering under the trees on the west side again as Storm Ciaran approached.
It was a miserable grey day. The numbers of mullet seemed well down, I barely saw any movement at all and I only had one bite in the four hours I stuck it out. There was a little pluck on the tip then the line dropped back and I struck into the fish, happily. It was obviously very modest in size, 3:01 as it turned out, but I played it very gingerly as I really didn't want this one coming off, my only chance of the day on probably my only chance of the month. Anyway, all went well and that's now a mullet in 32 months consecutively, exactly where I was at before the second covid lockdown intervened.
I'm sorry for the late report - I really have been snowed under with work and that did indeed turn out to be my only session in November. Whatever I can manage in December will have to fit into a very narrow window between finishing with the exam papers and heading off to UK for our pre-Christmas visit; then we'll be back for the week between Christmas and New Year. First target will be a December mullet then hopefully on to other fishing which has been passing me by for far too long.