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Each spring some sickly mullet return inshore, individuals that haven't coped with the rigours of the winter and spawning, most probably old fish nearing the end of their lives ... "on their last fins" as one of my Facebook friends put it. These fish are particularly visible at shallow venues like Rosscarbery, and I'd seen a couple earlier this year. One, pale in colour, swam along listlessly just under the surface. Even more distressed, one was belly up near the bottom but just barely paddling itself along against the gentle current. Such sad specimens can't last long before the otters get them.
Then early this month reports started circulating of greater numbers of poorly mullet at Rosscarbery. I wasn't convinced it was anything (much) more than the normal state of affairs for the time of year, but still when I headed down on the 10th there was a slight sense of fearing the worst.
In the event everything seemed fine. There weren't great numbers of mullet around - a legacy of weeks of mostly easterly winds I think - but the small gaggles of fish moving past me as I fished near the bridge all seemed to be in good nick apart from one tatty-looking individual that even so was keeping up with the others. I couldn't get a bite from those close-in fish but eventually got one legering further out. Later I walked Fern Collie all down the west side of the estuary and saw more mullet in ones and twos, and they all looked fit and alert. I decided to have a last hour fishing from the wall. Again I couldn't get any interest from the near-in fish but had one at long range. Both the fish I'd landed were pristine four pounders ...
On Thursday 16th my old friend Steve Smith arrived for a few days fishing. I collected him from the airport and we called in at Rosscarbery on the way west, for a short session from the shelter of the brolly in heavy rain driven yet again by an easterly breeze. Steve had a couple of knocks but nothing came of them and the numbers of fish present seemed to have declined yet again. Indeed the venue continued to disappoint, with further half-day visits on Saturday morning (lashing with rain again!) and Monday afternoon both blank. On Monday we met one of my blog readers, Pete, who told us that another, Jonny, had had three mullet on Sunday including a brace of five pounders, and indeed there were a few fish showing on Monday. However, we couldn't get much interest in our baits and when I finally got a good take last knockings the fish came off half way in.
We looked at a lot of venues over Steve's visit and located mullet at most of them, but feeding activity was fleeting at best and we struggled for bites. Fortunately my favourite rock mark in Bantry Bay bucked the trend and gave us good sport over each of the three low waters we fished it...
We were catching the mullet shallow float-fishing mostly with fish bait. They weren't massive fish, mostly two-pounders with a smattering over 3lbs to a best of 3:10, and each gave a great scrap in the clear water on light tackle.
Highlight of the trip though was at a shallow venue near Glengarriff. We fished there on the Friday afternoon and saw some good-sized mullet, but they weren't feeding well.
On Sunday afternoon we were back, and the mullet were back too. Steve crept off and hid himself in the bankside vegetation. He flicked out a flake bait on a 2 swan leger to lie in the shallows surrounded by a few loose offerings, and waited.
Before too long, a decent mullet appeared and started mopping up the bread. It picked up his bait, and Steve was in ...
The mullet put up a good fight, repeatedly ploughing off through the shallow water as I worked my way round the bank to do the netting.
It was a wonderful 5lb 12oz specimen thicklip, in good condition but a long and lean fish that with more bulk on it could easily have weighed a pound more. Well done Steve ...
Over the last few weeks I've been doing mostly rock fishing, partly local on Sheep's Head and partly up in County Kerry after more spurdogs.
The Kerry fishing yielded very meagre results - two blank trips and one long day that yielded just a single spur. On the plus side it was a little bigger than the trio I had in early April, I gave it 7 - 8lbs so a new personal best.
The trips were livened up a little by bullhuss - I played three very chunky huss right to the edge only to have each open its mouth and spit or shake the bait out. The big ones seem to be expert at hanging on to the bait without getting hooked, but even so a 100% failure rate is a bit extreme!
Fortunately the huss were being more co-operative on my home turf, and I landed seven across two trips on the Sheep's Head rocks in early May, with the biggest ones just making double figures. Most of my huss come on mackerel head baits.
The mark I've been fishing seems incredibly deep - I've been counting the bait down to the bottom after it's landed and generally it's reached 24 or 25 with a 5oz lead pulling it down.
It seems to hold all the normal rock species but I think the depth may open up other possibilities. For example I know there are a few ling caught on deep marks on the Beara and I've often wondered if any of the Sheep's Head marks may hold them.
Well, question answered after a fashion. Though it was only a baby of a couple of pounds, it was my first ever ling and I'm hopeful of meeting some of its bigger chums later in the summer. It took a squid/garfish cocktail bait popped up off the bottom.
The pollack seem to be back inshore in some numbers. On the first of the two trips I had a three pounder that grabbed one of the popped up baits, and missed other similar fast bites. The second trip I took along half a pack of frozen sandeels of dubious quality that were left over semi-defrosted and refrozen from one of the spurdog trips. I spent fifteen minutes at the end of the session slowly spinning these on a long trace. The result was four pollack from five eels, three pound-size fish and a lovely four pounder to finish.
April wasn't the busiest of months on the mullet front - a bit distracted by the rock fishing and some family visitors - and the trips I managed met with mediocre results.
That trip on the Mizen at the end of March proved to be a false dawn. Two further visits resulted in blanks, though in fairness both were on grey, blustery, chilly days so perhaps not the fairest test.
The weather was also playing up at Rosscarbery, including one day with some spectacular hail showers like the one on the video above. The mullet numbers seemed to dwindle as the month went on. The protracted spell of east winds probably didn't help, though I think the main reason would be the shoals of mainly smaller fish that have been present on-and-off through the winter dispersing and spreading along the coast, whilst the larger fish that predominate at Rosscarbery over the summer and autumn have not yet arrived. Perhaps they are still busy spawning.
My catches reflected that trend ... four trips scoring four, three, two then a blank with just one missed bite. No really big fish either, the best a 4:12.
A few pics ...
I've had three sessions from the rocks on the north side of Sheepshead over the past couple of weeks, using large fish baits such as mackerel heads and mackerel/squid cocktails, usually popped up off the bottom by wrapping on a small piece of polystyrene with bait elastic..
To be honest it's been pretty slow; I get the impression that things are only just starting to get going as we come out of winter.
First time out I caught only an LSD, and lost a load of gear on a mark that's been fairly kind to me in the past. I missed my one chance at a bigger fish when I failed to connect with a good run. The mackerel head came back completely crushed but the fish had missed the hook.
I did better second time out at a mark where I've not taken the bottom rods before - it faces straight out into the Atlantic and there are not that many occasions when the swell allows it to be fished safely. The ground seemed remarkably clear and I only lost one lead. After a slow start I had a good run on mackerel head and struck into a strong fish that turned out to be a personal best bullhuss of around 13lbs ...
After that, a couple of rattly bites on the cocktail baits yielded LSDs, and after high water another run on a mackerel head produced a smaller huss.
I fished on well down the tide but couldn't get another touch.
Then this morning I was out again early for what proved to be a pretty bleak session under a leaden sky with a strong south-east wind swirling around at the base of the cliff. It was cold and the fishing was desperately slow, just one little nodding bite that seemed to have come to nothing. Then when I decided to wind in to rebait, everything was stuck. After a bit of heaving the "snag" gave way and turned out to be a conger eel - only a small one of about 8lbs but my first of the year and perhaps a sign of better to come as the water warms up.
Over the years, most of the common small shark species have come my way. I've caught loads of lesser spotted dogfish of course, and recently plenty of bull huss here in Ireland. In another life back on the south coast of England I caught literally hundreds of smooth-hounds of both species up to about 18lbs; and amid a lot of blank sessions trying, ten tope from the shore including fish of 43lbs and 45lbs.
One fish that has eluded me has been the spurdog - mostly I've just never fished in areas where they are ever caught from the shore. So it has been interesting to see there's a fairly reliable showing of them each spring and not that far away from us either, as recorded in the annual IFI specimen listings. And it was even more interesting when my Facebook friend Patrick posted some photos of some whoppers he and a friend had caught last spring.
So armed with some pointers from Patrick, this spring I've been heading north. My first trip was at the end of March, and despite perfect-seeming conditions and a perfect tide I blanked save for a couple of dogfish. Unbeknown to me, Patrick was just a bit further along on the rocks, also blanking! He had one modest size spurdog the next day, but the fishing was generally poor over that set of tides. In fact there had been a better showing over the previous few weeks, instilling an immediate doubt that I may already have missed the best of the fishing this year.
Last Thursday, a fortnight later on another good tide, I was back and blanking again. Frustratingly, an east wind had kicked up overnight, probably doing for any hope I had of a spur. Worse, it was forecast to freshen and persist right through the set of tides. Then today, the wind fell light, little more than a nagging breeze. The biggest tides were gone but today's was still a reasonable size. All in all less than ideal, but I decided to give it a go!
Fern Collie and I headed for a low water mark, in fact one that has to be evacuated at about half tide (unless you want a very long session) as it gets cut off. We arrived in time to fish the last hour of the ebb, which would give about four hours to fish.
The low water period proved very quiet. About an hour up the tide, I had a couple of rattling bites that I missed but I thought were probably LSDs. Then a better pull on a mackerel/squid cocktail, and I played in a heavy fish that turned out to be a big huss - abour ten or eleven pounds. Unfortunately it shook out the hook right at the edge. Normally that would be pretty annoying, but as I'd recently caught a bigger one at home, and as I was there for spurs, it didn't seem so bad.
About two hours up the tide, with an hour to go, I had a bite on sandeel that I missed. While I was baiting up again I had a bite on mackerel/squid on the other rod. I hooked this one. It felt not very large but a bit livelier than the average LSD. I held my breath as I bumped it through the kelp close in and sure enough it my first spurdog, all 4 - 5lbs of it. Not a monster, but a result!
I took some quick pics then got two fresh baits out. Soon both rod tips were going - the sandeel rod pulled over hard so I grabbed that one and wound in another spur. This one zipped around a bit and was a shade bigger, I gave it 5 - 6lbs. The other bait was shredded, but the spurdog had missed the hook.
Quick look at the watch - time for a last chuck with both rods. Soon both tips were rattling again. I struck the cocktail rod this time, hooked and landed another spur about 5lbs. This time the sandeel bait was shredded but the spur responsible was gone.
It was more than a bit frustrating to have to pack up with the fish feeding well, but it was time to go so I tidied away as quickly as I could then Fern and I legged it before we were committed to another six hours with next to no bait left. I can't wait to get back on the next set of tides and hopefully find some bigger spurs.
Back from Africa, a few days to recover ... and then a really stormy spell of weather that knocked thoughts of fishing on the head!
It was 20th March before I headed back down to Rosscarbery and the time had come take Fern Collie on her first mullet fishing expedition!
I chose an area of shingle foreshore where I could see a few mullet moving in the shallows and where Fern wouldn't get in anyone's way, set up and started fishing.
I was getting knocks and twitches on the tips almost from the off, and was soon into a fish that ploughed off through the shallows and gave a really good scrap. It was just under 4lbs and I soon added another one of similar stamp. The shoal moved further out in response to that, but by long casting I managed to keep contact and add a couple more fish to the bag before bites petered out altogether, one a bit smaller and one just over 4lbs. Fern had been as good as gold, sitting with me, not barking at too many passers-by and deterring the odd swan, but I didn't want to push her patience too far. I was happy with four mullet so called it a day there.
We were back another twice over the next week or so for two remarkably similar sessions each yielding another four mullet, again mostly three pound class fish with just the odd fish topping 4lbs. I'd regard that as very decent fishing but it was frustrating to miss the short period - perhaps just one tide - when a shoal of bigger mullet put in an appearence. My Facebook friend Jason had a stunning 7lb 3oz fish and there were a number of others over 5lbs caught the same day. Anyway, here's a selection of my fish from the two trips ...
Today I made my first visit of the year to my favourite estuary on the Mizen Peninsula. I could see straightaway there was a decent shoal of mullet in the low water pool by the bridge, a welcome sight after the venue flopped on me last year. It was nice to have the float rod in action again too after all the leger fishing over the winter period.
It was soon apparent though that the fish weren't large. The bites were difficult to hit, and when I connected with them the mullet were typically just under 2lbs weight - still, game little scrappers.
While most of the fish were pristine, it was disappointing to catch one that was in a rather sorry state. A loop of nylon monofil had cut into its flesh just behind its gills leaving a nasty wound. I was able to snip the loop and pull it out then return the fish. The knots in the loop identified it as a single diamond section from a gill net, though how this could have separated from the rest of the net is a mystery to me.
A few years ago I caught a similarly afflicted mullet from the Sussex Ouse. That fish was subsequently recaptured by Eddie Baker, easily identifiable by the scarring, so I'm hopeful that this one will survive okay.
I stepped off the plane at Cork Airport, still two hours to drive home, feeling like I needed a fortnight’s holiday …
In fact the holiday was over; it had been enjoyable, but tiring. Two weeks earlier I’d set off on my seventh and probably last fishing adventure to Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, the primary target of course being the wonderful bronze whaler sharks that hunt those shores. I was there with friends from UK, Dave Matthews and Stu Read with our regular guide Johan Burger who is the absolutely the best of the guides operating on the coast there. Dave was fishing for seven days before heading off with his partner Jane on a safari tour led by Johan’s wife Joyce; Stu and I had another three days fishing with Johan before travelling home.
I flew with Aer Lingus to Heathrow where I met Stu, Dave and Jane for an overnight flight to Johannesburg with Virgin Atlantic. From Jo’burg we took a flight with South African Express on to Walvis Bay and were met by Joyce for the drive of ninety minutes or so north to our very comfortable rented accommodation in Henties Bay. The travel all worked fine, both ways, but it’s quite gruelling especially if, like me, you don’t sleep well on planes.
The fishing days fell into a pattern: breakfast, bait fishing in the morning, picnic lunch, bronzie fishing in the afternoons and on into the evening, home for a quick shower then out for an evening meal before collapsing into bed. Eating out is cheap in Namibia – you’d struggle to spend any more than the equivalent of €20 on a meal and that includes drinks. We used the restaurant at De Duine Hotel (nice but very slow) and Fishy Corner (nice and not as slow); other restaurants are available in Henties.
For the bait fishing you could use the heavy end of the spectrum of UK beachcasters, though we used Johan’s gear which is a bit beyond that. You can pick up some big fish on the small mackerel and mullet baits, including sometimes a stray bronzie. This time out I had a spear-nosed skate estimated at nearly 60lbs, and a big spotted gulley shark nearly 50lbs both of which pulled like trains.
Smaller gulley sharks would be one of the intended targets of the bait fishing: their gills and livers make good bronzie baits, with the carcass being staked out in the surf as chum. This trip though they proved scarce but there was a good showing of smooth-hounds which did the job for us along with some sand sharks frozen down from Johan’s previous clients, err … Nigel Farage and his sons. Thanks for that Nigel (but for nothing else.)
I wouldn’t say butchering smooth-hounds to use as bait is the most endearing aspect of Namibian fishing … all I can say is it’s a different world out there!
Stu and myself with the bronzie bait :(
Other fish that came along on the small baits this trip were the ubiquitous barbel catfish, nasty spiny little things which aren’t much good for anything except gulley shark bait; baby spurdogs, locally called green eyed sharks; and an elephant fish, locally called a St Joseph fish, for Dave.
Spiny critters - spurdogs two at a time and Dave's St Joseph fish
And so on to the bronzie fishing. Johan has some more powerful and slightly shorter rods for the big sharks coupled with multiplier reels taking roughly a kilometre of line starting with heavy nylon going down to braid backing.
At some marks Johan casts an 8oz grip lead and a bait weighing about the same again off these huge reels some quite remarkable distances, and even more so in that he barely ever gets a significant over-run.
The latest thing on the Namibian beach scene is the use of drones to carry the shark baits out – it seems like everyone’s doing it, including Johan. There’s no doubt that it catches bronzies that wouldn’t otherwise see the beach by enabling the bait to be dropped further out, perhaps beyond a bank that the fish won’t cross on some days or in some conditions. It brings its own challenges though by exaggerating a number of potential problems. There’s a lot more line in the water potentially subject to side-wash, picking up weed or getting bitten by sharks swimming inshore of the bait. It’s a bit of a faff setting up the drone and carrying three baits out one at a time, with a consequence that there may be a slight temptation to leave the baits out longer and past their best. If you’re not getting pick-ups there’s a nagging doubt the bronzies may be closer in, particularly if there’s chum in the surf. And as I watched in dismay my reel emptying down to the last few metres of braid backing as a large bronzie headed for Argentina, I was wondering about the wisdom of giving it a 200m head start! Perhaps fortunately that fish cut the leader on a reef just as Johan thought it might be stopping; I wasn’t so sure about that.
Anyway … the baits are out one way or another, and the wait begins, maybe a few minutes, maybe much longer. Dave stands holding his rod poised for action and no doubt this is the best technique. I used to fish that way but my recently dodgy back dictated a more leisurely approach – my rod went into a sand spike after ten minutes or so and I watched from the comfort of a folding chair. Johan found me a stand-up harness which certainly helped to protect my back versus the standard butt pad – it spread the load when playing a shark and also with the lever drag reel clipped to the harness I could lean back and have a bit of a breather during an extended fight. Johan had recently used it to help bring a 1000lb+ marlin to a small boat off Angola, so it ought to be up to the job!
The typical bronzie take is a bump or two followed by line pulling off from the lightly set drag; but the rod may just pull over without warning, or the line may drop slack as a shark picks up the bait and swims inshore. We were using big circle hooks so once the fish was taking line well it was just a case of tightening the drag to its fighting setting and jigging the rod to make sure the hook was in – no striking as such.
Most of the bronzies we had were 150 – 200lbs and fish of this size typically will make several strong runs, especially the male fish that seem to surge faster through the water than the females. It might take 30 – 40 minutes to get an average sized bronzie into the surf for Johan to catch the leader and steer it ashore before finally grabbing it by the tail, turning it and dragging it up the beach to be unhooked, photographed and returned.
The fishing was certainly not at its best while we were there, and most days we did a good bit of driving up and down the coast in Johan’s 4x4 to find spots where the bronzies might be inshore and feeding. Finding the right combination of water colour and temperature in spots with the right depth and tidal flow is crucial. Johan is masterful in this respect but not even he can do much about it when mark after mark is full of weed, all you can do is move on to the next spot. So, challenging fishing, but to Johan’s credit we had pick-ups every day and we managed to land bronzies on every day but two. My total for the ten days fishing was eleven bronzies.
Incredibly I think I only missed one pick-up, on the first evening, though I went through a dodgy spell of losing hooked fish mid-trip. One picked up a huge piece of kelp on the line that eventually caused a break; another fight was ended abruptly when the line was bitten by another shark; there was that fish that nearly spooled me and one that felt nearly as strong that steamed off diagonally right and over a reef, cutting the line again.
The very next day at the same spot I had an almost repeat performance but although the shark spent several minutes swimming over the reef, this time it didn’t manage to catch the line on the mussel-covered rocks and eventually I got it moving back towards me. After an hour and ten minutes I had a new PB estimated at 308lbs on the beach. I felt drained, as much emotionally by the protracted period of expectation of losing the fish as physically.
Dave and Stu didn’t fare quite as well, getting more than their fair share of missed pick-ups, bite-offs and fish just coming off for no good reason at all. Dave finished with three bronzies landed; Stu had a couple on each of the last two days to finish with five.
It was a great holiday in great company and I hugely enjoyed reacquainting myself with the bronze sharks. I’d recommend the Namibian fishing experience to anyone who’s reasonably fit but I think this will be my last trip there. Dave accompanied each of his bronzie fights with mutterings of “I’m getting too old for this …” but in my case it was the flights and the driving that I found the more wearisome. Getting my first three hundred pounder seems as good a time as any to bow out.
I booked my flights with the Irish online agency e-travel and they were great in notifying minor changes to the flight schedules etc. It’s worth paying the extra €5 for their post-booking service.
Johan and Joyce can be contacted regards either fishing trips or safari tours through their website Bushworx. Many thanks to Dave, Jane and Stu for use of some of their photos.
I next ventured down to Rosscarbery on 25th January, just about over a miserable cold that had hung on me for most of the month. There were plenty of mullet present but they seemed to be in two or three big shoals way out in the middle of the pool - I'd see them occasionally boiling the surface when a bird flew over and spooked them.
I fished from the same area as last time and cast both leger rigs out as far as possible, which was still well short of where they needed to be. It proved quite a wait before (I guess) one of the shoals edged my way a couple of hours after starting. My left-hand rod nodded then pulled over, and soon I was involved in a feisty scrap with a decent mullet ... and while that was on, my right hand rod pulled over too and line started stripping off against the drag! I got the first fish in fairly quickly, left it in the landing net in the shallows then went to the other rod. This felt a better fish and it was miles out by now, though fortunately it didn't seem to have found any of the many snags out there. The mullet came back very grudgingly but I did eventually get it in to complete my second brace of the year already ... 3lb 5oz and 5lbs exact.
Later on I added a 4:14 from that swim and a lovely plump 5:02 to finish after I'd moved over to target a couple of fish I could see rising occasionally in the tail of the flow out from the lagoon.
It had turned into my most productive ever January session and boded well for a February mullet.
I headed down again on 2nd February. It was a cold morning: -3 degC and I had to scrape the frost off the car. The temperature only clawed its way up to 0 degC in a couple of spots on the way to Rosscarbery. Even so, I wasn't expecting to find a thin layer of cat ice over much of the pool when I arrived ...
It looked lovely but there wasn't a sign of a mullet. I explored lower down the estuary and down on to the beach - still nothing. I went back up to the top to find Jason just setting up to fish with a friend. The sun and a slight breeze had broken up the ice but it looked pretty hopeless to me. I decided to head back home to watch the rugby! Probably the right choice as I later found the other pair had blanked without even seeing a fish.
More brassy cold weather and then Storm Erik followed. I eventually got back today on the 11th, with Sylvi and our collie puppy. It was flat calm when we arrived and, disappointingly, again there were no clear signs of mullet present. We gave the pup a good run on the beach, had a picnic in the car then finally I rolled out to fish a while by the bridge arch just in case there were some fish in the deeper water there.
Ninety minutes later I'd not had a bite, and the brief excitement of bumping a fish as I'd wound in had long passed. I was on the verge of giving up when I heard a splashing sound, looked across to my right and the whole corner of the pool there frothed with mullet for a few seconds after something had spooked them. There must have been thousands of fish in the shoal. I don't know if they'd been there all along or if they'd just swum in - either way, they'd done remarkably well to stay undetected given the water was eighteen inches deep, if that.
By the time I'd moved over, the fish had "gone" again but I thought maybe they were still there just lying doggo. My first casts passed without incident, but a couple of minutes into the next my right-hand tip nodded and I struck into a mullet. It came in relatively easily and I was just netting it when I saw my other rod pulling over out of the corner of my eye. I left the first mullet in the net and grabbed the other rod - a better scrap this time but five minutes or so later I beached the fish in the shallows. Incredibly I had my third one-on-each-rod brace in three trips this year!
Sylvi arrived back from walking the dog just in time to see me land the second fish and take the photo. They weren't monsters at 3:05 and 3:14 but I was very happy to catch them as that was now a mullet capture in every month since March 2018, only the second time I've ever managed twelve consecutive months.
We were still on our UK trip over the New Year period. It was very mild and settled weather both on the south coast of England there and back here in Ireland. I just knew the mullet would be out in force at home, so it was no great surprise to see my Facebook friend Jason's post on New Year's Day - he'd caught ten mullet at Rosscarbery including a specimen 5:08!
It was the 6th before I could get down there, on a still but slightly chillier morning than of late. There were plenty of mullet showing, mostly well out but some closer in, especially in front of the grass area. I was soon set up and fishing but despite having fish all around my baits, my tips remained motionless apart from an occasional little nod when a mullet swam over one of my lines.
After a frustrating couple of hours, my right hand tip pulled round then dropped back, and the line fell slack. I struck and was into a decent mullet that ran well out and then over to the right. I slackened off the drag of my left hand rod then followed the fish over and eventually beached it after a good scrap. I lifted the mullet up then walked back to base, only to find the other rod bent round fiercely to the left and line streaming off the spool of the reel. I quickly put the first fish in my landing net in the shallows, grabbed the second rod, sorted out the drag then played in my second mullet of the day, a smaller fish than the first.
I discovered the battery in my scales was dead so I left both mullet in the net while I did a quick dash up to the village to buy another. The fish weighed 4lb 1oz and 2lb 4oz.
While all this was going on a light westerly breeze had sprung up to ruffle the surface. Fewer fish were evident but I suspected they'd still be there, albeit back in non-feeding mode as I fished on for another couple of hours. Jason arrived and fished from the wall off to my right, but he seemed to be having a quiet time too
Then, a good pull round on my left tip ... 2lb 5oz ... and ten minutes later I struck at a rattly bite ... 2lb 1oz.
After that, everything went quiet in my swim but I could see Jason into a fish from the wall - it looked a good scrap and a decent fish as he eventually hoisted it up in his net. I gave it another hour then decided to pack up. I loaded my kit into the car then went for a chat with Jason. His fish was 5:07, his second specimen of the year already, and while I was there he had another 3lbs-odd.
Apologies to my regular readers for the lack of new material over the last couple of months.
I'd planned to have a good few rock sessions through the early autumn but it certainly didn't work out that way. First time out on the rocks and I somehow injured my back. I'm not even sure how, I had a few chucks with mackerel feathers to no avail then sat down on the rock ledge dangling a float close in for wrasse. Had a couple of small ones out then realised I couldn't stand up! Eventually I managed to get onto all-fours and scrabble my kit together and crawl off the rocks. Then I hobbled my way back to the car using my net handle and a rod butt-section as makeshift crutches. Not recommended.
I wasn't able to do much at all for a couple of weeks, and unfortunately the worst of this coincided with my friends Pete Bluett's and Jenny Kent's annual holiday in Rosscarbery.
They had a decent week over, especially Pete who had six mullet on or over the Irish specimen weight of 5lbs and several other good fish, most on leger and some on float. Jenny less so, but she also had a five pounder. Pete has written up their week over with a guest blog here.
Sylvi drove me down to Rosscarbery to see them on the Sunday afternoon of their stay. I even managed to stand and float-fish the lagoon for ninety minutes or so, but casting and striking were agony so it was probably just as well all I managed to hook was a very small golden grey. Pete had a very small thicklip about the same time.
We decamped to the Abbey Bar for the evening and enjoyed a nice meal in good company so all was not lost.
I kept as active as I could but it was a couple of weeks before I felt up to fishing again and then definitely not from the rocks. I headed down to Rosscarbery and fished from the wall so I could pull the car up close and didn't have to heave a rucksack of kit anywhere. It was still uncomfortable getting up out of my chair but I could cast okay and felt I was fishing fairly effectively. First time out for just a short session, I was pleased to get this 4:06 on leger. Still a bit painful crouching down for the photo as you can see in my face ...
Next time I stayed a bit longer. There were lots of scrape marks close in but by the time I was there the mullet were a good way out so I legered again and had two nice fish on pop-up crust, 3:11 and 5:02 ...
Next time, another brace, both big four pounders. The second one had a healing wound underneath, possibly from a lamprey or possibly an otter bite, any other opinions welcome. It was nice to see Jonny down again - in the customary West Cork weather for you!
A couple of days later I was off to the UK for meetings in Cambridge ahead of several weeks of exam work once back home. As the last couple of years I had a few days down on the south coast between the various sets of meetings. This time I decided not to take my fishing kit and the weather was so bleak while I was down I didn't regret that choice at all. However, it left me needing a November mullet once I got home to keep an unbroken sequence going of every month since March.
I managed to sneak a few hours out from the exam marking on the 16th, a dismal day with wind and rain forecast later. I headed back to Rosscarbery.
I had a good look round but the only fish I could find were right in the NW corner in the outflow from a little sluice gate, apparently feeding from and near the surface though it wasn't clear on what.
I set up my float gear and fished a flake bait among the turning and flanking mullet. A couple had a look but no takes, so I changed to floating crust. Again there was a bit of interest but no definite takes. The mullet still seemed to be taking something off the surface though so I tried smaller and smaller morsels of crust.
Then my rod suddenly pulled round in my hand as the bait neared the tail of the trot. Fish on, but then off again almost in the same instant. A few minutes later I was into another one, this time taken closer to the wall so I got a good firm strike despite the breeze that had sprung up to put an awkward bow in the line. Not a massive fish at around 3lbs but it was a November mullet so I was happy.
There were spots of rain in the air by now and the breeze was freshening by the minute. I got myself set up under the brolly nearby and spent the rest of the session legering. It was generally slow but I had two good pulls and landed two further mullet about the same size. As with the last couple of winters, the smaller mullet appear to have arrived at Rosscarbery having been conspicuous by their absence throughout the summer.
There's been some good mulleting at Rosscarbery the past couple of Decembers, but this year was set to be a struggle.
I didn't finish my exam work till the 10th, and this new and very cute arrival in our household was proving very time consuming. The weather took a turn for the worse as I finished marking, with a series of gales and lots of rain.
I ventured down to Rosscarbery on the morning of the 14th in a brief weather window. It was near the top of a biggish tide, there was a good chop on in a stiff SE breeze and the water was very coloured I guessed from a combination of the wave action and rain over the previous few days. I managed to fish about three hours as the weather gradually deteriorated, eventually packing up in lashing rain before the brolly could blow away. I hadn't had a bite nor seen sign of a mullet.
Another storm over the weekend then I picked today as the best of a bad bunch this week, very much last chance for a December mullet as we are off on our Christmas break tomorrow. I arrived at Rosscarbery to be greeted by a stiff westerly breeze and an unpromising air temperature of 8 celsius. The water however was lower and a good deal clearer than last week, and I immediately saw one or two mullet moving in the most sheltered water close to the wall on the west bank. I had a look around a few other spots but didn't see any others, so I settled down to try for the fish I'd seen with fingers crossed they'd be feeding well since there didn't seem to be that many of them.
I fished pop-up crust on leger on both rods, one close in and the other well out. The swans were a bit of a pain but periodically they moved off so I could fish reasonably effectively. After about an hour, the close in line dropped slack without warning and to my surprise the end tackle seemed to have been cut off - I can only think a big crab crawled onto the line and nipped it. I set that up again and a few minutes later I had a sharp pull on the same rod, and a whelm as a mullet spooked off, probably it had just swum into the line. While I was winding that in, the distance rod pulled over. The fight was quite sullen at first but better close in, and after five minutes or so I netted a nice 3:15 - December mullet achieved.
A quiet couple of hours followed, even fewer mullet showing than earlier and the swans to and fro making a nuisance of themselves. I sat out a couple of squalls but when some more persistent rain set in I decided to call it last cast and left both rods fishing while I packed up. When I came to wind in the close-in rod, the line was slack again. This time I wound down and contacted a decent mullet that had self-hooked. This one was a much livelier fight all round, and a bit bigger at 4:07.
Anyway, greetings of the season to all my readers and I hope to be back with further reports before too long in the New Year.
Last Tuesday I met Steve Smith at Cork Airport for his second trip over this year.
Best laid plans and all ... Steve's flight was delayed and an already tight schedule to fish a low-water pool in an estuary not too far from the Airport became even tighter. We were heartened to find some good numbers of mullet on arrival, and even more heartened when they showed interest in the scraps of floating bread we put in. But by the time we were set up and fishing, the first of the tide was beginning to push through the pool, and soon it became a torrent, taking the mullet with it upriver.
No matter, I had a Plan B, the pontoon mentioned at the end of my previous blog article that was vaguely on the way home, we couldn't fail to find mullet there and as it was in a blind creek the massive spring tide wouldn't bother us.
An hour later we were there ... but the pontoon wasn't, removed for the winter in the first week of September!
Instead we fished a nearby inlet. We saw a few smallish mullet and had plenty of bites, but as far as we could tell these all came from what must have been a huge shoal of baby gilthead bream. We packed up at five-all. I'd never caught a gilthead before so I had a PB of sorts, I must admit though I was hoping for a bigger one to start.
On Wednesday morning we headed out early to catch the morning HW on the beautiful Lough Hyne. It was a lovely morning but there was a disappointing lack of surface mullet activity. In fact the only surface activity seemed to come from a seal who I suspect has more than a little to do with why the mullet population of the Lough has been making itself scarce on my last few visits.
The seal moved on and eventually a small shoal of small mullet turned up. Steve managed to open his account ... it really was a small fish though of around a pound weight. There didn't seem much prospect of catching further so we headed for breakfast in the Church Restaurant in Skibbereen, and then on to the rocks in Bantry Bay.
We float-fished the last couple of hours of the dropping tide, and in the calm, sunny conditions we could easily see when mullet came into our swim. Steve added a couple more to his tally, one on a salmon strip and one on bread, a bit bigger but still struggling to break 2lbs.
The mulleting seemed like hard work so after a quick bite for lunch we went out on the rocks in Dunmanus Bay. Steve had some fun with wrasse on float-fished limpet bait. I failed to catch a pollack big enough for dinner but had a string of smaller fish to around 2lbs.
On Thursday we headed down to Rosscarbery to fish with Eddie Baker. Eddie had just lost a fish on float from the wall when we arrived. Steve joined him floatfishing, but as high tide had passed and the water would be dropping away quickly, I went over to the grassy area and set up my leger rods.
It was quiet on all fronts for a couple of hours, but not long after Steve and Eddie had packed up on the float and come over to me, I had a good take on my right hand rod.
Eddie took photos as Steve got the net ready, and after a very hard fight, including a nail-biting couple of minutes with it under my rod tip close to the rocks in front of the bridge arch, I landed a decent thicklip of 4lb 12oz. I think we all thought it would go bigger during the protracted scrap.
Eddie invited us up for a cuppa but it seemed easier to stay on and mind the gear while Steve joined him & Suzanne in their rented cottage. The fishing went quiet again but no sooner had they come back than my left hand rod pulled over and I landed a 4lb 1oz fish.
Eddie went off to leger from the wall where he missed a couple of good takes. Steve fished with me off the grass but unfortunately didn't get a touch all afternoon. It was indeed quiet but I had a good pull just as we were discussing packing up. It felt bigger than the other two fish and was running out line well when the hook came out. We fished on another hour in response to that, but to no avail.
Friday, and a bit of a road trip after waiting for the worst of the rain to clear. We fished an hour or so on the dropping tide from the pier at Ahakista, but didn't even see a mullet. Then on to the Bantry Bay rocks. A mullet swirled encouragingly just after we arrived ... and that was the last we saw of it ... another blank. And so on to fish a tidal pond north of Bantry.
We weren't long after low water. We could see several decent mullet bow-waving around in the shallows mostly across the far side of the pond. We went for a soup and a Guinness then returned. The pond still hadn't started to fill. Steve made the slightly perilous journey round the steeply sloping bank to get closer to the main group of mullet, and did well to have two of them out, 3lb 12oz and 3lb 7oz. He was floatfishing, laying the bait on the bottom in only about eighteen inches of water.
The fishing petered out after that, probably down to the disturbance of playing and returning the fish in such a small environment. No worry though, job done.
The forecast for Saturday was very poor after lunch. We settled for a morning session from the rocks for mackerel and pollack, then a chill-out afternoon.
The rocks proved disappointing, just one mackerel for me (first cast!) on sabikis, and a couple of small pollack for Steve on float with sandeel bait. We decided on a relocation to one of the local piers, where the fishing proved scarcely better. I eventually added another mackerel to the tally, so at least we had lunch, and Steve had a small pollack then missed a string of bites which could have been more small pollack or mackerel. Eventually he hooked a half-decent pollack float-spinning the sandeel bait. We took it home for a dinner of pollack goujons and chips.
Sunday was Steve's last fishing day. We spent a very quiet morning legering with Eddie at Rosscarbery.
Very few fish were showing in bright conditions with a touch of chilly north-west breeze, and those we could see topping were mainly well out of range. Steve and I decided on a move to the pontoon mark where I'd fished with Mick Buckley earlier in the summer.
I suppose predictably, no sooner had we hit the N71 than Eddie hit a big slack-line bite and landed a chunky 5lb 5oz thicklip.
Meanwhile we arrived at the pontoon to find a number of chunky mullet in residence and moving around quite actively. Steve set up about half way down the pontoon and I stayed at the near end. Within a few minutes, I was lucky enough to have four fish taking my loose feed off the surface and as it sank. I missed four or five really positive bites before finally latching into one on breadflake fished about eighteen inches deep hard up against the side of a dinghy that was tied to the pontoon. At 3lb 1oz I'm pretty sure it was the smallest of the four fish.
Unsurprisingly my swim went quiet after that. Steve had been seeing fish but these also melted away as we lost the last of the ebb flow.
Perhaps we should have waited for the flood but Steve was keen to have a go in the low water pool where we'd failed on Tuesday afternoon, so we relocated again.
There were a few mullet showing although not as many as Tuesday. I fished from a short section of rock armour between a pontoon and the road bridge over the pool and soon hooked a small thicklip fishing close in to the rocks. Improvised photo from the pontoon - sorry - it was only about a pound and a half! Sadly Steve missed the few half-hearted bites he had just the other side of the bridge so finished blank. We returned to Rosscarbery for a nice meal in the Abbey Bar with Eddie & Suzanne and my wife Sylvi who had driven down.
I dropped Steve off at the Airport early the next morning and headed home by the coast road. I stopped at the pontoon mark where we'd seen the big fish yesterday but nothing was showing over the high water. I moved on to Rosscarbery and was greeted by a heavy overcast threatening rain and a lovely warm southerly wind as the front edge of Storm Helene approached. The lop had coloured up the water a little. I've caught well in these conditions before so despite yesterday's struggle my confidence soared.
A couple of hours passed without event apart from a visit by Eddie & Suzanne. Eddie had fished that morning and had a 4lber, but wasn't fishing this afternoon given the weather forecast. Still I thought it was actually quite pleasant fishing from the shelter of my brolly, and quite easy fishing straight down the freshening wind.
My right tip nodded a couple of times, and I struck into a powerful fish ... 5lb 2oz. Next cast I had a little drop back bite on my left tip, nothing there when I struck but I was ready for a repeat performance next cast ... 5lb exactly. That fish was followed around by three of its shoal mates as I played it. Maybe they were all spooked or just went off somewhere else, but everything was quiet for the next hour or so. Then another little drop back missed just as I was thinking of packing up. I gave it another cast and started tidying my kit up, and a minute or two later my left tip pulled over. It was the best fight of the three and the biggest fish of the three ... 5lb 12oz.
What a wonderful session; tinged only with the slight regret that the weather change that had triggered it hadn't come a day earlier for Steve to benefit.
My mullet fishing has also been patchy recently. I missed a potentially good week for a family visitor staying with us, and the mullet themselves seem a bit unsettled by some up-and-down weather.
Down at Rosscarbery, I had a very pleasant time tucked in my own world under the brolly on a dank day with horizontal drizzle carried on the west breeze.
The session didn't get off to the greatest of starts with a massive take on my left hand rod that snapped my trace before I could even pick the rod up. That was a pity - but the mullet were obviouly in the mood today and I had three out over the next couple of hours before the feeding spell ended.
The biggest was this chunky 5:03, and a little later on my Facebook friend Jason had one exactly the same weight fishing off the wall nearby. My other two fish were both over 4lbs ...
The next week I was back and by contrast it was warm and bright and calm ... the few mullet moving were well out and the session turned into a real struggle. My only bite came an hour in, a couple of nods on the tip then slack line. I struck and connected but the fish was obviously small. Instead of the expected little thicklip, the mullet proved to be a golden grey - my first in Ireland and it's always a joy to see these pretty little fish.
More recently I've been back at Rosscarbery with Eddie Baker who has been over from UK on holiday there with his wife Suzanne.
The fishing has been less prolific so far than on his last visit a couple of years ago, but the size of fish he's been getting has been impressive. He started with a wonderful 6lb 9oz specimen on float on his first day - see photo right. He had other good fish over the next few days on the float before being forced to switch to legering on short tides ... resulting in mullet of 6:02 and 6:00. He's only half way through his stay as I write with the best tides still to come.
Typically, the mullet chose not to play fair on the day I visited. Eddie blanked legering from the wall, though he had one bite that had his rod butt off the ground. I didn't fare very much better fishing from the grass, but at least my fish held on. It fought really well and I expected it to go over 5lbs, but it was a lean 4:10. Eddie was packing up for a break at the time and arrived just in time to do the photo ...
A little later we fished down the west side of the estuary over the high water. There were very few mullet in evidence by this stage and most of those we saw were small. Eddie had some interest on float but only a couple of better bites, missed. I had some knocks on leger but only one proper take, lost. One of those days.
I've had a few of sessions on the rocks in Bantry Bay on calmer days, getting one or two fish each time. Most of these have been smallish. On the Saturday of the NMC Rover weekend I had a 2:13 thicklip, nice fish but disappointingly smaller than the chunky 4:07 I'd had one evening in the week.
I've been researching one or two easy-access marks for when my friend Steve is back over again soon. This pontoon looks promising, there were some decent fish moving around underneath the deck and the boats tied alongside, though on the day the only ones I hooked were rather on the small side!
I've not done a huge amount of rock fishing this summer, and the rock fishing form has been patchy on those occasions I have been out.
The ground fishing has been particularly frustrating.
Surprisingly the bullhuss have more-or-less disappeared from the Sheep's Head marks - I don't know why, perhaps where the water temperature is a tad higher than normal after the unusually hot early summer?
I've only had one modest-sized huss in my last few trips, this particularly difficult individual who wasn't at all keen on being photographed.
The virtual absence of the huss has left more time for congers to find the baits, though these have been on the small side ...
That aside, there have been a few LSDs and this pretty three-bearded rockling, my first in Ireland. It took a big bait on a 7/0 hook. I briefly tried some smaller baits on a two hook pat to see if there might be more about, promptly caught a double-shot of baby congers and gave up on that idea!
I've had a couple of goes at the wrasse on small soft plastic lures and have caught a few, though I'm hoping for more consistent fishing for more and bigger wrasse as we move into autumn.
The pollack fishing has been steady if not spectacular, with lots of takes from pound-size fish, a healthy smattering of 3 - 4lbs fish like this one, and occasional bigger fish to around 6lbs.
Surprisingly the shallower marks on the south side of the peninsula have been more productive than the deeper Bantry Bay marks so far. This suits me fine as they are closer to home but if there is a downside it's that if you hit a big pollack at any great range, it's more difficult to keep it up out of the kelp than in deeper water; the angles just work against you. I've lost a couple of fish that felt very big, though it's difficult to be sure in the couple of seconds before they go to ground.
Most of my pollack are caught on good old redgill sandeel lures. Bubblegum pink, white and firetails all do well on their day. I like redgills particularly because they cast so well on a bass rod with a 2oz bomb on a long paternoster rig. The pollack aren't all that fussy though and they'll take a huge variety of jelly-worm and paddle-tail type baits.
The mackerel were late in (again) this summer but they turned up in force on the spring tides in the middle of August and should be around now well into the autumn. I've had a couple of good sessions from the rocks in Bantry Bay - fish for the smoker and the bait freezer is already looking healthy. Over the winter I acquired some "Kinetic" brand sabikis from a sale on one of the online stores - the rig comes with horrible big gold swivels each end which I wouldn't trust too much, but the nylon part of the rigs seem fine and well-tied, and the sabikis themselves are both attractive and robust - much more robust than the Tronix ones I was using last year. I have the ones with size 12 hooks which is small enough also to pick up the odd launce. I really must get organised to take some float tackle with me to fish the launce live for pollack - at the moment they are going into the bait freezer for other things.
Later in July Mick Buckley moved up from his digs in Skibbereen to spend a few days with us on the Sheep's Head.
Mullet-wise we did several short sessions from the rocks in Bantry Bay over the morning and evening low waters in conditions that were generally a little sloppier than ideal.
Mullet weren't all that abundant but turned up most days, mostly smallish fish around 2lbs and up to around 3lbs, but still good fun to catch as these open-water fish always seem to punch above their weight.
A typical scrap would go on for five or six minutes and produce several anxious moments with the rocks and kelp.
The mullet seemed obsessed with surface feeding despite the often choppy conditions, and we had some on floating crust, others on sub-surface baits fished shallow, including bread flake, mackerel, salmon, pollack flesh & liver and raw prawn. Anything fished more than about eighteen inches deep was generally ignored by the mullet and would be taken sooner or later by a small pollack or coalfish.
Over one high water we located hundreds of mullet in a shallow corner of Dunmanus Bay. It made for an exciting couple of hours with fish swimming all round us - but ultimately we were unsuccessful as they mostly ignored our baits. Mick had a few instances where fish swam into his line and his float sped away, but he thought no real bites. I fished out a little deeper and did eventually get a little spell of three or four proper takes, frustratingly all missed.
We were all psyched up for a return next day,
but the weather had other ideas with a blustery wind and heavy showers. As we waded out it was clear that only a tiny fraction of yesterday's fish were present and after three-quarters of an hour without a bite we gave them best.
We moved instead to a more sheltered bay near Kilcrohane and, finding very few fish present there either, eventually we moved to the tidal lake behind the strand.
This is a somewhat enigmatic venue. Several people have told me about shoals of large mullet in there, most recently my wife Sylvi who came across a big shoal of mullet "with fins like sharks" while walking the dog down there in June when I was away in UK. But all I ever seem to find is modest numbers of mullet around a pound weight and/or just a handful of very spooky individuals of a couple of pounds that bow-wave out from the edge as you get near them.
Anyway, there wasn't much else on offer today so Mick and I decided to give it a go. Astonishingly, my float had barely settled on my first cast after wading out before it plunged under! It was this little blighter - one of those smaller fish but at least it gives me hope the larger ones may prove catchable if they ever grace me with their presence.
Heavy rain was forecast for most of Mick's last day with us. We decided to head for Rosscarbery where we'd be able to fish from the back of the car once the rain set in.
The water was already well down when we arrived, and we could see fair numbers of fish along the west side of the estuary. Not unusually for this year, they proved to be in a difficult mood, swimming around and over our leger baits but showing little interest.
At least when my rod finally pulled over it was a fish worth waiting for - this lovely 5lb 5oz thicklip that put up a great fight in the shallow water.
The first drops of rain fell as I was playing the fish, and soon it was pouring. I've had some great sessions in the rain at Rosscarbery but today the mullet seemed to just melt away and after an hour of getting wetter and no further bites, we decided to have a break. We went for a cuppa in the activity centre cafe by the lagoon hoping the rain would ease but it just got heavier and heavier while we were in there and eventually we headed home.
I was back at Rosscarbery a week later, after a trip to UK for a couple of days' work, extended by a night after Ryanair cancelled my flight home. It was a warm, still day and though I could see odd mullet topping I guessed they might prove difficult to tempt, again. Sure enough, my leger baits remained untouched for the thick end of four hours, and it wasn't until a breeze sprang up mid-afternoon to ripple the surface that the mullet decided to feed. In the next hour I had three out, in order 4:13, another 5:05 and 4:12 ...
My favourite estuary on the Mizen peninsula was in poor form earlier this year, as the normally prolific spring shoals of mullet failed to show.
I took a trip down last week to leger the shallow flats over an evening spring HW. To be honest mullet still seemed in short supply, with very few showing. But I did at least get a couple of bites, both big drop backs.
The first, dead on high water, produced a lovely 4:13 thicklip. I thought it might go bigger as it tore off down the pool and hung out there for ages before weakening and kiting in to the wall to my left - still a very good fish for the venue though. The second fish was a pretty and lively 2:06 ...
Today turned out to be a case of try, try and try again. Plan A was to floatfish Rosscarbery over the top of a big spring tide, but I failed to locate mullet in either of the two swims I tried in the estuary below the N71. I relocated across the road to the lagoon, where several herring-sized mullet were soon swirling on the surface in response to my loose-feed. I kept fishing deep in the hope there would be some bigger fish below, but I didn't score. I missed a few bites but I think they were from the small mullet.
I drove a few miles to the pontoon mark where Mick and I had enjoyed good sport last month ... but I didn't stay long. The water was much more coloured, I guess by a combination of the big tide and a stiff north-west wind blowing down the estuary. It all seemed a bit bleak with no mullet showing, so after thirty biteless minutes I moved on.
I headed for a pool further up the estuary, a mark I hadn't fished before but had been meaning to try for years.
The water was quite coloured but a few mostly smallish fish could be seen bow-waving around the pool, and some bigger ones feeding in the margins.
I went round for a chat with a young lad who was fishing from the pontoon. His tackle was a bit basic but he was getting occasional takes on floating crust and he invited me to join him.
I did get one out on crust, but it was a small one of less than a pound. There didn't seem to be much prospect of getting a bigger one there, so we moved round to the near bank. The lad missed a few takes from better fish on crust fished close to the bank. I float-fished flake a couple of feet deep and loose-fed mashed bread. I was soon getting bites and after a couple of misses I connected with one just under 2lbs. A few minutes later, having moved a little way along the bank, I was into another one of 2lb 10oz. It was a bit of a scramble down the muddy bank below the wall to net and return fish - a nice sheltered venue though and as there were some bigger fish present, one that definitely warrants another look.
Apologies to my regular readers for the lack of recent updates. I've not been fishing much - a trip away in the UK, an exceptionally busy exam work season and the World Cup footie being mostly responsible.
I did manage to get out on the last day of June for a short mullet session on the Bantry Bay rocks. I caught it just right with lots of mullet showing on a sunny day with just a touch of breeze to ripple the surface. I briefly contacted a decent fish first cast on bread bait, but after that the bites became very finnicky on bread and I couldn't hook up again. I changed to using slivers of salmon and the fish bait produced much better bites. I finished the session with three nice mullet before the rising tide forced me off the spot, the best a lovely 4lb 12 oz thicklip, the best I've had from this particular mark.
This last few days my old friend Mick Buckley has been staying down in Skibbereen and I've been down to join him on a couple of mullet sessions.
On Sunday Mick and I met at Rosscarbery about lunchtime. The tide was well out and we could immediately see a good aggregation of fish in the shallows a little way down the west side of the estuary.
We set up with two leger rods each, but it was soon apparent that the mullet weren't feeding well in the bright-light conditions. We both had line bites but it was an hour or so I had a decent pull. The fish came in quite easily at first but then put up a fantastic spirited scrap as it neared the wall, and particularly after Mick first showed it the net. After what seemed like ages later, we finally had the mullet out. It was just a quarter ounce shy of 5lbs, so it's a good job I don't get too wound up about this specimen fish thing.
Half an hour later I was in again as my rod pulled over just as I was taking up a little slack line ... I wondered whether that was a coincidence or if a slight movement of the bait induced a take? We'll never know I suppose!
This fish fought better at first but came in easier overall. It was a few ounces lighter at 4lb 7oz and had an unusual number of gold scales flecking both flanks.
And that was our lot. Although the mullet continued to cavort in the shallow water, we couldn't get another take. We hung on hoping the fresh tide would renew their interest, but instead most of them seemed to move on as the water level rose, and the session petered out.
I was back at Rosscarbery yesterday morning. On arrival I could see mullet topping everywhere in both the lagoon and the estuary, but it was shaping up to be another hot, bright sunny day and I guessed that despite the number of fish in evidence it was going to be a struggle to catch. I set up to float-fish in the lagoon and after a quiet start, a touch of a north breeze got up to ripple the surface and I started to get bites. They were very sporadic though and not particularly decisive. I managed to miss seven or eight, bumping one fish and bringing a tiny oddly-shaped scale from around the mullet's mouth back on my hook point. Mick arrived just as the breeze was dying off and I was feeling the best chance had gone. We both missed a couple more bites on float in the lagoon, then tried legering down in the estuary with no interest in our baits at all. By early afternoon we were ready for a change.
We headed for a pontoon mark where Mick had had a couple of mullet the day before. It proved to be a good move. There must have been a good number of mullet under the pontoon, we could hear them sploshing around under our feet from time to time. Better still, with shade and cooler water and a gentle run of tide, they proved much more willing to feed than the fish at Rosscarbery.
Occasional fish would venture out on patrol, but the best way to get bites was to fish hard against the edge of the pontoon and trickle in tiny amounts of loose mashed bread around the float to bring a fish over to your bait. The bites were quite positive when they came, and then the fun would start trying to keep the mullet out in open water ... a good bit of the fight is spent with the rod tip underwater as the fish goes back under the pontoon or one of the boats moored alongside. Our luck was in today and we managed not to lose any. Centre-pin reels help a lot here, they are much, much better than a fixed spool for feeding controlled amounts of line to a running fish and then for winching that line back on to the spool. I won 5-2 on numbers, but Mick had the best of the day at 4lb 12oz. Most of the others were 2 - 3lbs.
Mick is coming to stay with us for a few days shortly to do some rock fishing around the Sheep's Head, so hopefully there'll be another blog post about that soon.
Last Friday was a wonderfully sunny day with a fresh westerly breeze. I had to go to the dentist in Bantry about lunchtime but on the way back I drove along the coast road. I wanted to have a look at an outfall pipe that I haven't fished before, and maybe get the rod out if conditions looked suitable. The pipe has been there a while but only over the last few months does it seem to have become active, carrying waste from a fish processing plant.
It's not an easy spot to fish, the end of the pipe only being accessible for a short session over low water and it's not far above water level so it's prone to getting sloshed over if there's any swell. The water in front of it is not very deep, and there's a kelp-covered reef just under the surface only slightly to the left.
Anyway, today the conditions looked fishable with just a light cross-wind from the left and only a small swell. I walked out to the end of the pipe and it was working well ...
Better still, almost as soon as I chucked in a few bread crusts, a mullet started swirling at them and one by one they disappeared. I dashed back to the car and was back with my rod five minutes later.
I fed in a little mashed bread and trotted my float through left to right on the flow/breeze, fishing flake about 18" deep. On the third trot through, the float buried and I had a great scrap bringing in a fighting-fit mullet, most of it spent trying to keep it out of the kelp reef. The fish weighed 4lbs on the button.
I was slightly surprised that the swim died after that, clearly there's still not many fish around on the open coasts here probably because the water still feels brassy cold. Anyway, last knockings as the gentle swells were beginning to lap over my platform, I saw another mullet swirl on the surface. I decided to stay a little longer to see if I could get it, and I did but as it turned out it was only a small one, less than 2lbs.
Then today, I was back down at Rosscarbery to fish out of the back of the car in the pouring rain on the dankest of West Cork days ...
The tide was well down and I could see occasional mullet topping in the shallow water. As I was setting up, another angler further down the road was just landing one. Later he walked up to introduce himself - a reader of this blog - good to meet you Jonny and glad you caught.
However it was a good couple of hours in my swim before I had a take. The left tip fell back then nodded, I struck and found myself playing a powerful fish. It ran out and left, coming worryingly close to the snag you can see in the photo above, to the extent I had to clamp down on the spool and give it some real welly to turn it back my way. I'd followed it along and left my landing net behind. In the end I jumped down the wall onto the foreshore to beach the mullet, then climbed back up with it clutched under one arm.
A few minutes later the right tip pulled over and I had an only marginally less exciting scrap to land another mullet, this one coming in quite easily before giving it the works close in, always a worry whether the hook will stay in.
Then the feeding spell was gone, I fished on for another couple of hours, getting steadily damper but without another credible bite. No matter, the brace of mullet were 5:10 and 5:03 so I packed up bedraggled but happy ...
Contrasts? Well I just love the way the weather changes day-to-day here and I love the huge variety of different mullet marks available. Mostly though I marvel at how variable the thicklip mullet I catch can be from the long, lean, black-backed fish off the rock mark with its huge paddle tail to the paler, deep-bellied, thickset fish from the shallow estuary at Rosscarbery that weighed well over a pound heavier for a very similar length. You'd almost think they were different species, but they're not.
Last Friday my old friend Steve Smith flew into Cork Airport for a short mullet fishing break. He'd decided to try an trip over in May on the basis of my early-season fishing the last couple of years, but regular followers of this blog will know that this year the fishing has been patchy so far, with a long winter stretching into a disappointing early spring.
The most consistent venue has been Rosscarbery, so there we headed on Saturday for Steve's first session. The tide was still quite neap and, paradoxically, unbroken bright sunshine streamed down on us. We could see lots of mullet in the shallow water, contentedly browsing over the surface of the mud, possibly sampling the algae that has put on a growth spurt over the last week or so. They looked like they might be difficult to turn onto bread baits, and so it proved.
We started off by the bridge arch. I set Steve up with two leger rods and fished one myself. Predictably, because I was keen for Steve to get off the mark, it was my tip that nodded first. I struck and played a modest mullet two-thirds of the way in, at which point it picked up one of Steve's lines and then came off.
The tide came in (a little) then started to drop again without further action. We were seeing fewer fish now so decided on a move down the west bank. This restored the number of fish in front of us but we still couldn't get anything more than the occasional twitch of our quivertips as fish swam past our lines in the shallow water. Then, out of the blue, one of Steve's rods yanked over and he was into a mullet. After a game little scrap I netted it, and Steve was belatedly out of the blocks with a respectable 2:13. But any illusions that a feeding spree might be starting were soon dispelled, and as hope petered out we packed up to go and find some after-sun lotion for Steve's ears.
On Sunday we started on the rocks by a seafood factory outfall on Sheep's Head. I wasn't brimming with confidence as I'd yet to catch or even see a mullet here this year, but it was mild today and perfectly calm so maybe .... Well, no, we fished the couple of hours down to low water without a bite and as an awkward westerly breeze had sprung up we decided to move on.
We looked at a couple of spots round Bantry but didn't feel inspired to fish, so we headed on to Glengarriff for a look at the tidal pond. It was still early but our arrival coincided with that of a group of mullet up to about 4lbs, circling around in the water streaming in from the inlet. We watched them but decided to leave them a while in case more may join them, and we headed up to Casey's for some soup and and a half of Guinness.
Back at the pond, the water had come in a foot or so and the mullet had dispersed, with most of them now showing in the far left corner. I watched as Steve made his way tentatively round the steeply sloping bank, and was relieved when he got himself sat down within float-fishing range of the fish without falling in.
I started setting up my own float rod and was just tying on the hook when Steve shouted. His rod was hooped over, fish on.
I followed round with the net, and by the time I reached Steve the mullet was at his feet, buried in the bladderwrack with a load of blanketweed on the line, float and fish. I managed to get the net under it and lifted the lot out. It was a long, lean but very handsome 3lb+ fish.
Things went predictably quiet after that. I couldn't buy a bite fishing from the road, trotting down the edge of the flow into the pond. Steve moved round a few yards further and patiently fed a swim in the far corner. He started seeing a mullet coming into his groundbait occasionally, though it would just grab a piece of bread then be gone for another ten minutes or so, perhaps on some regular patrol pattern. After an hour of this, it made the mistake of grabbing Steve's hookbait, he struck into it and the fish powered out into the middle of the pond. It was still well out there when the hook came out maybe five minutes later, just as I reached Steve again with the net. Steve thought it was 4lbs+.
On Monday it was back to Rosscarbery to start. The tide was bigger but I suspected we were in for another struggle with unbroken sunshine forecast all day. On arrival we could see fish all down the west side - in mud-browsing mode again - with a particular concentration around the rocky island. Steve went over to try for them with his float rod that was still set up from yesterday, while I started setting up a pair of leger rods fifty yards lower down.
I got my first bait out and was just starting on the second rod when Steve called ... he was in again! I pulled in my first line then hurried over with the net. To my dismay the fish had run over the semi-submerged cable that is part-buried in the mud about thirty yards off the island, though Steve had managed to stop it just short of the evil cluster of metal posts sticking out another thirty yards beyond. I knew this wasn't going to end well, and sure enough the mullet caught on the right hand end of the cable as Steve tried to work it round. It was snagged, and we could see all manner of whelms and splashes around the cable as the mullet tried to free itself. I told Steve to open his reel's bail arm and give slack in the hope the mullet might swim out the way it swam in. Instead the fish swam in towards the shore to our right, line peeling off the reel but passing over then under the cable. Nonetheless, I saw an opportunity. I ran back to get one of my leger rods, then back to Steve. I cast between the snag and the mullet, and retrieved slowly. Incredibly, I picked up Steve's line on the very first attempt, but dropped it part way in. Same on the second attempt. But on the third attempt I pulled the line within grabbing range, then delicately hand-lined the mullet in for Steve to net. Not sure on the ethics of all this - whose fish was it or probably nobody's? But a great fish anyway, 5lb 10oz, and best of all it wasn't left tethered to the snag or towing line behind it.
I stayed on the leger, Steve moved up and down the west bank with his float rod, but although we both had mullet all round our baits at times, they just weren't feeding in the bright sunlight. I moved over the road to floatfish the lagoon where I had a few tentative bites probably from the very small mullet I could see savaging my groundbait. After about an hour I was joined by Steve. He'd just lost a mullet from the island again, trying to stop it running over the cable.
Mid-afternoon we packed up and headed west to the new spot I'd found on the Mizen peninsula. We arrived just as the tide was flowing into the shallow stream, bringing about a dozen good mullet with it. I sat with Steve introducing occasional loose samples while he fished with floating baits, slow-sinking baits, baits laid on the bottom. The fish showed some interest in our bread, but not to the extent of giving Steve a properly strikeable bite. A couple of hours later the tide was falling again taking the fish with it and we packed up slightly frustrated but having enjoyed the session.
We had plenty more frustration on Tuesday. Although the conditions were theoretically better with cloud and mist, the mullet were still in a very strange mood. We saw loads at two swims around Union Hall then a few more along the coast at Castletownshend. Not a one of them ever looked likely to take a bread bait.
For Steve's last day today, we headed back to Rosscarbery. Perversely, the sun was beating down again. And a north-east wind was rippling the water. It was going to be another trying session for sure! We set up by the bridge arch where we could just about get ourselves out of the wind, though the quivertips waved and the lines bowed.
After a couple of hours without interest, I told Steve I'd try the good old coffee trick. I'd just lifted the flask when his right-hand rod came out of the rest. He said it was just the wind and put it back, but the rod stayed bent over then line started stripping off the reel. I told him I thought it might be a fish! It was, in fact, a stonker of a fish that ran right out into the middle of the pool, then kited round to the left, then made a good show of trying to bury itself in the rocks by the bridge arch as Steve gradually worked it closer. I had a feeling it would be our one chance of the day, so I was relieved to get the net under it. 5lb 2oz done properly this time ...
We couldn't get another bite, so we packed up mid-afternoon in time to catch the evening high tide out on the Mizen again, this time legering the flats of another much larger estuary. We saw a few mullet coming up on the tide, but catching them wasn't to be. It was however a splendid sunny evening in the finest of surroundings and the finest of company. I hope Steve will be back later this year.
Writing these blogs it's easy to gloss over the bad days, concentrate on the good days and give a sometimes over-optimistic impression of the fishing. There's no disguising though that the last month has been difficult, and after some promising catches in March and April the mullet fishing has gone backwards. Main culprit I'm sure has been the unseasonal weather. Two early heatwaves have come and gone in the UK and the east of Ireland, while West Cork has languished under a blanket of cloud and mist with temperatures struggling to get into the teens of Celsius and some days much colder than that!
My banker early-season spot on the Mizen peninsula has properly let me down this year, with several trips finding the place devoid of mullet. Maybe I was unlucky on the days I chose because, judging by the piles of scales I found on the bank, the otters seemed to have been getting a few. But overall the mullet definitely haven't been in the estuary in anything like the numbers or with the consistency they have been in the previous springtimes I've fished. After several blank trips I did eventually bag one lonely mullet, 3lb 10oz. One plus side of the quiet fishing is that I had plenty of time to clean up the rafts of plastic bottles and other unwanted flotsam that had washed up in the winter storms.
Another plus was that after packing up early most days, I also had plenty of time to recce some new marks. On one of these I found a group of mullet in shallow water in a tiny stream running down to a harbour. The biggest of them were probably about 4lbs.
It was too shallow to float-fish conventionally and I didn't have my leger gear with me, so I fished floating crust. That day they didn't start showing any interest till the tide was ebbing and the mullet were gradually dropping back towards the harbour. I missed a couple of takes and blanked. The next day I was back about an hour before high water on a slightly bigger tide. The mullet were there again and today they were straight onto the loose crusts I fed in. They were wary of my hook-bait though. Several times fish came up to the crust and nudged it before turning away ... then one turned back and took the crust as it sank. All hell broke loose in the shallow water, and after a brief but exciting fight I landed a mullet just shy of 3lbs. Unsurprisingly after that there was no sign of its shoal mates so I didn't fish any longer.
I struggled to find mullet near to home, blanking a couple of times from the rocks in Bantry Bay apart from several coalfish about a pound that took the bread baits, perhaps a sign the water is still on the cold side. In the absence of much going on this end, I kept doing the drive down to Rosscarbery to keep the mullet-count ticking over, but even there things were getting difficult.
18th April was a miserable grey day with a stiff south-east breeze putting a good lop on and colouring up the water. I fished blind on the leger in a couple of swims but couldn't buy a bite. After four hours I was tired of that and relocated to floatfish the lagoon. It was choppy and murky and I wasn't optimistic, but I had one bite and landed a mullet of 2lb 8oz ...
I was back on the 24th on a smaller tide, and with the water shallower I could see mullet moving in front of the grass by the bridge arch, not huge numbers but plenty enough and I was surprised when after two hours I hadn't had a touch from them. I moved down the west side and endured another hour on tenterhooks with mullet swimming all round my baits without taking. Then for no obvious reason they turned on and I had three bites in half an hour. The first fish came off but I had a brace out just either side of 3lbs. Then they turned off again and that was that!
Into May and on the 3rd I was back at Rosscarbery with Julian. We barely saw a fish and didn't get a bite. Today we were back, mostly on the basis it couldn't get any worse. At least we had some rare West Cork sunshine, but the very neap tide and a strong westerly side-wind made fishing difficult.
We weren't seeing much by way of signs of fish but half an hour into the session, my right hand tip nodded and I sruck into a decent mullet. It gave a good account of itself before Julian could net it, 4lbs on the dot. Much later, off to my right, Julian grabbed his rod as he thought the wind was sliding it out of his rest, and found himself attached to a mullet. It was 2lb 8oz, and I'm glad he'd caught one after fishing hard on a difficult day.
To my left I had this guy for company much of the session. He seemed to be catching more than we were, but not as big ...
It was nice to be out again on Sunday and fishing from the rocky shore of Bantry Bay, though the rocks desperately need a few dry days and some sunshine to dry them off so they're not so treacherously slippy underfoot! This session itself was cut short after by rain after about three hours. The fishing was slow in keeping with the very gradual transition to spring this year; the highlight really was the passage of a small pod of minke whales across the mouth of the cove I was fishing, east on the rising tide and west again as the tide dropped away after high water.
Fishingwise, I had a small strap conger on a mackerel head early on, then a few knocks and rattles that came to nothing, then finally a half-decent huss last cast, on a mackerel head again. There'll be better to follow as the water warms up, no doubt.
Then today at another Bantry Bay mark ... it started well enough with a bonus pollack about 4lbs that took a popped-up prawn/mackerel cocktail, then soon after I had another little strap conger. I had another couple of knocks that came to nothing then disappointingly the session fizzled out as the high water slack approached. I was tempted to stay on to see what materialised on the ebb, but it seemed I'd set up on top of a real snag-pit that was costing me a rig nearly every cast so when it started to spot with rain I didn't hang around. Always another day.
I've been keeping an eye on some marks further west, but for now there's been little sign of any mullet on them. To get my mullet fix I've been heading back to Rosscarbery, trying to pick the milder days with a gentle southerly breeze to maximise my chances of getting a few fish. The last couple of weeks the tactic seems to have been working.
On 3rd April I had a real peach of a session. I arrived after the morning high tide, a big spring, to find plenty of water, a nice colour in the water and mullet showing occasionally off the west bank. They stayed in the same area right through the session, and fed in short spells throughout giving plenty of interest on the quivertips and plenty of rod-bending action. I finished with seven mullet on the bank of all sizes from a little 1:10 to a best of 5:03, also including three chunky 3s and a 4:04.
And then again today ... it was a smaller tide so I was fishing much shallower water which also much clearer and although not cold, the breeze had a slight edge on it. There were loads of mullet off the west bank again, but they didn't feed at all for the first couple of hours. Then as I tucked into my sandwiches, the mullet came on the feed too and I enjoyed regular if not hectic action for the rest of the session. The bites were more tentative than usual, and three of the mullet I hooked came off. But four hung on, three arounds 3lbs and a handsome looker of 4:08 to finish the session ...
February mullet fishing proved difficult and ultimately unsuccessful. I did a first trip to Rosscarbery on the 4th. I couldn't see any sign of mullet and ended up fishing blind in the swim where I'd caught the two fish at the end of January. Incredibly, I missed a decent pull on my very first cast! As I wound in, the thought flitted through my mind that I may have just missed my best chance of a February mullet. And how prophetic that turned out to be, as that session petered out without further interest, and three further blank sessions followed before we headed for the ferry and a long-scheduled UK trip on the 19th. That put an end to any prospect of a mullet in February, though as the Beast from the East and Storm Emma arrived shortly after and dumped a blanket of snow over West Cork, I doubt I'd have been out much anyway.
It was frustrating that I'd missed that chance, frustrating also that I'd seen mullet on the other trips, albeit not in big numbers and apparently not feeding. And frustrating that as soon as we were back in Ireland and I was fishing again, the mullet were around in greater numbers and feeding again ... in March!
My first trip was on the 8th and there were decent numbers of fish showing out from the west bank when I arrived about lunchtime. I put out the usual two leger lines but I didn't get any definite takes, I thought slightly surprisingly given the fish seemed quite active. Eventually a sizeable group of them gathered in a shallow corner and I decided to break out the float rod. Tackled up again, I waded out a little way, crouched low and put a little Puddlechucker out into the midst of the feeding mullet, fishing a small flake bait just a few inches deep. Still bites were hard to come by, then unexpectedly the float stabbed under and I missed with the strike. But I was better prepared a minute or two later when the float dipped again and I was in ...
The fish bow-waved out through the shallow water scattering its shoal mates then put up a decent if uneventful scrap before I could beach it. It weighed 4lb 5oz. The blingy reel is the Shimano Catana that I won in the raffle drawn at the Mullet Club AGM ... it seemed churlish not to give it a whirl and in fairness it did a decent job but I don't really like rear-drags much on fixed-spool reels so it may not get a lot of other outings.
I headed back a few days later on the 11th, a mild but miserable grey day with drizzle and a southerly lop pushing up the estuary. I couldn't see anything moving off the west bank where I could have fished from the lee of the car, but when I walked along the causeway I could see mullet whelming and topping in the shallows in front of the shingle area. This would mean fishing with the weather right in my face, but nothing ventured nothing gained ... it actually turned into quite a good session with regular interest on the tips. The first fish I hooked came off, but then I landed three of 3:09. 3:07 and 4:04.
The fish moved on as the flood tide pushed into the pool from the left, and since I was happy with what I'd had I called it a day.
I was back today, a much brighter day but with a fresh and chilly SE breeze. The water was well up and I couldn't see much sign of mullet anywhere so I decided to fish on the west bank where it felt like spring tucked behind the car with the tail gate up. The mullet must have been feeling it too as despite not seeing much surface activity till the water had dropped away I had a succession of knocks and pulls on the quivertips and I landed a string of five mullet of various sizes between 1:10 and 3:07.
As the new tide pushed into the pool, the mullet seemed to go off the feed and move on. I was already starting to pack up when my left rod yanked right over and a better stamp of fish ran off line. I soon had it under control and worked it closer in to net ... no monster but at 4:01 the best fish of the day.
The storms between Christmas and New Year and on into January made for some difficult fishing.
I visited Rosscarbery on the 1st and the 10th of the month without seeing a mullet or getting a bite fishing blind. On the 10th I packed up early and had a good look round several parts of the Clonakilty estuary hoping to find some fish but to no avail there either.
After a couple of better days I was back at Rosscarbery on the 14th.
It was calm when I arrived and I could see mullet moving occasionally well out from the grass by the bridge, so I set up there and fished both leger baits as far out as I could cast.
From time to time I could see fish in the area of my baits, but they didn't show any interest in feeding on bread. After a while a breeze sprang up so I couldn't really tell if there were any mullet still about, but I fished on till the tide started to rise before deciding on a move onto the west bank which would be more sheltered.
To my surprise I saw mullet immediately, and on watching a while there seemed to be three or four small groups of fish moving around. They didn't look any great size - 2lbs tops I thought - but under the circumstances I'd have liked to have caught one. So it was disappointing when a couple of tentative knocks on the tips came to nothing.
The closest I came to seeing a mullet on the bank was this bit of otter-kill! The otters do take a few, particularly in winter when their preferred diet of large shore crabs presumably gets a bit scarcer. I enjoy seeing the otters though and don't really begrudge them the odd mullet.
After another stormy interlude I was back on the 20th ... and the mullet had evacuated the estuary again. I really wanted a January mullet but by this stage I'd have settled for anything, so on the 22nd I took the big rods down onto the local pier to see what was about.
Even this turned into a struggle, with the edible crab population turned hyperactive by the unusually coloured water. I wound in seven or eight of the things, unfortunately none quite big enough to keep. They were ruining my big fish and squid baits in next to no time but I did get two or three short but very fast runs. In the end I put on a couple of smaller baits to try to find out what was going on, and had a decent coalfish.
By yesterday it was reaching Last Chance Saloon time for a January mullet, and fortunately a couple of calm days were forecast ahead of the next blow. I had a good look round on arriving at Rosscarbery and although they were not plentiful, I could at least see a few mullet topping, mostly in front of the shingle below the N71 causeway.
I fetched my kit from the car, jumped down the wall and put my two pop-up crust baits out, one close in and one further out and to my right. I waited fifteen minutes, seeing fish move close to both baits but getting no takes on either, then I wound in the close-in line to rebait. I was just about to cast it again and the right-hand rod pulled round. A quick bit of rod juggling and fish on ...
What followed was fifteen minutes of fairly unspectacular fight, the fish neither running out far nor wanting to come in. A few times after I'd recovered a little line it would surge out again, not far but powerfully. I began to feel it was a decent fish, but even so I was surprised when it eventually kited into the shallows and I went to pick it up ... a real lump ... 6lb 12oz.
I was well chuffed with my second largest Irish thicklip, an old warrior that had lost most of its front dorsal fin at some stage of its life.
And yes that is calm water and blue sky in the photo ... there's been precious little of either this winter!
I fished on for another three hours in that swim but despite having mullet all round my baits from time to time, I couldn't get another take. The fish moved on as the flood tide pushed into the pool. I headed round onto the west bank and as it calmed right off into the evening I could see hundreds of mullet whelming and bow-waving in the middle of the pool ... presumably mostly new arrivals on the tide.
Every now and then a few moved into my swim, but I only had a couple of non-commital knocks on the tips. I wasn't unduly surprised, the new sea water that had flooded in felt brassy cold, and the air temperature was plummeting under the clear sky.
Today I was back again. It wasn't such a nice day with persistent drizzle and a bit of a light south-east breeze running up the estuary, rippling the surface. However, in lulls in the breeze I could see mullet moving in the same swim where I'd caught yesterday so I headed back there.
The session was similar to most of yesterday's, with fish all over my baits but not taking them. I stayed put though as I thought it was just a matter of time and a couple of hours in, as a particularly active looking group of fish moved through my swim, my left hand tip dropped back.
My strike met with satisfying resistance from a somewhat livelier fish than yesterday's. Seven or eight minutes later I drew this handsome 3:15 into the shallows.
I fished on another hour and missed a good pull last knockings for that swim as the flood tide pushed the fish out. I was a bit cold and damp so I decided to give it best rather than follow the fish round onto the west bank, and I was happy anyway to have caught my January mullet. That's now eleven consecutive months I've caught, roll on February.
The weather has stayed very mild this week, so today it was back to Rosscarbery for some more winter mullet.
On arrival I could see a group of fish grubbing around in very shallow water on the west bank. I fished for them for twenty minutes or so, getting a couple of line bites but no proper takes. Then a couple of cormorants arrived and started harassing the fish, which soon moved on. The cormorants left and I fished on for a few minutes hoping the mullet would reappear, then I decided to move. I was just breaking down my first rod when the other pulled over hard then sprang back before I could pick it up - a missed chance.
Soon I was relocated onto the shingle where I'd had the 5:01 on Monday. There were mullet all along, but they seemed very flighty, whelming and bow-waving out of the shallows if a bird passed over or someone walked along the causeway behind me. Still, I was surprised how little attention my baits were getting, an hour fishing and just a few trembles on the tips.
Eventually one of the trembles developed into a good pull-down on the right-hand tip. I struck and a decent fish ran slowly out. It chugged back and forth for a minute or so, then it was gone. It seemed to have cut the trace on some sharp snag.
I tied on a new trace and was soon fishing again. A few minutes later my left hand tip dropped back then twitched around, and I struck into a mullet. It was a lively fish but not as big as the one I'd lost ... in fact 2lb 7oz.
I stayed in that swim for another hour, still seeing fish moving, further out now, but not getting any more takes. I walked back to the wall section where I'd had a couple of fish on Monday and put the leger baits out again. I saw a few whelms but I think it was just one or two fish going round ... anyway, no takes there today and another 90 fishless minutes passed.
It was shaping up for quite a disappointing session so I decided on another move for the last hour of daylight. I headed back towards the shingle swim but as I crossed over the bridge on the way, I saw a large whelm right in the tail of the outflow from the lagoon. I watched a couple of minutes and saw more whelms. Mind made up, I set up on the grass as close to the bridge as possible and welted both baits out as far as I could into the outflow.
A great hour's fishing resulted, really making the day, and tempered only by the thought that I could have moved sooner! Finally the mullet seemed to be feeding well, giving me a series of good solid bites. I had three more out, a little one of 1:15, a 3:06 and a lovely 4:03 to finish right into the dusk.
Work took up the rest of November, and the first week of December. I finished the last batch of exam scripts just in time for a visit by Keith Gillett, the chairman of the National Mullet Club in UK.
Unfortunately Keith brought some horrible weather with him, a blast of strong northerly winds straight from the Arctic dropping the air temperature close to zero. We fished two long days at Rosscarbery and though I was slightly surprised that we saw a few mullet each day and we did have a couple of half-hearted bites on the first afternoon, ultimately we blanked. The swan population of West Cork seemed to have descended on Rosscarbery and they made a real nuisance of themselves.
On Monday this week I was back, this time with Julian. It was flat calm and the water was both low and very clear and although the air temperature was up to about 10 celsius, the water still felt icy cold. There seemed to be plenty of mullet about but they mostly stayed well out in the middle of the pool. The few that strayed into range showed no sign of feeding on our baits, another blank! Most of the swans had moved on but those still present hung around us right through the session, a proper pain.
And so to today. It was overcast with drizzle on and off, but there was a gentle SW breeze putting a ripple on the surface and the air temperature was up to 13 celsius so despite the recent poor form I felt much more confident about the prospects. Another positive, the swan population was down to just two adults and their four nearly-grown cygnets, and happily they left me alone all day!
I had a good look round on arrival and found a big shoal of mullet close in to the shingle beach under the N71 causeway east of the bridge arch. I went back to my car and fetched my tackle, jumped down the wall onto the beach and set up my leger rods a little to the right of the shoal. I fished one bait close in and to my left, about where I judged to edge of the main shoal was, and the other bait further out aimed at the odd fish I could see topping out there.
They certainly weren't going mad for bread but I had a couple of knocks which may have been line bites and then after about thirty minutes and a couple of re-casts, a proper take on the close-in bait. The fish ran out strongly but I stopped it without bother before it reached the various snags on the edge of the mudbank offshore. It seemed a good fish and it gave a decent account of itself as I worked it gradually closer towards me. After seven or eight minutes I was able to beach it in the shallows. It was a really nice fish of 5lb 1oz ...
It had the typical pale colouration of the winter fish at Rosscarbery, which I think goes with the shallow clear water; also an unusual clear band on the trailing edge of its tail. I'm not sure what this is about - perhaps it has grown back recently after a fin-rot episode?
Unsurprisingly the main shoal of mullet had spooked and moved off while I was playing the fish, but I continued to see occasional whelms and bow waves further out, so I fished on. I had a couple more line bites (the fish spooked as I struck, well short of the bait) but no more takes so after an hour or so I moved on.
I could see some fish moving out from the first section of wall down the west side of the estuary, where I'd parked the car. I wasn't sure they'd be feeding any better than the fish I'd just left behind, but I decided to give them a go while I sat in the lee of the car eating my lunch. I'd just finished eating and was about to make a coffee when the left-hand rod pulled over. This rod was fishing well out from the wall, and it took a while to play the fish in even though it wasn't particularly large ... 2lb 9oz. I returned the mullet and re-cast both rods, then settled down to the coffee. I'd just finished drinking it when the right-hand rod kicked a couple of times and I was into another mullet that had taken close in to the wall ... a very lively thicklip of 3lb 7oz.
The swim went very quiet for an hour or so after that, and the drizzle turned into a light rain. I was happy with what I'd caught and decided to call it a day.
Ex-Hurricane Ophelia and Storm Brian rattled through in quick succession and the inshore waters around West Cork were thoroughly stirred up. I ventured down to Rosscarbery on 22nd October, just after Brian, and even in the relatively sheltered waters there the mullet had made themselves scarce. It was a six hour blank across two different swims, not a bite and only a couple of fish seen. That was my last chance gone before a trip to the UK spanning two sets of work meetings in Cambridge, more than a fortnight away in all.
However, between the meetings I was staying in Christchurch in Dorset with my sister, and late in the season though it was, it just wouldn't have been right not to have a go fishing in the Harbour there.
Sunday 29th October turned out to be something of an unofficial NMC get-together. Pete Bluett & Jenny Kent were up from Cornwall for the weekend, Bob Kitcher and Steve Smith were fishing, Paul Howe & family visited us on the bank and Dave Matthews & Jane joined us in the pub after.
Sadly the mullet didn't turn up in the same strength. The place had been fishing really well up until recently, especially for Paul who'd had a wonderful 8:02 thicklip among a string of other good fish. But Storm Brian, particularly the rainwater in the rivers I suspect, seemed to have dropped the fishing off a cliff and it now all had a distinctly end-of-season feel about it.
I had this handsome 4lb 3oz thicklip early on amid a little flurry of bites that also brought two small bass. The rest of the day was attritional to put it mildly with grey skies and a cold northerly breeze. Everyone else blanked with very few bites even.
Thursday 2nd November was even colder though paradoxically rather more pleasant with sunny spells once the morning fog cleared and a lighter breeze, still northerly.
It was another long day for little reward, a scrub fire over on Hengistbury Head providing the main interest.
I started in a shallow creek swim and dropped a modest-sized mullet off after a couple of hours. A couple of hours later, with the water rapidly draining away, I held on to another one that pulled the tip of my left hand rod over. It turned out to be a golden grey of 1lb 14oz. It wasn't what I was after but I'm always pleased when a goldie chances along, they are such pretty little fish.
I moved to a swim on the main river channel and did have a few bites over the low water period. They were very rattly though, I thought probably dace or maybe very small mullet. The only fish I landed was a small bass that gave an altogether more violent take. On the first of the flood tide I could see a few mullet whelming and bow-waving up the middle of the river, probably thinlips.
I left feeling I could have done better, but it hadn't happened and the fishing had been such a struggle I decided to pass on another opportunity today. I had at least caught a November mullet - that's now mullet every month since March and I hope I'll be able to keep the record up over the winter months in Ireland.
I arrived at Lough Hyne in the half-light early on Monday morning to find the Lough mirror-calm. The place hasn't been on great mullet form this year, and I was disappointed again not to see much sign of activity on the surface. Still, I got the rods out and started feeding a little mashed bread, and soon Julian arrived. Mission: to catch his first mullet.
Given there weren't many mullet showing, and maybe it would be a one fish day, I got Julian fishing while I sat next to him slowly feeding the swim. Soon his float dipped away and he struck into ... a mackerel. A few missed bites, then another mackerel!
Soon we were seeing an occasional mullet swirl on the surface and Julian was getting, and missing, bites regularly. The mullet we were seeing looked small and in keeping with that the bites weren't particularly positive. Julian wasn't doing a lot wrong, but every miss was increasing the frustration level, and in his frustration he passed the rod to me to show him how to strike. I suppose the outcome was inevitable, one miss on another fiddly bite, then next cast when the float was pulled under much more decisively, I struck into a very decent-looking mullet.
I quickly thrust the rod back into Julian's hands. The mullet put up a good scrap, but Julian played it well, managing to steer it away from the mooring rope stretching through the shallows near where the fish had been hooked until it was in the clear deep water off the front of the pier.
A few minutes later and he was able to bring the fish into the net, and I swung it ashore. It was a very long and lean individual but otherwise in cracking condition and over 3lbs of weight.
We fished on. The tide was dropping now and we had stopped seeing mullet on the surface. Julian missed a couple more bites before they dried up completely.
Then, after a lengthy lull, a single mullet started taking bits of floating bread just out of casting range. It looked a good fish from the size of the swirls, and the swirls seemed to be coming closer towards us.
Eventually Julian's float sank away and he struck into ... a small goby! The mullet drifted off out of range again.
I had to head home and I left Julian fishing, he caught another goby but not a mullet. He'd have to wait till another day to get his first mullet that was all his own work, so to speak.
Today we met at Rosscarbery, and we started off legering from the grass by the bridge again. There were a few fish topping occasionally, but nothing like as many as on our last visit when I'd landed a couple and Julian had lost a couple. After two hours without a bite between us, we decided to move down the west side of the estuary.
Now we could see a few mullet moving in the shallow water quite well out, but obviously not feeding well as we remained biteless for another hour.
A couple of fish started showing closer in, and Julian dropped his bait about where they were. He was just rearranging his chair when the bite came and I noticed it first, two or three good pulls on his quivertip. I called and Julian grabbed the rod ... the fish was on and stayed on during a decent scrap, and after a few minutes a nice 4lb 13oz thicklip was in the net. One happy angler ...
Mackerel had only been showing patchily here this summer, but on both sets of springs in September they seemed to be around in force, especially on the Bantry Bay side of the peninsula.
I do quite enjoy catching them individually on light tackle, but for now the order of the day was to catch big numbers for some meals and to stock up the bait drawers of the freezer.
I've been a long-term fan of the Mustad Ayaka shrimp rig for mackerel fishing, and these were catching well enough, but I had a few sets of TronixPro Sabikis I'd been meaning to try and one of these did finally get a go ... and I must admit they were better fish catchers than the Ayakas. Quality kit though they aren't: at the end of their first session the set of six had lost one hook completely and two others had been reduced to bare hooks. I had in mind to salvage what I could as a set of three, but by the time I got round to it the hooks were all very rusted so I chopped the rig up and consigned it to the bin.
I dipped into the new mackerel freezer stock for the first time for a session on the north side of Sheep's Head. The best part of the flood tide was missed waiting for the rain to stop, and it was nearly high water by the time I was set up on the rocks and fishing.
It proved quite a slow session apart from a little flurry of bites about two hours down the ebb. These yielded a couple of small bull huss and a better one, a male fish about 10lbs which gave as good a fight as I've had from a huss. It took a king prawn/mackerel cocktail, popped up as usual.
Earlier that week I'd had a discussion about bull huss (among other things) with an angler who stopped for a chat as I was fishing on the roadside at Rosscarbery. He reckoned he used a 40lb mono trace for them, no wire biting piece like I use. He said he'd never been bitten off, lucky guy I think ...
It seems to have been a decent pollack season, and recently among a lot of smaller fish I've had them in the 5lb - 6lb class during several short sessions on rock marks either side of Kilcrohane on the south shore ...
I've dedicated a few other short sessions to try and get on top of the soft plastics for wrasse. I'm still not really there to be honest, in general catching less than I probably would do on natural bait. Some days loads of little pollack have got in the way; others the wrasse just haven't seemed turned on to the method, or at least not to the particular lures I'm using or the ways I'm fishing them.
It does appeal to me though that I don't have to spend an hour lifting rocks to collect crabs or decimate the local limpet population. And I've been catching enough to persuade me the soft plastics have merit, so I'll keep at it as and when ...
Three mullet sessions to report on here, all at Rosscarbery which is a great venue to have available when westerly winds write off most of my other mullet marks, as they have all too often recently.
On 26th September I had a morning appointment in Cork, so I arrived late lunchtime. It was another dull and blustery day, so I set up the leger rods on the sheltered west side of the estuary pool. There were decent numbers of fish about and I ended up with four on the bank ... 4:06, 2:14, 4:10 and a lovely specimen fish of 5:07 to round the day off nicely.
Later that week on the 29th, I was back again. The wind was really howling today, but I wanted to go to meet my Facebook friend Craig for the first time. I knew he would be fishing at Rosscarbery having taken a detour on his way home to Dublin from a few days away in Kerry.
Craig was already fishing from the road in the corner by the hotel, and we had a chat while his rod tips waved in the wind. There were several others set up along the road, I gather mainly refugees from a cancelled boat trip, so after leaving Craig I drove on further down the west side away from the crowd and also in the shelter of the trees.
The water was low and clear, and although I could see a few fish moving they didn't look that interested and I wasn't that hopeful. Two hours passed with one torrential rain squall but without any attention from the mullet. Then a little knock on one of the tips repeated, and I struck ... a 3lb 12oz thicklip. Next cast, I had a much stronger pull, and a much more powerful fight, from another of 4lb 6oz ...
That seemed to be that for that swim ... I fished on another hour without a knock and no longer seeing fish. I had another chat with Craig en route to fish my wading swim by the bridge arch, but it was hard work on the float in the wind and after a fruitless hour I decided to move again, this time into the lagoon.
I set up on one of the little piers by the activity centre, the float set to fish about a foot deep which would be just off bottom on this neap tide. I missed good bites on the second and third trots through and then ... nothing. I don't think I bumped the fish on the second strike, but it seemed to have moved on and I fished on another hour without a definite bite, though it was sometimes hard to be sure in the choppy water. Another squall passed through, then a rainbow seemed to promise much ... and a few minutes later my float bobbed then pulled away. I struck and happily the fish ran out this time so there was no repeat of the flagpole incident. After a very good scrap lasting eight or nine minutes, I slid the net under a pristine fish of 4lb 2oz.
Today I was back at Rosscarbery to meet another blow-in from the UK called Julian who wants to get into mullet fishing and contacted me through the website here. We met by the lagoon but couldn't see any movement in there apart from cormorants, so it was good to see plenty of mullet topping in the pool the other side of the road.
I'd brought along two rods already set up for legering so we were soon fishing from the grass, putting one out each. Then I started showing Julian how to set up the rig on a third rod. We'd just got as far as the fluorocarbon trace when out of the corner of my eye I saw my rod tip starting to nod, so I grabbed the rod ... nothing much happened, maybe a little slack, I struck anyway and fish on. Then I thrust the rod into Julian's hands! It had been an unusual bite and it was an unusual fight, with the mullet coming in easily then coming to life a bit in the edge. Julian didn't do too much wrong, maybe a bit too gentle if anything, so it was a bit of a surprise when the fish came off after a few minutes.
Julian insisted I take the next fish, which as it happened wasn't very long coming. On my very next cast my rod heeled over in a much more typical Rosscarbery bite. The fish ran out a little way then just hung out there for a good few minutes, before giving up and kiting in quite easily, and Julian netted it first time.
It was an absolutely pristine thicklip of 5lb 3oz, so much so that I hesitated more than a few moments before removing five of its scales for the IFI sampling. As Craig said on Facebook, it's for the greater good.
We set up fishing again but it had gone very quiet, and a breeze was now rippling the surface making it difficult to tell if we still had any numbers of fish in front of us, though the occasional decent whelm suggested there were still some there.
After a while I was in again. Another good bite and a decent but not prolonged fight with a fish of 3:11 ...
Another lengthy spell of inactivity followed, ended by a little knock on Julian's rod that came to nothing, then a slightly better bite a few minutes later.
The fish was on ... then off again a few seconds later. It happens in mullet fishing we all know, but I was disappointed for Julian who had to leave shortly after without catching on his debut mullet session. I suspect he won't have to wait too much longer.
When Julian left I moved into the lagoon for some floatfishing. I fished a couple of hours and had a few little flurries of bites, but they were very feeble bites and I think very small mullet were responsible ... I couldn't hook one anyway.
Then I moved back across the road. The tide was coming up now, the water had coloured up and the breeze had freshened. I spent another couple of hours without a bite on leger, and without even seeing a mullet.
It's been a slightly frustrating few weeks at what is generally one of the best times of year for mullet fishing. The up and down weather has limited my opportunities, but even when I have got out I seem to have missed the best of the fishing. I've also lost a couple of good fish under unusual circumstances, more of which later.
On 4th September I had a short session on the rock mark on the north side of Sheep's Head which had been reasonably consistent when Steve was over, if not hitting the heights of earlier in the summer. There were still mullet in residence, but the size was disappointing. I had three between 1:12 and 1:14, this from a mark where I've rarely had fish under 2lbs before. Pretty little fish though...
On the 5th my friends Pete and Jenny from Cornwall arrived to stay in Rosscarbery. They arrived in time for a short evening session and Pete was straight into the action with a 5:10 and a 5:13, with a similar-sized fish lost. I resisted the temptation to go and visit them on the 6th, instead heading to my estuary on the Mizen peninsula to fish the top of the big spring tide that evening.
Standing on the causeway I had a stiff breeze in my face, it was cold and grey and didn't look particularly hopeful as I waited for the tide to push into the pool. Pete texted me to say Jenny had just caught a 6:00 at Rosscarbery! The tide arrived but brought with it a lot of green weed; I was only getting four or five minutes a cast before I had to reel in to clear the line. Then ... a drop back bite! I struck and the fish ran right. The tip of my other rod moved suspiciously and I thought the fish had picked up my other line. It hadn't, it was just more weed, but while I was trying to solve this imaginary problem a very real problem was developing. By the time I'd sorted out what was going on with the other line, the fish was right over by the rocks and into the flow that was pouring through the twin bridge arches. I stopped it just short of the rocks and I thought I'd get it back no problem, realising too late that the fish was bigger than I thought. I got some line back but not quickly enough and the fish was still kiting towards the arches. I belatedly started scuttling to the right to get over the fish ... I arrived just in time to see its flank as it was swept into the nearer of the two little arches and under the road!
I just couldn't believe this was happening. I stuck my rod tip down and scrambled round the railing above the arch to get directly above it. It must have been a really good hookhold because I spent over two minutes with my rod bent into the arch and drag screwed down trying to haul the fish back against the water thundering through. I even got a few inches of line back occasionally before the inevitable happened and the trace parted. The video above doesn't quite give the full impression, just take a look at the flow coming out of the arch on the other side of the road ...
I fished on for a couple of hours in pretty dour conditions. The weed continued to be a nuisance. At one point I could see a small piece stuck on my line on the surface, causing the quivertip to nod. I put up with it for a minute or two then started to wind in ... and found myself playing a mullet. It wasn't as big as the one I'd lost, and it came off half way in anyway. I thought, what an appropriate end to a disappointing session.
On the 7th I headed down to Rosscarbery to fish with Pete and Jenny. The west wind was still blowing and I arrived late-morning to find them fishing on the sheltered west bank in the same area where they'd been catching the previous days.
I set up legering a bit lower down, but the fish must have been shoaled quite tightly. While I sat without a twitch on either of my tips, Pete was getting regular bites and landed first a 3:13 and then a 4:08 ...
Pete and Jenny packed up for a break back at their rented cottage. I had a brief go at some big fish that were showing close to the rocks in front of the hotel, but these soon melted away. I went up to the cottage for a cuppa, thanks guys.
An hour or so later I headed back down to the estuary. There were some fish still showing in the same area where Pete had caught earlier but I thought I'd leave them for the other two and headed lower down again. There was nothing showing in front of me but I felt confident some fish would move through on the making tide.
It was not to be: another quiet session for me, but some action for Pete and Jen fishing only seventy or eighty yards to my left.
After missing a few bites, Pete was in again, another good fish. After a good scrap Jenny slid the net under a lovely 5:03 thicklip.
My next outing was on the 10th, back to Rosscarbery with Sylvi to fish with Pete and Jenny again before joining them for an evening meal at the Abbey Bar. Pete had continued clocking up mullet with a couple each day, mostly 4lbers. Jen unfortunately hadn't added to her tally but her six pounder was still the biggest of their holiday! The wind had carried on getting stronger and stronger all week, and today it was only really fishable in the tidal lagoon. We arrived to the news that Pete had had a 5:09 that morning, adding to a 4:14 the previous afternoon in a session when he'd also lost three good fish.
We float-fished three in a line along the wall. There seemed to be plenty of little fish around, especially down my end, with my float bobbing almost constantly during some spells. I did have a few more positive bites but I missed all of these. Meanwhile Pete seemed to be getting more of the better bites, and before too long he was in again for another arm-aching struggle. The fish looked huge as Jenny swung it ashore. We wondered if it would make 6lbs but the scales said 5:11 ...
Pete added another 4lber on their last fishing day on the 11th. He finished with 13 mullet to a best of 5:13 and four others over the Irish specimen weight of 5lbs.
It's a standard of fishing that simply couldn't happen these days in the UK and I found myself nodding in agreement with Pete's post on the Irish Mullet Fishing page on Facebook: these wonderful fish really do need protection from netting put in place before it's too late and they go the same way as mullet stocks in the UK.
Jenny had just the one, but the fish of 6lbs exactly was a new PB by some margin.
I know they both love the Ireland experience so I'll look forward to seeing them back next year.
I headed back to Rosscarbery on the 13th. Not much was showing anywhere so I started by legering from the grass by the bridge arch. It was a quiet three hours or so, punctuated by a five minute interlude during which I landed a 2:12 after a twitchy bite on my left hand rod. The fish swam over to the right and when I tried to pull my right hand line out of the way, I found myself playing a fish on that too! That one had to fend for itself for a while, but I landed it okay, 4lb 5oz. Not the first, or the last, double header this year ...
Later on I moved into the lagoon, float-fishing a couple of swims without much interest and no definite bites.
I wandered back to the estuary and saw some good mullet moving in the shallows just to the left of the bridge arch. I decided to jump down the wall further along onto the shingle foreshore then wade back towards the arch.
The water was very shallow, so I waded as close as I dare to the area where I'd seen the fish, loose-fed some bread then fished with the float set to put the bait about a foot deep. I had loads of bites but they were a real problem to hit, depite the float sliding away nicely. I think the fish must have been pushing the bait ahead of them, not getting it in their mouths. Eventually I struck into one, a nice 2:14 hooked right in the front of the top lip, as if to prove that theory. It was not in the same league as the fish I'd seen from the road above.
I waded back for another go, and was getting sporadic bites again after twenty minutes - but I carried on missing them till the bites petered out completely into the dusk, frustratingly.
On the 17th Sylvi and I took the ferry to Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay, to fish the lovely tidal lake behind Baltunta Strand in the south west of the island.
Being a Sunday, the first ferry didn't leave till 11.00 a.m. and it's a fair old hike from the harbour out to the lake, so by the time I was tackled up I had no more than five hours to fish before heading back for the last ferry at 5.45 p.m.
To be honest though, five hours seemed plenty as contrary to the forecast there was a stiff south-east breeze coming down the lake towards us on the shingle near the mouth of the lake, the only accessible area. And no sign of any mullet!
I gave it a good couple of hours float-fishing from the steeply shelving shingle. The breeze died off a bit as the day warmed up and it looked better, but I didn't have a bite or see a fish. I had a brief go on the beach outside the lake, but didn't really like the swim, so I waded over the shallow inlet and fished into the lake from the shingle on the far side.
Again it was quiet, until an after a soporific hour my float buried without any preliminaries. I was surprised, but struck instinctively into a good mullet which didn't run far but chugged deep back-and-forth along the shingle shoreline for several minutes before it surfaced. I hadn't brought my landing net across the inlet with me and Sylvi couldn't get across without getting her shoes wet, so I brought the fish in close and lifted it out by hand. I carried it back over the inlet for weighing at 4lb 4oz and a photo ...
As I was playing the fish, the tide had started flooding through the inlet into the lake. I wasn't sure how deep it would get so with a ferry to catch I thought it prudent not to cross back over.
I fished out the last hour or so from the near side and did get more bites, but they were visibly from a shoal of very small mullet about 4oz. No matter - I was pleased with the one I'd caught and we had both enjoyed our day in peaceful surroundings on the island.
On the 19th I was back on the Mizen in almost identical unpleasant, gloomy conditions to my last visit. The mullet were again scarce and I had just the one drop-back bite. I struck and felt the fish, then everything went slack and stayed slack as I wound in. I was convinced my line had broken, till suddenly a fish shot off to my right yanking my rod round ... it must have swum right in to the wall at speed, most unusual. It was only 2:10, but at least I landed this one. I looked across at the water pouring through the bridge arches, still ruing the one that got away.
Today I started off at the lovely Lough Hyne just south of Skibbereen, but I barely made the early morning high water.
There were a few mullet topping in the bay formed by the pier, they didn't seem to be any great size but that seems to have been the way at this venue recently.
My float bobbed and then slid away first cast. I missed that one but was in second cast, a fish that fought above its weight of 2lb 5oz.
By the time I'd done the measurements, photos and scale samples for IFI and returned the fish, its mates had departed. I fished an hour then decided to move.
35 minutes later I was back at Rosscarbery. I was keen to try my new-found wading swim again, and decided to start off by giving it a go despite not seeing any mullet from the causeway above.
I waded along and fished for twenty minutes or so, loose-feeding tiny portions of mashed bread every cast, and suddenly I was getting whelms in the swim and bites.
Again these proved difficult to hit but not as difficult as the other evening, and soon I was playing a mullet that turned out to be 3lb 7oz.
I couldn't get any more interest on wading back, so I moved into the lagoon. I fished from the right-hand pier next to the activity centre.
My float shot under on the second trot through. I was late on the strike - the float was already coming back up - but I connected anyway.
What was manifestly a very big fish wallowed on the surface. It didn't seem to want to run out, but it swum back and to in front of me. I gave it more stick when it headed left a couple of times as I didn't want it to swim round the far pier or under the pontoon beyond. Then it swam in between the piers, and I thought it might beach itself up the slipway, but it turned and swam out again. I didn't want it reaching the end of the far pier, so I gave it some stick again and turned it. It swam in again, then out again, both times hugging the concete wall of the far pier, worryingly. And then disaster struck, it wouldn't be stopped and went round the end of the far pier.
I ran round, first letting out line then reeling it in as I ran out along the far pier. To my dismay the line went underwater then behind the flagpole bolted onto the end of the pier! If I'd have thought I'd have realised there was no way the mullet could have swum behind the flagpole - in fact the pole only protrudes nine inches underwater, the mullet had swum underneath it and I could probably have just slid the line off the bottom. But my eyes were drawn to the mullet, which was wallowing on the surface next to the pole, looking pretty knackered. In hindsight, I should have invested 30 seconds going back to get my net, but then I'd have kicked myself had the mullet been gone when I got back. What I did was try to lift it out by hand ... and I did get finger and thumb of my left hand behind its pectorals and lift it three-quarters out of the water ... and then it wriggled, dropped back in and the tethered trace parted as swam off.
I was gutted. It was a big 5lber for sure, probably a 6lber, a great thick fish with a slate black back.
I tried further along the lagoon, then back on the pier. I had more bites but the only ones I could connect with were big gobies. I couldn't get the lost fish out of my mind and decided I needed a change of scenery, so I headed down the west side estuary and set up the leger rods. There were plenty of mullet milling around in the shallows, but clearly not feeding as the first hour or so passed without a bite.
Then just as the first of the flood tide started to push through, I had a gentle bite on my left hand rod. It was a good fish - nothing like the one I'd lost but a good fish - and it took seven or eight minutes to get in. I'd just put the net out when my right hand rod nearly pulled over the wall - another double header! I slackened off the drag on the other rod and concentrated on the first fish, landed it, unhooked it, put it back in the water in the net and trapped the mesh under the rim of the net so it couldn't get out. Then I played in the other, much smaller fish and netted that too. They went 5:02 and 2:13. Incredibly they were barely an inch different in length, the 5:02 was so much thicker across the back and deeper.
After that ... nothing ... either for me or for the two anglers on holiday from England who had appeared during the preceding chaos then fished just off to my left. It seemed the fish had all moved on with the tide. If you're reading this guys, I hope you had some fish later on.
The mullet fishing has been difficult since Steve went home - more on this later - so I was keen to get out on the rocks today before the first of the autumn's gales hits tomorrow. I chose a mark on the south side of the peninsula as the wind was already up from the northwest, driving swells onto the north shore.
I was also keen to give the little soft plastics another go for wrasse, so I started with these.
It soon became apparent it was going to be a struggle with the wrasse today. Second cast, a pollack about 1.5lbs latched onto the tiny lure. I was getting plucks most casts, but the next three fish were pollack all that similar size. They put a bend in the rod fair enough, but they were not what I wanted.
Then I lost a fish right under the rod tip as I jigged the lure up and down a couple of times at the end of the cast. It dived into the weed and transferred the hook to a kelp root - not sure how they do it so consistently but it's classic wrasse tactic! Another pollack, then finally a wrasse of a couple of pounds. More pollack then another wrasse, a better one this time pushing 4lbs ...
I was pleased with that one, but over the next half hour the knocks I had been getting diminished, and the hook-ups I was getting were all pollack, and these were now mostly less than a pound.
The tide was rising and also the wind seemed to be swinging more to the west. It was clear I wasn't going to get much longer on the mark before the swell forced me off, so I decided on a change of tactics for the last few minutes.
I tackled up my bass rod with a 2oz bomb and bubblegum pink redgill, and welted it out as far as I could hoping there might be some bigger pollack in the mouth of the bay between me and the next rocky point.
I retrieved as slowly as I dared over the rocky bottom and second run through the redgill stopped dead. I raised the rod tip, half expecting the hook to be caught in the kelp but hoping not ... and the rod tip lunged over as a good pollack dived for cover.
This is not a particularly deep mark and it is hard work keeping the fish from getting their heads down into the kelp, especially fish hooked at long range. But this time everything was good, the pollack kept coming and after a minute or so a 5lb bar of irridescent copper lay on the surface below me waiting for the net. It is one of my favourite sights in angling.
I arrived back from driving Steve to the Airport about lunchtime. After a pretty gloomy week weatherwise while he'd been here, today it was bright and sunny. I was feeling inspired by my efforts with the wrasse on soft plastics yesterday, so I bundled the kit together and headed to a rock mark close to the mouth of Bantry Bay.
Well sometimes things just don't go to script ...
I had two pollack for a combined weight of 11lbs, plus two other smaller ones, in the hour before the wind got up and the swells started building, forcing me off the mark. This on tiny little soft plastics barely half the length of the 110mm redgills I usually use for pollack, in themselves not exactly large as pollack lures go. Food for thought there maybe. Not a sign of a wrasse though.
I'll write some more about this soft plastics stuff once I know what I'm doing!
Tuesday last week I picked up my old friend Steve Smith from Cork Airport; Steve was over for his annual mullet bash with us. It had been a miserable wet day and we didn't intend fishing, but it brightened up progressively as we headed west and I couldn't resist a look at a mark on the Sheep's Head as we neared home.
I chucked out a few crusts and we watched, but nothing moved to them. Steve however spotted a mullet flanking occasionally as it scraped the stones on the bottom of the shallow gulley. It looked a decent fish, so we headed back to the house, offloaded Steve's suitcase and headed out again with fishing tackle.
Ninety minutes later we packed up fishless, Steve having missed the only bite of the session. I secretly hoped this wouldn't set a trend for the week ahead, especially after the lean trip Steve had had last year.
Bright and early we were out to fish the bottom of the ebb and low water on a local rock mark. I really wanted to get Steve off the mark, so I fed bread into the swim little and often while he fished. He was getting sporadic bites almost from the off, and before long he connected with one ...
... which went 3:05, and twenty minutes later another of 2:05.
Mission accomplished, I started fishing too and soon added another mullet to our total, though only a small one of less than 2lbs. We couldn't get another bite after that, but we carried on fishing down to low water and beyond. The change of the tide didn't change our fortune, so we released the mullet from the rockpool where they'd been waiting patiently and headed home for lunch and a quiet couple of hours before going out again for the evening high water.
By 5 p.m. we were set up with our leger rods near the top of my favourite estuary on the Mizen peninsula, waiting the arrival of the tide.
It was a pretty quiet session apart from about a half hour feeding period when Steve had a 3:10, I hooked and lost a fish of similar stamp then caught a much smaller one of barely a pound. I'd left my camera at home so thanks to Steve for these photos ...
Thursday was forecast windy with outbreaks of rain, so we headed for Rosscarbery where we'd be able to find some sheltered fishing should the need arise. We had a good look round on arrival, and the only fish we could see moving were around the bridge arch on the edges of the flow out of the lagoon. We set up nearby, Steve deciding to floatfish while I put out leger rods. As it happened I had a clonking bite on my first rod while I was still setting the second up, and landed a nice 4:03 after a spirited scrap. Half an hour later, I was in again. This time the fish came in easily and then ran back and forth along the rocks, staying deep. It was all rather nerve-wracking and I was pleased when Steve finally netted a lovely 5:08.
Steve joined me on leger but although we continued seeing odd fish for a while, we couldn't raise another bite over the high water period. We tried another swim down the west side of the estuary, then the lagoon, both without success.
Friday's weather looked promising. We were up before dawn to drive down to the lovely Lough Hyne near Skibbereen. It all looked perfect as the tide inched up, but mullet remained conspicuous by their absence apart from this one little one that dragged my float under completely out of the blue. We packed up after three otherwise fishless hours, and went for a nice breakfast at the Church Cafe in Skibbereen.
Then we drove up to Bantry Bay for another crack at the rock mark where Steve had scored on Wednesday. The mullet were ready and waiting and Steve was soon in ... but the fish threw the hook after a couple of minutes. He bumped another on the strike a few minutes later and this properly killed the swim. We couldn't get another bite on bread and changed over to mussel bait - not a bad option for the mullet at all, but today it brought us only wrasse and small pollack.
Saturday early, we headed back down the Mizen to catch the morning high water before a lot of rain arrived ...
As the tide flooded into the pool, I had a little drop-back bite that yielded a 2:14. That was encouraging and we fished hard. A couple of hours later as the ebb tide picked up, Steve had a rod bender that resulted in a 3:02. It wasn't a lot of reward for our efforts but at least Steve was up and running again.
We thought we might get a while on our rock mark in Bantry Bay, but the rain set in as we drove back east so we gave it a miss. We spent a fairly miserable couple of hours on the Railway Pier pontoon in Bantry catching a few miniscule whiting and a solitary mackerel. Not a sniff of a mullet.
Sunday dawned foggy but more-or-less dry. We started out on a local pier just to catch a few mackerel for a meal. Steve obliged, catching some mackerel of decent size plus some small pollack on the float with sandeel bait, while I inexplicably blanked using a shrimp rig.
Then it was back onto the rocks in Bantry Bay. The conditions were as good as we'd had but the mullet weren't there ... we both fished for a couple of hours, feeding the swim steadily and varying the depth of the baits, but we couldn't get a bite.
Steve was up for some more mackerel fishing so I went back to the car to get the kit and soon had him set up. I went back to the mullet fishing and straightaway missed a bite. It could have been anything but with renewed enthusiasm I chucked in a small handful of mashed bread ... and a mullet swirled on it as it sank away! I called Steve over, telling him to bring his mullet rod and to keep low.
We sat back from the edge, Steve with his rod tip poked over fishing close in while I flicked tiny portions of bread mash at his float. He missed a string of bites, seven or eight at least, before connecting. It was only a small fish, just under 2lbs, and it was soon landed. I thought the one I'd seen was bigger, so I was hopeful there might be another fish there. Soon after starting fishing again, Steve was in to a better mullet just over 3lbs. Unfortunately this second fish became snagged round some weed virtually under the rod tip. We got it out eventually but it was a bit of a faff, and the disturbance probably ended any chance of more mullet. We fished on. Steve hooked a big wrasse, on bread, that made a more comprehensive job of snagging him in the kelp, while I took over the mackerel rod and added a few more to our fish supper, along with my first ever (and very small) Irish garfish.
Monday was the last day of the National Mullet Club's three day National Rover over the bank holiday weekend in the UK. The leading fish was a relatively modest 5:03 and we thought we'd stand a good chance of topping that at Rosscarbery, so we headed south-east for the day. It was an unremittingly miserable day with a stiff west breeze and drizzle expected to turn to steady rain later. We set up the brolly on the grass by the bridge arch and I catapulted out some groundbait. We cast out our leger lines and hunkered down for the duration.
We had fish moving in front of us, but they didn't come on the feed till high water. We didn't make that good a fist of the opportunity to be honest. I missed a couple of bites and Steve lost two potentially good fish, one when his hook opened out and one with a possibly over-zealous strike that snapped his trace. Sandwiched between these two misfortunes, he hooked and landed a lovely 5:01...
The feeding spell subsided. I went to buy us some lunch from the Centra store, and had a recce of some other swims - nothing much showing so we stayed put. Well down the tide, we started seeing fish again but further out. I'm not sure Steve was reaching them but I had a couple just either side of 4lbs ...
It was raining steadily now so when our fish moved on again we called it a day. It was a case of close but no cigar as regards the National Rover, but we packed up happyish with our efforts.
Tuesday was forecast dry but windy again. We'd hoped to spend the day locally on the rocks in Bantry Bay, but we decided it would be too rough and headed for Rosscarbery again. I'm not sure it was the right decision as the wind never blew up as much as expected and with the calmer conditions and smaller tide we struggled for bites. Steve had a 3:14 on the run-up to high water ...
We hung on in the hope of a repeat of yesterday's late showing, but it just didn't happen. With 20/20 hindsight I wish we'd moved ... after we packed up we had a drive down the west side of estuary and there were plenty of mullet showing in swims that had been devoid of fish yesterday.
Today was Steve's last fishing day and a bit of light relief from the mullet fishing was called for. We had collected some limpets from the rocks in Dunmanus Bay on our way home yesterday, and this morning, once the rain cleared, we headed north and west on the Sheep's Head for some wrasse fishing.
I set Steve up with a sliding float rig to fish the limpets, and he was straightaway hooked into a clonker that unfortunately got down into the kelp and wouldn't be shifted. A pity but no great matter; Steve enjoyed himself catching a dozen or more nice fish over the session, and losing a few more.
From my point of view, the day was perhaps most memorable for my first wrasse captures on small soft plastic lures, apart from one I caught by accident on a redgill in Cornwall about 35 years ago. I've been aware of the growing trend in lure fishing for wrasse over recent seasons, and I was particularly impressed by a recent article on the subject by Bill Brazier in the Off The Scale online angling magazine. So I'd bought a bit of kit and this was its first outing. I have to say I was comprehensively outfished by Steve with his float & limpets, and I'm not at all sure the soft plastics or my technique or even the (deep) venue were necessarily the most appropriate. Still, from small beginnings ...
Anyway, that was Steve's Irish fishing done for this year. We have meal out in Bantry this evening to celebrate a very enjoyable week, then it is off early to the Airport in the morning. Roll on 2018.
Two different ends of the rock fishing spectrum this week.
On Monday - coarse float rod, centrepin, 6lb line, waggler float and size 10 hook. The target was mullet, and I had five, two on bread bait and three on mussel flesh. I kept them in a rockpool pending release at the end of the session. No monsters today, the biggest was a middle-three pounder.
There was just a light breeze at the start of the session but as the afternoon passed it gradually picked up, and by the end it was decidedly fresh with the westerly wind and swells running left to right.
I've noticed before that when the water is lively and the float pushes through, the wrasse take more interest. I had several, some on bread but most on mussel, up to around 2lbs in weight. Although not the intended target, these fish are a good scrap on mullet tackle and I'm pleased to see them.
Then today I dusted off the big rods for the first time in a while ...
Baits were mackerel heads and Aldi king prawn with bluey wrap, both fished as pop-ups ...
And what a great fun session it was. First off, a couple of hours before high tide, was a decent conger estimated 16 - 17lbs on the prawn/bluey, then an LSD on the same bait, then a string of five decent huss all 7 - 9lbs on both baits. High water passed and the bites began to peter out, an hour down the tide I had another LSD and it seemed like a good time to knock off.
I've been meaning to try this mark on the south shore of the peninsula for ages, and finally got round to doing so this evening. The footpath out along the cliff has been officially closed for some time pending rebuilding of the footbridge over the stream by the car park, but as it happened the stream was running low enough to be able to get across anyway, so off I set. It took a while to negotiate the parts of the footpath that have become overgrown, then to choose one of the several rock promontaries to fish from, then to navigate a route down the rather chaotic rock formations. By the time I was down near the water I had about 90 minutes to fish before I'd have to pack up if I wanted to watch Mo Farah in the 5000m final on TV ...
I wouldn't say the pollack fishing was hectic, but it was certainly the best so far this year, possibly related to the arrival of the first decent sandeel shoals in the Bay this week which has seen better mackerel catches and lots of activity by gannets and other sea birds. I had a half dozen mostly 2 - 3lbs but one was nudging 6lbs, the biggest I've had for a couple of years though I have a feeling this mark should turn up some bigger fish later in the year.
A few mullet trips over the past week to report on.
The mark above is one I've had my eyes on for while as I've occasionally seen mullet in the shallow inlet on my way to the adjacent rock mark.
Last Saturday the conditions seemed right, so I took my mullet float rod on a walk across the fields and was pleasantly surprised to find some mullet in residence, and after fifteen minutes or so feeding mashed bread they turned on to it.
Sadly although I think there were a couple of bigger fish present, it soon became clear that most were tiddlers. They gave me a bite a chuck for an hour or so till they departed on the first of the ebb tide, but only one got the bait far enough into its mouth for me to hook it. Pretty little fish but it really was little ... bigger ones to come from this spot I'm sure.
On Wednesday evening I fished my favourite estuary on the Mizen peninsula. I arrived a couple of hours before the new tide would flood into the pool, but as half expected at this time of year, the only mullet present were shoals and shoals of tiddlers of all sizes from fry to about a half pound. Still it gave me plenty of time to get my leger rods ready to fish out on the flats from the road causeway as the pool filled up. As the tide arrived my two pop-up crust baits plopped out, followed by balls of groundbait delivered by catapult. It wasn't the best session I've had there, but at least some mullet came in with the tide and roamed around the pool for an hour or so before going out again. I had two out, 3:10 and 3:09. The second was netted and photographed for me by a helpful guy who'd stopped his car for a chat about the fishing, turned out he was a physics lecturer on his holidays, physics is my subject too.
On Thursday I visited my local mussel factory for the first time since May, when I'd found out the mark was topped up with small coalfish.
My hopes raised immediately when I was greeted by a fishy smell and a flock of seagulls, both indicating the discharge pipe had been working recently. In fact it continued to work intermittently throughout the session, gushing opened shells and fragments of mussel flesh across the rocks as they welled up from the pipe which appeared somewhat storm-damaged.
My hopes were raised further by the sight of two or three mullet feeding on the surface. Past experience suggested there'd be many more down below.
What followed was a remarkable three hour session in which I landed ten mullet. I'm sure I'd have carried on catching if I'd stayed longer, but ten is enough. All were caught on float, set shallow at first and deeper later on as the breeze got up and the waves dispersed the surface feeders.
I alternated between bread bait and mussel flesh, there being plenty of free bait emanating from the pipe. The fish didn't seem to have much preference, though the bites were marginally more positive on mussel.
The gloss was only slightly taken off the session by two unfortunate events. The top ten inches of my most recent Preston float rod snapped off drawing the third mullet of the day to the net - I'm hoping I'll get a new section under the guarantee as I've only had it since December. Fortunately I had my leger rods in the car and I know my old Drennan Barbel Specialist rod makes a perfectly serviceable float rod with the 8oz quivertip in. I also lost a stonking fish that ran right off in front of the rocks to the right, only to come off after I'd turned it and it was gradually coming back towards me. It waved a huge tail at me at one stage ...
The fish were temporarily confined in a rockpool to avoid them spooking the others when returned. I did some photos as I put them back at the end of the session. These are the biggest, in order, a 4:02, a brace of 4:00s and a 3:10.
On Friday I was back at Rosscarbery. The conditions seemed similar to those on last week's visit. I fished in the same swim, and there were fish showing, perhaps not quite as many. But what a difference a week makes ... this was a really dour session, five hours of motionless tips apart from the few seconds when both rods bent round at the same time, fishing baits 40 yards apart!
The left-hand rod went marginally sooner, I'd just about picked that up when the right-hand rod went. I loosened the drag on that reel and played in the first fish with one eye on the other rod and its mullet occasionally swirling on the surface, fortunately well clear of the one I was playing. Seven or eight minutes later, with the first fish in my landing net in the shallows, I picked up the second rod. The line was slack and festooned with weed, but the fish was still on. Unfortunately this time the weed all gradually slid down to make a massive green ball on the weight, and the fish levered itself off the hook pulling against that lot. I think it was marginally bigger than the one I'd landed, a respectable 3:10 with the tail of a 5lber ...
I have a friend coming over in a couple of weeks who likes a bit of wrasse fishing as a change from mulleting, so today I headed off to a mark on the north side of the peninsula to check out the wrasse form. Nothing complicated for me regards wrasse fishing - carp rod, sliding float rig and some big limpets for bait. I'd prefer hardback crabs for bait as preference, but they are difficult to collect here in enough quantity without driving a good way, and the limpets are a pretty good substitute.
I walked a bit further round on the mark than I normally fish for congers and huss, and found a nice comfy rock shelf that dropped straight into deep water, so I could fish the float virtually under the rod tip. The wrasse were at home, giving plenty of bites throughout the session and particularly as the tide neared high. They are surprisingly tricky to hit, probably a lot of the misses are small fish, but I accumulated a dozen or so up to a bit over 3lbs, which was enough to prove the point. There are bigger fish there on the mark I know, and I lost a couple that felt better when they found the kelp, though it's hard to be sure as the 3lbers pull pretty hard too! As usual, lots of different colour patterns ...
I finished off with a few casts with a shrimp rig for mackerel - not a sniff - and then I tried with a redgill for pollack.
Three or four casts in I had one about 2lbs - I decided just big enough for a couple of fillets for a fish & chip supper - but despite carrying on another half hour or so at different spots along the ledge, I couldn't get another.
Both the mackerel and pollack have been very patchy so far this year. There doesn't seem to have been many sandeel or other baitfish in either of the bays to bring them in.
I finally emerged from under my mountain of exam marking in mid-July, with just a short window before we had family visiting and then I had another short work-related trip to the UK. Desperate for a mullet fix, on 12 July I headed for Rosscarbery for an afternoon session. It was a bright if blustery day, and Sylvi came too.
There were plenty of fish showing in the shallows down the sheltered west side of the estuary. I set up my leger rods and cast out full of confidence, but the first couple of hours were very quiet, with just a couple of probable line bites.
Sylvi went for a walk down to the pier with the dog.
Finally a proper pull came on my right-hand rod, but I missed it. The fish may have moved straight on to my left-hand bait, because a couple of minutes later that also pulled down. This time my strike connected, but it was instantly apparent this wasn't a big fish. A couple of minutes later a pretty little 1:14 thick lip was in the net.
Ten minutes later my right-hand rod pulled hard over without warning as a significantly bigger fish hooked itself and headed out towards the middle of the pool. I grabbed the rod, no strike necessary, and hung on till the fish stopped running, then started the process of slowly playing it in. Ten minutes later it was in the net, along with the little one which was still resting in there. I took a photo of the pair of them together, and when Sylvi returned a few minutes later she took the pic with the bigger fish, which I'd weighed at 4lb 1oz ...
A few minutes later I had an abortive rattle on the right-hand rod and then, as abruptly as it had started, the feeding spell was over. Cue a final frustrating ninety minutes with both tips motionless as mullet bow-waved and swirled everywhere in the swim.
Four days later I was back again. The tide was later and there seemed to be less fish present, but overall the session was remarkably similar.
After a quiet couple of hours, I struck into a repeated-nodding bite on my right-hand rod. Again - only a small fish to start, and after a game little scrap I had this 2:01 in the net.
While I was baiting that rod up again, I noticed a fish swirl in the shallow water and, in the same instant, my other rod jagging down. This was a better fish about 4lbs but it soon picked up a big lump of blanket weed well up the line. I had a feeling this wasn't going to end well, but the fish hung on as the blanket weed gradually slid down the line towards it. I decided to try to take the weed and mullet together with my net, but in the event I only got the weed. The fish gave a final head-shake as it neared the rim of the net, and was gone.
Soon I had both rods fishing again. I settled back in my chair for about thirty seconds, then my right-hand rod heeled right over, and a mullet was running line off the drag even before I could pick it up. Out and out the fish ran, and I began to get fearful of it finding the rocks and branches and other debris on the fringe of the distant just-submerged sandbank. Eventually the mullet stopped, and turned, and the hook came out! Good fish - I was gutted.
It's not that often in this fishing game that you get the chance of instant redemption, but I'd had my lines out again barely five minutes before the same rod lunged over. The long run could have been an action replay, but this time the hook stayed in when the fish turned. As I started to recover line, I could feel it was sliding through a big lump of static weed. Soon I had the fish in as far as the weed. It wouldn't come any further but I kept a good tension in the line, and after a minute or so suddenly the fish was free as the line cut through. I played the fish in without further mishap ... a lovely 5:07 thicklip. It was the last action of the day as the feeding spell again turned off like a tap.
Since my return from the UK trip, the weather has been unsettled with strong westerly winds and big swells running into the bays here on the Atlantic coast. Plans for rock fishing have been put on hold.
On 30th July I was back in the same swim at Rosscarbery on a windy day punctuated by rain-squalls. Though few fish were showing, I was confident something would turn up at some stage. But it was not to be ... I packed up after a dour six hour session biteless, damp and disappointed and wishing I'd changed swims after a couple of hours or so in search of some fish.
And so to this afternoon, and more squally weather. I drove down along the west bank hoping I'd see more fish this time but the swims seemed devoid of mullet. I couldn't contemplate another blank like Sunday's, so I turned the car round and ended up fishing from the grass near the bridge arch, facing into the wind. It was choppy, verging on rough as the squalls passed through, but I could see plenty of mullet moving and judging by the size of some of the whelms, there were some decent fish amongst them. I set up the rods and fished one pop-up crust bait well out, the other closer in.
It was the close-in bait on the left-hand rod that was taken first, on its second cast. Without any preliminaries, the tip was yanked right down and once more I found myself hanging on as a big mullet streamed line out behind it as it made for the middle of the pool. But today was my day and everything was good. Even the realisation that I'd forgotten to set up my landing net was not a big problem. After ten or twelve minutes I had the fish in close and beached it in a small gulley between the rocks, then picked it up. It was a wonderful thicklip of 5lb 14oz ...
I was soon fishing again but the next hour was quiet as the tide started to edge up.
I noticed a fish swimming past repeatedly just beyond the rocks, its head down and the tip of its tail breaking surface. I dropped the close-in bait right into the margins. A few minutes later it was taken, another good fish but not in the league of the previous one. While I was playing it, the distance bait was taken too. I loosened the drag right off on that rod and concentrated on landing the first fish as quickly as possible. Then I left it in the net in the shallows while I dealt with the second one. The line was festooned with lumps of weed when I lifted the rod, but most of this shook off during the fight and I was able to beach it fairly easily. The two mullet were like peas in a pod, weights 4:07 and 4:08.
Fishing again, and after about a half hour I missed a bite on the distance rod. I cast back as close to the same spot as I could, and a few minutes later I struck into an identical bite.
At first I thought it was just a small fish, as it gave a token wriggle and came in very easily right to the rocks. Then it saw me and powered out with an impressive bow-wave and a leaving a series of massive whelms in its wake. It hung far out for a good while but then came in quite easily again, kiting to the left and straight into the net as I moved round to intercept it. In truth the fight was nothing like as good as the 5:14 and I was surprised by the size of the fish, particularly as I lifted it from the net and could barely get my fingers across its back. It was a super new PB for me in Ireland of 6lb 14oz ...
I fished on, not caring too much if I caught another fish or not. In the event, I had one more bite on the close-in rod before the feeding spell seemed to come to an end as the tide dropped away. It was the smallest fish of the day, but at 4:03 still well worth the effort of catching.
Another angler passed by just as I was landing that last mullet, a guy on holiday from Yorkshire (I think) who came down for a chat as I unhooked the fish. "That's really annoying..." he said two or three times, meaning to see a mullet caught while he was still blank for the week with his orange bubble float and bread-fly. I decided it was best not to tell him about the other four I'd landed.
I have a load of work to do from the last few days of May through to mid-July, so the option of some quick mullet sessions on the shore near our home in Kilcrohane is very attractive.
A lot of the fish are tiddlers like this one, but get past them and there are some bigger fish to be had.
I arrived one particular Sunday evening to find a few fish moving, and I soon had them swirling on loose-fed mashed bread. I had some stabby little bites on my little Puddlechucker float and wasn't unduly surprised when the first fish I connected with was a small one. However, as high water neared I started to see some bigger swirls, and after a few more misses I connected with a much heavier fish which put up a terrific fight trying to get among the rocks to my left ... 4lb 3oz. I waded out again and fished on more in hope than expectation, and as the tide started to drop away another decent fish turned up and started attacking floating pieces of bread. I tried fishing a surface bait but couldn't get a proper take ... I reset the Puddlechucker to fish flake a foot deep and soon had a good bite. The fish felt more solid than the first but the fight was steadier and less spectacular ... 4lb 10oz.
Since then I've had a couple more goes and have caught both times, though only fish in the 2lbs class. They are still nice to catch though in lovely surroundings and only five minutes from our door.
I've had a few short sessions out on the rocks recently, making use of some settled weather.
First up a trip to a mark on the north side of The Sheep's Head to fish for conger and huss. Disappointingly after a bit of a walk and climbing down to the rock ledge, I noticed one of the local crabbers had dropped a pot in the exact same spot I usually cast to! I relocated thirty yards or so along the ledge and cast into the unknown, only to find it a bit of a snag pit. I persevered and eventually got out a couple of eels before deciding I'd lost enough kit for the day. This the best, just into double figures ...
Also a two short sessions on the south side looking for pollack. I had a half-dozen or so each trip but no great size yet this year. No doubt the bigger fish will follow later in the year but for now, a couple of three-pounders for our tea ...
A couple of mullet sessions to report over the last few days. Firstly to Rosscarbery earlier in the week, where some new flags were flying to welcome me, and some new advice for would-be swan feeders...
I started fishing mid-morning, legering near the bridge arch. Things were inexplicably quiet, despite odd fish topping further out, and after a biteless three hours I relocated down the west side. The high tide arrived and passed, and still no action till the water had dropped away noticably. Then a little pound-size mullet was followed by three bigger fish in a hectic last hour, topped by a nice 4:05.
Then this evening, down to my favourite estuary on the Mizen Peninsula. I was fishing the top of a big spring tide so opted to leger from the road causeway onto the shallow flats below. A quiet start again but then I started to see odd whelms as some mullet arrived with the tide flooding in, and over the high water I had a trio of three pounders out.
The flats are almost uniformly clean, slightly muddy sand so I was surprised to find a snag at one point in the session ... and even more surprised when this happened as I tried to pull clear, losing me the Korda Grippa lead that used to be on the snap link (or saving me the rest of the rig, however you care to look at it!)
Anyway, I'm not very impressed with a swivel that can come apart pulling with 6lbs line. It was the first I've used of a pack of Guru brand snap-link swivels, fresh on today. The fact that the black finish has more-or-less disappeared after a couple of hour's use also suggests they may be less than high quality items.
The east wind certainly didn't bring any favours fishing-wise ... though the associated dry weather was a bonus for some work we were doing in the garden. Perhaps I should have stuck with the gardening, but I gave over two days to investigating new rock marks. Both marks accessed cleanish ground, and both maybe will fare better later in the year, but I couldn't muster a credible bite from either on a variety of baits. One day the wind fell light enough to get onto a favourite rock mark for some mulleting, but the place was infested with baby coalfish.
The easterlies had now been replaced with a southerly, much better but already the strength was kicking up towards a proper blow over the next couple of days. I still haven't seen much by way of mullet locally this year, and these conditions weren't ideal, so I headed down to Rosscarbery.
Not so many fish were visible as earlier in the month, but the ones I could see seemed a better size. Both observations were borne out by what was a slowish session, punctuated by occasional bites on the leger baits that yielded three fish of 4:11, 4:04 and another 4:04 ...
After another wait, a fourth mullet of similar stamp was hooked but came adrift. The session petered out after the arrival of the big spring tide high water flooding into the pool, the mullet either moving on or going off the feed.
The weather forecast for the next few days or so isn't great, a strong and cold east wind about to set in for a week at least. I was keen to get out fishing before that arrived, and there being little sign of mullet around Sheep's Head yet this spring, I headed down to Rosscarbery. There was already a touch of east in the wind, but mostly it was southerly and running up the estuary, variable in strength but never more than a fresh breeze.
I set up on the west shore of the estuary, two leger rods with pop-up crust baits as usual when there's not many mullet to be seen moving within floatfishing range.
A couple of swans latched on to my catapulted groundbait and made a nuisance of themselves, but they soon moved on as the water deepened towards high tide. No sooner had they vacated the area than my right-hand rod pulled over, and I landed my first thickliup of the day at 3lb 3oz.
I cast the rod out again and wound in my left-hand rod to rebait. While I was doing that, the right-hand rod was off again, and this was a much bigger fish that took a lot of line in a series of powerful runs out towards the middle of the pool. Unfortunately, as soon as it stopped and turned, the hook came out! Disappointing ... but it was still early in the session so there was a good chance of getting another one.
Things went quiet for a while, but as the tide started to drop away after high water, the mullet came onto the feed again and I managed five more thicklips. Alas none came close to matching that lost fish, but it was good fun catching fish of 2:10, 2:07, another 3:03 and a 2:08 that took both baits at almost the same time, and another 2:08 to finish.
I arrived to find Bantry Bay almost eerily calm, especially considering it was mid-afternoon not early in the morning. Not only was there not a breath of wind, but the almost incessant Atlantic swell in these parts had dwindled to nothing after a week or more of unusually settled weather.
Baits for the day were fillets of mackerel, mackerel heads or whole small squid, fished as pop-ups for this very snaggy mark by wrapping in a small piece of polystyrene with bait elastic.
The first hour and a half was really slow but as high water arrived, the bullhuss turned on the feed for the first hour or so of the ebb.
First off was a missed take on squid. The bait was still okay so I wrapped a section of mackerel on to it to give its scent a boost, and cast it out again. Within a few minutes I was into a nice huss around 10lbs that put up an unusually good scrap as it came up through the deep clear water. Then a small one about 4lbs on a mackerel head, then a little strap conger on a mackerel fillet that made a right mess of the trace, so I had to tackle up again. While I was doing that, the other rod went but I missed the huss/conger that had taken the squid and hooked into a snag instead ... more tackling up!
Finally settled again with two baits back in the water, I found the feeding spree had abated somewhat. As the water was dropping away quickly I started to think about packing up, but then had a nice run on a mackerel head. This one had gone to ground when I struck, but I could feel the fish there and after half a minute it freed itself and I played in another nice huss, this one around 9lbs.
I've had a few mullet sessions over the last week or so that I can report on - had some fish but nothing very special size-wise.
On the 13th I headed down to Rosscarbery for an afternoon session. It was a grey day with a none-too-warm breeze blowing up the estuary. I settled for a favourite west bank swim where I could sit in the lee of the car. It proved a slowish session with just three definite takes on the leger baits ... 2:04, 2:12 and to finish a 3:10.
The 16th was a remarkably similar day, except this time the breeze was blowing down the estuary and if anything was a little colder still. Not feeling too adventurous, I set up in the same swim with the car parked the other way round. It was a bit marginal regards depth as you can see ...
... but as I could see a few mullet moving around from time-to-time I thought it was worth a go. This session was a bit busier with one fish lost and four landed. I had a brace of 3:02s separated by a small one about 1:08. Then finally a fish which put up a much more solid resistance and I was pleased after several minutes to get the net under a chunky mullet weighing 4:10.
The 17th was my birthday. Sylvi and I had lunch at O'Sullivan's Bar in Crookhaven at the end of the Mizen Peninsula, then enjoyed a walk amid fantastic scenery out past Dun Lough Castle to Three Castle Head ... and back. Which just left time to try for a birthday mullet on the way home.
We could see a some surface mullet activity in the estuary pool. Most of the fish looked small but I fancied there would be a few bigger ones underneath. It took several casts trotting the float through and loose feeding before I had a bite, then a few missed bites before I was in ... and it was a decent fish too that put up a good scrap, mostly under the rod tip. Eventually I had it into the net and we weighed it at 3:03. We packed up straight away and were back in the car 35 minutes after arriving!
I headed back to the estuary on Mizen yesterday, conscious that the bright sunshine might make fishing difficult. In fact I encountered a different problem. The water level in the pool was the lowest I'd ever seen it, down to a combination of neap tides (when the pool keeps draining and doesn't get topped up), high pressure and very little recent rainfall. Every tiddler that would normally be spread across acres of sand flats was crammed into the deeper hole by the bridge, and I could see several shoals of mullet from herring size down to fingerlings ... and sandsmelts ... and nothing bigger.
I fished anyway, hoping there'd be a few better mullet under the shoals of small fry, but my float was constantly bobbing from the attentions of fish that were mostly too small to take the bait properly. I struck the bites that managed to take the float under and hold it down for any length of time ... missed dozens and dozens but eventually had three mullet out. Nothing over 2lbs though, this was the biggest at 1:14.
Finally then, back to Rosscarbery this afternoon - just a short session before heading to Skibbereen shopping with Sylvi.
As yesterday, there was a lot of surface activity but most or all of it appeared to be from shoals of small mullet.
I fished two leger rods as usual but despite all the mullet showing it was a slow session, punctuated by just three takes. And yes they were all small fish again. I had one not much over a pound then one of 1:13; the other was a similar size but came off near the edge.
On the plus side, one mullet came out on each rod so I succeeded in christening both of a pair of new reels! They are Daiwa Ninja 3012A "Match and Feeder" reels - and they seem to be nice kit without paying too much, I paid €58 each. I was pleased with the cast and smooth retrieve; the drags will need to wait till another day for a proper workout.
... another rock mark. Again on the south shore of Bantry Bay. And more bullhuss. Three of them today, all on popped-up mackerel heads. Two were about 7lbs, and last knockings out came this one just over 10lbs. This is a good illustration of why I use a wire biting-piece for them ...
In contrast to the mulleting, other fishing has been slow recently. I fished a rock mark last week for just a couple of doggies. The only better fish of the day - probably a big huss - escaped when the Sakuma circle hook snapped, there's a first. This was followed by a blank session one morning on Bantry Airport strand, definitely not a first.
This afternoon I headed to another rock mark on the Bantry Bay side of the peninsula.
Unusually today I didn't have the spot to myself as three Lithuanian guys were already there. I had to admire their enthusiasm setting up with mackerel feathers in early April and indeed, later on, their persistence in still thrashing away hours after I'd have decided I was wasting my time and gone home ...
Still, there was plenty of room for all of us so I set up on the left hand end fishing mackerel head on one rod and squid/mackerel cocktail on the other, both baits popped up by wrapping in a small chunk of polystyrene.
I missed bites first cast on both rods and although I kept getting rattles on the mackerel heads it was the other rod that produced the better takes and some fish on the rocks.
First in was a small bullhuss, followed next cast by a larger one, still only about 7lbs though.
Next cast there were a couple of tentative pulls that took a few inches of line off the ratchet, then nothing. When I started to wind in a few minutes later, there was a thump on the rod tip which then heeled right over, and I found myself playing a conger. It was no monster but certainly it was a better fish than many of the straps I've had from the rocks here, about 13lbs or 14lbs I would think. Not so big though I couldn't hand-line it out onto the rocks!
What had started out quite a bright afternoon had become gradually duller, and it started drizzling while I was sorting out the conger and returning it. Soon after I'd got two fresh baits out it started to rain more steadily. The Lithuanians packed up and left, and I decided to follow them, not because I couldn't stand a bit of rain but because it had turned the rocks treacherously slippery. It was no fun at all walking back along the sloping ledge to the access point where I could climb up off; I'll try not to get caught out like that again.
The area just offshore from this mark is one of five that have been earmarked in Bantry Bay for mechanical harvesting of kelp starting later this year, the first such industry in Ireland. The licence was granted in 2014 but seems to have slipped through on the quiet without any meaningful public consultation or any environmental impact assessment whatsoever. Since it came to light it has been causing a good bit of consternation amongst local fishermen and environmentalists. There's a petition here if you would like to add your weight to the local campaign to have a stay put on the scheme pending proper investigation of its likely impacts.
Today I headed back to the same estuary as Saturday.
I was hopeful that the falling water level over the smaller tides would have concentrated the fish into the deep pool, if indeed they hadn't evacuated altogether when they could on the last of the bigger tides. This is a risk particularly in high summer - perhaps when it's warmer they fear the water deoxygenating over several days without a top-up. But equally I've had some big bags in springtime before. Also after a foul day's weather yesterday, I thought there might be a little more colour in the water which might help.
On arrival I could see mullet topping occasionally in several parts of the pool ... game on.
I set up in the same swim as Saturday, but this time set the float to fish only about eighteen inches deep. I could already see fish swirling around the floating bits of the first handful of loose-feed I'd chucked in, so they were obviously going to feed shallow, at least to start with.
What followed was an incredible four-hour session that resulted in ten mullet landed. None of the fish were over 4lbs but who cares really when you can fish in such wonderful surroundings and get loads of bites and rod-bending action from mullet around the 3lbs mark? For the record the best was 3:11 ...
Bites kept coming throughout the session, with longer waits only after a couple of lost fish. I did need to fish a little deeper towards the end as the surface activity gradually petered out.
Between mullet #9 and mullet #10, this seatrout of over 3lbs latched onto my bread bait. The bite was identical to many of the mullet bites I'd had, and the fight similar too till the fish erupted through the surface in the first of three spectacular leaps ... but as with so many other fish species, it lacked the stamina of a thicklip.
I tried this spot on Tuesday but apart from one short flurry of bites that culminated in a mullet jumping all around the pool like a seatrout before throwing the hook, all was quiet.
Today conditions were more clement: sunny and occasional light cloud, and just a gentle west breeze. I arrived about lunchtime with the water still well up after a big tide.
I fished for about an hour and was slightly surprised not to get a bite. I decided to walk back to the road to see if I could spot any mullet on the other side of the bridge, but after only about twenty yards I was surprised to see a couple of big mullet circling close to the bank. I estimated them both 5lbs+, good fish for this venue.
I returned to fetch my rod and net, then on hands and knees I cleared a little track through last year's reed stems along which I could place my rod and drop the float down into the margins, followed by a few tiny amounts of mashed bread loose-feed.
I then proceeded to miss a series of "unmissable" sail-away bites!
After about six or seven, the fish had had enough and moved off. I couldn't believe I'd blown this chance, but I thought maybe if I fished a bit further out and deeper I would re-contact the fish out there.
Sure enough, ten minutes later the float slid away, and this time no mistake on the strike. I was disappointed though when a few seconds into the fight it became apparent it wasn't one of the two big fish I'd seen. To add insult to injury, later into the fight the pair briefly reappeared and followed my hooked fish for a few seconds! They were easily a couple of pounds bigger ... the fish I'd hooked turned out 2lb 15oz.
I stayed in that swim for a while but couldn't get any further interest, so I returned to my first swim so that I could fish more comfortably.
It remained generally quiet but every now and then, out of the blue, the float would dip away. There was no rhyme or reason to when or where in the swim this would happen so it was difficult to stay properly keyed up, but after a few misses I finally struck into one of these bites.
This fish was more powerful than the previous one, and I had brief hopes I'd contacted one of the big fish I'd seen earlier, but it turned out to be a long, lean 3:07.
I fished on and after a long quiet spell I started to get sporadic bites again.
As the water level dropped and water from the sun-warmed shallows further up moved through the pool, the bites gradually increased in regularity.
I landed two more fish, 2:12 and 3:04 separated by another of similar size that threw the hook after a few seconds. Number Three was still resting in my landing net when Number Four arrived, so I photographed the two of them together. Probably I could have had one or two more into the evening, but I was happy with my haul of four so I packed up in time to do the drive home in daylight.
Two trips here, separated by a few days, in contrasting weather conditions but with similar results.
Last Saturday, and it was back from warmer climes to a chilly easterly breeze that looked set to increase in strength over the next few days. I decided to get out at the earliest opportunity to get some fishing in before the worst arrived. This meant a relatively brief Saturday afternoon session.
I headed for Rosscarbery and although there were good numbers of mullet to be seen, I wasn't that hopeful with the water low and very clear, bright sunshine and the breeze a bit fresher than forecast. I cast out my leger rods well out expecting an attritional session, but in the event I had a good pull-down bite on only my second cast and landed a 4:12 thicklip a few minutes later.
It was quiet for a couple of hours after that, but as the water level (and colour) increased as the flood tide arrived, I had another bite. This time I struck at a couple of knocks and duly played in a 3:11 ... it fought better than the first fish and I was mildly disappointed it didn't turn out a bit bigger.
Then, after an abortive first mulleting trip further west on Tuesday, it was back to Rosscarbery again today, on a mild but drizzly Thursday with the wind now turned southerly.
There was more water in the pool on the bigger tides now, and fewer fish in evidence though I suspect they were still there in similar strength. The session proved remarkably similar with a 4:09 quite early on and then a 3:15 after a longish gap. I had one other knock soon after the 3:15 but it didn't come to anything and the session died a death today as the evening tide flooded into the pool.
The time had come, almost a year after booking my flights.
This was to be my sixth visit to the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, the first in 2002 having been won as a prize from Sea Angler magazine in UK. This trip was my first since 2010 and I'd be there with my good friend Dave Matthews, our fourth time in Namibia together. We'd have seven days fishing before Dave travelled on inland to a safari with his partner Jane, and I came home.
I flew from Cork to Heathrow with Aer Lingus then a long flight overnight with Virgin Atlantic to Johannesburg. I met Dave and Jane at Johannesburg for the onward flight to Walvis Bay where we were met by our guide, Johan Burger. The final leg of the journey was a drive north along the coast through Swakopmund and on to Henties Bay where were staying in a rented house.
Our days started at 8 a.m. and we picked up picnic supplies en route for our first fishing which was aimed principally at spotted gully sharks, the intention being to catch a smallish one or two to use as bait and chum for bronze whaler sharks later in the day. Except it didn't quite work out that way this time: the gullies were scarcer than usual and those we caught were often great big lumps up to more than 50lbs. At this sort of size the gullies are good sport in their own right and too precious to use as bait! They are similar to bullhuss in some ways but they are much more thickset around the "shoulders" and consequently much stronger. We caught them on mullet baits (from boxes of small frozen mullet that can be bought in tackle shops) and some on chunks of the small local catfish that took the mullet first.
Having secured the bait - or having decided we'd have to go with the contents of Johan's freezer box which was well stocked with sandsharks and some massive mackerel - it was off in search of bronzies.
It has to be said that this trip involved a great deal of driving in search of suitable spots, as we were plagued with a large swell, weed and water temperatures plummeting from unusually high levels earlier in the Namibian summer. The colder water seems to go hand in glove with "sulphur" - brighter green and smelly areas of water that are the kiss of death for fishing, especially bronzie fishing.
The ideal spot is a riptide out through a gap in the offshore bank ... waves come over the bank to either side then the water flows along the gully from both sides before heading out again through the gap. Such a feature gives a good chance of finding bronzies provided the rip isn't too fierce to fish and everything else is right - water temperature up, nice colour, no sulphur and no weed! If everything looks good, out come the big rods and reels for a go at the bronzies ... generally though this time, conditions were marginal in one respect or another. Johan was restless, and often after a fruitless cast or two we were on the move again in search of somewhere better.
When we settled on a spot, Johan would stake the chum out. This would either be a mesh bag full of fish trimmings or the carcass of a gully shark ... the gills and liver are removed to use as hookbait, the tail and fins are removed and several other deep cuts made through the body so that it gradually bleeds out into the surf, hopefully attracting bronzies.
The rods are made on single-piece blanks, as there'd be every chance of the rod failing at a spigot joint in a fight with a big bronzie. Johan uses slightly shorter rods than most of the Namibian guides; they definitely let you subdue a bronzie a bit quicker than the longer rods the others use. His reels are big Shimano lever-drags ...
On our first day, Wednesday, we ended up late afternoon at Mile 28 ... that's 28 miles north of the police station in Swakopmund. The conditions looked, well, if not great then better than anything else we'd found.
I missed a big drop back bite, and probably the fish moved straight on to Dave's bait where it gave a repeat performance ... except Dave hooked it. It pretty soon became clear it wasn't a bronzie, and soon a cow shark emerged from the surf ... an interesting catch because we haven't seen that many, but to be honest a nasty, snappy thing that doesn't fight very well then contorts itself on the beach trying to bite you!
Soon after, I had a proper pull down bite and leaned into the fish a few times to set the circle hook. This was a much better scrap ... not the biggest ever, but a bronzie and I was happy to open our account.
We fished right into the dusk, and last knockings Dave had a pick-up. This was a much bigger fish that streamed line off into the African sunset. The thick end of an hour later, and in pitch dark, Johan waded into the surf to bring ashore Dave's bronzie of around 220lbs ...
On Thursday, the surf was bigger and we struggled to find places to fish for bronzies. After much driving, we settled into a spot in Cape Cross Bay, well north of Henties. It was shallower than most of the places we fish but it had produced recently and it was fishable. We were hopeful of some action as the tide came up but it proved slow.
Dave eventually gave up and went off for a walk with Jane ... and they'd not gone a hundred yards before my rod pulled down! This was a bigger fish than I'd had last night, and took about forty minutes to get in. Johan estimated it at about 80kg or 176lbs.
Dave started fishing again and soon had a line bite ... literally ... his rod pulled down then sprung back as the line was cut, a bronzie having picked it up as it searched for his bait with its mouth open. Unfortunately it must have found his cut-off bait and swum off with it, as we had no further interest.
The next three days were very difficult with a massive swell coming in off the Atlantic. We caught a few gullies and drove many miles in search of bronzies between Mile 100 north of Swakopmund to Long Beach to the south. The closest we came was a missed take for Dave at Mile 72 on Saturday afternoon ... a good fish picked up his bait and ran out with it, then chopped it off just below the hook.
By Monday the swell was dropping and hopes were renewed, though the fishing conditions were far from pleasant ... an unseasonal east wind off the desert raised temperatures on the beach to over 40degC and we were sand-blasted at times when the wind really picked up.
We ended up fishing at a mark called Popeye, just north of Henties. I had a bit of a 'mare with two missed chances. On one the line broke inexplicably in the rod rings, the other I made a mess of the pick-up, struggling to get the rod out of its rest it was locked so hard over. Fishing the rod in the rest isn't ideal, but by this stage it was really doing my back standing for long periods holding the rod.
Dave did much better, with three bronzies from three pick-ups. The first was a small one but the third was a real beauty of about 120kg or 264lbs, right into the dark again ...
Today, Tuesday, our last day fishing, we again ended up at Popeye for the afternoon and evening. It was another scorcher of a day, though we had some shelter from the easterly paint-stripper wind from the sand-dunes behind the beach.
I had a pick-up on the last of the ebb tide, just after lunch and in the hottest part of the day, and this was a real powerhouse of a fish. It ran out maybe three hundred yards then hung out in the back for a while. I gradually worked it in but when it got to the surf on the bank it perked up and ran right out again. It came in again gradually, then out a third time. I was wilting in the heat by this stage, but kept the pressure on this time to bring it over the bank. It kited to the right, and Johan was able to wade into the surf to pull it out and up the beach.
Johan estimated this one at 105kg or 231lbs, took the pic for me then dragged the bronzie back into the sea. They always swim off well, a delight to see. To be honest I think I was probably more knackered than the fish!
I had an abortive pick-up early in the flood tide but the session petered out after that, perhaps because the water was a touch colder than the day before. Dave unfortunately didn't get a bite all day despite fishing hard.
This certainly wasn't our most productive trip to Namibia, but that's the way with fishing and it was a good enough trip in very good company.
I booked my flights through the Irish online travel company e-travel and they were great both in their customer support (pay the extra €5 for their support package) and the prices. I paid less than €600 return from Cork to Walvis Bay via Heathrow and J'burg, which curiously was less than anything Dave could find in UK starting from Heathrow!
Johan Burger is the best of the Namibian fishing guides by a country mile. He and his wife Joyce run Bushworx and arranged Dave's and Jane's safari tour as well as the fishing.
Thanks to Dave and Jane for use of some of their photos here.
After a wet old week, Saturday was a lovely warm and sunny spring-like day and an ideal opportunity to get a March mullet before I'm off on holiday on Monday.
I drove down to Rosscarbery and set up on the west side of the estuary, arriving soon after low water. I could see odd fish moving in the shallow water in front of me and to both sides so I was hopeful of some quick action as I welted out both my leger baits.
The reality was somewhat different with not a touch for the first four hours. The swans were a complete pain, back and forth in front of me and occasionally one would get its head down on my groundbait. I noticed a pair of anglers set up near the bridge ... but didn't see any action their end either and they left a couple of hours later.
Eventually the new tide reached the estuary pool and the water level started to creep up. This wasn't automatically a good thing as I've noticed sometimes in the winter, the cold sea water entering the pool puts the mullet off the feed. However, today it seemed to have the opposite effect.
The first sign of action was a couple of twitches on my right-hand rod that came to nothing and, to be honest, I couldn't be sure it wasn't one of the swans crossing over my line. Then a few minutes later when I started to wind in my left-hand rod, I found myself playing a mullet! There had been no indication of a bite at all so I assume it must have picked up the bait at the exact instant I picked up the rod and started winding ... it wasn't a big fish and I soon had it in, a chunky little 2:14. Half an hour or so later I had another of identical weight after a more conventional repeated-knock bite on the same rod.
Another half-hour on, the water was now well up and I could catapult some groundbait out without worrying too much about the swans.
I struck into a sharp bite on my left-hand rod again, and an obviously much more substantial fish powered off out.
My wife Sylvi was accompanying some visitors on a day trip out and as chance would have it they arrived to visit me just in time to see the end of the fight and for Sylv to net the fish and take the photo. The fish weighed 4:08 and was in fine condition apart from some old damage to its dorsal fin.
My visitors went on their way to see the stone circle at Drombeg and I told Sylv I'd pack up now as it was starting to get cold in the shade of the trees behind my swim. As I waved them off, I decided I'd have one last cast as I tidied up and started to pack away ... a fateful decision as it turned out!
I tipped away the small amount of groundbait I had left and packed away my bait buckets, then decided it would be a good idea to rinse out my weigh-bag. As I was bending over the wall trying to swill it around, I noticed my left-hand rod bending over the wall as well! I grabbed it as quickly as I could, no strike necessary as the fish was obviously self-hooked and was streaming line off against the drag.
Its initial power reminded me very much of the 5:12 I had about this time last year. The fish was obviously heavy and made several good runs, and when I could bring it closer it would kite deep left or right. There was no obvious head shaking, which worried me. I thought the fish may be foul-hooked, but when it finally kited left into the wall and came to the surface I could see it was hooked in the mouth, in fact well inside the mouth which may explain why it wasn't trying to shake the hook free. I could also see it was indeed a very big fish, both deep in the body and wide across the back.
As soon as I had the mullet in the net I knew it was my Irish PB ... the scales confirmed 6lb 2oz.
One bonus of our trip to the UK was that it allowed me to attend the Mullet Club AGM held in Portsmouth. It was the first time I'd been for a couple of years. It was nice to meet so many old friends again at one time, and there was a nice buzz about the meeting from the 40ish members present.
One good feature of the AGM is that the formal business of reports and elections is dispensed with quickly, allowing time for plenty of chat before the meeting and over lunch, and a series of presentations by guest speakers.
This time we had Martin Salter of Angling Trust in the morning and after lunch, Mat Mander of Devon & Severn IFCA both giving conservation-related talks. Then there was a presentation on fly-fishing for mullet by Colin Macleod and finally my good friend Mike Ladle, who'd been doing book signings with me on and off all day, gave the last talk about his innovative fishing as only Mike can. All the speakers did a great job.
There was loads of other stuff going on at the meeting too, including a tackle stall, a photo display board, a raffle and a separate auction of a mullet print donated by David Miller Art.
At the end of the morning session, trophies and certificates are awarded. It was great to see so many fine angling achievements recognised, and I was lucky enough to retain the "Venue Top Ten" trophy with a 2016 season aggregate weight of 50lbs 9oz for my best ten fish, counting a maximum of four from any one venue. I received the trophy from the Club Chairman, Keith Gillett.
I was happy enough with that, but more was to follow, and completely unexpectedly. Out of the blue I found myself being presented Life Membership of the NMC in recognition of my contribution to the Club over many years. My good friend Steve Smith had been approached to write the citation, and awarded me a framed copy, and I was also presented the gift of a wonderful David Miller print ...
The citation reads:
Citation for Life Membership of the National Mullet Club
Dave Rigden has been a stalwart of the National Mullet Club for many years. Always very active and energetic, his support for the evolving ethos of the Club has been of considerable and of long standing value.
Having held the position of Secretary for many years, in the age of hand written envelopes, snail mail and primitive duplication facilities, he went on to become Chairman generating a period of stability and driving a focus on Conservation. It was in this field that Dave played a pivotal role. By dint of sheer hard work he gathered together disparate statistics from multiple organisations and presented them in a powerful way to fellow anglers, their conservation organisations and politicians alike. This work underpins much of the genuine progress being made today and Conservation remains prominently and continuously on angling agenda across Britain.
Since his time as Chairman, Dave continued to play a major part in the smooth running of the Club with collation and distribution of newsletters , practical assistance to the task of distributing Grey Ghost. Recently he has been a major contributor to our forum and has always been generous with his advice and sharing of experiences. He is joint author of a book on Mullet angling, a welcome addition to the limited canon of authoritative works on this topic.
Dave has shown himself capable of catching fish of the highest quality from a wide variety of habitats for many years. When others might have shortened a session or indeed not turned out at all, Dave persevered and his use of innovative methods has yielded always consistent, sometimes amazing, catches across the years. Dave is a great researcher and he used this skill particularly to good effect when considering possibilities in Ireland where he has defined a wide variety of venues turning them into bona fide Mullet marks.
In acknowledgement of his significant work across many years, we hereby confer all honours and privileges of the position of Life Member, National Mullet Club to Dave Rigden.
Not much fishing to report on in February.
I had a blank mullet session at Rosscarbery early in the month; there were still a few fish around just no takers.
Then a spell of cold east winds set in for a week, and only abated today. We are off on an extended visit to the UK later this week, so I was keen to get out if not overly hopeful following the easterlies.
I chose a deep rock mark on the north shore of the Sheep's Head. For bait I grabbed some mackerel bodies and a bag of heads from the freezer, and fished fillet baits and heads as pop-ups to raise the bait a foot above the snaggy sea-bed.
As half expected action was slow to come, but as the tide neared high in late afternoon I did start to get a few knocks and eventually a couple of decent takes, both on heads, and both yielded bullhuss.
The first huss was about 7lbs, the second was bigger and put up a good scrap as it neared the rocks. It went just into double figures on my scales. Neither was particularly co-operative about holding still for a photo, so not the best pics I'm afraid ...
I've got a new compact camera, Olympus Tough TG-870, which has loads of features I'll probably never use! I did have a play with the super-macro setting though. Quite impressive I thought ...
A couple more mullet trips to Rosscarbery to report on.
The 28th was a fresh day punctuated by squally showers so I settled on the shelter of the west bank. The tide was well down when I arrived and no fish were showing close in, so I set about legering at maximum range.
I was surprised to get a good take on only my second cast. The left-hand rod pulled right down but my strike met with no resistance ... I wound in to find a small scale on the hook point from around the mullet's mouth parts.
Things went very quiet after that and when the water flattened off occasionally between the squalls I could see just how few fish were present, just a couple of small groups as far as I could make out and mostly staying well beyond my casting range.
It was well into dusk and with the water now well up some four hours later before a mullet finally found one of my pop-up crust baits. I struck at a persistent knock on my left hand rod, and after a determined if unspectacular scrap landed this thicklip of 3lb 1oz.
By contrast, this morning was mild and calm and foggy. I arrived soon after the early morning high water, but despite the extra depth after a biggish tide there were still no fish moving close in ... so I was back on the leger.
There was more fish activity visible on the surface today, but still it was an hour before there was any movement on the tips. I struck a repeated twitchy bite on the right-hand rod but missed it. I had the line half way in to rebait when the left-hand rod pulled over and a mullet swirled out where my bait was ... but it was off before I could pick the rod up.
A few minutes later, the left-hand rod pulled over again, and this time it was fish on. Unfortunately though, not a very big fish and I soon had a pretty little thicklip in to the wall and netted it out. It weighed in at 2lbs exactly.
That was the end of the action for the morning session and soon I stopped seeing much by way of fish moving. I drove over to the Clonakilty estuary and floatfished over the low water period. Despite the float trotting through nicely and seeing a few mullet, I didn't get any bites. As the flood tide started to push up strongly, I decided to head back for another look at Rosscarbery on the way home. I wasn't sure if I'd fish or not, but in the event I found decent numbers of mullet in very shallow water in the north east corner of the estuary pool and I couldn't resist having a go for them. It turned into quite a frustrating session with fish swimming all round my baits but not a single take or even (remarkably) a line bite. The joys of winter mullet fishing - I think the water may have been a degree or two too cold for them to feed properly - bites from odd fish and/or in short feeding spells seems to be the order of the day.
It's not been a hectic start to 2017.
I've had two blank mullet trips, a night session on a local pier that produced only two poor cod and the smallest conger I've ever seen, and today a session on the rocks locally that produced a few rattly bites but nothing that held on to the large hooks I was using for huss or conger.
In the midst of all this, a small success story. I headed down to Rosscarbery last Tuesday for a go at the mullet. I'd been there the previous week and blanked, though I'd seen a few mullet moving. Today was such a mild day I really fancied my chances if there were any mullet present. It was so calm when I arrived I was sure I'd see any mullet if they were about, but disappointingly the normal swims down the west side of the estuary pool seemed barren of fish. I walked round to the bridge arch, still without seeing anything. Then, to my relief, I saw a few fish moving further along to the east.
It's not an area I've fished before as it requires an awkward jump down from the road causeway then an undignified scramble back up at the end. Still, needs must ... a few minutes later I was back with my kit. I had one leger rod set up so I put out a pop-up crust bait on that while I set about making up my second rod. The line was half-threaded up through the rod rings when I noticed a couple of bumps on the tip of the rod in the rest. Line bites probably ... I stopped a moment to watch, and suddenly the rod pulled right over. I grabbed it as the rod rest threatened to collapse, and a great scrap followed with a thicklip that turned in at 4lb 6oz ...
It was my first ever January mullet, and also the one that meant I had caught mullet in twelve consecutive months from February 2016.
Sadly though the little group of fish had melted away. I fished on for 90 minutes without another touch, then decided a move was in order. As there didn't seem to be a lot of fish at Rosscarbery I relocated east to the estuary below Clonakilty.
The tide was about half way out when I arrived, and I started to see mullet moving down with the ebb. As the flow eased off towards low water, the number of fish increased and by the low water slack there were hundreds in the stretch where I was. They were bow-waving, swirling, splashing and jumping ... everything apparently except feeding, as I couldn't get a single bite and left in frustration as the light faded away into the evening. A couple of days later I went back. It had been a colder night and it was a colder day with a touch of east in the breeze. As far as I could tell there was not a single mullet in the estuary.
Make hay while the sun shines. Or translated for West Cork, catch mullet while the mild, still, misty weather persists ...
I arrived at Rosscarbery to find the water still well down and mullet all over the estuary pool topping, bow-waving and occasionally jumping. They seemed slightly more numerous near the top end so I walked round to the grass bank by the bridge arch and set up my leger rods there.
I was getting knocks from the off, most of which were probably line bites. I struck and missed one on the left-hand rod that seemed a bit more persistent, then while I was baiting it up again, the right-hand rod nodded twice and I was into a smallish mullet on that which came off half way in.
Over the next hour it was literally a bite a chuck and I couldn't get both lines out at the same time ... four mullet resulted, all the smaller classes of fish that seem to have arrived en masse over the last month. They weighed 1:12, 2:09, 2:10 and 3:01. Then after a slight slowing of proceedings another of 2:10. Not the biggest mullet in the world but it was really great fun getting plenty of bites and each fish giving a great scrap.
At this stage, a band of scum announced the arrival of the new tide from the channel to my left. The mullet turned off as if someone had thrown a switch - suddenly no bites and hardly any fish topping. I can only presume this is a temperature-shock effect as the cold sea water pours into the pool.
The last few fish I saw moving were right down the bottom of the pool so I wondered if they had all moved off that way ahead of the sea water. I packed up and moved down the west bank but by the time I arrived there were no fish visible there either.
A very slow couple of hours passed and it wasn't till the water had started to drop away towards dusk before I started seeing fish again. I had a couple of line-bite bumps and then finally a good take. A terrific stubborn fight followed from a fish that turned out to be another 4:10 ... definitely not the same fish as Thursday though as this one was longer. When I first saw it in the edge I thought it was going to weigh more but it was quite lean down its flanks.
I'd never caught a December mullet before. I'd caught late into November on the south coast of England, but that was always a bit of a struggle and I'd run out of enthusiasm by the time December came. Years ago I took a pre-Christmas trip to Alderney and managed to blank.
December is a busy time of year for me work-wise. Last year I'd missed out on some potential good fishing, finding out after the event there'd been big shoals of mullet at Rosscarbery. So in the current mild weather I was determined to get out ...
I arrived to find good numbers of mullet in the shallows down the west side of the estuary, so I was keen to make a start. As I unloaded my stuff from the back of the car, I was dismayed to realise I'd left my landing net head at home. I had to relocate a hundred yards along the wall so I could fish close to an area where I'd be able to beach hooked fish ... not a problem in itself but the road is much narrower here so I wouldn't be able to fish out of the back of the car, and there was a persistent heavy drizzle.
The session really was unremarkable apart from its timing so late in the year.
I put out both leger rods with pop-up crust baits and catapulted out balls of groundbait into the area they were fishing.
This attracted the attention of the swans that seemed both more numerous and hungrier than earlier in the year. They were a bit of a nuisance but fortunately didn't get their heads down onto my groundbait. After a while they moved on.
The mullet became less visible as the depth crept up towards high water, but dead on high my left hand rod pulled hard over and I was into a good fish that stripped line in four or five powerful runs before calming down and coming in gradually. I edged my way left along the wall and beached the fish where the water shallowed up towards a small island, then jumped down the wall to grab the fish. It was a perfectly conditioned thicklip of 4lb 10oz, my first ever December mullet.
This marked the start of a feeding spell of sorts and over the next hour or so I had three more thicklips that weighed in at 2:13, 3:02 and 3:04.
This size class of mullet had predominated earlier in the year but had been largely absent through the summer and autumn when most of the Rosscarbery stock seemed to be big 3s, 4s and 5s - I wonder where they have been since the spring?
As the water dropped away significantly the bites seemed to dry up, and the swans came back. I was getting progressively soaked by the drizzle and I was happy enough with what I'd caught, so I decided to call it a day.
National Mullet Club's Grey Ghost magazine is arriving with members about now. I have an article in it about fishing the pop-up crust leger bait that has been so productive for me in Ireland this year, and before that at venues such as Christchurch and Broadwater in the UK.
If it helps, here is the picture sequence for baiting up that appears in the article, in colour ...
1 – piece of crust about 15mm x 20mm and a section of grass stalk
2 – hook in from the flake side
3 – pull the hook through, turn it and back in from the crust side
4 - trap the section of grass stalk in the bend to stop the hook cutting back through the crust
5 – the rig: size 10 Kamasan B983, 8” of 5lb Drennan fluorocarbon fly leader, swivel, buffer bead, 1.1oz Korda Grippa lead on sliding link swivel, moveable stop of silicone tube with the line through twice. Mainline is 6lb ProGold.
6 – the baited rig
After work meetings in Cambridge I headed down to the south coast for a few days before returning. It proved to be a fairly hectic stay trying to dovetail work stuff with seeing family and friends, but on Saturday I managed to steal a few hours to fish in the morning, before driving back to Cambridge later that afternoon.
I set off across Stanpit Marsh before it was properly light. My friend Dave Matthews had been catching up to last weekend, but the temperature had plummeted this week and the heavy frost on the ground didn't bode well. On the plus side I was treated to a wonderful dawn as I set up to fish the river channel down from Grimbury ...
Before long a light but cutting north breeze had cleared away the mist. I fished through the low water period without a sign of a bite and the only fish sighted were occasional small seatrout jumping. As the tide started to edge up I had a few rattles on the tips; they were difficult to hit but eventually I hooked a couple and confirmed my suspicion that they were dace.
It was nice in the sun and out of the breeze behind my brolly. Alan Butterworth turned up and we chatted for a few minutes before he resumed his walk round the marsh.
As the water reached the peaty bank I had a lunging bite on the right-hand rod, and played in a little thicklip of 2:12. A while later a repeat performance on the left-hand rod produced a 2:13. And that was it, despite fishing on a while longer. Not the biggest fish but both pristine and if they turn out to be the last mullet of my 2016 I'll be happy enough.
I found out today that my long-term writing project with Mike Ladle has finally been published. Mike and I wrote the first draft of the book - now titled "Fishing for Ghosts" - way back in 1990. At that time it turned out Mike's previous publishers weren't interested - mullet fishing too niche - and we had a similar result when we tried again a few years later.
Since then it had been a case of "we must do something about the book" without ever getting round to doing anything, until Mike sent Medlar Press a couple of chapters in 2013 and they wanted it! Only trouble then was that the text was pretty out of date, so we spent the thick end of a year rewriting sections and adding new material, and I recruited Paul Fennell and Nick Murphy to add sections on kayak fishing and dinghy fishing for mullet respectively. We spent the summer of 2014 sourcing more and better photographic material and the package went off to Medlars in the autumn.
Since then it's been slow progress but the outcome was never in doubt and I'm pretty pleased with the book, especially considering it's my first (and probably only) attempt.
If you're interested in mullet fishing or just in collecting angling books, you can get more detail and order a copy from the Medlar Press website here.
I have an extended visit to the UK coming up followed by a load of work to do. I wasn't at all sure what the mullet prospects would be later on in November and into December when I might get a chance to go again, so I was keen to get out this week.
First up on Wednesday, a trip to Rosscarbery for a relatively short afternoon session. I headed straight for the shallow west bank swims that had been so productive for me this year, and set up both leger rods to fish the pop-up crust baits that had done so well. The tide was well down so I cast well out and sat back to await developments.
What followed was a pretty decent late season session with a couple of bites missed and three hit, which resulted in a trio of healthy mullet all 4lb+ ...
Then today I headed south-west onto the Mizen Peninsula. The shallow estuary looked bleak and windswept on a very grey autumn day, and there was no sign of fish moving. Still, I was there to fish so fish I did, setting up on the road causeway ...
For a couple of hours my worst fears were realised, with not a touch on either tip. Then as the pool filled up near the top of the tide, a few fish must have come up the estuary. First, a massive slack-line bite missed. Then two more smaller drop-backs, both of which resulted in mullet landed. They were smaller than the Rosscarbery fish at 3:05 and 3:08, but still very welcome.
It was an unusually quiet session on the north of the peninsula today. I had just a few rattles that didn't come to anything and a couple of small LSDs. Then near the end the session was rescued by a proper run at last on a popped-up mackerel head and this character joined me briefly on the rocks ...
Two mullet sessions to report on this week.
On Tuesday I went down to Rosscarbery to catch the last of a series of really big spring tides. Although I arrived well down the ebb, the estuary pool had had a really good top-up and there was plenty of depth to fish the west side swims throughout the low water period.
I fished two leger rods with pop-up crust as usual. The first hour was slow, but shortly after missing the first, rather half-hearted bite I was into a good fish that pulled the left hand rod over. It turned out to be 4lb 3oz ...
Soon after I was in again on the same rod, a fish that ran out strongly and then, to my surprise as it's not happened before in this swim, it found a snag. I tried for several minutes giving it slack line and pulling from different angles, but in the end I had to pull for a break.
I put out a fresh bait on the other rod while I was tackling up again. A couple of minutes later I just managed to catch the rod by the butt as it threatened to pull over the wall. The fish didn't hang on though! However, soon after casting out the retackled rod I was in again. This was another good fish and they seemed to be fighting well today with the few inches extra depth. It took a full fifteen minutes to get the mullet in: 5lb 1oz.
After a lull in proceedings I had a couple more fish. The 3:11 on the left was interesting as it had an almost identical but slightly healed lower lip hook wound a few millimetres over from the new one ... almost certainly it was a recapture having taken pop-up crust for a second time in a few weeks. When he was over recently, Eddie Baker left me some white hooks to try. Their provenance is a bit uncertain, other than that they came via the United States, my best guess is that they are a discontinued Owner Chinu version. I'd tied one on today for the first time when I retackled and the 4:12 on the right was the second victim, the first having been the 5:01. I was a bit uncertain about using them as they are a good bit larger than my normal B983 size 10s, around a size 6, and a lot thicker in the wire ... but, no problem.
I have been gradually amassing scale samples for IFI this summer and autumn, but I was conscious that most of these were from larger mullet: big 3s, 4s and 5s. I really wanted to get scales from a few smaller fish for a better balanced sample, so early on Thursday morning I headed down to Lough Hyne near Skibbereen and caught the morning high water. This is a very different venue to Rosscarbery and the other estuaries I fish - very deep, cool water and the mullet leaner and a good bit smaller on average. I'll be interested to see what comes out of the age readings of the scales.
I arrived around 7.40 a.m. and could see movement in the bay to the left of the pier, but there was a heavy overcast and it was 8.00 a.m. before it was light enough to watch my float more than a few feet away.
I was soon getting regular bites, missing a few but hitting a few as well. Over a couple of hours I landed six mullet and it was mission accomplished as regards getting some smaller fish, with five of them falling between 1lb 12oz and the one of 2lb 9oz in the photo.
The third fish of the morning proved rather more substantial. It fought long and hard in the deep, clear water in front of the pier, and proved to be a lovely 3lb 14oz thicklip ...
It was a blustery grey day here today. I went out for a brief evening session for pollack, choosing a spot on the south coast where I could get high above some deep water close in.
It was very nearly a bite a chuck on a pearl-white redgill, but the pollack were generally small, between about 12oz and 2lbs. It would probably be better to try to fish more selectively with a bigger bait this year - there really do seem to be huge numbers of small fish about I think beating the bigger pollack to the bait.
Anyway, the numbers game eventually paid off and I had one last knockings just under 5lbs to take home ...
I fished today at an estuary on the Mizen peninsula. There had been a lot of mullet showing there on the same tides a fortnight ago, on a day I wasn't fishing for them, but that was a fortnight ago and today I was disappointed to see hardly any mullet activity as I looked around on arrival. There were a few shoals of fingerling fish surfacing from time to time, but that was all. The breeze was just about southerly so whether it was still recovering from the east winds of the last two weeks or now winding down for the winter, I don't know.
I set up to float-fish in the deep pool just above the bridge. The float was trotting through nicely left to right, with the breeze in my face gradually pushing it in closer to the bank. Many trots later, the float dipped near the end of the run ... missed it, but I was ready for the repeat performance on the next time through and struck into a weighty fish.
The fish chugged all round the pool staying deep, but never did anything very spectacular. Eventually it weakened and a very thick-looking fish surfaced. Soon after I had it in my net. It weighed 5lbs exactly, and I was well pleased with that as it was only my second "five" from this venue.
I fished on, in all spending about three hours in that swim, but had no further bites. I moved to the rocks on the other side of the bridge, set up my leger rods and cast out onto the shallows on that side of the causeway. I had a couple of very half-hearted knocks over another hour or so before the new tide arrived and started pouring through the bridge arch. The weed that came with it made life difficult so I decided to move again onto the causeway so I could fish directly up the flow instead of across it. As I collected my stuff together I noticed the largest Hereford bull I've ever seen in the small field behind where I'd been fishing, separated from me by a couple of gorse bushes and some bracken! I moved off very gingerly ...
Soon I was set up again on the causeway and fishing more effectively. It remained quiet for another half hour or so, then a drop-back bite on my right-hand rod produced a nice 3:13. A twitchy bite on the left-hand rod turned out to be a much smaller fish that came off once I had it near to the wall. I missed a decent pull on the right-hand rod, then hooked a powerful fish after another drop-back. It kited round to my right and spent some time banging away close to the rocks before catching in the flow that was now in full flood through the bridge arch. I moved right along to get over the fish but eventually the hook came out and I imagine that the mullet was whisked away under the road! I saw the fish several times; it was not far short of the five pounder I'd had earlier in the day. The right-hand rod was soon in action again, this time a fish of 2:12. While I was unhooking it I missed a massive pull-round on the left-hand rod. And then, as quickly as they'd turned on, the feeding spell was over. I fished on a while, but had no further interest at all. As fishing days go, it had been hard work, but worth it.
We've been plagued by east winds of varying strength for well over a week now. All forms of fishing seem to become instantly harder with the easterlies blowing; mulleting seems to hold up better than most, but after a few days even the mullet seem to go off the feed.
Wednesday last week I fished a newish mark south and east of Skibbereen, crucially on a west facing shore so I'd be out of the worst. I'd fished the spot briefly a couple of times before and had seen mullet on each visit, but I was yet to catch one there or even have a definite bite. Today I arrived halfway down the ebb tide and immediately saw a couple of mullet working over mudflats near where I parked the car, but I chose to ignore them to go and floatfish some deeper water a few hundred yards away. It was a mistake, and three hours later I returned to the mudflat area without having had a bite.
There was barely a foot of water over the flats now, but I could see a half-dozen or so decent mullet moving around. It was too shallow to floatfish sensibly so I set up my leger rods and cast out a pop-up crust bait on one and flake on the other. I fished an hour or so without a bite but as the new tide started to push up the shingle, some interest at last. I had a couple of very sharp tugs on the flake, but nothing hung on; I missed a half-decent take on the crust; then more tugs on the flake that came to nothing.
By this time mullet were moving close in so, frustrated by my failure to catch on leger, I dropped a float out just past the bladderwrack fringe, fishing flake a foot deep. After a couple of minutes the float bobbed but didn't move away; I left it and after another minute it buried, and I struck into a good mullet that immediately cartwheeled out of the water then ran out strongly.
The fish put up a good scrap. At one stage I had to wade out and free the line from a clump of weed it had swum round, but I landed it without further mishap. I was pleased with this 4lb 8oz thicklip as the first fish from a new venue ...
The east wind strengthened even more over the next couple of days but it dropped for the weekend and on Sunday Sylvi & I went down to Rosscarbery to fish with my friends Pete and Jenny who had arrived from Cornwall on Saturday for a holiday of just under a week. The easterly was just a breeze, but it still looked like being a struggle with the water level very low on the neap tide and the water very clear.
Pete and Jen were fishless by the bridge arch so after chatting a while I left them there and set up my leger rods down on the west shore. The water was almost silly-shallow (at one stage an egret waded through my swim) but I could see mullet moving from time to time so I was hopeful of some action.
About an hour later the first mullet of the day took a fancy to popped-up crust ... but it came off after a minute or so, leaving me to wind in a scale on the hook! Over the next few hours I had four more takes, properly hooked this time, and all held on. The biggest mullet was the last at 4lb 12oz...
Pete and Jenny had a much quieter day. Jenny had a nice fish of 3:10 soon after I left them, trotting a float through on the flow of water coming through the bridge arch. Unfortunately that was their only action of the day, despite a couple of changes of swim.
Even more unfortunately the east wind picked up in strength overnight and throughout Monday. It was particularly strong on Tuesday when I met them at the mark where I'd had the 4:08 last week. It was semi-sheltered there but we didn't catch.
Other than that they fished at Rosscarbery but struggled for bites, catching a fish each on Monday and just one late in the day for Pete on Wednesday ... his first on the pop-up crust technique.
I headed back to Rosscarbery on Thursday, after my car had its NCT in Skibbereen. The car passed, so perhaps a lucky day was in store.
The wind had let up a bit overnight. The water in the estuary was very shallow and the lagoon looked a better option to start.
As it happened I must have struck lucky and chosen a swim with a mullet ready and waiting. I had a bite first cast and missed it, but I was better prepared second cast when the float dipped again.
It was a nice if slightly lean little thicklip of 2lb 10oz, not a monster but my first from the lagoon in over a year so I was happy with that. After returning the mullet I couldn't raise a bite in that spot or two others I tried, so soon after Pete & Jen surfaced for the day we decided it would be better to try the estuary.
Pete & Jen stopped by the bridge arch where Jen promptly had out a 3:11 on leger on her first cast and Pete missed a couple of good takes.
I went down the west side but stopped at the little grassy island, leaving the swim lower down where I'd done well on Sunday for the others later on.
I cast well out as the water was still shallow, and I also had some action on my first cast. Trouble was, I thought the tip movements on my right-hand rod were down to two swans over my bait, and it wasn't till I realised the line was moving off left while the swans were heading straight out that I twigged what was going on. I had to pass the rod under my left-hand rod as the lines had crossed, and by the time I'd sorted myself out the fish was into a snag to my left, a long length of barnacle-encrusted rope part-buried in the mud, and it cut my trace. Great start. The east wind had swung to south-east (right in my face) and was picking up again with the tide. Everything was quiet on the fishing front for the next hour or so, during which time Pete & Jen passed by en route to the swim lower down.
My next bite was a little slack-liner on my left-hand rod. I struck into the fish. It seemed a little subdued and I had it in my net after three or four minutes. The hook had gone through its lower lip from just outside its mouth then into its top lip, so its two lips were stitched together and it may well have had trouble breathing during the fight!
I had weighed the fish and was just doing the photo when I heard the drag going on my other reel - I'd slackened it off just in case, and a mullet had taken the pop-up crust and was taking lots of line. I hurriedly put the first fish into the margins in my landing net, and dashed back to my rod. The fish had run to the left but fortunately far enough out that it was clear of the snags and by giving it lots of wellie I was able to bring it back to my side of the rock. Pete arrived with his landing net to help, but it was another five or six minutes before the fish was ready as it really dug in under the rod tip. It went 5lb 13oz, a lovely fish indeed ...
I set up again expecting the swim to be quiet after all that, but after just a few minutes my right-hand rod lunged over again.
The fish ran left at speed - fortunately I was just baiting up my left-hand rod at the time. Also fortunately it went straight past the snags and once into the shallows on the left side of the island it surrendered quite quickly: 3lb 2oz.
I was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable about bagging up while the others weren't catching, so I wandered down to see them for a chat and a break.
Pete was at least getting bites but seemed to be in a run of bad luck ... he'd missed another good take, then a fish had broken his 6lb mainline, and while I was there he struck into another ... only to play it in and find it was hooked near the ventral fins.
I drifted back to my rods and had another cast. Incredibly the right-hand one pulled down again after only a minute or two, and after a game scrap I landed another 3:08.
Five in a day was enough. I packed up and catapulted out some groundbait in case Pete might want to move up into my swim, then went down for another chat.
After a couple of minutes, Pete had a little knock on his left-hand rod, perhaps a fish bumping the line on its way to his right-hand bait, because it was his right-hand rod that pulled over.
Everyone was on tenterhooks as Pete played in the mullet, a fairly-hooked 3:10 ...
I left feeling happy that Pete was getting bites on the pop-up crust having changed over to fishing it consistently, and thinking he stood a good chance of a few more fish as the light faded and the wind was dropping again. Alas it was not to be ... he had more bites but they resulted in a broken trace and a fish around 5lbs but foul-hooked again, this time well back from the chin. "One of those days" doesn't really do it justice.
A mixed bag of stuff here covering the last few days; none really seemed to warrant a blog entry on its own.
On Tuesday I grabbed a couple of hours fishing in Bantry while Sylvi did some shopping and had her hair done. The harbour there has a lot of development work going on, including a new pontoon extension for the old railway pier that is currently being used for the Whiddy Island ferry while construction work goes on around its old berth. Swimming and diving are prohibited from the pontoon, but fishing is allowed ...
I set up with sliding float tackle for mullet on the harbour side of the pontoon towards the end. I plumbed the depth - about 14 feet - so set the float to fish around 12 feet and fished breadflake, dropping in loosefeed.
A couple of guys were fishing from the end of the pontoon. One was getting plenty of mackerel on a set of feathers, the other catching them singly on a Toby-type spoon. So it wasn't a huge surprise when my float first slid under after a few minutes and I struck into ... a mackerel. Two more followed, then a few bites that I missed ... maybe a mullet, but probably more mackerel. Sylvi arrived; I changed to a mackerel-sliver bait which upped the bite rate and she landed a few more till we had enough for a good meal.
On Wednesday I headed to a shallow estuary south-west of us. It had fished really well for mullet early on in the season but really poorly recently. Today it was still carrying a peaty stain, the surface was ruffled by a stiff breeze and there was not a sign of mullet moving around. I feared the worst but I did in fact have a few flurries of bites. I should have done better but ended up with just the one fish, 3lb 6oz ...
Unfortunately soon after landing this one the new tide flooded through the bridge arch into the pool where I was and killed the fishing. I'd normally have moved to fish the shallow flats on the other side of the road with leger tackle, but it was so rough by this stage I decided to give it best.
Thursday was a miserable day weather-wise. It stopped raining late in the afternoon and I spent the evening fishing for mackerel from a local pier ...
The float was one of a batch I'd recently bought online, made by Maver. I've not had a lot of call for big waggler floats since I stopped travelling to Alderney but I saw these and thought they might come in useful here. I remembered being very disappointed with the last few batches of large Middy wagglers I'd used - the stems seemed very fragile and kept snapping on the strike - so I hoped the Maver ones would be more robust. They certainly seem up to the job, though one curious issue is why the 4SSG size apparently takes 5.5SSG shot to cock it properly! Not that I'm complaining, I'd probably have bought a 5 or 6SSG size had it been available, the shot load certainly makes casting the float a doddle and pulls the line through easily till the stop-knot reaches the bottom eye and the float cocks.
Friday was almost a repeat on the weather. This time for my evening session I decided to spin for pollack. There was too much swell running to get onto many of the best rocks, I eventually settled on an area on the south coast where it was just about fishable. I caught a succession of smallish pollack and kept a couple of the better ones, 2 - 3lbs, for a meal. I get the impression bigger pollack are scarcer this year, though in fairness I've not tried a lot having been concentrating mainly on mullet.
Amongst the pollack was a single coalfish about 1.5lbs ... it's early for them, apparently there's a November run (including some bigger fish) that I missed out on completely last year due to work commitments. One of my facebook friends commented that some anglers get muddled up between pollack and coalfish, but when you see them side-by-side the differences are very obvious. He's right, especially the striking difference in the lateral line ...
Today, Saturday, I headed south-west again to fish a pier mark near Mizen Head I've been meaning to visit for ages.
On the way I stopped to dig some lugworm and then again by the estuary I'd fished on Wednesday to have a look. It was now crystal clear having been flushed out by the bigger tides and scores of mullet were visible on the flats that had been too rough to fish - typical!
I moved onto the pier, found via a pleasant walk from the road down what appears to be a private drive, then onto a winding grassy track for the final descent down the cliff.
As with so many piers in Ireland, it rather begs the question, why did somebody bother to build it here? But it certainly makes for a spectacular fishing mark. Off to the right, there were some of the biggest and noisiest seals I've ever met in and out of the sea caves. Out in the bay, harbour porpoises showed from time to time.
Alas the fishing didn't really live up to expectations today. The information on the Sea-Angling-Ireland site suggested I'd be fishing over a mixed bottom with the possibility of thornbacks, plaice and bass as well as rock species, but as far as I could tell it was predominantly rough ground. The lugworm attracted only starfish, I had a couple of small pollack on small sandeel baits, and a bullhuss on launce...