Fishing in Ireland, sea angling

Clare Island

On the ferry out to Clare Island

On the ferry out to Clare Island

Saturday was a beautiful day in the West of Ireland with light winds and high clouds breaking up the sunshine occasionally. The ferry leaves from the busy little pier in Roonagh and we lugged the tackle down the steps and on to the bulky ship full of anticipation. Twenty minutes later we jumped off and took the very short stroll to the end of the pier. Targets for today would be Pollack and maybe some rays or flats on the sandy bottom. This was very easy fishing, no long walks or scary descents to slippery rock ledges. Just drop the lines over the side and see what was down there.

Fishing off the end of the pier

Fishing off the end of the pier

As we were expecting pollack to be living close in to the weeds we all set up with spinning rods and small lures with tiny feathers on a trace. Gentle jigging of this type of arrangement is usually effective, as are the newer weighted shads. A couple of small Pollack were soon hoisted up from the depths.

A smallish Pollack for Kirsten

A smallish Pollack for Kirsten

Chris’s rod gave a kick and bent into something a bit more substancial which turned out to be a female Ballan Wrasse. Not long after Kirsten did the same and over the day we landed 4 or 5 of these lovely fish,

Ballan Wrasse

Ballan Wrasse

By 1pm the tide was slack and the fishing slowed to a halt. Time to take a wander around for a pint and a bite to eat. We sat outside admiring the view back to the mainland and generally putting the world to rights.

A fellow angler had kindly given us some spare bait so I set up a bottom rod when we got back tot he pier around 2.30pm. The squid bait was lobbed out to the sand and left to attract whatever was lurking on or near the bottom. I like squid very much, it is tough (so it doesn’t fly off the hook when casting) and has a powerful scent which I think is good for attracting fish. Some light taps came to nothing and I was just thinking about reeling in to check if the baits were still there when a much more definite bite developed. I held off striking until the fish had taken the bait properly, then lifted the rod. The fish was obviously not big and soon the shape of a small ray appeared below the surface.

Small Thornback Ray just about to go back

Small Thornback Ray just about to go back

He was quickly unhooked and released. New baits were soon on the bottom again and soon after a positive knock on the rod indicated more action. This time it was another of our old friends the Lesser Spotted Dogfish. I find it hard to dislike these wee pests, on some days they are the only fish willing to bite.

A steady stream of small Pollack and Wrasse kept us busy during the afternoon. While it was far from hectic sufficient fish grabbed the lures and baits to keep us happy and the views around us of the bustling harbour and the distant mainland were a constant distraction. all too soon it was time to pack up and trot back along the pier to the ferry.

There are numerous rock marks around the island for those who want to explore further, so why not make the journey west and try out Clare Island? You may not catch any record fish but you will have a day to remember.

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Me with a wrasse

One of the ferries

One of the ferries

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, trolling

Visitors

So my mate and his daughter were in Ireland this week and we did a bit of fishing together. I met up with Chris down in Cork and we fished in the sea at a few marks down there before heading up to Mayo where we trolled for Pike and also had a trip to Clare Island and fished off the pier there. Let’s start off down in County Cork………….

Chris tackling up beside the camper van

Chris tackling up beside the camper van

A few pints in the local pubs were required for us to catch up and decide on a plan. We finally settled on the rough shore marks of Dursey Sound at the extreme end of the Beara peninsular. Deep water and rough ground pointed to the probable presence of Pollack with maybe the chance of a huss or conger on the bottom to bait. Dursey island is connected to the mainland via Ireland’s only cable car.

We toyed with the idea of going over to the island and trying the near virgin marks there but long queues for the cable car put us off. Instead we fished 2 or 3 marks on the mainland below the rusting pylons. Chris was first in action with a couple of small pollack taken by spinning as close as he dare to the reefs.

Chris first in action

Chris was first in action

I eventually found the right depth and we had a hectic 30 minutes when it was virtually a fish every cast, mainly Pollack and one solitary Mackerel.

Spinning from a rocky ledge

Spinning from a rocky ledge

The fish seemed to go off the feed as it neared low water so we packed up and headed further down the coast to try our luck elsewhere. Chris reckoned that there was a good mark on Sheepshead so we drove down there and finally located the pier in question.

As usual, dogfish were never far away!

As usual, dogfish were never far away!

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This was very comfortable fishing as we drove to the end of the pier and simply lobbed our baits into deep water. A mixed bag of Mackerel and Pollack fell to various lures and feathers, while a dogfish snaffled some sandeel bait on the bottom. By 8pm we were getting weary and decided to head back to the campsite for a bite to eat.

The next day we tried for a Bass on a nice strand but met with no success. The long road back to Mayo beckoned and all too soon we said goodbye to County Cork.

Trying for an elusive Bass

Trying for an elusive Bass

Friday afternoon found us trolling for Pike. Five minutes after we started Kirsten hood a fish and it was soon in the net, a fish of about 4 pounds maybe. More followed, including the smallest Pike I have ever seen (sorry Chris)

Chris's monster Pike

Chris’s monster Pike

The weather forecast was for a poor day on Sunday so we decided to head over to Clare Island on Saturday. I will tell you all about that in my next post.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing, wetfly

Beltra seeing an increase in sport

The high water earlier this week has allowed a run of both salmon and sea trout to come up the Newport River and into Lough Beltra. I have not been out yet but you can follow reports on the Genisland Coop FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lough-Beltra/380982678740593?fref=nf

Beltra sunset

At this time of year smaller flies will work better, so salmon patterns tied on size 8 or 10 trout hooks will do the business for you.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Grilse still in short supply

July is often a wet month in Mayo. A little rain fell on Tuesday night and some more as the Wednesday morning wore on, so I decided it was worth a look at a small river I sometimes fish in North Mayo. Expecting a small rise in the water I was instead confronted with a bank high flood upon arrival. Bits of trees and other rubbish were being washed down river and I tackled up thinking I may have hit the water at exactly the right time (for a change). I marked the edge of the water where I entered it with a stick so I could see if the water was rising or falling.

stick

My stick to mark water level

A size 8 Tailfire and a Silver Garry were first up on the cast and I edged into the stream, feeling the pull of the flow and the gravel moving beneath my feet. Due to the high water I used a sinking line to try to get down a little. The rain was lightler now so I was hopeful the river would start to drop soon. Debris in the water was a real pain in the posterior and the flies had to be cleaned every few casts. No fish were showing but that is to be expected in high water and I fished down the initial short stretch without a stir. Other anglers were now appearing as word that the river had risen passed through the neighbourhood, mainly armed with worms and Flying ‘C’s. The rain kept falling…………..

Very high water

Very high water

I persevered for a while but the water level was still rising, albeit quite slowly. Salmon fishers will agree that a rising river is the hardest to catch fish on and today proved to be no difference. Rain further up the catchment area was still filling the river when I thought it would be dropping and any salmon who were there are running hard.

The gusty wind would die then spring up again and I mistimed a cast just as a gust blew up, landing my cast in a thicket of bushes behind me. I snapped the leader trying to pull them out so I marked the spot to retrieve the flies later. My arthritic ankles are in agony (deep wading seems to upset them no end) so I decide to exit the water and get back on to dry land.

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It’s time to rethink tactics so I headed off to a local pub for a pint and a chat with Ben (who was also fishing). Guinness is great for relaxing the mind and after a pint of porter and a final check of the river (still rising) it was unanimously agreed that operations would cease immediately and resume early the next morning.

next morning………………….

The alarm goes off and I hop out of bed to check the weather. No water in the little bucket I keep outside the back door meaning there was no further rain overnight. There is a a thick blanket of clouds and a steady westerly breeze. It is pleasantly warm already and my mind is made up-  time to get back over to the river! Country roads are quiet at this time of the day and I make good progress through the early mist. The river has dropped almost back to normal summer level and has thankfully cleared of the floating sticks and leaves which were such a pain yesterday.

I turn off the engine and start to tackle up. My jacket is still wet through from yesterday evening and it is unpleasant pulling it on. The sinking line set up is too heavy for the lower water level today so I change to a floating line and size 10 flies. Over the gate and down the lane, disturbing some cattle in the field who look less than pleased at my intrusion. More anglers appear downstream of me; it looks like I was not the only one with the alarm set this morning!

 A local spinning

A local spinning

I fish down a couple of pools without a touch then wade across the river and try my luck in a normally productive deep hole. A worm fisher is fishing there with a great bunch of lobworms suspended under a pike float. Gruff greetings are exchanged and it is clear he is fishless too. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve – the cycle continues as I fish steadily down to the tail of the pool. Still no signs of life and this is looking increasingly worrying. The flood of yesterday was sure to bring up some fresh grilse but nobody is catching them. I speak to another local who has been here since first light and we compare excuses (mine are definitely better than his in my opinion).

I decide to head way up river in case the fish have made a dash upstream in the high water. A short drive along some narrow, twisty roads brings me to a parking spot and I tackle up again. Swallows are darting around and a lark is high in the sky. The heavy black shape of a cormorant takes off from the big holding pool and turns towards the sea.

I walk up to the top of the fishable water and start casting. I fish through the best parts of the pool and again see no signs of life at all. I reach a narrow deeper section and hook a small Sea Trout on the dropper. At last, something to reel in! I noticed a second sub-surface flash when the sea trout took me and presume this is another trout which has grabbed at the tail fly (I have a size 10 Black Pennel on the dropper and a size 14 Black and Gold shrimp on the tail). The Sea Trout puts up a spirited scrap but it is soon obvious there is another fish on the tail fly after all. After a minute the Sea Trout has tired and I pull him towards me only for him to shoot off in the opposite direction – what ever is on the tail is much stronger. I pull back and a fresh grilse takes to the air. This should be interesting!

The fight takes longer than it should as every time the grilse tired the Sea Trout would waken up and splash around in front of him. Finally I drew both fish over the rim of the net. The Sea Trout was hooked under the chin and was quickly released back into the river. Mercifully there were only a few lice on him.

The cheeky Sea trout being unhooked before release

The cheeky Sea trout being unhooked before release

The salmon had swallowed the shrimp and I could only just make out the eye of the hook away down the fish’s throat. A nice fresh grilse of around 4 pounds.

I fished on for a while but decided it was getting a bit crowded (word had spread rapidly of my success) so I went down to a pool I like, well away from the hustle and bustle. This is a tiny wee pool which most angler walk past without realising there is a good salmon lie there. Getting into the river here requires a leap of faith as the vegetation is dense and I have to slide down a bank into the water through 6 foot high reeds.

about to drop into the river through the reeds

About to drop into the river through the reeds

I fish down the pool without success but I am nearly back at the spot where I lost the flies last night. I wade across and fish down the run while at the same time looking into the dense undergrowth for my missing flies. Sure enough, I spot the Cascade first and manage to collect both it and the Pennel. Just as importantly I gather up the leader to prevent any wee creatures becoming entangled.

With some pressing jobs to take care of at home I call it a day and walk back to the car. Once again the fly scored when spinner and worm failed to produce. I am convinced that the ability to control the speed and depth of the fly gives it a huge advantage over other methods.

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If we get some more rain I will be out with rod and line over the weekend.

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bait fishing, Fishing in Ireland, sea trout fishing

Sea trout in the Moy estuary

Killala in North Couty Mayo is a pretty little place with windy roads and old stone buildings.It’s a pleasant place to visit at any time, but yesterday we were in Killala on a mission – to catch some sea trout in the Moy estuary. Three amigos  gathered on the quay, Ben, Ronnie and yours truely.

Ben, Ronnie and me

Ben, Ronnie and me

I have done a lot of estuary sea trout fishing over the years, mainly back in Scotland when we used small flies and silvery spinners, but here on the Moy we would be using natural bait in the form of sandeels to tempt the fish.

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A sandeel mounted ready for use

The basic concept is very simple, a sandeel is mounted on two hooks, a short shanked size 10 single and a size 16 treble. It is then cast out and either allowed to drift down with the current or very slowly retrieved back to the boat. I would love to wax lyrical about the intricacies of this method but there are none. Just pop a sandeel on the hooks, cast it in and let it drift away on the current. If you get a bite open the bail arm and let the trout get a good hold of the bait before striking. A light spinning rod and 6 pound breaking strain line are all you need.

Malcolm

Malcolm

We had booked a day with Malcolm and as soon as our gear was stowed on his boat we headed off down the channel and into the bay. Within 10 minutes of casting off from the harbour we were fishing. With so much water to pick from local knowledge is vital for success. Just finding the trout is the hard part but Malcolm has years of experience and he soon put us over some feeding sea trout. Sadly our striking left a lot to be desired and we could only manage a couple of trout for the whole day despite a good number of bites.

freelining a sandeel bait

freelining a sandeel bait

The tide fairly rips in and out of the estuary as there is an average 4 metre difference between high and low water. We had started two hours after high water so the water was flowing out of the estuary in the morning and back in again in the afternoon. our biggest problem was weed – that stinking, soft brown stuff which clogs your gear and is a royal pain to remove. It was not too bad in the morning but the afternoon fishing was all but halted due to the smelly stuff.

Spinning does account for sea trout too and a small ‘krill’ type lure does well. Malcolm finds that spinners get a lot of follows but the ratio of hook ups is very low with most of the trout simply following the lure without taking it. We had fly rods with us hoping we would have a chance to chuck some fluff at the fish but alas this was not to be.

Fishing ceases at high and low water when the flow stops altogether. We used that time to have a stroll on Bartra Island, admiring the wonderful view and taking some photos. We also caught some sandeels for bait in the afternoon, Malcolm showing us how to handle the small net in a quiet backwater close to the harbour. There were an awful lot of very small eel and only a few mature ones but we got enough to keep us supplied for the afternoon session.

netting sandeels for bait

netting sandeels for bait

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Once we had sorted out the bait it was time for a short break and we nipped over to Bartraw Island. The island changes shape depending on the wind and currents and the view from the top is breathtaking. After admiring the scenery for a while it was back to the fishing again but despite numerous follows and bites we could not add to the 2 fish we had caught in the morning. Typical of sea trout – they can be impossible to catch one tide and yet throw themselves at any old lure the next.

Entrance to Killala harbour

Entrance to Killala harbour

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