Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Who let the dogs out?


Bank holiday weekend and the calm weather has continued here in the West, so I decided to try a new mark for me, Little Killary. With Google Earth consulted and the mountain of gear packed in the car the night before, all that remained was to sort out some food to take with me and I was off on the road South just after first light. I knew I was going to be too early but I wanted to get  look at the mark at low water. I need not have bothered as it is very straight forward, deep water to close in and a sandy bottom once you are past the kelp on the edge – period.


The Irish countryside is looking its best right now after the long settled spell. Roadside ferns turned lustrous copper, birches still clothed in golden olive leaves and mountain ashes heavy with vermilion berries. I crossed the Errif near Carrowkennedy, it’s so low I could have walked across it dry shod in places. On then through Leenaun and along the side of Killary before branching off on to the road past Culfin. Such a shame to see this fishery with those damnable cages plonked right in the middle of the lough. The roads narrowed appreciably as I got nearer to the diving centre and destination, the carpark at Glassillaune. Once I pulled up it was only a few minutes work to sort out layers of clothes and swing the heavy tackle box onto my back. Then a scramble along the shore to the mark itself, an open and exposed rock ledge but easy to fish on a windless day like today. The views across Little Killary were stunning.


As expected, it was approaching dead low as I tackled up so expectations were not high. A pendulum rig with Mackerel bait was tossed 70 yards out and left to its own devices while I got my bearings. Checking out the rocks to my left I found a couple of other platforms but none were as comfortable as the one I was already on so I made my self at home and had a coffee while tinkering with some rigs in the box. About an hour after I had started things began to get interesting. A good solid take and run failed to turn into a fish but the bait had gone when I reeled in. Re-baiting I cast into the same area, roughly 100 yards out and there was an immediate response from a fish. A rattle on the rod was followed by slack line and picking up I momentarily contacted something before everything went slack again. This was getting frustrating! More bait and a change to a larger hook seemed to be required.


The change up to a 3/0 Aberdeen did the trick and I struck the next bite hard, putting a nice bend in the beachcaster. Not much of a fight though and it soon became clear the doggies were out to play.


The next hour or so brought more Lesser Spots, all safely returned of course. The mark simply screamed Thornbacks to me but there was no sign of any rays, just dogs. As quickly as they appeared the dogs moved on and everything went quiet again. Time for another cuppa.


I set up the spinning rod while having my coffee and commenced operations with it only to find the 20grm lure was taking too long to get down deep. I switched to a 30 gram Dexter Wedge and that helped me to get down much more easily. By now the wind had picked up and I changed the plain lead on the beachcaster for a gripper to help me to hold the bottom.



Annoying rattles indicated that the crabs had woken up and were robbing my bait almost as soon as it hit the sand. I normally counter these pesky critters by enveloping my mackerel in squid which is much tougher but I had forgotten to bring any with me in my rush to get out of the house in the morning.


Before the crab attacks


After the crabs have had a go!

Eventually a mackerel grabbed one of my feathers and was kept for the freezer. A gap of maybe an hour then ensued before three mackerel in three consecutive casts brightened up the day. One of them was the skinniest mackerel I have ever seen!



The east wind swung through 180 degrees in the space of a few minutes and a fresh westerly started to blow into the bay. The tide was making rapidly too and some bites produced another dog and a smallish pollock to the bait rod.









High tide was late in the afternoon so I decided to call it a day rather than wait for the ebb and the onset of darkness. It would probably have been the best part of the day but I was getting tired and had no lights with me. The way back to the car was not very hard but I had to cross a number of old ‘lazy beds’. Chances are these had been abandoned during the famine in the 1840’s.20161030_1551101

From the car park I looked out on Glassillaun Bay, reportedly a good winter mark. It looks worth a throw on a night tide when the Whiting are in.



Tired and hungry, I swung the wheel and backed out on to the narrow road. While I had not broken any records or landed anything huge or interesting it was still a great day to be out and about on the shore. It is definitely a mark which is worth another visit this autumn and I mulled  over the possibilities as the the westering sun sank behind the reek.



Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

North Mayo shore report

The West of Ireland has been blessed with settled weather for the last week or so. With a forecast of continued good weather for this weekend we decided to head back up to the North Mayo coast again to try our luck in the briny. Blind Harbour was selected as the starting point for the day and we tackled up soon after  9am on Saturday. Chilly but dry, we rock-hopped out to a point and began spinning and feathering in the clear Atlantic water. Outside the bay the swell created some surf on the rocky headlands bu we were sheltered and treated to perfect conditions. Vivid russet ferns on the far shore lent an autumnal feel to the scene, complimenting the nippy air perfectly. One of those mornings it was just damn good to be out in the fresh air.


Slow fishing meant our attention wandered a bit and Ben headed of across a field to scout along the coast a bit for a new mark. He had been gone for only five minutes when the rod in my hand was pulled visiously down and a powerful fish took off for the inner bay at a rate of knots. He only got about 20 yards away when that all too familiar dead feeling was transmitted up the line – snagged on a bottom. Ben came back intime to wintness the unequal battle between me and the unseen rock. All the ususl tricks were tried but nothing was going to dislodge the fish and in the end the trace snapped just above the Connemara Krill bait.

We fished on for a while until high water then suspended operations to discuss tactics. We had failed to  catch fish on the rising ide so it was unlikely the dropping tide wold be much better. We opted on cutting our losses and trying another mark. I suggested Portacloy, further along the coast and somewhere that Ben had never fished before. Time to saddle up………..

Now Portacloy is a funny place. Even by Mayo standards it is very difficult to find. Its near neighbour, Porturlin, is signposted but Portacloy secretively hides along at the end of an unmarked road. To fortify us while tracking down the mark we stopped off in Bangor for a bite of breakfast. It never ceases to amaze me how even a couple of hours in the fresh air sharpens your appetite! Mushrooms, eggs, chips etc were washed down with a rare cup of coffee and the world seemed to be a better place. Back in the van we swung a right just to the west of Bangor and negotiated the ever more pot-holed road roughly north by east until we eventually arrived at: Porturlin. Something had gone amiss in our direction finding! Since we were there we hopped out and took a look around the harbour. There may be some marks around there but after taking some photos we accosted a local for directions then re-traced our steps back to the ‘main road’.





Arriving at Portacloy we parked up above the outer pier.20161022_124803

I need to expain a bit about these marks as they are a bit unusual. For some reason there are two small piers a couple of hundred yards apart. They are both roughly yhte same size and design and point in the same direction. the really odd thing is that they are both covered in water at high tide. Why anyone would build two half submereged piers is beyond me, but that is eactly what we have up there. the marks fish best at high water, meaning the only wat to stay dry and fish is to walk out on the high wall which is about  feet wide and slippery in wet weather. As the tide drops you can drop down on to the flat pier itself but in my limited experience by the time you do that the fish have moved out of the bay again.


Above: the outer pier at half tide. That’s my tackle box plonked at the far end!

So what can you expect to catch of these strange marks? The answer is just about anything. Mackerel, Pollock and Flounder are the main targets but Gurnards, small rays, saithe, and dabs can all turn up too. I prefer to fish a 3 hook flapper rig here with small (size 1) hooks and tiny slivers of bait. Don’t expect any big fish here, just a mixture of smaller stuff.

Plans to lure a couple of mackerel for use as bait had of course flopped and we had to share the solitary frozen mackerel between us as bait. Plenty of shirring elastic was used to secure the small bits of flesh to the hooks and my fist gentle lob placed the three hooks in some rough ground 60 yards out. A large shoal of mullet sauntered slowly past me just below the surface. I rarely both fishing for mullet but maybe I should give them more attention, they are fine looking fish. looking up form the water My rod tip was bouncing like a mad thing. grabbing it I waited for the next pull – nothing. I held on the the rod for a few minutes and sure enough another bite registered. I struck but missed. Winding in I checked the baits (all good) and recast to the same spot. More bites and more missed fish so I changed the hooks up in size and re-baited. This time there was no immediate response so I left the beachcaster down picked up the spinning rod to try for Mackerel.Diligently covering the water in front of me proved to be remarkably unsuccessful until, just as one cast fished out I caught sight of a large Garfish right on the tail of my lure. It turned away at the last second, a lightning flash of silver the best part of three feet long. So close!


A shout from the other pier and a heafty Pollock was lifted from the water on Bens rod. Nice fish. Soon it was my turn and a good Pollock put up the usual resistanve before coming to hand.


By now the tide had dropped sufficiently to allow me to hp down to the main part and fish more safely. I started to search the water further out with each successive cast, putting a bit more effort into the 4 ounce beachcaster with every throw. Another Pollock, this time a little smaller than the first fell to the frozen mackerel but by now we were both pretty much out of bait. I fished for a while with jelies but without a touch. Time to call it a day.


I have a sneaking suspicion that Portacloy could fish into the winter with whiting being the target species. There could be sea trout to be caught off the sand too. For now, we headed back to Castlebar via the West End Bar in Bangor and a fine pint of porter while chatting to Seamus there. All in all, a grand day was had.




Fishing in Ireland, sea angling

A late report on Westport sea angling

Only catching my breath now after a somewhat manic weekend last weekend. A well-earned night away in Galway was followed with a day’s sea angling out of Westport and then a dash to Aberdeen. I will spare you the grizzly details of the night in Galway but here is a quick report on Westport sea angling.


This trip was hastily arranged by Pat McHale and bore the hallmarks of a social occasion rather than a serious angling trip. Some of Castlebar’s finest threw their names into the ring and in the end 7 of us convened in The Helm on the quay in Westport on Sunday morning. Breakfast was greedily consumed and the banter was in full flow before the last sausage had been swallowed. Charlie, our skipper for the day appeared at the door and proceeded to round us up like a good sheepdog working a flock of errant ewes. Chastised, we headed for the pier and the ‘White Sea Horse’ which was berthed half way along.


Charlie (on the right) chatting with Hughie

There are only 2 charter boats working out of Westport now and these cater as much for non-anglers who just fancy giving a go feathering for mackerel when on holiday in the town as the serious sea anglers. You can hire tackle etc. on these boats which was just as well as some of our gang turned up sans rod, sans reel, sans just about everything and got the gear from Charlie. I, of course, turned up armed to the teeth and capable of taking on anything from herring to halibut. It turned out I need not have bothered with so much ironmongery.

One of the joys of Clew Bay is the spectacular scenery and as the mist rose we were treated to some glorious views of Mayo in its finest. The reek was clear but mist wreathed Clare Island and the whole north coast of the bay. Soon after clearing Bertra we were joined by a pod of dolphins who played in our wake or a while. I tried to capture a few pics without success but Kev caught them on video:

Out past the South of Clare Island we dropped lines and tried for Mackerel but instead encountered smallish Pollock hard on the bottom. Shifting to a new mark the same scenario was repeated, then again and so on until eventually we started to hit better sized Pollok and the odd Cod. I mixed things up a bit by boating a pretty little Cuckoo Wrasse.


The interesting thing was that colour of the feathers we used seemed to matter. Black or white feathers were the most successful early on in the day but by lunchtime these were shunned and greens, blues and luminous hokis took most of the fish. Charlie reckoned the water was a bit coloured and that was why the blacks and whites were successful.

The crew were sounding decidedly mutinous as the day wore on, the idea of a few pints in the hotel on Clare Island gathered momentum but Charlie staved the insurrection off by cunningly providing a huge pot of stew for all hands. By now we were in the midst of a large shoal of good sized Pollock and every drop was greeted with a gratifying thump and one or sometimes two nice Pollock coming up to the boat. Most were safely released but I kept a few for the freezer. The other lads had been steadily filling a box at the other end of the boat.


I passed on the stew, I was having too much fun with the coppery Pollock right then. None of them could be described as leviathans, just your normal Clew Bay fish of two or three pounds. But I love Pollock, that powerful first dive when they feel the hook still thrills me even after a lifetime of catching these game wee fish. The fact that they also make excellent eating is a great bonus too. Here in Ireland there seems to be a resistance to eating Pollock, something which baffles me. Their firm white flesh is excellent when eaten fresh from the sea and is only slightly inferior from the freezer. Plain grilled, pan fried in olive oil, baked with white wine and tarragon or even with coconut oil, lime juice and ginger, I enjoy this fish cooked in all manner of ways.


A few Saithe put in an appearance and I kept a couple of them for making fish cakes. These are another vastly under-rated fish and while the grey flesh looks particularly unappetising when raw it cooks well and makes the best fish cakes ever.


I thought that feeding the hoard would stem any thoughts of additional beer, but no, the cry went up again – Clare Island! Charlie eventually relented and we wound in and headed East. While the lads stomped off in the direction of the hotel I set about filleting the catch. My preferred tool for this type of work is an old carbon steel knife which my father gave to me many a long year ago. I’d say it dates from the late ‘60’s and it still takes a good edge with a few brisk swipes of a stone. The gory work progressed at a steady pace and most of the catch was reduced to a pile of block fillets by the time the revellers returned to the boat and the journey home to Westport.


The eastern sky was dark by the time we tied up at dead low water in Westport and the air was turning cold again. I was setting off for Scotland in the early hours so I left the lads to enjoy a final dram to round off the day. It had been a good day with plenty of sport but surprisingly we did not encounter a single mackerel. I had badly wanted a few both for eating and as bait for the next few weeks but it was not to be and the commercial boys have cleaned the bay out of macks once again. Looking into the future it is hard to see how the species can survive such heavy pressure, surely there is a limit to how many fish can be taken?


At home I washed the rods and reels out by rinsing them in the shower, failure to do this will cost you dear. A sized reel is no fun so simply running warm water over everything after a day in the boat is a small price to pay. I make sure the rollers on the rod receive the same treatment as they can stick and wear your expensive braid in no time at all.

Chores completed I put my feet up for a while before retiring to bed. The alarm went of at 2.15am, time to head across the North Channel and back to my homeland.