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.
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.