Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Bank holiday action

It is a Bank Holiday weekend here in Ireland and after some strenuous chores in and around the house yesterday I had earned sufficient brownie points to head of for some fishing today. The decision on where to go and indeed what to fish for, was left to the last minute. In the end I plumped for Killery and we drove down the winding miles with a fair degree of optimism for the day ahead. This was despite fishing over low water and the lack of any positive reports there were fish in the area. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut feeling, don’t you?

I have to say that he weather forecast did not inspire confidence with heavy rain spreading to the west according to those who should know about such matters. Low cloud draped itself over the mountains all the way from Westport to the harbour, hiding the sunshine and adding to the sense of grandure. Tourists milled around the only street in Leenaun, most of them sensibly clad in brightly coloured waterproofs. Tour buses disgorged their cargo at the usual spots where the breathtaking views of sea and mountain are snapped again and again. A land of endless selfie opportunities. The rain started just as we turned off the main Clifden road and it steadily increased in volume as the wriggled along the narrow track to the edge of the sea.

The chosen mark is only one field away from the car park so even I could manage that short distance. The tackle box, which had felt relatively light when I stowed in the car at home now felt like a ton weight as I tramped through the sodden grass and thistles. On reaching the mark we found three other anglers were already busy with bait and lures. It quickly became apparent they had no success so far though.

Fellow anglers on the mark

I’ve fished here many times before and knew what the likely target species would be – rays and dogfish. That means big smelly baits fished hard on the bottom and we were suitably prepared for that with some frozen sandeels. I tackled up 2 beachcasters and got to work. Baits out, I poured myself a cup of coffee and waited. The rain got heavier.

As it turned out I didn’t have to wait too long. A sharp pull on the 4 ounce rod was the first indication of interest so I let the fish have some time and did nothing bar hold the rod and tighten up the slack line. Minutes passed before the second tug and the rod gave a few nods indicating the ray had actually taken the bait. Safely ashore she was unhooked and returned to the water with little fuss. Not a bad start! By now the rain had assumed monsoon like proportions.

The tide was dropping fast, exposing more and more of the rocks below us. There was still enough of a flow to keep the fish interested and a small LSD was soon brought to hand. The bite from these wee pests is very different to the slow motion take of the ray, more of a rattle than a bite. Minding my hands and keeping the tail under control so he could not wrap himself around my hand the hook was quickly extracted and he was put back into the sea.

OK, so not the best photo of a dogfish but you get the idea

Unbelievably, the rain got even heavier and we hunkered down with our backs to the weather. Bites were coming pretty much to every cast but the fish were shy and only nipping at the baits. To cut a long story short I managed another couple of dogfish either side of dead low water. The rain eventually cleared and blue sky peeped through the clouds for an hour or so. Ben took advantage of the improved climatic conditions to have a sleep on the grass. Unfortunately, the drier weather brought out the midges in force and no amount of Jungle Formula kept the little pests at bay. I was being eaten alive! Just as we were getting used to the nice weather (if not the midges) the sun was chased away by the next band of precipitation.

Like a baby in his cradle……………

It was decision time, the weather was closing in fast and it looked like it would turn nasty. On the other hand the tide was rising and there was every chance the fish would waken up and show more interest in our offerings. In the end we cut our losses and packed up, the rain hammering down on us by the time we had gained the track leading to the car.

Killery looks almost tropical in the brief spell of sunshine

All in all it had been a good trip with a few fish to show for our efforts. The much maligned dogfish had helped to save the day and this year above all others they have been a welcome catch with little else available to us anglers.

The rain was never far away today

The lesson for anyone fishing on the Mayo coast at the time of the year is to keep the bait firmly on the bottom. Dogfish are present in numbers and even if nothing more exciting turns up you can bank on the good old LSD to keep you busy. The other anglers who fished the same mark had no success at all but they were float fishing and spinning with large paddletails. Both methods are fine where there are big pollock close to the shore but this is a mark for bottom living species.

All of this rain means there is a chance of a grilse on the spate rivers tomorrow. I wonder how many brownie points I still have in the bank?

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trolling, trout fishing

Getting ready

‘Tis the end of January and the time to prepare for the upcoming season is upon us game anglers in Ireland. I know that some early rivers opened weeks ago but for me and most of the lads I fish with the months of February and March mark the true beginning of another year on the water. In truth, I have been fiddling away all winter getting my tired old gear (both fresh and salt water) into better shape. There is something very satisfying about doing these small jobs, a feeling of pent up excitement mingled with the realism that previous poor seasons have beaten you down with. Hope springs eternal in the heart of every fisher. Here are some of the tasks which I have either completed or am still in the middle of.

fly lines hanging up

Rods have all been checked and any minor repairs such as re-whipping rings undertaken. With so little fishing done last season there were no issues on this front other than cleaning some muck and scales from the sea rods. I always give my rods and reels a good hose down with fresh water after a day’s sea angling but even still there seem to be scales and slime lodged in some nooks and crannies. The rollers on my boat rod also got a bit of lubrication while I was at it. The fly rods just required nothing more than a cursory wipe down as the rings, handles and reel seats were all in good nick.

Looking after reels is a big job when you own as many as I do. Regular readers will be aware that I have been re-building some old multipliers this winter, something I find deeply satisfying. I’ve also cleaned and lubricated all my other reels so they are fit for the rigours of the new season. I know that some anglers send their reels off to have this job carried out for them but I like to do it myself and it engenders a degree of confidence in my tackle if I know how they work and that I have the oil and grease in the right place (and in the right amount). Mine are all in fine fettle now and ready for the off next month.

Fly lines which had been unwound from the reels and cleaned in October are now being loaded back on to the self same reels, a laborious job punctuated by swearing at the not infrequent knots I seem to incur. I am thinking about investing in some new fly lines as most of mine are many years old now. The bewildering array of tapers and densities mean I have to do my homework first though. Why is fishing so complicated these days?

A big chunk of my winter evening were spent sorting out and fixing my unfeasably large collection of baits what with cleaning them and fitting new hooks and swivels. That task was completed a couple of weeks ago bar a few strays which keep cropping in in jacket pockets, old tobacco tins and other odd corners.

I also rationalised the boxes of baits so I know where most things are. The same went for the other small items such as swivels and hooks. Hopefully the unedifying sight of me tipping the contents of my bag out on to the bottom of the boat to track down missing items is not going to be repeated this coming season!

Speaking about the bags, I gave the various tackle bags a good clean and then reorganised them all. Fishermen’s tackle bags are akin to Pandora’s box, opening them up unleashes powerful forces, especially smells. When going through the contents of my old blue bag I found gear I’ve been lugging around for years which were never used, so a drastic reorganisation was called for.

I have owned my black shore fishing tackle box for a few years but have never really managed to organise it properly. It is either overloaded and unwieldy or spartan to the point where it contains nothing that I need. I can’t find that happy medium it seems. I’m now contemplating an internal modular system so that I can switch it around depending on what type of fish I am after on any given day. For example, there is no point in lugging float tackle with me when I am fishing off a beach. It needs more thought but I need to be better organised that I am just now. I must ‘7S’ my black box!

It looks OK in this shot but trust me, this shore fishing box is a perpetual disaster area

One change I am going to make this coming season is to carry a few made up leaders with me. This is a simple expedient to work around my failing eyesight and reduce lost time on the bank. Many years ago I was drifting the west shore of Lough Conn one May morning when I happened across some rising trout. Earlier that day I had tied on a leader from my bulging cast wallet. A nice sized trout walloped my tail fly and soon after setting the hook he jumped and the leader parted at the knot. Annoyed at myself for tying a shoddy half blood I tidied up the end of the leader and tied on another fly. Fish were all around me now and I placed the fly perfectly in front of a cruising fish a few casts later. The offer was accepted and a large wild trout set off at pace for the deep water close by. My smile faded quickly from my face when that fish snapped me too. Winding in a gave the leader a tug and it snapped like cotton thread. The nylon had aged in the years that leader must have been lurking in the cast wallet. Lesson learned, I vowed then and there to stop carrying made up leaders and I have stuck to that rigidly – until now. From now on, the simple expedient of scribbling a date on the cast carrier will let me know how old the leader is and when I should dispose of them.

Conn shoreline

The various fly boxes are looking a bit healthier now after some fly tying over the winter months. After a bit of rationalisation I was able to ditch two boxes that I used to take on trips to the rivers for trout. That still leaves me with six boxes though!

There is time yet to tie up a few more killer patterns and the only type I feel seriously under gunned is emergers. I’ll rattle up a few this week and have them ready for those exciting days when the fish are on the top of the water and flies are hatching. With a storm blowing outside and the windows rattling those balmy days seem a long way off. I will also tie up some shrimp copies for the trout. With so little in the way of fly life last year I will make more effort to fish deep with grammus patterns this time around. While I do a fair bit of deep nymphing I am planning a much more targeted approach with a greater focus on shrimps rather than stoneflys and empherid nymphs which seem to be in such short supply these days.

So while the days oh so gradually lengthen I will continue my making and mending, fiddling and foostering and generally edging my way towards the new season in the sure and certain hope that there will be some days in amongst the blanks.

The boat and engines need some work but I’ll go over them in another post.

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sea angling, shore fishing

Recycled reels

In a previous post I discussed my odd obsession for Winfield multiplier reels. I had a large bag of spare parts in a drawer which I have been meaning to investigate for a long time. Being on holiday now I had some time on my hands so I emptied out the bag and poked around to see if I could build a complete reel from the parts.

Because I am frequently messing about with old tackle I keep a tool box filled with the tools I need in the fishing room. There is nothing fancy in this box, just the usual range of screwdrivers, small spanners, punches and files but it is nice to have them all in one place so I know where everything is. The same goes for the assorted cleaning agents and lubricants.

There were a number of parts from old Bassfisher multipliers so I started cleaning them up and laid out all the good bits in order. One of the main drives was busted but the other one was in good condition after it was cleaned and greased. Frame parts were cleaned up using a bath of vinegar and scrubbed with an old toothbrush. I pepped up the vinegar by adding a couple of teaspoons of baking powder as this seems to speed up the process of removing the gunk. The cross bars had mostly shed their chrome finish but the brass underneath will cope with all I plan to use this old composite reel for. The end result, while far from perfect, is a serviceable reel.

The completed Bassfisher

Next, I attempted to make one reel from what appeared to be the parts of at least three different shore caster/surf casters. An end plate and drive had to be completely stripped and various parts replaced. The wrong screws had been used by someone in the past so that gave me a few headaches as I searched for the correct ones and cut down a couple of oversized screws to make up the balance. The drag didn’t work so that had to be taken apart and different washers fitted. The anti-reverse spring was missing but I had a spare so I popped that in.

There was no ratchet on the opposite end plate and this is a problem as the ratchet button is riveted in. I had a near complete end plate with a ratchet from a Surf caster and they are the same size so I used that instead. Once again, the finished reel was fully functional and will live in the back of the car as a spare in case of emergency. I will give them both a final lubrication and clean then spool some new line on to them in the morning.

Why bother? That’s probably what you are all thinking as you read this post. You can buy a cheap reel for a few Euro these days and I could have saved myself the hassle and cursing as I spent an afternoon messing about with the old bits of 1970’s reels. The thing is that I get enjoyment from little projects like this, making something useful from a pile of old junk.

The next day……………….

There was an elderly and much abused Woolworths levelwind reel in with the rest of my junk so I decided to try to resurrect this one too. There were obviously some parts missing and one end plate was badly cracked. The reel would barely turn and it emitted a horrible grinding noise when you did get the handle to turn. Removing the spool end float the cause of the noise became obvious. The cracked end plate had been allowing salt water directly into the bearing, causing the grease to emulsify and the bearing to dry out. The bearing was trashed.

Emulsified grease in the spool bearing

The ‘bag of bits’ came to the rescue and I had a near complete end plate and bearing assembly which I could simply swap into place. Cosmetically it meant the reel now had one side black and the other green but I am guessing the fish won’t mind a jot.

cracked end plate

Next I took a look at the drive and was horrified to see the previous owner had smathered the whole inside of the reel with thick red grease
(‘smather’ seems to be a west of Ireland word meaning to cover in excess). I needed lighter fuel and a bit of effort to remove the worst of this grease then I put the drive back together again.

Talk about over-greasing!!!
Despite the huge quantity of grease the bearing here is for the bin.

The level wind itself was also chocked with thick grease and required stripping down and cleaning. When I finally got it cleaned I found damage to the shaft so that had to be binned. Once again, I had a spare which popped right into place. Re-assembly was straightforward and in a few minutes I had a perfectly functioning reel.

the drawer full of old reels and the famous blue bag of bits
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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

The wonder of Woolies

I hate shopping. I mean I really, really do hate shopping. There, it is out in the open and you can launch as much criticism as you like at me for my profound dislike of the retail experience. Freud would be delighted to know that I trace this back to my childhood and the trauma (OK, slight over exaggeration) of shopping on Union Street in Aberdeen with my mother. Three kids in tow, she would battle the Saturday morning crowds to get us new school clothes, shoes, football boots or whatever else we required. I simply could not fathom why it was so important to get the right thing, why there had to be so many items to choose from and why it took so long to complete the whole dreary exercise. To this day I hold all shopping in complete and utter contempt. Except for buying fishing tackle!

Woolworths on Union Street, Aberdeen

Funnily enough, the only high street shop I didn’t mind was Woolworth’s. Universally known as ‘Woolies’ (well, in Scotland at any rate) they were purveyors of what was probably best described as general goods and wears under the brand name ‘Winfield’. The Aberdeen branch occupied a prime site on Union Street behind one of those solid grey granite facades. It had a small section upstairs for fishing gear, so every family visit saw me shoot off up those wide stairs with the tiny mosaic tiles to examine the tackle in detail. Occasionally, pocket-money allowing, I’d purchase a packet of hooks or maybe even stretch to a small metal devon minnow. But it was the multiplier reels which I was always fascinated by. Way, WAY beyond the reach of my pre-teen pocket money, I still gravitated to them and always spent some time looking at and handling these inaccessible machines. They seemed to be so exotic and incongruous perched there in their Teal blue boxes on the shelves between haberdashery and baking/cake making. Shiny black side plates enclosed by glittering chromed rings, free spinning spools, the ‘clunk’ when the gears were engaged and those star drags that I had only ever seen in books.

By the time I was working and in a position to buy my own tackle I had become more circumspect and Woolies finest was disregarded in favour of ABU and Hardy’s. I moved away from the city, the shop in Union Street shutdown and the shiny multipliers therein were forgotten about. It was many long years later that somewhere along the line I bought some fishing junk in a second-hand shop and in amongst the various items of tat there was a big old Winfield multiplier. It brought a smile to my face but I had no thought of actually using it. Meaning to sell it on later, this old reel lay in the bottom of a drawer or in various boxes as I moved around different cities with work over the years. I’d unearth it periodically, give the handle a spin and chuck back into the box it came from. Then an odd thing happened, I came to buy a few other Winfield multipliers. It started off as just seeing a cheap complete reel or one which required repairs which could be bought for an insignificant price. Useful, cheap reels. Over the year though my resonance with these reels has grown and developed into an appreciation of these solid testimonies to Japanese manufacturing.

So what is the attraction of these old sea fishing reels? It is hard for me to put it into words because, at the end of the day, they are pretty agricultural in use. No silky smooth drag systems, no ceramic spool bearings or hi-tech anti-backlash brakes here! Winfield fishing gear was universally known as being cheap and not of particularly good quality but I am not sure this is the truth. The reels were good copies of the popular American Penn models of the day and were manufactured in Japan by the same company who built the Matchmaster and Chuyo reels. Over the years I have heard lots of tales of stripped gears and disintegrating spools which may or may not be due to bad technique in use or poor maintenance. I can only comment on Winfield multipliers as I have zero experience of any other Winfield reels (they were purveyors of fixed spool and fly reels too). To me the build quality was OK. Unsophisticated perhaps, but the materials used and the way they were put together was not bad for that era.

Woolies stocked a bewildering array of multipliers. Why they thought they needed so many variations beats me and it must have been hard to turn a profit out of so many stock lines. The minor differences between the surfcaster and the shore caster for example can hardly be described as significant yet both models were on sale at the same time. The one reel which stands out for me is the tiny Bassfisher. These are actually sought after these days and if you own one which you are not using you will have no trouble selling it on the second-hand market.

A drawer full of old Winfield reels

I have a couple of nice, clean Bass Fishers which are in great condition for 40-year-old reels. I also have a couple of somewhat battered examples which have obviously seen a lot of action in the past and I keep them for spare parts.  These reels have very narrow spools which mean you can brake them during casting by applying pressure to the inside surfaces of the spool as the lead flies out. Don’t imagine for a single minute that this means this reel is a good casting machine – it is not! These old reels were bereft of any sort of braking system beyond your thumb, so bird’s nests are not infrequent if you try to push for distance. But then again, this reel was not designed for lashing 6 ounces over the far horizon. It was meant for dropping a peeler crab or lugworm just beyond the third breaker, typically a gentle lob of 60 yards or so. Use it for that kind of work and you won’t be disappointed.

I’ve got a real soft spot for my Bass Fishers. Gloriously quirky, they are unlike any other reel I own. Yet they are strongly built for such small reels and I know that if I keep looking after them they will last for many more years. In an age where everything seems to be dumbed down so the user requires less and less actual skills my wee Bass Fishers demand a small degree of ability to use them properly. I like that. I enjoy mastering the physical learning process of handling the reel so I can cast with it without getting too many bird’s nests.

We don’t get a lot of bass around our part of the Irish coast here in Mayo. The odd one or two turn up in the summer and autumn but fishing specifically for them will entail lots of blanks! The old Bassfisher reels don’t get as much use as they should but I still like to give them a try on those occasions when I’m casting over roughish ground looking for anything that forages on the bottom.

All the reels in the original range of beachcasters had black side plates (I will call them mark 1 but there was no designation on them). These were replaced by reels clad in the much nicer green side plates (mark 2?). As far as I can make out the mechanics of the reels were basically unaltered and the side plate colour change was for cosmetic purposes only.

Shorecasters and Surfcasters were the same reel but with longer bars to give a wider spool on the Shorecaster. I use these as pier reels where nothing more strenuous than a lob of a few yards is required of them. The idea of a full-blooded pendulum cast with one of these is terrifying! They would make nice little reels for jigging for Mackerel from the boat and you can pick them up for a tenner on a certain well known online bidding site. I’d say the Shorecaster is the weakest of the Winfield stable due to the width or the reel. To my mind the Surfcaster is a better balanced reel given the design which is all screwed together. I use the Shorecaster with my venerable Milbro Monarch glassfibre rod for pier fishing.

Lord only knows where the ‘DB’ series fitted into all of this! Were they the forerunner of the surfcaster reels? I honestly don’t know but they were certainly available along with the others in the 1970’s and I have seen the odd one on the market. These reels are instantly recognisable because of the odd semi-circular thumb rest on them.

I want to emphasise to you the need to protect plastic spools on older reels. You can easily destroy old spools by not cushioning them effectively from the high compression forces of tightly wound nylon lines. By this I mean winding on the layer of compressible material first before winding on your mono or braid. I use cheap fly line backing, just running on about 3 or 4 layers of the backing then joining that to the line and continue to fill the reel as normal. Trust me, the few minutes extra and the small outlay for a few yards of backing will be worth it in the long run.

I don’t remember seeing this next reel as a child so it possibly came along later in the 1970’s or even ‘80’s. By then ABU had the shore multiplier market all to themselves with the exceptionally smooth and refined Ambassadeur series of reels. Winfield boldly took on the challenge by introducing a level-wind model. Sporting oddly shaped end plates which were strangely prescient of the ultra-modern casting reel in use nowadays, these level wind models don’t seem to have sold in big numbers as they are not common finds these days. I managed to make one out of a bag of bits which I bought for next-to-nothing online. Trust me, this was no major feat of engineering; the insides of the Winfield reels were simple and easy to understand. Thoughts to self: I must have a proper search through all the bits and pieces which were left in that bag, I might have enough to make a second Woolies level wind!

Buying broken reels or even just parts is something which has served me well over a lengthy angling career. These days it is much easier to source parts than it was in the past. There are specialist companies who deal in spares or upgrades for the most popular brands and even a cursory search online will yield a range of these businesses across the globe. It does begin to get expensive when ordering bits online due to the high cost of postage. Over the years I have picked up everything from complete reels, stripped down  and packed in old boxes right down to gear trains, end plates and handles sold separately. I guess it all depends on what you get enjoyment from – I’d rather repair a good reel and keep it running than rushing out to buy a replacement. The downside is the mass of bits and pieces which are in boxes in the fishing den. I have boxes upon boxes of parts for freshwater, shore and boat fishing reels!

Speaking of the boat, Woolies stocked a range of bigger multipliers for use afloat too. These were pretty robust affairs which, at first glance, looked identical to the Penn’s of that era. The shore reels all sported plastic spools but these were replaced with proper metal spools on the boat reels. Whether the internals were perfect replicas of the near-bulletproof Penn gear train is not certain. Again, there were Winfield boat reels in an impressive range of sizes. The International sized reels in 20, 30, 40 and 50 formats can still be picked up for a song on the secondhand market. The metalwork on the Winfield boat sea fishing reels all seemed to be heavily chromed and they do appear to be lasting very well if they have received a minimum level of TLC over the years. Even the best reels on the market will be reduced to a ball of rust if neglected and the simple job of a good rinse with warm water to wash of the salt takes only a few minutes after a trip but it will add years to the life of your reel. I’ve seen excellent reels like the big ABU 20’s and 30’s destroyed by salt just because the owners were too lazy to wash them in fresh water after use and keep them properly lubricated.

An International 50

I have a venerable ‘International 50’ (this was the first one I bought all those years ago) which suggests to me it was built to cope with 50 pound test lines and the rigours of heavy leads / tides / fish that go along with that class of reel. I don’t go in for the skate and shark fishing this reel was made for, I just happened to pick it up as part of a job lot of tackle and I use it sometimes for general bottom work. Having seen at first-hand how some modern reels fail utterly when out on the boat I think my old Woolies job is at least as robust as some cheap new kids on the block. I will admit to having doubts about my International 50 being up to hauling a barn-door of a skate up off the bottom of Clew Bay!

this is the 50 I am using for spares, note the missing reel seat screws

I was lucky to pick up another ‘International 50’ for use as spare parts recently for a few cents. The gears, side plates, drag and handle were all in good condition with just some of the smaller parts missing or broken. With luck I should be able to keep the good reel ticking over for many years to come.

Skipper-Darragh-McGee-lifts-Sean-Fahys-prizewinning-skate-aboard-the-White-Water-II-with-a-little-help-from-his-crew-480x319

Skipper Darragh McGee lifts Sean Fahys prizewinning skate aboard the White Water II in Clew Bay

Then there is the International 40 which I bought only this year. Senility must be creeping in because I have parted with cash for a reel that I do not intend to fish with. This reel has never seen the water and comes with the original box, instruction leaflet, oil and spanner. It is just too damn pretty to use! It’s like those reels I drooled over as a schoolboy a lifetime ago.

 

I have a Winfield boat reel badged the ‘Nautilus 30’ but I’m not sure if they came before of after the ‘International’ reels. Somewhere out there I suspect there lurks an avid collector who could tell me more about these reels but for now I will have to remain merrily ignorant. The Nautilus I own sports a metal spool and looks the same as an International of the same size. This reel is in poor condition and needs a total re-build. Once it is repaired it should hold enough line for the type of bottom fishing I do out in the bay. Another wee project for this winter!

nautalis-30.jpg

The Nautalis 30. Note the metal spool on this reel

Those of you long-suffering masochists who read my blog on a regular basis will already know that I have a certain penchant for using vintage (read – old) fishing gear. The link with the past, the better quality materials which were used, the ‘feeling’ you get using old rods and reels are part of me and how I approach this life. New-fangled contraptions are generally beyond me and so I stick to the gear I know well and have enjoyed using all my life. It’s not just fishing tackle this extends too – I could go into a showroom tomorrow and buy a new car if I so desired, but my trusty 17-year-old VW does me just fine, thank you very much! Like its owner there are too many miles on the clock, the bodywork is a bit tatty and it can’t reach top speed anymore. But it chugs along and so do I, each of us comfortable with the others foibles.

Earlier on in this post I mentioned stripped gears. To void this always ‘pump’ heavy loads instead of winding against them. This applies to weeds/rocks as well as fish. Reels are not built to withstand high pressures and the best of them will fail if you keep winding against a load. Lift the rod up high then lower it quickly, winding in the resulting slack line. Stop winding and lift the rod again. Keep repeating this until you have retrieved the line. If you are stuck on the bottom and can’t free the hook by pumping them give yourself some slack and wrap a cloth around your hand then pull until the hook frees or the leader breaks.

Talking of old shops in Aberdeen, who remembers this one?

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

No macks

The pier at Roonagh is a favourite spot to fish and each summer I try to get over there to spin for Mackerel (macks). The great thing about Roonagh  is the views across to the islands, so even if the fishing is slow you can still be captivated by the ever changing vista.

the target………………..

Yesterday evening seemed to be a good one for such a trip. What constitutes optimum conditions for Mackerel? I much prefer calm seas and good water clarity. Mackerel hunt by sight so dirty water makes it harder for them to locate my lures.

Off we set and arrived to find the pier deserted – not a good sign! The word spreads like wildfire when the macks are in and the locals throngh the short pier, heaving strings of feathers into the sea. Trust me, venturing on to the pier when the fishing is at its height is not for the faint-hearted. The empty pier which greeted us was a clear sign the fishing would be tough.

Tackling up I decided to try a bait ledgered on the bottom as well as spinning, so the 4 ounce beachcaster was strung up and a sandeel cast out. Happy that everything was as it should be I turned to the spinning gear and perched myself in my favourite spot at the end of the pier. The old rythym of cast, snap back the bail arm, retrieve was repeated numerous times, each cast being completely ignore and shiny lure made its jerky way back to me totally unhindered by the fish.

Clare Island

Even as I had been tackling up my attention was drawn to a tiny boat out in the bay. It was too far out for me to be sure exactly what kind of craft it was but somehow it didn’t look ‘right’. As I was fishing the blue dot in the middle distance came a little closer and I could see it properly. Two men were fishing off of an inflatable dingy barely 12 feet long and with a freeboard which could be measured in millimetres. The sea calm enough for Clew Bay but even still there was a wave of maybe a couple of feet running. The bright blue dingy could be seen flexing in the middle with every wave which passed under it. I personally would not have got into that thing in a bath, never mind on the Atlantic! The closer the two anglers came the clearer I could see them and it became obvious they were not wearing life jackets. I was both stunned and angered in equal proportions, stunned at the stupidity  of not wearing life jackets but also angry that if they got into trouble the press would have been happily reporting two ‘fishermen’ were in difficulty. None of the fishermen I associate with would ever do something this foolhardy. Even the wash from the small ferry would have been sufficient to overturn that joke of a boat.

The beachcaster gave a languid nod, no more than that. Tightening up the line I could feel a very faint bite so I struck with an upward sweep of the 12 footer. There was a considerable weight on the end but not much of a fight as such. Out of the crystal clear waters emerged a mass of thick, brown weeds. Somewhere below a dogfish was wriggling so I hoisted fish and weeds on to the concrete. A lesser spotted dogfish, very dark in colour, had swallowed the sandeel. Far from the most exciting catch, he was none the less a welcome sight on an otherwise fishless evening. Unhooked, I lowered him back into the water and he swam off, none the worse for his adventure and probably thinking that was the last time he was going to eat a sandeel he found lying on the bottom!

At least I caught something!

We fished on but the macks were simply not there to be caught. Having failed to locate them on the north Mayo coast and now at Roonagh the next venue will be further south. Sunday may be a good day.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, sea trout fishing, shore fishing

Portacloy

Just for a change there was some drizzle this morning. You could not dignify the gently falling moisture with the title of rain, it was just descending wetness which barely kept the dust down. Today was going to be a good day, today I was fishing in North Mayo.

High tide at 2pm meant a leisurely start to the day. No need for an alarm, strong black coffee in bed, thick slices of hot, buttered toast. Bliss! Then an hour or so spent sifting through the sea fishing gear to make sure I had everything to take with me. Don’t you hate it when there is a little, niggling voice in your head questioning if you have packed this or that? Today I had time to eliminate all of those negative thoughts and the battered black tackle box was stuffed to overflowing with all manner of goodies to tempt the fish.

Ben was going to be my companion on this jaunt and we rendezvoused at 11 am as planned. The road was quiet as we drove up that well trodden road to North Mayo. The heat was building already so we motored with the windows down, the bird song brightening the journey for us as we sped through the gorgeous countryside. It takes the guts of an hour to get to Portacloy, past the foot of Nephin, across the bog to Bangor then down the ever narrowing roads until the lovely bay comes into sight.

The plan was for Ben to spin and fly fish from the beach while I tried bait fishing from the inner pier. Ben was targeting sea trout and Bass while I was hoping for flat fish on the sandy bottom. Tackled up, we went our separate ways. Ben worked the waters close to the sand, methodically casting and retrieving all the way along the strand to the rocks at the far end. He repeated the exercise by returning to his starting point but the fish were not responsive. Meantime, I set up a pair of beachcasters and hurled sandeel baits as far as I could, then waited………………… And waited some more…………………. Nothing!

One beachcaster out, I am re-baiting the other one

Now this was more than a little perplexing as Portacloy is quite possibly the most productive mark in the whole county. I have never landed a big fish here but there are usually plenty of smaller fish to keep you busy. Today there seemed to be no fish hanging around at all. Even a cormorant which was fishing right next to us came up with an empty bill each time he dived. He swam off in the end and I couldn’t blame him. By now Ben had come back to the pier and explained he had managed to wade too deep for his boots and was soaked. He removed the offending socks and promptly went to sleep. I fished on, grimly determined to show Ben and that bloody cormorant that there were fish there. I was wrong.

time for a wee nap…………….

The tide reached high water and I roused Ben from his slumber. We needed a plan B. He suggested a mark he had seen but not fished, Carrowteigh. It was only a short drive away so I agreed. Let’s give that a lash so.

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Head of a Launce

It was only the work of a few minutes to load up the Jeep and drive over to the new mark. Rods re-assembled, we were quickly back fishing again in crystal clear waters. The scenery was breathtaking, golden beaches and azure waters, Surely we would have more luck here?

First fish of the day!!!!!

Well, yes we did. We actually caught lots and lots of fish. The only issue was that they were Launce (Greater Sandeel). They are superb for bait but catching them on medium spinning rods cannot really be classed as sport. We fished the tide down the afternoon punctuated by the silvery eels grabbing our tiny feathers. I reckon we landed about 20 of them, enough for a number of baits as some of the Launce were huge.

The photo does not do this gigantic sandeel justice, it was well over a foot long

I tried a small, rocky mark located across a field but only succeeded in losing lots of gear on the tackle hungry rocks. So I returned to the pier again my pockets lighter now as a few traces and lures were lost to the underwater rocks. All afternoon I was plagued with crabs stealing the bait. In the blink of an eye they could strip all the hooks of bait and even avoided being caught themselves. Until the very last cast!

A sandeel after only a few minutes attention by the crabs

the culprit

into another eel

We called it a day at 6pm, having not registered a single bite to the bait rods all day. Only the Sandeels saved the blank but we both enjoyed the fabulous weather and the fresh air. Shore fishing is often like this, a process of eliminating the places where the fish are not until you find where they are. I will be back on the edge of the sea again very soon, only this time I will head for the other end of the county. Until then…………….

 

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Bristol

The weather continues to thwart the efforts of all the freshwater fishers that I know. I’m told there are some grilse in the fast water below the Galway weir but the thought of fishing there while being watched from the bridge by all those pairs of eyes leaves me cold. The sea fishing in Clew Bay has turned up some better catches of late apparently but work has prevented me from venturing out on the briny. This past week I had to leave the costa-del-Mayo and travel to England to attend a training course. The journey at least gave me time to re-think my plans for what is let of the season.

Knock airport, for all its drawbacks is a remarkably pleasant experience in these days of frantic queues and the cattle-herding mentality of the larger airports. Knock is tiny, handling only a few short-haul flights each day. Constructed on the top of a hill by a priest (this is not the plot line from a Father Ted script) it services the west of Ireland and providing visitors with an easy gateway to the surrounding area.  Monday saw me boarding one of Flybe’s turboprops for the short hop to Birmingham. The sun shone with a force and energy which we are rapidly becoming used to as I stood with my fellow travellers on the tarmac in an untidy line. The smart blue plane shimmered in the heat haze and stepping inside was akin to entering a furnace. We sweltered and sweated our way across the Irish Sea at 28,000 feet.

The pilot assured us the weather was just as Mediterranean in the English midlands just as the over priced snacks were being served. As we banked to swing around on our final approach I looked down on countryside beginning to look parched. Dun-coloured fields are replacing green ones as the lack of rain starts to bite. We approached Birmingham International over Coventry where my great auntie Mary used to live. As a small child I recall the visit to her, my dad’s old Austin chugging all the way down from Aberdeen in what, in those pre-motorway days, was a journey of epic proportions. To this day I remember those dimly lit streets that all looked identical with gaps in the terraces where Luftwaffe bombs had wrought their destruction. Coventry looked much more appealing on this sunny Monday afternoon.

Aftermath of the Coventry blitz

I had elected to catch a train down to Bristol rather than hire a car. I detest driving and the opportunity to let the train take the strain was gladly accepted. A window seat allowed me to view the world as it rushed past. Middle England looked well and the route took the train through fields and villages which Turner could have painted. A pair of Red Kites wheeled and soared close to the track at one point, fabulous birds that were apparently once an everyday sight. Their kin, the Black Kite, is common in Indian cities where they find plenty to scavenge but they look sinister to me whereas the red ones are much more graceful to my eye. But I digress……………

As we clickety-clacked along the rails my thoughts turned to the fishing. The lack of rain looks set to continue for perhaps another two weeks so any thoughts of serious salmon fishing need to be put on hold. Instead, I would put my efforts into shore fishing. The Mackerel can’t be far away and Pollack should be more active now. What I need is to get off the damned 2 – 10.30pm shift at work so I have some time to get out with the rods!

I’d rather be here than on a training course!

The train disgorged many of its passengers at Cheltenham, took on some new faces and then sprinted off down the tracks towards my destination.  I was keen to see Bristol as the only time I have been there before was to visit a factory many years ago. That time I drove along the M4, held meetings with managers, viewing a highly technical process in a low-rise 1950’s shed then drove back on the motorway to London. I saw nothing of the city that day (and I didn’t buy the machine either as it turned out). Now, I would get my first real view of this old city. Not being a city dweller, I generally dislike the noise, overcrowding and lack of green spaces in most cities but Bristol turned out to be a very nice place. On my last evening there I walked out to the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Looking over the edge is a dizzying experience!

The Great Britain

I suppose I had better make a confession. When I found out I was going to Bristol I did what every fisherman does – Google to see if there are any tackle shops where I was going. Sure enough, Veals have a shop near the middle of the town. They have been in the angling retail business for generations and their shop on the second floor of an old building was full of everything any angler could want, be they game, sea or coarse enthusiasts. If, like me, you find yourself in Bristol it is definitely worth a visit to the shop. I invested in some odds and ends for sea fishing as by now I was making firm plans for the next few weeks.

The week passed quickly enough with days filled to the brim of health and safety training and the evenings spent getting to know my fellow trainees and wandering around the city centre. Friday came around and the reverse journey back home. I love travelling and seeing other places but there is always that comforting feeling when you take the first steps of the trip homewards. The lock on the hotel room door clicked as it shut behind me and off down the corridor I marched, laptop slung over one shoulder and the wheels on my case making a god awful racket as I dragged it behind me on the wooden floor. Checked out and into the already bright sunshine, chap in a three lions shirt was singing ‘football’s coming home’ as he passed me in the street. It is 6am for God’s sake! The whole country seems to have lost the run of itself after the penalty shoot-out in Russia. I get a text telling me that I need to work the early shift next week, marvellous news which means some time off in the evenings for a change.

The train journey to Birmingham New Street was bliss, a near empty carriage and a coffee to sip as the plan for the weekend and some angling takes shape. The North Mayo coast would be my first target, looking for Pollock and Mackerel over rocky ground. If that fails to produce I will try have a go around Killery. One of the marks I like down there has a sandy bottom which produces rays and dogs but I fancy there may be some flats there too, maybe Dabs or even the odd Plaice. I will make up some Plaice traces just to be prepared.  While I am at it I need to make some new pulley rigs too, using the nice new swivel/beads I bought in Veal’s.

I have been thinking about replacing the braid on my 6500C for a while now. I never really fell in love with braid as a line for shore fishing. So I bought a big spool of 18 pound mono and filled up the old silver multiplier when I got home.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I certainly felt glad to be back home on Friday. Bristol was nice but I am excited to be fishing this coming week. It’s been ages since I was fishing and even longer since I caught something!

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