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

Night Moves

This all started a couple of weekends ago. There I was, sitting in the brilliant sunshine admiring the stunning view with a pint of the black stuff to sup on. Pretty near perfection I think you will agree. But being a fisherman I was fretting about the sunshine and the adverse effect it has on all types of fish. The more I thought about it the more I realised the time of year had come to start angling in the darkness.

My earliest experiences of night fishing were neatly split between fly fishing for sea trout (mainly on the Aberdeenshire Don) and autumn / winter shore fishing for Cod from the rocky coastline south of Aberdeen. The cod fishing was a pretty macho game all right. Pumping that old Tilley lamp to keep the pressure up and the light shining, the roar and crash of breakers 40 feet below, those insane ‘jump back’ bites when a codling swallowed my bunch of lugworms somewhere out there in the black void. Inching toward the edge while winding in, mindful that one slip will be fatal. Delight when a nice cod is swung ashore and the bitter pain of loss when a big fish, beaten and wallowing in the surf below, sheds the hook. The cold – I remember the frozen fingers, so stiff it was near impossible to carry out the simplest task. Long gaps between bites dulled the mind as I tried to shut out the pain of my poor hands. Those slithering king ragworm which made such great bait but the buggers would nip me when I was baiting up. Looking back on it now, ‘enjoying’ being bitten by huge worms in the dark on the top of a wind blasted cliff in December probably says all you need to know about my mental health!

Fishing on a summer’s night off the Mayo coast is much less demanding. Sheltered bays and calm weather are the norm. I am targeting different species here too. Sadly, Cod are extremely scare around here but dogfish are plentiful and Thornback Rays can liven up a night session sometimes. The vast majority of the dogs will Lesser Spotted Dogfish, universally abbreviated to ‘LSD’ by the sea angling fraternity. Mixed in amongst them can be their bigger bretheren, the Bull Huss. Neither of these fish can be described as great fighters, even good sized Huss comes in tamely once hooked. They do make good eating though when properly cooked so some find their way to my dinner plate.

6 pound thornie

a 6 pound Thornback ray I caught one night a few years ago

K.I.S.S. really does apply when it comes to night fishing. Anything fiddly or requiring excellent visibility becomes a nightmare under a moonless sky so preparation is hugely important. Being organised is not really my strong point but I do make the effort when it comes to late night forays on the coast. I cut down the amount of gear I take to an absolute minimum. There is no point in lugging everything with you when I will use the same end rig all night. My float gear gets left at home and the same for most of my spinning tackle. I do spin in the dark but with only one or two lures, so the boxes of various lures also remain at home.

Illumination is vital, so I bring at least three lights with me. One will be a headlamp which, while short on sartorial elegance, does give me great freedom and the use of both hands. Then I have a pair of small, battery powered LED lamps. All three use the same size of battery so I carry a few spares with me – just in case.

Last night after I finished work I headed off to the sailing club mark. The twisty road leads out to near the end of a peninsular and a convenient carpark. From there it is a 10 minute march to the mark which can be difficult to locate in the dark. The bottom here is a mixture of gravel and tackle hungry rocks, the size and shape of footballs. Plenty of weed adds to the difficulties so my faithful pulley rig was the best choice and it gave me at least a fighting chance of getting my gear back in one piece!

here is the mark in daylight

here is the mark in daylight

That sense of excitement has never left me even after all these years. The quickening pulse as I set off, crunching across the gravel above the high water line and heading for a shore mark in the dark. Why does fishing at night appeal so much? What long dormant emotions are prodded into life just because the sun has left the sky for a brief period? Is it just because the whole experience is so totally different to our everyday modern lives of safety and convenience? A lot of the things we all take for granted during the day become very different at night. You need to switch from sight to other senses if you are going to fully enjoy the darkness. Sounds become important and it never ceases to amaze me how much noise there is, even on a still night. Your sense of direction seems to sharpen (well mine does at least).

This is a low water mark, one which fishes best the hour before low tide to the first hour of the rising water but beggars can’t be too choosy and I fish through the rising tide last night. Both beachcasters were in action. The big fixed spool on my 4 ounce and the 6500C on my heavier 6 ounce. Long casts are neither necessary nor sensible at night, as the fish will come closer in the darkness. Gentle, controlled lobs are preferred.

So why do I have a pair of rods with me? I like to use the lighter, 4 ounce rod to pop the baits out maybe 60 or 80 yards. With the heavier, 6 ounce rod I tend to aim drop a much larger bait closer in, let’s day 40 or 50 yards from the shore. This seems to work OK for me so I stick to this formula unless I have a brainwave and try something different for a change. On a slow night I will set up the spinning rod and flick a Krill or something similar out and wind it back in fairly smartly, hoping for a sea trout.

making up rigs

When it comes to bait I have a liking for squid when hunting Bull Huss. I also like to mix baits for them, so a chunk of squid with a piece of Mackerel is a good option in my book. This makes for a large bait and to keep it in line I use a pennel hook set up. Sandeel works too, especially half of a large Launce.

Big baits are difficult to cast so I use a bait clip when targeting Huss. This keeps the bait tucked in behind the weight, increasing distance and reducing tangles. Afraid the fish did not appreciate all my efforts last though and the night passed without so much as a quiver from the rod tips. I am not too upset because last night was more about getting back out into the dark and making sure I was fully prepared. The mark I was fishing really needs low water to allow you to hit the right spot so it was always going to be a tough session in terms of offers. Everything went more or less OK and the only item I forgot to bring was the tripod for the camera. The tackle box needs a bit of reorganisation but other than that I am looking forward to the next night session.

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Perka

I bought a couple of these old ABU lures last year but have not had the chance to try them out yet. I came across them while looking for other lures and was intrigued by their unusual design. It was really watching out for was one or two old ‘Lucas’ and ‘Sextet’ pirks when I found these lads. Intrigued, I had to buy some to try them out.

The Perka.

All the weight is provided by that bulging eye, a very clever design. It was the odd shape that attracted me initially but when I did a bit of research it turns out these were effective sea lures. The lads in Sweden only made these things for four years (1977 – 1980) so there won’t be too many of them still around.

I have to admit that I need to think out exactly how and where these lures fit into my typical sea angling forays. Although ABU made the Perka in 3 different weights (40gm, 60gm and 100gm) I have only located a couple of 60gm examples and a rather lonely 40gm. That is on the heavy side for my spinning rod to cast and at the same time too light for my 4 ounce beachcaster. I’ll figure something out!

Here is what I was actually looking for, from the top: Sextet (40gm), Egon (28gm) and a Lukas (40gm)

While the big treble hooks look impressive I suspect they would get a very good grip of the sea bed given the chance. Replacing the trebles with a single hook on a short length of lighter line should improve their longevity.

Update: I found a 40 gram one too. I have also acquired a more powerful spinning rod which will handle up to a couple of ounces so casting these lures won’t be an issue for me. I just need to find a shoal of big fish now!

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