Archive for June, 2011

Wicklow Connemara, Schooling at Coolboy.

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Tinahely Riding Clubs facility at Coolboy, Co. Wicklow is ideal for schooling incorporating as it does a floodlit sand arena, full cross country course, dressage arena, practice area, and ample room to park your rig. Mandy Hayden visits the grounds regularly to school Cloon-Dara her five year old 15.2 connemara with a view to qualifying for the “Connemara Performance Hunter” class at the Royal Dublin Horse Show in August.

Cluny and Mandy at TRC grounds, Coolboy, Co. Wicklow.

After some flat work to warm up Mandy then proceeded to put in a few jumps.

Mandy and Cloon-dara.

Cloon-Dara although young is improving all the time and has no problem entering the water.

Into the water, Mandy and Cloon-Dara, TRC grounds,Coolboy, Co. Wicklow.

Or exiting either.

Mandy Hayden and her 15.2, five year old Connemara Cloon-Dara.

Roll on the Barntown, Co. Wexford qualifier this coming Wednesday.

Bass Fishing in Ireland, Seasons Opener.

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

A chance phone call from marine scientist Ed Fahy was the precursor to an enjoyable days bass fishing in Ireland’s showery south east. “I have a mountain of bait and nobody to share it with”, enough said “I’ll meet you in Gorey” and with that a sort of plan was laid. Strong southerly winds had backed around to the south west and decreased 4 – 5 making the beaches north of Carnsore point worth a pop as the big offshore swell would create a nice surf. There was no point in trying the south Wexford strands as these would have been blanketed with weed and so it proved.

A nice early 2011 season bass from a south Wicklow strand.

First port of call was Ballytrent strand, as expected a nice surf was running and initial evidence pointed to a weed free zone. Ominously though weed was evident about a quarter of a mile up the beach to our left. Unfortunately on casting our lines got snagged up with wrack and smaller pieces of weed. After half an hour we called it quits deciding to move further north and fish in the vicinity of Blackwater.

Ed Fahy surf casting on Ballinesker strand, Co. Wexford.

The weather God’s were kind, although hit with showers all day in between it was warm and sunny the wind staying in the west. A move to Ballinesker north of Curracloe, the stage for the awesome opening scene from “Saving Private Ryan” looked promising but again our hopes were dashed. A crumping surf hid a myriad of broken half rotten weed, a bi-product of the recent south easterlies. This time we persevered for an hour but again fishing was impossible. “Third time lucky” says I, “we’ll find a beach out of the main tidal current”.

Awaiting that bite, beach fishing in Co. Wicklow.

On arrival a nice rolling wave promised bass. Having never blanked on this beach I was confident that it would deliver. Baiting up with double fresh razor clam and popping the rig sixty meters out, the rod was barely in its rest before a lively pull down signaled our first fish, a schoolie promptly returned. From then on things were slow, not unusual for this mark for it has an all or nothing nature, but as stated it always delivers. So it proved an hour in when a good heave on the rod followed by a slack line resulted in a spirited fight with a three pound plus bass. Not the biggest from this venue but welcome nonetheless.

A school bass from a Wicklow beach for marine scientist Ed Fahy.

I was delighted for Ed, as the full time whistle sounded on his last cast he landed a small bass with which to christen his new surf pole. He will catch bigger this year but importantly the fish provided scale samples from which Ed will be able to continue his fine work in trying to understand the biology of this wonderful species. On packing up I thanked Ed for his morning call, we both agreed it was a fine day out and certainly will plan a repeat performance or two before the summer is out.

Salmon Tails and Trouty Evenings.

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

The power of that salmon and the vision of its tail are burned into my memory for life. Working my way down a run last evening on the Slaney, a nibbling sensation coupled with an increase in weight similar to when your hook becomes weeded transferred up the line. Lifting my rod, to free as I envisaged the hook from underwater weed, in unison I was hit by an arm wrenching tug and the vision of a silver scaled, black spotted wrist and large forked tail of a very angry salmon, who proceeded to swim at a rate of knots across the river. My reel screamed and I instinctively palmed the drum to control the run.

A wild River Slaney brownie tempted by a Kill Devil Spider.

On reaching the far bank salmo salar now doubled back and positively fizzed back to its lie while I winded like billyo in tandem with walking backwards against the current. The fish then decided to swim up the channel to my right and sulk a rod length from me. A slight rest then like greased lightening the salmon tore downstream, rounded the gravel bar that I was fishing off before proceeding to run the shallower channel to my left where again it sulked. Gathering my wits I scanned for a slack out of the main current to guide the fish towards, fully aware that my six pound sea trout cast would have to play this fish very carefully.

Evening rise on the River Slaney, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Without warning my now fishy companion turned and swam purposefully towards Enniscorthy before turning and swimming upstream to again sulk a rod length to my right. I could feel the tail working in the current manifesting as a throb throb in my heavily curved 9′ 6″ weight six rod. Applying pressure on what was a serious fish, that as yet other than the tail I had not seen, even though attached by six pound gut I was confident that there could be a positive out come. Then in a second, four minutes after our interaction commenced, it was over. A slight nod, a millisecond of slack line, and the fly, a size 10 butcher fell out.

Small compensation for a lost fish.

Gutted, no. Disappointed, yes. Due to catch and release rules the salmon was going to be returned, however to have graced the bank, calculated its approximate weight, and taken a photo for posterity would have been great. The half pound brownies tempted during a spectacular rise of sedges being no compensation for the loss of that great fish. A special moment none the less, one for the long evenings over a wee drop….

Back to the Future. “A campaign to restore Ireland’s and the World’s Lost Marine Biodiversity.”

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Today on World Oceans Day, June 8th 2011, Minister Simon Coveney will address an Oceans 2012 event whose primary message, aimed at those who are reforming the EU Common Fisheries Policy, is “We want our marine biodiversity back“. It will be interesting to hear his contribution.

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney addressing the Oceans 2012 event at Trinity College on World Oceans Day June 8th 2011.

The historical and present tradition is that the marine commercial fishing industry, politicians, and eurocrats decide how Ireland’s inshore and oceanic waters are managed. Their record is appalling, and banner headlines on page two of last Saturday’s Irish Times dated June 4th 2011 do not inspire confidence that Minister Coveney is going to tread anything but the same well worn and disastrous path. How can the Minister forecast the creation of 158 seafood sector jobs when upwards of 50% of the 56 already commercially targeted fish in Irish waters are dangerously overexploited with the status of many others uncertain.

Until such time as the brief is widened to include all interested parties around the table and the marine is looked at from a position whose terms are based on restoration, strict management which may have to include entry restrictions to the industry, and a wider socio economic input to include recreational angling and other tourism interests, then unfortunately Ireland is going to further squander and destroy the one resource that really can turn around our ailing economy.

It is possible for recreational sea angling  and commercial sea fishing to co-exist, they did in the recent past before we sold our territorial waters to the then Common Market. When one considers just one statistic it puts a lot in perspective. The pelagic fleet is the flagship of Ireland’s commercial sea fishing sector probably responsible for most onshore processing jobs. In 2009 the Irish pelagic catch (predominantly herring, mackerel, blue whiting) was 155,000 tonnes worth approximately €112million. In 2010 the volume landed was marginally up but the value stayed the same. It is reasonable to assume that the margins were down and the costs were up in 2010.

155,000 tonnes is an extraordinary figure for one nation to remove from the sea. Contrary to what the industry says mackerel as a resource are being hammered, the dramatically reduced shoals off north Co. Wicklow compared to 20 years ago and the preponderance of joeys within the catch prove this. Also when one considers that blue whiting end up as fish food for the aquaculture industry at a weight conversion ratio of 4:1( four kilos of blue whiting makes one kilo of farmed salmon) the whole excercise just does not make economic or environmental sense.

John Daly (Skipper), John Quinlan (Irish Bass), and Johnny Woodlock (SFAG) at the Oceans 2012 event.

Contrast those figures with recreational sea angling whose understated contribution to the economy is €33million. This is a totally underdeveloped industry reliant on a decimated resource which hinders its growth just as it does for the commercial sector. If restoration policies were implemented Ireland could develop a destination sea angling market the envy of Europe and the web of benefits filtering out into the accommodation, restaurant, pub, general leisure industry, and artisan fishmongers from what is accepted as a sustainable industry has to date not even been quantified.

This evening the Minister has a real opportunity to show that he has guts and vision, time will tell….

Postscript: The Ministers address was passionate, his family does hold a strong connection with the sea, and he did show an awareness and understanding of the current situation regarding overfishing and its future implications with respect to biodiversity and the seas as a primary food source for humanity world wide.

That said, even though his spoken wish that his grand children would be able to experience a vibrant and bountiful ocean (not his exact words) was sincere, his line followed the usual industry/EU/political form referencing aquaculture, job creation in rural coastal areas, value added seafood products, exports, etc. He discussed conservation measures as being important to underpin the industry on going but stopped short of laying down the law.

Overshadowing and influencing his whole speech was the EU and Ireland’s commercial industry line. Unfortunately there was no door opened to representation from wider interest groups on the future of how Ireland manages its territorial waters. The status quo continues with still a minority maintaining full controling influence on Ireland’s primary natural resource, a pity given the day that was in it….

Fly Fishing in Wexford, Slaney Sea Trout.

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

In Ireland we call them white trout, in Wales they are termed sewin, colloquial names for a migratory species much loved and revered by game fishers world wide, the sea trout. In the week that a new local record for the species was set with a 5.oz fish on Lough Currane, Co. Kerry, I made my first of many evening forays to the River Slaney. Sea trout run the river from mid June to mid August but with reports of sea trout in the system below Enniscorthy an early visit was hard to resist.

A three quarter pound River Slaney, Co. Wexford, fresh run sea trout tempted by a butcher.

The Slaney is showing its bones but there is certainly enough water to allow sea trout make their way up. For sixteen consecutive years I have fished my chosen stretch and seen the catches diminish to the point where two years back I didn’t cast a line once. With the nets off returns hopefully are on the way back, time will tell. This evening is perfect if a little bright, I rig up a floating line with a butcher (size 10) on the point and a kill devil spider (size 12) on the dropper. My rod is a favourite 9′ 6” Daiwa Whisker Fly (the original two piece) taking a six weight line. Walking downstream to a wide gravel bar which pushes the current to the right hand bank creating a deep steady gut I position myself and wait for the sun to set.

Butcher and Kill Devil Spider.

Large olives and sedges fill the air and four swans keep me company, small trout slash at flies and I am itching to cast. However I wait, it’s dusk now and my surroundings visually lose their natural sharpness while my senses become more acute. A silver bar clears the water not fifty metres from me, they are here. I commence fishing extending my line to cover the water. A few small brownies and parr take the kill devil as I work the seam. “On the dangle” I start to strip and bang the rod arches over and a bright, fresh sea trout spends the next thirty seconds more out of the water than in. Running to and fro, upstream and down, after a couple of minutes and still full of life I grasp the fish in my hand. Three quarters of a pound and smelling of the sea, sweet…..

Fly Fishing in County Wicklow, Becalmed on Lough Dan.

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Sometimes it’s not just about the fishing, being there is enough. After weeks of interminable wind Ireland’s weather appears to be settling down and a day on the lake seemed like a good plan. Lough Dan looked fantastic in the early June sunshine, but talk about the sublime to the ridiculous. Last week the water was a maelstrom of wind and waves with even an eye witness report of a waterspout tracking its way up the lake, eventually collapsing “as described to me” in an explosion of water falling out of the sky. Today Lough Dan is mirror calm with just occasional zephyrs wafting down from the surrounding hills to ruffle the surface.

A desert island maybe? Or a lake side beach in Co. Wicklow.

Meeting Dan and Gary on the beach we set out and crossed the lake to fish a drift along the boat house shore. On arrival we observed a hatch of sedges with trout rising everywhere. Happy days within five minutes three fish graced the boards, trout typical of the water heavily spotted, dark backed, and yellow bellied.  Then whatever breeze was there died, the sun came out beating down from an almost cloudless sky and the trout retreated  to shade or deeper water.

Casting a line towards a shaded bank, Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

From then on the fishing was slow, trying different methods Gary found some success tying a buzzer three foot below a klinkhammer which he casted into shady spots along the shore. It was fun to see the dry fly suddenly disappear as a trout sucked in the nymph pattern below with occasionally a fish rising to the klinkhammer. Improvisation was the key as standard methods were ruled out by the mirror calm surface.

Firing up the Kelly for a brew, Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

A crowning feature of the lake is a secluded beach created by deposition from the Inchavore River, made up of fine granite and quartz pebbles with mature birch trees providing shade it is a beautiful spot to haul up and have a picnic. Today we met and chatted with Sean Byrne of Lough Dan House B/B, and three of his patrons from Australia, Canada, and the USA respectively. Out walking and enjoying the scenery they headed off eventually following the river up the valley.

At the helm on Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

With lunch over and having said our goodbyes to Sean and his group we climbed aboard and headed to some more shady spots, the trout played hard ball for the afternoon but hey that’s fishing, we were out on the water enjoying each others company in a beautiful unique location, heaven….

Click on: Lough Dan.

Click on: Hailstones and Trout.